Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Socialism

Barack Obama is a socialist. This health care plan is socialist. The Democrats want to force their socialist plans down our throats. OK, America, get ready for socialism. I've been hearing that a lot, these days. We're going to hear it a lot more. Even so, repetition, even at great volume, does not make a lie the truth. Barack Obama is no socialist. I should know.

I am a socialist.

I hope you didn't just stop reading.

What? You're looking at me like that's a bad thing. Well, you're partly right. The word has been used to cover a lot of different views, some of them not so good. The Nazis claimed to be a National Socialist Party. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro: the list goes on. Lots of people have claimed to be socialists. This doesn't make it true, though.

What Hitler, Lenin, and Mao stood for was not socialism, but forms of state-run capitalism with an extreme nationalist component. Not a socialism I endorse. Not, in my opinion, socialism at all.

No, the word socialist covers a rather wide spectrum of ideas. You wouldn't get that idea from the media, though. You would think that all socialists agree; or that we are a bunch of secret societies, plotting to take over America through our co-conspirators, the Democrats.

We're not.

In fact, many of us don't like the Democratic Party very much at all. Our views aren't secret either. Go ahead, have a look: feel the love for the Obama administration. Wherever Barack Obama may stand politically, he's no socialist. Just ask a socialist.

My own views fall somewhere between the DSA, who seem to think electing Democrats worthwhile, and the SPUSA, who seem a bit attached to old-fashioned Marxist revolution. For myself, I don't think a classless society possible or desirable. I don't believe in abolition of personal property. I don't believe the state should run everything. I'm certainly not an atheist. I often find myself in agreement with Bernie Sanders. He's about the only member of Congress who even comes close to representing me.

On the other hand, when I see individuals with a net worth exceeding the GDP of medium-size countries, it seems that perhaps there might be some injustices that need to be addressed. Doubtless, there will always be rich and poor; yet it seems that the disparity could, and should, be less. Perhaps I am wrong, but that is what I believe.

I find right-wing references to Big Brother amusing. I'm sure you know why. George Orwell was a socialist: a real one. Upton Sinclair, who wrote The Jungle back when E. Coli was considered a spice? A socialist: be sure to thank him whenever you see that USDA stamp. Most people don't know what happened to Helen Keller after the events of The Miracle Worker. Did you ever wonder? She went on to be quite active for women's rights and, you guessed it, socialism. Funny how this never came up in history class. I suppose it might give impressionable young people strange ideas.

Here's one of my favorites. Ready? Albert Einstein: socialist. Read his essay, Why Socialism, from the May 1949 Monthly Review here. I think there is a lot to consider. You needn't agree with it. I'm not sure I agree with his every point, here or elsewhere. Still, I find it interesting. The man whose name has become almost synonymous with genius was a socialist. Yet very few people know this. I wonder why?

Don't you?

Very Truly Yours,




Thumbelina said...

Very interesting. I like reading the "take" on different words across the Pond. To me, socialism isn't quite as weighted as it seems in the States. I may be wrong, because I don't *do* politics and I am really out of touch. Very passive these days. ;0)
But socialist ideas and socialism are not as synonymous with fundamental communist/fascist regimes to me as they may seem to be to others.

Your post certainly provokes food for thought. And Einstein eh? Who knew. But I don't find it to be such a *radical* thing, which I think is what I am trying to say: - that to me, it isn't an issue and I think that might be typical in the UK. Well, of my generation anyway. I'm sure some one will tell me if I'm wrong. :0)

Andy said...

Porcupine, I guess I went to pretty good public schools.

I knew that Einstein was what we'd now call a socialist. And, I knew that Helen Keller was, also. And, I was required to read Upton Sinclair's work in Junior High School (at about age 12) by my Social Studies teacher, Mrs. Peak. Her husband was a Baptist preacher, whose best friend in life was Hale Boggs (Cokie Roberts' Daddy)...probably a socialist, too.

And, this was in the backwards "redneck south." And, she didn't even get fired for making us read socialist stuff. Go figure!

I appreciate the fact that you are willing to state out loud, and on purpose that you are a socialist. Most folks just shrink back from tagging themselves with a label.

(I truly appreciate the nuance of your piece.)

Honestly, I would like to do that myself. But, there is not a really good label for "Libertarian, Christian, Hard-headed Mutt, Protestant, Hard-Headed MUTT, Dog lover, Right-wing, racist nut job."

Did I mention "hard-headed Mutt?"

Good read. Interesting...

Ananda girl said...

No... I did not stop reading. I laughed out loud that you would think that I might. Of course that address was to all readers and I am sure there are some folk who would close down over a statement like that.

This, like all of your posts was very interesting. I did know about Helen Keller, Sinclair and Einstein... but not from school... because I read. :-)

I have more to read and much to mull over. Thank you.

Cricket said...

Thumbelina - Hopefully, someday it will not be seen as such a radical thing here either.

Andy - "Hard-headed Mutt" applies to most of us, whether we say so on purpose or not. ;-)

I attended good public schools too. It's amazing what they were like before the reformers started fixing them.

Ananda - Yes, it was a general address. I would have been most surprised if it applied to you.

lime said...

i knew about orwell and helen keller (who has been one of my heroes since i was young)didn't know about einstein though so thanks for the education there.

would it make you chuckle to know when my husband gets really annoyed with me during political/economic arguments he calls me a socialist?

basically there is no -ism which i am willing to align myself with. i see certain positive aspects to each of them but mostly a lot of negative aspects to all of them because they are all flawed human institutions run by flawed humans.

Cricket said...

Lime - I agree, "isms" are problematic, and socialism is no exception. The word means different things to different people. In fact, the Catholic Church has condemned "socialism" as heresy. On the other hand, what I believe would be considered, by them, a version of "collectivism", once again as defined by them. Ugh.

On the third hand ;-), sometimes I feel the need to accept the word, with all its baggage, and split hairs later. I use it with a small "s"; I am a member of no party, socialist or otherwise. However, most of my positions, especially on economics, would be considered socialist in the U.S.

It irritates me no end when I see positions condemned as "socialist" which have nothing to do with socialism as I understand it: positions which no socialist I know of has ever held.

In truth, I arrived at the positions first, the label later. Under the circumstances, though, I'll accept the label and explain myself if asked. ;-)