Monday, October 17, 2011

Democratic Socialism

I know this post doesn't have anything to do with the Hells Angels or the gang war but since there has been so much talk about the Vancouver Occupation as well as the New York occupation and what's happening around the globe, I do think in all fairness it needs to be said. For those who just want to hear about the gangs, scroll past. The gang problem is continuing.

I used to work with a good friend who thought I was a Communist for the same reason I thought he wasn't. We both believed in democracy and free speech. I found that somewhat ironic. I used to be a member of a large trade Union. Many members of which were self professed Communists. I was somewhat shocked. I remember having one discussion with a very intelligent National officer who said to me "The Chinese Red Square call themselves Communist but they aren't really Communist. The old Iron curtain and Eastern Europe (Before the fall of the USSR) call themselves Communists but they aren't really Communists." My response was what on earth are you talking about? That's what Communism is.

I've had many debates and heartfelt discussions with many who profess to be Communists. After hearing them out I wouldn't classify them as Communists, I'd classify them as Democratic Socialists which in my opinion is a far cry from hard line Communism. Yet they don't define it as such. They claim true Communism is democratic. It's just so sad every time we see a Communist regime take over, democracy and free speech are the first to go.

These friends would always hold up Cuba and say Cuba is the best model for Socialism we have. I was like what are you taking about? They hold political prisoners. Sure it's a watered down form of Communism because they haven't outright banned religion, but they do discriminate against religion. You can't be a member of the Communist party if you have a religious affiliation and you can't run for office unless you belong to the communist party. I don't see that as a democracy. Yet doing business with China and boycotting Cuba is somewhat absurd.

Personally, I think the best model of Socialism we have is the Kibbutz movement in Israel. That's where volunteers can come and go as they please while those who wish to stay are free to do so. That is the defining difference. They are free to join and they are free to leave. No one earns a wage per say, the profits from the Kibbutz go toward making the standard of living for everyone better. I loved it. I recognize it's not for everyone. Some people don't like to work. At all. They take advantage of the system. Others are greedy. They want more than others and consume all the rations before everyone has had a chance to share. Yet all in all I found it to be a wonderful experience.

Here's my conundrum. True democratic socialism that's governed by the people for the people can only exit in a constitutional republic. For example in Canada or the U.S. people are free to form a collective community where they share things in common. The Amish do. They are free to come and they are free to leave. Their human rights are protected by a Constitution or a charter of rights.

As soon as you throw away that Constitution or that charter, you are throwing away any and all legal protection you have that preserves your democracy. I don't care how wonderful or opiate like the ideals of Marx sound, talking the talk is very different than walking the walk. Lenin taking over the Russian revolution from Shiplov and then sending in the machine guns on the same unionized workers he exploited to get power is a prime example. Like any politician they can promise you the moon but when they assume power they do what they want. A Constitution, charter, proclamation or a declaration needs to bind the politicians to protecting human rights.

Some on the right are deathly afraid of socialism and any element there off. I personally don't share that same paranoia. I consider myself half capitalist and half socialist. I have no problem with someone starting a business and making a buck. Selling those Hope in the Shadows calenders in East Van is capitalism. More power to them. Yet I'm not afraid of sharing things in a collective. I like socialized medicine. A civilized society does not exist if a homeless person can't receive emergency medical aid.

People can argue about ICBC all they want. You want it private or you want it public, I don't care both have their pros and cons. I oppose excessive privatization because of the reason they are doing it. They are doing it to circumvent public accountability and they are doing it to make money off some things they shouldn't be making money off of. Prisons, police and the military should not be for profit Corporations.

Trailrunner claims that all forms of Socialism lead to the Gulag. Many on the right share that opinion. I don't. It's pretty simple to draw lines in that sand as set foundries. I'll never forget hearing Joan Smallwood from the NDP speak many years ago at a large Union convention. She spoke out against the human rights violations of Communist China. I was surprised. Yet the New Democratic party is defined by democracy. She drew a line and she did not cross it.

She also spoke out about how trade agreements like NAFTA or TILMA are bad not only because they ship jobs off shore. They also erode our democratic rights and our sovereignty by removing government's power to create a law that would inhibit a corporation's ability to make a profit. Public health care inhibits a private corporation's ability to make a profit so if you chose public health care, that trade agreement just made it illegal. Dumping or transporting toxic waste damages the environment? Too bad because laws that protect the environment inhibit a corporation's ability to make a profit. These new trade agreements aren't about free trade. They're about removing our sovereignty as we speak. That is the road to
the Gulag right there.

