Americans first heard about the “march toward socialism” as the financial crisis reached a fever pitch last fall. Since then, the rhetoric on socialism’s return has grown central to political conversations on both sides of the Atlantic.
Scions of the right have caught a strong whiff of socialism in post-election United States. Referring to the interventionist double whammy of the stimulus bill and bank bailouts, Representative Mike Huckabee of Arkansas said, “Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff.” Though Mr. Huckabee’s statement may show a shallow reading of Marxist thought (would Lenin and Stalin have handed billions of roubles over to free market megabankers?), it highlights the touchiness over direct government action. Similar alarms were sounded in the Washington Times where a “distinct Politburo ring” was noted in Obama’s inner circle. For the time being, as the Republican Party regroups, it seems anything to the left of Clintonian democracy is part of the new red menace.
Europe–which it is important to remember has very little socialism and very much social democracy–sees a potentially more viable spectre of Marxism re-emerging east of the Danube if economic discontent worsens. Latvia and other countries have already seen burly street riots as unemployment has jumped. Signaling the prospect of a new iron curtain if frail Eastern European economies slip further, Hungarian Prime Mininster Ferenc Gyurcsány requested a €180 billion loan from the European Union for eastern economies to bolster themselves. It was rejected today by Angela Merkel.
Socialism a la USSR did not win many adherents in the West in the twentieth century for good reasons, but was that enough to put a hex on it forever? Will Marx and Lenin always have a bad rap or could bad times soften the naysayers who see the USSA just around the corner? Big Thinkers of all political stripes are encouraged to let us know what you think about state ownership, class struggle and the means of production.