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Stop Throwing Around the ‘Socialist’ Label

Several years ago I wrote an essay for TAC on what fascism is not. In that broadside [1] I spared neither right nor left for their misappropriations of the F-word.

It may now be time to raise similar questions about the overuse of the “socialist” label by Republicans and Conservative Inc.

This task seemed particularly timely after I was paired last night on a podcast with Riva Enteen, the co-editor of the anthology [2] Follow the Money: Radio Voices for Peace and Justice. Although Riva described herself as a Marxist and a “historical materialist,” just about everything she seemed passionate about was a contemporary cultural issue. She advocated for women’s “reproductive rights,” endorsed Black Lives Matter, and stressed the uphill battle still being waged by gays. And, oh yes, she was against war because she thought it was inhumane. Whatever her intent, Riva gave the impression that Marxism, and more generally socialism, is about being culturally progressive.

Yet I don’t think I heard much orthodox Marxism in what she had to say.

change_me

Unlike feminism and the LGBT lobby, Marxist regimes have historically been socially reactionary, with Russian, Cuban, and Chinese communists throwing homosexuals and drug addicts in labor camp, or worse. As I write in my book [3] The Strange Death of Marxism, what our progressive culture now celebrates as new forms of liberation profoundly offended real communists when they were in power. In fact, communists treated groups that the contemporary left holds up as historical victims with contempt.

There is a long established practice of confusing what is misleadingly called “Cultural Marxism” with socialism and Marxist economics. The two are most definitely not the same. Those who invented what the Frankfurt School in interwar Germany called Critical Theory, and that was called by its friends and later adversaries “Cultural Marxism,” were intent on a cultural revolution. Critical Theory was only secondarily about changing the economic system, which is the primary interest of socialists and which real Marxists maintained could only come about through violence. Although the Frankfurt School and its descendants favored state ownership of productive forces, they took this stand only as a means towards a cultural end. They viewed socialism as instrumental for overcoming sexism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia. These things, which they equated with “fascism,” were their primary targets.

In today’s Western countries, however, most of the social program of the Frankfurt School seems to have been carried out, accomplished without the state controlling production. Even more strikingly, the managers of global capitalist enterprises have happily promoted the cultural left’s agenda, from homosexual marriage to mandatory transgender restrooms. And unlike the French Communist Party after the Second World War and American labor organizers of an earlier era [4], both of which opposed immigration because of its impact on the native workforce, our culturally radical capitalists are delighted to bring in cheap foreign labor, legal or otherwise.

Media conservatives and Republican operatives attack as the back door to socialism the Democratic Party’s proposals for new redistributionist programs. Without necessarily favoring such programs (and I usually don’t), one might ask why they will turn our current welfare state, which incidentally both national parties effusively favor, into “socialism.” Unless we have in mind a nationalized, collectivized economy, we are not describing socialism. We can of course claim that we’re already on the “road to socialism,” but if we’re indeed on that road, we’ve been there for a very long time without ever reaching the goal. Instead we’ve arrived at a top-heavy managerial state that allows for the continued practice of capitalism on a global scale.

It’s hard to imagine that a hypothetical Elizabeth Warren presidency would change this, even if Warren, faithful to her promise, were to subsidize college education for every high school graduate. And I doubt we would become truly socialist even if Warren shook down large investment companies for additional revenue, for example Goldman Sachs, which might in any case support her because of her social stands. In any event, that wouldn’t be the most destructive effect of a Warren presidency. Her attack on our remaining freedoms would come less from her alleged socialism than from her giving free rein to the cultural left. She would likely bombard us with anti-discrimination directives enforced by government agencies. Perhaps I’m the only one who’s noticed that Warren and others of her ilk are ranting nonstop against “systemic prejudice.” Just read Warren’s “fiery speech” [5] given at the Women’s Rally against Donald Trump on January 21, 2017. It’s not exactly her “socialism” that stands out in this fire and brimstone harangue.

Perhaps Republicans relentlessly denounce their opponents as “socialist” at least partly because they don’t want to confront the five-hundred pound gorilla in their living room: namely cultural radicalism and the accelerated use of big government to impose it. It may seem prudent to keep sticking it to the old hobgoblins, like the ever-present socialist menace, than to go after the Democrats as the party of political correctness on steroids. After all, Millennial and feminist voters may agree with Warren’s social views. What might stop them from voting for her is the likelihood that she’d raise taxes. Republicans therefore denounce the Democratic Party’s socialism, which means additional spending on social programs, as opposed to the GOP’s military expenditures.

There is an obvious enthusiasm [6] shared by more than half of Millennials for socialism: what this may mean is they want the state to look after them in loco parentis. Also at least some Democrats are now describing themselves as “socialists,” causing Republican talk show hosts like Glenn Beck [7] to predictably foam at the mouth. But it’s hard to find actual full-blown socialism in the pronouncements of these would-be socialists, as opposed to demands that government administrators beat up on banks, redistribute income, switch to single-payer health care, and give more public funds to aggrieved minorities. By the way, the Canadian socialized health care system has not kept the Heritage Foundation from judging Canada [8] as having the world’s ninth freest economy.

