What Is Modern Socialism?

Modern socialism aims to improve on previous socialist attempts, such as that of the former Soviet Union, by emphasizing democracy.

Democratic Socialism

Around the time of Sander’s first presidential campaign, I realized I didn’t know anything about socialism. It was a subject I needed to study.

Conducting Google searches for “socialism” made me feel subversive, at first. Search results implied that socialism and communism are practically the same thing. Yikes! my inner child cried (that child who hunkered under her desk during many an air raid drill during elementary school). Maybe socialism is a dangerous slippery slope, after all, leading straight to communism.

And yet, the level-headed, morally courageous Bernie Sanders proclaimed himself to be a “Democratic Socialist.” I continued to research.

Soon I came upon Professor Richard D. Wolff, host of Economic Update, and began to learn a thing or two about modern socialism. Wolff is a Marxist economist and historian. He advocates for worker-owned-and-managed enterprises. In fact, he founded Democracy at Work. Wolff maintains that a democratic nation should be characterized by the democratic workplace.

WORKER CO-OP democracy in the workplace
A worker co-op equals workplace democracy.

Still, I continued to wonder about the difference between socialism and communism.

Is There a Difference Between Socialism and Communism?

If we look at the common dictionary definitions for “socialism” and “communism,” we see that both systems mention community ownership and control. A workplace is a community. (Thank you, Dr. Wolff.)

Socialism – a theory or system of social organization that advocates the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, capital, land, etc., by the community as a whole, usually through a centralized government.

— Dictionary.com

Communism – a theory or system of social organization based on the holding of all property in common, actual ownership being ascribed to the community as a whole or to the state.

— Dictionary.com

The two definitions are hardly distinguishable from one another. Later in my research, I learned that communism is a type of socialism, which may explain why the terms are often used interchangeably. But more significantly, the two definitions allow that both socialist and communist systems could also be controlled by the state or government (instead of a community).

State-controlled socialism frightens people. It is authoritarian and, therefore, presents a threat to human rights. That is particularly the case if the state/government controls all or most of the political, social, and economic systems within a country.

On the other hand, people seldom give community-controlled socialism a thought. But if they do think about it, they might appreciate how beautifully it dovetails with democracy. Hey–that must be how someone came up with the idea for democratic socialism.

So, back to the difference between socialism and communism. From what I can tell, there is no essential difference between the two ideologies. It’s all socialism.

And socialism provides an alternative to capitalism.

Where Does Capitalism Fit In?

Western economic systems have changed over time. There has been slavery, then the feudal system, and capitalism reigns today. The new kid on the block is socialism. Get ready, because modern socialism will be the first economic system to empower workers.

All I want to add here, is that capitalism and democratic socialism do not cancel one another out. Mingled together, private enterprise and worker cooperatives spur a healthy competitive business environment.

INSIDE SECRET: Wealthy corporations and billionaires hate democracy, socialism, unions, AND competition.

(Yeah. Keep connecting those dots.)

Proper Tension Creates Balance

Meanwhile, most social-economic systems are a combination of various approaches. The proper tension across diverse force fields can create balance. In the case of democratic socialism and regulated capitalism, a balanced distribution of wealth and power curbs excessive inequality.

To get a sense of the variety of socialist systems, read 15 Socialist Countries that Have Succeeded | Yahoo News. And keep your eye on Chili, which just elected a socialist president: Chile’s Socialist Resurgence Is a Century in the Making | Jacobin.

For Further Investigation

You may want to investigate the work that scholars of socialism offer. Follow the blue links provided in this post. Visit Prof. Wolff. Watch the video below. If you’re really inspired, read Karl Marx.

As you expand your research into socialism, you’ll notice material about socialist countries that are failing. But I leave you with a finale thought, that you may apply where applicable…. Nothing works as intended, if it is corrupted.

Stay strong!

Socialism for Absolute Beginners | Second Thought

President John F. Kennedy Talks About the Free Press

A blogging friend of mine said he misses the intelligence, wit, and eloquence of a John F. Kennedy speech. His statement reminded me of a video clip I saw a few years ago, where Kennedy spoke about the free press. I’d been greatly impressed by something he said. Something like… an informed public makes the right decisions.

