Why do many people refuse to consider social democracy a form of socialism?

A couple of thoughts on this…

1) Be careful using Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Types_of_socialism#Social_democracy). It is Open Source, which is good thing generally IMO, but unfortunately there are folks who have specific agendas, and who edit Wikipedia pages to distort reality in favor of their own ideology. This is precisely what has happened with the definitions and discussions of social democracy on Wikipedia. In my experience, the most extreme distortions will eventually get edited out…but again, just a word of caution. Here is a more nuanced definition that supports the reality that social democracy is, in fact, a form of socialism: Social democracy.

A lot of people really dislike the term “socialism,” because it is so antagonistic to the forms of capitalism they believe in. In particular, laissez-faire capitalists have traditionally attacked ALL forms of socialism from a position of fear and loathing — this is primarily what generated the two “Red Scares” in U.S. history, for example. So when you see folks rabidly defending the falsehood that “social democracy isn’t socialism!” or that “a mixed economy isn’t socialism!” this is frequently issuing from a strong tradition of neoliberal propaganda. For those folks who want to funnel the most profit to owner-shareholders — and away from worker-consumers — any reference to a Socialist Boogeyman in any form must be met with the frantic, frothing rhetoric and hyperbolic polemics (like the ones I myself have just employed).

Now in the U.S. in particular, there is real confusion about what a mixed economy is (i.e. that it is, in fact, a combination of socialism and capitalism), and that social democracy is a very different form of mixed economy (i.e. a much more socialist version) than other forms. A good article that covers the difference between a U.S. Liberalism that “trusts” markets and promotes capitalism, and European social democracies that did NOT trust capitalism and saught to constrain it, can be found here: The Economics Of Social Democracy. In particular, you will note that one of the main features of social democracy to “tame capitalism” is not just regulation, but moving entire industries into the public sector. This is “public ownership of the means of production” in a very clear sense. Again, though, neoliberals and other market fundamentalists will squirm and shiver into condemnatory hysterics whenever this obvious truth is clearly articulated. But alas, they are simply maintaining an unfortunate zeal for denial.

I hope this was helpful.


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