At the same time, a majority of college students, together with their professors, now express preference [1] for what amounts to politically correct speech enforcement over academic freedom. And our elites just might be inclined to give the kids what they want. The U.S. is hardly on its way to becoming Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, whatever the complaints one hears on Fox News. But we could easily slip into an up-to-date version of “antifascist” Germany or Sweden—provided that cultural radicals acquire even more power.  

Paul Gottfried is Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years. He is a Guggenheim recipient and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents [9].

48 Comments (Open | Close)

48 Comments To "Stop Throwing Around the ‘Socialist’ Label"

#1 Comment By Tancred On May 23, 2018 @ 10:26 pm

The modern Democratic Party is actually to the right of the old Democratic Party on economic issues. Even the recent moves to the left by politicians like Elizabeth Warren are pretty mild compared to the old New Deal Democrats.

This is what happened after the McGovern–Fraser Commission primary reforms opened up the Democratic Party to activists from the feminist, minority and other lobbies. They ousted Big Labor and big city machines from their positions as kingmakers within the Democratic Party.

As corrupt as Big Labor and the old city machines were they kept the Democratic Party relatively moderate or even socially conservative on a number of cultural issues. The old school pro-life movement was more liberal than it was conservative and more Democratic than Republican.

The modern Democratic Party supports multicultural meritocracy. Walter Benn Michaels summed it up with this choice quote:

“Look, if you’re poor because you’re a victim of racism, sexism, homophobia—that’s a problem because it’s an inequality of opportunity. But if you’re not a victim of one of those things, **** you.”

[10]

This is why so many working-class whites are not buying what the Democrats are selling these days and why Trump did so well among that demographic.

#2 Comment By Nate On May 23, 2018 @ 10:43 pm

“Unlike feminism and the LGBT lobby, Marxist regimes have historically been socially reactionary…”

Your statement seems odd in light of the fact that the Soviet Union was the first country to legalize abortion, enabled no fault divorce, almost annihilated the Orthodox Church, and attacked the traditional family structure in numerous other ways.

#3 Comment By Jones On May 23, 2018 @ 11:31 pm

YES. Someone has needed to say this for a long time. At this point, socialism is really a red herring. This leads conservatives to misunderstand what they’re dealing with. It’s always easier to grapple with the past than the future. What we’re seeing today is without any real precedent. It’s a radicalization of cultural liberalism. The effects will be different, and weird. The main political themes of our time don’t have anything to do with the economy at all, but with the evisceration of the family and traditional sexual morality.

#4 Comment By S On May 24, 2018 @ 12:26 am

Excellent article. The cultural Marxists have actually taken over the Communist parties and caused them to shrink, vote wise in India, where I am from . They no longer believe even in worker’s rights (which Communist government really did though). All they believe in is cultural nihilism. Its much worse than real socialism could ever be.

#5 Comment By Mark Thomason On May 24, 2018 @ 12:40 am

Socialism and Marxism are not the same things.

The Soviets and such were not either one of those things. They were just hard men dictators with a cover story.

I agree with the underlying premise of this, that PC is not the same as socialism either. But this then goes off into socialism is communism, Soviet style. Wrong. Very wrong. Ruins the point.

#6 Comment By minimammal On May 24, 2018 @ 2:28 am

This article echoes exactly what I’ve observed about today’s Left. While contemporary leftists do dabble in the trappings of socialism and demand socialist style programs like universal health care, free college, etc., they do not seem to be interested in challenging the capitalist status quo. In fact, corporate America largely promotes the progressive agenda, and entire industries such as Silicon Valley are dominated by and propagate the ideology. Whether today’s activists realize it or not, rather than speaking truth to power, as, perhaps, they once arguably did, today’s leftists are power speaking.

Today’s leftists are not concerned with the corporate fat cats of old because they are simply not concerned with economics or class, as such. This is evident in the lack of political demonstrations against global corporate interests in recent years (really, not since the Occupy movements). Rather, as evidenced by the constant eruptions of mass hysteria and aggressive social engineering campaigns, they are concerned with policing ordinary citizens and ensuring, through intense social pressure and coercion, that individuals walk in ideological lockstep with what the Left determines to be right and proper. Any freethinkers or dissenters are anathema and to be pilloried into submission.

This transformation from class to so called “social justice” on the part of the Left represents a change in what the movement is. The Left is no longer an economic movement, nor is it expressly political. Rather, it is now fundamentally a religious movement, albeit a materialist religion. This religious fervor is precisely why the Left is so puritanically belligerent and uncompromising. We are living in a twenty-first Inquisition in which our religious authorities du jour terrorize the masses in order to ensure obedience and ideological purity.

Oddly enough, though the cultural radicals abhor Christianity as simply another expression of white, heteronormative patriarchy, today’s ascendant ideology is arguably a mutated corruption of the religion. Christianity’s tenets of forgiveness and spiritual perfection are out, replaced with a retribution-fueled justice that elevates victimized groups to messiah status. Gone is Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, that most perfect and innocent of victims; in His stead is a pantheon of mini-Messiahs, a rainbow hierarchy of victims, not merely the downtrodden and the pariahs but all that is considered the inverse of the imagined patriarchal power structure. Indeed, the only sins one can be guilty of in this worldview are white privilege and racism, broadly defined, which essentially means holding any views (many of which were, until yesterday, considered mainstream) at odds with the avowed orthodoxy.