However, I could never find that video clip again. Until now. Almost. Here’s what I have:

John F. Kennedy Speech to the Press and Media – AUDIO

Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City, April 27, 1961

The President and the Press: Address Before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961 – TRANSCRIPT

You can find the transcript of President John F. Kennedy’s full 1961 address to the American Newspaper Publishers Association at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum website. Below, is the quote from the speech that stuck in my mind. It’s about an informed public, or more correctly (I now see), about informed citizens.

No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary. I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.

— President John F. Kennedy

Can a corporate-owned and corporate-sponsored free press/media serve American people in the unbiased manner that John F. Kennedy envisioned? Can our current news media provide objectivity, particularly on controversial topics, without the support of government regulations like the former FCC Fairness Doctrine (1949-1987)?

If either of the above questions get a “no” response from you, check out Progressive Graffiti’s “Independent Progressive News and Commentary Directory.” I bet President Kennedy would support independent media outlets, if he were alive today.

Third Party or Seize the Democratic Party?

The United States needs more democracy and proportional representation. But a slew of democratic reforms are needed first, before we can get there. The most important reforms are:

  • Ranked Choice Voting
  • Publicly-Funded Elections
  • Abolish the Electoral College

Meanwhile, progressives struggle between trying to support third parties, like the Green Party, or taking over the existing neoliberal Democratic Party. Which pathway will be most effective at building democracy, or even possible?

Historian and talk radio host Thom Hartmann makes an argument for “seizing the Democratic Party.” Whether you agree with his analysis or not, his piece provides invaluable background. The article covers:

  • Pertinent American History
  • The barriers to third parties
  • Strategy to infiltrate the Democratic Party

Take a read. It’s succinct, only a 5-8 minute read. Tell us what you think.

Why Don’t More Progressives Get That Seizing the Democratic Party is Our Best Chance to Power? | The Hartmann Report

Sanders Alert: The Senate Competitiveness Bill Needs 2 Important Amendments

When Bernie Sanders was a U.S. House Member, he was known as the “Amendment King.” Now, he gives us an update on a major piece of legislation currently on the floor of the U.S. Senate. It’s called the “Competitiveness Bill.”

Bernie says the bill requires two important amendments, in order to remove:

  1. $53 billion in corporate welfare to microchip companies like Intel.
  2. A $10 billion check to Jeff Bezos’ company Blue Origins.
Bernie Sanders outlines the amendments needed in the Senate Competitiveness Bill.

Bernie promises to keep us posted.

By the way, if anyone thinks amending a bill is a simple task, they must read Matt Taibbi’s 2005 Rolling Stone article “Inside the Horror Show That Is Congress.” In it, Taibbi follows the Amendment King around Congress for a week or so, and describes what the amendment process is really like. It wasn’t what Taibbi expected!

The New 2022 Noncorporate National Candidates Nationwide Directory

The new 2022 Noncorporate National Candidates Nationwide Directory is located at Friends in DC. The directory is behind a paywall. It contains candidate website links and policy platforms.

You may use this directory with several goals in mind:

  • For research to write articles about noncorporate or progressive candidates.
  • To organize a nationwide plan of financial contributions to noncorporate candidates.
  • To organize social media campaigns that spotlight noncorporate candidates.
  • To inform your friends and family about noncorporate candidates and progressive policies in their states
  • Or you may pay for access, simply to support this work.

Why the Paywall?

I put the “2022 Noncorporate Candidate Directory” behind a paywall for protection. Some political eager beavers like to check my candidate list in order to update their own lists. That is OK. But someone uses an app that can harvest the information. While the harvesting process is underway, it causes Progressive Graffiti to repeatedly crash and go offline. That is not OK. That is really invasive.

Not everyone will be able or willing to pay for the 2022 directory. But don’t worry. I’ll be publishing open-access articles that utilize the candidate data. So keep an eye on Friends in DC for timely posts about the noncorporate progressive candidates running in the 2022 election. To help alert you, I’ve installed a Friends in DC rss feed on the front page of Progressive Graffiti.

