Saturday, 18 August 2018

The Democratic People’s Republic of America

The above list of democratic-socialist wins was compiled here
His second article on Denmark in as many weeks (his first), New York Times columnist Paul Krugman waxes gooey about this "Butter Republic" (Something Not Rotten in Denmark
And it's true, it is indeed a lovely place, at least in summer when we went, pretty and safe and friendly and happy.  
Krugman segues from Danish social-democracy to the hoped-for American version, by way of the new young NYC Democratic candidate for Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC).
Much has been made of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, not just because of her upset primary victory, but because she’s a self-proclaimed socialist. Her platform, however, isn’t socialist at all by the traditional definition. It’s just unabashedly social-democratic.
"Much has been made" of AOC not just because of the upset primary victory or because she's a self-proclaimed socialist.  But also because the Democratic party has made her the new "Fresh Face of the Party".  So Fresh. So Face.
I'll grant Krugman his point on her platform. The grab-bag of feel-good "policies" are indeed social-democratic. But note that AOC is a fully paid-up member of the Democratic Socialists of America. And they are very much Socialists, not just the fluffier "Social Democrats".  If AOC reads the DSA website, (one wonders, given her recent media performances), then she and her socialist beliefs and her DSA socialist comrades will be a danger to the Republic.  For it is the duty of paid-up DSA members to infiltrate parties of the Left, principally the Democratic party, and to push them further to the Left, towards pure Socialism.  There are clear indications that they're having impact, witness the recent policies espoused by Elizabeth Warren: pure DSA.
Krugman's comment led me to look at the DSA and its policies.
Below is a critique of the "Where we stand" section on the Democratic Socialists of America website.
Quotes from DSA's "Where we stand" are in italics.  My comments are indented.  Highlighting is mine. And I've only done a selection of sections.

Para 2: The unbridled power of transnational corporations, underwritten by the major capitalist nations, has created a world economy where the wealth and power of a few is coupled with insecurity and downward mobility for the vast majority of working people -in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
Not true.  Four pinocchios not true. I don’t know where the authors of this paper for the DSA get their figures, because they don’t bother to give any sources.  Me, I’ll use World Bank figures. 
·       In 1981 there were 1.9 billion poor, 42% of the world population.
·       In 2013 there were 0.78 billion poor, 10% of the world. 
Over a billion people taken out of poverty, a drop of 32 percentage points. That's a compound drop of 3 percent each and every year since 1981.
That is a staggering, historical, unprecedented drop in world poverty, the opposite of “downward mobility” or “unrelenting poverty” (para 3 below).  It is due to countries ditching socialism or communism in favour of market forces. [ADDED: China is a big chunk of the decline in poverty.  And China does say it's Socialist.  But it's "Socialist with Chinese characteristics", which is to say not socialist at all, or with a glancing acquaintance with socialism. Its economy is largely market-driven, and though it still has its State Owned Enterprises, it is trying to reform or sell them off, a clear indication of where Beijing thinks it should be moving: more towards the market economy, which has done so well for it]
Consider this counterfactual: if the world had kept on doing what it was doing, hewing to systems that had led to 42% of the world living in poverty, we’d have 3 billion poor people now, not the 0.78 billion we do have.  In short, we have over 2 billion fewer poor people because of global market economies instead of failing socialist ones
Another thing: the World Bank 2015 figures are due out in October 2018.  Early indications are that the number of poor has fallen still further since 2013.  On past history it's probably dropped by a further 23-odd million, and is now below 10% of the world population.
In sum: Socialism: F.  Capitalism: A+

Para 3: …democratically control their community and society--remains central to the movement for radical democracy.
“Control” is throughout the document.  This is a give-away as “control” is the core of socialism: State control of the means of production.

Para 3: The struggle for mass democracy has always been led by the excluded -- workers, minorities, and women.
Not true: Assuming “mass democracy” = “radical democracy” = some form of socialism/communism, then it’s always been elites that led the major movements: Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Che, Castro, the Kims, Chavez, Maduro….

Para 3: The equation of capitalism with democracy cannot survive scrutiny in a world where untrammeled capitalism means unrelenting poverty, disease, and unemployment.
Not true: see above, under Para 2.

