With all the talk on health care reform, I feel like Socialism is being used with a harshly negative connotation, to try and conjure images of Stalin and the like. You could fill volumes with what a typical American doesn't understand about Socialism. Hell, you could fill volumes with what I don't know about Socialism, and the reason is this: There are a ton of different kinds of Socialism. And just like Capitalism, its been used for good and evil.
So I wanted to talk a little bit about why I consider myself a Socialist. First off, I don't think that any reasonable person would consider themselves 100% affiliated with any political party. I would hope that Democrats and Republicans can find, at least, some merit in the other side. Second off, I should mention that I have a job that provides a health insurance benefit for my family, so we're very lucky. I say that so you know that I don't necessarily have a vested interest in a social health care program.
But what I don't understand is why people are so scared of Socialism. We already have several social programs that are huge parts of our culture that I doubt anyone wants to move into the private sector. The next time you need a cop, would you rather have to look through the phone book to hire the most affordable one? No, of course not. Everyone needs police, so everyone should own the police. The same is said for firemen, public schools, public libraries, etc. Hopefully, you'll never need a cop or a fireman, but I bet you're willing to pay taxes to make sure they're there if you ever do need them. I don't see a difference with health care. I may never need a doctor, but I'd be willing to pay taxes to make sure that they're there if I do need them. Every time I see a Socialist program in America, it seems to be improving life, not hindering it. They create jobs and they provide services, ideally, that don't discriminate against any human beings. Personally, that's the kind of America that I want to live in.
I don't vote Socialist Party though, or at least, I never have. Partly because a socialist candidate has no chance of even getting on the ballot in Texas, and partly because voting third party (especially in Texas) is effectively throwing your vote away. What I do do is vote for the candidate that seems most likely to share the principles of Socialism.
Its not about government controlling your life, its about putting power into the hands of the people and having a government that provides for, represents, and is accountable to its people...all of its people. Its about class free democracy and workers having control of their lives and doing away with wage-slavery. Its about equality. "From every man according to his ability, to every man according to his need." Or in other words, "we're all in this together, let's act like it." Doesn't anything Socialist just make you sick?!?
Is it perfect? Hell, no. But people aren't perfect, so how can anything we make be? But at the core of it are principles that I value, so I consider myself a Socialist. After all, "as long as there is a lower class, I am in it." And, after all, somebody has to help the meek inherit the earth. I'll part with a story from the "Socialism in America" Wikipedia about good ol' Eugene Debs.
In June 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law the Espionage Act, which included a clause providing prison sentences for up to twenty years for “Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall willfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty… or willfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment of service of the United States”. The Socialists, with their talk of draft dodging and war-opposition, found themselves the target of persecution. Scores were convicted of treason and jailed.
After visiting three Socialists imprisoned in Canton, Ohio, Eugene V. Debs crossed the street and made a two-hour speech to a crowd in which he condemned the war. "Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder… The master class has always declared the war and the subject class has always fought the battles," Debs told the crowd.
He was immediately arrested and soon convicted under the Espionage Act. During his trial, he did not take the stand, nor call a witness in his defense. However, before the trial began, and after his sentencing, he made speeches to the jury: "I have been accused of obstructing the war. I admit it. Gentlemen, I abhor war… I have sympathy with the suffering, struggling people everywhere…" He also uttered what would become his most famous words: "While there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free." Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison, stripped of his citizenship, and disenfranchised for life.