To its immense credit, The Washington Post this week published an op-ed by one of its regular columnists, Elizabeth Bruenig, that argued in general terms that it’s time to look to socialism to counter the inequalities inherent in capitalism.
The op-ed was published under the rather blunt headline, “It’s time to give socialism a try.”
One can at least hope Bruenig’s piece is the start of a movement among mainstream corporate media outlets to allow a full discussion of the ideas of socialism on a regular basis and how they might be deployed to counter the grossly inhumane and crass socio-cultural world we now inhabit in what seems like the final vestiges of the capitalistic schadenfreude.
Bruenig is, as I noted, general in her approach to the delicate topic, which drew the typical slew of inane responses on the web. She argues correctly that the rise of the Trump regime has deeply unsettled the entire idea of a capitalistic democracy among people who embrace the “long liberal tradition”—not necessarily progressives alone—and she offers two ways to approach it. Bruenig writes,
Hanging on and hoping for the best is certainly one approach to rescuing the best of liberalism from its discontents, but my answer is admittedly more ambitious: It’s time to give socialism a try.
We should all be able to agree that the Democratic Party establishment is “hanging on and hoping for the best” while most empowered Republicans want to extend the reach of commodification into just about every aspect of our lives. But in a country in which half the population lives in poverty or is low-income and in which the wealthiest 1 percent possess four times the income amount of the bottom 90 percent, hanging and hoping or doubling down on income inequality don’t seem like viable options anymore.
This, then, is the thrust of Bruenig’s argument:
Not to be confused for a totalitarian nostalgist, I would support a kind of socialism that would be democratic and aimed primarily at decommodifying labor, reducing the vast inequality brought about by capitalism, and breaking capital’s stranglehold over politics and culture.
I might take it further and argue that it will actually TAKE the embrace of socialistic ideas to save democracy from the inequalities and crudities of capitalism, but that’s probably just nitpicking the semantics of Bruenig’s post. Contemporary socialism is a belief system that honors basic humanity and equality, and that includes equal access to the ballot box.
A uniquely American democratic socialism is not only the embrace of equality for all people regardless of skin color, nationality, gender and sexual orientation but also the embrace of equal access to a livable wage, universal health care, tuition-free college education and the ballot box.
Polls have shown more and more younger people are open to socialism because capitalism has left them behind, burdened, in many cases, with stifling student loan debt and stranded in an unstable “gig economy.” Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Socialists proved themselves to be a viable political force in 2016 and will continue to be so.
As I mentioned, one can at least hope mainstream media outlets will start publishing day-to-day commentary expressing the ideas of socialism in this contemporary political moment.