Recently, I’ve been frequently seeing people refer to Obama as a socialist and making accusations that the new stimulus package amounts to socialism and that the new administration has a “socialist agenda”. Cafe Press is filled with “clever” t-shirts where people have juxtaposed Obama’s face with that of figures such as Marx, Lenin, and Mao.
It’s enough to make me scream.
As a socialist, I find that these claims add injury to insult as these people are using the label as though it were a slight all the while bestowing it on an individual who is clearly not a socialist.
Bonafide socialist and radical historian Paul Street puts it quite nicely in a recent ZNet commentary on the filtering out of authentic Left voices in mainstream media:
Two weeks ago, the leading weekly U.S. magazine Newsweek actually published a cover story titled “We are All Socialists Now.” By “socialism,” the corporate magazine appeared to mean any sort of escalated government intervention in the U.S. economy. There were two things missing from this remarkable Newsweek story:
1. Any remotely accurate understanding of socialism as it is grasped and advanced by its modern-day adherents: democratic workers’ and peoples’ control of economic and political life in the interests of social use, equality, and the common good instead of private gain and social hierarchy. As Lance Selfa, a Marxist author, notes at the end of his recent and officially invisible (in the broader political culture) historical analysis of the Democratic Party, “in a socialist society, workers would take control of the factories and offices. The repressive apparatuses of the state – from prisons to the military would be brought under democratic control and then abolished.”
2. Discussion with a single solitary living U.S socialist to get his or her take on whether or not the U.S. has now suddenly and miraculously embraced a socialist world view and program. Such a person could easily be found but actual living socialists must remain offstage since they are and their ideals – shared to no small degree (as only a tiny percentage of Americans are permitted to know) by great historical personalities like Albert Einstein (author of a brilliant essay titled “Why Socialism” in the first issue of the Marxist journal Monthly Review), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Helen Keller – are officially invisible under the reigning corporate-Orwellian rules.
I will return in a future commentary to a closer examination of Newsweek’s fascinating “We Are All Socialists Now” claim. In the meantime, I, an officially invisible American, leave you, dear reader, with the definition of capitalism in the second (1979) and unabridged edition of Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary. Please note that it contains ample room for significant government intervention and that it contains no reference to the “democracy” and “freedom” with which it is routinely and falsely conflated in “mainstream” U.S. media and political discourse: “the economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution, as land, factories, railroads, etc., are privately owned and operated for profit, originally under fully competitive conditions: it has been generally characterized by a tendency toward concentration of wealth and, its latter phase, by the growth of great corporations, increased government controls, etc.”