Since forever and a day the Democratic Socialists of America has embodied to me, largely because of my admiration for founder Michael Harrington for picking up from the ruins of the old Socialist Party, the only kind of U.S. socialism I could abide.
Like Harrington, I chucked Catholicism, but not its social teachings, on which I grew up. Of course, I was growing up in Latin America, with a foot in the USA, and liberation theology blowing through the Catholic schools and seminaries just as U.S. soldiers committed atrocities in Vietnam.
The singular “Other American,” as a biographer dubbed Harrington, wrote a book that set off the spark that led to the War on Poverty, in which — despite Ronald Reagan's cynical quip — poverty was rolled back, from 19% to 11% in less than a decade, a feat never repeated. Poverty today in the USA hovers at a little more than 12%.
Yet socialism isn't really about poverty, but the economic order. In all socioeconomic systems conceivable, there will always be those who have less than everyone else — although not necessarily in as abject and degrading a manner as we know poverty today — and those who have more than everyone else — albeit not the stratospheric wealth we know today.
Socialism aims to reorganize the way society goes about waging the human struggle for survival, so that everyone participates, as an owner, in deciding how all the available resources are used. We can, of course, all be as stupid together as the present elite.
Wouldn't you rather make your own mistakes than suffer those of Wall Street or the Pentagon?
Socialism is not — Lenin be damned — about setting up a police state. Nor is socialism about setting up a comfortable bureaucracy for some to claim to represent workers as they play golf with the bosses, nor much less about championing the issues raised by our particular sexual or ethnic identity, nor even about “reforming” anything, be it the money-clogged electoral system or the inequitable and wasteful medical system.
In a real socialist society democracy we would all get a chance to make sure there was more butter than guns, for all enough butter and bread, and — as the women of Lawrence, Massachusetts, sang nearly a century ago — roses, too.