We talked a little but about Cuba and Poland. Remember how Cuba got screwed up in the first place that necessitated a revolution of sorts? The Americans were supporting organized crime in Cuba. The Batista government were a corrupt right wing dictatorship. They didn't care as long as they weren't socialist. They even enlisted the support of the mafia to fight Castro. What the Americans did was wrong. Just like what England did in Iran under operation Ajax when they finally recruited the Americans to help them with that political meddling to exploit for oil. Not much has changed.

I just think we should shun extremism. It is important to confront the corruption in Wall Street. The former Vancouver stock Exchange is a legacy to that urgency. Yet I don't think we should throw out the baby with the bath water and start chanting Castro or Mao. A left wing dictator is no better than a right wing dictator and visa versa. Let's confront corruption and not get swept away in any extreme so we can also preserve democracy and free speech.


  1. As long as those lines in the sand ARE drawn, all well and good. Private possession of arms is one of them. (Yeah I know, too "American", ask those who resisted the Nazi's about that, ("All Jews are forbidden to possess weapons upon pain of death") Ask those Poles who had to go out and kill their first German with a hatchet to get their hands on a gun.

    The problem is that those lines have to be maintained. That's the linchpin. They are eroded slowly, over a long timeline, frog in a pot of water analogy, etc.. Giving up a few more rights and privilege's for more security, or to fight crime, etc.. And the sales pitch is always a lie that amazingly enough has been used before, over and over, and should be known to be such by anyone who's read a history book.

    At first, only a few sound the alarm, swimming against the tide of group inertia. Those are the first to be targeted. By the time everyone realizes there's a problem, it's too late. And at the point where "the revolution" achieves victory, the process of consolidating that victory occurs. The Lenin's, the Mao's, the "dictator's in waiting" who have been biding their time purge those who rode with them, those who truly believed in the revolution but were idealistic enough to be blind to their comrades blind ambitions, not realizing there was an end-game.

    Too late then. Examples "have" to be made to deter people from resisting the consolidation process. Every shithead wearing a Che T-shirt glorifies a murderer who had 1500 or so people stood up against a wall and shot when he and Castro "consolidated" their revolution. Che was Castro's hatchet man. Every time I see someone wearing one of those shirts I know I'm looking at a really ignorant person who thinks he's a hiprevolutionary, never dreaming that he (or she) is really just another enabling sheep.

    There's hope for you yet Agent K. ;) I may have got the wrong idea about your politics from some of your posts. And vice versa. Nuance doesn't always translate to the internet.

    I REALLY like the sign that one protestor had about socializing loss and privatizing gain. That's a gem right there.

  2. I don’t know enough about what Che was really like to say for sure. I used to joke and say Castro was the one that had him killed. I did see a “documentary” that made Che look pretty darn good. I have no idea how factual that was. Even the posters of Che are distorted. The posters make him look like a rock star and are different from his actually picture. Yet I recall reading his father claimed he was part Irish and had the rebel’s blood in him.

  3. trailrunner78:

    "Nuance doesn't always translate to the internet."

    It doesn't translate at all; and one can add irony, wit, humour, cynical remarks, or especially sarcasm. In fact a huge range of human expression just doesn't make it here. It's much better for humans to express themselves in person, as we've all got a genetic inheritance that makes us more likely to learn from face-to-face.

    Agent K:

    "I don’t know enough about what Che was really like to say for sure."

    First, thanks for your very reasonable comments.

    There's the big standard bio. on Che, called *Che* of course, I did read it. It's in the library; worth taking out, which I do whenever something comes up I don't know about. Go & get the book on it & just read it, its a good habit.

    The worst part of this guy is all the firing-squad murders he commanded, right after Fidel got in. Estimates are that Che's guys killed about 5,000 anti-communists of all sorts. Just stood 'em in front of a wall, old-style, and shot them down. You can decide whether you like that or not, I guess, but if I did one-five-thousandth of that, and got caught here, I would in theory spend up to 25 years in prison, no...?

  4. “The worst part of this guy is all the firing-squad murders he commanded, right after Fidel got in. Estimates are that Che's guys killed about 5,000 anti-communists of all sorts. Just stood 'em in front of a wall, old-style, and shot them down.” OK that wasn’t in the movie. In the movie it just showed him insisting on paying the peasants for food and supplies they gave to the army. That is obviously a serious concern which needs to be verified. I don’t think most people wearing a Che rock star T-shirt know about that.


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