Obama’s “Socialist” Revolution Comes Up Short

August 6th, 2010 at 4:59 pm | 66 Comments |

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Click here to read Part 1 of Eugene Debs response to Stanley Kurtz.

Kurtz has committed a great, here yet banal sin of intellectual argumentation: He’s created a non-falsifiable hypothesis by which anything that Obama does, diagnosis by definition, confirms Kurtz’s point that he’s a socialist. Kurtz and I both consider two definitions of socialism. Kurtz claims that my remarks about what constitutes socialism are “incomplete and unconvincing.”  Actually, he misreads what I wrote:  I proposed as a heuristic device the idea that if socialism really means large increases in government expenditures, or merely the support of existing mixed economies, than every leader in the advanced capitalist world is a socialist, including Cameron, Merkel, and George W. Bush.  So, no, obviously that isn’t my definition of socialism, but only an example of what an absurd definition of socialism looks like.  And Kurtz correctly rejects this—too broad.  (Although, incoherently, he also seeks to preserve the distinction between a capitalist United States and a socialist Sweden—“differences of degree quickly shade into differences of kind”, he writes).

Kurtz also rejects the old fashioned definition of state ownership of the means of production. If Obama were to, via executive order, nationalize the entire American economy, well that would certainly prove he was a socialist.  But that’s too bald for Kurtz and, presumably, Obama.

So Kurtz has created a third category, the non-falsifiable one: “full nationalization” is an “outdated definition” of socialism.  So we are left with, to repeat, “Obama’s policies do fit the model of what socialists call a ‘transitional program”, (i.e. a plan to bring about more complete socialism incrementally, over the long term).”  And also that stealth is critical to the implementation of this transition—thus nothing Obama actually does can be taken as evidence of his non-socialism, but, rather, only of his bad faith, or if you prefer, his implacable sense of what is required to consummate his vision of a socialist America.

Obama’s relationship to the actual left wing of his own party is instructive, in this regard.  Just this week, the impeccably liberal Robert Reich, who supported Obama’s presidential bid, writes in the Wall Street Journal that Obama’s programs have been wholly inadequate to address the nation’s great problem—yet just potent enough to engender an enormous conservative backlash.

Reich lays out the argument for the Left’s disappointment clearly.  Why didn’t Obama—the alleged socialist—fight for the public option?  Why didn’t Obama—the alleged socialist—follow the recommendation of many, including Paul Krugman and Rep. David Obey, that the stimulus be much larger than what he ultimately proposed?  Why didn’t Obama—the alleged socialist—give the American people just a small taste of real socialism and, at least, temporarily nationalize the large banks?  (After all, even George W. Bush’s administration nationalized AIG, the largest insurance company in the world.  Is Bush a socialist?  Is Ben Bernanke?  Is Henry Paulson)?  Why didn’t Obama support a financial regulation bill that would actually break up the big banks and link bankers’ compensation to institutional performance? Why didn’t Obama withdraw American forces from Afghanistan as soon as logistically possible—why did he increase American forces there?  Wouldn’t the fiscal savings have helped with the “transition” to socialism? I know I know—according to Kurtz, this is all part of the plan.  But if this is the plan, the plan doesn’t really make much sense, does it?

Let’s look at another specific policy example—no, not what Obama was saying on Kurtz’s soon to be released basement tapes 20 years ago, but what he actually does when wielding the power of the presidency.  The example is the budget deficit commission, co-chaired by Erskine Bowles, a Democrat, and Alan Simpson, a Republican.  Bowles is yet another strange personnel choice for a socialist president to make.  This commission is considering the allocation of revenue and taxes decades into the future.  Having enormous pots of money to invest in socialist training centers, or whatever, might be helpful to Obama’s long range plan.

If this be so, you might think that Obama would have selected at a minimum somebody like Robert Reich to run this commission. Instead Obama chose a conservative, Southern Democrat.   Bowles wants government spending going forward to be set at 21% of GDP.  That will ensure that the transition to socialism takes … oh four or five centuries.

