Stan – I think my friend Scott Galupo is trying too hard. By his standard, Lenin and a lot of other Bolsheviks weren’t socialist either! After all Lenin’s New Economic Policy allowed for private property and profit. Another non-socialist? Norman Thomas, the president of the American Socialist Party. Here he is explaining his view of private property:
It is not that Socialists want less private property. We want more private property in the good things of life. We do not mean to take the carpenter’s kit away from the carpenter or Fritz Kreisler’s violin away from Fritz Kreisler, or the home or the farm in which any man lives and works away from him.
We do intend to end private landlordism, and to take the great natural resources — oil, copper, coal, iron; the great public utilities, power, transportation; the banking system, the distributive agencies like the dairy trust, the basic monopolies and essential manufacturing enterprises — out of the hands of private owners, most of them absentee owners, for whose profits workers with hand and brain are alike exploited. And we intend to put these things into the hands of society.
Thomas’ socialism was consonant with much of the socialism of the Fabian socialists, whom, according to Galupo must not have been socialists either. The truth is they were exactly the sort of socialists Stan describes — gradualist pragmatists (much to the chagrin of HG Wells who wanted a more robust socialism, or “Liberal Fascism.”).
Scott’s standard also exonerates Bernie Sanders from the charge of socialist, even though Bernie accepts the label. Indeed, we can do this all day with self-described socialists across America and Europe (not to mention the Chinese!).
I should also point out that a strict focus on economics is not the only or even best way to understand or think about socialism. In fact, I think seeing socialism as a purely Marxist, economically defined, phenomenon is a distraction. In brief, I think socialism is a catchall label for a collectivist impulse to solve what used to be called “the social question.” But that’s a conversation for another day. I should also note that I still think a better label for American liberalism’s economic philosophy is “corporatism.” Indeed, I wrote a whole book about that.