by Bob Maschi

The word ‘socialist’ is being tossed around a lot nowadays. Many conservatives are claiming that President Obama is one. Lots of liberals are defending the president against the charge. Missing from the discussion? Socialists.

I am a member of California’s Peace and Freedom Party. It first qualified for the California ballot in 1968, and is the only ballot-listed socialist party in this state. With almost 60,000 members, it is the largest electoral socialist party in the country. And guess what? No one has asked us if Barrack Obama is a socialist, or not.

I believe that Obama would like to see an end to racism, sexism and homophobia. While many people find fault at the slow pace that Obama is addressing these issues, socialists would agree with these aims. But so would Greens, most Democrats and some libertarians (did I forget anyone?). So, being an open-minded individual who supports civil rights does not necessarily label one a socialist. In fact, most socialists would argue that our economic system, capitalism, requires inequality to survive, and so we cannot finally end these blights within the current framework – not that we shouldn’t still try.

Social issues alone are not a good test. Economically, the answer becomes more complex. There is a similar instance of a Democrat president who is and was often accused by the right-wing of being a socialist. Franklin Delano Roosevelt went into office during the Great Depression as a moderate Democrat who veered left as the economy continued to stumble. He incorporated many ‘socialist’ policies to put people back to work, improve the environment, build the nation’s infrastructure and to create a basic social safety net. It is important to note that he and the Congress acted under strong pressure from working people and an organized left.

From a right-wing perspective, FDR was a socialist (or, in their terms, a filthy red). But from a socialist perspective, he was an economic appeaser who enacted enough reforms that capitalism was saved (from itself). History since then, of course, has proven socialists correct as capitalism was allowed to continue for almost eight more decades before, again, collapsing under its own, greedy weight.

And make no mistake, capitalism did recently collapse. The banking system crumbled. Consumers and investors alike lost most of their faith in the system (along with most of their savings). Many major corporations either went bankrupt, or would have if George W Bush and, later, Barrack Obama, hadn’t bailed out the sinking ship. Of course, saving capitalism is expensive – the costs of doing so are to be borne by poor and working people for generations ahead.

Given his handling of the economy and adding in his generosity toward rich bankers and corporations, it looks as though Barrack Obama is not attempting to build socialism. Instead, it seems he is attempting to rebuild capitalism again and, surprisingly, doing so with a lot of resistance from capitalists themselves!

Are there some Democrats who are socialists? Yes. There are some socialists who work within the Democratic Party hoping to steer it to the left. But the party leadership is not, by any legitimate definition, socialist. They are just as beholden to, and in awe of, corporate interests as the Republicans. Democrat’s attempts to make our economy fairer are like putting a smiley face on an unjust economic system.

A socialist president and congress would have ended our for-profit wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and withdrawn our soldiers from most other places in the world. Obama hasn’t. We’d have helped reenergize this nation’s labor movement. Obama hasn’t even enacted the reforms he promised. We’d have demanded improved Medicare for all. Obama won’t. Socialists would not have bailed out the banks and other corporations as Obama has. Instead, we would have bought them (and for a much cheaper price) and turned their control over to the public and our communities rather than giving them back to the wealthy owners and their CEO’s who caused this Great Depression sequel in the first place.

Socialists actually are what Republicans only accuse Democrats of being.

From a socialist perspective, the president gets very low grades. So far, anyway. Maybe in the future he, like FDR, will veer to the left. But at present and being kind, he looks more like a centrist Democrat than a socialist.

But I’m not so sure about Michelle.
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