There are other problems with Kurtz’s argument that his presumed impending revelations can’t allay.  Kurtz wants us to think that “organized socialism” has had “little public influence in the country at large”, yet simultaneously powerfully influences the public policies of the president of the United States.  How? Kurtz observes that socialist colleagues of Obama advocated a plan that would “blend control of capitalism by community groups (like ACORN) ‘from below’ … After all, ACORN couldn’t insert itself into the banking system without support from congressional Democrats and the Clinton administration.”

Ah—ACORN.  ACORN first swung the election to Obama via massive voting fraud, and now ACORN would be a key element in controlling capitalism “from below.”  Let’s think about this for a moment.  Kurtz thinks that ACORN has had a major impact on American life, and, moreover, promised to have a major influence on the transition to socialism going forward.  But…ACORN is defunct.  It collapsed like a house of cards following one trumped up charge leveled at it by elements of the conservative entertainment complex.  The organization couldn’t survive the most minimal public scrutiny and, though Kurtz claims that ACORN had influential Democrats in its pocket, they chose, instead, to let the ACORN fall from its tree into a fatal abyss.  Yet Kurtz would have us believe that the late ACORN was an ideological and logistical juggernaut, a modern day Comintern.

Still, contained in Kurtz’s remarks about ACORN is the kernel of an insight, however false, that brings his entire argument crashing to ground.  Kurtz writes that ACORN needed those friends in high places to become as influential as it did:  “After all, ACORN couldn’t insert itself into the banking system without support from congressional Democrats and the Clinton administration.”

Wait!  Was the Clinton administration—starting with Bill and Hillary, of course—socialist, too?  And the congressional Democrats of that period as well?  At last Kurtz has latched on to a giant, transformative assertion that does justice to his hard work and ambitious goals.  It’s not only Obama who is a socialist—it’s the entire modern Democratic Party!

Kurtz thinks he has proven a lot—the president of the United States is a socialist!!  But, in fact, he has proven much too little.  If Obama is a socialist, then the entire mainstream establishment of the Democratic Party is socialist, too.  This includes the Democratic leaders and major committee chairs in both houses of Congress, who unreservedly support Obama’s program.  This also includes the major Democrats who competed with Obama for the 2008 Democratic nomination for president whose policy differences with him during that campaign were infinitesimal (Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton, of course, have  major positions in the Obama administration).  And the 2004 party nominee, John Kerry, has been one of Obama’s most stalwart allies, only differing with him, if at all, in that he wishes to move faster on climate control legislation.  Do all of these people—in essence, the Democratic Party tout court—realize they are part of a stealthy transition program towards socialism?  Has Obama manipulated people like Chuck Schumer and Pat Leahy, who strike nobody as fools?  Or is everybody—Reid, Pelosi, the whole lot—on board the slowly moving socialist ship?

If almost every influential Democrat agrees with Obama’s policy positions, regardless of their personal histories and exposure to what Kurtz calls “the little known world of post 1960s socialism” what’s the point of chronicling that Barack Obama once sat in a classroom while Professor X told him this, or attended a reception at which some other community organizer said that? If Democrats are all socialists, you don’t need to bother with any of this stuff: just the simple proof that Obama is a Democrat, Democrats are socialists, and therefore Obama is a socialist.   This is the much larger story—and maybe much larger book—that Kurtz should write.

Or at least, as Kurtz says, it could be said. That’s good enough, isn’t it?

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66 Comments so far ↓

  • jg bennet

    here is one from a socialist named Deng Xiaoping
    “to be rich is glorious”

    the socialist tag is propaganda folks!!

    Astroturfing denotes political, advertising, or public relations campaigns that are formally planned by an organization, but are disguised as spontaneous, popular “grassroots” behavior. The term refers to AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to look like natural grass.
    The goal of such campaigns is to disguise the efforts of a political or commercial entity as an independent public reaction to some political entity—a politician, political group, product, service or event. Astroturfers attempt to orchestrate the actions of apparently diverse and geographically distributed individuals, by both overt (“outreach”, “awareness”, etc.) and covert (disinformation) means. Astroturfing may be undertaken by an individual promoting a personal agenda, or highly organized professional groups with money from large corporations, unions, non-profits, or activist organizations. Very often, the efforts are conducted by political consultants who also specialize in opposition research. Beneficiaries are not “grass root” campaigners but distant organizations that orchestrate such campaigns.

