With few exceptions, the response to Congress's economic "Bailout" has demonstrated the utter stupidity of ... well, just about everyone.
Says Sam Donaldson, "Yes, socialism has now washed over free market capitalism and only a very brave, or foolhardy few would protest." j * A commenter on the website of the Rutland Herald tells us that "When the state takes over a business that is socilaism [sic]."
"Progressive" columnist Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post writes "It's pathetic to hear right-wing talk radio blowhards try to associate Barack Obama with 'radical' or 'socialist' views when a Republican administration is tossing aside 'Atlas Shrugged and speed-reading 'Das Kapital.'"
John Farmer of New Jersey's Star-Ledger News echoes that statement: "The Bush administration has come full circle -- from Karl Rove to Karl Marx."
Dean Takahashi (known otherwise as a video game industry analyst) weighs in on the bailout in a posting to the VentureBeat blog: "When they write the textbooks when this is all over, I'd like to see how they describe the U.S. economic system. Is it capitalist? Not at the moment."
Just when it seemed that this chorus of intellectual mediocrity would drone on, unchanging, for ever, Senor Chavez of Venezuela chimes in with a few more sour notes. Addressing a group of intellectuals, Chavez half joked that "Bush is to the left of me now ... Comrade Bush announced he will buy shares in private banks."
Happily, at least a few people in the newspapers still know what socialism means. Hence this witty remark from Mark Steel, British comedian-cum-Trotskyist:
"But just because the Government is taking over banks, that doesn't mean it's socialism. Certainly none of the founders of socialism, such as Karl Marx, appear to have written anything along the lines of: 'Workers of the world unite! It is time to pay every penny on the planet to bail out bankers who've cleaned the world dry with greed, and make sure they get a few million quid pay-off as they must be quite upset. Only then, toiling masses, will you have broken your chains!'"
Still, it was the very people who claim the mantle of the Marxist tradition that perpetuate the lie that capitalism is an economy without state intervention, with nothing but private ownership, and that anything else, but chiefly the presence of the state in the economy, is socialism.
The inability to see capitalism clearly is a defining feature of the left. For them, like their counterparts on the right, capitalism is defined as 'private' ownership of the means of the production. Often the lack of state intervention is stressed, evidence by the left's fanatical hatred of neoliberalism but their relative acceptance of equally capitalist Keynesian alternative (to say nothing of their enthusiasm for Stalinism). The problem with this approach is that private ownership is only an external characteristic of capitalism in certain historical circumstances. Equating capitalism with private enterprise is like equating dogs with curly tails; sometimes you can have one without the other.
Contrary to the leftist understanding of capitalism, the Marxist approach looks at capitalism from the core outward. It is like defining a dog by its genetic sequence rather than some variable characteristic. Marxism sees capitalism as a system of production marked by the production of commodities, the existence of wage labor, the accumulation of capital. These are features present whether the means of production are owned by individual citizens or by the state representing the entirety of the bourgeoisie. Engels was crystal clear that state intervention, even state ownership, has nothing to do with socialism:
But, the transformation -- either into joint-stock companies and trusts, or into State-ownership -- does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces. ... The workers remain wage-workers -- proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with [my italics].
The left's fetish for state involvement in the economy has led to some queer positions. A segment of the Socialist Party of America were enthusiastic proponents of American entry into WWI because total war dictated state control of war production, and a need for efficiency, which these folks thought to be the opening moves of a socialist transformation. The obsession has also led to horrible, tragic positions, such as the defense of Stalinism and all of the "socialist" modernizing regimes that followed in the footsteps of the USSR, from China to Cuba to Romania to Africa. Today fresh-faced state capitalist ideologies like Zapatismo and Bolivarianism are the rage.
Anyhow. I wonder if there were any so-called Marxists who supported that dirty Socialist Reagan when he overthrew American capitalism in 1984?