Please Consider Subscribing to Friends in DC

You can subscribe to Friends in DC for free at Substack anytime, and easily unsubscribe anytime. I sure hope you’ll consider subscribing to the free articles, and keep me company over there with plenty of “hearts” and comments.

Remind everyone to vote. Here’s to a Progressive Congress!

How to Support Progressive Candidates Most Likely to Win in 2022

Take a look at my new Substack column, Friends in D.C. The latest post is “The Best Progressive Candidates for ROI of Your Political Time, Money & Effort in 2022.”

This post represents a lot of research. Based on my findings, I have deduced that these noncorporate progressive candidates will give you the greatest return-on-investment in 2022.

That is, if you want to invest in a Progressive Congress that works on policies that are important to you.

You want a noncorporate Progressive Congress, don’t you?
Support these women and men.
Thank you!

It’s Actually Called the “Build Back Better Act”

All the mainstream news media, from CNN to The Wall Street Journal, is talking about a “$3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.” Though reporters and news anchors may have forgotten the bill’s actual name (I know I did), they are referring to the “Build Back Better Act.” Now, the bill in further jeopardy.

The Cost, the Cost, the Cost!

The thing that is most noted about the bill is the cost. The cost! The cost! The cost!

There’s no doubt that $3.5 trillion is a lot of money, even when spread over a 10-year period. But in an era of burgeoning billionaires… relatively speaking… is it really that much? (Whatever happened to millionaires, anyway? Are they the upper middle class now?)

But some critics of the “Build Back Better Act” suggest $3.5 trillion is NOT nearly enough to fix America’s infrastructure, much less the climate crisis.

The Value! The Value! The Value!

Smart money-people know that good value per buck is the important thing. The value! The value! The value! In other words, what good does the “Build Back Better Act” provide for Americans?

This is the part of the bill that mainstream media is sketchy about. Let’s become better informed, on our own. We’ll go to the original source.

The “Build Back Better Act” doesn’t coddle and elevate large corporations. This bill is the one that uplifts regular people. It’s filled with people-oriented policies and programs. It addresses “a broad array of areas, including education, labor, child care, health care, taxes, immigration, and the environment.” Here’s the outline of the specific social benefits, copied almost word-for-word, from the H.R.5376 summary at Congress.gov.

  • Better funding for…
    • The National Forest System
    • Job placement and career services
    • Safe drinking water, energy-efficiency, and weatherization projects
    • Electric vehicles and zero-emission, heavy-duty vehicles
    • public health infrastructure and supply chain resiliency
    • Housing, rental, and homeowner assistance programs
    • Cybersecurity programs
    • Tribal infrastructure, housing, environmental, and health programs
    • Wildfire prevention, drought relief, conservation efforts, and climate change research
    • Small business assistance and development
    • Transit services and clean energy projects in low-income communities
    • Infrastructure and administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • New programs to provide…
    • Up to six semesters of free community college
    • Free childcare for children under the age of six
    • Free universal preschool services
    • Health benefits for eligible individuals who reside in states that have not expanded Medicaid
  • Additional provisions that…
    • Establish a methane fee for certain petroleum and natural gas facilities
    • Expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing, and vision care
    • Provide certain aliens with a path to permanent resident status (e.g., those who entered the United States as minors)
    • Provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave
    • Restructure and increase the tax rates for certain corporations and high-income individuals (e.g., individuals with income over $400,000) *
    • Require the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate maximum prices for certain brand-name drugs under Medicare

* Note the bill’s provision that would increase taxes for “certain corporations and high-income individuals.” This is the impetus of low-information coverage by most U.S. mainstream news media, which are owned and sponsored by big corporations and billionaires. Naturally, mainstream news has a pro-corporate bias. Obviously, an exaggerated focus on funding creates a negative impression of the “Build Back Better Act,” implying it is wasteful.

Erum Salam at The Guardian gives an excellent overview of the major benefits in the “Build Back Better Act,” as well covering the limitations of the bill. The truth is, the bill has already been scaled back from its original vision and funding. In terms of large scale national provisions, $3.5 trillion can only buy so much. The amount is adequate for a small impact, but it does not fund a serious push for economic justice and climate action.

