October 07, 2008

What Would Lenin Do?

Here‘s an excerpt from my latest column at Awearness about the bailout and how it, much more than what Hugo has going on down south, represents “21st Century Socialism.” 

This past weekend, Wall Street Journal reporter Michael M. Phillips published dispatches from the world of godless socialism. No, he didn’t visit Cuba or attend one of Hugo Chavez’s Yankee-baiting rallies. Staying closer to home, Phillips interviewed some Americans still keeping the Great Red Hope alive—that is, altruistic kids like Seth Dellinger who’ve got degrees in music from Wesleyan and who diligently hand out flyers calling for the overthrow of capitalism. To Dellinger’s credit, he actually took a job in meatpacking to earn proletarian cred; however, the young man and his Socialist Worker’s Party bear about as much resemblance to Lenin and Trotsky as does an ABBA cover band to Agnetha, Bj?rn, Benny, and Anni-Frid—the SWP is a nostalgia-driven, occasionally charming knockoff that evokes the original without ever quite being it.  […]

The whole point of Phillips’s article is to ask a “real socialist” whether he thinks the recent Wall Street bailout, and accompanying nationalizations, amount to “socialism,” as some have claimed. “If conservative Republicans are right and the $700 billion financial-sector rescue plan signals America’s slide into socialism, you’d think Seth Dellinger would be celebrating.” Well, he’s not; ergo, it’s not socialism. Case closed.

But then inquiring of a sentimental Trotskyite whether the bailouts are socialist is a lot like soliciting Marion Barry whether your once-a-month crack habit is any big deal. “Probably not,” says the good mayor. Well, OK then. And similarly, all the Journal readers can rest assured that the bailouts are pure Americana and Treasury Secretary “Hank” Paulson is just trying to protect our free enterprise system.

Nonsense! The expansion of state power over the economy enacted by the former Goldman Sachs CEO is enough to make Stalin blush. Taking over factories or seizing the printing presses is sooo 20th century. Paulson and Bernancke have socialized the friggin’ financial sector—allowing Washington to better engineer who gets loans as well as fix prices in an industry measured in the trillions. Moreover, in finally getting Congress to relent and back the bailout, Paulson and Bernancke have succeeded in aggrandizing their unelected positions to the level of the president—or, more accurately, the General Secretary of the Central Committee.

I’d add that in the Journal article, Comrade Dellinger mentions that his plans for socialism in America include really high taxes on the wealthy, nationalized healthcare, and new regulations on the financial market. Earth to Dellinger—we already have all this stuff! (although the latter two things occur in a form that he doesn’t recognize.)  21st Century Socialism won’t look anything like Communism, and if we only use the Soviet regime as a standard, we won’t get very far in understanding what’s being done to our economy.   


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