By Nancy Churchill
Disabuse yourself of the notion that socialism leads inexorably to a failed state like the old Soviet Union. That autocracy collapsed spectacularly some 30 years ago.
Rather, we can embrace our own socialist achievements, and look toward countries that practice socialism successfully today.
Journalist Ann Jones was uniquely qualified to make such a comparisons, having lived in Norway for four years following a stint covering the war in Afghanistan, before finally returning to the U.S.
She tuned into the first Democratic presidential debate. “Bernie Sanders was denouncing America’s crooked version of ‘casino capitalism’ that floats the already rich ever higher and flushes the working class. He said that we ought to ‘look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.'”
Sanders’ comments resonated with her experiences, prompting an article for Salon.com, 2/4/16, titled “American capitalism has failed us: We’re overworked, underemployed and more powerless than ever.”
“Denmark, Norway and Sweden are all thriving under democratic socialism,” she says, “Why is it so difficult for us to embrace?”
Though Norway, a tiny, culturally and racially homogenous country, stands in stark contrast to the U.S., the virtual utopia Jones experienced there was impressive – “the polar opposite of Afghanistan: a peaceful, prosperous land where nearly everybody seemed to enjoy a good life, on the job and in the family.”
Compared to Americans, Norwegians work on average only 37 hours per week when they were not on long paid vacations. “At the end of the work day, about four in the afternoon (perhaps three in the summer), they had time to enjoy a hike in the forest or a swim with the kids or a beer with friends – which helps explain why, unlike so many Americans, they are pleased with their jobs.”
Upon returning to America, she was astonished to find conditions here resembled Afghanistan far more than Norway. “[T]here are not enough shelters for the homeless. Most people are either overworked or hurting for jobs; housing is overpriced; hospitals, crowded and understaffed; schools, largely segregated and not so good. Opioid or heroin overdose is a popular form of death; and men in the street threaten women wearing hijab. Did the American soldiers I covered in Afghanistan know they were fighting for this?” she asks.
Jones believes capitalist competition produced the near war-zone conditions she encountered here. Fearmongers equate socialism with the failed Soviet Union without grasping that casino capitalism describes not only a failing state, but a failing democracy.
And the results are less than impressive: “The median wealth of an American adult is roughly $34,316, … far below that of adults in countries like Japan ($78,862), Luxembourg ($78,453), the United Kingdom ($75,734), Norway ($54,362)….
“The U.S. poverty rate for children is over 20 percent, higher than that of all other major developed countries. The only other nations in the OECD with similarly high rates are Chile, Israel, Mexico, Spain, and Turkey.
“By contrast, child poverty is less than 9 percent in the Nordic countries….” [ourfuture.org/20160208/inequality-against-democracy-10-facts-about-the-0-01-percent]
Wikipedia confirms, “The word ‘socialism’ finds its root in the Latin *sociare*, which means to combine or to share…. The original “utopian” socialists condemned liberal individualism for failing to address social concerns during the industrial revolution, including poverty, social oppression, and gross inequalities in wealth; viewing liberal individualism as … selfish egoism that harmed community life through promoting a society based on competition.”
Jones’ experience validates that socialism is not the little shop of horrors many people fear. Rather, it encourages sharing and working together toward the betterment of all.
As a Democratic socialist, Sanders is leading a revolution to replace the “casino capitalist” oligarchy with a restored democracy by expanding on socialist programs that succeed – like our own police, firefighters, and court systems, public schools, the Post Office, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
We don’t have to accept a life of conflict resembling a war zone. We can choose to emulate Norway. If we work together, we can do this. youtu.be/mP7GVngc-bM
It’s a matter of will.