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Ash writes: "You are going to be hearing a lot about 'Bernie Sanders, the Radical Socialist' in the coming months. So before that bandwagon rolls off down the great American highway let's pin a little truth to its tail."

The downfall of Detroit. Detroit's former Lee Plaza Hotel, closed in the 90s. (photo: Yves Marchand and Romaine Meffre/TIME)
The downfall of Detroit. Detroit's former Lee Plaza Hotel, closed in the 90s. (photo: Yves Marchand and Romaine Meffre/TIME)

Socialism? Let's Cut to the Chase

By Marc Ash, Reader Supported News

10 March 19


This article was originally published in September of 2015. JA/RSN

“This country has socialism for the rich, rugged individualism for the poor.”
– The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“A basic principle of modern state capitalism is that costs and risks are socialized to the extent possible, while profit is privatized.”
– Noam Chomsky

ou are going to be hearing a lot about “Bernie Sanders, the Radical Socialist” in the coming months. So before that bandwagon rolls off down the great American highway let’s pin a little truth to its tail.

Socialism is nothing new in American politics or economics. Of course it’s not called “Socialism,” that would screw up the corporate 1% media’s branding. They call it good economic policy or bailouts or quantitative easing or free trade – but it’s Socialism.

You will also hear a great deal about “wealth redistribution.” You will be encouraged to fear that. You should. Yes, wealth redistribution is a reality and an American tradition, but it never goes from the top to the bottom, it goes from the bottom to the top. At this point the pace is rapacious. When Donald Trump talks about making America great again, he’s talking about the traditional bottom-to-top form of wealth redistribution. Yes that would make America great – for him, and those precious few who share his tax bracket.

Recent painful examples of the nation’s wealth being redistributed from working class Americans to the wealthiest include the Iraq war and the so-called housing bubble collapse.

The Iraq War transferred, by all accounts, trillions of US taxpayer dollars into the coffers of arms manufacturers and contractors. It was in all likelihood the largest and most rapid such transference in history.

The housing boom-to-bust “Recession of 2008,” arguably continuing today, turned American homes into Wall Street commodities. The result was that millions of Americans lost their homes. Wall Street investors got rich betting on the bust, and those who lost money recovered it from investment insurers, who were then bailed out by the American taxpayer. Wealth redistributed – big time.

The conflict isn’t over Socialism, it’s over who should be allowed to enjoy its benefits. The nation’s wealthiest 1% of individuals and corporations do. Everyone else does not, but certainly should.

What makes Sanders’ ideas radical is that he wants all Americans to enjoy the benefits of Socialism, not just the top 1%. So he will be labeled a “radical,” and the average American who would benefit most from his policies will be pressed to fear him. The most fertile breeding ground for that fear will be ignorance, ignorance of course being the anvil of oppression.

Wall Street cares nothing for “the economy.” Wall street is absolutely, categorically dedicated to profit, 1% profit foremost. Whoever gets hurt, gets hurt. In case you haven’t noticed, Wall Street is running the country. Sanders’ radical policies are very unpopular there.

So while your television or other corporate media outlet conjures up visions of Joseph Stalin when describing Sanders’ “Socialist agenda,” remember, America has always had Socialism, working people have always paid for it, and the wealthiest Americans have always enjoyed it.

Socialism for working people, maybe not so radical. Want to really make America great again? Do it the way FDR did it in the 1930s. That is where Sanders is leading the 99%.

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Marc Ash is the founder and former Executive Director of Truthout, and is now founder and Editor of Reader Supported News.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News. your social media marketing partner


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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

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+19 # engelbach 2019-03-10 10:38
Preaching to the choir, Marc.

I'll wager that the majority of readers here are already Sanders supporters.

How do we get the message out to the ignorant?
+20 # sirimada 2019-03-10 10:40
The Iraq and Afghan wars have cost trillions and it is all borrowed money. The American taxpayer has not yet been asked to pay for these and other wars around the world with an increase in taxes. As for socialism, probably the or one of the biggest socialist programs funded by the US taxpayer is the Department of Defense! We as a county get worked up about socialism because we simply do not, and do not take the time to, understand what it is really all about. Large majorities of Americans would benefit greatly benefit from socialism, but are not aware of these benefits.
+7 # 2019-03-11 19:28
It's true. We the people have ponied up to HUGE amounts of defense spending at the expense of social programs that support us toward a more comfortable life...
+18 # Inspired Citizen 2019-03-10 13:55
Democratic socialists need a counter punch. Let's put a label on the ruling ideology of the 1%. Let people know who's been redistributing incomes upward.

Neo-liberalism is the disease.
Trump is a symptom.
Democratic socialism is the cure.

Neo-liberal free-trade will lead to a corporate dystopia.
+12 # Robbee 2019-03-10 14:16
The conflict isn’t over Socialism, it’s over who should be allowed to enjoy its benefits. = Marc Ash, Reader Supported News, 10 March 19

- let me add that the preamble to our SOCIALIST constitution is our "mission statement", what goals our constitution is designed to accomplish - our stated goal is to provide for the "G E N E R A L - W E L F A R E" ! - OF BENEFIT, EVIDENTLY, TO ALL! NOT TO SOME FEW AT THE TOP!

had the founders intended to shun the many, for the benefit of the few, say ""to let the marketplace determine the rewards, privileges, rights and emoluments of citizenship" and "devil take the poor" - THEY COULD JUST AS EASILY HAVE SAID SO! YET DID NOT!
+13 # economagic 2019-03-10 14:45
Excellent work, Marc. Nothing in there worth taking the time to quibble over.
+12 # Porfiry 2019-03-10 15:50
+10 # chrisconno 2019-03-10 17:57
Absolutely well put. Corporate Welfare is the devastating virus of our times. Why do we need to be so generous with the wealthy and so hard hearted with the rest of us. Why do we need to work so hard to get by only to pay taxes that we get stigmatized as the lazy poor for needing a return on our taxes paid? What we really need is Bernie Sanders.
+14 # yolo 2019-03-10 18:22
Well said, I couldn't agree more. Here is another quote for you.

