Patricia Nell Warren

Socialism and Gay Marriage -- Horse and Carriage?

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | September 26, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Politics, Politics
Tags: British healthcare, British Labour Party, Canadian healthcare, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, gay marriage, People's Republic of China, Representative Steve King, same-sex marriage, socialism, socialist democracy, USSR

There seems to be no limit to right-wingers' inventiveness when they start elaborating on the awfulness of "gay evil." With righters inveighing against both socialism and gay marriage, it was inevitable that some lightbulb was going to link those two "evils." The other day, Congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) did just that.

In an interview with WingNutDaily, King insisted that socialism and gay marriage go together like the horse and carriage in the pop song. He said, "If there's a push for a socialist society, of the goals they have to go to is same-sex marriage because it has to plow through marriage in order to get to their goal."

When Republican right-wingers lie about history, they know they can get away with it because most Americans are so uneducated about history.

So let's look at history. Is socialism automatically gay-marriage-friendly? Or even gay-friendly without marriage? Does socialist government come to a country as a result of "traditional marriage" being "plowed through" by gay marriage? I don't think so.

It's true that there have been individual socialist figures who were gay, or lesbian, and who even factored orientation into their platforms for sexual liberationism. Even today, in the U.S., we can find thinkers and activists who are both socialist and LGBT. But that was/is true of socialism only in the initial phase of salons, political meetings, marches and electioneering.

The actual socialist governments that dotted the world's timeline since the time of Karl Marx have often been resistant to the idea of LGBT liberation. Indeed, the socialist governments that became world powers have been fiercely homophobic.

To put it another way -- when socialism finally seizes the reins of ruling power, it may nationalize industry and land, and install national healthcare, and do other things that terrify the bejeesus out of today's American right-wingers -- but it also keeps heterosexual marriage firmly in its #1 place -- though the totalitarian brands of socialism may do away with religion and establish a secular form of marriage, with divorce freely permitted.

Real-Life Totalitarian Anti-Gayism

Let's start with that mother of them all -- the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, aka the USSR, which lasted from 1921 till its demise in 1991.

Homosexuality was illegal in the USSR. Throughout the republics, any homosexuals who came to government attention were sent to mental hospitals or labor camps, even executed. Though the Soviets liked to brag that they had done away with that "opium of the people," religion, their fierce homophobia was actually a lingering influence from the outlawed Orthodox or Catholic Churches in those regions, which had taught centuries of homophobia. So forget permissiveness on gay marriage in the USSR.

Much the same can be said for that great socialist empire of the Far East -- the People's Republic of China, which came into being in 1949.

Beijing isn't quite as fiercely homophobic as Soviet Russia, because China was historically way less influenced by Christianity. Yet Chinese socialism definitely didn't establish its power by "plowing through marriage" with an acceptance of gay marriage. Indeed, the Chinese government persecuted Chinese tongzhi (homosexuals) for decades. Today China is becoming less socialist by the minute, and she actually decriminalized sodomy in 1997. But the country is far from legalizing same-sex marriage -- as yet China doesn't even have any laws prohibiting discrimination against gays.

Post-War Socialist Democracy

A bit closer to home, we can take an honest look at the socialist democracies that popped up across the West after World War II.

This international movement came as a natural reaction against extremes of capitalism, which had become associated with Naziism in many people's minds. In 1945 the British Labor Party came to power and proceeded to do socialist things like nationalize mining, utilities and the Bank of England. They even instituted the National Health Service that gives American rightists such a shudder. But the Brits certainly didn't establish gay marriage as a key element of their socialist platform -- in fact, Britain remained sexually stuffy, to the point where it only recently decriminalized homosexuality. Same-sex marriage is still banned in the UK, though "civil partnerships" are allowed.

Ditto France, which went strongly socialist-democrat since World War II. The French government even decriminalized homosexuality, but has never allowed same-sex marriage.

Even Italy, where socialism has been such a powerful force during its modern history, has never legalized same-sex marriage or civil unions -- mostly because the Vatican is always looking over its shoulder.

West of the pond, there is the standout example of fierce homophobia in Castro's Cuba, where gay men and lesbians were imprisoned, even executed.

