Bernie Sanders Is Not A Socialist

Bernie Sanders Is Not A Socialist

Democratic Socialism and Social Democracy Are Different Ideologies.

Vermont Senator and Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders has spent quite a bit of time recently defending his brand of "democratic socialism" from those who identify the concept of socialism with the Soviet Union. In a speech where he set out his vision, he described how both FDR's New Deal and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society were both criticized by conservatives as "socialist." In his view, we need to return to these types of progressive policies. By his definition, "democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy" and "that we must reform a political system in America today which is not only grossly unfair but, in many respects, corrupt."

These comparisons are revealing about how both Sanders and many of his followers think of democratic socialism. Just because conservative critics called the policies of FDR and Lyndon Johnson socialist doesn't mean that they actually were. As a matter of fact, many scholars have argued that the New Deal helped FDR in undermining the popularity of actual democratic socialists like Norman Thomas (who won 2.2% of the vote with the Socialist Party of America in the 1932 presidential election), thus preserving America's capitalist system.

In 1936, Thomas himself gave a detailed speech arguing that FDR was distinctly not a socialist, but a liberal reformist who created a state capitalist system in which the government acts "for the purpose of maintaining in so far as may be possible the profit system with its immense rewards of private ownership and its grossly unfair division of the national income." Roosevelt wanted "to keep the profit system." According to Thomas, "socialism means to abolish that system." At one point in the speech, Thomas said:

...even if Mr. Roosevelt and the New Deal had far more closely approximated Socialist immediate demands in their legislation, they would not have been Socialists, not unless [critics are] willing to argue that every reform, every attempt to curb rampant and arrogant capitalism, every attempt to do for the farmers something like what the tariff has done for business interests, is socialism.

Today, Bernie Sanders is doing exactly that, arguing that police departments, fire departments, and public libraries are all "socialist institutions." One will often hear liberals making similar statements about how the highway system is fundamentally socialist, or that countries like Denmark and Sweden are socialist (even when the leaders of said countries say they aren't). This comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of socialism. Liberals, instead of arguing against conservative allegations that many government functions are socialist in nature, decided to accept them instead and then attempt to redefine the word "socialist" to their benefit.

A closer study of political ideology, however, tells us that Bernie Sanders is not a democratic socialist. The only presidential candidate who has accurately identified him is Marco Rubio, who associated his ideas with the ideology of "social democracy." These two ideologies- that of democratic socialists and that of social democrats- share significant historical overlap, but are in fact quite different.

Marx and Bernstein

Karl Marx famously argued in his work that capitalism was an exploitative system that should be abolished. Marx believed that capitalist companies had a long-term "tendency of the rate of profits to fall," and that they would attempt over time to reverse that trend by forcing their workers to work harder and for less pay, what Marxists would call "increasing the rate of exploitation." This would lead to more and more conflict ("class struggle") between the capitalists ("bourgeoisie") and the workers ("proletariat") until the workers eventually revolt and overthrow capitalism, establishing an economy owned by the workers ("socialism") which would eventually become a commonly owned and operated economy without classes, money, or a state ("communism").

His thoughts regarding a communist revolution were based in the idea of "historical materialism," that economic conditions drive social forces in such a way that history follows a certain path. In this way, he said that "the bourgeoisie therefore produces... its own grave-diggers" and that "its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable." The course of history was more or less set in place, and it was only a matter of time until communism won.

51 years after Marx and Engles published The Communist Manifesto (their most successful and least interesting work), another book of less fame but of enormous importance was published. In 1899, Eduard Bernstein wrote Evolutionary Socialism. Bernstein was a revisionist, meaning that he was one of a number of socialist thinkers who attempted to revise the works of Marx in order to fill in the gaps and fix perceived mistakes. Bernstein rejected historical materialism and observed that conditions were actually improving in capitalist society as time went on, with the number of people who were wealthy actually "increas[ing] both relatively and absolutely." In response to this fact, he argued that "socialism... has already survived many a superstition, it will also survive this."