It may not be socialism or fascism but this cultural radicalism, or whatever term best describes this quasi-religious zealotry, is dangerous. I could halfway get on board with the economic interests of the old Left. I’m no socialist but I am enough of a market skeptic to be sympathetic to some regulation of capitalism. I used to think that’s what it meant to be left-leaning and for a while considered myself as such. Now, I am absolutely disgusted with the identitarian absurdity of the Left and want no part in it – not that leftists would particularly want a white, straight male (the enemy, evil incarnate, in their eyes) among their ranks. This cultural radicalism repelled me, as it now seems to be doing to many people, particularly other white males. What will come of this remains to be seen, but it seems that an increasingly ascendant, radical, rigid, anti-spiritual religious movement bent on cultural upheaval and control does not bode well for those who dare to question or resist it, and whether one calls this ideology the S-word or the F-word is meaningless at this point, since it’s clearly something new yet familiarly diabolical.

#7 Comment By George Hoffmam On May 24, 2018 @ 7:53 am

Bravo, Herr Professor, well done. If one wants to know how communists like to treat socialists and Marxists, I recommend reading George Orwell’s “A Homage to Catalonia” about his experiences fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Being an old baby boomer, Senator Bernie Sanders reminds me more of the New Dealers in FDR’s presidency. But FDR was revered in my family of European immigrants grownjmg up in the late fifties and early sixties. It was the golden age for the working class. I really abhor this hysteria of politically correctness on campus. Just look at the mayhem caused by these zany radical students at Evergreen State University in Washington. Activism has actually become more political theater that the late Tom Wolfe loved to satirize Im his early works. Now I’m a Vietnam veteran. But since the end of the draft, whether one opposed these wars after the 9/11 attacks or supported them, civilians were sitting in the bleachers. As Professor Andrew Basevich of Boston University pointed out in his “Breach of Trust” both sides habe no skin in the game. The real drama was on the playing field. The rest is political theater. We live in the age of the spectacle. Virtual reality on the internet and I’m pur minds. I opposed these wars because I knew in my heart they would end up being just a series of inconclusive wars that reminded me of my war as a young man. I told people these wars would rival the foreign policy debacle in Vietnam. They laughed at me, or they said I was just another aging Vietnam veteran frozen in the past,or they even said they could see how we lost the Vietnam War, because I was obviously a Communist sympathizer. That is level of political discourse in this country, at least, among the working class who have been brainwashed by the corporate MSM in this country. Long hairs gave me the Nazi salute and screamed “Seig Hiel,” at me in the Seattle Airport on my first day back in the world, and many years later diehard hawks would say to me I lost the world. Well, I can lose my iPad but I doubt I can lose a war. Now where did I put that war? Maybe I should check the dumpster in back of the apartment. I couldn’t vote for Hillary’s official coronation though I lean to the left since she is obviously a war monger and a shill for the Pentagon, even if she is a feminist war monger who has no moral qualms voting for the illegal Iraq War and dropping bombs on innocent women and children. The Iraq War was just as illegal and criminal as the war I participated in though I didn’t commit any war crimes being a medical corpsman at a base hospital. What an icon of feminism Hillary is. So I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary though I knew the elites in the Democratic Party had fixed the political process. on a more mimdane issue, citizens want our interstate highway system fixed and brought up to reasonable safety standard. Yet neither party would vote for an increase on the gas tax. That would be political suicide. And remember President Dwight Eisenhower was responsible for this project which cost around $480 billion adjusted for inflation. It remains the largest federal works project i history. And if Ike ran today in Republican primaries, he would be probably be s,eared as a socialist. Go ffigure. So, Professor, I wouldn’t worry too much about this country going socialist in the near future or even on it following the Canadian model. My fellow baby boomers are just too narcisstic and all over the map when it comes to politics. They change ideology like one scurries around on a Ouija board for predictions about the future. We are living in an age of decadence. But I mean that word in the sense that Jacques Barzun used it in his astute survey of history “From Dawn To Decadence.” Things are played out. All ideologies seem to end in a cul-de-sac. It’s like a marriage that has no vital center and suffers from exhaustion. The partners are going through the motion. But they should have divorced years ago. Or as Matthew Arnold wrote in his poem “Stanzas to a Grand Chartreuse”: “ One world dead / Another powerless to be born.” But I’m a cynic about the human condition given my experiences as you can readily see.

#8 Comment By cka2nd On May 24, 2018 @ 9:02 am

“Although Riva described herself as a Marxist and a ‘historical materialist,’ just about everything she seemed passionate about was a contemporary cultural issue. She advocated for women’s ‘reproductive rights,’ endorsed Black Lives Matter, and stressed the uphill battle still being waged by gays.”

These are not just “contemporary” cultural issues. From Wikipedia: “The Soviet government was the first government in Europe to legalize abortion. In October 1920 the Bolsheviks made abortion legal within the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic with their ‘Decree on Women’s Healthcare.'” Ever heard of the Scotsboro Boys, Professor? Jessica Mitford’s second memoir discusses CPUSA mobilizations to defend the homes of black homeowners from racist firebombings. And the Socialist Workers Party literally wrote the book on “The Assassination of Malcolm X.” I will admit that Marxism and gay liberation have had a fraught history, but real progress has been made in the last 50 years.

“the economic system, which is the primary interest of socialists and which real Marxists maintained could only come about through violence.”

