So I’ve been looking through my Twitter feed and up pops this (as a retweet) and although their heart is in the right place my concern is that it muddies the definition of what socialism actually is and even if they called it social democratic then even that would be problematic because it presupposes that that policy prescriptions are born out of the same philosophical basis rather than just political expediency (aka to hold onto power or to win power).
Now, don’t get me wrong, I understand what they’re trying to do when they talk about various functions of government as being ‘socialist’ so it moves the conversation away from socialism being associated with the soviet union, misery, drab grey buildings, dictatorships and goose stepping. In other words, “hey, socialism isn’t scary, you’re already have it in various parts of your life” but here is the problem, would King Charles II be considered socialist because he established the general post office in 1660? under Thatcher there were various initiatives in terms infrastructure, bailing out businesses or investing into projects like the Concord – would she be considered socialist? If were wanting to use a more contemporary example then maybe using the of co-operatives – businesses owned and controlled by workers themselves would probably be a better example of the ‘socialism’ than pointing to what amounts to be some rudimentary functions of government.
On a good side though, the spreading of social democratic ideas opens the door to larger discussion about left wing politics in much the same way that Democratic Socialists of America has provided a gateway for many Americans to rediscover socialism without all the baggage of the past. Some may stick with social democratic ideas whilst others will read more and discuss ideas which will lead them to drift further left. It is about playing the long game – moving the Overton window further to the left so that policy ideas that were once considered fringe such as nationalising the rail network suddenly become within the realm of acceptable discourse or the idea of free university is gradually becoming a reality in New Zealand even if the naysayers fail to grasp that an extra $120 extra in the hand per fortnight due to not having to pay off a student loan would be a massive leg up to many graduates who have just entered the workforce and want to start saving for their first house or getting their Kiwisaver off on a good start.