The Difference Between Democratic Socialism and Social Democracy

Many people do not understand the difference between Social Democracy and Democratic Socialism, so let me explain:

The difference is that Democratic Socialism ultimately aims at transcending capitalism, and their methodology of doing so is by implementing social democracy to build up the momentum and coalitions in the populace necessary to make that ultimate jump.

Social Democrats are exactly the same EXCEPT they don’t have any desire to make that last jump to socialism. They are fine with letting capitalism be the economic engine, and just redistributing wealth via progressive taxation. The problem with social democracy, though, is that they hitch their wagon to the capitalist system, and when it fails, social democracy fails.

In practice, though, they have historically amounted to the same exact thing. The moment a social democracy makes the jump to socialism, then we can talk about the efficacy of Democratic Socialism, until then, Democratic Socialists have the burden of trying to explain why they haven’t achieved socialism throughout history.

In the same way that Marxism-Leninism tends to devolve into various forms of authoritarianism and stay there, Democratic Socialism tends to devolve into social democracy and stay there.

I am not opposed to building up social democracy in the U.S., to do so would represent a huge material gain for working people within the country. But radicals must always keep in mind that social democracy depends on capitalism, and capitalism in America inevitably takes the form of imperialism. Therefore, any social democracy that we build here will be invariably tied to the violent domination and exploitation of our brothers and sisters in poorer countries, mostly in the global south. Additionally, capitalism, in its rabidly endless pursuit of profits and growth, will always end up harming the environment, polluting the oceans, and perpetuating Climate Change.

Social democracy (and Democratic Socialism insofar as it virtually always means social democracy in practice) depends on capitalism, imperialism, and environmental degradation. Therefore it is, at best, a step in the right direction; but never an end-point in and of itself. Democratic Socialists would do themselves a favor by realizing this and taking a more radical stance against capitalism itself, which entails pointed criticism of social democracy. Social democrats would do themselves a favor by realizing that capitalism is not sustainable, and any gains made under the capitalist system can always be rolled back when they become inconvenient for the plutocratic ruling class.

The clock is ticking, our oceans are dying, human beings are suffering, and the global ruling elite are hoarding more and more of the wealth and resources for themselves.

We need Leftists, not liberals.
We need anti-capitalists, not compromises.
We need radicals, not reformists.

The future depends on it.