So, Karl Kautsky and August Bebel weren’t “real Marxists?” I’m not saying that I prefer reformist Marxism, i.e., Social Democracy, i.e., Democratic Socialism, but if you can’t even acknowledge the existence of an alternate current within Marxism separate from revolutionary Marxism, then how can we accept any definition from you of what is or isn’t socialism, especially Marxian socialism?

“There is an obvious enthusiasm shared by more than half of Millennials for socialism: what this may mean is they want the state to look after them in loco parentis.”

What a smug, dismissive and stupid remark. In an era of unsustainable student debt, of 40 years of wage stagnation, of “the gig economy,” of working 50-60 hours a week in two, three and four part-time jobs to make what one of your parents might have made in a single full-time job (plus benefits, and maybe even a defined benefits pension plan), you describe the attraction of socialism to young people as a desire for the state to look after them as if they were still children and the state their parent?

And where the heck is Bernie Sanders? I mean, he’s more of a New Deal Democrat than a socialist – Hell, he’s more of a New Deal Democrat than Warren – but he is America’s most well-known self-described socialist and most popular politician. And his campaign was both popular with a fairly wide swath of young people and less inclined to jump on some of the social issue bandwagons that the Clinton campaign jumped on and her erstwhile supporters have prioritized, at least when they aren’t trying to blame their defeat on Russia. Does Elizabeth Warren even identify herself as a socialist?

#9 Comment By Mario Diana On May 24, 2018 @ 9:40 am

I’m hoping someone can clear something up for me, because the author’s account of Cultural Marxism has not been my understanding of it. Here it is:

Although the Frankfurt School and its descendants favored state ownership of productive forces, they took this stand only as a means towards a cultural end. They viewed socialism as instrumental for overcoming sexism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia.

My understanding is that Marxists found themselves in the embarrassing situation of having to explain to themselves why Karl Marx’s iron clad laws of economic history were not moving history in the way Marx (and they) expected. Their excuse was that capitalism had an insidious ability to infect and permeate culture, and that the resulting capitalist culture worked to alienate the proletariat from their true interests. In other words, as fast as “history” could work, the widespread adoption and resulting supremacy of bourgeois culture undid the work of history.

Thus, the Cultural Marxists concluded that, at present, the real work was to undermine bourgeois culture, and that the focus of people hoping to see the triumph of socialism should be cultural rather than economic.

In short, the ultimate end was still economic: namely, the workers paradise of the socialist Shangri-La. Undermining the mores of society was a means to that end.

Is my understanding wrong?

#10 Comment By Egypt Steve On May 24, 2018 @ 10:07 am

I still reserve the right to call anyone who voted for Trump a fascist.

#11 Comment By JonF On May 24, 2018 @ 10:10 am

Re: This is what happened after the McGovern–Fraser Commission primary reforms opened up the Democratic Party to activists from the feminist, minority and other lobbies. They ousted Big Labor and big city machines from their positions as kingmakers within the Democratic Party.

This isn’t the whole story by a long shot. As late as the election of 1984 the Democrats were still running primarily on labor and economic issues. However the apparent success of Reaganomics and the the fact that too many working class voters had abandoned them convinced the Democrats they could not longer get any mileage out of New Deal liberalism– and that was entirely wrong as the generation that lived through the Depression became a smaller and smaller share of the electorate. This led to the rise of the DLC and ultimately of Bill Clinton who accepted some but not all of Reaganomics, and also resulted in the party embracing Neo-liberalism (free trade, free markets, but with a robust safety net– except the latter never really materialized). Meanwhile the fact that so much of the working class (let’s say it– the white working class) was no longer voting Democrat meant that the party had to find its voters elsewhere, and they did– in minorities, and in well-educated “lifestyle liberals”. As the saying goes, You got to dance with them what brung you, and if the Democrats’ voter base wants racial justice and lifestyle liberalism that’s what the Democrats will; campaign on.

#12 Comment By vato_loco_frisco On May 24, 2018 @ 10:16 am

Riva Enteen and her cadre of cultural Marxists, with their linguistic abominations and reconfiguration of the racial totem pole, are really only possible in this stage of late capitalism. Despite soaring debt and lack of social mobility, they exist is an era of untold abundance. This surfeit of material wealth allows the cultural Marxists to contemplate new pronouns and dream up words like “intersectionality”. Meanwhile, the global proletariat struggles with real-world issues: adequate shelter, food on the table.

#13 Comment By PrairieDog On May 24, 2018 @ 10:25 am

How about “statist”? Almost all of the various political and social ‘solutions’ propose by the American Left involve a bigger role for government. “Communitarian” might be accurate as well.

#14 Comment By Argon On May 24, 2018 @ 10:45 am

“Even more strikingly, the managers of global capitalist enterprises have happily promoted the cultural left’s agenda, from homosexual marriage to mandatory transgender restrooms.”

See also, women’s rights, general civil rights and interracial marriage.

#15 Comment By RMMM On May 24, 2018 @ 12:30 pm

The modern left is entropic by nature. When is the last time you met a large, functional, nuclear family headed up by a leftist mother and father? Now go to your local evangelical or Catholic church and observe the people there.

This death shriek from the radical left is just that. The only way you can continue the shriek is by continuing our immigration policies of the last 50 years. Otherwise this party is doomed to failure.

