Category Archives: Socialists

Socialism? You mean like in Sweden?

by Phil Gasper and Tyler Zimmer, published November 24, 2015 

sweden-central-shopping-streets-aIT IS taboo for mainstream politicians in the U.S. to look beyond our borders to find inspiration about how to better run our own society. When comparisons between the U.S. and other countries are made, Democrats as well as Republicans recite the exceptionalist myth that “the United States is the greatest country on earth, period.”

In the first debate of the Democratic primaries in October, Bernie Sanders broke with this stifling tradition. He argued that there is a great deal we can learn from countries such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark. As he put it:

[W]hen you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States. You see every other major country saying to moms that, when you have a baby, we’re not going to separate you from your newborn baby, because we are going to have medical and family paid leave.

According to Sanders, being a “democratic socialist” means fighting for progressive measures like these. However, in a more recent speech aimed at explaining to a mass audience what “democratic socialism” means, Sanders reverted to the more U.S.-centric approach. Rather than Scandinavia, his reference points were Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.

Sanders stated that programs such as Social Security and Medicare illustrate what socialism means to him. The only difference between the U.S. and Scandinavia, then, becomes a matter of degree–whereas the welfare state in the U.S. is anemic and limited, it’s robust and expansive in countries like Sweden.

On the one hand, we should welcome Sanders’ praise for “democratic socialism” and his frequent appeal to the virtues of Scandinavian social democracy. This is certainly a breath of fresh air compared to the patriotic, pro-capitalist chest-beating we’re accustomed to getting from most Democrats and Republicans when anyone questions American capitalism.

Indeed, Hillary Clinton’s response to Sanders exemplifies everything that’s wrong with the way mainstream politicians approach the issue: “[W]e are not Denmark…We are the United States of America…[W]e would be making a grave mistake to turn our backs on what built the greatest middle class in the history of the world.”

Continue reading Socialism? You mean like in Sweden?

7 Charts Show the Socialist Hellscape America Would Be Under Bernie Sanders

by Zeeshan Aleem, published May 12, 2015

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Sen. Bernie Sanders would commit the U.S. to horror of an increasingly prosperous, equitable, and healthier future on a distinctly more livable planet. (Photo: AP)

Earlier this month on ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) whether he actually believed a self-described socialist could be elected president of the United States. Sanders suggested that if more Americans were acquainted with the quality of life in countries in Scandinavia, they wouldn’t be frightened by the label.

Knowing that Scandinavia is nothing short of hell on earth, Stephanopoulos zeroed in on the absurdity of Sanders’ point: “I can hear the Republican attack ad right now: ‘He wants America to look more like Scandinavia.'”

“What’s wrong with that?” Sanders replied.

Stephanopoulos was right to be skeptical that Sanders could get away with such a comparison. Scandinavian countries’ social democratic policies of exceptionally high tax rates and heavy government involvement in the provision of services has been nothing short of catastrophic.

America should do whatever it takes to ensure it doesn’t suffer the same fate. Take a look at the facts on what their policies would do to the U.S.

1. Access to quality health care would simply plummet
Having the government step into services like health care would create massive public health challenges. Just look at how many people in Sweden lack access to affordable health care:

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Source: Mic/Gallup, Sweden.se

2. Health care costs would go through the roof

Continue reading 7 Charts Show the Socialist Hellscape America Would Be Under Bernie Sanders

Democrats Show Their True Colors: Sending a message to Shumlin (D-VT)

published April 16, 2015 in Socialist Worker

Steve Ramey and Paul Fleckenstein report from Vermont on a march against the governor’s budget cuts plans–and look at the next steps in the fight against austerity.

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Vermont state workers protest Gov. Shumlin’s proposed budget cuts (VSEA)

HUNDREDS OF members of the Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA) marched on the Vermont State House along with activists and members of a dozen other unions to protest Gov. Peter Shumlin’s proposed budget cuts.

VSEA called the rally and march because its members are facing the brunt of Shumlin’s attacks, which would broadly cut services and force VSEA to reopen its contract and agree to wage cuts, under the threat of hundreds of layoffs.

The cuts are drawing harsh criticism, especially since they are combined with Shumlin’s betrayal of promises to implement universal health care and his support for banning teachers’ strikes.

“Our unions are under attack, just like in Wisconsin,” said VSEA member and rally emcee Michelle Salvador, echoing the feeling of many protesters who felt Shumlin’s campaign rhetoric was out of sync with his actual policies–which increasingly resemble those of Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

In addition to attacking state workers, Shumlin’s budget calls for cuts to programs for the state’s neediest families and individuals, while rejecting proposals for modest tax increase on the wealthiest taxpayers.

