THE RISING POPULARITY OF SOCIALISM

Although socialism had a period of respectability and substantial support in many parts of this country during the early years of the 20th century, it became the political option that “dare not speak its name” for the rest of that century and the beginning of this one. But things seem to have changed… again. In 2016, Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, came close to capturing the Democratic Party presidential nomination, and he did it again in 2020. During that same period, the Democratic Socialists of America—or D.S.A.—grew from around 5,000 to nearly 100,000 members and counting. So, what exactly is socialism? What explains its apparent growing popularity in this country? And how likely is it to succeed? Tonight Bhaskar Sunkara joins us to ponder these questions and more. He’s the author of “The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality” and the founder, editor and publisher of “Jacobin,” a quarterly magazine based here in New York City, that offers socialist perspectives on politics, economics and culture.

TRANSCRIPT

> GOOD EVENING, AND WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M RAFAEL PI ROW MAN.

ALTHOUGH SOCIALISM APPEARED TO HAVE RESPECTABILITY HADN THIS COUNTRY DURING THE EARLY YEARS OF THE 20th CENTURY IT BECAME THE POLITICAL OPTION THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME FOR THE REST OF THE CENTURY AND THE BEGINNING OF THIS ONE.

THAT SEEMS TO HAVE CHANGED AGAIN.

AS WE KNOW N 206, BERNIE SANDERS, A SELF-DESCRIBED DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST CAME CLOSE TO CAPTURING THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION.

AND HE DID IT AGAIN IN 2020.

DURING THAT SAME PERIOD OF TIME, THE DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISTS OF AMERICA OR DSA GREW FROM 5,000 TO NEARLY 100,000 MEMBERS AND COUNTING.

SO WHAT EXACTLY IS SOCIALISM?

WHAT EXPLAINS ITS APPARENT GROWING POPULARITY IN THIS COUNTRY?

AND HOW LIKELY IS IT TO SUCCEED HERE?

JOINING US NOW TO ANSWER THESE AND OTHER QUESTIONS IS PASS CAR SOON CARA, AUTHOR OF THE SOCIALIST MANIFESTO, THE CASE FOR RADICAL POLITICS IN AN ERA OF EXTREME INQUALITY AND THE FOUNDER, EDITOR AND PUBLISHER OF A QUARTLY MAGAZINIS ABOUTED HERE IN NEW YORK CITY THAT OFFERS SOCIALIST PERSPECTIVES ON ECONOMICS, AND CULTURE AND POLITICS.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

PLEASURE TO BE HERE.

START WITH THE BASICS.

WHAT IS SOCIALISM?

IS IT AS BERNIE SANDERS APPLIED THE DANISH WELFARE STATE.

IS IT OUTSTANDING INSTITUTIONS LIKE THE LIBRARY, THE POLICE DEPARTMENT, OR THE FIRE DEPARTMENT?

OR IS IT SOMETHING ELSE ALL TOGETHER?

THE DANISH WELFARE STATE WOULD BE A GREAT STEP IN THE MOVEMENT TOWARDS SOCIALISM AND I RESPECT THE PUBLIC SECTOR WE HAVE IN THE UNITED STATES ALREADY TODAY.

AND I WISH IT PERFORMED BETTER AND WAS FUNDED BETTER.

BUT SOCIALISM IS ABOUT TWO THINGS.

THE FIRST THING, IT IS ABOUT DEMOCRACY.

SOCIALISM IS BASED ON THE PREMISE THAT IF DEMOCRACY IS A GOOD THING IN THE POLITICAL SPHERE, IF WE RESPECT OUR DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS, ENJOY LIVING IN A FREE DEMOCRACY, THEN WHY DON'T WE EXPAND THE LOGIC OF DEMOCRACY INTO THE WORKPLACE AS WELL.

SO WE TAKE FOR GRANTED FOR INSTANCE THAT MOST OF US WORK FROM 9:00 TO 5:00.

AT BEST, 9:00 TO 5:00 A. LOT OF US ARE WORKING 8:00 TO 8:00 IN NON-UNIONIZED WORKPLACES WHERE WORKERS DON'T HAVE A SEAT AT THE TABLE, WHERE WORKERS ARE PAID A WAGE BELOW THE LIVING WAGE INSTEAD OF GETTING A PIECE OF PROFITS, INSTEAD OF BEING ABLE TO PARTICIPATE MORE IN THE MANAGEMENT OF THEIR FIRM.

