27 April 2010

A Real Socialist on Democratic "Socialism"

The Republican radio canard that the Obama administration is practising "socialism" is the McCarthyism of the 21st century and possibly the most genuinely inflammatory part of their allegedly generally inflammatory attack on the Democratic regime. To call something "socialist" in this country is to hint that tyranny is in the wings and the Gulag is just outside. Some critics to Obama's right and left are more honest and more correct in their analysis. Ron Paul, for instance, characterizes the President's policies as "corporatist," meaning not so much modeled on Mussolini's "corporate state" but merely designed mainly to benefit large corporations. From the left, of course, the discrepancy between Democratic policy and socialism is far more obvious.

My frequent correspondent d. eris, who runs the Poli-Tea and Third Party and Independent Daily blogs, did the sensible thing. He asked a genuine socialist whether Obama's program met his party's standards. You can read the answer provided by an Ohio candidate for the U.S. Senate at your leisure. The main point Dan Labotz makes is that "nationalizing" any industry is not the same thing as workers' control -- and the latter is what socialism is all about.

"The Obama administration proposes that a government run by corporations also regulate the corporations in order to save the corporations from destroying themselves in their chaotic struggle to control our nation's wealth and resources," Labotz writes, "Obama's government, like Bush's did, acts as a kind of super-executive committee of corporations, working to coordinate the corporations so they will be more successful in wringing their wealth from us." I'd add that Democrats are at least motivated partly by a desire to preserve working people's jobs that might otherwise have been lost without bailouts, but Socialists are obviously just as concerned with keeping people gainfully employed. They believe, in fact, that workers will be more gainfully employed when they control their workplaces.

What would socialism mean? Here’s an example. The U.S. government now owns almost half of General Motors, so why don’t we turn those plants to green production—solar panels, wind turbines, hydrothermal equipments—to solve both the economic and environmental problems we face? We could as a people democratically elaborate a plan for the banks and corporations which we own, a plan to be carried out by workers collaborating with consumers, advised by environmentalists.We would not run these plants or others for profit, but rather to take care of the human needs of the American people.

In a way, the Socialist and Republican critiques of Democratic party liberalism converge. Both groups condemn a "liberal" political class that claims to know what's best for the rest of us. But while Republicans, Libertarians and most conservatives appeal to the superior wisdom of The Market, Socialists believe the people can govern themselves politically without the tutelage of politicians beholden to capital, and govern the market as well without the tutelage of capital. Now that public dissatisfaction with government is reportedly at a historic height, Socialists might well want to borrow from the reactionary playbook and argue as much against politicians as they already do against corporations. No third party is going to have lasting success unless it can convince people that people can govern the country without the expertise allegedly conferred exclusively by the two major parties. Socialists (as opposed to Bolshevik Communists dedicated to rule by the "vanguard party") have been making that argument all along -- maybe more Americans are finally ready to listen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I highly doubt it. Most Americans are dissatisfied with the politicians in office, they are not dissatisfied with the status quo. They don't want to replace the parties, just the people the parties are pushing on us. Most Americans are members of one of the two parties and are not willing to say that their "party" is at fault.

They are far more interested in finding ways to blame "the other guy" for their problems and not the system, as that would mean that they are, in part, to blame for supporting the system.