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July 9, 2019


Professor Kennedy in her blog today notes the Republican plan to use socialism to describe Democrats in the coming election, a red meat plan of attack by a party that has little alternative since polls consistently show a majority of the voters favor Democratic stands on the real issues of the day. She correctly calls this “labeling” and asked for commentary. Following, slightly edited, was mine.

Some thumbnail history > I disagree with Republican propaganda that Democrats have moved to “the left,” whatever that is in the real world of political science. I have written elsewhere that Democrats have not moved “left” but rather that Republicans have moved to the hard “right,” which leaves the appearance of a move “left” by Democrats, that we Democrats are still fundamentally FDR New Dealers, and that insofar as “socialism” is concerned, Republicans who provide a pipeline of deregulation and tax money to their rich sponsors fit the definition of “socialists” far better than Democrats who merely favor breaks for the many as opposed to breaks for the few.

At the expense of being labeled politically old-fashioned, it is worth remembering that FDR came into not only a hair-raising depression but a laissez faire unregulated marketplace as well marked by the “Roaring Twenties” after which (during the Thirties) I personally saw communists and Nazis with hammers and sickles and swastikas emblazoned on their shoulders marching in New York City as we were headed for failed state status. (I saw these marches on what was then called Movietone News, which usually preceded the movie to be shown in those days, movies that cost a dime to attend before FDR’s luxury tax, after which “the show” cost an outrageous eleven cents.)

With Social Security, the WPA, CCC, SEC, federal insurance of bank accounts that ended bank runs and other “socialist” and “communist” measures as defined by Republicans of that day, we rebounded from the depression and a war, after which we had the greatest sustained boom and expansion of the middle class in history, marked by wage equality that moved in tandem with the Dow up to Powell’s infamous memo and Reagan’s destruction of FDR’s New Deal which ushered us into the continuing world of wage inequality. Financiers have since taken over our markets and lately our government, and as for socialist and communists, I am reminded of an old politician who when asked to define a communist, replied that “A communist is anybody you don’t like.”

I think that view is overstated, but neither Republicans nor Democrats can give such a blanket definition of socialism, seeing as how we “capitalists” are knee-deep in socialistic practices ranging from Social Security to highways to many other practices and investments that we do better together than privately while at the same time recognizing that there are practices and investments that private interests do better in varying mixtures of private and public efforts designed to benefit the common good. The argument is not whether capitalism or socialism is bad; the argument is rather in what proportion and to what end the employment of one or the other or in what proportion of both we shall choose for use in practices and investments most likely to make for the common good. It thus comes down to definition of the common good. I define that phrase as what’s best for the most; Republicans apparently define it as what’s best for the few who will keep them in power the good times rolling, so as the bard might intone – Ah, there’s the rub. , ,        GERALD           E

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