What socialism is not: autocratic rule

By Nancy Churchill
Contributor

On the night of December 16, 1773, American colonists boarded three ships and dumped 92,000 pounds of tea into the Boston Harbor to protest the British government sanctioning the East India Company’s monopoly on tea.

The unacceptable element to colonists was being held captive by a “detached and unaccountable ruling power.” This was only one round in an ongoing struggle between people wanting a say in how they are governed, and autocratic rule by the wealthy. That seminal event motivated a revolution and informed our experiment in constitutional democracy.

Today, says David Korten (When Corporations Rule the World), “[W]e are captive to detached and unaccountable corporations rather than to a detached and unaccountable state.” Democracy should be rule by the ruled, and as such, responsive to people’s needs, particularly those most vulnerable. It should provide equal opportunity to all in the form of early childhood through college education; universal health care; and support for the disabled, seniors and the unemployed. Some are repulsed by this, denouncing it as evil socialism.

What Korten describes as “corporate libertarians” — representing detached and unaccountable market power — constantly warn us that these “leftist” social programs will plunge our democracy into Soviet-style socialism, the personification of a detached, unaccountable — and failed — state.

“It is ironic that the closer the corporate libertarians move us toward their ideological ideal of laissez-faire capitalism,” Korten says, “the less responsive the economy becomes to the real needs of people and Earth. Ironically, the reasons for the failure are virtually identical to the reasons the Marxist economies failed….” Both concentrate power and dependence on unaccountable centralized mega-institutions; the economic systems of both destroy the living systems of Earth; and both undermine a spiritual connection to Earth and life by interpreting human needs only in narrow, materialistic terms.

Nothing could illustrate this better than today’s GOP presidential primaries. In this post-Citizens United era, instead of appealing to voters, each candidate must dance for mega-donor dollars, then “place” in the top ten in national polls opaquely chosen by Fox News — itself unconditionally controlled by one man, Roger Ailes — to even be allowed to debate publicly.

And the RNC has abandoned all pretense of a democratic process by coordinating its campaign with the Koch brother’s data machine. It is undeniable who this “representative republic” will represent if elected — a detached ruling elite unaccountable to the people.

And they bash socialists!

Korten explains: “An economic system can remain viable only as long as society has mechanisms to counter the concentration and abuse of both state and market power and the erosion of the natural, social and moral capital that such abuses commonly exacerbate.”

Fortunately, at least one unabashed socialist candidate has a long history of countering this concentration of abuse by representing people and responding only to their needs: Sen. Bernie Sanders.

His candidacy will allow us to revisit a more enlightened era, metaphorically dump some globalized corporate tea into the harbor, and experiment with a little democratic socialism.

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