The time to resume using words like “resistance” and “revolution” in philosophically sound and historically accurate ways was long ago.
And while the Sanders campaign deserves praise for bringing the word “socialism” back into mainstream political discourse, for reasons other than to disparage it, some precision would be welcome in that domain as well.
For most of the past two centuries, that term has been used to denote any of an array of social and economic institutional arrangements that bear at most only a family resemblance to one another.
Also, for the most part, they share a common ancestor, the labor movement, but that connection has been on the wane for a very long time.
Competing views about what socialism involves need not be disabling, especially in times like the present when the historical Left has gone missing. Even so, care should be taken not to conflate socialism with Social Democracy or, worse, with its close cousin, New Deal – Great Society liberalism.
For socialists, including Marxists of all types and of course for Marx himself, socialism involves one or another form of social, as distinct from private, ownership of major means of production. Private ownership is a defining feature of capitalism.
Social democrats promote left alternatives to existing social and economic arrangements within capitalist societies – sometimes from pro-capitalist conviction, and sometimes because they believe that socialist…