Distinguishing Democratic Socialism v. Socialism v. Communism:
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Politics and Activism

Distinguishing Democratic Socialism v. Socialism v. Communism:

When many of us hear Democratic Socialism echoed across the news, the way that Democratic Socialists like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are constantly misconstrued by the media, make it very easy for viewers to naturally equate expansion of Democratic Socialism in the U.S with Venezuela's authoritarian-style, socialist government style and North Korea's communist, totalitarian government style. However, it is important to acknowledge that there are fundamental political differences between democratic Socialism, socialism, and communism that need to be comprehensively addressed before running into any kind of political assumptions. Therefore, I am here to ultimately break that down for you.

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Distinguishing Democratic Socialism v. Socialism v. Communism:

In the United States, the two major political parties are the Democrats and the Republicans. However, being that these historical political establishments are fundamentally very complex and often fueled by political corruption and economic greed, many liberal voters who identify to farther left within the political spectrum generally politically-align themselves with popular Democratic Socialists representatives like Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Let's start off with making one thing clear: Democratic Socialism does not simply equate to socialism. It is generally a lot more complex than that.

- Sanders' has been constantly depicted as a radical and unelectable candidate across the media over his policy proposals as well as his association with Democratic Socialism.

- "Socialist" remains a dirty, and often misunderstood, term in the realm of US politics. The Cold War, in which animosity and paranoia toward the Soviet Union was pervasive in the US, is largely to thank for that.

- Socialism can be defined as a state-controlled economy in which the state controls the means of production (factories, offices, resources, and firms). However, there are also other forms of socialism in which the means of production are controlled and owned by workers:

- Both Democratic Socialists and socialists generally agree how the government should provide a range of basic services to the public, such as health care and education, for free or at a significant discount.

- However, while Democratic Socialism and Socialism are related in this sense, politicians like Sanders actively affirms the idea that his Democratic Socialist agenda is not at all akin to the authoritarian-style socialism in places like Venezuela.

- In the present day, "Democratic socialist" and "socialist" are often treated as interchangeable terms, which can be confusing given democratic socialists don't necessarily think the government should immediately take control of all aspects of the economy. However, what generally makes Democratic Socialism and Socialism fundamentally distinct is its profoundly embedded, strong commitment to the values of democracy.

- However, while Democratic Socialism and Socialism are related in this sense, politicians like Sanders actively affirms the idea that his Democratic Socialist agenda is not at all akin to the authoritarian-style socialism in places like Venezuela.

- Sanders has even admitted that he needs to do a better job explaining what he means by "socialism" and "democratic socialism" as his "right-wing colleagues" seek to portray his political philosophy as "authoritarianism and communism and Venezuela." The Vermont senator often expands, "To me, when I talk about democratic socialism, what I talk about are human rights and economic rights... Is it your assumption that I supported or believe in authoritarian communism that existed in the Soviet Union? ... I don't. I never have, and I opposed it. I believe in a vigorous democracy. I believe that in a democratic, civilized society, health care is a human right. Government should make that happen... What democratic socialism means to me is we expand Medicare, we provide educational opportunity to all Americans, we rebuild our crumbling infrastructure... In other words, government serves the needs of all people rather than just wealthy campaign contributors. That's what Democratic Socialism means to me."

While Socialism is built on the political basis that a government or societal collective essentially runs the means of production and everyone gets a proportional share based on their work, a communist government operates entirely differently. Under a communist government, everything is communally owned and run & there is no such thing as private property. Historically, communist governments (e.g North Korea) ultimately end up with one exclusively powerful political party in charge.

On the other hand, Democratic Socialists like Bernie and AOC believe that the economy and the rest of society should be run democratically, meaning our government should essentially run align democratically and work towards being representative and helping everyone opposed to just the elite, economically-privileged one percent of a county. Democratic Socialists believe in administering the prices of essential services that people generally need to survive like health care and public college education. Democratic Socialist actively work towards minimizing institutionalized economic inequalities, so everyone has a viable opportunity towards being economically sustainable. Democratic Socialists are often not the greatest supporters of how capitalism often disregards environmental conservation efforts and perpetuates economic degradation of individuals who are trapped amidst a financial situation. Consequently, as means to remedy this hegemonic economic disparity, Democratic Socialists generally find themselves calling for more regulation – a greener economy, a stronger and representative safety net, installing of labor unions, and raising the minimum wage. There are already numerous legal programs already in place across America that largely pursue a Democratic Socialist agenda, including social security, health coverage, Medicare & Medicaid, as well as public transit. Therefore, when you look at Bernie Sander's plans to further expand Democratic Socialism in America, his political agenda is not really as radical as many media platforms and politicians like Joe Biden and Donald Trump make him out.

During the 2016 U.S. Presidential race, Senator Bernie Sanders evolved into a progressive catalyst for the people of America, promoting a largely Democratic Socialist agenda during his race for presidency that year. Despite losing his Democratic nomination to a largely centrist, pro-establishment politician like Hilary Clinton, Sander's following attempt to win this year's Presidential race in 2020 has spurred a more comprehensive examination and ongoing dialogue on what exactly Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, free public college tuition, a raise in the legal minimum wage, legalization of marijuana, prison reform, and taxing more major corporations and affluent billionaires opposed to economically vulnerable individuals.

While for more younger generations, the term, Democratic Socialist, has gradually become de-stigmatized – older generations still perpetuate this bias against Democratic Socialism. According to many Americans from older generations, however, many of these older individuals implicitly associate the rise of communism and totalitarianism during the Cold War with what Democratic Socialism essentially stands for today – equitable access to services like healthcare and tuition-free public college education. Both political platforms stand for an entirely polar agenda and cannot be simply equated to one another. Despite Democratic Socialism constantly growing, powerful political support base in America...

Many critics of Democratic Socialism continue to argue how its political agenda is...

1. Too expensive

2. Potentially successful in countries in Sweden and Norway; however, this kind of government is too unrealistic for a country like the US since the US is so fundamentally complex – this comparison between Norway and the US generally does not account for other historical variables in the US (e.g race and gender relations, settler colonialism, immigration policies) that come into factor when discussing this kind of fundamental political shift.

3. Prompt high raises in taxes (countries like Sweden and Norway have one of the highest rates of taxation in the world in order to pay for these expensive government programs and make these services free for consumers; nearly half of Norway and Sweden's GDP comes from it's heavy taxation)

Ultimately, keeping all of these thoughts in mind, and holistically acknowledging the historical complexity and popularized misconceptions behind what exactly Democratic Socialism is – is so incredibly important in order to stay politically informed before voting in the upcoming U.S. 2020 presidential elections.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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