Among the endless puzzlements of what passes today for political discourse is the mis-use of words by the Republican Party, words whose meanings have been twisted and re-defined in such bizarre ways as to make meaningful dialog almost impossible.
For example, how can prominent national Republican spokespersons continually call President Obama a socialist one day, a fascist the next, and a communist the third, especially when most Democrats believe that most of what he has done (or not done) hews fairly closely to a moderate line? How can otherwise well-educated Americans confuse these terms in such novel ways? Do not ‘socialist,’ ‘fascist,’ and ‘communist’ historically describe different philosophies, different political systems?
Socialism has normally been described as a system advocating “collective ownership and administration of the means of production” or, more particularly in Marxist theory, as the transition stage between capitalism and communism. Communism is usually described as a system without private property in which all goods are held in common, available to all as needed, and, in Marxist theory, as the idealistic final stage of society in which “the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably.” Fascism, on the other hand, is defined as a regime that “exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader,” and includes severe social and economic regimentation.” For the record, Capitalism is also defined as “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods,” where production is distributed “mainly by competition in the free market.” (Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition). During the mid-twentieth century there were commentators who described Soviet Russia as “Red Fascist,” rather than “communist,” because Stalinism reigned supreme, and Soviet Russia more closely resembled the clearly fascist state of Nazi Germany or the corporate-fascist state of Mussolini’s Italy. Additionally, the political use of the term “free market” did not become common until the latter part of the 20th century.
In any case, there was a rather clear line among communism, fascism, and the socialism which was often expressed politically as “social democrat,” that, after World War II, resulted in many democratic, mildly socialist regimes in Europe that were far, far, from being systems without any private property, and bore no resemblance whatsoever to the autocratic fascist states which had just been soundly defeated in the war. Therefore, how do today’s American Republicans manage to confuse otherwise plain words, and use this confusion to justify their wild demagoguery?
Two investment newsletter authors (Porter Stansberry and Braden Copeland) have conveniently provided us with the more liberttarian Republicans’ rationalizations, explained in an advisory on 16 December 2010, as follows: Since 1914 the world has seen the decline of the gold standard and the rise of the nation-state, two events which are “inherently and dangerously related,” inasmuch as they transformed the pre-Civil War “humble” federal government of the United States into a monster superior to both its component states and to individual citizens. Such changes (never actually verified, just assumed) are described by Stansberry and Copeland, as being due to what they refer to as “progressive” ideas, arising mostly from German philosophers “like Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels…. (who argued that) society ought to be organized to better accomplish the goals of the State.”
This breath-taking re-reading (or mis-reading) of history and the original ideas of Karl Marx, is the basis for the authors’ next claim: “….most Americans have no idea that the foundations of our modern State are based—- nearly verbatim—- on the demands of Karl Marx’s 1864 Communist Manifesto,” and they proceed to lay it out as follows, quoting from selected phrases in the Manifesto and compared with what they call a “modern corollary:”
Marx, they say, advocated a “workers’ revolution” unless governments:
1) Abolished property rights and applied all rents towards public purposes
Modern corollary: Don’t pay your property taxes, lose your house, “so who really owns your house?”
2) Levied a heavy, progressive income tax to “equalize wages”
Modern corollary: In many US states, combined federal and state marginal income and payroll taxes are 50% or more
3) Abolish all rights of inheritance
Modern corollary: the estate tax
4) Confiscated the property of all emigrants
Modern corollary: the 2008 “Hero’s Act,” forcing people leaving the US to pay the equivalent of estate taxes on their global assets before turning in their passports
5) Centralized access to credit in the hands of the State by means of a national bank and an exclusive monopoly
Modern corollary: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which make 90 percent of all mortgages in the US
6) Centralized the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State
Modern corollary: AT &T was a “legal monopoly for decades. Amtrak is a ward of the states. The government owns all the roads…. the State controls all air traffic”
7) Provided free education for all children in public schools
Modern corollary: “Paying for education wasn’t enough…. What counts is indoctrinating the kids in glorifying the State”
8) Produced a common agricultural policy to maximize the productivity of the land
Modern corollary: “massive ethanol and agricultural subsidies”
(Note: Stansberry and Copeland seem to have overlooked the infamous Marxist demand that all women be held in common, thus abolishing private marriages, but I guess you can’t have everything).
From this package, S and C march on to explain that “soak the rich” taxes never work because people “want to control the fruits of their labor.” They say that using paper money to pay for all the projects and wars of the State, as well as to enforce redistribution of wealth from producers to, well, the lazy and unproductive, brings on ballooning deficits, ultimately driving away productive citizens, who leave such an unnatural system for greener pastures, and that leads inexorably to a massive collapse.
“The central truth of economics is scarcity. There can never be enough of anything to satisfy everyone. The central truth of politics is patronage: promising to give everything to everyone. Paper money is the bridge between economics and politics.”
There is just enough objective truth in this statement to sound convincing, but it is another example of those Republican frames which include within its frame only what suits their argument, and leaves out the many, many things which do not, but which are in fact an intrinsic part of a wider point of view. Anyway, where such Republican framing takes us is to an attack on Keynesian economics (identified with the Democratic Party), and a conflation of the policies of Obama and the Democrats with Marxism. The Republican theorists are convinced that the total collapse of Western society, including American, is imminent because of the West’s foolish fascination with Marxist policies, with paper money, and with Keynesian economics, or, rather, with any political-economic viewpoint with which they disagree, which they define as Keynesian.
Strange as it may seem to anyone with an even rudimentary knowledge of history and economics, all this enables the Republicans to call Obama and the Democrats both communist and fascist one day and socialist every day, which demonizes absolutely anything proposed by Democrats, even if it was originally proposed by Republicans. That is how far the Republican Party of today has traveled from the Republican Party of just ten or fifteen years ago. Expect the Republican re-write of history to inform countless investigations and underlie a horrifying amount of legislation in the new Congress.