“We’ve heard the governor say over and over that he will not tax hardworking Vermonters,” said Salvador. “Excuse me, governor, but what are we? VSEA’s own revenue plan proposes to increase taxes on the wealthiest Vermonters who have seen some pretty good economic growth while ours had declined.”

Continue reading Democrats Show Their True Colors: Sending a message to Shumlin (D-VT)

Malcolm X: A revolutionary life

Published February 20, 2015 in the Socialist Worker

In the first part of a SocialistWorker.org feature on the revolutionary politics and enduring relevance of Malcolm X, Lee Sustar introduces the life of one of the 20th century’s most important revolutionaries–starting with the world of racism and injustice that shaped him.

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Malcolm X speaking to a crowd in Harlem

IF YOU want to know why mainstream Black History Month celebrations still pass uneasily over the legacy of Malcolm X a half-century after his assassination, take a moment to reflect on the Ferguson, Mo. uprising and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Then read these words from Malcolm,spoken at a 1964 debate at the Oxford Union in Britain:

No matter how many [civil rights] bills pass, Black people in that country, where I’m from, still our lives are not worth two cents…

So my contention is, we are faced with a racialistic society, a society in which they are deceitful, deceptive, and the only way we can bring about a change is speak the language that they understand. The racialists never understand a peaceful language, the racialists never understand the nonviolent language, the racialist has spoken his type of language to us for over 400 years. We have been the victim of his brutality; we are the ones who face his dogs, who tear the flesh from our limbs, only because we want to enforce the Supreme Court decision [of 1954 ending segregation in schools]. We are the ones who have our skulls crushed, not by the Ku Klux Klan, but by policemen, all because we want to enforce what they call the Supreme Court decision…

Well, any time you live in a society…and it doesn’t enforce it’s own laws, because the color of a man’s skin happens to be wrong, then I say those people are justified to resort to any means necessary to bring about justice where the government can’t give them justice.

Continue reading Malcolm X: A revolutionary life

Obama’s message for Northern Ireland

Belfast Telegraph columnist Eamonn McCann asks why the Obama White House is pushing cuts in Northern Ireland–and why political leaders there are letting it happen.

Published March 23, 2015 at the Socialist Worker

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Obama administration envoy Gary Hart (Italian Embassy)

IT SEEMS that the White House canceled invitations to Northern Ireland political leaders to attend the recent St. Patrick’s Day party as a sign of its disapproval of their failure to reach agreement on welfare reform.

The most remarkable aspect of this has been that — far from telling Obama to attend to the millions of Americans living on food stamps before pontificating on how an administration on the other side of the ocean should comport itself in such matters–the main parties have sucked it up and swallowed hard.

Obama’s envoy to the north, Gary Hart, left no one in any doubt last week about the consequence of a failure to find a formula to allow the deal done at Stormont House to go ahead: the U.S. “urge[s] all parties to reach an understanding on the scope of the agreement as it applies to welfare payments…so that a successful series of meetings planned for St. Patrick’s Day can go forward as planned in Washington.”

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson tweeted: “White House agree priority is to maintain momentum in finding a resolution to welfare issue. Best to be in Northern Ireland dealing with it.”

Continue reading Obama’s message for Northern Ireland

What we learned from de Blasio’s first year

Danny Katch measures the accomplishments and failures of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio against the expectations that his election would usher in real change.

Published March 24, 2015 at Socialist Worker

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (Kevin Case)

THE CHICAGO mayoral election is getting national attention because incumbent Rahm Emanuel–a national political powerbroker endorsed by Barack Obama and super-rich to boot–has been forced into a runoff by Jesús “Chuy” García.

García is the opposite of Rahm in many ways: he’s a Mexican immigrant, a longtime Chicago resident and community leader–and not an arrogant, foul-mouthed, mean spirited, grudge-holding, banker asshole.

I understand the excitement that many people in Chicago feel about the possibility of defeating Rahm. In New York City, we had a similar moment in the fall of 2013 when Bill de Blasio won a landslide victory to become mayor, after a campaign in which he talked about how New York under billionaire Michael Bloomberg had become a “tale of two cities.” Bloomberg’s public image transformed within a matter of a few months from the wise rich guy who made the city a winner to the clueless rich guy who only cared about the city’s winners.

Once widely admired and feared, Bloomberg even became a bit of a punch line when he tried to challenge de Blasio’s claims about inequality, and instead came across like a doddering eccentric, complaining that poor people should be grateful for having air conditioning on the subways and urging “all the Russian billionaires to move here.” It was a good autumn in New York City, and I’m sure that springtime in Chicago would only be made lovelier by the sight of a defeated incumbent mayor sputtering in impotent Rahm-rage.

