The Grey Lady goes red

The president may call it “fake news”, and editorially, it is widely regarded as liberal, at least on social issues, but more than anything, the New York Times represents the voice of the establishment. Particularly on economic issues, the discourse in the New York Times conforms to the limits (and to a significant extent helps define the limits) of what the establishment considers acceptable debate in the USA. The New York Times discusses ideas that members of the establishment would consider serious and rational and stays far way from ideas — either from the left or the right — that the establishment would consider dangerous or implausible.

That is why it is particularly noteworthy that yesterday the New York Times published an opinion piece praising democratic socialism. For the whole of the 20th century, there has been no idea more vehemently excluded from establishment debate in the US than socialism. That the New York Times would print an unapologetically positive column proposing that socialism has a future in the US hints at a fundamental shift in what the establishment considers serious and rational.

The opinion piece is by Bhaskar Sunkara, a founding editor of Jacobin magazine and vice chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, and in it, he argues that “stripped down to its essence, and returned to its roots, socialism is an ideology of radical democracy”, but he acknowledges that authoritarian socialism in the 20th century betrayed those roots. He argues that we need a new, pluralistic vision for socialism in the 21st century. Simply nationalizing the economy isn’t a solution anymore. From the perspective of this blog, it is particularly encouraging to read that he sees worker-ownership as central to this new model for socialism:

A huge state bureaucracy, of course, can be just as alienating and undemocratic as corporate boardrooms, so we need to think hard about the new forms that social ownership could take. Some broad outlines should already be clear: Worker-owned cooperatives, still competing in a regulated market; government services coordinated with the aid of citizen planning; and the provision of the basics necessary to live a good life (education, housing and health care) guaranteed as social rights.

Of course, one New York Times op-ed piece will not restructure the economy; that will require a political movement of global scale (and plenty of socialist entrepreneurs!) but the publication of this piece in the New York Times, particularly with its emphasis on worker-ownership, feels like a small but nonetheless significant milestone on the path to a better, fairer world. I really do think things are changing.

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