[SECOND UPDATE (Nov. 15, 2013): Based on the latest information, which includes mail-in ballots (an excellent tool for increasing voter participation), the socialist candidate in Seattle, Professor Kshama Sawant, has won. Here is my latest comment at the Seattle Weekly]:
Congratulations to Professor Sawant, to her supporters, and to the needy who benefit from elected officials who want the economy to be subject to democratic control for the benefit of all of the people.
[HERE BEGINS MY ORIGINAL POST]:
I primarily engage politically in my country, the U.S., through the Democratic Party, because I believe in being on the left wing of the possible, in keeping with the primary strategy of Democratic Socialists of America, which is an activist organization not a political party. Generally a victorious Democratic Party candidate is the only viable alternative to a political outcome involving a Republican or other rightwing candidate winning the office. In rare cases, a viable candidate of the left such as the independent democratic socialist Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont may emerge outside of the Democratic Party. That is great, to say the least, but it is the rare exception and not the rule.
Yesterday, a Socialist city council candidate
lost won a bid for the city council in Seattle. [Edit: Based on the original press reports from Seattle, I was initially wrong on this!] Here is the comment I wrote at the Seattle Weekly online article announcing the apparent loss:
There are two issues of a political nature here, spoiling and influencing.
1. Spoiling: I live in the Deep South. I, like Michael Harrington, believe that democratic socialism is the only good future for the world. I, like Michael Harrington, also generally believe in working through the Democratic Party. I would never support a spoiler to the left of the Democratic Party whose candidacy was handing a Republican victory. But in certain non-spoiler situations, such as the Vermont U.S. senate races and select local races, it can come down to the Democratic candidate and a candidate to the left, and I would consider the candidate to the left, if her or his platform and other qualities seemed best. I know little about this particular socialist candidate or her Democratic opponent, and I would have studied the issues and voted for the best candidate in my opinion, but good for her for running as long as she wasn’t a spoiler.
2. Influencing: So, assuming this is not a case of spoiling and handing a victory to a Republican, in some situations value can be added from a losing leftward candidate because of the issues that are highlighted and the grass roots energizing that transpires, and this in turn can influence the Democratic Party to be more to the left, which I think generally would be a very good thing, certainly from a policy standpoint.
Now, as to EmbitteredTA’s comment about good riddance ye socialists, I strongly disagree. As long as socialists are not spoilers, and support democracy, we are a valuable part of coalition politics in the U.S., and more importantly, often much more in touch with the world’s needy than centrist U.S. triumphalist neo-liberal capitalist Clintonian Democrats. Many people, not only in the U.S. but also in Latin America and the rest of the third world, realize that neo-liberal market capitalism is good at producing profits for the wealthy by making and selling consumer culture items, many of which are not needed, and producing jobs for a lucky few, but it leaves large portions of the population out of its “success,” leaves protecting the needy to chance and trickling down, and is environmentally unsustainable. There needs to be a good social compact, and democratic socialism can provide that. The failures of actually-existing socialism/state capitalism are real, and those include the failures to honor democracy and human rights. (Sometimes socialist candidates themselves fail to adequately articulate or comprehend the importance of democracy and human rights, which will not be attractive to voters.) Democratic socialism takes the good of democracy and human rights and combines it with the good of economic justice to produce a much better alternative of deep democracy where the political and economic systems are controlled by the people instead of the Koch Brothers, et al., who comprise the capital elite. I hope that in places like Cuba they will reform to move to democratic socialism rather than adopt the certain exploitation of profit-driven market capitalism and become another Hispaniola. To learn more about democratic socialism, please explore the following site and the links there: gardenvarietydemocraticsocialism.com.
[FIRST UPDATE: Note, there may be more back and forth to my above comment, but I at least wanted to post a reply I got, and what I said in response]:
At worst, ‘Democratic Socialism’ just becomes a channel for mobilizing working-class and plebeian support for imperialism, as it did in most European countries in 1914.I agree with your criticism of the Democratic Party generally, but strongly disagree with your critique of democratic socialism. The alternative to democratic socialism is undemocratic socialism, i.e., “actually existing socialism,” where the economy is no more controlled by the people than under market capitalism, and where voting and human rights are not protected and only one party is running the show, with Orwellian potential to do what is done in China right now, allow the state party elite to become billionaires. No thanks. Socialism requires democracy if it is going to be the liberating and unifying force of which it is capable of being.[THEN I RESPONDED FURTHER]:A couple more things: I cannot control past history. I was not around during WWI, but I have studied it, and I believe that I would have been in prison with many on the left for refusing to support that awful imperialist war. Meanwhile, my brown ancestors at that time were working in factories in the South and being beaten by the KKK for their socialist labor radicalism. The KKK at the time was receiving more than tacit support from Woodrow Wilson, and many of the major unions were being divided-and-conquered just as you suggest. I would agree with you I am sure about most of past history, as well as the enormous current challenges to be both democratic on a national basis and in solidarity internationally.
I can only speak for myself and my own commitment as a democratic socialist soil scientist focused on making sure EVERYONE’S basic needs are met, but my democratic socialism is global in nature and very much focused on the need to address concerns of the nature you have raised. I am active promoting world socialism and believe that a dialogue should exist between “you and me” Aaron, because democratic socialism as often experienced in practice has not done a good enough job and will never be perfect. But again, because the alternative is “undemocratic” socialism, I will keep the democracy and try to improve it with all my power to adhere to a global social compact for all. Here is my credo at gardenvarietydemocraticsociali…: “accepting life’s complexity|striving for global stewardship of our soil and other resources to meet everyone’s basic needs|being a friend to the weak.”
With the hand of solidarity extended,
Francisco[THEN, USING MY OCD FOR THE GOOD OF HUMANITY, I RESPONDED YET AGAIN]:Just in case anyone wants to dialogue more with me on this or other issues relating to socialism, I have discovered that I gave my own non-profit, non-subscription website address incorrectly in the first comment I did above a day ago. The correct address is gardenvarietydemocraticsociali…, not as originally given above.
Speaking of socialist cooperation focused on worldwide system change, in addition to actively opposing the U.S. blockade of Cuba and the occupation of Guantanamo Bay, I am working on an exercise to develop a model social compact that can be considered in countries, regions, and hopefully one day the world as a whole as a basis for transitioning to constitutional democratic socialism (whether from market capitalism or state capitalism) in part through using important principles from the U.N.’s International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). I am greatly concerned that one day Cuba will abandon economic justice just as the countries from the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc did, making officials rich but leaving the needy to fend for themselves as on Hispaniola. Cuban reform that rejects market capitalism while embracing deep democracy and human rights can reinvigorate socialism in Cuba and internationally, providing a great example in our desperate world. Anyone is invited to participate in this exercise. See: http://gardenvarietydemocratic….