Opinion: Democratic socialism is not communism

Samantha Karam is a sophomore journalism major. Contact her at [email protected].

Samantha Karam

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders refers to himself as a “democratic socialist” and many of his Republican opponents have started calling him a communist in hopes of swaying voters. Sanders’ opponents are exploiting America’s fear of communism to make themselves look like the better choice. That’s a little extreme, even for politicians.

This strategy has proven to be fairly effective because Sanders’ label makes a lot of Americans nervous. Let’s get one thing straight: democratic socialism is not the socialism Americans fear so much, and Sanders is anything but a communist.

Pure communism takes place in a capitalist society that is both classless and stateless. Classless societies, “refer to a hierarchical society in which social classes have been deliberately abolished,” according to the New World Encyclopedia. Classlessness was established so all citizens were equally poor and forced to carry out the same work. A pure communist society is stateless so that after a while leaders won’t have to coerce citizens to act in a way that benefits the society as a whole.

America is not, however, a purely capitalist state. It functions as a mixed economy. Furthermore, democratic socialists like Sanders don’t support a centralized economy. Sanders advocates for the poor and believes the rich should pay more. Many people have hated on him because of how he severely he separates economic classes.  Also, he’s been very adamant about how he believes Americans have the right to decide the foundation for the future of this country. That being said, how can Sanders possibly be a communist when his ideals directly contradict the main factors of communism? There’s a very simple response to that: he can’t.

According to The Fiscal Times, “democratic choice over political leadership, distinguishes democratic socialism from authoritarian Marxist-Leninist style socialism.”

Sanders has been very vocal in establishing the difference between his ideals and the ideals his opponents are trying to pair him with.  

It’s quite simple to separate Sanders from communism. Americans hear the word “socialist” and put their defenses up. It’s great to be aware and even greater to be concerned about who will lead this country next, but you need to look a little deeper into what politicians throw at you to find the truth.

Yes, the word socialism is scary because of what we associate it with, but if you listen to Sanders talk and explain his motives and plans for the future, they directly conflict with what communism stands for.

I’m not telling you to start “Feelin’ the Bern,” but whether you plan on voting for Sanders or not, all I ask is that you understand the labels people give themselves and others. A little research goes a long way.

Samantha Karam is a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].