A Rose By Any Other Name

Speaking Socialist Sweetness Amid the Stench of Propaganda.

The latest issue of The Democratic Left, the DSA national magazine, reports there have been over 12,000 new members added in two months. In addition, 29 of our 40 nationally endorsed candidates have won their races. These grassroots campaigns are ample reasons to celebrate and be inspired for they symbolize democracy flexing its muscles after a difficult run on the edge of a cliff! There are millions who believe in the power of the progressive platform and are with us in values if not uniform. Many beyond our DSA chapters are working towards urgent covid relief, Medicare for All, and a Green New Deal. So what keeps them from crossing the red line and putting on the beautiful red button? 

Perhaps the primary reason many shy away from socialism is the propaganda used to confuse folks about the nature of our movement. Socialism has been demonized from its inception. Much of the political education people receive comes from a handful of news sources that are ultimately owned by rich elites who shape the messaging as much as possible towards their interests. But just as Romeo and Juliet saw past family rivalries, we must focus on what’s true and good in each other.

It is easy for us to enter conversations thinking they won’t change their mind because that has been the script for so long. Yet these are rare times, and many things are in flux. The pandemic has decimated our economy such that even moderate conservatives see the need for economic intervention, similar to how we expect support after a hurricane. With the societal instability comes the rising need for a new deal.

If you look at the overall economy, we’ve seen steady disinvestment into infrastructure and public services. In the time that productivity and profits have increased, wages have stagnated. There has been a large increase in poverty and gutting of the middle class. 60% of Americans one emergency away from bankruptcy. The elites have the nerve to call it trickle-down economics. They are happy to piss pennies on the lower class who run our farms, factories, warehouses, and delivery networks. 

Just as the recovery from the 2008 Housing Crisis saw bailouts for big banks while they also foreclosed on the victims of their predatory lending, we see the rich profiting off government aid. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans established by the CARES Act were gobbled up by businesses with millions in their coffers while mom-and-pop and black-owned businesses waited to get their paperwork approved. Most average Americans received $1,800 and $600 nine months later (many of us are still waiting on our second check). In contrast, Wall Street is seeing record highs fueled by 0% interest government loans. And it’s not just us socialists that are frustrated by this blatant disparity of relief.

This conflict between profit and people has put Medicare for All center stage. The ballooning of costs in the US in part comes from the large insurance companies’ capacity to determine pricing along with for-profit hospitals that mark up every little item.

Many fear that the quality of care will go down if so many more people get access to benefits. Yet, many other countries have higher quality healthcare with much lower costs. A growing majority of Americans are in favor of a public option or single-payer. This demonstrates how liberal and conservative leadership is bowing to private profit.

Another vital policy is the Green New Deal. It addresses both the economic and ecological catastrophes we now face. It would be a return to the use of our tax dollars on infrastructure and the common people after decades of corporate handouts. Money swindled from the people by lobbyists and slimy politicians. Money meant to deliver a higher standard of living for all.

Many centrists say the Green New Deal is too much too fast. If it seems like a huge shift, remind our friends that we could have implemented incremental changes 30-40 years ago when climate scientists began sounding the alarm. But denial and pseudo-science propaganda campaigns have forced us into the need for revolutionary action now. Global Climate Destabilization is threatening our shores and our crops. Many in the Pacific Islanders are losing their homes.

It is also easy to get burned out when the problems are so large and our groups seemingly small. Yet many, I believe, are just not aware of the empowering arc of grassroots victories. As many struggle to support themselves, as organizers, we must work to make political participation accessible. We can empower others when we connect with them and help them find their voice. As a public speaking coach, I see just how difficult it is to speak up these days.

Many just don’t feel they have a space to be heard. We do well to hold that space, hear them, and help them find community and the power that comes with participation in the collective push for change. Then, together, we can work to parse out the truth from falsehoods not in confrontation but co-operation and as socratic servants, not demanding deliverers of truth. From here, we can finally clarify the confusions that hold many liberals back from supporting more progressive or, dare I say, leftist policies.

While these ideas are large, they help us chart a course forward. Socialism has united millions in an understanding of the mechanisms of power, and gives a pathway towards collective agency and freedom. Its teachings help us increasingly rule our lives in confrontation with the oppressive forces that keep the wealthy elite living as Gods while billions suffer in squalor, servants to their murderous luxury. 

It is no wonder they demonize and seek to derail our message, for it holds the means of their demise. We win when we work together, and for that, we must see past the propaganda and question the culture they spend billions to maintain. The work is more important than the label, and we must be willing to associate and grow beyond it whether a card-carrying socialist or curious citizen seeking answers.

If you would like to get involved, please visit the Grand Rapids Democratic Socialist website and reach out. We’ll be in touch.