Is Socialism Breaking Out?

A shorter version of this commentary appeared as "Give Me Real Socialism" in The Indypendent, August 2018.

By Howie Hawkins

July 24, 2018

A funny thing happened on the way to the 2018 election. Socialism broke out!

Or at least a number of Democratic candidates have declared themselves to be socialists.

On June 26, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat the Democratic machine incumbent, Joe Crowley, in a Queens/Bronx Democratic primary for Congress. She won with the support of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and embraced the socialist label. Within days, the Working Families Party-endorsed Democrats for Governor and Lt. Governor, Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams, were saying we, too, are socialists now. And lots of people and mainstream media were asking, what is this democratic socialism?

As someone who came up in the McCarthy and Cold War eras – when the word socialism stopped rather than started conversations – it is a welcome sight to see socialism coming back into mainstream public discourse for the first time since the 1930s.

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Socialist Solutions to Pressing Problems: Health Care, Climate Change, Housing, Broadband, Credit, Inequality

by Howie Hawkins

July 13, 2018

What Is Socialism?

For the first time since the 1930s in America, socialism is back on the table for broad public discussion thanks to the significant support for self-styled democratic socialists in recent elections since Bernie Sanders' presidential run in 2016. The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) elected 15 members to local offices in 2017, eight Democrats and seven independents in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New York, Ohio, and Virginia. In 2018 to date, seven women supported by DSA have won their Democratic primaries for congress and state houses in Omaha, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York City.

But what is notably missing in these candidates' descriptions of socialism is the distinguishing feature of the socialist tradition's program: a new democratic economic system based social ownership of the major means of production and distribution.

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The Contradictions of Cross-Endorsements in the Governor’s Race

This commentary appeared in the Gotham Gazette on May 10, 2018.

by Howie Hawkins

That didn’t take long. On Saturday, April 13 the Working Families Party endorsed Democrat Cynthia Nixon for New York Governor. By the following Tuesday, the WFP said they didn’t really mean it.

“We will not be a spoiler,” said Bill Lipton, the WFP’s political director, indicating that the WFP will take Nixon off its ballot line if she loses the Democratic primary against Governor Andrew Cuomo. Perhaps the WFP will offer Cuomo their ballot line for a third time if he wins the Democratic primary – if he will take it.

I feel for rank-and-file WFP progressives. It’s an abusive relationship. They got double-crossed by Cuomo in 2014 when they endorsed him. This year they got strong-armed by Cuomo when they didn’t.

I would like to reassure WFP progressives that, whatever happens in the Democratic primary, the Green Party gubernatorial ticket will offer a progressive alternative in the November 6 general election.

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May Day is Red and Green

by Howie Hawkins, May 1, 2018

May Day, or International Workers Day, is celebrated with marches and rallies every May 1 to lift up the working people and their demands for freedom, equality, and justice. That is the Red tradition of May Day. But there is also an older Green tradition that cultures the world over celebrate as Spring arrives in temperate and arctic climates and the wet season arrives in tropical climates. This Green tradition of May Day celebrates all that is free and life-giving on the green Earth that is our common wealth and heritage. These Red and Green May Day traditions are complementary.

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The Last Resort: Civil Disobedience for Safe Energy

By Howie Hawkins

On Monday, April 23, I am once again risking arrest as a nonviolent civil disobedient to protect the climate with safe energy.

The march, rally, and civil disobedience at the state capital in Albany is called “Cuomo: Walk the Talk on Climate!” Our three demands are stop all fracked-gas infrastructure projects, move to 100% clean renewable energy, and make corporate polluters pay.

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New York State Legislature steps up on climate change

Buffalo News, April 16, 2018

By Howie Hawkins and Steve Breyman

New York State government has taken a well-deserved beating in recent years in the press and the public eye. Corruption appeared at the highest levels of both executive and legislative branches. From brazen demands for “ziti” and low show jobs from individuals and firms doing business with the state, to charges of bid-rigging and millions in illicit payments in exchange for official favors.

It’s most welcome then when Albany gets something right. That something is the boldly ambitious bill recently introduced by Assemblyman William Colton and Senator Brad Hoylman (A5105/S5908) — at the behest of a coalition of more than one hundred citizen groups across the state — to move New York to a completely renewable-energy-powered economy by 2030.

The bill arrives at a crucial moment. To closely follow climate science on a daily basis as we have for the past 30 years is to be convinced of two things: (1) climate change is real, human-caused, happening now, and worsening; and (2) time is of the essence. There is virtually zero doubt among climate scientists of these two facts.

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Pass N.Y. Health Act to Ease Budget Problems

Versions of this commentary were published by the Syracuse Post-Standard, Daily Orange (Syracuse University), Albany Times Union, and Poughkeepsie Journal.

by Howie Hawkins, January 24, 2018

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last September that a state single-payer public health plan would be a “good idea.” But he said nothing about it in his state of the state and budget messages.

A state “Medicare for All” system would save $2.7 billion to insure state employees, which would take a big bite out of the $4.4 billion deficit the state faces.

Instead, Cuomo proposes an austerity budget that is $2.7 billion less than was projected to maintain existing levels of services. He plans to cover the rest of the deficit with about $1.7 billion in “revenue enhancers”: new taxes on opioids, internet sales, the windfall profits of private health insurers due to federal tax changes, and conversions from non-profit to for-profit insurers, ending or deferring several business tax credits, and drawing on legal settlement funds.

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A Green State of the State Message

This statement was published in the Legislative Gazette on January 2, 2018.

by Howie Hawkins

New York can lead the nation and the world toward economic justice and ecological sustainability. Our state can be an inspiring example of full employment at living wages, health care for all, affordable housing, quality public education, and 100 percent clean, climate-stabilizing energy.

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Issue Brief on Public Campaign Finance

The question before progressive advocates of public campaign financing in New York State is whether we push for full public campaign finance on the Clean Money model of equal and sufficient funding grants for all qualified candidates, or whether we settle for partial public campaign financing on the Matching Funds model used for presidential primaries since 1976 and for New York City local elections since 1989. 

Green Party of New York State Issue Brief, Revised March 29, 2015

Prepared by Howie Hawkins,

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Municipal Development Bank

By Howie Hawkins, August 05, 2009

Contribution to the Reimagining Society Project hosted by ZCommunications.

Vision and Transition

At the general level of a socialist vision, I think we have broad agreement that we want a participatory democracy of political and economic institutions that empower ordinary people to meet their needs without exploitation or oppression in an ecologically sustainable manner.

But we have differences on many particulars. What should be the respective roles of markets and planning? Which goods and services should be distributed free according to need and which should be distributed in exchange for the value of labor performed? What complex of production technologies are really reproducible on a sustainable basis with renewable energy and resources? What scales of organization of political and economic units optimize the sometimes competing claims of democracy, efficiency, and sustainability? How much participation in direct democracy versus delegation to representatives should there be in our political and economic institutions? How far can one city, region, nation, or bloc of nations move toward socialism in a world still dominated by capitalism and what does this mean for us when we have power at these levels?

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