Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Finally, a Decent Mainstream Article on Socialism

In contrast to the numerous misleading articles on socialism that have appeared in the mainstream press lately, this article in BusinessWeek (of all places) actually represents socialism reasonably accurately. Of course, it doesn't endorse socialism, but it does manage to maintain a completely neutral tone, which is really nothing short of amazing.

Previous mainstream articles on socialism have been seriously flawed and have tended to reinforce the many existing misconceptions about socialism. For instance, this Newsweek cover story ("We Are All Socialists Now") defined socialism as government intervention in the economy and a large government sector. Nothing about workers' control of the economy, ending exploitation and oppression, fighting imperialism, or even raising workers' living standards. As if this weren't bad enough, the article was extremely flippant, at various points equating socialism with France, Europe, croissants and berets.

This Time magazine article, which was the cover story in its European edition but didn't appear at all in the American edition, is also very bad. It completely discounts Marx's vision of socialism, which it inaccurately equates with Stalinism, but appears to accept Marx's critique of capitalism, although it never actually explains what his critique was. It also doesn't explain how it's possible to fix capitalism by reforming it, as the author suggests is possible, if Marx was right about capitalism's inherent structural flaws.

The BusinessWeek article even explains the distinction between revolutionary socialism and reform socialism (i.e., social democracy) correctly, although it doesn't mention that only the former is Marxist. The article also includes this kick-ass quote from a leading ISO member:
Sherry Wolf, an activist with the Chicago-based U.S. branch of the International Socialist Organization (ISO), scoffs at the idea that the U.S. is at the dawn of a socialist era. "What Marxists mean by socialism is different from what Rush Limbaugh means," she says. "We believe the class that produces the wealth should own and control that wealth. That's a far cry from what's happening now. The state is propping up banks, mortgage, and insurance companies, while the lives of working people are torn apart by foreclosures, evictions, and unemployment. It's an effort to save global capitalism from its own excesses."


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