What is Democratic Socialism
Democratic Socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs and not to make profits for an elite few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed, toward greater economic and social democracy, so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives. Democracy and socialism go hand and hand. All over the world, wherever the idea of democracy has taken root, the vision of socialism has taken root as well—everywhere but in the United States. This is due to misrepresentations of socialism that have been popularized by the business community in this country.
Democratic socialists do not want society to be taken over by an all-powerful government bureaucracy. In addition, we don’t want private business bureaucracies to control our society either. Instead, we want social and economic decisions to be made by those whom they most affect. We believe that the workers and the communities that are most affected by economic institutions should own and control them.
Social ownership could take many forms, such as worker-run cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers’ and community representatives. Democratic Socialists favor as much decentralization as possible. While the large concentrations of capital in industries such as energy and steel may necessitate some form of state ownership, many consumer-goods industries may be best run as cooperatives. Democratic Socialists have long rejected the belief that the whole economy should be centrally planned. While we believe democratic planning can shape major social investments like mass transit, housing, and energy, market mechanisms are needed to determine the demand for various consumer goods.
Many people assume that in a socialist society people will lose their incentive to work. We strongly disagree. The incentive to workmay, in fact, be strengthened in a socialist society because workers will become the owners of their place of employment and will have a stake in its productivity. People enjoy their work if they find it meaningful and if it enhances their lives. They work out of a sense of responsibility to their community and society. Although a long-term goal of socialism is to eliminate all but the most enjoyable kinds of labor, we recognize that unappealing jobs will long remain. These tasks should be spread among as many people as possible rather than distributed on the basis of class, race, ethnicity, or gender, as they currently are under capitalism. In addition, this undesirable work should be among the best, not the least, rewarded work within the economy.
To realize our goals and move toward socialism in the U.S. we need a new generation of leaders. Since the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s, young people have played a critical role in American politics. They have been a tremendous force for both political and cultural change in this country: in limiting the U.S.’s options in the war in Vietnam, in forcing corporations to divest from the racist South African regime, in reforming universities, and in bringing issues of sexual orientation and gender discrimination to public attention. Though none of these struggles were fought by young people alone, they all featured youth as leaders in multi-generational progressive coalitions. Young people are greatly needed in today’s struggles as well: to gain universal health care coverage, to build stronger labor unions, to strengthen and universalize welfare benefits, and to hold multinational corporations responsible for their actions. Through the socialist movement and the Democratic Socialists of America you can help build a progressive majority and become part of the solution to social and economic injustice here and abroad.