Since switching my political convictions from being a conservative Republican to becoming a Socialist, I have experienced a great number of discussions/debates/arguments about Socialism and why people disagree with it. One could easily summarize the objections to socialism as a rejection of the Socialist label more than the concepts. And, most efforts to focus attention on the key concepts of Socialism are usually rebuffed by redirecting the spotlight on the Socialist label.
What is apparent in most complaints against Socialism is that Conservatives allow themselves to enjoy some luxuries that they prohibit others from experiencing. Take the association of the tyrants from the past with Socialism. It is more than obvious to those who have read American Socialists that the subjugation of others is not consistent with the basic tenets of Socialism. Thus, we have a parallel with those whom Republicans call Republicans In Name Only (RINOs) and those tyrants who are Socialists In Name Only (SINOs). We could use this term if conservatives allowed others to play by the same rules they play by. But we are barred from doing so by those who want to prevent anybody from considering other choices to Conservatism than impotent Liberalism.
Or take the Conservative charge that all attempts at establishing social justice end in tyranny. There are so many problems with this position that it is difficult to decide where to start. Does this assertion imply that we should never work for social justice? Is this declaration historically accurate? What about the elimination of both forms of slavery here or apartheid in South Africa? Though the results were certainly not perfect, did they end in tyranny or an improvement? What about all of the European and South American countries that serve as hybrids of Socialism and Capitalism but would be considered totally Socialistic in comparison with what Obama has stood for? Have these countries become totalitarian? What about our own nation's forefathers and their search for religious freedom? Isn't the search for religious freedom a quest for social justice? Or we could examine a specific example Conservatives use to denigrate Socialism with: the Nazis. What Conservatives claim is that the Nazis promised social justice but delivered one of the most horrifying tyrannies of all time. Those Conservatives who make this assertion are 1 for 2 here because while the latter assertion is true, the Nazis did not promise to establish social justice; rather, they promised to return Germany to both its glory days and its traditional values. Hitler also promised to eliminate democracy while campaigning for office.
But more importantly, do those who have called themselves Socialists have a monopoly on tyranny or is the desire to rule over others an unfortunate part of the human condition? This challenge is similar to the problem Chris Hedges posed to Christopher Hitchens when Hitchens listed sins of those who were religious when debating validity of religion. For example, Sheldon Wolin calls our nation's current political system an "inverted totalitarianism" where, instead of some demagogue dominating over economics, economics rules over politics including our democracy. The bailouts, which are strongly objected to by many Conservatives, can be seen as being inevitable given a system where deregulation carries the day and the primary dependence for our officials' elections rest on unlimited corporate donations. So as where Conservatives want to claim that tyranny and Fascism are the necessary results of any attempt to establish social justice via Socialism, inverted totalitarianism can be just as much the fate of those who continue to strip away almost all social responsibilities from the business world.
What is most ironic here is that the same Conservatives who wish to scare us to death regarding the "foreordained" tyranny they claim follows all attempts at Socialism are the same people who object to the concept of extended democracy and the curtailing or ending of American Empire.
In addition, the jumps in logic that many of today's Conservatives use to try to frighten people from Socialism find parallels in the CIA's propaganda war against Allende who eventually became the President of Chile during the early 1970's. And what was the result of the CIA's actions in Chile? They helped orchestrate a military coup that turned into a bloody dictatorship. One can only hope that the parallels between today's Conservatives who try to bury Socialism with false accusations and the CIA propaganda program that tried to do the same to Allende stops with the rhetoric--though such hope ignores the authoritarian personality types that Conservatism often attracts.
True Socialism is something that arises from the masses rather than something that descends from the government. This is because, and we cannot mention this enough times, extended democracy is an essential part of Socialism. And what we have in America are a few isolated working examples of Socialism that have flown in under the radar. For example, Isthmus Engineering and Manufacturing is a worker cooperative business that is run democratically (see Isthmus Engineering
). Another such example of at democratically run company is the Union Cab Cooperative in Wisconsin (see Union Cab
). That sounds strange because we have been indoctrinated into thinking that Socialism must start with some form of big government. If we are going to understand Socialism, we must realize that none of the basic tenets of Socialism imply big government. In addition, those who complain the most about big government do so selectively because the big military and homeland security that they support is also big government.
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Certainly there are some Conservatives who understand that Socialism is about giving workers a real place of ownership and control over their workplaces. They still object to it because they support the status quo. They believe that if the current system is tweaked according to Conservative values, things will work as they should. But their beliefs fly in the face of reality. For the most part, our current system has been tweaked according to Conservative values with the exception of some, but not all, of what Obama has done. The economic problems we see under Obama's Administration are extensions of the problems we saw under George Bush's Administration. Debt has been jumping upwards while fewer and fewer regulations are surviving. And the message that is being passed down to the U.S. by the newly elected Republicans is that what makes life and a future possible is no longer sustainable because such would place too heavy of a tax burden on those who are the richest and benefit the most from the resources and services that government provides. In essence, the rich are in it for a free lunch and are trying to treat the middle class in the same way that Conservatives from the middle class want to treat those in need. That is they have become hyper vigilant in guarding with whom their tax money is shared though they have no qualms with receiving the tax monies of others.
The real challenge for Socialists today is to get the past image of Socialism that comes from history's SINOs to get to the substance of Socialism which includes extended democracy, collectivism, and being anti-empire. We must be honest regarding those who have betrayed the movement just as we must show Conservatives that they need to be honest regarding those who were never Socialists in the first place. Thus, it may be beneficial in some cases to advance substance without using the label. At that point, one could at least see what the real objections to Socialism are. Do most people who work really object to having more say at their workplace? Do most people really object to sharing that which is necessary to live? And do most people really object to eliminating an unsustainable empire? We will never know unless we go beyond the label and into the content.
Curt Day is a religious flaming fundamentalist and a political extreme moderate. Curt's blogs are at http://flamingfundamentalist.blogspot.com/ and http://violenceorsurvival.blogspot.com/