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giving socialism a bad name

May 22, 2009

From the Real News Network:

The Republican National Committee will conclude a special session with a much-anticipated vote on a resolution to re-brand the Democratic Party as the “Democrat Socialist Party.” ANP senior producer, Harry Hanbury, roamed the RNC meeting with a camera and spoke with committeemen and state chairs to hear their thoughts on the vote and their ideas about both parties.

Even though Republicans eventually decided to drop the resolution to re-brand the Democratic Party as the “Democrat Socialist Party,” they approved a resolution urging Democrats to “stop pushing our country towards socialism and government control.” Honestly, this kind of nonsense makes me wonder if people even know what the word “socialism” really means. It seems like the most common charge levelled at Democrats by Republicans since the last election, for example, is: Democrats = state-ownership = socialism.

For one thing, as Frederick Engels argued in Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, state-ownership of certain industries isn’t the same thing as socialism, nor does it solve the problems inherent in the capitalist system, most notably the exploitation of its working-class citizens.

What they’re talking about — government control of production — is nothing more than state capitalism, not socialism. And this isn’t simply some sort of modern reinterpretation of socialism as some like to suggest. In fact, this very point was made by Wilhelm Liebknecht in 1896 when he said: “Nobody has combatted State Socialism more than we German Socialists; nobody has shown more distinctively than I, that State Socialism is really State capitalism!” Real socialism is a mass movement towards economic democracy — collectively owned and democratically controlled production based on need rather than profit — and the creation of an egalitarian, classless society.

(And just for the record, I don’t think that what places like China and the Soviet Union had was actually socialism. From what I understand, besides a very brief period just after the 1917 Russian Revolution, there wasn’t even anything close to worker owned and democratically controlled production in either country, let alone the creation of an egalitarian, classless society. In my opinion, regardless of what they called themselves, they were extreme forms of state capitalism in which production was dominated by totalitarian political regimes.)

Sure, every system has its flaws, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try new things if and when the old ones repeatedly fail to meet our needs. And, frankly, capitalism has hit a few rough patches in the last century (e.g., the Great Depression, Japan in the 90s, the current global financial crisis, etc.).

If democracy works so well in the political arena — seeing as how our last president, George W. Bush, declared it the mission of America to spread democracy and end “tyranny in our world” — why wouldn’t it work just as well in the economic arena? I’m still not sure why that’s a bad thing. Tyranny shouldn’t be tolerated anywhere. In a truly democratic society, the rule of the people shouldn’t be limited to one or the other but extended to both equally.

Another common charge is that socialism is un-American, but I think that a detailed study of American history will reveal that socialism is as American as apple pie. In fact, socialism in America is exemplified by great American icons such as labour leader and presidential candidate Eugene Debs, labor organizer Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, civil rights activist and co-founder of the NAACP W.E.B. DuBois, union leader Walter P. Reuther (namesake of the Walter P. Reuther Freeway, also know as I-696, in Michigan), humanitarian Helen Keller, authors Jack London and Upton Sinclair, and author of the Pledge of Allegiance Rev. Francis Bellamy just to name a few. (See Hannity’s ‘Tree of Liberty’ bears bogus fruit)

And last but not least, as a self-identified socialist, I object to being associated with either half of the American duopoly party system, even the “lesser of the two evils.” As Frank Llewellyn, the national director of the Democratic Socialists of America, put it in an interview with the Washington Independent, “It’s objectionable because they’re giving socialism a bad name by associating it with the Democrats, who are the second-most capitalist party in the world. The election of this president, sadly, hasn’t changed that.”

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