Monday, April 23, 2012

Editorial: Misues of the word Socialist

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 class.

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 definition.

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