Socialism has recently re-emerged in some South American countries. In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez did socialist things like nationalize the oil industry. This country also has (shudder) a national universal healthcare program. But I don't see Venezuela stepping out there for gay marriage. In fact, Chavism boils with homophobia rhetoric, and gay people have often been cruelly persecuted, to the point where they flee and seek asylum in the U.S.

On the other side of the globe, Australia and New Zealand were governed by Labour parties between 1994 and 2006, but they never made same-sex marriage part of their essential down-under political platform. New Zealand does allow civil unions. But Australia has gone to the other extreme and adopted the U.S. "one man and one woman" dictum.

Exceptions That Prove the Rule

Indeed, only a few European countries where socialism enjoyed any postwar power have ever legalized same-sex marriage. These include Sweden, Netherlands and post-Franco Spain. (Denmark allows only civil partnerships.) But they are the exception that proves the rule.

As for our northern neighbor, Canada, I have to admit that she has distinguished herself for having a strong democratic socialist political character since World War II, as well as national healthcare and legalized gay marriage. But gay marriage was not one of the fatal stepping stones that led toward establishing socialism in Canada, which is what Rep. King says gay marriage is doing in the U.S. Instead the socialism and the healthcare system came first, and gay marriage came much later.

Meanwhile, our southern neighbor, Mexico, has felt powerful currents of socialist and communist parties and movements ever since her 1910-20 Revolution. Homosexuality has been legal in Mexico since 1871. In recent years, an LGBT movement has emerged there, and same-sex civil unions have been legalized in Mexico City and several states. Yet homophobia runs deep in some elements of Mexican society, and most Mexicans, when polled, says that they're opposed to actual marriage for gays.

Here again -- socialism came first to Mexico, and not as a result of allowing same-sex marriage, as Rep. King alleges. He's got the carriage before the horse here.

Last but not least, the rightists love to demonize President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the bringer of socialism to America, with his infamous welfare programs and other reforms of the 1930s. But FDR certainly didn't go that route by way of "plowing" traditional marriage and allowing same-sex marriage. In fact the President himself -- in spite of his closet womanizing -- upheld the very picture of "traditional marriage" with his wife Eleanor (who is viewed by some historians as a closet lesbian or bisexual.)

I could go on and on, but think I've made my point. The more you compare Representative King's assertion to the actual historical record, the more dingbat that assertion looks.

But that's how dingbat and desperate the Republicans are. They lost the election, and now they're losing their cool -- grabbing for any and all bits of ideological dough and flinging them wildly against the wall of public opinion. They hope that something will stick, no matter how untrue or outrageously improbable it might be.

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When attacking Obama, the wingnuts seem to not know which way to turn. In one instance they cast Obama as the champion of socialism, in the next they compare him with Hitler --- without explanation about Hilter being extreme right-wing, not extreme left-wing. (Then there is Hilter's association with the fascist Mussolini, a partnership which was apparently without coherent economic ideology and all about unbridled conquest.)

This is why I tend to discount the recent alarms about racism toward Obama --- not that racism does not still exist in serious forms, it most clearly does. But the wingnuts are carting out every boogieman in their arsenal and sticking an Obama sign on it. The fact that our President is black (gasp!) is one of the dreaded boogiemen in this arsenal. And as you have so aptly spelled out, Patricia, the mindless label of "Socialism" is another.

I agree with you! It's amazing to see news footage of Tea-baggers carrying signs that show Obama both as Hitler and a commie/socialist. C'mon now...which is it, folks? He can't be both.

It's clear that most people are so uneducated that they have absolutely no idea what these terms mean. If you asked them, they couldn't tell you what made the Nazis so different, ideologically, from the Soviets who invaded Germany in 1945 -- though both sides were very totalitarian in their approach to government.

By the same token, most of them can't tell you what different religions believe, or what makes them different from one another...including what makes liberal Muslims different from neo-con Muslims. It's sad, and scary, to see so much ignorance driving the country's politics.

