Imagine: If Mayor De Blasio Really Was a Socialist

For a lot of people lately “socialism” is not a dirty word.  Trying to smear New York City mayor Bill de Blasio by falsely calling him a socialist did not hurt his campaign one bit.  In fact his support continued to grow and he won by a landslide.

Proving that socialism can win in America, a young woman socialist candidate, Kshama Sawant, just got elected to the City Council in Seattle, defeating a longtime Democrat,  garnering  lots of union and community support.  A 2012 national Pew poll showed 49% of people under the age of  29 had a favorable reaction to the word “socialism” and the two most looked up words in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary last year were the words socialism and capitalism.   And no wonder, real wages haven’t gone up in 40 years. Since the crash of 2008, the current great recession holds out few promises.  As Pope Francis recently wrote, unfettered capitalism is a “new tyranny” that has created a “throwaway culture that discards young people as well as its older people.”
Imagine if Bill de Blasio was really a socialist and came into office with socialist goals. What might he do as Mayor of New York City?   He has one potent weapon to wield: the bully pulpit of which Theodore Roosevelt spoke.  He could mount that pulpit to rally public support to fight for socially progressive measures.

Socialist Mayor de Blasio could continue to emphasize that he is telling a tale of two cities, one of the 99%, the other of the ruling 1%.  (It is actually much less, more like 1/10th of l%).  Here we are talking about the finance, real estate, and insurance interests that really run our town where 50,000 persons make more than a half a million dollars a year and 60,000 persons, mostly children, are homeless on any given night.  He could be a tribune of and for the people.  What agenda might he advance?  Here are some possibilites:

* Launch a mass action campaign for single payer health care, free for everyone, recognizing health as a human right.

*Put the City’s resources on the side of the poorest workers, like those in the food chain and garment shops and demand a $15 an hour minimum wage, sick days, pensions and vacations with pay.

*Find or build housing for every homeless person.

*Support tenants defending rent controls and small businesses that need this as well.

*End the illegal stop and frisk practice of the Police Department by withdrawing Bloomberg’s appeal and abiding by Judge Scheinlin’s decision that 600,000 persons a year, mostly young people of color, had their 4th and l4th amendment rights violated.

*Dismantle the police state surveillance of New Yorkers.  Take the street cameras down.  Get out of the mosques and Muslim communities.  Stop police collaboration with and office sharing with Wall Street bankers.  Get the police out of our grassroots political organizations. Allow for street protests without pens and nets and videotaping of activists.  Apologize for collaboration with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in raiding and breaking up the Occupy Wall Street encampment.   Restore the Handschu consent decree limiting
how police can spy on New Yorkers.

* Prosecute the banksters who crashed the economy in 2008 and then got bailed out with our money.

*Work to implement a municipal tax code that eliminates all regressive taxes like the sales tax.  Replace them with taxes on Wall Street financial transactions and support higher corporate taxes.

*March on picket lines with teachers and students to roll back cuts to education financing and tuition.

*Declare New York City a “Demilitarized Zone” within the USA where the peace movement is encouraged in its opposition to our country’s illegal, immoral, and obscenely expensive and seemingly endless wars abroad.

*Make education and actions about human- caused climate change the number one priority which if not controlled will doom us.

Michael Moore, echoing FDR, proposed a second Bill of Rights in our visionary new book “Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA.”  Moore wrote of the goals that might guide a socialist mayor: “That every American has a human right to employment, to health care, and a free and full education; to breathe clean air, drink clean water, and eat safe food; and to be cared for with dignity and respect in their old age.” Socialism has a tradition in America.  Our most famous thinker, Albert Einstein, was a socialist.   Martin Luther King said that “If we are going to achieve real equality, the United States will have to adopt a modified form of socialism.”

Mayor DeBlasio, as you take office, we remind you of the song of another socialist,  John Lennon, who wrote in “Imagine”  that “You may say I’m a dreamer/But I’m not the only one/I hope someday you’ll join us/And the world will live as one.”  Mr. Mayor, this expresses the desires of humanity since the days of the prophets.  The majority of the people who elected you would be for it.  Do you dare?

By Cliff Conner and Michael Steven Smith.   Conner is on the faculty of the School of Professional Studies of the City University of New York Graduate Center, where he teaches history.  Smith is the co-host of the radio show Law and Disorder and on the Board of the Center for Constitutional Rights.  Both contributed to and Smith co-edited with Frances Goldin and Debby Smith the forthcoming book “Imagine: Living in a Socialist USA” to be published by Harper Collins on January 22, 2014.

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