SOCIAL MEDIAISTS BELIEVE THAT THE PEOPLE WHO WORK AT AN INSTITUTION, AT A FIRM ACTUALLY ARE EQUIPPED TO PERHAPS ELECT THEIR OWN MANAGEMENT MUCH LESS HAVE JUST ONE SEAT AT THE TABLE WITH MANAGEMENT.

BEYOND THAT, I THINK SOCIALISM IS ABOUT TAKING THE CORE NECESSITIES OF LIFE AT THE VERY LEAST AND BRINGING THEM OUTSIDE OF THE MARKET.

DEKMOD PHIING THEM.

IN OTHER WORDS RIGHT NOW EVEN A REPUBLICAN SOMEONE ON THE RIGHT WING OF THE AMERICAN SPECTRUM WOULD PROBABLY AGREE THAT PUBLIC EDUCATION SHOULD BE A RIGHT, AT LEAST AT A BASIC LEVEL FROM K-12.

IN OTHER WORDS IF YOU ARE WORN IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IF YOU LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, YOU ARE A KID, YOU HAVE THE ABILITY TO LEARN THE BASICS AND TO GET A GOOD EDUCATION.

I THINK MOST PEOPLE AGREE WITH THAT.

SO IN OTHER WORDS, IF WE HAVE ESTABLISHED THAT BASIC EDUCATION IS A RIGHT, WHY ISN'T IN AMERICA HEALTH CARE A RIGHT?

WHY ISN'T ACCESS TO HOUSING A RIGHT?

WHY ISN'T CHILD CARE A RIGHT?

WHY ISN'T PATERNAL LEAVE, IF YOU HAVE A KID AND YOU WANT TO TAKE SOME TIME OFF, WHY ISN'T THAT A GUARANTEE AS WELL?

SO IT IS ABOUT EXTENDING THE SPHERE OF EXISTING SOCIAL GUARANTEES.

SO WE GET TO A POSITION NOW WHERE WE ARE ALL EXACTLY THE SAME NOT WHERE WE ARE LIVING IN SOME SORT OF GRAY, DRAB, UNIFORM SYSTEM BUT IN WHICH WE ALL HAVE THE RESOURCES TO REACH OUR POTENTIAL, TO FLOURISH IN OUR INDIVIDUALITY.

THAT REQUIRES SOME SORT OF THE COLLECTIVE BOND.

OKAY.

ALL RIGHT.

I DON'T WANT TO DWELL ON THE PAST BUT I DID SAY IN THE PRODUCTION, AND YOU WRITE ABOUT THIS IN YOUR BOOK, THE SOCIALIST MANIFESTO HOW SOCIALISM WAS ONCE RESPECTED AND SUCCESSFUL IN MANY PARTS OF THE KRUN AT THE BEGINNING OF 20th CENTURY.

QUICKLY TELL US WHAT THAT SOCIALISM LOOKED LIKE AND WHY ITS FORTUNED TURNED?

ONLY 100 YEARS AGO, IN 1912 THE SOCIALIST PARTY OF AMERICA LED BY YOU GENES DEBS AN INCREDIBLY POPULAR WORKING CLASS LEADER WON ALMOST A MILLION VOTES IN A ELECTION.

THE THAT'S RIGHT HAD A MEMBERSHIP.

THERE WERE SOCIALIST MAYORS OF MILWAUKEE FOR MANY YEARS, PLACES LIKE BERKELEY, LIKE SHRINK, MICHIGAN, LIKE ASK A EFFECTDY HERE IN NEW YORK.

CONGRESSMAN LIKEBERGER AND STATE OFFICIALS.

OKLAHOMA WAS HOME TO 11 SOCIALIST WEEK LEES.

SOCIALISM MIGHT NOT HAVE BEEN THIS MASS GARGANTUAN FOREST BUT IT WAS A REAL PRESENCE IN AMERICAN POLITICAL LIFE.

WHAT HAPPENED TO SOCIALISM?

PART OF IT WAS BECAUSE OF PART OF SOCIALIST OPPOSITION WELL WARRANTED POST WORLD WAR I.

A LOT OF THE LAWS WE HAVE IN THE BOOK AROUND CORRECT INCITEMENT.

WHAT IS PROTECTED SPEECH, WHAT IS NOT.

A LOT OF IT WAS CREATED DURING THE RED SCARE TO PERSECUTE SOCIALISTS AND OTHER LEFT WINGERS.