But that's so often the case with history. During the time of witch-burning in Europe, it was this kind of ignorance and public hysteria that sent so many thousands of innocent people to horrible public executions across Europe. I'm sorry to have to say this, but it feels like America is entering into a similar period of hysteria-driven ignorance-driven public opinion.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 26, 2009 7:47 PM

Unfortunately, it now can happen at much faster speeds, and "under the radar" from mainstream media.

Thank you Patricia


As always, an amazing and insightful article filled with historical truths and thought provoking intelligence.

Ahhh Socialism and homosexuality, the perfect after dinner apertif....but not quite.
Though the Chavez government has had an out Lesbian cabinet minister, the street gangs that keep Chavez in power are homophobic.
FDR was another 'socialist' with a Lesbian cabinet minister, the not so out Frances Perkins.

Now, Patricia, Anarchism, there we see Lesbian issues far better represented, as well as the leadership of that anti-marriage icon of the bisexual world, Emma Goldman in the US and the Lesbian Luisa Saronil in Spain. In France, I keep hoping that Segolene Royal will have some kind of Lesbian Damascus now that she is shed of Francois Hollande.

Lets not confuse a nationalist military leader with a socialists or revilutionaries.

Currently the Venezuelan National Assembly has passed on round one of an “Organic Law for Gender Equity” which states that “"every person has the right to exercise their preferred sexual orientation and identity freely and without any form of discrimination, and as a consequence”.

Cuba vacillates back and forth on the question of GLBT rights as it confronts its own Stalinist past and resurgent demands for equality. The Cuban CP, led by Raul Castro, whose political ideas were formed in the pre-revolutionary pro-Moscow Stalinist Cuban PSP, has always been an opponent of GLBT rights. The CCP has about the same level of internal democracy as the US Democratic Party, which is to say, nada.

After a referendum in Bolivia a new constitution was established this last that prohibits discrimination based on sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. At the same time it forbids same sex marriage and civil unions.

One of the problems in all three countries is that they lack a mass socialist party with a democratic internal life. Fidel Castro and the July 26th Movement were guerilla fighters with no organic connections to unions. The Fiedelistas cobbled together a ‘leadership’ that won many important battles for Cubans – land reform, socialized housing, education and medicine and better working conditions but it was still a revolution from above. That distorted much of what they did, including their attitude towards GLBT folks and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Reform is a dead letter in Latin America. Operating thru the US Army’s School of the Americans the US trains and organizes indigenous military traitors who regularly attack and put down reform movements with extreme brutality. Reacting to developments in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia the US has reactivated the US Navy’s Fourth Fleet for the first time since the end of World War Two. If the local military traitors and the CIA can’t handle it they’ll send in the Marines to kill civilians, like they always do.

The same problems of a lack of an organic workers leadership are distorting the development of the Venezuelan and Bolivian revolutions. Neither will be safe until mass socialist parties emerge.

Generals, guerilla fighters and reformists just don’t cut it. Socialists have the political tools and organizational expertise to create a better society out of the rubble of the old one when the opportunity arises.

i have always wondered what these people have against socialism. is it too close to the bogeyman communism?

i also have tried to figure out how these people, who are also almost 100% christianists, can explain their pure hatred of it when the alleged founder of their beliefs, Jesus, was a purist when it came to being communist.

he said to give all of your belongings away and work only for the good of the community. he led a gang of 12+ men and women who lived communally. he threw the money-lenders out of the temple, and he separated church from state with his famous "render unto Caesar" speech.

at least he didn't have to deal with health insurance companies...

Mike, this is a good question. Conservative Christians have always hated socialism with a passion, going back to its 18th-century emergence in Europe, because they saw it as atheistic and anti-church.

Socialism was historically linked to revolutionary movements that sought to dis-establish state religion and put an end to church and upper-class control of society and industry, especially the working class. So the "class wars" that became a major theme of the left were wars against religion as well as against "capitalists."

Early socialist "founding fathers" were very clear about their opposition towards the old Christian establishment. In the early 1800s, when Karl Marx wrote his famous line about religion being the opium of the people, he was pointing out that the poor, in their economic misery, turn to religion for solace. He went on to explain, "Abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness."

Later, in 1887, Frederick Engels wrote, "Human right took the place of dogma, of divine right, the state took the place of the church. The economic and social conditions, which had formerly been imagined to have been created by the Church and dogma because they were sanctioned by the Church, were now considered as founded on right and created by the state."