Bernstein flipped the script, arguing that "the prospects of socialism depend not on the decrease but on the increase of social wealth." He believed that it was possible for workers to establish socialism in non-violent ways, both through political reform and their own organizing. Because workers couldn't rely on the natural progression of history to help them, they'd have to do the political organization themselves.

Bernstein viewed democracy as critical to the formation his ideal world, for socialism without it would be "a workers’ movement, but no social democracy." Defining democracy as "a social condition where a political privilege belongs to no one class as opposed to the whole community," he viewed democracy and socialism as two deeply connected ideas. While democracy describes the ownership of political power by all people, socialism describes the ownership of the economy by all people. Social democrats and democratic socialists existed before Bernstein, but his work perfectly explained their view of the world.

Splits in History

For a long period of time, social democracy and democratic socialism were used interchangeably, largely because there was very little gap between the two groups. But as time progressed, a critical debate inevitably broke out: what exactly is the movement's end goal? Bernstein famously said that "to me that which is generally called the ultimate aim of socialism is nothing, but the movement is everything." By this, he didn't mean that he had no values or goals, but rather that he wasn't willing to declare any one set vision of the future as one that must be subscribed to.

Though he points out that Marx had similar views about the future, Marx at least proposed a vague vision of communism to strive for. Bernstein believed that he was just "revising" Marx, but his critics were right in saying that he was actually breaking away from him altogether (according to Engels, Marx once said to Paul Lafargue- his son-in-law and a famous French social democrat- that if he was a Marxist, "I myself am not a Marxist"). Bernstein did a phenomenal job of arguing for democratic progress towards socialism, but he never set a concrete point to strive for.

Among the people who shared his mindset, some argued that immediate government reforms were more important than the long-term aim of building socialism, while others argued the opposite position. We can see a number of examples of these splits in Political Scientist Sheri Berman's fantastic history book, "The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe's Twentieth Century." In France, there was a split in the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO). Conflict broke out between the Guesdists- those who still had a degree of belief in historical materialism and opposed compromise with mainstream capitalist parties- and the possibilists- those concerned with what is possible right now. They attempted to bridge this gap by releasing a statement declaring that "the Socialist Party, while seeking the fulfillment of immediate reforms demanded by the working class, is not a party of reform but a party of class struggle and revolution."

An even more famous debate featured in Berman's book was the one that broke out in Germany between Bernstein and Karl Kautsky, another famous democratic socialist theorist. Kautsky thought that the German Social Democratic Party should be "a revolutionary party, but not a revolution-making one," while Bernstein was of the opinion that it should seek reforms based not on whether or not they contributed to establishing socialism, but on "whether they further the development of the working class, whether they contribute to general progress."

By the middle of the century, without any formal declaration, "social democrat" had come to refer to those who focused their efforts on progressive political reforms, while "democratic socialist" had come to refer to those who focused their efforts on building socialism through democratic means. In intraparty conflicts, social democrats won out more frequently than not. Today, social democrats lead the most popular leftist political parties in most countries. The mainstream political spectrum in the United States today is further to the right, so social democrats only occupy the left-most portion of the Democratic Party while more moderate liberals make up the rest.

In summary, democratic socialists operated on the principle of "move forward, towards socialism," while social democrats simply said "focus on moving forward," leaving what the final idea of what the future might look like open.

Socialism in America

In America, the history was just as interesting. Though starting in the late 19th century through organizations like the Greenback Party, social democracy and democratic socialism were both quite popular in the first half of the 20th century.

