Understanding Socialism

The Republican Party likes to demonize certain Democrat ideas of being socialist, the idea being a direct correlation between socialism and communism.  While socialism is certainly a hallmark of communism, it existed in certain forms long before communism.

In 17th Century Massachusetts the town of Dedham was founded as a utopian community.  In those days Dedham extend from what is now South Boston all the way to Plymouth.  Today’s Dedham is a smallish town not far from Boston.  The next utopian idea happen at what was called Brook Farm near Boston.  It too was a utopian/socialist attempt that failed.  But these were not isolated attempts.  Other attempts in states like New York happened throughout the 18th and 19th Century.  All, of course, failed, but none was ever condemned as they were mostly economic endeavours.

Socialism got its greatest traction in 19th century Europe.  It came as a result of the old feudal systems still in place in much of Eastern Europe, and to a lesser extent because of Western European monarchies and their tendencies towards excesses of self-enrichment.  It is no coincidence that Word War I put an end not just to the Russian monarchy but also the Italian, German, Prussian, Polish, Austrian, and numerous others.  The cost of waging war is so great that the armed populace that monarchies sent to the battlefields turned on their own governments.  The Czar was replaced by the Soviet, the Kaiser by a Chancellor, and so forth.  The people, impoverished by these monarchies, demanded a redistribution of wealth and the leaders of the various revolutions were only too willing to oblige, and in doing so, gain wide-spread support for their particular cause.

In the first half of the 20th century, socialist groups were not necessarily liberal or left-wing.  The formal name of the ultra-right wing Nazi party of Germany was the National Socialists.

The United States in the first 20 years of the 20th century had a number of socialist mayors, congressmen, and other elected officials.  And if you lived in the United States in 1936, 1937, and 1938, and understood the evil that Hitler was visiting on his people, you supported the German Communist party as it was the only opposition to Hitler at the time within Germany.  They were throughout World War 2 the underground in Germany.  Similarly, it was French Communists who were a large part of that underground.  All that, of course, changed when the war was over.

Socialism has existed in some form in most countries since World War 2.  By definition, socialism is any government-owned or administered production and distribution of goods.  By that definition socialism does not exist in the United States in any form, and is constitutionally prohibited from existing.   But as soon as you expand that definition to include services the waters become muddy.  Health care is by definition a service.  But so too is airport administration.  That means most U.S. airports are run, in a socialist manner, at some level of government.  Does that mean we should turn of administration of O’Hare Airport in Chicago to private enterprise?  I would hope not, and I doubt any Republican will ever support such a measure even if it does mean they must compromise on their definition of socialism.

If Republicans are truly anti-socialist, as many claim, they are going to have to turn over to private corporations all seaports, AMTRAK, the Tennessee Valley Authority, all state-run liquor stores, all state lotteries, all draw-bridge operations, all transportation authorities, all port authorities, all air traffic control, all public hospitals, and many other operations.  If you think about it, any and all of these functions could be run by privately owned corporations.  The only question is, in the desire to eliminate any possible socialist type government operations, are you willing to give up these?

If, for example, our airports were turned over to corporate America, I for one would stop flying.  I simply do not trust private enterprise to act in my best interests.  And therein lies the central concept of why we entrust certain parts of our existence to the government.  We quite simply have more trust in the government looking after our best interests than we do corporate America.  And to this end, health care, which corporate America has so totally failed to include all Americans, needs to have government participation at a greater level than previously experienced.  Here, in Massachusetts, the Mitt Romney inspired required health care coverage has been a huge success in spite of its critics.  If anything, corporate America has benefitted from the Massachusetts experience in health care.

The bottom line is this; when corporate America has not given a service through lack of desire, has abdicated responsibility for whatever reason, or has refused to offer essential services to all Americans, we expect our government to step in and either provide the service, such as most forms of surface transportation, or make a provision whereby corporate America is compelled to make their service available at a reasonable rate to all Americans, and this is the case of health care.

Most Republicans want to bring an end to AMTRAK and turn its operations over to corporate America.  I am guessing they have not bothered to read much history, because it was corporate America that begged out of the passenger rail industry in 1971, with but four exceptions, the Southern Railroad, the Boston & Maine Railroad, the Rock Island Railroad, and the Rio Grande Railroad.  All except the B&M gave in to government take over within a few years.  It is difficult to imagine that so much has changed, even in the densely populated northeast, that any private corporation on its own can turn a profit in the passenger rail business.  But do you want to imagine a US that does not have it?

Republicans are not being the least bit truthful about any government enterprise that they call “socialist.”  It is not socialism they fear, it is their loss of leverage at the corporate level they fear.  What will happen to corporate America if the government requires fairness, openness, and equal access?  The Reagan deregulation made certain that corporate America not be responsible to anyone but its board of directors as witness the blatant abuse of power and privilege during the Wall Street meltdown.  They will never admit to this being true but rest assured, it is!  But rest assured, socialism, even as it exists in democracies such as Canada and England, is not being suggested by anyone in the Democrat Party, or anyone else for that matter.  It is simply a Republican ploy to make undesireable something that will actually serve the good of all.


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