Mike Fullilove’s Nov. 26 column (Americans need to know what communism and socialism actually are) paints a complex movement in broad strokes. Not all socialists are communists — and only rare extremists on the left and right support violence to advance a political agenda. Much more common among socialists is pacifism. The majority of socialists work through the electoral process, and many socialists are motivated by religion. Democratic Socialists of America’s platform includes spirituality.
We’ve been socialists for decades. Ours is a Keynesian “mixed market” system, not a planned economy like China’s. Americans can thank the socialists of yesteryear for the following — won through peaceful labor organizing and representative democracy: our publicly financed military, the VA, interstate, Social Security, minimum wage, mandatory overtime pay, 40-hour work week, FEMA, publicly owned police and fire departments, public health facilities and public schools. Socialism undergirded the 1950s boom — unions were strong, wages high, and corporations’ taxes benefited the public good.
What does capitalism without socialism look like? Most African countries encourage the exploitation of their people and resources by international capital without worker protections, benefits or redistribution of wealth. They are characterized by high infant mortality, lower life expectancy, and low literacy and educational attainment.
Strong socialist countries have great social outcomes. Denmark has a nationalized oil industry. Small business flourishes there despite high taxes. Socialist Sweden, Canada and Iceland’s life expectancy surpasses ours. Our infant mortality rate surpasses theirs.
It’s time for Americans to think about the common good again.