Democratic socialists frequently organized around the Socialist Party of America, a popular political party that had two of their candidates elected to the House of Representatives in the 1920's and countless others elected as the mayors of cities ranging from the massive Milwaukee, Wisconsin to the tiny Murray, Utah. Members included people such as Hellen Keller, and Jack London (author of The Call of the Wild), Civil Rights Leader A. Phillip Randolph, and Activist Upton Sinclair (author of The Jungle) all ran for office with the party at some point. America's most famous democratic socialist, Eugene V. Debs, ran as their Presidential candidate four times, winning 5.99% of the vote in 1912 and 3.41% in 1920, despite being in jail for speaking out against WWI in the latter case.

Social democrats, on the other hand, often participated in mainstream political parties, existing in the progressive wings of both the Democrats and the Republicans. Social democrats in the first half of the century included Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt; Senators like Robert M. La Follette, Thomas Gore, Burton K. Wheeler, and William Simon U'Ren; activists like Jane Addams; thinkers like Herbert Croly; and Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. In Minnesota, social democrats allied with democratic socialists in various incarnations of the Farmer-Labor Party, which later became affiliated with the Democratic Party and now represents another social democrat in the Senate today, Al Franken.

Social democrats and democratic socialists have overlap in their policy demands, and members have moved in and out of the groups over time (for example, A. Phillip Randolph eventually moderated his positions and became more of a social democrat). But the differences were always there. Both groups pushed for women's suffrage, progressive taxation, child labor laws, trust-busting, and workers' protections, but democratic socialists often positioned themselves even further to the left by calling for things like the nationalization of banking.

In 1978, Michael Harrington, a democratic socialist who helped inspire Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, wrote an article called What Socialists Would Do in America If They Could. In it, he suggested "public controls over private investment decisions," "a democrati­cally owned and controlled gas and oil company," "national economic planning for full employment," full-cost pricing, a deeply progressive tax system, publicly-owned social funds, "employee and public representation on the boards of directors of all major corporations and a radical increase in democratic decision-making by primary workers in factories and offices," and "federal support for a vast expan­sion of producer and consumer cooperatives, including funds for community corporations." Of these proposals, Bernie Sanders only has a history of supporting progressive tax reform and economic cooperatives, and he almost never even mentions the latter.

But even with policy differences aside, the ultimate difference is in their final aim. When Norman Thomas said that people like FDR "would not have been Socialists" even if their policies had been closer, he meant that the sign of a socialist is someone who wants an end to capitalism. When he was directly asked by Anderson Cooper whether or not he considered himself a capitalist, Sanders responded that he doesn't consider himself a "part of the casino capitalist process." A democratic socialist would have proudly discussed their anti-capitalist beliefs. But his response indicates that what he actually seeks is a better form of capitalism, which is a hallmark trait of social democracy.

Judging from his past, it appears that Bernie Sanders used to be more radical than he is today. In the 1970's, he was a member of the democratic socialist Liberty Union Party and voiced a documentary on Eugene Debs. In 1999, the Liberty Union Party began criticizing him, and he now draws his inspiration from FDR, instead of the candidate from Debs' party that ran against him.

Sanders the Social Democrat

Today, Bernie Sanders is the most recognizable social democrat in congress, although there are many more in the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He's calling for universal healthcare, an end to the war on drugs, progressive taxation, no-cost public college, campaign finance reform, and a $15 minimum wage. But he never mentions worker ownership of corporations, guaranteed job programs, or a nationalized oil company. He speaks about "rebuilding the middle class" and fighting the wealthy "ruling class," but not about replacing capitalism with a publicly-owned and controlled economy.

Bernie Sanders is a social democrat, not a democratic socialist. There's nothing wrong with that- many social democrats, like Paul Wellstone and Russ Feingold, have done magnificent work in the Senate in recent years. Bernie Sanders is easily the farthest left candidate in the 2016 election, but he shouldn't describe himself as something he isn't, especially in a nation where socialism is already so severely misunderstood. Doing so has only led to more confusion. As a whole, socialists themselves don't even seem to be sure what to make of it, with views of his candidacy ranging from critical to supportive.

