Not That Bad

A couple of years ago, over beers at a bar in Texas, my dad — a white construction worker from rural Kansas, described in my piece — shocked me by saying, “If you get past everything you’ve been told and really read up on it, ‘socialism’ doesn’t sound all that bad.”

I’m pretty sure the Dad was trying to get his idiot daughter to like him by saying crap he doesn’t believe but still, it feels like somebody is spitting in my face when I read this kind of thing.

And it’s not about forgetting or because the Socialist USSR hasn’t existed for a long time. Cuba is there right now. Venezuela is starving at this very moment. But they don’t care. These idiot kids read something that seemed profound to them on Twitter and now they know that socialism isn’t all bad.

Fucking idiots.

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19 thoughts on “Not That Bad”

  1. Part of the problem with American political discussions on and about the left is that the word “socialism” gets used to describe both Swedish public policy and Mao’s Great Leap Forward. So when someone uses the word you’re never quite sure whether they want a strong private sector accompanied by a robust public safety net, or a nationalization of industry.

    And given how uninformed most people are, even the person uttering the word “socialism” isn’t sure.

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    1. There are millions of people who were or currently are being hurt extremely badly by socialism. We are supposed to be extremely careful with the victims of every minor complaint in existence, yet nobody wants to afford us the dignity of at least being more careful with their terminology. Everybody deserves consideration except for us. Our Muslims are not deserving of any consideration for the religious persecution they suffered. Our non-white folks don’t deserve being mentioned in the context of racism. Our women are not deserving of being noticed in the context of sexism. Our concentration camps are snickered at because they are somehow not as real as the non-socialist ones. I’ve had colleagues in the Humanities literally scoff at me when I mentioned the Gulag because they think it didn’t exist.

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      1. In the context of US politics, the terminology ship has already sailed. Conservatives have spent decades pushing the idea that deregulate everything + cut all government services + more tax cuts for the rich = capitalism and anything else is socialism. And they’ve been pretty successful. Maybe that will change but it will take years.

        Also, I think communism, rather than socialism, is the word that people in the US are most likely to associate with gulags and 5 year plans.

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        1. “Also, I think communism, rather than socialism, is the word that people in the US are most likely to associate with gulags and 5 year plans.”

          • USSR stands for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Chavez never talked about communism and referred to his ideology as socialist. Those who were willing to notice this, already did. And those who aren’t willing won’t notice no matter what you do.

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          1. It’s a linguistic legacy of the cold war. I’m old enough to have grown up when it was still going on, and no one ever talked about the socialist bloc, or halting the spread of socialism, or how such and such a government official was accused of spying for the socialists. It was all communists communists communists all the time.

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    1. Canada is a fully capitalist country, just like Sweden. Socialism means governmental ownership over the means of production. Which exists in North Korea and to some extent in Cuba and Venezuela. But that’s it. Everything else is neoliberal capitalism.

      I can forgive Sanders for using the term because he is ancient and can’t learn new vocabulary at his age. But I can’t forgive younger folks who chatter about socialism not because they are attached to the language of their long-gone youth but because they are too stupid to pick up a book and learn something.

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      1. “I can’t forgive younger folks who chatter about socialism”

        It’s far worse that that, I can point you to videos and podcasts by full scale unapologetic marxists who blame all the excesses of socialism everywhere on…. (wait for it) …… the United States.

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        1. Please don’t unless you want me to suffer a hypertensive episode. 🙂 But I believe you, yes.

          What I want to ask the fans of the Scandinavian “socialism” is how they explain the demographic catastrophe in these countries that leads them to engage in very exotic measures to address the basic lack of people. Sweden had this very ridiculous campaign where it tried to recruit people from dying Russian villages to move to the country. Finland is notorious for going to extremes to steal children from immigrant mothers, especially if the children are white. If things are so good and neoliberalism has been defeated in these countries, why is the basic structure of life so neoliberal? Why do people live alone and refuse to procreate? What can be more atomized and neoliberal than that?

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      2. I agree completely with you on this. Berniecrats and Justice Democrats should not try to emulate socialism, but they should try to use as a model some countries with capitalism with welfare state. And please don’t use Canadian Soviet healthcare as a model!

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  2. This is one of those issues of what words used to mean when they were used carefully vs. what they mean now after being abused.

    Once upon a time, the word “socialism” was applied to the ideology of governments like that of the USSR.

    Then it became seen (at least in the English-speaking world) as a “softer, less brutal” version of communism. (Though I think many would argue that whenever you actually make a serious effort at socialism you wind up with something pretty brutal, so that notion of socialism as “the good version” and communism as “the bad version” was very much a self-serving myth.)

    Then it got used to describe social democratic systems like Canada and Sweden, i.e. capitalist production and competition, social safety net.

    Then it eventually got used (in the US, at least) to describe any economic platform even one nanometer to the left of whatever the Republicans are currently pushing for. At this point, John Kasich is probably a “socialist” to some people.

    What does it “really” mean? I don’t know how to answer the question of what a word “really” means when common usage is evolving. What I do know is that this expansive usage serves many nefarious purposes while ignoring the victims of the systems that the word “socialism” used to explicitly refer to.

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