Friday, March 6, 2009

That "S" Word...



Socialism. Chances are, the average American can't actually define it. In truth, it comes with many interpretations. The former Soviet Union called itself "socialist." Then again, aspects of socialism are also part of Sweden's economic model, along with other Scandanvian states. Like "capitalism," the term "socialism" remains open a host of social and contextual understandings. Too often however, in the US, the word has been monopolized by the right to crucify any form of progressive politics. Talk about wealth inequality, universal healthcare or government regulation, and you're suddenly advocating sending everyone out to communes and looking forward to breadlines. Yet these same purveyors of doom seem to have little problem when the "welfare state" they so callously malign gives tax-breaks to the rich or has to come to the aid of wealthy financiers, corporations and bankers. Socialism seems fine when it's going to those on the top. Those who would have found the nationalization of banks or government job creation unthinkable, are now adjusting their tune.

More below the fold.



Moving beyond this tired rhetoric and "Red Scare" tactic, Barbara Ehrenreich & Bill Fletcher Jr. at The Nation have set about a project they have titled "Reimagining Socialism:"

The great promise of capitalism, as first suggested by Adam Smith and recently enshrined in "market fundamentalism," was that we didn't have to figure anything out, because the market would take care of everything for us. Instead of promoting self-reliance, this version of free enterprise fostered passivity in the face of that inscrutable deity, the Market. Deregulate, let wages fall to their "natural" level, turn what remains of government into an endless source of bounty for contractors--whee! Well, that hasn't worked, and the core idea of socialism still stands: that people can get together and figure out how to solve their problems, or at least a lot of their problems, collectively. That we--not the market or the capitalists or some elite group of ├╝ber-planners--have to control our own destiny.


While not offering a pancea to the global economic woes, Ehrenreich, Fletcher and several other luminaries, offer alternative ways of looking at the current crisis--ideas that at the *least* need to have equal time at the table.


Reimagining Socialism

By Barbara Ehrenreich & Bill Fletcher Jr.

March 4, 2009

If you haven't heard socialists doing much crowing over the fall of capitalism, it isn't just because there aren't enough of us to make an audible crowing sound. We, as much as anyone on Wall Street in, say, 2006, appreciate the resilience of American capitalism--its ability to regroup and find fresh avenues for growth, as it did after the depressions of 1877, 1893 and the 1930s. In fact, The Communist Manifesto can be read not only as an indictment of capitalism but as a breathless paean to its dynamism. And we all know the joke about the Marxist economist who successfully predicted eleven out of the last three recessions.

But this time the patient may not get up from the table, no matter how many times the electroshock paddles of "stimulus" are applied.

Read full article here.


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