“Socialist! That's Socialist! You're a Socialist!”

In 2008, the ultra-right began referring to nearly all their opponents as socialists. It appears they will continue to do so in 2010, hoping that their use of the socialist label will harm those they disagree with by appealing to the negative associations the nation's corporate lobby, and its political allies, tied to the label so opportunely during the Cold War.

Conservative pundits Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity currently lead the effort to label, as socialist, anyone or anything that aims to slow capitalism's harmful tendency to minimize the working class's concerns or standard of living.

Following Obama's statement that he believed in "spreading the wealth around," Beck has several times appeared on his FOX News program donning regalia from the Soviet Union, mocking Obama and other progressives. On his radio show, he began a segment titled "The March to Socialism." In these segments, he targets policies which have Obama's support. On the cover of his recent book "Arguing with Idiots," Beck is again wearing a Soviet military uniform.

Hannity does not engage in such over-the-top showmanship as Beck. However, he does refer to many Democratic policies as socialist, and will often tell progressives who call in to his radio show that they are socialists. Hannity will even ask some of those who call his radio show to advocate the creation of a public insurance option if they believe in the maxim "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

These ultra-right pundits, and others, continue to label current Democratic proposals socialist despite many such reforms being proposed by politicians with roots in Reform Liberalism, not Marxism.

For example, the supposedly socialist stimulus package relies on money borrowed from international markets, in accordance with the global capitalist demand that money's value be backed according to the value of the investing nations' currency, which is based on the investing nation's productive output. Further, it distributes the bulk of this money to privately owned companies. No where does it bring industry under the control of the industry's union members or their representatives.

Health Care reform, much maligned by the ultra-right, is also short of socialism. The primary goal of the Health Care reform bills developed in Congress is to provide citizens of the United States with health insurance, and the majority of that insurance will still be provided by privately owned corporations.

However, it would be strategically short-sighted to dismiss the importance of these reforms because of their basis in the ideology of the politicians who designed them. While the reforms may still rely on the capitalist market, they acknowledge the short-comings of that market.

Materially, they will help the working class by providing them with jobs and services that would not be available otherwise. They also contain provisions that establish governmental institutions, such as the Health Care reform bills' public option program, that can be a helpful tool in establishing a socialist program in the future.

Ideologically, the reforms' apologist nature leads people to acknowledge that capitalism does not serve the interests of everyone. They could even lead people to consider socialism when private institutions abuse their power and, as in the case of AIG, treat the people's investment in them like prize money.

Regardless of the ultra-right pundits' accuracy in labeling reform as resulting from socialists, the perceptual shift such labeling can result in is valuable.

A poll conducted by conservative polling agency Rasmussen in April, 2009 indicated that only 53% of the population favored capitalism, while 20% of those polled actually preferred socialism. Further, among those under 30 years of age, only 37% favored capitalism, while 33% favored socialism. This seems to indicate that the view of the United States' population is becoming more favorable towards socialism.

As the ultra-right punditry continues to aggravate the progressive half the population, the Communist Party, USA, (CPUSA) can make gains.

First, the ultra-right's hatred of socialism can be framed as part of their general attack against diversity and freedom of expression. Framing their prejudice in such a way makes it possible for open-minded members of the population to become more accepting of Socialists and Communists.

Second, by supporting the policies for what they can do for the working class, and working to ensure the creation of potentially socialist institutions within such reforms, the CPUSA can ally with other progressives and grow their base. The ultra-right pundits' use of the socialist label should not be mocked, but accepted, and associated with the policies' successes as much as possible.

Jarvis Tyner, Executive Vice Chair of the CPUSA, did just this with his recent statement that "The ultra-right says that the public option is socialist - I say, GOOD!"

Third, the CPUSA can begin to represent popular sentiment by criticizing widely recognized shortcomings contained in present reforms, such as the misguided trust the United States government has regarding the private market, exhibited every time it hands corporate board members millions of dollars to do with as they please.

As the reality of class antagonisms become all the more clear with each attempt to mend the capitalist market, the CPUSA is given more and more opportunities to present its solutions. The ultra-right's labeling everyone who recognizes capitalism does not work for them as socialist actually presents us with an opportunity.

We should welcome anything that brings socialism into discussion.

It reminds me of a story that is becoming all the more relevant:

In the 1930's, a socialist who did not like to be associated with the Communist Party planned on attending a rally organized by the CPUSA. He went hoping to highlight the few reasons he could not identify as a Communist. While at the rally, it became apparent that the police would break up the group because of its association with a strike that was occurring. As the police closed in, the socialist came face to face with an officer. "But I'm an anti-Communist," he said. The officer replied, "I don't care what kind of Communist you are, you are all getting clobbered," and swung his truncheon at the comrade.

The time has come to re-claim the word "socialism."


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