#16 Comment By One Guy On May 24, 2018 @ 12:36 pm

Labels aren’t going away. It’s much easier to label someone than to understand someone.

Liberal
Conservative
Never-Trumper
Social Justice Warrior
Elite
Deep State
Socialist
Kenyan

#17 Comment By MM On May 24, 2018 @ 12:58 pm

JonF: “But with a robust safety net – except the latter never really materialized.”

Federal means-tested spending grew from $200 billion per year in 1992 to $400 billion per year in 2002 to $600 billion per year in 2012, adjusted for inflation. That’s just federal spending, increasing on average 10% per year for 20 years, while the population was only growing on average 1.1% per year over the same period. Also over that same period, 1992-2012, the federal poverty rate was unchanged, at about 15%.

And that’s just federal spending. Including state and local spending, means-tested government spending is $1 trillion per year today.

Not robust enough, huh?

#18 Comment By JonF On May 24, 2018 @ 1:40 pm

Re: Federal means-tested spending grew from $200 billion per year in 1992 to $400

Nearly all of that involved higher spending on healthcare programs– especially Medicare.
A robust social safety net would involve at a minimum A) Effective job training, placement and income support for the unemployed B) A housing first approach to homelessness C) True universal healthcare (whether by single payer or some other means) D) Universal childcare for working people E) a much better system of education funding F) paid sick leave for all workers.

#19 Comment By JonF On May 24, 2018 @ 1:43 pm

Re: When is the last time you met a large, functional, nuclear family headed up by a leftist mother and father?

I agree that two married parents are definitely preferable, but why in the world does the size of the family matter? Isn’t quality more important than quantity? And why do you exclude grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins from the family? A healthy and supportive extended family is one of the best things a nuclear family can have going for it.

#20 Comment By fabian On May 24, 2018 @ 2:20 pm

When you want to pass a message, political, marketing or what else, simplicity is key. Socialism is good enough for me. Besides the continuous growth of the State pushes the civil economy away and more State is then needed to alleviate the problem and on and on. And that will naturally lead to socialism. The recent financial crisis has shown the path we are travelling on; GM private debt holders sacrificed, Detroit private debt holders sacrificed, Puerto Rico? When legally earned private property is taken away for political expediency, that’s socialism.

#21 Comment By Dan Green On May 24, 2018 @ 2:25 pm

I got the impression Socialism was replaced by Progressives. Nothing makes for better reading than The Social Democratic Welfare State Model. Something for everyone. Problem has turned out our left can’t make it work.

#22 Comment By MM On May 24, 2018 @ 3:04 pm

JonF: “Nearly all of that involved higher spending on healthcare programs – especially Medicare.”

You really don’t know what you’re talking about, do you?

[11]

Medicare isn’t even part of this discussion. That’s a federal entitlement available to all over a certain age, not a means-tested program for people below a certain income level.

And “nearly all” is also wrong. Half of the growth was due to federal Medicaid spending. The other half was in the areas of cash assistance, nutrition, housing, and education.

And, of course, you’ve nothing to say about increased state and local spending on similar things.

But by all means, please continue, I can keep this up all day. My progressive friends in Deep Blue California exhibit a similar lack of knowledge on how much is even spent on those categorized as “poor”.

Or they just don’t care how much is spent, or how fast it’s grown over the years.

No matter how much is spent, it’ll never be enough for some. Especially when it’s other peoples’ money.

#23 Comment By Kurt Gayle On May 24, 2018 @ 3:09 pm

Thank you, Paul Gottfried, for this timely reminder that the words “socialist” and “Marxist” are almost never accurately used, but are used only as slurs. (A good argument could be made that in the US “socialist” and “Marxist” are NEVER accurately used!) And the flagrant misuse of these labels is only getting worse. How many actual “socialist” or actual “Marxist” writers. university professors, or union leader do you know? My guess is NONE. They’re all dead.

#24 Comment By Kurt Gayle On May 24, 2018 @ 3:24 pm

Nate says that “the Soviet Union was the first country to legalize abortion.” It’s true that the USSR legalized abortion in 1920, but only as a temporary measure. By 1924 abortions were permitted only when pregnancy risked the life of the mother. In 1936 in order to encourage population growth Stalin outlawed abortion altogether. Abortion was not permitted again in the USSR until 1955.

Egypt Steve says that “I still reserve the right to call anyone who voted for Trump a fascist.”

I voted for Trump, but I’m not a fascist. As ticked off as I presently am about Trump’s pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, his moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, his two missile attacks on Syria, and his appointments of the likes of neocons like Bolton and Pompeo, I still support Trump’s stated immigration policies (including the wall), his renegotiation of bad trade deals and his push to bring home the good manufacturing jobs that were shipped overseas, his Supreme Court justice, and lots of other good things that he’s doing. So when you call us Trump supporters “fascists”, it’s much the same as you calling us “socialists” or “Marxists” or “deplorables.”

#25 Comment By Thrice A Viking On May 24, 2018 @ 3:37 pm

Mario Diana, I think your understanding is probably correct. I couldn’t tell from your recounting of it whether you favor the stratagem or not, but I find it extremely dangerous. It seems nihilistic to me, and who knows what will emerge from the wreckage of the “capitalist” state? A new form of feudalism seems at least as likely as a workers’ state IMO.

