This Friday night, Danny Katch, author of Socialism…Seriously, is in-store to talk about his brand new book Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People. It won’t be your typical political chat; here’s a short interview to show what we mean.
Eric Larkin – What’s your origin story as a socialist and as a comedian?
Danny Katch – I was on a class trip in high school in the 1980s visiting Washington DC when I got separated from my class, got lost, and made a wrong turn into a top secret government laboratory. Long story short, I actually ingested a radioactive serum that was designed to infiltrate the water supply of the Soviet Union and bring the evil empire to its knees through the magic of laughter. I’m not sure how to wrap this up quickly but somehow that made me a socialist who cracks jokes.
EL – Why does socialism freak (some) people out? What don’t they understand about it?
DK – Well there aren’t as many people freaked out by socialism as there used to be, which is nice. But look, there are good reasons to be wary of socialism. A bunch of countries that were dictatorships called themselves socialist or communist, which wasn’t great. The Nazis called themselves “National Socialists”, and while that doesn’t crack my top ten list of things I wish the Nazis hadn’t done, that also didn’t help the image. But my counter to that would be that there’ve also been lots of terrible things done in the name of capitalism. Slavery comes quickly to mind, along with colonialism, almost every war, and the Baywatch movie.
Socialism doesn’t mean the government controls everything. It means the people actually control everything, which unfortunately doesn’t exist anywhere yet. So in some ways it’s not so much a set of policies but a phase of history that we’re not yet in, but we can get there and we really should hurry up if we don’t want oil companies to destroy life on earth as we know it.
EL – We’re in the holiday season. Your “Merry Capitalist!” shopping tips from last year were really helpful. Any broader suggestions for celebrating the holidays without becoming part of the problem?
DK – Glad you enjoyed the tips! I have almost no memory of every writing that, which I guess it what happens when you spend an entire year checking your phone every hour to make sure the world isn’t about to blow up. My only recommendation for the holidays is to try to relax and recharge so you can part of the solution in 2018.
EL – Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People talks about our situation and how we got here. (Also, your piece in Jacobin was really great – though it ended a little bleak!) What can regular folks start doing to fix things?
DK – Oh, I get it. The LA bookstore wanted a more Hollywood ending – sorry for being such an East Coast downer. As troubling as this past year has been, it’s also been inspiring because from the day after Trump’s election, regular folks have responded by trying to fix things in a million different ways—protesting, joining organizations, running for office, volunteering. That’s because people intuitively understand that the problem isn’t just Trump but the larger system that produced him. They want to be a part of changing that system. The argument in my book is that the strategies that are going to be most effective are the ones that build the collective power of ordinary people—protest organizations, unions, etc—because what’s truly broken in our democracy is how much power is concentrated in the hands of the wealthy minority that controls both parties.
EL – What’s next for you?
DK – Sell a million copies of this book and use the proceeds to buy a majority stake in a major pharmaceutical company, so I can get some of that sweet opioid money. Or plan B: socialist revolution.
See? This revolution will be FUN. We hope to see you Friday night.
Pick up Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People from us, right here.