This article is not to shove some ideology down your throat; it is to educate people on the true definition of socialism so they may better form a knowledgable opinion on social matters that affect them and the rest of society. To each his own.
Anytime I’ve spoken about the forthcoming election with friends, colleagues, or peers, Bernie Sanders undoubtedly comes up at some point – admittedly, probably by me. And every single time, I get the same response from Republicans and general anti-Bernie Sanders citizens: “But he’s a socialist.”
In this one sentence, they think they have proved Sanders supporters wrong. They say this like it’s some dirty word whose inherent meaning is highly offensive.
In just saying, “Bernie Sanders is a socialist,” people think they are automatically discrediting him and his supporters in some huge way. This, however, is complete and total nonsense.
I’ve found the problem with socialism is almost akin to that of feminism: a total misunderstanding of the actual meaning of the concept, generally perpetuated by the media. In these instances, people — and not by their own fault, at all — are often fed the radical, extremist viewpoint on the matter. And from this — again, quite understandably — they think they know all about it well enough to make an informed opinion, though in reality, they do not.
In a perfect world, everybody would get the true, unbiased explanation of major concepts and practices that affect the entire world’s population, but that is not how it goes.
The existing biases, however, are especially — and I cannot stress this enough — especially perpetuated in traditional media. Perhaps, therein lies some explanation as to why the younger generations are taking such a strong liking to Sanders.
They don’t get their information from the news, like their predecessors, but from more freely expressive places on social and new media, where nobody is paid out to sell something in a certain light. They get the real news, and it’s generally not from television or big broadcasting networks.
First things first, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way: What is socialism?
The actual definition is “a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.”
Okay, but what does that mean?
Just this past week, I had a professor sum it up in one of the most concise and easily digestible ways possible.
We currently live in a capitalist society. Capitalism, by definition, is an economic and political system whereby private companies and owners control the country’s trade and industry in the name of profit.
Socialism is basically the same thing, except that instead of private businesses owning and being in control of the means and modes of production, the people — the laborers — are more in control. This is especially so in democratic socialism, which is a much more watered down version of this scary monster everybody seems to be so afraid of.
As it stands, here’s the big difference between capitalism and socialism: In a capitalist society, private owners decide on the means of production. In a socialist society, the laborers and workers get to decide on the means of production.
There is nothing inherently bad about that at all. I know and do understand that it’s often connoted with communism and all these big, scary dystopian futures, but that’s just not realistic.
In fact, it’s just as commonsensical that on the evolutionary scale of production, socialism comes after capitalism can no longer sustain itself; just like capitalism came along after feudalism.
Another way to understand it is this: In feudalism, peasants and serfs had to pay — in homage and labor — to the nobility in order to live on their land and be able to sustain a life. In capitalism, the lower and middle class sell their labor in exchange for subsistence.
In other words, the big business owners and high-ups are modern-day nobility, only you — the lower and middle class — are not guaranteed somewhere to live, and food to eat, merely a minimum wage income, whatever that will buy you.
Another thing that I often hear from Republicans is that people like Sanders want to raise taxes on the rich, which somehow is not “fair because they earned that money.”
No, they didn’t, and I’ll tell you why: They hired people like you for cheap labor. You did the work for them, but they get to keep the money.
That’s how it goes. Imagine how differently the public would live if factory workers actually got to keep an accurate portion of that Mercedes-Benz they helped build, rather than the vast majority of the profits going right on up to the private owners, who had no part in the production of this car but back it with the ridiculous amounts of money they already had. And thus, the rich get richer.
Karl Marx would dictate that in this way, the working class is under wage slavery. By wage slavery, Marx means that people have no choice but to sell their labor, so that others can profit, so they can survive — you’ve quite literally got no choice.
Enter socialism: The worker gets more of a say. They get fair wages for their work, which would, ideally, help to decrease this huge imbalance we see in modern-day wealth: cat and mouse, rich and poor.
Not only that, but they would, according to Sanders, have more access to things that should, in any civilized society, be a basic human right: healthcare, housing and education, among other things.
I hope this might shed some more light on socialism — especially Sanders’ form of socialism, which is far more democratic and less radical — and what it really is and means for the working class.
If you’re a Pennsylvania resident, make sure to vote in the primaries on Tuesday, April 26.
Lauren Detweiler is a second-year student majoring in English. Contact them at LD838069@wcupa.edu