If, as some liberals have claimed, socialism is just "taxpayer funds being used collectively to benefit society as a whole, despite income, contribution, or ability," then the term "socialist" is so broad that it has no meaning. In fact, because Ronald Reagan oversaw more government spending than Jimmy Carter did, this would mean that the most conservative President of the last 40 years was more socialist than the most liberal President of the last 40 years was.

Claiming that things like police forces, the military, corporate welfare, the prison system, the CIA, the DHS, Border Patrol, and the FBI are socialist institutions is absolutely absurd, because socialists have loudly taken negative views towards all or most of those things as long as they've existed. Liberals and social democrats shouldn't just roll with the accusations that they're socialists, they should explain what they believe in their own terms. When pushing for the reforms that he is, Bernie should leave the socialism to the socialists.

Cover Image Credit: The Huffington Post

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No, I Don't Have To Tell You I'm Trans Before Dating You

Demanding trans people come out to potential partners is transphobic.

In 2014, Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old Filipina woman, was brutally murdered after having sex with a U.S. marine. The marine in question, Joseph Scott Pemberton, strangled her until she was unconscious and then proceeded to drown her in a toilet bowl.

Understandably, this crime triggered a lot of outrage. But while some were outraged over the horrific nature of the crime, many others were outraged by a different detail in the story. That was because Jennifer Laude had done the unspeakable. She was a trans woman and had not disclosed that information before having sex with Pemberton. So in the minds of many cis people, her death was the price she paid for not disclosing her trans status. Here are some of the comments on CNN's Facebook page when the story broke.

As a trans person, I run into this attitude all the time. I constantly hear cis people raging about how a trans person is "lying" if they don't come out to a potential partner before dating them. Pemberton himself claimed that he felt like he was "raped" because Laude did not come out to him. Even cis people that fashion themselves as "allies" tend to feel similar.

Their argument is that they aren't not attracted to trans people, so they should have a right to know if a potential partner is trans before dating them. These people view transness as a mere physical quality that they just aren't attracted to.

The issue with this logic is that the person in question is obviously attracted to trans people, or else they wouldn't be worried about accidentally going out with one. So these people aren't attracted to trans people because of some physical quality, they aren't attracted to trans people because they are disgusted by the very idea of transness.

Disgust towards trans people is ingrained in all of us from a very early age. The gender binary forms the basis of European societies. It establishes that there are men and there are women, and each has a specific role. For the gender binary to have power, it has to be rigid and inflexible. Thus, from the day we are born, we are taught to believe in a very static and strict form of gender. We learn that if you have a penis, you are a man, and if you have a vagina, you are a woman. Trans people are walking refutations of this concept of gender. Our very existence threatens to undermine the gender binary itself. And for that, we are constantly demonized. For example, trans people, mainly women of color, continue to be slaughtered in droves for being trans.

The justification of transphobic oppression is often that transness is inherently disgusting. For example, the "trans panic" defense still exists to this day. This defense involves the defendant asking for a lesser sentence after killing a trans person because they contend that when they found out the victim was trans, they freaked out and couldn't control themselves. This defense is still legal in every state but California.

And our culture constantly reinforces the notion that transness is undesirable. For example, there is the common trope in fictional media in which a male protagonist is "tricked" into sleeping with a trans woman. The character's disgust after finding out is often used as a punchline.

Thus, not being attracted to trans people is deeply transphobic. The entire notion that someone isn't attracted to a group of very physically diverse group of people because they are trans is built on fear and disgust of trans people. None of this means it is transphobic to not be attracted to individual trans people. Nor is it transphobic to not be attracted to specific genitals. But it is transphobic to claim to not be attracted to all trans, people. For example, there is a difference between saying you won't go out with someone for having a penis and saying you won't go out with someone because they're trans.

So when a cis person argues that a trans person has an obligation to come out to someone before dating them, they are saying trans people have an obligation to accommodate their transphobia. Plus, claiming that trans people are obligated to come out reinforces the idea that not being attracted to trans people is reasonable. But as I've pointed out, not being attracted to trans people supports the idea that transness is disgusting which is the basis for transphobic oppression.

