Voices
Illustration by Krieg Barrie

A kinder, gentler Marxism

The worldview of the "Social Democracy" America is heading toward

Issue: "On the road again," May 9, 2009

Barack Obama is not a socialist, explained Eric Etheredge of The New York Times. He is a "social democrat." The administration's attempt to control private companies and the free market should not alarm us, according to Etheredge and other pundits. European nations do this all the time. It is simply an application of the European political and economic theory known as "social democracy."

If social democracy is America's new governmental principle, we should know a little about it. To avoid biased spins and inflammatory rhetoric, let us consult basic, objective sources such as dictionaries and encyclopedias.

Here is the definition of "social democracy" from Merriam-Webster's online dictionary: "1 : a political movement advocating a gradual and peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism by democratic means 2 : a democratic welfare state that incorporates both capitalist and socialist practices."

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So this political and economic system either moves from capitalism to socialism or incorporates both capitalism and socialism at the same time, so as to form a welfare state.

We need to know more. Here is the first paragraph of the entry for "social democracy" in The Encyclopedia Britannica: "A political ideology that advocates a peaceful, evolutionary transition of society from capitalism to socialism using established political processes. Based on 19th-century socialism and the tenets of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, social democracy shares common ideological roots with communism but eschews its militancy and totalitarianism. Social democracy was originally known as revisionism because it represented a change in basic Marxist doctrine, primarily in the former's repudiation of the use of revolution to establish a socialist society."

The article goes on to chronicle the development of this theory, which was crystallized by the German Marxist Eduard Bernstein in an 1899 essay titled "Evolutionary Socialism." He noted that the horrible conditions for workers that characterized the early stages of the industrial revolution had, in fact, improved greatly. "Whereas Marx had declared that the subjugation of the working class would inevitably culminate in socialist revolution," says the article, "Bernstein argued that success for socialism depended not on the continued and intensifying misery of the working class but rather on eliminating that misery. He further noted that social conditions were improving and that with universal suffrage the working class could establish socialism by electing socialist representatives."

After World War II, social democratic political parties arose throughout Europe, including Great Britain's Labour Party, often forming governments in Germany and becoming dominant in Scandinavia. "In addition to abandoning violence and revolution as tools of social change," continues the encyclopedia, "social democracy took a stand in opposition to totalitarianism. The Marxist view of democracy as a 'bourgeois' façade for class rule was abandoned, and democracy was proclaimed essential for socialist ideals. Increasingly, social democracy adopted the goal of state regulation, but not state ownership, of business and industry as sufficient to further economic growth and equitable income."

So "social democracy" is a variety of Marxism that rejects revolution in favor of democracy and that preserves certain elements of capitalism, though under strict state control.

Social democrats are not communists, but their Marxism is evident in their belief in class struggle. Thus the vilification of "the rich" over against "working Americans." Also Marxist is the project of redistributing wealth, the use of state power to seize control of private property, and the overarching secularism that rejects the past in favor of a materialistic progress.

When Americans cast their votes for Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress, did they also intend their country to adopt this kinder and gentler form of Marxism?

If we are going to change our entire economic system and our entire philosophy of government, shouldn't we at least think this through? This would surely be a good topic for a congressional hearing. If we are going to throw out the traditional American model of a limited government in favor of a social democracy, we should hold a constitutional convention to come up with a different founding document.

Instead, we are embracing social democracy without questioning the Marxist worldview and without even realizing what we are doing.

Gene Edward Veith
Gene Edward Veith

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