In the early 1900s, inspired by these founders, the Russian revolutionary Lenin wrote, "Our Programme is based entirely on the scientific, and moreover the materialist, world-outlook. An explanation of our Programme, therefore, necessarily includes an explanation of the true historical and economic roots of the religious fog. Our propaganda necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism; the publication of the appropriate scientific literature, which the autocratic feudal government has hitherto strictly forbidden and persecuted, must now form one of the fields of our Party work."

Communism was a more extreme shading of socialism, since it took away human rights instead of enhancing them. As established in the USSR when Stalin took over, it too was hostile to religion and church.

So naturally during the Cold War, the American conservatives' battle cry against the communist bloc was based on the historical fact that it -- and socialism as well -- had an "atheistic" history.

Meanwhile the social-justice aims of socialism were appealing to those Christians who did have a conscience. So the Christian Democrat movement emerged in Europe and later in Latin America, where it kept a more openly leftist character. True Christian Democrats recognized that there were real issues around poverty, working conditions, the right to unionize, healthcare for the poor, etc. They wanted to have their cake and eat it too -- give workers more power over a nation's economy, but keep religion as a vital part of a nation's society.

But American conservatives have remained hostile to the "Christian Democrat" view. All this history is what explains their extreme negativity about certain changes that Obama wants to make.

The fact that the American people are hurting, that many of them want certain social and economic changes, means nothing to the American righters. In their eyes, all these changes -- including government-funded healthcare -- amount to "atheistic socialism."

Ironically the "big government" that American rightists say they fear so much is not the invention of socialism. Nothing is "bigger" than government in countries with an established church, where the upper class controls all the wealth.

Anti-clericalism has appeared in every popular uprising since the peasant;'s revolts in Germany in Luther's time.

I had the pleasure as a young girl of having French politics expained to me by an acquaintance of my aunt's who in due time became premier; he reduced all French politics since 1870 to "clericalism v. anti-clericalism" and traced the roots of that back to the reactionary positions of the CHurch in pre-Revolutionary and then Revolutionary France.

Similiarly, the Catholic Church in Spain as seen as firmly in bed with the Falangists/Franquistas under whatever party banner they drift in to, and the Church remains manipulatively and actively opposed to the socialist government.

During the uprising against the government where Franquistas seized the Cortes, withing an hour the Archbishop has the old flag hanging from his palace, which we students seized as a "spoil of war" for the profesora who had us building barricades.

"Not nly CAN a Catholic be a Marxist, but he SHOULD be a Marxist"
James Connolly, while awaiting trial for the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, to the priest sent to hear his confession, who responded "I think that our founder(St Francis) would have approved of you"

Patricia, I don't mean to correct you but the term for "homosexual" in Chinese(mandarin) is tongxinglian or ???. Your ideas on China are correct though, also Shanghai just recently had it's first Pride March. Your post is brilliant. In my encounters with other students within some of my classes, there are a great many that are ignorant about what a socialist, nazi, or a communist is. It makes me a little angry that they can't just open up a bit and look at what is and isn't the definition of political ideologies, which can be spread out all over the place and not just in a traditional two spectrum measurement.

My apologies for the typo, which I have fixed. I meant to write "tongzhi," which is a shorter term that I have seen in many Chinese gay-rights writings.

Speaking as someone who thinks that the demands for justice coming out of both socialist and queer movements (not to mention feminist and anti-racist movements) share potentially important affinities, I was disappointed by this post. Rather than trying to distance ourselves from socialism, queer movements should be working with others disadvantaged by existing economic and political arrangements to create a more just world for everyone. Achieving a more just world needs to entail rethinking and rearranging existing sexual and gender relations, but it also needs to entail a willingness to rethink the economic arrangements (capitalism) that systematically promote inequality and deprive people around the world of the means to meet their basic needs.

Of course, I agree that there is no necessary or inherent connection between gay marriage and socialism. The claims to contrary, coming from the right, are, in one sense, patently absurd as the author argues. Marriage aside, however, there is a long history of jointly articulated queer and socialist projects. The author acknowledges as much when describing the “initial” phase of socialist agitation (and Maura Hennessey’s comment usefully points to Emma Goldman, identified there as an anarchist, but also, just as usefully, as a libertarian socialist).

