Published Apr 20, 2012 7:45 PM
From: Workers World
Is President Barack Obama a “socialist”?
Anyone, like the editors of Workers World, who
really is for a socialist revolution and an overturn of capitalism would
answer, “Far from it.”
The far right in the U.S., however, and that
includes most of the Republican Party these days, calls Obama
“socialist.” These forces want to end Social Security, unemployment
insurance, Medicare and Medicaid and any vital benefits that the workers
and poor won through struggle in the past. They also mislabel these
benefits “socialist” as part of their attack.
We discuss this rightist campaign against Obama here only to point out how it distorts the conception of what “socialist” means.
The idea of socialism has been confused even
more lately by the political affiliation of the French politician and
banker, Dominique Strauss-Kahn. This vile individual was the leading
candidate of the “Socialist Party” for president of France. That is, he
was leading the pack before he quickly fled New York just ahead of rape
charges made by a woman immigrant from Africa. Now he is being
investigated in France for alleged connections with a prostitution ring.
The media often mention the Socialist Party
affiliation of this thoroughly unsavory character. This makes it even
more important to clarify what the “Socialist Party” really is.
Parties by this name have influence in most
southern European countries. They have often led governments, until
recently in Portugal, Spain and Greece, and earlier in France. In
northern Europe, these parties are usually called “Social Democrat” and
in Britain, the Labor Party.
Their only connection to real socialism,
however, is historical. The forerunners of most of these parties were
founded in the 19th century and were then connected with the movement to
overthrow capitalism that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels initiated.
As World War I began, these parties’
leaderships betrayed socialist internationalism by supporting their own
capitalist ruling classes during this imperialist war. Better elements
resisted. After the war, these parties split into Communist parties that
supported the Russian Revolution and “Socialist” parties that attacked
it. The “Socialists” promoted pro-worker reforms but opposed revolution.
They supported the imperialist designs of their own capitalist ruling
Following World War II, these parties often
administered the government to preserve and expand capitalism. They did
pass some laws — for example, providing government-paid health care —
that benefited workers between 1945 and 1989. In that period, the
European capitalist class feared competition from the Soviet Union and
the pro-socialist countries in Eastern Europe, in China, etc.
Since the end of the Soviet Union, however,
these parties have been unable to even defend these benefits for workers
against the rapacious and triumphant capitalists. Instead, they have
administered austerity programs, made concessions to anti-immigrant
groups and backed imperialist wars. Without yet dropping the name,
“Socialist,” they have become simply a more moderate version of the
openly pro-rich parties, much like the Democratic Party here.
When Workers World describes someone or some
party as socialist without quotes, this means they are for taking the
means of production — including land — out of the hands of the
capitalist ruling class and having it owned publicly. They would oppose
imperialist wars and all forms of racism and oppression. Neither Obama
nor the French Socialist Party — even without Strauss-Kahn — fits this