Democratic Socialism and Democratic Efficiency
This is a basic argument that attempts to expose a contradiction at the heart of all forms of radical democratic socialism; namely Marxism, left-libertarianism, and anarcho-socialism. The argument can be extended to criticize any explicitly pro-democratic ideology, yet it is especially devastating against all democratic forms of socialism that fully reject capitalism. This argument should not be interpreted as a criticism of authoritarian anti-democratic socialism such as the form of governance practiced in the U.S.S.R, Communist China, and practically every other explicitly “socialist” country to ever exist, nor should it be considered an argument against “moderate” democratic socialism such as modern day Sweden and Norway.
Essential to understanding this argument is grasping the extent to which the democratic ideal pervades radical socialism. Despite being eternally strawmanned by their opponents as autocratic advocates, socialists have long been the most avid supporters of democracy in nearly all walks of life. It is the classic socialist, not the modern mainstream political activist who argues for direct democracy, democracy in the workplace, and democratic self-determination by communities. Indeed the more radical socialists wish to radically extend the reach of democratic control.
A uniting characteristic of all forms of radical socialism is the belief in the positive nature of democracy and the ability of majority rule in freely-held elections to reach positive outcomes for “the community”. This is not to say that the socialists believe democratic outcomes will always be perfect, but democracy usually yields positive results in a similar manner that the capitalist supporter would argue that entrepreneurs generally make wise investments. This assumption must be true or else any advocate of widespread democracy in the workplace and on a community level is advocating for the ruin of both of those organizations.
The contradiction, from the above assumption, should be quite obvious. Democracy is not an imaginary construct; it’s here now, and it is yielding to non-socialist results. Widespread public elections have been held in the United States for over two centuries, and yet the nation shows no clear gravitation towards libertarian socialism or Marxism through the democratic process. Even if one looks at merely the past century during which we have had gender-inclusive elections and a fully industrialized economy, there has still been no clear push for any sort of socialist anarchism. The most that can be said is that democracy is pushing us into a more statist direction with a larger welfare state and greater government oversight, yet this is the opposite of what the radical socialist would predict. Therefore if anything it would seem that the true democrat, one who had no opinion of his own and simply supported the will of the majority, might be able to support social democracy, but not left libertarianism.
In Europe things aren’t much better. While socialism has always been more prominent in Europe, it is still usually of the more statist variety, and even then it is by no means full-on socialism. Most European economies, certainly all of the wealthiest ones, have well developed financial markets and other capitalist institutions. The role of the state has not been to get rid of these institutions, but instead to guide them and supposedly improve them into a more societally efficient manner.
This necessarily contradicts the thesis of the radical socialist. If democracy leads to generally positive results, and if socialism is the best system, then democratic elections should fairly swiftly lead to the achievement of the socialists’ preferred system. Therefore, after several hundred thousand trials with absolutely no tendency for democratic elections to favor socialism, we can disregard the thesis of the radical socialist using his own yardstick. This is especially devastating towards the socialists who like to be “scientific” and “empirical” by referring heavily to historical evidence, yet what outcome could more obviously condemn their own theory than what has occurred right before their eyes in election after election?
Socialism is not an especially popular ideology. The masses aren’t shouting for it in the streets, instead it is advocated only by the political fringe. Democracy does not tend towards this outcome advocated by the sternest democrats.
There are a handful of possible objections that are likely to be levied against this criticism of democratic socialism.
1. No country currently has direct democracy and therefore we cannot claim that democracy has failed
This argument is uncompelling for two reason. Firstly there is no reason to believe that direct democracy would lead to socialism even if it were adopted by every country on earth. Socialism is generally a lesser-known and advocated ideology, so there is no reason to believe that it would be adopted just by changing the exact nature of the democracy employed. Secondly, it doesn’t make sense why a representative democracy would be so much less effective. Why is it that the masses cannot come to a general agreement that radical socialism is needed, and elect only those officials who advocate and practice this theory? Or merely those candidates who advocate for instating direct democracy? It makes sense that direct democracy may be more efficient, but surely after a handful of elections where the politicians don’t provide voters with the socialism they desire the wise masses would soon catch on and elect candidates from their own ranks.
2. Capitalists manipulate the current process and prevent the ideology of socialism from becoming politically influential or ideologically widespread.
This argument fails because it assumes that the masses are easily fooled. If nations that allow near perfect freedom of speech still have no tendency towards socialism, then why would a group that is so easy to manipulate be effective at the head of industry and community? If the masses were clearly in favor of socialism then it would be nearly impossible for any social force to repress, yet this is so obviously not what is happening that this alone practically invalidates the position in question. Socialism is a specific political position just like all other political positions, it is not any more natural than American conservatism.
3. What is needed to make direct democracy effective is radical socialism.
This argument implies some great change that will occur just because an election is direct or more localized. Today individuals are impressed with the importance of democracy and voting through the public education system and other social pressures. Democracy is something people are continually encouraged to participate in, it isn’t expressed as some elite club only experts should take part in. Why don’t the masses vote generally at the same quality that they would in the world of the radical democratic socialist if any local and national elections in our day are regarded with the same urgency and sense of community they would receive in the world of the radical socialist.
Radical democratic socialism is a contradiction. Democracy, by the very measure used by the democratic socialist, has provided results that are negative, capitalistic, and authoritarian. Therefore one cannot consistently advocate for radical democratic socialism since democracy has already contradicted this position.