[Marxism] “Socialism”? Bring it On!
markalause at gmail.com
Fri Mar 27 14:30:07 MDT 2009
It's always a challenge trying to explain our perspective to the
widest possible audience. Here's the result of my latest stab at
The Cincinnati Beacon
Where Divergent Views Collide!
“Socialism”? Bring it On!
Monday, March 23, 2009
Posted by Justin Jeffre
Guest article by Mark Lause
The current blatherskite warning about “socialism” is the symptom of a
reoccurring disease in American political discourse. Confusion over
what socialism actually means is part of the larger muddle of
political ideas with poorly considered policies and practices. A
political party, calling itself Republican introduced a level of
authoritarianism and secrecy incompatible with representing an
informed and engaged electorate. Its rival, the so-called Democratic
party vies with it in embracing undeclared wars and the metaphysics of
trickle-down economics. If the basic politics of the Democratic and
Republican parties are neither republican nor democratic, who can be
surprised if the meaning of “socialism” is confused?
Smart consumers look beyond the advertising and packaging anyway.
That a government doing reprehensible things calls itself “socialist”
does not discredit socialism any more than it discredits democracy to
have horrendous governments under that label.
Socialism is less about what the government is said to own than
whether the people own their government. It requires a government
ruled by the majority in a democratic and republican fashion.
Socialism aims to secure the majority of people their life, liberty
and the pursuit of happiness. This cannot be done under a system
mummified in corporate and bureaucratic standards.
Our arguments grow from the experience of life in these United States,
as elsewhere. Like the original American revolutionaries, socialists
believe that unaccountable power tends increasingly and inexorably to
corruption by self-interested minorities. Unlike those founders,
socialists understand that a similarly unaccountable power based on
wealth works no differently. We believe what effects the entire
society should be decided by the entire society and not by narrow
groups concerned only with their own power and profits.
Like the abolitionists, we believe human rights should have priority
over what is lucrative in the marketplace. When the defenders of
slavery said “cotton is king,” abolitionists complained that things
were in the saddle riding mankind . Today, market forces preclude
quality health care for all, protection of the climate and
environment, racial justice, women’s equality, and peace—all things
the future desperately needs and the people already want. Human
rights belong to people not our things. People may be born with a
right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, but soulless
corporations are not. Today, different things are in the saddle, but
the test of profitability still trumps human rights.
Just consider that army of lobbyists and professional influence
peddlers that occupy our nation’s capital in the service of
corporations and industries. These used to be called “special
interest” until they repackaged themselves experts and consultants,
slapping the label of “special interests” onto the feeble
organizations of underpaid advocates for labor, blacks, women, and the
people generally—those interests a republican government should
represent without making them anything “special.” So if those who have
the power to wreck the economy do so, who has the sense of entitlement
to the bailout trillions?
So, too, when officeholders elected to represent the people are also
beneficiaries of corporate largesse and vote accordingly, the people
tend to see a “conflict of interests.” However, this is a legal term
not a moral judgment. And who makes the laws?
We also realize that industrialized capitalist society always requires
international competition for raw materials, cheap labor and markets
for goods. This has drawn each and every industrialized capitalist
society into imperialist ventures. By definition, imposing military
power over any people means that you are not representing them. The
nature of the tool makes them subjects not citizens.
This innovation in how government deals with people will invariably
have implications at home, and can give little comfort to any genuine
republican or any real democrat. The only most immediate and
substantive threat Americans face is our own dictatorship of
capitalism. The only reliable response are politically independent
mass movements of working people.
Undermining that kind of independence is the two-party team of
Democrats and Republicans. The people are consistently denied
substantive information about any alternative that is not deemed
“serious.” This is a determination no less commercialized than banking
or any other function of the business community in the U.S. In its
decisions over who to treat as a “serious” candidate, the
profit-centered media always happens to choose those candidates
capable of buying the most advertising time from the industry.
Corporate or government-funded think tanks and punditry rarely fails
to do their duty in preselecting the options compatible with the
interests of the country’s corporate management. When are we going to
Still, they don’t make catching on particularly easy. The treatment
of Ralph Nader’s presidential candidacies provide clear demonstrations
of this. Despite its own self-defeating 2000 campaign, the Democrats
won the election, let the Republicans take office, and then blamed
Nader for the Republican victory. Doing this actually ignored the
numbers, but the media dutifully parroted the charges. Four years
later, the misnamed Democratic party pursued a strategy aimed less at
defeating the Republicans than denying voters the chance to vote for
Nader. Where the Democrats lacked the power, their Republican
brethren cooperated to exclude that alternative. In 2008, Nader
entered the campaign running at 5-6% in some polls, and poor news
coverage kept two-thirds of the voters being polled unaware that he
was even running. The arbiters of “serious” politics collectively
imposed a virtually complete media blackout and the Gallup and other
polling companies simply stopped asking people about Nader. This
experience echoed the treatment of alternatives to the corporate
duopoly through most of the past century.
In the process, the system we have in the U.S. completely flaunts
internationally accepted the very standards of human rights the
civilized world proclaims. At least on paper, most civilized
societies agree that citizens have the right to know, question and
check what their governments are doing. This includes the right to
form whatever political associations and parties that seem to serve
their purposes. Rooted in this sense of human rights, such parties
have the right to appear on the ballot, share the public platform,
participate in the national debate, and have their votes freely cast
and fairly counted. Hypocritically—but certainly not uniquely—the
corporate two-party system in the U.S. does not even pretend to
respect the human rights of the American people.
In the end, this is why the misrepresentation of socialism or any
genuine alternative to the duopoly goes far beyond the usual
muddle-headedness about politics. The political system in the U.S.
blasphemously usurps the role of God in the Biblical blighting of
Babel, and imposes the resulting superficial babble as the single
quasi-official language of American politics. You know what I mean:
meaningful stuff like family values, positive thinking, hope and
Americans do desperately need hope and change. In fact, there is
little hope without change. But there is little visible change right
now in the policies coming out of Washington. Nevertheless, whatever
working people really want, they are going to have to struggle to gain
it. Put another way, whatever government gives us freely of its own
benevolence will be just as easily taken away without their having to
pay a price for it.
Working people in America must themselves make the necessary changes
to guarantee them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and
nobody else has any real vested interest in doing so. Government can
take us where we want to go, but only if the people are doing the
THAT is socialism.
But let’s not be sticklers about what it’s called, so long as we begin
moving towards it. The sooner, the better. Bring it on!
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