BEYOND THAT I THINK WHAT WE FOUND WAS THAT IT WAS INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT TO LAUNCH AND ESTABLISH A THIRD PARTY AND TAKE OVER ONE OF THE EXISTING PARTIES IN A COUNTRY WHERE WORKING CLASS PEOPLE, WHITE MEN ALREADY HAD THE FRANCHISE.

THEY ALREADY FELT A PARTISAN ALLEGIANCE TO EITHER THE REPUBLICANS OR THE DEMOCRATS BY THE TIME THE SOCIALISTS CAME AROUND.

OFTENTIMES WORKERS LIKED THE SOCIALIST PARTY PLATFORM BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY THEY WOULD VOTE FOR THE VIABLE OPTION.

THE POLITICAL STRUCTURAL REASON.

EXACTLY.

YEAH.

NOT JUST OPPRESSION?

YEAH.

LET ME MOVE ON, IF I COULD.

YOU KNOW, WE ARE LOOKING AT WHAT SEEMS TO BE A REVIVAL RIGHT ABOUT NOW.

WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF THIS REVIVAL, ESPECIALLY WHEN IT IS HAPPENING AT A TIME WHEN UP TO NOW POWERFUL SOCIALIST PARTIES IN MOVEMENTS IN EUROPE ARE ON THE DECLINE IN MANY COUNTRIES?

WHAT I WOULD SAY IS THAT IN THE UNITED STATES WE FOR SO LONG HAVE BEEN TAUGHT THAT ALL THE PROBLEMS THAT WE ARE FACE AS INDIVIDUALS ARE CERTAINLY PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS OF OUR OWN CREATION.

OH, YOU ARE UNEMPLOYED?

YOU SHOULD HAVE WORKED HARDER.

YOU SHOULD HAVE MAYBE TAKEN A CODING CLASS.

YOU SHOULD HAVE RETRAINED YOURSELF.

MAYBE YOU SHOULD GET A SECOND JOB, DO THIS, DO THAT.

OH, YOU ARE STRUGGLING TAKING CARE OF A KID ON TWO INCOMES THAT ARE BOTH BARELY PAID MINIMUM WAGE, THERE MUST BE SOMETHING KIND OF WRONG WITH YOU.

WE INTERNALIZE AND INDIVIDUALIZE A LOT OF THE PROBLEMS WE ARE FACING.

I THINK ESPECIALLY THROUGH THE SUCCESS OF THE BERNIE SANDERS CAMPAIGNS.

I KNOW HE DIDN'T WIN BUT HE CAME CLOSE AND RAN COMPETITIVE CAMPAIGNS.

HE ATTRACTED A HELL OF A LOT OF MEDIA ATTENTION.

WHAT HE WAS ABLE TO DO, I BELIEVE, WAS TO FOREGROUND SOCIAL PROBLEMS, FOREGROUND COLLECTIVE SOLUTIONS TO OUR PROBLEMS.

INSTEAD OF YOU NEEDING TO WORK HARDER BEING THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING MAYBE THE GOVERNMENT ACTUALLY OWES YOU SOMETHING, MAYBE THE GOVERNMENT OWES YOU HEALTH CARE.

MAYBE THE GOVERNMENT OWES YOU PAID LEAVE, MAYBE THE GOVERNMENT AND YOUR EMPLOYER OWES YOU THINGS TO MICK YOUR LIFE BETTER.

AND MAYBE, IN FACT, THE PROBLEM 2349 COUNTRY DOESN'T START AT THE BOTTOM WITH WORKING PEOPLE IT STARTS AT THE TOP WITH THE WAY MILLIONAIRES AND BILLIONAIRES CONTROL THE ECONOMY AND RIGGED THE SYSTEM TO THEIR BENEFIT.

I THINK THERE IS A NATURAL BACKLASH TO YEARS AND YEARS OF YOUR OWN YOUR OWN ECONOMICS BEING FED TO US BY BOTH PARTIES.

YOU DESCRIBED IN THE FIRST QUESTION WHAT YOU SAY SOCIALISM IS.

IN THE FIRST CHAPTER OF YOUR BOOK YOU HAVE A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A SOCIALIST AMERICA.

I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR YOU TO TALK ABOUT THAT, BUT ESSENTIALLY, IT'S THE FUNDAMENTAL IS THERE IS MORE ABUNDANCE AND THERE IS GREATER DEMOCRACY AND GREATER FREEDOM IN THE TRUE DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM.