I also have no desire to dispute the contention that gay marriage (or even basic respect for LGBT people) has not been achieved in many regimes labeled as socialist. Without going into what might qualify a regime as socialist, it is, of course, true that LGBT people and their relationships are not respected in many of the countries on the author’s list (and worse things than a lack of respect transpire as well—although that is equally true of capitalist countries). However, the author’s argument about Hugo Chavez in Venezuela is wrong. Chavez has repeatedly supported measures aimed at protecting sexual minorities, and has taken steps to include gender identity as a protected status--something the democrats in the congress and white house, who are certainly no socialists (with the notable exception of Barney Frank), have had trouble with here in the U.S.

Given the use of the word socialism to delegitimize dissent and appeals toward justice in the U.S., I can understand why the author might want to distance arguments for GLBT rights from arguments for socialism. However, I would argue that responding in this way simply reinforces the logic that supporting a more just way of organizing economic production (aka socialism) is a bad thing, and one that has nothing to do with other appeals to justice on the basis of race, gender, sexuality, etc. In fact, all of these injustices (racism, sexism, homophobia, class exploitation) are interconnected in our day to day lives, and to address any of them fully requires addressing them all.

In short, I agree with the author that Rep. King’s assertion that gay marriage and socialism go hand in hand is ridiculous. However, equally problematic is the idea that we should separate a queer politics from a critique of capitalism. If a more just world is what we’re after, we need to pursue it on all fronts—in our families and our relationships, certainly, but also in the broader political and economic structures that privilege some, disadvantage many, and leave others to die of hunger, preventable disease, and war.

Some of your points are well-taken. But nowhere in my post did I suggest that "arguments for GLBT rights should be distanced from arguments for socialism."

First of all, which shade of socialism are you talking about? Since we care about personal liberty, we LGBT people have to discern between different brands of socialism. For example, I celebrate the democratic socialism that allows same-sex marriage in Spain. But the totalitarian variety of socialism that ruled the USSR is one that I reject -- not only on a gay-rights basis, but also on the broadest human-rights basis. When I was married to someone in the Ukrainian emigre community in the U.S. from 1957 till 1973, I knew way too many emigres who had spent time in Soviet prisons and labor camps under that system, and who had lost family members during the Stalinist purges, to ever have anything good to say about it.

My point was to look at different types of socialism over the last century, and to point out how historically ludicrous is Rep. King's notion that gay marriage is one of the social tools selected for putting a socialist government in place.


I didn't mean to suggest that you were personally advocating that "arguments for GLBT rights should be distanced from arguments for socialism." But I did see in your post (and in some of the other responses to Rep. King's ridiculousness), a missed opportunity to articulate the potential connections between socialist and queer concerns.

There are, as you are quite right to point out, many different currents of socialist thought and practice. I hesitate to even apply the word socialist to the Soviet Union because, ultimately, the state basically took on the role of the capitalist and exploited workers in very similiar ways.

For me, socialism is about workers having control of the means of production and, hence, the ability to decide collectively how to distribute the surplus that gets produced in a society. I tend to have anti-authoritarian leanings, although I think that understanding the context in which various socialist projects occurs is quite important (i.e. socialism in Cuba could be critiqued from an anti-authoritarian perspective, but I hesitate to do that because of the difficulties of sustaining an anti-authoritarian socialist project that close to U.S./capitalist interests and power).

My overall goal was just to gesture toward the idea that socialist and queer movements are working to combat intersecting injustices and to suggest that, because of that, it might make sense to think about the potential for working in solidarity.

Derek, I actually share your anti-authoritarian sensibilities, and agree with you that the subject of how socialist movements today are fighting for human rights is a major one. But it's a topic for another post.

I'm sure there were numerous socialists among the demonstrators at the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh. As usual the American public paid little attention to the demonstrations -- the major media have convinced most of them that "all demonstrators who question globalization are bad guys and deserve to be arrested and put in jail."

"... are certainly no socialists (with the notable exception of Barney Frank)..."

