Last night, I met with the Socialists. I was pretty disappointed. There were many long looks between the two guys representing the local party, which I can only assume was their silent attempt to discern whether I was sufficiently revolutionary. I am sure that I was not.
While I agree with them on all manner of economic and social policy, I find revolutionary theory to be a very convenient way to avoid doing necessary work. When I suggested that the left ought to be running candidates at every level of local and state government to create momentum and establish strongholds of good governance that can be held up as flowing directly from socialist ideology, they countered that Socialist Alternative was focused primarily on building a popular movement and pointing out the hypocrisy of capitalism.
Their plan seems to be organized specifically around the belief that American democracy is inextricably bound to capitalism and that one cannot be undone without undoing both. Is American Democracy incestuously bound to capitalism? Absolutely. But is the answer to declare American Democracy irredeemable? I think not. American Democracy is old. It is, in many ways, outmoded. And it is, in many more ways, bound up to the system that centers power in the incredibly wealthy. That was its intended function. That does not make it irredeemable.
American Socialism, in my estimation, is a lazy philosophy. It is designed around a waiting game of moral superiority in which the Socialist need not do the hard work of governing, but must merely serve as the principled opposition to a society she views as unjust. The Socialist is absolved of doing any of the hard work of governance, is permitted to eschew compromise in favor of absolutism, and is rewarded with the gift of smug satisfaction when the system continues to fail.
I cannot help but compare American Socialism to the Socialists elsewhere in the world. In France, Benoît Hamon was just nominated to lead the Socialist Party on a platform including a tax on automation and a universal basic income in order to protect workers who are made redundant by automation and outsourcing. The revolution is coming, but it is not a riot in the streets, a molotov cocktail lobbed at a limousine. It is technological. Machine learning, energy independence, and a reliance on automation is the same type of technological innovation that caused the jump between the barter system and from mercantilism to capitalism: ever diminishing exploitation of the worker. It has only been when these shifts have been accompanied by clearly articulated principles of fairness that manifest injustice has been lessened. We have left this juggernaut of progress in the hands of a party determined to harness its power for selfishness and greed.
I can no longer be a Democrat. I cannot support a party that failed (so spectacularly) to respond to the democratic impulses of the electorate, and which failed to harness and direct those impulses to productive and positive ends. But neither have I home in American Socialism, where protest and agitation are deemed acceptable substitutes for the hard work of reforming the American Democracy to be a more perfect union.