LET ME ASK YOU THE QUESTION I AM SURE YOU HAVE GOTTEN.

WHY THENR THE PLACES WHERE SOCIALISM HAS ACTUALLY BEEN TRIED IN THE WORLD -- NOT SOCIAL DEMOCRACY BUT SOCIALISM, HAVE NOT BEEN ABUNDANT AND HAD MORE FREEDOM BUT YOU KNOW ECONOMIC HARDSHIP AND POLITICAL TYRANNY?

SOCIALISTS LONG OPPOSED COMMUNIST DICTATORSHIPS.

IN FACT, SOCIALISTS IN MANY OF THESE COMMUNIST DICTATDICTATORS WERE AMONG THE FIRST VICTIMS OF THE YOU A AUTHORITARIAN PARTIES.

I OPPOSE ALL FORMS OF AUTHORITARIAN POLITICS, LEFT AND RIGHT WING VARIETIES.

I WOULD SAY THAT SELF DESCRIBED SOCIALIST PARTIES TOOK POWER IN ALL SORTS OF DIFFERENT CONDITIONS.

WHERE THEY TOOK POWER IN CONDITIONS OF DEMOCRACY THEY WERE ABLE TO DEEPEN AND BUILD DEMOCRACIES.

THEY WERE ABLE TO BUILD SOCIAL DEMOCRACIES, CREATE THE ESTATE WELFARE STATES LIKE BERNIE TALKS ABOUT IN DENMARK AND OTHER PLACES LIKE THAT.

WHERE THEY TOOK POWER IN POOR UNDERDEVELOPED CUPS LIKE RUSSIA THEY TOOK UPON THEIR TASKS NOT BUILDING NEW DOME ACCURACY BUT JUST TRYING TO CATCH UP WITH THE ADVANCED COUNTRIES.

SO THEY SUBORDINATED ALL PRETENSES OF SOCIALIST DEMOCRACY OR EVEN PLAIN OLD LITTLE BIT RAM DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS IN PURSUIT OF CATCHING UP WITH THE BIG ALREADY INDUSTRIALIZED POWERS.

CERTAINLY, THAT'S NOT A MODEL FOR ME TO FOLLOW.

BUT I DO BELIEVE THAT THERE IS NO GUARANTEE THAT ANY SYSTEM IS GOING TO BE DEMOCRATIC.

IT IS UP TO US TO FIGHT FOR DECHL ACCURACY.

FOR EXAMPLE, IF YOU ARE AN ADVOCATE OF CAPITALISM, I WON'T BLAME YOU FOR WHAT HAPPENED IN CHILE BECAUSE YOU MIGHT BE AN EARNEST MALL TEES DEMOCRATIC AND ALSO BE AN ADVOCATE FOR CAPITALISM.

I AM AN EARNEST MALTY DEMOCRAT AND ALSO AN AT VOEKT FOR A SOCIALIST SYSTEM.

SOME PEOPLE SAY THE FAILED SOCIALIST STATES 'METROFOCUS' THAT MARX WAS RIGHT.

THAT HAVING BEEN SAID THE TYPICAL CRITICISM THAT YOU HEAR IS THAT PERHAPS SOCIALIM HASN'T WORKED WHERE IT WAS IMPLEMENTED BECAUSE SPECIALISTS DON'T UNDERSTAND HUMAN NATURE.

THEY THINK HUMAN NATURE IS CAPABLE OF DOING WHAT HE CAN'T DO.

HUMAN BEINGS WERE MEANT FOR SOCIALISM, MAYBE IN OUR 2K3WR50ED, INABILITY TO WORK TOGETHER OUR DESIRE TO CONCEDE MAKES US PERFECT FOR CAPITALISM BUT TO THE FOR SOCIALISM.

HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO THAT?

WHAT I WOULD SAY IS WE NEED A SOCIALIST SYSTEM THAT CAN HARNESS OUR ABILITIES TO ON OWE RATE IS AND YES COMPETE.

I THINK IT WOULD BE A GREAT IDEA IF YOU AND I WERE IN TERMS TRYING TO CREATE ITEMS AND YOU ARE ABLE TO BUILD A BETTER MOUSE TRAP AND ABLE TO CREATING IN NEW FOR THE WORLD.

I THINK THAT'S AWESOME.

