Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Marxism on the rise?

I already wrote an MTS blog about the recent charges of “Marxism” brought against Barack Obama by citizens who seem not to know what Marxism is. After tracking back the claims through my social network, I discovered the charge originated with Tom DeLay, passed along as talking points to a group of conservative bloggers.

The smear campaign appears to be working, not necessarily in hurting Obama’s chances of winning the election, but at least in leading at least some Americans to express fear about a word that appears new to their personal lexicon.

But I thought I’d go ahead and write a blog post about the recent rise in discourse about Marxism and socialism (which are paradoxically used interchangeably, as if they are the same value system).

A few ironies:

  • Many conservative friends and colleagues I’ve spoken with have pointed to the $700 billion bailout of our market (really a $850 billion bailout, but why quibble over a paltry $150 billion?) as one indicator of Obama’s “socialistic views”. And yet, while G.O.P. candidate John McCain suspended his presidential campaign to oversee the crafting this monstrous act, Obama was largely criticized for not appearing enthusiastic. Why is Obama to blame for this bill when McCain seems to escape criticism from the remaining base?

  • The bailout doesn’t appear to be a good example of “socialism.” Having the Commerce Department goad the president and Congress into bailing out an industry full of private corporations is technically not socialism, but fascism (“a political system in which economy is collectively managed by employers, workers and state officials by formal mechanisms at national level.”, Davies, p. 143)

  • Fascism is hardly compatible with socialism, communism, liberalism or even conservatism. And yet, others have argued that America has become increasingly fascist since George W. Bush took office (and just Google “fascist” and “America” for quite a few more sources on this topic).

  • Whether you view the $700 billion bailout as fascism or socialism (which seems to have an amazing number of new meanings these days), neither view would be compatible with Marxism, since absolutely none of this money is directly delivered to workers.

And yet, somehow, Barack Obama is both a “socialist” and a “Marxist”? (Again, never mind the contradiction between these two claims).

How can someone running for public office in a democracy be charged with demonstrating Marxist views? By definition, wouldn't that individual be calling for a worker's revolution or a military coup?

We apparently need a new emphasis on civics education in this country if our democracy is to function. Or at least (read: AT THE VERY LEAST) teach our citizenry how to use Google and Wikipedia BEFORE its members engage in whisper campaigns.


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