Continue reading What we learned from de Blasio’s first year

Running Illinois like a banker

Dennis Kosuth, a member of National Nurses United in Chicago, reports from the state capital of Springfield, where he traveled to protest Gov. Bruce Rauner’s austerity budget.

Published March 24, 2015 at Socialist Worker

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Protesters pack the Illinois Capitol building to protest Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget cuts

BUSES FROM across the state filled with over 1,500 protesters descended upon the Illinois capital of Springfield on March 11. Their target was Bruce Rauner, the newly elected Republican governor, and his various initiatives intended to solve the budget shortfall by slashing services for those who need them most.

Rauner’s proposed budget cuts about $4 billion from the next fiscal year, which begins in July. This is in response to a current deficit of $1.6 billion and a $6 billion deficit projected for the next fiscal year. In addition, there is a $111 billion pension shortfall.

Rauner’s cuts include $1.5 billion less for Medicaid, an already stretched system providing health care to the poor, and $780 million in cuts to health care for current and retired government workers. He also wants to end services to young adults by the Department of Children and Family Services, worth $167 million. Slashing programs that assist children who require early intervention, people with substance abuse issues and those in need of mental health care will subtract another $200 million from the budget.

Continue reading Running Illinois like a banker

The political economy
 of low-wage labor

By Trish Kahle, International Socialist Review, Issue #95

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The struggles of fast-food, retail, and other service workers since 2012 have thrust the issue of low-wage work into the national spotlight and shifted the national debate over whether to raise the minimum wage from the federally mandated non-tipped wage of $7.25 per hour. Courageous workers like George Walker, a cabin cleaner at Philadelphia International Airport, have begun challenging their impoverishment as corporate profits soar. “I am over fifty,” Walker said, “and tired of living in poverty.” Walker—forced to choose between paying for his wife’s medicine and covering the family’s housing costs—and other workers like him who have joined organizing campaigns, have highlighted the moral depravity of companies that sweep aside the daily struggles of workers in order to maximize profits. Yet even as public opinion has shifted decisively in favor of raising the minimum wage, the size of the low-wage workforce has continued to grow. Nearly 40 percent of American workers earn less than the $15.00 an hour demanded by the low-wage workers movement,(1) and the experience of low-wage work is a common one.

Still, myths abound about low-wage labor, its origins, and the workers who perform it. The ruling class has much at stake in this fight in which workers confront not only their wages and working conditions, but the ideological apparatus of neoliberalism, which stresses individual responsibility and deregulation.

Neoliberal policies, media myths, and the intersection with oppression that many low-wage workers face collude to keep them marginalized. This persists even as their labor, particularly the labor of those in industries like healthcare and education, remain central drivers of economic growth.(2)

Though the recent struggles of low-wage workers, particularly those in the Fight for 15, have focused on the ideological changes and declining living standards that resulted from neoliberal transformation, Marxists understand that low-wage labor is more than a blip in capitalism’s history. Rather, the tendency toward low-wage labor is embedded in capitalist social relations. As Marx wrote in Wage Labor and Capital, “the more productive capital grows, the more it extends the division of labor and the application of machinery; the more the division of labor and the application of machinery extend, the more does competition extend among the workers, the more do their wages shrink together.”(3) But even if we understand low-wage labor as a persistent historical feature of capitalism, we still have to explain its particularities in the neoliberal period, and what role low-wage labor plays in structuring ruling class economic and political power. As low-wage labor represents a larger and larger proportion of the American working class, the question of the nature of low-wage work, and flowing from that, the potential of low-wage workers to play a central role in transforming society, should be of primary concern for the Left.

What is low-wage labor?
What does it mean to be a low-wage worker in the United States? Workers’ concept of low-wage work is shaped by a number of sociopolitical factors—documentation status, race, gender, geographic location, education level, and previous employment. Subjective factors like workers’ perception of the job market also play a role. Economists’ category of low-wage work, meanwhile, appears similarly malleable with different markers being used in different studies. For the sake of clarity, in this article I will define low-wage labor as any job that pays $13.83 or less an hour, the most common boundary in the economic studies surveyed in this article. We should note, however, that the sheer scope of low-wage work in our economy makes any clean categorization difficult. While no one would argue that it is as difficult to get by on $20.00 an hour as it is on $7.25, most workers in both the low- and middle-wage categories—$13.83 and under and $13.84 to $21.13 per hour respectively—earn less than the estimated cost of living in most major cities for an average family. A huge spectrum of workers in the United States is kept below, at, or very barely above the poverty line.

In reality, for most people in the US, only high-wage jobs —those which pay $21.14 or more per hour—can really be considered living-wage jobs.

Continue reading The political economy
 of low-wage labor

Meet the Cla$$ of 2014

Elizabeth Schulte introduces you to the corporate-backed fanatics who make up the freshman class of the new Republican-controlled Senate.