    In 2003, apparent “grass-roots” letters favouring Republican Party policies appearing in local newspapers around the US were denounced as “astroturf” when Google searches revealed that identical letters were printed with different (local) signatures. The signers were electronically submitting pre-written letters from a political website that offered five “GOPoints” for sending one of their letters to a local paper plus an additional two “GOPoints” if the letter was published. A similar automated emailer employed by MoveOn.org in 2004 to support Michael Moore’s Farenheit 9/11 film resulted in at least 22 form letters appearing in local papers.
    Black propaganda is information that purports to be from a source on one side of a conflict, but is actually from the opposing side. Most astroturfing is black propaganda in that the identity of the source is falsified. However, the ostensible source of the evidence planted is usually not a grassroots organization. When black propaganda uses the same means as astroturfing, the distinction is less clear, as in the case of forged letters being sent to congressman Tom Perriello by a Washington lobbying firm working against 2009 clean energy legislation.
    Journalist Ben Smith of The Politico has observed, “Interest groups across the spectrum have grown expert at locating, enraging and turning out authentic Americans. And the operatives behind the crowds say there’s nothing wrong with a practice as old as American politics.” Regarding the 2009 health care debate, author and blogger Ryan Sager has argued in a New York Times editorial: “Organizing isn’t cheating. Doing everything in your power to get your people to show up is basic politics.”

  • Traveler


    Talk about being lost in a haze of delusions! When a substantial minority of citizens believe in “facts” that are so utterly untrue, then I begin to worry. Especially when there are enough to elect representatives that then sell them all down the river to corporate lobbyists. For instance, why do we support the oil industry to tune of some $80b in royalty relief?

    BTW, I am no fan of the union dominance, spurious litigation or the political correctness so beloved by the liberals. I can’t stand propaganda anywhere, so we may be in agreement there at least. I just want people to get beyond the radical fringes on either side and face the facts so we all can earn an honest dollar. That is what this site is all about. If this is Manichean, then so be it.

  • WillyP

    i am not really worried about “somebody” getting “shot” from the use of the word socialist. bush was called a nazi for most of his first term and all of his second. there was even a movie made about assassinating a u.s. president in the middle east. also remember that somebody hurled a grenade on stage at him that luckily did not explode.

    it’s awfully hypocritical for the left to start complaining about the relatively innocuous term that the tea party protest movement has attached to obama. for ~6 years bush accused of being satan himself.

  • jg bennet


    you must not live in texas, around here you hear the shooting crap all the time. why is it that arms sales have gone off the scale?

    the GOP was once an intelligent respectable party but it has become the party of the gullible, the party of the divisive, the party of no, the party of bigots, the party of the white uneducated class, the party whose loudest voices are all ex disc jockey’s and worst of all the party of jesus.

    goldwater would be glad he is pushing daisies if he could see what has become of his beloved GOP.
    you call yourself a goldwater man? how can you even vote for these guys?

  • WillyP

    consider the alternative.

  • sinz54

    jg bennet: goldwater would be glad he is pushing daisies if he could see what has become of his beloved GOP.

    When Goldwater was alive, you liberals called him a crazy extremist right-wing lunatic who would start World War III. Remember this Democrat ad?


    And now you’re holding him up as an example of Republican sanity and moderation?

    When Reagan ran for President in 1980, you liberals called him a crazy extremist right-wing lunatic who would start World War III. You liberals even dragged poor old Coretta Scott King out of retirement to charge that Reagan would unleash the KKK to lynch blacks.

    Your feigned nostalgia for conservatives of the past isn’t fooling anybody.

    Because we remember what you said about them when they were alive.

