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                       Are We All Socialists?

              Re: Newsweek Article “Are we all Socialists now?”

                               by Johnny Reb

March 13, 2009

Big government has always been associated with socialism - at least this is what conservatives have always preached to the masses. But both socialists and conservatives alike have always been proponents of Big Government - it’s just a matter of whose interests are to be served. What we presently suffer under in North America and throughout much of the so-called democratic world is a state sanctioned and managed capitalist corporatist system by and for the interests of privileged elites and Big Business. In this paradoxical perverted Orwellian sense, a socio-economic arrangement such as this can be labeled “socialism” – but socialism for the rich. Many others would call it fascism. The tax concessions to the wealthy and huge corporations (two-thirds of US corporations pay no income tax), the write offs, incentives and bailouts on the backs of tax -paying working people when they fail and outrageously low capital gains taxes and much more are just a small part of the state socialist system for the wealthy. In the United States, because of this inequitable and unfair system, the top 1% of the population has more wealth than the bottom 90%. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and the richest of the Walton family have more wealth than the bottom 100 million Americans. It’s nothing more than an obscene oligarchy run by Big Business and wealthy elites. Any resemblance to genuine democracy is incidental.  

A few weeks ago, commenting on the global economic meltdown, one of the two leading weekly U.S. magazines, Newsweek published a misleading cover story titled "We are All Socialists Now."  By "socialism," the corporate magazine appeared to mean any sort of intensified government intrusion in the U.S. economy. It’s a facile over-simplification at best.

There were several calculated omissions in this curious Newsweek story:

(1) Yes we have some aspects of socialism such as public education but the socialism with a capital “S” is first and foremost socialism for and by Big Business and wealthy elites. These conservative elites run the one party political system (The “Republicrats”) and the Conservative Corporate Welfare State in the United States (albeit to a slightly lesser extent, the same can be said for Canada) by deciding who the multi-millionaire candidates will be and finance their corporate media manipulated farcical political campaigns and by their over 35,000 highly paid and financed powerful lobbies that control the ensuing Congress and Senate and all other levels of government.

(2) Large multinational corporations also control the highly biased right wing mass media and are therefore able to frame any and all political debate, thus closing off any serious discussion of issues that affect working people during and after the campaign. They hold a near monopoly on all electronic and printed sources of information. A few conservative corporate media giants—AOL-Time Warner, General Electric, Viacom, Disney and Rupert Murdoch’s News Group—control nearly everything we read, see and hear.

One of the many ways in which the United States' incipiently totalitarian corporate-managed democracy (see Sheldon Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008]) marginalizes popular American resistance to the rule of the rich and powerful few is by making protest and dissent invisible. Like the many crimes of the American Empire past and present, that resistance is "disappeared" in the humming mists of the reigning business-run political machine and culture in general. It gets sent down George Orwell's "memory hole" almost the minute it happens. Even our past, our history is silenced and then transmogrified into an ethnocentric feel good fiction, a fairy tale about power, a story about those who won.

(3) Large American popular majorities tell pollsters in anonymous privacy that they support egalitarian social and political values.  They back a broad range of progressive, social-democratic programs consistent with those values - universal national health care mandated by the federal government, a rollback of the military budget to meet social needs, minimum wage, labor unions, assistance for the poor, a significant reduction of corporate influence over politics, and much more.

(4) Dominant or so-called "mainstream" U.S. ultra-conservative corporate media rarely if ever report any significant part of this progressive public opinion. Many people I talk to believe the propaganda disseminated by this same media that the corporate controlled mass media is too liberal. Hello? North Americans are often astonished to learn that their left-leaning policy views are widely held in the U.S. Majority progressive issue and policy beliefs are shockingly unrepresented in the nation's heavily corporate-crafted and candidate-centered election spectacles. Political campaigns focus heavily on superficial questions related to business-vetted politicians' imagery and personal "qualities" rather than on substantive policy issues that are meaningful to working people. The few mainstream candidates who align themselves with progressive majority sentiments (e.g. Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, and Cynthia McKinney) are relegated to the "unviable" and barely discernible margins by dominant political institutions - the corporate media above all. Thanks to his ill-advised habit of speaking passionately against economic inequality, poverty and corporate rule and for union rights, even the quasi-progressive John Edwards was deemed too leftist for respectful media attention during the last "quadrennial electoral extravaganza", to use Noam Chomsky's evocative expression. 

