By Tom Kando
The astute reader will see that this title is a spoof on Joe McCarthy’s 1950s Communist witch-hunt.
Amazingly, many people have been bamboozled into believing that (1) people like President Obama are “Socialists” and that (2) Socialism is a sin. Things were different at mid-century. When I grew up and went to high school, most of us knew that:
(1) the Western World had made progress in the 20th century because of Socialism, i.e. things like progressive taxes, labor unions, social security, medicare, universal health insurance, unemployment and disability compensation, and aid to families with dependent children.(2) All the affluent western democracies had thriving socialist parties, counterbalancing their conservative, Christian and pro-business parties. These left-of-center parties were called Labor (Britain), Social Democratic (Germany), Socialist (France) Democratic (US), or something else. They all boiled down to the same thing.
(3) Socialism was good. Communism was bad. Communism was a totalitarian and extreme form of Socialism which had gone haywire, for example in Russia under Stalin.
(4) Examples of fine socialist leaders who did good things for their countries included President Franklin Roosevelt in the US, later President Mitterrand in France, Tony Blair and now Gordon Brown in Britain.
(5) Unions were the sine qua non which finally enabled the working man to achieve a decent life in the 20th century.
We knew all these things. They were true.
But now, the political world has become weird. Somehow, the label “Socialist” has become toxic. This is very strange. When demagogues like Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh accuse someone (E.g President Obama) of being a “Socialist,” the word is so dreaded that the accused desperately denies being one. “No way! How dare you accuse me of being a Socialist!” This sort of argument-by-name-calling was Senator Joe McCarthy’s forte. He put the living fear into his opponents by simply calling them “Communists.”
What I don’t understand is why people have accepted this. Why people have forgotten the distinction between Socialism and Communism. Forgotten that in every civilized, free, democratic country, socialist parties are among the major ruling parties. Maybe America’s victory in the Cold War and the demise of Soviet Communism, have erased the distinction between Socialism and Communism, in people’s dumbed-down minds.
I can understand why the rich see socialism as evil. But why have millions of little people, maybe a majority of Americans, swallowed this canard? The canard being that socialism is bad, that taxes are what hurts the economy, that unions and the government are bad for the country.
Take the on-going struggle over health care reform: The brain-washing has already succeeded: Most people already agree that a single-payer, government-run health care system would suck. No matter that this is precisely what they have in France and all the other places whose health care system is far superior to ours. The fear-mongering “Do you want government bureaucrats to make the medical decisions?” has worked. People don’t even realize that currently it is Insurance bureaucrats who make those decisions. At least, the government bureaucrats’ decisions would not be determined by the profit motive, as are those of insurance bureaucrats...
Maybe the word “Socialism” is so hopelessly tainted in this country that we might as well jettison it. Maybe we need to use another word with less stigma, to denote the policies pursued by progressives such as President Obama. How about Social-Democrat?
Of course, we already have a Democratic Party. And you know what? Our Democratic Party is our socialist party, just like Labor is Britain’s socialist party, the SDP is Germany’s socialist party, and so forth. If you are a Democrat, you are a socialist - maybe moderately so, maybe extremely so. Be up-front about it.
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