  • jg bennet


    i have considered the alternative and it seems to me the dems talk more sense than the disc jockey class. i figure if we don’t vote GOP they will learn their lesson and bring back real conservative/ moderate, no jesus freaked values back into the party. if changing my vote works then guys like me will not feel so disenfranchised.

    it is sad man, the “conservatives” are killing off all the rino’s and those are the guys i voted for.

    i would prefer a socialist economy mixed with capitalism than the totalitarian, freedom robbing, propagandizing, rights tramping on republicans that we have to choose from today. i bet i’m far from alone.

    you see, i think that the “look at the alternative” tact is way off base, i mean you’re letting these guys destroy the party and the true conservative liberty/rights based principle’s of republicanism because you are too party loyal to help throw the impostors out.

    do you deny that the conservative movement is so far off course that it has become unrecognizable?

  • jg bennet


    i’m not a liberal i’m a goldwater republican which is what most of the GOP today call a liberal.

    the party moved away from its goldwater conservative values there is no doubt about that.


    here is frum on goldwater on charlie rose it is informative. i like it about 30 seconds into it how he says goldwater combined republicanism and conservatism. true conservatism is what we lost from the attrition of freedom and rights in the GOP culture war and quest for votes.


  • WillyP

    you lost me there. i am not supporting a totalitarian party. was buckley a totalitarian? was reagan? was, er, goldwater? where are you going with this and why do you sound crazed?

  • WillyP

    and i’m sorry, but i really don’t see a great religious-rightist contraction of rights. i do, on the other hand, see a steadily increasing proportion of gov’t spending as a % of GDP!

  • jg bennet

    i’m just sounding like them. they tell us no abortion. no gay marriage, christian litmus tests, etc. it is them that wants to take our individual freedoms away not the other side. the left wants to do their lefty thing that has not changed what has changed is the new right wanting to stick their nose into everybody’s personal business. here is goldwater and you tell me if todays republicans would get an ounce of support from goldwater.

    it’s a repeat but it needs to be repeated loudly. you are voting for freedom robbers and zealots willyp! if we run them off we can get america back on track.

    “”There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C,’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.’ ” (1909-1998) US Senator (R-Arizona) Source: Congressional Record, September 16, 1981
    The five-term U.S. senator from Arizona was equally unimpressed with TV preacher Pat Robertson. When Robertson sought the GOP nomination for president in 1988, Goldwater wasn’t about to say amen. “I believe in separation of church and state,” observed Goldwater. “Now, he doesn’t believe that . . . I just don’t think he should be running.”
    A few years later he told The Advocate, “I don’t have any respect for the Religious Right. There is no place in this country for practicing religion in politics. That goes for Falwell, Robertson and all the rest of these political preachers. They are a detriment to the country.”
    While some Americans might find Goldwater’s stand against all interaction between religion and politics too sweeping, many would agree with his strong commitment to individual freedom of conscience on issues as diverse as religion in schools, gay rights or abortion. In 1994 he told The Los Angeles Times, “A lot of so-called conservatives don’t know what the word means. They think I’ve turned liberal because I believe a woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right.”
    Goldwater, an Episcopalian, had theological differences with greedy TV preachers. “I look at these religious television shows,” he said, “and they are raising big money on God. One million, three million, five million – they brag about it. I don’t believe in that. It’s not a very religious thing to do.”
    But Goldwater was also deeply worried about the Religious Right’s long-term impact on his beloved GOP. “If they succeed in establishing religion as a basic Republican Party tenet,” he told U.S. News & World Report in 1994, “they could do us in.” In an interview with The Post that same year, Goldwater observed, “When you say ‘radical right’ today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican Party and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.”
    But most importantly, Goldwater was deeply concerned about the Religious Right’s relentless war on the Constitution and basic American freedoms. In a Sept. 15, 1981 senate speech, Goldwater noted that Falwell’s Moral Majority, anti-abortion groups and other Religious Right outfits were sometimes referred to in the press as the “New Right” and the “New Conservatism.” Responded Goldwater, “Well, I’ve spent quite a number of years carrying the flag of the ‘Old Conservatism.’ And I can say with conviction that the religious issues of these groups have little or nothing to do with conservative or liberal politics. The uncompromising position of these groups is a divisive element that could tear apart the very spirit of our representative system, if they gain sufficient strength.” Insisted Goldwater, “Being a conservative in America traditionally has meant that one holds a deep, abiding respect for the Constitution. We conservatives believe sincerely in the integrity of the Constitution. We treasure the freedoms that document protects. . . “By maintaining the separation of church and state,” he explained, “the United States has avoided the intolerance which has so divided the rest of the world with religious wars . . . Can any of us refute the wisdom of Madison and the other framers? Can anyone look at the carnage in Iran, the bloodshed in Northem Ireland, or the bombs bursting in Lebanon and yet question the dangers of injecting religious issues into the affairs of state?”