(5) Serious liberal and left intellectuals are habitually non-existent in the nation's official political and media culture. They are beyond the pale of serious attention.  The United States is home to some very serious and strong left thinkers, including Robert W. McChesney, John Bellamy Foster, Barbara Ehrenreich, Howard Zinn, David Harvey, Giovanni Arrighi, Immanuel Wallerstein, Michael Parenti, Edward S. Herman, and last but not at all least, Noam Chomsky, widely accepted around the world, with the exception of the United States where he is relentlessly marginalized, to be the planet's top intellectual. These people are astonishingly absent from the "mainstream" media's roster of acceptable "expert" commentators on current events. That roster is loaded with a surplus of anti-intellectual reactionary mediocrities and hacks like Sean Hannity, Larry Kudlow, Rush Limbaugh, Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, William Bennett, George Will, Patrick Buchanan, Karl Rove, David Brooks - the list seems endless. The nation's top left intellectuals are even essentially disqualified from the national medias’ "leftmost" (that’s not saying much) outposts - The New York Times, "public" television and radio, and MSNBC - because they try to present serious moral criticisms of ruling domestic and imperial institutions, policies, and doctrines. 

Albert Einstein wrote in 1949:

“The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.”

The situation is far worse today than it was when Einstein wrote this.

(6) Left out is any remotely accurate understanding of socialism as it is understood and advanced by its modern-day adherents: democratic workers' and peoples' control of economic and political life in the interests of sharing, social use, equality, and the common good instead of private gain, greed and social hierarchy.

(7) There’s no 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 in any sense envisioned by Karl Marx and other prominent socialist thinkers in the past. Such a person could easily be found but actual living socialists must remain offstage since they and their ideals - shared to no small degree (as only a tiny percentage of Americans are permitted to know) by great American historical personalities like Eugene Debs, 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. By the way, rather than accepting willed ignorance and the relentless rhetoric of conservative media, I suggest reading the works of both Karl Marx and Adam Smith and get the goods right from the “horse’s mouth” before you even mention the words “capitalism” and “socialism” in good company.  There’s nothing intrinsically “free” or democratic about free-enterprise (the euphemism often invoked for laissez-faire capitalism). Even Adam Smith admitted that capitalism was based on some of the most unsavory human tendencies of greed and envy and consequently requires regulations and checks to render it “civilized.” In his day, Marx described how capitalism gave rise to "a new financial aristocracy, a new variety of parasites in the shape of promoters, speculators and simply nominal directors; a whole system of swindling and cheating by means of corporation promotion, stock issuance and stock speculation."

Marx's vision of a new society has been smugly dismissed by capitalism's ideologues ever since. But the system's inevitable lurches into crisis have kept the authentic socialist tradition alive, despite the perversion of its ideas by Stalin's dictatorship in Russia and by pro-business so-called social democratic parties like the British Labor Party, which from its socialist roots, has morphed into another neo-conservative political machine under Tony Blair.

Marx predicted that capitalism would ultimately fail when working people would revolt after they tired of the boot on their neck and living off the crumbs that fall from the chins of the wealthy and privileged. He certainly could not have predicted that it would devour itself from within by its own internal contradictions of uncontrolled greed and deregulation. Only time will tell what the future will bring. Perhaps people will become desperate enough to accept the pleadings of some totalitarian fascist demagogue as did the Germans between the Great Wars. Not surprisingly capitalism flourished under fascism as it never could under quasi-democratic systems. Some left intellectuals have argued that fascism has already arrived in the United States.

I leave you with the definition of capitalism in the second 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 is routinely and falsely conflated in "mainstream" U.S. corporate 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."  Would anyone, not knowing their personal socio-economic status, accept such a system?

And here’s Chris Hedges:

“The corporate forces that are looting the Treasury and have plunged us into a depression will not be contained by the two main political parties. The Democratic and Republican parties have become little more than squalid clubs of privilege and wealth, whores to money and corporate interests, hostage to a massive arms industry, and so adept at deception and self-delusion they no longer know truth from lies. We will either find our way out of this mess by embracing an uncompromising democratic socialism—one that will insist on massive government relief and work programs, the nationalization of electricity and gas companies, a universal, not-for-profit government health care program, the outlawing of hedge funds, a radical reduction of our bloated military budget and an end to imperial wars—or we will continue to be fleeced and impoverished by our bankrupt elite and shackled and chained by our surveillance state.”

 “The free market and globalization, promised as the route to worldwide prosperity, have been exposed as a con game. But this does not mean our corporate masters will disappear. Totalitarianism, as George Orwell pointed out, is not so much an age of faith as an age of schizophrenia. “A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial,” Orwell wrote, “that is when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud.” Force and fraud are all they have left. They will use both.”


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