Egypt Steve, you can reserve that right if you like – but the “Fascists” can also reserve such rights towards you. Neither makes a substantive point, as both are just name-calling without going through the hard work of detailing the reasons behind the epithet.

There’s also the point of how much our current Right really has to do with Mussolini’s regime. Or perhaps it actually refers to the Stalinist usage, which was apparently an attempt to not say “National Socialism” with regard to “right-wing” dictatorships, as it sounded an awful lot like “Socialism In One Nation”. The last slogan was used by Stalin to oust Trotsky and his calls for global revolution. If so, then your nomenclature for Trump-voters is a very serious charge, and frankly contemptible. Do you actually think that Trump and his minions are planning a Holocaust? Keeping them out of the US is simply not equivalent to putting them in gas chambers.

Prairie Dog, I agreed with you until you said “communitarian”. As I understand it, the communitarian movement wants more local control in our national life. The cultural Left wants more national control, enforced by the misnamed “Federal” government.

#26 Comment By Thrice A Viking On May 24, 2018 @ 3:43 pm

Hey BTW, where is Siarlys Jenkins? This discussion should be right up his alley!

#27 Comment By James On May 24, 2018 @ 4:01 pm

‘What a smug, dismissive and stupid remark. In an era of unsustainable student debt, of 40 years of wage stagnation, of “the gig economy,” of working 50-60 hours a week in two, three and four part-time jobs to make what one of your parents might have made in a single full-time job (plus benefits, and maybe even a defined benefits pension plan), you describe the attraction of socialism to young people as a desire for the state to look after them as if they were still children and the state their parent?’

In my experience, yes, that is precisely what a large percentage of them want. I have experienced this mentality first hand many times, most recently after a small fender bender in which a woman in her early thirties creamed my car in a parking lot, and rather than calling her insurance company called her elderly mother, who arrived on the scene ten minutes later to represent her.

Don’t kid yourself. If you honestly believe these young people are the first to have to work their behinds off for what constitues a ‘normal’ salary, you have been in a bubble (or perhaps not yet born) for decades. What you seem to fail to recognize or acknowledge is the very real dearth of marketable or useful skills among them due to the fact that they could not be bothered to actually learn to do much and that their parents never required them to. It is night and day compared to previous generations that at least had the raw material to do jobs that were available.

The version of ‘socialism’ they think they believe in is precisely what the author described. The percentage that don’t favor it are the ones who had parents that were actually worth a damn. This is indesputable at this point if you actually spend any time whatsoever with other people.

#28 Comment By cka2nd On May 24, 2018 @ 5:10 pm

James says: “Don’t kid yourself. If you honestly believe these young people are the first to have to work their behinds off for what constitues a ‘normal’ salary, you have been in a bubble (or perhaps not yet born) for decades.”

No, James, I do not believe that these young people are the FIRST to have to work their behinds off for what constitutes a normal salary. And, no, I have not lived in a bubble for decades, as my first full-time job paid me $14,000 a year in 1983 in New York City. That salary grade was eliminated in one of my union’s next contracts, but it took me a few years to break $20,000/year. Does that satisfy my age and bubble-lessness bona fides for you?

I don’t want to get into a pissing match over generations with you, but if you want to trade anecdotes, here’s one from someone who was 17 years older than me. I asked her once if my impression of work life in the 1970’s – her 25-35 years-old decade – as being much better than that in the 1990’s matched her memories, and she replied that it certainly did, and rhapsodized about actually getting an hour for her, you know, lunch hour, and some other ways in which workers were treated better and with more dignity back then.

The FACT is, the American and European (and Latin American?) working classes – West AND East – enjoyed a golden age (relative for each country, with Northern and Western European workers having it better than American and Eastern European workers) during the middle part of the last century, and the standards of living established during those decades has been under relentless attack since the 1970’s. Unions busted. Labour and social democratic parties buying wholesale into the neo-liberal “Washington” consensus. Outsourcing, job off-shoring, privatization, contracting out and the selling off of public assets to the lowest bidder. Wage stagnation for the working class as a whole, but brutal cuts in wages and overall compensation for wide swathes of labor, from meatpacking to airline pilots, (pilots, for God’s sake!). The federal minimum wage would be over $20 per hour if it had just kept up with inflation.

There are bedrock realities of life in America today that caused the most popular candidates for president in 2016 to be a self-described socialist and a right-wing populist who talked about EXPANDING social security. Hilary Clinton, the Democratic establishment, the mainstream media and a portion of the liberal and progressive media just did a better job of stealing the Democratic nomination from Sanders – who ran a FAR less aggressive campaign than Trump did – than the GOP establishment and “Never Trump” brigade did. And yes, Bernie would have beaten the Donald, including in all of those mid-western states Bill was crying out for his wife to campaign in.

#29 Comment By One Guy On May 24, 2018 @ 5:20 pm

Kurt Gayle, don’t forget his other “stated policies”:

Investigating Hillary
Bringing back coal
Getting US military out of the Middle East
Winning a trade war
Banning all Muslim immigrants
Repealing and Replacing Obamacare

Oh, and my personal favorite, making America say, “Merry Christmas” again!! Because apparently some people think nobody said it while Obama was president!