The American People will take Socialism, but they won't take the label. I certainly proved it in the case of EPIC. Running on the Socialist ticket I got 60,000 votes, and running on the slogan to 'End Poverty in California' I got 879,000. I think we simply have to recognize the fact that our enemies have succeeded in spreading the Big Lie. There is no use attacking it by a front attack, it is much better to out-flank them.
Upton Sinclair Letter to Norman Thomas
+11 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-03-11 09:50
yolo -- yes, outflanking is good. Concentrating on specific issues is a good way of outflanking. But still, I think Americans need an honest education about socialism and capitalism.

1. democratic governments are inherently socialism. Lincoln said it most clearly -- "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

2. all societies have mixed economies: some goods and services are better produced and distributed by public enterprises (schools, roads, healthcare, etc) and other goods and services are better provided by private ventures (restaurants, luxury items, cars, fashion clothes, etc).

3. The US is already a socialist society. And people really do like our socialist system: roads and highways, national parks, public schools, etc.

People just don't know what socialism is. They think it is about some dictator.
0 # Depressionborn 2019-03-15 19:38
Quoting Rodion Raskolnikov:
yolo -- yes,
1. democratic governments are inherently socialism. Lincoln said it most clearly -- "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

People just don't know what socialism is. They think it is about some dictator.

a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
synonyms: leftism, Fabianism, syndicalism, consumer socialism, utopian socialism, welfarism; More
policy or practice based on the political and economic theory of socialism.
synonyms: leftism, Fabianism, syndicalism, consumer socialism, utopian socialism, welfarism; More
(in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism and the realization of Communism.
+4 # kyzipster 2019-03-12 10:22
I really wish we'd call it the New Labor Movement because that's what it is. Even Trump understood the mood in the country, campaigning on trade and lies about factory jobs coming back to the Rust Belt, implying middle class wages.

'Labor Movement' evokes memories of a person's Teamster grandparent, not Stalin. We can remind people of those who died fighting corporate power decades ago, instead of being forced to explain over and over again that it has nothing to do with Venezuela.

I also see a lot of good in owning the term 'socialism', forcing the debate. Playing the propaganda game, always in defense mode, keeps the left weak. I've always admired Sanders for not shying away from the truth of what socialism is, but there are other angles to this debate. We could change the conversation.
+12 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-03-10 21:04
continued --

Governments are inherently socialism. They are the RESULT of people banding together and deciding to do things collectively instead of individually and privately. There are just certain things that people need that are better done collectively. People form governments in order to do that (See Rousseau, Social Contract).

This is how the US government was created:

"WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. "

Corporations or private ventures exist outside of government and on their own. The problem we face now is that corporations have used their wealth to take control of government and are draining the wealth of the people of the nation. This is fascism. It is the opposite of socialism and democracy.

The US has become a fascist state following the changes implemented by Reagan, Thatcher, and the neo-liberals. It is now time to un-do all of that.

Socialism is not about getting all of us on the government gravy train. We don't want the same kinds of corrupt gravy that corporations have gotten for themselves.

We want our government back so it can do the jobs the people need done. For profit corporations are not going to do these jobs.
+8 # lorenbliss 2019-03-11 00:59
Hear, hear!
+13 # David Starr 2019-03-11 08:52
I do agree with Sanders' idea that it has to be socialism for all, not just the privileged few.

In fact, wealth redistribution can be attained for the many, while the 1% would get less of the economic pie. And that wouldn't hurt the 1% since they already have enough wealth to not go hungry, go homeless or go bankrupt.

But the 1% will resist socialism for all. Greed is their credo. That means that there must be policies and laws in place to carry out socio-economic reforms backed by a popular mandate.
+2 # Wise woman 2019-03-11 19:16
Thank you RR for a very clear description of socialism. It certainly is one that all of us here can use to enlighten our friends and acquaintances about its clear advantages over what's been stuffed down our throats for generations! And it's not just for the underclass in the country, it's for the planet as well.
-1 # Depressionborn 2019-03-16 07:44
[quote name="Wise woman"]Thank you RR for a very clear description of socialism. hey WW, Try a good dictionary. One without an agenda.
-3 # RICHARDKANE.Philadelphia 2019-03-12 10:08
The best way to lessen the debate is to clamor for Bernie for VP. When the picked nominee asks the convention for acclamation for their VP choice, Bernie Delegates should yell "No" ideally under Biden, he would be the one to challenge Trump's claims that the Democratic Party stands for Socialism and have to say a good word for countries like Sweden.

I have old Bernie buttons but need to afford new ones that add, "Delegates yell 'NO' to another VP choice.

Conservative Democrats that smear the word Socialism will stop doing so with Bernie for VP. A united Democratic Party for a while at least.
+1 # 2019-03-12 22:13
great article, marc. give em hell!!!!
-2 # Depressionborn 2019-03-15 20:01
..."dispel, once and for all, the notion that "socialists," "democratic" or otherwise, actually believe in the socialism they peddle?

"Socialists" love money, guns, walls, fossil fuels, Amazon, meat, private jets and cars, luxury apartments, mansions, and low taxes as much as anyone else.
Socialists" just want everyone else controlled under their rule of tyranny.

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