FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Case for Socialism

Anyone doubting the arguments for socialism, should read Bhaskar Sunkara’s “The Socialist Manifesto.” It presents old rationales in new clothes; the clothes are simple and attractive, while the rationales are sound. They come, however, with a big warning. “We certainly don’t want to repeat the last century’s attempts, whether in Russia or China, to impose ‘socialism from above.'” The twentieth century was an era of “false starts” for socialism, or perhaps more accurately of real starts that quickly went awry. Trotsky and Lenin helped make the first successful worker’s revolution in history, but lost control and the reins fell into Stalin’s murderous hands. Later, Mao’s earliest political activities were revolutionary, but his deification led to famines and mass death. So no, we do not want to repeat the past. We want to learn from it.

Sunkara argues for gradualism, for starting with social democracy. This is reasonable, in an era so reactionary that FDR would doubtless be called a communist by today’s Lindsey Grahams. The U.S. still has a tattered social safety net, thanks to FDR and LBJ, but if Republicans could, they would shred even those remnants – although all polls show wide public support for those social programs. So yes, a goal more modest than socialist revolution, something like the Green New Deal and Medicare For All would be a place to start. Of course even those modest social democratic proposals elicit shrieks and howls of “communism!”

How such hysteria snowballs deserves consideration. After all, any effort to relieve the poverty of over 100 million Americans, any redistributive program, prompts the modern version of a red scare and not just from Fox News and Republican senators. Recent television coverage of the first Democratic debate phrased the Medicare For All issue most tellingly, by asserting that certain (very moderate) candidates wanted to abolish private health insurance. Phrased thus, to your average ignoramus, it sounds alarming. The network never headlined that free, comprehensive public health insurance would replace the private, expensive, incomplete variety that spawns so many American bankruptcies. That’s a level of journalistic responsibility television commentators saw no need to rise to. Such lies of omission are commonplace. They popped up during the second Democratic debate also. As more social democratic programs gain popularity, expect this mendacity to become ubiquitous.

So while it’s a given that socialists will receive a negative publicity Blitzkrieg, social democrats should ready for it too. If any dem attempts to undo Trump’s tax “reform” gift to billionaire donors by reinstituting progressive taxation, the media will distort it. Likewise with the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. As for reducing military spending and removing troops from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, the Persian gulf and no longer assisting the Saudi slaughter in Yemen – these actions will be proclaimed “unpresidential.” Trump only became “presidential” in the centrist press, when he fired missiles at Syria.

The only socialist peace and environmental policies the media might not attack are returns to the INF and Iran nuclear deals and to the Paris climate accords. Otherwise U.S. media are profoundly reactionary and even more profoundly stupid. Perhaps Sunkara’s book ignores this out of politeness, but a little rudeness here wouldn’t hurt. U.S. media are a huge obstacle to social democratic reforms and to peace, and such reforms are, as Sunkara argues, necessary steps to a more just, socialistic society. “The road to socialism beyond capitalism goes through the struggle for reforms and social democracy…” Sunkara writes. “We can’t rely on the professed good intentions of socialist leaders: the way to prevent abuses of power is to have a free civil society and robust democratic institutions. This is the only ‘socialism’ worthy of the name.”

Unfortunately, we do not now have robust democratic institutions. Oligarchs control congress, the president is a wannabe autocrat, the media exclude dissent, independent press is smeared, the security/police apparatus has wrapped its tentacles around the entire body politic, the bipartisan war party clutches electoral politics in its death grip and populates all political offices, public money sinks into a bottomless military pit, swallowing $750 billion per year and so on. It’s not just socialist policies we need – we need true democracy, too. And both will only come with a fight.

More articles by:

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Further Adventures of Feckless Frank. She can be reached at her website.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
March 27, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Rob Urie
Bailouts for the Rich, the Virus for the Rest of Us
Louis Proyect
Life and Death in the Epicenter
Paul Street
“I Will Not Kill My Mother for Your Stock Portfolio”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The Scum Also Rises
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Stimulus Bill Allows Federal Reserve to Conduct Meetings in Secret; Gives Fed $454 Billion Slush Fund for Wall Street Bailouts
Jefferson Morley
Could the Death of the National Security State be a Silver Lining of COVID-19?
Ruth Hopkins
A Message For America from Brazil’s First Indigenous Congresswoman
Kathleen Wallace
The End of the Parasite Paradigm
Anthony DiMaggio
Misinformation and the Coronavirus: On the Dangers of Depoliticization and Social Media
Andrew Levine
Neither Biden Nor Trump: Imagine Cuomo
David Rosen
God’s Vengeance: the Christian Right and the Coronavirus
David Schultz
The Covid-19 Bailout: Another Failed Opportunity at Structural Change
Evaggelos Vallianatos
In the Grip of Disease
Edward Leer
Somebody Else’s World: An Interview with Kelly Reichardt
Robert Fisk
What Trump is Doing in the Middle East While You are Distracted by COVID-19
Daniel Warner
COVID-19: Health or Wealth?
Thomas Klikauer – Norman Simms
Corona in Germany: Hording and Authoritarianism
Ramzy Baroud
BJP and Israel: Hindu Nationalism is Ravaging India’s Democracy
Richard Moser
Russia-gate: the Dead But Undead
Ron Jacobs
Politics, Pandemics and Trumpism
Chris Gilbert
Letter From Catalonia: Alarming Measures
Richard Eskow
Seven Rules for the Boeing Bailout
Jonathan Carp
Coronavirus and the Collapse of Our Imaginations
Andrew Bacevich
The Coronavirus and the Real Threats to American Safety and Freedom
Peter Cohen
COVID-19, the Exponential Function and Human the Survival
César Chelala - Alberto Luis Zuppi
The Pope is Wrong on Argentina
James Preston Allen
Alexander Cockburn Meets Charles Bukowski at a Sushi Bar in San Pedro
Jérôme Duval
The Only Oxygen Cylinder Factory in Europe is Shut down and Macron Refuses to Nationalize It
Neve Gordon
Gaza Has Been Under Siege for Years. Covid-19 Could Be Catastrophic
Alvaro Huerta
To Survive the Coronavirus, Americans Should Learn From Mexicans
Prabir Purkayastha
Why the Coronavirus Pandemic Poses Fundamental Challenges to All Societies
Raouf Halaby
Fireside Chatterer Andrew Cuomo for President
Thomas Drake
The Sobering Realities of the American Dystopia
Negin Owliaei
Wash Your Hands…If You Have Water
Felice Pace
A New Threat to California’s Rivers:  Will the Rush to Develop Our Newest Water Source Destroy More Streams?
Ray Brescia
What 9/11 Can Teach Us About Responding to COVID-19
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
The Covid-19 Opportunity
John Kendall Hawkins
An Age of Intoxication: Pick Your Poison
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
The Propaganda Virus: Is Anyone Immune?
Nicky Reid
Fear and Loathing in Coronaville Volume 1: Dispatches From a Terrified Heartland
Nolan Higdon – Mickey Huff
Don’t Just Blame Trump for the COVID-19 Crisis: the U.S. Has Been Becoming a Failed State for Some Time
Susan Block
Coronavirus Spring
David Yearsley
Lutz Alone
CounterPunch News Service
Letter from Truthdig’s Editor-in-Chief Robert Scheer to the Publisher Zuade Kaufman
CounterPunch News Service
Statement From Striking Truthdig Workers
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail