On being a Democratic Socialist in New Jersey

Bumped! by Rosi

Do you believe

  1. In an ideal world workers should control the means of production?
  2. Everyone is entitled to a certain minimum standard of living?
  3. In a capitalist system government regulations are helpful?
  4. Labor unions are a positive force?
  5. Major social or political changes should be achieved through grass-roots organizing?
  6. We should have a single-payer system like “Medicare for All”? 

If you answered “YES” to all or almost all of these questions in a NYT article you probably fit the category of Democratic Socialist. Its adherents distinguish themselves from the more moderate Social Democrats – the traditional progressive left – by offering online think pieces with headlines like “Social Democracy Is Good. But Not Good Enough” and “It’s not just New Deal liberalism.”

“Democratic” socialism has taken on a whole new meaning, in opposition to the older “socialism” with its traditional connotations of communism and authoritarian governments. In comparison with Capitalism, “Socialism” is at its core about working people benefiting from their own labor, and economic and political arrangements that ensure an equitable distribution of wealth and resources.”

Democratic Socialists were one of the breakout groups of the 2018 midterm elections, with New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez springing to national attention by upsetting a 10-term incumbent. Among our might-be next President, Sen. Bernie Sanders has long called himself a Democratic Socialist. While Sen. Elizabeth Warren supports many of the tenants, she has stronger belief in capitalism that is well managed. Our own presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker does not fit into this category as explained here.

There are plenty of people in New Jersey who hold these beliefs but have not yet felt comfortable to identify as such. By doing so does not stop one from voting for Democrats in an election. Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), of which AOC is a registered member, is a political and activist organization, not a party.

DSA has four chapters in our state. DSA explains its mission: “We believe that working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few. Through campus and community-based chapters, DSA members use a variety of tactics, from legislative to direct action, to fight for reforms that empower working people.” (Above North Jersey DSA and below Central NJ DSA.)

Of course it’s not essential to join DSA. A candidate for office or any person using the moniker automatically becomes separate from the traditional progressive. We are all too aware in New Jersey of the political machinations that rule against truly progressive insurgents. Will someone in a local election or our upcoming legislative primary run as a Democratic Socialist? Will we too in 2020 have our own Democratic Socialist become a member of the House? 

Preview image: Demonstrators with the Democratic Socialists of America took part in a rally on International Women’s Day in Manhattan in March. Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Comment (1)

  1. marshwren

    I guess i’m more of an old-left socialist, believing at least a few things need to be nationalized, such as health insurance, energy, transportation (a system based almost exclusively on the individual ownership of motor vehicles is clearly unsustainable), and the communications grid.
    Combined with a (modestly) updated progressive income tax (in which capital gains is reported as ordinary income) far more stringent than OAS’s 70% on income over $1M along with $15/hr.


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