#30 Comment By cka2nd On May 24, 2018 @ 5:41 pm

Nate says: “the Soviet Union…almost annihilated the Orthodox Church”

Which was an arm of the Czarist power structure, not an independent entity. The Baptists did extremely well under the early Bolshevik government, and Muslim clerics and Jews saw the Bolsheviks as a relief from Orthodox discrimination and domination. Not to mention pogroms.

Most anti-clericalism, as far as I can tell, results from the Church in question being a de facto arm of the state, often with control over the education system, or from parts of that church being large and abusive employers, such as the large monasteries in Russia and Spain. In Republican Spain, your neighborhood priest, the one who shared the miserable lives of the rural peasantry, had a better shot at survival than some of those middle-management bastard monks.

Heh. Some of the reporting on Trump and Sanders voters showed that middle-management bastard “liberals” are none too popular with the American working masses, either.

#31 Comment By Michael Burnett On May 24, 2018 @ 5:46 pm

There are still some genuinely Marxist leftists out there, like myself. Go to Reddit and browse the more radical subs like communism, fullcommunism and socialist rifle association. Liberation news is good too.

Of course relatively speaking we are small in numbers and you have far greater chance of running into a cultural leftist then a economic one.

You are also very right about these pro capitalist “leftists” infiltrating and undermining real leftist organizations. Thus you will see as much hatred for the “Liberal” on the far left as you will on the far right.

#32 Comment By redfish On May 24, 2018 @ 7:33 pm

Nate,

“Unlike feminism and the LGBT lobby, Marxist regimes have historically been socially reactionary…”

Your statement seems odd in light of the fact that the Soviet Union was the first country to legalize abortion, enabled no fault divorce, almost annihilated the Orthodox Church, and attacked the traditional family structure in numerous other ways.

They promoted women in roles traditional to men, too. And even then, Marxist thinkers are different than Marxist regimes. Not all were anti-gay, but many of those who were based their argument on their idea that homosexuality was the result of sexual repression in capitalist societies.

#33 Comment By Howlvis On May 24, 2018 @ 7:47 pm

“Your statement seems odd in light of the fact that the Soviet Union was the first country to legalize abortion, enabled no fault divorce, almost annihilated the Orthodox Church, and attacked the traditional family structure in numerous other ways.”

Nate, you need to catch up on your Soviet history. After a brief fling with ‘utopian’ ideas re: marriage, family, gender roles, etc., the Soviet Union under Stalin in the 1930s restricted abortion and divorce, reinforced the patriarchal family, outlawed homosexuality and generally returned an outlook that would have warmed the hearts of today’s social conservatives.

#34 Comment By redfish On May 24, 2018 @ 7:49 pm

Heh. I got around to watching the Glenn Beck video linked here in the article…

Confirms every thought I’ve had about him before. 1/2 what he says is true, 1/2 is BS. This causes the people who believe him to accept the 1/2 that’s BS as true, and the people who don’t believe him to reject the 1/2 that’s true as BS.

#35 Comment By Jeremy Buxton On May 24, 2018 @ 9:13 pm

Conservatives are people who have a moral duty to call things be their right name. I agree therefore that a political left that is not aiming for the destruction of capitalism and nationalisation of corporations should not be described as socialist.
I regard true socialism as a far greater moral evil than cultural leftism and object therefore to commentators “crying wolf”. Socialism is what is happening in Venezuela.
In Australia our most vile Government was the Chifley Labor Government 1945-49. They were true socialists who wickedly sought to nationalise banks and destroy the middle class. Yet it was socially conservative.

#36 Comment By Mario Diana On May 24, 2018 @ 11:15 pm

Thrice A. Viking, I chose to forgo cluttering up my post with scare quotes, but just to be clear, I’m not in favor of any kind of Marxist, cultural or otherwise.

#37 Comment By Janek On May 25, 2018 @ 12:32 am

Today neoliberals and neocons are yesterday communist and so called the “socialist wit human face”. The metamorphosis began around 1956, Suez War was the catalyzing event, and was completed around 1989 plus/minus couple of years. ‘Left’ or the so called ‘progressives’, whatever it means, was never about improving peoples lives etcetera, etcetera, it was just the means to the end(s). The Russians got it after 1956, but the Americans and the West still don’t get it.

#38 Comment By Jon On May 25, 2018 @ 10:42 am

So, socialist and fascist no longer applies. What about Populist Nationalist both right and left wing?

#39 Comment By Anthony M On May 25, 2018 @ 10:50 am

As a “Real Socialist” – that is, someone whose primary concern is the economic prosperity of the worker – I mostly agree here. I am horribly confused when people think Democrats who are unapologetic corporatists (Schumer, Clinton, Menendez, etc.) have anything at all to do with socialism.

#40 Comment By EarlyBird On May 25, 2018 @ 3:25 pm

Calling standard economic lefties “Marxist” or even small “s” “socialist” in most instances, is lazy, of course. When it is used by professional right wing Republicans, it’s usually being used in a consciously dishonest way.

The reference to “cultural Marxism” is, however, much more appropriate, though might better be called “cultural Stalinism.” “Political Correctness” has become far too tepid a term to describe the brutally policed orthodoxy of the regressive SJW left and it’s mau-mauing tactics. To be able to summarily ruin names and careers with mere charges of “bigot!” and the disappearing of men at the hands of #MeToo with zero due process as another example, would make the politburo proud.

