Letter to the Editor: Understanding Social Democracy

To the Editor:

In his April 7 letter to the editor, the author Jeff Johnson states that “To become a true Socialist/Communist country you need to get rid of the middle class and individualism.” He implies that the Democratic Party wants the U.S. to practice Socialism/Communism and thus would get rid of the middle class and individualism.  This is not correct.

Socialism and Communism are different economic or political theories. There are some similarities, but there are major differences.  And to make it more complicated, there is Social Democracy, which is different from Socialism and Communism.

What are the similarities? Purely theoretical (not representative of practicing these theories), Socialism and Communism want to create an equal society.  These philosophies, however, accomplish an equal society in different ways.  Social Democracy wants a more equal society, where there are differences in income, but even the lower income class has a good quality of life.

What are the differences? Pure Socialism is when “everyone in society equally owns the factors of production.” The workers own or control the businesses, like a cooperative where everyone gets a share of the wealth and through their votes can control the company. Socialism is compatible with democracy and liberty, where the people elect their leaders and government officials within a two-party system.

Communism, on the other hand, is where the businesses are owned by the government, eliminating all privately-owned property.  The government is a totalitarian system where a single party controls the state-owned means of production.  Russia, China and several other countries practice this totalitarian system with dictators as their leaders.

In 1983, I spent eight months in Ukraine, working on a joint venture between the World Bank and Ukraine to plant 200,000 acres of hybrid corn. Ukraine was still a Communist-controlled country, even though it had just broken away from the former Soviet Union. All the apartments, utilities, major businesses and farms were owned by the government. Our partnership was to be a model of a new type of business.

The large collective farms (10,000-30,000 acres owned by the government) were managed by a “farm mayor,” who was responsible for the people on the farm and reaped the profit from the farm. If the farm mayor was benevolent, he provided adequately for the people within the collective farm, providing enough food, electricity, water, education, medical care, etc. If the farm mayor was self-serving, he spent the profit on himself and his family, and the people on the collective farm had little to eat, no electricity, no running water, very few people were educated, and medical care was rudimentary at best. People could not leave the collective farm without the proper paperwork, which was not available.

I saw first-hand how Communism isn’t interested in equality; the leaders rode around in limos, lived in mansions, and took vacations, while the farm people still had horses and wagons and never left the collective farm.

In the U.S., the progressive Democratic Party is working towards Social Democracy, where the government works toward providing the basic living necessities for all people, including education, a legal system, fire services, roads, and a government “by the people, for the people.”

Yes, the progressive Democrats want to include more services including health care for all, a living wage where the people get paid a wage that provides for their family, and enough food without children going hungry. These policies would lift people out of poverty and into a larger middle class.

Social Democracy wants a larger middle class, where individuals have jobs and services that provide for their families. Individuals still have the freedom of choice, the freedom to start businesses, the freedom to vote for their government, the freedom to become rich, the freedom of individuality.

The Democratic Party is not working towards Socialism or Communism, but it wants a more equal society, a Social Democracy, where people have enough to eat, a living wage, a place to call home, and a moderate quality of life.

Ann Fields