Did you mean Bernie Sanders, Independent from Vermont?

Barney Frank, as we all know, is a quisling who gutted ENDA and accepted every Republican amendment offered to dilute it. The only people who benefit from that are bigoted employers.

Oops! Yes, I did mean Bernie Sanders.

Patricia, I don’t disagree with your thinking that Republicans are nutcases, although the same can be said for Democrat reformists who believe in the lesser evil idiocy. What I do disagree with is when you equate socialists and Stalinists. That’s a big mistake. You can’t automatically assume that people are what they claim to be. The Stalinists weren’t socialists any more than the Democrats are for democracy. Stalinism was the political expression of the shifting needs of the Soviet bureaucracy. Maoism plays the same role in the PRC. Neither are socialists or communists. In both cases the needs of those bureaucracies were at variance with the political needs of trade unions, women, GLBT folks, national minorities and revolutionists. As often as not the Soviet and Maoist bureaucracies have been open enemies of the workers movement and have a long list of terrible betrayals.

It’s not for nothing that Trotsky referred to Stalinism as “the syphilis of the workers’ movement”.

The earliest communists were influenced by the backwardness of the 19th century. Karl Marx and many others appear to have been personally gay friendly, and Engels appears to have been a bigot. They had no gay or lesbian movements or even widespread consciousness to deal with so it’s impossible to judge what they might have thought.

WW1 produced both the Russian Revolution, which decisively abolished anti-gay laws in the new USSR and an organized gay movement centered in Germany. Both Communists and Social Democrats participated in some of Magnus Hirschfeld’s conferences on gay rights, abortion reform and birth control. That relation began to ebb as the Stalinist bureaucrats defeated the Bolsheviks, who’d suffered enormous casualties defending the Revolution and ended entirely in January 1933.

The Stalinists reinstituted anti-gay laws in 1933 with article 121 of the Soviet Constiontuion that provided up to five years of hard labor in the gulag, or death, whichever came first. At the same time the Stalinists began to forbid abortions to increase the USSRs population. Anti-gay laws were used to clamp down on the Bolshevik remnants in the CP-USSR, not because they were gay (we have no idea how many were) but because it gave the NKVD an additional excuse to arrest and murder them. Stalinist propaganda began to identify being gay with fascism and the Bolshevik left opposition with both. Those themes were repeated pro-Moscow parties like the CP-USA and not discarded until recently.

At this point the only serious people fighting for GLBT rights, most of whom are socialists, are simultaneously fighting the main enemies of GLBT equality, the Democrats and the Republicans. They gave us DOMA and DADT and are stalling even the modest reforms like ENDA and the hate crimes bill.

Bill, thanks for making some great points, as usual, and all of us benefit from your extensive knowledge of this subject. And I agree with you 110 percent that most Democrats are wimping out on gay rights.

But my intention here was not to discuss whether these different movements favored gay rights or not. It was simply to point out yet another example of how right-wing Republicans lie about history -- about how ridiculous Rep. King is being when he says that gay marriage is used by socialism to put themselves in power. And by extension, how ridiculous anybody who believes King is being.

In fairness, the only governments in Europe to extend meaningful rights to LGBT's have all been associated with the European Socialist Party. Socialism is not communism, even the communists don't think there is much of a relationship there. There were communists in the Spanish Civil War actively trying to gain control in the name of Stalin, whilst the socialists wantd to keep the Republican government and some private ownership of industry.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 27, 2009 11:28 PM

Wonderful observation Maura. Words mean different things, depending upon culture, and are not rigid in actual meaning. Back in the good old Cold War days a joke circulated about Moscow refusing to accept a collect call from an Italian Communist.
It was resolved when the Socialist phone company went on strike out of sympathy and the management capitulated and gave the Italian Communist a free call.

The point is the loaded use of words by devious politicos to incite fear and misunderstanding. They did the same thing with Medicare: "We are going down the road to socialism" instead of concentrating on "becoming a more perfect union."