The one scenario in which I would say a trans person should disclose their trans status is if they are going to have sex with someone and are unsure if their partner is attracted to whatever genitals they may have. In that case, I think it's courteous for a trans person to come out to avoid any awkwardness during sex. But even then, a trans person isn't "lying" if they don't come out and their partner is certainly not being "raped."

It is easy to look at the story of Jennifer Laude and claim that her death was due to the actions of one bigot. But it's more complicated than that. Pemberton was the product of a society that told him that disgust towards trans people was reasonable and natural. So when he found out that he accidentally slept with a trans woman, he killed her.

Every single cis person that says that trans people have to come out because they aren't attracted to trans people feeds into the system that caused Jennifer Laude's death. And until those cis people acknowledge their complicity in that system, there will only be more like Jennifer Laude.

SEE ALSO: Yes, You Absolutely Need To Tell Someone You're Trans Before Dating

Cover Image Credit: Nats Getty / Instagram

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10 Men That Will Change Your Mind About Hair Loss

It happens to the best of them, but these men look better with a bald head!


Hair loss is such a common thing for men to face as they get older. As a society, I feel as though we typically frown upon it. This is probably the case due to the amount of hair transplants and hair products to stop hair loss and start hair growth. However, there are some men who can make the hair loss turn into a great thing because of how good they look bald. So, I have found the best looking bald men (in my opinion, of course!) and put them all into one list for your viewing pleasure!


1. Will Smith

First of all, I am extremely bias because I believe that Will Smith is the best looking man on this planet (even my boyfriend knows this!). Second, Will Smith is not always bald, but when he is, he tops the list of all bald men. In his role of Deadshot in Suicide Squad, Will was rocking the bald cut and looked absolutely amazing while doing so. 10/10, would recommend.

Will Smith: Deadshot

2. Idris Elba

Once again, another man that is not usually bald but when he is, he sure does kill. Idris Elba is such a great looking man and has an even better sounding voice. What is better than a man with an accent that looks good bald?

Idris Elbaidris-elba-hairstyle

3. Dwayne Johnson

We all know that the Rock is a favorite among women. He is tall, handsome and has the big strong muscles. Not to mention he plays the sweet father role well and has a great sense of humor. But the most impressive part of him is that he can be bald and pull it off VERY well!

Dwayne Johnson

4. Morris Chestnut

Such a beautiful man with an amazing smile. I am not sure how someone could not love the appearance of Morris Chestnut. Did I mention his smile?

Morris Chestnutmorris-chestnut

5. Shemar Moore

Another man with no hair that steals the show with a great smile is Shemar Moore. His bald head stands out in a great way and I think it would be impossible to have this type of list without Shemar on it.

Shemar Moore

6. Kobe Bryant

Not only is the MVP of basketball but he might be the MVM (most valued man) of the bald men out there! Once again, another beautiful smile. Not to mention, he's extremely talented.

Kobe Bryant

7. LL Cool J

A singer and an actor, representing the best of the bald men out there. Such a beautiful smile (are we seeing a trend here?) and an even better looking man. Could not leave LL Cool J off of this list either.

LL Cool J

8. Tyrese Gibson

Another man who can definitely give a positive view on being bald and losing your hair, Tyrese has been doing the look justice for a long time now.

Tyrese Gibson

9. Vin Diesel

We all know him from the Fast and the Furious, but let's recognize that he is a great looking man, rocking the bald head look. We love the movies and we love him. Go you Vin Diesel, keep rocking out and winning over all of our hearts (and eyes!).

Vin Diesel

10. Common

What common lacks in hair on his head he gains in facial hair. I swear he has one of the best beards ever. Also, those freckles? Hello? So cute!


Hopefully, after seeing as these wonderful men absolutely slaying the bald look, you'll think twice about hair loss (whether you're a man or a woman!).

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