I always urge people to add independent outlets to their news consumption, to get a fuller (more realistic) picture of what’s going on in the world. In the video below, independent Canadian political commentator David Doel laments the negative narrative that cloaks the “Build Back Better Act.” And he celebrates how Representatives Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman capitalized on a rare network news opportunity to set the record straight.

Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman defend the “Build Back Better Act.”

What Does It Cost to Be Cheap?

Every wise consumer is aware of the sweet spot between extravagant and cheap. It’s known as “best value for your buck.” Americans need to get best value out of the “Build Back Better Act,” in order to stave off the culminating disasters of runaway inequality and the climate emergency.

Meanwhile, President Biden said yesterday, on October 19th, that Democrats may concede to further reductions in the “Build Back Better Act” that would lower funding to $1.7 trillion. Watch today’s Democracy Now headlines (1:12) for an overview of the details and reactions to Biden’s announcement.

October 20, 2021 Democracy Now! headlines cover the latest on the “Build Back Better Act.”

What can you do?

The National Organization for Women (NOW) quickly put out a “Build Back Better Act” action alert. Other organizations will do, or have done, the same. The basic action? Make calls to your U.S. Senators and Representatives!

You may use the Capitol Switchboard number, 202-224-3121, to reach any Congress Member. If you’re unsure who represents you, tell the switchboard what state you live in. They’ll connect you to the correct office. Callers often end up speaking to staff members. That’s good enough. The staff provide citizen feedback reports to their Senator or Representative.

The National General Strike Is a Thing, Kinda

The National General Strike is a thing. It’s often held on October 15th, perhaps in remembrance of the October 15, 1914 Clayton Act. The legislation protected labor unions from injunctions that legally forced a strike to end. At the time, the new law was considered a big “win” for workers.

This year, OctoberStrike.com worked hard to drum up awareness about an October 15th National General Strike. If you didn’t hear about it, you can still get with the program. Tomorrow’s calls-of-action are:

  • Don’t go to work.
  • Do not participate in the economy.
National General Strike – October 15, 2021

Building People-Power Is Costly

Unless you enjoy the protection of union membership, striking tomorrow could cost you your job. So, don’t be rash.

But everyone (even retired people) can participate in tomorrow’s strike, by refusing to buy anything. Zip your wallet on Friday.

If you see any picket lines, stand with the strikers for awhile. Take pics. Share on social media. Show your friends. (Educate people.) It’s all about solidarity.

A “Striketober” Led by Unions

Meanwhile, actual unions are actually striking this October. Progressive news outlet Common Dreams reports on “Striketober.”

Yesterday, former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote in The Guardian:

The media failed to report the big story, which is actually a very good one: American workers are now flexing their muscles for the first time in decades.

You might say workers have declared a national general strike until they get better pay and improved working conditions.

No one calls it a general strike. But in its own disorganized way it’s related to the organized strikes breaking out across the land – Hollywood TV and film crews, John Deere workers, Alabama coal miners, Nabisco workers, Kellogg workers, nurses in California, healthcare workers in Buffalo.

Robert Reich, The Guardian

Are U.S. workers engaged in a general strike? What is a national general strike? Does Robert Reich know about tomorrow’s October 15th National General Strike?

The True Meaning of National General Strikes

Teen Vogue provides a classic definition of general strikes. (Yes, teens are up on this.)

A general strike is a labor action in which a significant amount of workers from a number of different industries who comprise a majority of the total labor force within a particular city, region, or country come together to take collective action.

Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue

You can also describe general strikes as the people’s nonviolent weapon. General strikes are extremely effective, because workers really are essential. They just need numbers (which the people have, in abundance) that are united in solidarity.

Industrial Workers of the World places general strikes along a continuum, according to focus and impact.

  • Community general strikes
  • Industry-specific general strikes
  • National general strikes
  • THE General Strike – a revolutionary class strike!

As Reich notes, it looks like we’re presently in some kind of national general strike, whether strikers call it that or not. When is the BIG one coming?

When will our nation be shaken by a revolutionary general strike? I don’t know. But get organized. Prepare.

And do what you can to support the National General Strike tomorrow.

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