Q: Is B&R a socialist party?
A: We describe ourselves as “socialistic” in our ideals. Specifically, we endorse the social contract inherent in: “From each according to his/her abilities, to each according to his/her needs.” This means:
- Everyone is expected to make a contribution to society, whether through paid employment or other activity in the home and community.
- That contribution should reflect the person’s deepest abilities and deepest self. (This implies the need for social institutions and policies that make this possible).
- In exchange, each person (or family) is entitled to the means to satisfy their core economic needs, irrespective of income level.
Q: Why do you say “Socialistic” rather than “Socialist”?
A: The term “socialist” carries with it so much baggage that we are leaving behind, that the term “Socialistic” seemed to work better. But if people wish to refer to us as a “socialist” party that is fine. However, we are open to members who do not use that word to describe themselves.
Q: What baggage are you leaving behind?
A: Some is historical, some is policy oriented, some is political culture. In terms of policy, we do not seek “social ownership of the means of production.” In some areas, such as home ownership, we very much advocate expanding private ownership to include people at the very bottom of the social ladder. And we are very supportive of mini-businesses. Moreover, we are very un-dogmatic about policy. We believe in experimentalism, and in state and local initiatives, and in policy evaluation.
Q: Are you a watered-down version of socialism, socialism-lite?
A: Not the way we see it. For starters, we seek a society that goes beyond The Job System – our term for “Capitalism,” a world that is divided into so-called “job creators” and the rest of us, “job seekers.”
We see the essence of capitalism as the alienation of labor, using “alienate” as a verb, meaning “to sell” (one’s labor).
We identify with the early Marx, most strongly with his manuscript on “Alienated Labor, and with the utopian socialists prior to Marx, and with the great progressive social movements in American history, labor, women, and civil rights, and personal freedom, including sexuality.
The term “Bread and Roses” is the banner that emerged in the historic 1912 textile workers strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, when the women workers took over the leadership of the strike and marched under the banner: “Bread, and Roses too.”
We identify with Emma Goldman when she said, “If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution.”
Q: Is that part of Socialism?
A: For some, perhaps. But Bread and Roses goes beyond the socialist tradition in two important respects.
First, our commitment to Roses, is a commitment to Beauty and Creativity, to Meaningful Work, and to Sufficient Leisure to do the things that are most important in life, as people define it for themselves. Aspects of this can be found in elements of the Socialist tradition, but for Bread and Roses, it is central.
Secondly, Bread and Roses, especially in our commitment to an alternative American Dream, identifies strongly with the anti-consumerist, simple-living traditions of American society. These have existed from the very beginnings, though in very diverse ways, whether found in the Puritans, the Quakers, the writings of John Adams, or Thoreau, or utopian communities or counter-cultural movements of the 19th and 20th century.
Specifically, we seek a society that is “used-friendly” for Americans seeking to live an Alternative American dream: A vibrant life, with economic security, but modest consumption, and limited involvement in “getting and spending.”
We see America today as a remarkably inefficient society, one in which meeting core needs can only be accomplished at very high levels of income. Changing this is at the core of our mission.
Q: What do you mean when you speak of “The New Socialism”?
A: We seek to leave behind certain policy approaches that to some people are the very meaning of socialism, for instance, “governmental ownership of the means of production.” We view this a means that some have favored as a way of overcoming injustice and alienated labor. We see it as generally not the best approach. We lean more towards an ownership society, in which home ownership is made a real option at every income level, and in which mini-businesses flourish, re-introducing craft at all levels of production and service delivery, and in which everyone is capable of start-up, and in which, should you wish, you can become your own non-profit.
Q: What else?
A: Perhaps most fundamentally, we represent a new political culture, one in which dogmatism is replaced by experimentalism. One in which political identity in not defined in terms of policy approaches such as “free markets” vs. “Big government” but rather in terms of the depth of commitment to specific ideals. Thus, a deep commitment to overcoming poverty is far more essential that whether one favors Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs, or Richard Nixon’s earned income tax credit.
John Dewey wrote about the 48 states as 48 laboratories through which we could experiment and learn what worked and what did not. The same is true about innovation on the local level. The key is that the commitment be genuine, rather than merely a gimmick for turning away from solving key problems of social injustice.
Q: How do you see Bread and Roses evolving?
A: We are very much at an early stage. We are seeking to create something very new and different. We do not intend to create a multi-million person Third Party that will replace the Democratic or Republican Party. Rather, we engage in electoral politics as the central realm of free-speech and political discourse in America. We seek to inject, through campaigns, new ideas, new policies and new leaders. But we seek to be nimble, and to draw on creative thinkers. We do not intend to spend five years developing a political platform. We appreciate the observation that a camel is a horse designed by a committee, and the wisdom of Oscar Wilde who commented that the problem with socialism was too damned many meetings.
Q: How will you avoid being a “spoiler” that draws voters away from the Democratic Party, and thus contributes to the re-election of Donald Trump?
A: In 2020, we will not run, in any swing state, a Presidential candidate other than the one the Democratic Party has chosen to run against President Trump.