I may have to send a Mujeres Libres poster reprint to Patricia, though, Robert. I suspect that she has (whispered) Anarchist leanings... :)

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 28, 2009 6:55 AM

I doubt that Patricia has a desire to use violence to overthrow the established order, but she would make a wonderful proselyte for means by which we can "seek greater happiness." :)

Anarchism does not perforce imply violence

This discussion about the nature of socialism is interesting, and I thank all participants. The question of similarities and differences between communism and socialism is an old one, and much argued by historians. Some of us clearly disagree about what these shadings are, and I think we can agree to disagree here.

Generally socialism appeared after the Industrial Revolution, because it needed the extreme post-industrial social conditions to spark it. It evolves out of -- and is a reaction to -- capitalism because it's about ending an unjust concentration of wealth and economic control in the hands of a few plutocrats. Socialism aims for a broader sharing of the wealth. So it tends to nationalize the bigger elements of production -- major industries and utilities, for example -- but it usually leaves the structure of a society largely intact, along with the smaller ownerships, like family farms and businesses.

Many historians characterize communism as a further and more extreme evolution of socialism, because it restructures a society more radically. In the USSR, for example, part of the step to communism was the broader reach of state ownership -- notably, the collectivization of all agricultural land. This was not much of an issue with "the people" in Soviet Russia itself, where the peasants had always been serfs and didn't own land to start with. But in Soviet Ukraine, where a large class of land-owning peasants had existed for centuries, collectivization sparked enormous resistance -- and enormous repression by Moscow.

We can even look at differences and similarities among different communist states -- from the USSR and Communist China to Castro's Cuba and Tito's Yugoslavia. Not to mention the differences and similarities between different socialist states. I haven't even mentioned the National Socialism of Germany, during the Hitler era -- which shows that socialism isn't always leftist -- it can be shaded to serve the right as well. National character, culture and history play a large part in shading the development of socialism and communism in a given country.

It's an important discussion for Americans. Which way will socialism be shaded here? Our country is allowing a vast and still-growing concentration of wealth in the hands of a few. Our once-robust middle class is shrinking. An underclass of low-income "have nots" is swelling by leaps and bounds -- fed by the runaway rate of home foreclosures and personal and small-business bankruptcies. Sooner or later, if all the bottom-line needs like jobs and healthcare and a decent place to live are not met peaceably, it is my feeling that solutions will be demanded (and imposed) in a far more violent manner.

Right now, ironically, it is conservative Americans -- not liberals -- who are talking the loudest about violent solutions, and it's a right-wing solution to problems that the Tea-baggers are looking for. Which raises the scary question of which way our own country will shade things when tempers finally boil over.

Patricia, I agree with you about the devolution of the right.

This current upsurge is a resurrection of everything vile in American history - the know-nothings, the Confederacy, the KKK and the witch hunters (both secular and religious). Their irrationality, virulence and violence will sooner or later dredge up a ‘fuehrer' and a mass fascist party from the sewers of right centrism. That will deepen the polarization and expose its roots, which lie in naked class conflict.

It doesn't help that their perceived opponent is a right centrist party like the Democrats who run with their tails between their legs every time the right wing dogs bare their teeth.
Clinton and the Democrats gave them everything they wanted including NAFTA, draconian cuts in welfare, deregulation of banking and finance, an expansion of the wars in South Asia and garbage like DOMA and DADT. All of those were supposedly part of the Republican agenda, but they were championed by Clinton and passed by huge Democrat-Republican bipartisan majorities.

Obama, even with supermajorities in both houses, is doing exactly the same things Clinton did. He’s a total Clinton clone, and that’s because of politics of the party they belong to, not personality failures.

These current right wing campaigns, with their irrationality and threats remind me of the period just before Kennedy was murdered. I was just a kid but even then I was more than a little frightened by the violent talk of the right-wingers.

They probably did the shooting. Oswald was an unlikely shooter if only because he was way too perfect a patsy. I was staying with Howard Wallace (Coors Boycott and Pride At Work) when Kennedy was shot. The Rocky Mountain News, Denver’s morning daily published the home address of a friend of ours advocating fairness towards the Cuban Revolution. They printed his address, and if I remember correctly it was on their editorial page. It was a clear provocation to violence. Needless to say he couldn’t go home for a few days.

Right wing folks in high places and in low places play hard ball and they can't be taken lightly.