In a recent article by Jonathan Cohn, the Huffington Post’s senior national correspondent, Cohn criticizes “weird” comments about socialism made by President Donald Trump at an August rally in Indiana. According to Cohn, Trump’s offending statement came when he said Democrats “want to raid Medicare to pay for socialism.”
Cohn first claims Trump’s argument is confusing, because Medicare is essentially a socialistic program, but his primary objection is that it’s not fair for Trump to say the programs he blasted are a form of “socialism” — even though these policies are regularly promoted by self-described “socialists” like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
“It’s not really socialism, at least in the traditional sense, in that the goal of these initiatives is to manage and tame capitalism rather than supplant it,” Cohn wrote. “In spirit, this is what Democrats have been trying to do since Franklin Roosevelt was their standard bearer. But the programs would certainly be big, in no small part because they would generally be universal — that is, people at all income levels, not just those in or near poverty, could get at least some benefit from them.”
In one way, Cohn is correct: Karl Marx’s socialism is much more radical than single-payer health care and universal college education. However, Cohn’s argument, which is commonly advanced by many crafty social justice warriors on the left, is wildly and deliberately misleading for a couple of important reasons.
First, a growing wing of the Democratic Party doesn’t want to stop at creating single-payer health care and “free” college tuition programs. People such as Sen. Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum want to fundamentally transform America’s entire economic system so that it continues to progress “forward” toward Marx’s socialism. That’s why they’re constantly ranting and raving about “income inequality” and “wealth disparities,” issues Marx obsessed over throughout his life. This is evident if you listen carefully to what so-called “democratic socialists” in the Democratic Party have said throughout their careers and if you watch who they have chosen to keep company with.
For instance, Ocasio-Cortez is a proud member of the Democratic Socialists of America, a large organization that openly advocates for an end to capitalism. According to DSA, “corporate executives who answer only to themselves and a few wealthy stockholders make basic economic decisions affecting millions of people. Resources are used to make money for capitalists rather than to meet human needs. We believe that the workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions should own and control them.” [Emphasis added.]
DSA further explains, “Social ownership could take many forms, such as worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. … While the large concentrations of capital in industries such as energy and steel may necessitate some form of state ownership, many consumer-goods industries might be best run as cooperatives.”
While it’s true that Sanders and other Democrats in the party’s socialist wing aren’t suggesting the country move to a completely Marxist system today, many of them do want to eventually end up there, which means it’s fair to call these people and their policies “socialistic.”
A second important consideration is even Marx himself didn’t suggest countries should immediately abolish their capitalist systems in favor of collective property ownership. By Cohn’s logic, I guess that means Marx wasn’t a socialist either! For Marx, the development of the socialist state would occur over time, and many of the steps toward socialism that Marx called for are identical to what numerous people in the Democratic Party want today. For example, in his Communist Manifesto, Marx said “advanced” nations would impose a graduated income tax; create universal free public education systems; and centrally plan many important economic systems. All these ideas are espoused daily by Democrats, just as Trump suggested.
The ugly truth is many on the left, in an effort to mislead the public, privately claim among their friends in ivory towers and newsrooms across the country socialism is wonderful, but publicly, they say the far-left policies they so desperately want to impose “aren’t really examples of socialism.” Why? Because they know most Americans still don’t want anything to do with socialism, Karl Marx, or anything that will move the country toward collectivism. Their only hope of “progressing” the United States in that direction is to trick well-meaning Americans into believing people like Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez don’t want anything more than free college and single-payer health care.
Make no mistake about it: The policies promoted by Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are just the first steps on the road toward building an America that looks much more similar to what Karl Marx dreamed than Democrats will admit publicly.