The Film About Socialism the GOP Doesn’t Want You to See
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Just yesterday, Bloomberg News reported that data from the first half of this year shows that the 50 richest Americans are roughly as rich as the poorest 165 million Americans, or 50 percent of the population. Still, "socialism" is a funny word in the United States. Its mere utterance tends to upset the capitalist leadership in both major parties. However, polls show that Americans across the country, especially the younger generation, appear unimpressed by and, in fact, driven by its basic premises.
The Big Scary "S" Word, a documentary by Yael Bridge, examines the legacy of socialism as an economic system and its roots in the United States rather than Europe or Latin America, the film experts spring from democratic ideals.
The most useful thing about the formulation of the "S" word is that it identifies America's dominant political ideology - freedom - and argues that socialism is the only economic system capable of besting it in the country. Capitalism is more suited to oligarchy and, as we saw recently, can easily find a friend to fascism. Speakers such as Princeton Professors Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and Cornel West, and topics such as Rep. Lee Carter, focus on the failure of Republicans and Democrats to uplift poor and working people while happily advocating for private corporations.
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The story, which explores much of the film - from Theodore Roosevelt's presidential platform to the ideas of its challenger, socialist Eugene V. Debs - is less a symbol of pure socialism than the social democracy that is being rolled out across Europe. Payer health care, free and well-funded education from kindergarten to college, paid family vacations, free childcare and more are the social programs that could very well lift people out of poverty if offered universally and without prejudice. In the Global South, several countries have struggled to establish actual socialist and communist systems but have been violently challenged by US intervention. "S" Word seems to be based on the notion that the US may never be truly internationalist in its struggle for economic justice (the Green New Deal's continued reliance on the extraction of precious metals from vulnerable countries tells us so too), but it is certainly possible to create livable and even joyful conditions for its residents through its residents.
As you see it, socialism is a community project. And, as Taylor points out, it is very unlikely to emerge from electoral politics. People must decide through the solidarity of workers and the community that they have had enough and that it is time to do something about it. The film follows Stephanie, an Oklahoma teacher and single parent who decides to go on strike with her union to get better funding and pay. She becomes curious about socialism and is more involved in the organization. It is so easy for powerful politicians to instill fear of socialism - through red bait and rhetorical backhand - because its terms are revolutionary. Unless left-wing authoritarianism (and not the right-wing authoritarianism we currently have) suddenly becomes popular in the United States, there will be no savior who will pull us out of our miserable circumstances and force us onto a socialist path. Many experts in the film therefore argue that we must fight for democracy as the foundation of socialism, as its only viable manifestation.
The dominance of capitalism is determined less by dreams than by illusions. It's about what you think you see, but it was never actually there. Anyone with even a bit of sense knows that capitalism is a big part of why it's miserable or fearful, but its false promises can be compelling. If I just get this leadership job, get this stroke of luck, and come up with this lucrative idea, I'll also benefit from corporate tax breaks. If it were a dream it would be a depressing one; The illusion enables you to cut off public program funding, labor exploitation, rent-collecting, and the state violence that capital enables. With capitalism, you are always an individual, never dependent on anyone or anything other than your own ability - an impossible requirement that so many Americans like to believe because, ironically, it makes them feel safe.
The big scary "S" word tries to prove that real security and personal achievement resides in the kind of society in which we recognize our interdependence and work together to make the most of it for all. The film shows how labor and food cooperatives are making small versions of this, reinterpreting supply chains as mutually beneficial links between communities and individuals, rather than production lines designed for the benefit of property owners.
I still wonder how cooperative the Americans are. Is a socialist (or even social democratic) economic system thwarted by xenophobia, racism, ability awareness and transphobia? Will anti-wakeful leftists continue to berate those who consistently raise these concerns, saying that the (white) working class is so overwhelmingly intolerant and yet fundamentally indispensable (an obvious paradox to me) that anti-bigotry is not a viable demand for one Is socialist movement? Or will people, in our small and large ways, find a common path that is not based on concessions, but on realized dreams?
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