WHAT I YES IS PRIVATE OWNERSHIP AND WHERE WE HAVE A SYSTEM WHERE ONE BOSS DICTATES THE LIVES OF OR THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE WHO WORK BENEATH HIM.

I WANT A SYSTEM WHY TERMS OF WHETHER WE MAINTAIN A COMPETITIVE MARKET AND WE HAVE GREATER DEMOCRACY AND GREATER ACCOUNTABILITY.

I THINK WE NEED TO ASK WHAT SHOULD THE PENALTIES FOR FAILURE BE IN THE MARKET.

COMPLETE DES USING THE?

OR BEING ABLE TO BUNS ONTO A WELFARE STATE.

GET YOURSELF SORTED, GET RETRAINED, GO BACK AND TAKE ANOTHER STB AT THING?

I THINK SOT IN AMERICAN AMERICA THE PENALTIES FOR FAILURE ARE TOO GREAT AND REWARDS FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE ABLE TO CLIMB THEIR WAY TO THE TOP I THINK ARE TOO GREAT, TOO.

WHAT I AM PROPOSING IS NOT SOME SORT OF COUPLE BYIA, WE HAVE TO SHARE TOOTHBRUSHES, I AM PROPOSING A GREATER MOVE TOWARD SOCIAL DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA.

YOU CAN KPLIN WITH IT GREATER DEMOCRATIZATION IN THE WORKPLACE.

THAT'S THE BEAUTY OF DEMOCRACY, IT IS NOT GOING TO BE AN ALL OR NOTHING, YOU ELECT A HANDFUL OF SOCIALISTS AND THAT'S THE LAST ELECTION YOU EVER HAVE.

FUNDAMENTAL WE HAVE TO TRANSITION OURSELVES INTO A MORE DELETE ARYAN SOCIETY.

IN YOUR BOOK YOU ARE PULLISH OF CASHIN AND THE LEADER OF THE PARTY.

YOU WRITE HIS PARTY'S MANIFESTO CALLED FOR THE MANIFESTATION OF KEY UTILITIES, EDUCATION AND HEALTH SERVICES FOR ALL AND DISTRIBUTIONS CREATING A BLUEPRINT FOR WHAT THEY NEED TO DO IN THE YEARS TO COME.

IN THE GENERAL ELECTION IN 2019 THE LABOR PARTY SUFFERED ITS GREATEST DEFEAT SINCE 1935 AND LOST WORKING CLASS DISTRICTS THAT HAD NEVER VOTED CONSERVATIVE.

WHAT HAPPENED?

THE VOTERS OF BRITAIN LOVED CASHIN'S PLATFORM IN 2017.

AND THE LABOR MATTER MADE GREAT GAINS AND CAME CLOSE TO BEING ABLE TO CREATE A GOVERNMENT.

IN 2019 I THINK A BIG PROBLEM WAS THE ENTIRE ELECTION OF THE UK BECAME POLARIZED AROUND QUESTIONS OF BREXIT.

THE LABOR PARTY DIDN'T GIVE CLEAR AND CONSISTENT ANSWERS IN PART BECAUSE A LOT OF VOTERS WERE LEAVE VOTERS BUT A LOT OF LABOR PARTY ACTIVISTS WERE ADAMANTLY PROREMAIN, IN FAVOR OF REMAIN NLG THE EUROPEAN UNION.

THIS CREATED A CLEAR DIVIDE.

IT WAS A DANGER FOR PARTIES ALL AROUND THE WORLD WHICH IS PARTIES ARE LOSING THE WORKING CLASS BASE.

THIS IS THE GREATEST DANGER.

BECAUSE MOST OF THESE PEOPLE WILL NOT GO TO THE FAR RIGHT.

POST WILL BECOME APATHETIC AND DROP OUT OF POLITICS.

MY MAIN GOAL IS TO TRY TO INSTRUCT A POLITIC THAT WORKING CLASS PEOPLE FEEL THEY HAVE A HOME IN.

IT GOES TO BROADER SWATHS OF SOCIETY.

CHURCH GROUPS ARE DOWN.

ASSOCIATIONS ARE DOWN.

PEOPLE LIVING ALIENATED LIVES.

I SEE POLITICS AS A SMALL PART OF BRINGING THEM BACK TOGETHER.

WE ARE OUT OF TIME I AM SORRY TO SAY.

THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TODAY.

IT WAS WONDERFUL TO TALK TO YOU.

I HOPE WE CAN DO IT AGAIN.

IT WAS FANTASTIC.

THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME.

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