Friday, October 24, 2008

With the flood of daily news reports warning the world of potential economic doom, many Americans are looking to the next president to lead them to financial safety. The level of government involvement in future domestic markets has become a premier issue in the presidential race in recent weeks. Some fear that the nation is moving toward socialism.

Democratic presidential nominee Barak Obama, has been labeled as a socialist by Republican opponent Senator John McCain and by right-wing media outlets throughout the country. Prompted by the now legendary exchange with “Joe the Plummer”, McCain called Obama a “job-killing socialist” at a rally in Belton, Missouri in mid-October. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly accused Obama’s economic plan as “class warfare” in an interview in September. But would a self-proclaimed socialist consider Obama the one of their own?

“Absolutely not,” said Seth Johnson, a 33-year-old UC graduate in political science and a branch member for the International Socialist Organization on campus. “Obama’s plan is McCain Lite, meaning it’s only a different kind of tax break for the wealthy.”

The term socialism has provoked a negative response to the average American, even before the Communist regime of Joseph Stalin. The atrocious legacy of Soviet labor camps, the Gulag and the Cold War, still resonates in the minds of older voters. John McCain has used this response as a strategy to try to discredit Mr. Obama.

Jane Anderson, a University of Cincinnati political science professor, says that she thinks the strategy has been an effective one simply because it has served as a political buzzword. She explains that some of the working class who would consider themselves religious people, often identify socialism as a godless political system and that the McCain campaign is fusing these concepts together.

“Because he’s closing the gap at all, is proof that it’s kind of ringing a bell with some people,” Anderson said.

Anderson thinks Americans have a mind set of deep rooted individualism, and mostly identify themselves as middle-class. These, she says, are factors which contribute to the negative attitude American’s have of socialism.

“The appeal of America was once the frontier and the rugged individualism, and achieving on your own efforts,” said Anderson, “Any ideology that looks at individuals as a collective is kind of contradictory to the American concept.”

Anderson, 67, explains that regardless of a person’s income, except for the very poor and the extremely rich, people in America like to think of themselves as middle-class.

“Some pretty desperate people fall into that huge middle-class range. Blue-collard workers still have dreams of upward mobility in this country, and wouldn’t readily identify themselves as working class, like workers would in Europe and other parts of the world. Not much room for socialism there,” Anderson said.

Socialism is often associated with Communism, yet the two are not technically the same.

Shane Johnson defines socialism as the temporary transition period from a bourgeois democracy of capitalism to a classless society which is the ultimate goal of communism. Anderson agrees, but she points out that some socialists around the turn of the 20th Century opposed a revolutionary overthrow and felt that the communist vision could be achieved through labor unions and more bureaucratic means. This group, according to Anderson, became known as democratic socialists and were something distinct from the revolutionary communists of the Bolshevik regime.

As many social democratic parties and governments in Europe today move closer to capitalism by supporting private ownership of various state-controlled industries and the removal of free market regulations, some argue the US government’s bailout plan is a bridge leading to the opposite direction.

“I don’t think anybody could have imagined Bernanke and Paulson ever saying that this was a good idea, but what they are proposing is by every traditional definition, genuine socialism,” Anderson said. “One could even consider programs like social security and medicare socialist programs, but the direct state investment and ownership into these banks under the bailout plan, is truly a socialist act.”

Once again, socialists disagree.

“The bailout plan is only feeding the gambling addiction of Wall Street,” said Johnson. “It doesn’t address the human needs of the working class. It isn’t redistributing that $700 billion to them.”

Johnson, and other socialists do not foresee either candidate overthrowing the capitalistic society we currently have in exchange for a socialist one, regardless of the economic uncertainty the world faces. The next president will be looked upon to not only save our economy, but to do so by preserving traditional American capitalism.


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