    Goldwater concluded with a waming to the American people. “The religious factions will go on imposing their will on others,” { he said,} “unless the decent people connected to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy. They must learn to make their views known without trying to make their views the only alternatives. . . We have succeeded for 205 years in keeping the affairs of state separate from the uncompromising idealism of religious groups and we mustn’t stop now” { he insisted}. “To retreat from that separation would violate the principles of conservatism and the values upon which the framers built this democratic republic.”

  • WillyP

    so it’s about abortion “rights” and gay “marriage” for you, then.

    both can be addressed in the absence of religious beliefs. i’m sorry, but these 2 issues alone do not constitute an assault on our freedoms. in fact, our freedoms were greater in periods when gay marriage and abortion were both illegal in all 50 states (or almost all 50, anyway).

    so your threat is imagined. the “religious” right is not looking to impose theocracy. besides, what Christian denomination would rule? each domination is a small minority when compared against the other denominations and other creeds. I’m Catholic, personally, and do not see the Church as having a great interest in working with the American gov’t to impose statist/religious medieval rule. catholics are only, what, 22% of the u.s. population, and make up the largest single denomination of any group. and they are hardly monolithic in their beliefs… in fact, i’d wager that more are democrats than republicans.

    bizarre your theories are. i don’t understand them.

  • jg bennet

    you’re not an evangelical so you are safe. goldwater was talking about the dobsons, fallwell’s & today the tony perkins types. here in texas it is flooded with evangelicals and yes willp they do want to install a theocracy and voters like you support them. my arguments seem bizarre to you because do not see the threat to our liberty that the evangelicals pose due to the fact that you are not looking at them as a threat.

    goldwater shouted time and again to GOP supporters to not allow these people’s agenda to take hold….too late they are embedded.

    i think moderate republicans should vote democrat for two voting cycles to purge the right wing out of the GOP and then vote republican moderates back in. the fanatical right wing problem the GOP has is their own creation! GOP supporters are the only ones who can save the party from them & get the party back to its liberty conservative roots instead of the divisive, destructive & very un-american party it has evolved into.

    i’m not crazed willyp i’m a goldwater republican.

    “The religious factions will go on imposing their will on others,” unless the DECENT PEOPLE CONNECTED to them recognize that religion has no place in public policy.
    Barry Goldwater

    they scream socialist and our way is the way. we goldwater republicans scream theocrats. who is more in touch with true conservatism? tony perkins, sarah palin, sean hannity, newt, dick armey, boner, bauchmann or barry goldwater….

  • WillyP

    so at a time when a socialist democrat party is destroying the foundations of american prosperity, republicans are supposed to spend 2 cycles voting for democrats to purge OUR party of the non-existent threat of the theocratic right?

    jg, do you have autism? you seem obsessed with this idea and frankly to me it seems overstated, alien, and very much out of left field.

  • enterprise

    I have to say that the article really is dragging the bottom of the gutter loaded with fantastical right wing sludge. The words ‘socialist’ and ‘ACRON’ are mentioned in almost every sentence.

    May I say that the writer is, as the Irish say, “wired to the moon”??

  • johndrew25

    I think what Eugene Debs is missing is that there is a strong, direct line between Frank Marshall Davis, the young Marxist Obama I met at Occidental College, and the adult Obama’s connections to Alice Palmer. To me, this looks like an unbroken 17 years of commitment to Marxist socialist ideology. Obama has never explained how, if at all, he escaped from this mental framework. Indeed, his comments to Joe the Plumber seem to confirm he is still profoundly committed to redistributing the wealth. Personally, I think the use of a pseudonym does weaken your argument. I think one of the things that makes my story credible is that people can check out my record in real life.