#41 Comment By Lesley On May 25, 2018 @ 3:54 pm

@Mario Diana

That is the stance that I’ve seen various people who talk about “cultural Marxism” put forward. One of the more recent claimants of this viewpoint is Jordan Peterson, who places this metamorphoses at the feet of some French thinkers like Derrida and Foucault.

However, I have yet to see this claim actually substantiated anywhere. Since I doubt you will ever literally find some old, former Marxist saying something like “well, clearly dialectical materialism is an insufficient explanation so we’d better re-hammer it into deconstructionism/postmodernism and carry on from there,” any such transition is inferred.

Personally, I think the kinds of people who are drawn to intellectual busybodyism empowered by the state are likely to find both traditional Marxism and “cultural” Marxism appealing. The SJWs of today would have been the socialists of yesteryear. In that sense, there probably was no intellectual leap directly from Marxism to postmodernism, but it is true that at the point postmodernism started rearing its ugly head, there were lots of conveniently disaffected Marxists around looking for some new busybody philosophy.

#42 Comment By PrairieDog On May 25, 2018 @ 5:02 pm

Thrice a Viking,

I don’t know that communitarians are necessarily localist, favoring local government over centralized government. They do, by definition, favor the collective “community”over individual liberty.

#43 Comment By Ray Woodcock On May 26, 2018 @ 10:16 pm

I liked the article, with a few caveats expressed by others. The comments provoke a few reactions.

The Soviet state violently nationalized the means of production. That does sound like Leninist Marxism. That state also promoted social causes consistent with contemporary progressivism. Maybe some of these things are less true of other putatively Marxist regimes.

I sympathize with the view that the Left has become quasi-religious. For me, the principal indicator is the absence of reasonableness. Attempts at dialogue with today’s progressives are much like my old experiences of trying to talk fact and logic with people committed to a religion. Example: the commenter who equates voting for Trump with fascism. It’s dogma (i.e., rigid simplemindedness). I’m nonplussed that this would be so prevalent in the party of alleged intellectuals. Possibly that reflects decay in what counts as education.

I can see the perspective of those who disliked the in loco parentis remark. I did consider that Millenials are increasingly beyond an age where that would make sense.

I liked the suggestion that Cultural Marxism is a means to the end of economic Marxism. But there does seem to have been an abandonment of the alleged objective of undermining bourgeois culture. Bourgeois culture seems adaptable.

It seems that either Clinton could have substantially broadened the Democratic base by retaining the party’s traditional preoccupation with economic inequality. I’m not sure why that had to be so deeply subordinated to other concerns.

It’s intriguing to consider the view that the Dems err in relying on a continuation of past immigration policies. The public [12] to favor reducing immigration.

On the debate between commenters re the social safety net: there does seem to be an argument for a universal basic income. The plethora of entitlement programs is expensive and bewildering, and always vulnerable to a simplistic slash-and-burn mentality, but [13]. I’m more comfortable when such debates include corporate welfare, though.

On actually making the socialized economy work, Dan Green has a point. There has to be some structure and discipline. As words, those are fairly popular; as enforced realities, less so.

To me, this article was a success. Very thought-provoking.

#44 Comment By Josep On May 27, 2018 @ 10:20 pm

It grinds my gears to see “conservatives” denounce things such as the metric system and soccer as “socialist” if not “Communist”, even when many capitalist countries plus Israel use them. This is just as bad as leftists smearing those they disagree with as “Nazis”; both cases show an ignorance of the real definitions of the words they’re using. This says a lot about the ineptitude of (most of) our politicians, both Democrat and Republican.

#45 Comment By brazilian On May 28, 2018 @ 10:49 am

Nate says: “the Soviet Union…almost annihilated the Orthodox Church”

However, after the first stages of persecution, the European Communist countries had more lively and active churches than most Western societies of today. The Lutheran church in East Germany had a capacity for social mobilization, as one does not see in any Scandinavian country. In the free West, indifferentism and tolerance of vices killed churches more than communist repression.

#46 Comment By polistra On May 28, 2018 @ 11:01 am

This morning I was listening to a local ‘constitutionalist’ radio talker who illustrated the problem nicely.

He’s complaining that “socialist” governor Inslee is using the laws of the state to steal money from ordinary people and enrich his own group.

That’s not socialism, that’s robber-baron capitalism.

He’s also complaining that the local “socialist” electric utility Avista is a publicly-traded company that makes huge profits from a monopoly. He thinks we should have more government control over monopoly pricing.

Who’s the socialist?

His complaints are valid. Only his definitions are backward.

#47 Comment By morganB On June 3, 2018 @ 8:22 pm

Labels never appealed to me… Pocahontas, Socialist, right and left. Based on his labeling and vitriol, I think Trump is afraid of Warren. I don’t recall Elizabeth calling Trump names!

#48 Comment By RayC On June 20, 2018 @ 8:45 pm

For most people over age 50, it’s simple. As an American Citizen, either you are Constitutional or you are not. If you are not, you are a Marxist. Marxism consists of: Communism, Socialism, Fascism and Islamism. They all claim for the good of the people, the Collective, yet they oppress and enslave. They all use the same tactics to attack our Constitution, our Individual Freedoms, Rights and Liberties.
It is appropriate to call Socialists, Socialists and Fascists, Fascists. They are not Constitutionals which make them enemies of our Constitutional Republic!