Para 4: … inequality of wealth and income has grown worse in the last 15 years…
Partly true: from 1980-95 the Gini index did rise, meaning greater income inequality.  But since then the figures have remained very stable. [Ref].  There are also studies that show the US’s Gini index is not as high as officially recorded if non-wage income is included: food stamps, welfare payments and the like.
A reader comment: 
Whilst you are right on the statistics, I argue that there is something missing and something very important missing. Something that the traditional statistics do not capture. Let’s say  that the average middle class income has remained static in inflation adjusted terms since 1995. So you made $100 then and now make $100 in 1995 dollars. If you put a list together of 1) what you could buy for $100 in 1995 and what you could buy in 2018 it would be very different ie. Better, 2) The average price of all these things have gone down and gone down a lot. Communication choices, entertainment, travel etc. are all much better, more available and cheaper. So my point is that you actually get more value for your $100 today than you did then, so you are actually much better off even though the actual amount of money you receive is the same.
Para 5: In the global capitalist economy…millions elsewhere are forever hungry.
Four pinocchios false.  See above under para 2. 

There it is again: the “control” word, right there in the heading.  “Control” of the means of production, by the state (euphemized here as “democratic”.  Of course it is!), is precisely what defines socialism. Not “democratic socialism” as many are banging on about, like Krugman in his latest Denmarkian musings, in an effort to make it harmless and fluffy; no, not democratic socialism, but Socialism, pure and simple.  The Marxist theory that brought penury and misery to countless hundreds of millions in the 20th Century and continues to do so in North Korea and Venezuela. 
Para 1 doesn’t get any better….

Para 1: As democratic socialists we are committed to ensuring that any market is the servant of the public good and not its master. Liberty, equality, and solidarity will require not only democratic control over economic life, but also a progressively financed, decentralized, and quality public sector. Free markets or private charity cannot provide adequate public goods and services.

Look, it doesn’t matter how “democratic” you say it is.  It never is.  Socialist bureaucrats with control (shudder) over “economic life” won’t be able to help themselves to help themselves… .and to help their cronies, their relatives, and to muck things up in doing so. That’s always been the case; why should it be any different next time. We’re not told.  Nor should we believe for one minute that it will be so.  Closing your eyes and wishing hard is not a strategy.
Note how many socialist hellholes have “democratic” in their name: “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” (the worst), “The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria” (merely bad) and the rest.  Note how many are “Authoritarian regimes” and Socialist.

Para 5: Democratic, representative control over fiscal, monetary, and trade policy would enable citizens to have a voice in setting the basic framework of economic policy--what social investment is needed, who should own or control basic industries, and how they might be governed.
So we are no longer to have an independent monetary authority, the Fed, to set monetary policy?  That way lies ruin, via hyperinflation, as per happening now in Venezuela. 
As for the rest, the mind boggles.  It’s pure Marxist socialist, destined for massive failure.  Please, FSM, no!

Socialists have historically supported public ownership and control of the major economic institutions of society -- the large corporations -- in order to eliminate the injustice and inequality of a class-based society, and have depended on the organization of a working class party to gain state power to achieve such ends
There it is yet again.  The state control of the means of production. 

Social Redistribution --the shift of wealth and resources from the rich to the rest of society--will require:
1.  massive redistribution of income from corporations and the wealthy to wage earners and the poor and the public sector, in order to provide the main source of new funds for social programs,income maintenance and infrastructure rehabilitation, and
2.  a massive shift of public resources from the military (the main user of existing discretionary funds) to civilian uses.

Groan. As Margaret Thatcher noted, "The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money".

I’m stopping there, as I’m tired of pulling apart a document that has glaring errors and shameful misrepresentations on every page, in every paragraph, in virtually every sentence.
The overall feeling of the document reminds me of the essays I used to have to read in China in the seventies.  Turgid pieces by Marxist theoreticians, or slightly brighter but still obscure speeches by Mao Tse-tung.  Talks of “programmatic” coalitions, capitalism which is always “brutal” and “uncaring”, and most of all, repetition of “democratic control”.  Repeat after me: democratic control; democratic control.  Doesn't that sound nice, now?

Me, I run a mile from this stuff.  I lived under it for a couple of years in China.  I had enough of it.  A billion Chinese also had enough of it.  You won’t find anyone in China who cares a jot for socialism. It’s a great danger that so many in the US do – they’ve had no experience of living in socialism, yet they want it passionately, poor dears.  Poor us, too. If they have even a skerrick of success.  

LATER: I realise I'm a bit too gung-ho on capitalism (good) vs socialism (bad) here.  There are some real concerns I have -- we have, we should have -- about the fact that real wages in America haven't increased since about 1980.  I'm going to have a look at that, the why's and wherefores of that, later.
LATERER (20 Aug): Overall the DSA document on "Where we stand" is a long bleat about how horrible things are in America and the World.  And how that's because we're not socialist enough. That story of the terribleness of things is belied by the data: most convincingly brought together by Steven Pinker in "Better Angels of our Nature" and his recent "Enlightenment Now".  Must reads, especially by petulant progressives, surly socialists and dyspeptic democrats....