Democratic socialism combines the belief that countries should be democratically controlled with the thinking that wealth should be shared and collectively controlled. Although democratic socialism is often confused with socialist democracy, the two are distinct.
Socialist democracies include Nordic countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Democratic socialist countries are often found in South America and include Bolivia and Ecuador. Before its recent political troubles, Venezuela was another example of a democratic socialist country.
What Is Democratic Socialism?
As a political philosophy, democratic socialism falls between communism and social democracy, according to the New York Times. In a communist country, the economy is completely centralized. Usually, the centralization comes about after a revolution. Examples of communist countries include North Korea, Cuba and Vietnam.
In a social democracy, capitalism is allowed to exist. But there are also programs in place to distribute resources and to regulate the economy and businesses. Democratic socialism, on the other hand, seeks to eliminate the capitalist component and to centralize the economy. Unlike communism, it doesn't hope to achieve its ends through revolution, but instead through democratic practices.
The Socialist party has been in power in Portugal since 2015, when Antonio Costa was elected Prime Minister. The election of Costa displaced the Social Democrat party, which had previously been leading the country.
The rise of democratic socialism in Portugal came about after an economic crisis that began in 2010. The crisis was followed by strikes across the country, as well as a bailout by the European Union. In 2019, Costa won re-election as Prime Minister.
Until the end of 2019, when Evo Morales stepped down as the president of Bolivia, the country was governed by democratic socialist principles. Under Morales' leadership, the country returned some power to Indigenous groups. Morales was first elected to the presidency in 2006. He left office in 2019 after trying to extend term limits.
Also under Morales' leadership, poverty in Bolivia was more than cut in half. It dropped from 36 percent of the population to about 17 percent of the population, according to NPR.
From 2007 until 2017, the president of Ecuador was Rafael Correa, who also founded the PAIS Alliance, a center-left political party. Under Correa's leadership, the party was democratic socialist.
However, in 2017, Lenín Garcés became the leader of the party as well as the president of Ecuador. Under Garcés' leadership, the party has moved more toward the right. It’s become a socialist democratic party rather than a democratic socialist party.
Before the death of its former president, Hugo Chávez, in 2013, Venezuela was often looked to as a shining example of a democratic socialist country. However, since Chávez's death, the country has entered a downward spiral.
Nicolás Maduro became president of Venezuela in 2013. At that point, the country's economy began to fail and hyperinflation took root. The BBC reports that the country's annual inflation rate was 1,300,000 percent in November 2018. Since the country's economic crisis began, around four million people have left Venezuela in search of a better life elsewhere.