Mirrored from Socialist Worker

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Clockwise from top left: Bill Cassidy, Mike Rounds, Joni Ernst and Dan Sullivan

THE NEW Republican-controlled Congress came in this year like they owned the place, with an agenda to wreck the environment, workers’ rights and women’s access to abortion. And that was just in the first week.

With the biggest majority in both houses of Congress since the Great Depression, the Republicans’ message was clear: We’re here to make some changes in the way things are run in Washington. But with all the Republicans’ talk about being “outsiders,” what distinguishes them isn’t how outside the political establishment they are, but how much they’re a part of the system–and doing the bidding of Corporate America.

In 2010, Tea Party Republicans made their mark by claiming they were working against the crimes of “big government” and insider Beltway politics. Their populist image wasn’t worth the script it was printed on. In reality, billions were funneled from superrich backers like the billionaire Koch Brothers to the so-called “grassroots” Tea Party groups, led by the likes of former Republican honcho Tom DeLay–and the big bucks were used to carefully craft an “outsider” message for Republicans.

The Senate’s 2014 freshman class is less Tea Party and more Cotillion Ball, with at least six millionaires and more deep connections to industry and the Republican political establishment than you could count. In other words, the new face of the Republican Party is pretty much like the old face of the Republican Party–pro-business and anti-worker.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the new Republican senators.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Joni Ernst, Iowa
In the Iowa senator’s rebuttal to Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in January, the former Iraqi war veteran touted her humble roots, where children wore “bread bags” over their shoes when it rained to keep them from getting ruined.

That’s where her commitment to “middle-class America” begins and ends.

Ernst is for lower corporate taxes and less regulation of industry. She has said in interviews that she doesn’t support a federal minimum wage. That is, she doesn’t just oppose raising the federal minimum wage, she opposes having a federal minimum wage. States, she says, should decide.

She also favors eliminating the Department of Education–you know, the one that brings us the public schools–and those pesky clean-water people at the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ernst believes life begins at the point of conception and co-sponsored a fetal “personhood” amendment to the Iowa constitution. Showing her contempt for poor women’s right to health care, she voted twice to defund Planned Parenthood and sponsored two amendments prohibiting state funding for abortion.

The Republican Party is putting Ernst–with her stories about castrating pigs on the farm,packing a gun and riding a Harley Davidson to Sunday school–out in front in the hopes that they can get back some of that scrappy, regular Josephine, Sarah Palin-esque vibe. But nothing can cover up the utterly hateful, anti-worker policies Jodi Ernst supports.

Ben Sasse, Nebraska
The National Review called him “Obamacare’s Cornhusker Nemesis” after Sasse traveled through the state in his campaign RV with a copy of the Affordable Care Act, proclaiming, “Government this big squashes freedom.”

Sasse is for repealing Obamacare and told the Review, “The most likely outcome is a single-payer system, because that’s the easiest thing for a lazy and broken Washington to lie about and let us drift into.”

Continue reading Meet the Cla$$ of 2014

Why are they so afraid of third parties?

by Lance Selfa, Published October 28, 2014 on Socialist Worker 

In all but a handful of elections, there is no left-wing alternative to the candidates of the two parties of the status quo. Why not? Lance Selfa, author of The Democrats: A Critical History, looks back at the history of efforts to build third parties for some answers

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Eugene V. Debs, Ralph Nader and Howie Hawkins

EACH ELECTION Day seems to confront Americans with a choice that’s really not much of a choice: one pro-business party that pretends to represent the interests of working people (the Democrats) and another pro-business party that doesn’t even bother to pretend (the Republicans). Is it any wonder that the U.S. regularly leads among advanced Western countries in rates of voter abstention?

There are a handful of left-wing independent candidates running in the elections coming up on November 4–SocialistWorker.org readers may be most familiar with the New York Green Party campaign for governor and lieutenant governor, featuring two contributors and collaborators with this website: Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones. Still they are very much the exception.

Though much is made of the differences between them, the Democrats and Republicans actually share more in common. Because they’ve worked so hard to protect their duopoly, America’s elites can thus rest assured that whichever party wins a given election, their interests will dictate government policy.

Because Democrats and Republicans collude to design the most arcane regulations for gaining ballot access, third parties face all manner of obstacles just to qualify.

For example, to qualify in New York for an election for a statewide office, candidates must collect 15,000 valid signatures, including 100 signatures from each of half of the state’s congressional districts. An individual voter’s signature cannot count for more than one statewide candidate per election, and signatures can be invalidated if the voter reports his or her city or town incorrectly. Finally, all this must be done in a period of 38 days.

Continue reading Why are they so afraid of third parties?