What is the limitation of democratic socialism
Why a little more socialism would do us good
There is a bogeyman in Germany. The word about collectivization makes the rounds, cheered on by an interview by Kevin Kühnert. The panicked call that the GDR is coming back, socialism is back, makes the marmots in the conservative editorial offices whistle hysterically. You can already see the empty shelves and think the Stasi is about to eavesdrop on you. A panic that apparently also gripped Verena Bahlsen, heiress of a biscuit company, and persuaded her that it would be wise to speak up about how much she loves being a capitalist and how nice it is to drive a yacht. The crux of all this discussion is that socialism is not coming back, it was never gone. He lives among us. Only intellectually is he stunted, emaciated and half starved from too little food for thought.
Socialism is freedom
Germany is a socialist country. More in the west than in the east. Because socialism wants to be nothing else than the liberation of every human being. The liberation from suffering, misery, exploitation, immaturity and overwhelming responsibility. It is the empowerment for a self-determined life. Socialism is freedom.
Ideals that shaped the early years in both the Federal Republic and the GDR. The desire to establish justice for all prevailed here as there. One state partially achieved it, the other went under because it so completely missed the goal of freedom that it lost all its raison d'etre.
It is too easy for a socialist today to say that the GDR was not socialism. Unfortunately it was. A socialism that betrayed the idea of freedom and believed that it could use force to force its development for lack of persuasiveness. Nobody wants this socialism with its terror prisons, its torture cellars, its shooting orders back. It has forever contaminated the word of socialism, just as the Nazis forever covered talk of the Germans with disgusting, repulsive and stinking boils.
Nevertheless, we still live in Germany and call ourselves Germans. We bear this name despite all the pain it brings. We do not escape this fate. We should not escape from being German, but rather shape our German being more humanly than it was. It is the same with socialism. We need to understand him in the ways and perversions he took to shape him more human than he ever was.
Socialism is torn
Socialism as a movement was only united for a few decades. United against the outrageous exploitation in the factories, against child labor, against cramped life in filthy barracks. Against censorship and against a lack of co-determination in the state and society, united in the strike and united in the struggle to be at least livable. A struggle that socialism won. Our social market economy is also a socialist one. It is the result of socialism, it is the result of Marxist analysis and communist reverie.
The socialist movement was torn apart by war, revolution and democracy. During the First World War it split into those who, fearing the loss of the war, wanted to finance the fortification of the unwanted fronts and those who opposed it. It was torn apart by the revolution when in Russia some socialists began to slaughter the other socialists. Socialism in Germany was torn apart in the democracy between those who tried to have more social rights and freedom become law and those who were not prepared to give concessions to old elites.
There is no such thing as one socialism
As always, when you tear something into a thousand pieces, you can no longer speak of the one still existing. There is no such thing as one socialism. It is as multifaceted as the fork in the road it went through in its history. At each of these bifurcations it split up along hopes and fears, along the fault lines between dream and reality.
When we look at our society today, we look at a society that is as socialist as most of the early socialists could have dreamed of. A society with minimum income, old-age security, with a right to housing and democratic participation. What we call the Federal Republic today is, from the perspective of the 19th century, the most unimaginable of all socialist paradises. A perspective that Sigmar Gabriel captured perfectly in response to Kevin Kühnert, but then came to the wrong conclusion. Our society is not yet socialism, it cannot be. Because socialism is not achieved, it is dreamed of.
Socialism is a dream
To be a socialist has to encourage thinking and not a rioting rumble against capital. The attempt not to accept the existing conditions, but to find the more human model of our being, is a quiet, thoughtful task and not a roaring simplicity. We cannot accept simple socialism. Because simple socialism always wanted freedom and yet in reality it failed so unbearably often to make freedom and not terror real, because one did not see oneself able to withstand the complexity of a just revolution with one's own simple ideas. The revolution was always ended in a bloodbath.
The constitution of our democratic state speaks of the social market economy. A concept influenced by the ideas of early socialism, but inadequate, which tries to correct the worst mistakes of the market economy and to achieve prosperity for more people. It is nothing more than the dialectical attempt to bring together the strengths and weaknesses of capitalism and the market economy. However, the economic freedom of every human being never produced this order. It has become the static commitment of a society in which a lot is good for the majority, but nothing for a huge minority.
Freedom in our society is unevenly distributed. A large part of the people here is not economically free. This is precisely why socialist thinking is still needed. It takes the idea of wanting to continue promoting economic, social and political freedom for everyone. That is what it means to be a democratic socialist: not to be satisfied with the social market economy, but to achieve a real market economy that is becoming more social.
Kevin Kühnert did nothing else when he talked about ideas for a distant tomorrow. Democratic socialism wants nothing else as it is in the basic program of the SPD. It is the invitation to dream, in order to wake up with the sweet memory of a better world again and again to fight for the compromise for a real, slightly better country. A fight that knows opponents but not enemies.
Socialism has no enemies
Socialism has no enemies - a statement that is difficult in the light of millions of people murdered in the great show trials of socialist terror. In history, socialists not only had enemies, they even looked for them and killed them. They perverted the idea from the freedom of every thinking person to the freedom of all thinking people. A perversion that was fully captured by Bini Adamczak in her essay “Yesterday Morning”.
Still, socialism has no enemies. He does not turn against the biscuit company heiress Verena Bahlsen. He stands up for them. Because you are like me, you are like every entrepreneur in the market economy, the responsibility rests on you. The worry about profit, the feelings of guilt when you can no longer pay employees, the long working nights, the fear that you will go bankrupt or oversleep the next big development. You numb all these worries with profits and yachts and would gladly trade every yacht for it if it weren't for the burden.
Socialism means shared responsibility
Socialism wants to take precisely this burden. The burden that we all feel because the movements of capital, regardless of whether we own it or others, make us driven by money. Socialism asks how we all allow ourselves more freedom. How we organize an economic system that serves us all and does not crush us all. He asks how a community can do business in such a way that the individual manager no longer feels the pressure to commission fraudulent software for cars just to survive in the market and end up behind bars for that alone.
Verena Bahlsen's yacht has been a mockery for days. It is unfair. Of course it's nice to drive one too. It is beautiful and can be. The only question that the socialist perspective invites us to ask is whether we shouldn't all be able to drive such a yacht. Whether it has to be that a whole yacht lies in the port on the Cote d’Azur for a whole year, just so that Verena Bahlsen can relax two weeks a year from all the responsibility she has to bear alone. Wouldn't it be better for Verena Bahlsen and all of us if we shared yachts and responsibility.
Nothing else means the collectivization that Kevin Kühnert speaks of and that is the cause of all this hysterical debate. The idea of not taking anything away from anyone, but rather giving something to everyone through shared responsibility and mutual benefit.
The text first appeared on the author's blog.
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