America in Crisis, Part II: The Liberal Challenge and the Prospects for Socialism

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Few contemporary American politicians incarnate the false promise of liberalism as well as Democrat Hillary Clinton (along with husband Bill, the master opportunist “triangulator.”) If Hillary were to gain the White House, the Clintons would constitute another dynasty in presidential politics, and although rabidly denounced by the insane and hypocritical US rightwing punditocracy as wild leftists, in international terms they barely merit the label of mild “centrists.”


Part I (September 17) discussed the deepening conflict between the rulers and the ruled and the disagreements within the elite on how to address the nation’s problems. Part II (below) compares liberal efforts to preserve the system with socialist efforts to replace it.

Containing discontent

The capitalist class is a tiny minority that needs majority consent to rule. That consent could be lost if social problems are allowed to deepen. Arguing that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, liberals align with social discontent in order to contain it.

When the President defended insurance industry profits over the needs of sick children, the New York Times shared the nation’s outrage. In “An Immoral Philosophy” (August 1, 2007), Paul Krugman writes,

“What kind of philosophy says that it’s O.K. to subsidize insurance companies, but not to provide health care to children?…9 in 10 Americans – including 83 percent of self-identified Republicans – support an expansion of the children’s health insurance program…There is, it seems, more basic decency in the hearts of Americans than is dreamt of in Mr. Bush’s philosophy.”

The liberal media are running to get ahead of a growing number of dissidents, like Naomi Klein and Michael Moore, who are fueling discontent. Klein’s best-selling book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, has joined Moore’s documentary film, SiCKO, to punch holes in the lies that prop up the system. When Oprah and Moore agree on national television that America needs some form of socialized medicine, the wind is definitely shifting.

Suddenly, “socialism” is not such a dirty word. In “A Socialist Plot” (August 27, 2007), Krugman writes, “The truth is that there’s no difference in principle between saying that every American child is entitled to an education and saying that every American child is entitled to adequate health care.”

Liberals must convince the capitalist class that a lesser-evil-capitalism, even when it calls itself socialism, is preferable to the threat of real socialism. However, conservatives argue that granting reforms will be the start of a slippery slope. If Americans think they have a right to health care, what else will they think they deserve?

Conservatives remember the 1960s, when Americans gained the confidence to demand racial equality, women’s liberation, aboriginal rights, gay liberation, more social support, higher wages, safer working conditions, more affordable housing, better schools and more access to medical care. There was organized opposition to the arms race, nuclear power, the death penalty, American foreign policy and the Vietnam War. It took a concerted effort and many years to beat back that rebellion.

Is America ready for socialism?

The social crisis and the conflict at the top have opened a space to discuss genuine socialism, a worker-run democracy where ordinary people take collective control of the economy and direct it to meet human needs. The material conditions already exist for such a society.

Because socialism is based on sharing, there must be more than enough to go around. That is no longer a problem.

If the yearly production of American workers was transformed into dollars and equally shared among the population, it would provide $45,000 for every man, woman and child in the nation, or $180,000 for every family of four. This sum would be many times larger if everyone who wanted to work was employed and if the wealth produced in previous years was included.

The same is true on a world scale. Between 1800 and 2000, the amount of wealth produced grew eight times faster than the global population. Only a few have benefited. By 2001, 497 billionaires enjoyed assets of $1.54 trillion, more than the combined incomes of half of humanity.

The second criterion for socialism is a matter of choice. Human beings create the societies in which they live and they can choose to change them.

Most Americans do not choose socialism, because they are bamboozled into thinking that it would not be in their interest. Our rulers insist that there is no alternative to capitalism, as they intensify their barbaric tactics of blame-the-victim and divide-and-rule. By dazzling us with their power, they hope that we will not discover our own, much greater power.

Capitalism isn’t threatened by talk of cooperation and sharing. However, it cannot tolerate demands for a society based on these principles. That’s why the elite have made “socialism” a dirty word. If people knew they could meet their needs and solve their problems without a ruling class, they would have no need for capitalism.

Socialist organizations bring ordinary people together to discover and use their collective power. Where capitalism divides and fragments, socialists link individuals, causes, past events and future dreams into a unified struggle for human survival.

The battle for ideas is critical. To isolate workers and re-enforce their feelings of powerlessness, the capitalist class infects them with fear and pessimism. In contrast, socialists connect workers’ experience of individual suffering with their collective power to eliminate that suffering.

Most important, socialists believe in the working class even when it does not believe in itself.

The anti-globalization movement of the late 1990s raised the hope of change. So did the massive anti-war demonstrations that preceded America’s invasion of the Middle East. When the U.S. began bombing Baghdad, many became discouraged and retreated from activism.

Today, rising discontent is not matched by a corresponding rise in struggle. While millions of Americans are enraged by the deterioration of their lives and society, decades of defeat have deepened the belief that real change is not possible. But beliefs change.

The working class is obedient, not stupid. It has rejected the war despite a steady stream of pro-war propaganda. Workers are also exceedingly patient, but there is a limit to how much unfairness they will tolerate.

With the economy sliding into recession, the New York Times warns, “It seems that ordinary working families are going to have to wait — at the very minimum — until the next cycle to make up the losses they suffered in this one. There’s no guarantee they will.”

No one can know when the next struggle will erupt or what its outcome will be. Only one thing is certain. The needs of the capitalist class will continue to clash with the needs of humanity. If we can organize ourselves in sufficient numbers to end the war and win universal health care, we need not stop there. We could proceed to build a very different world based on peace and security for all.


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Dr. Susan Rosenthal has been practicing medicine for more than 30 years and has written many articles on the relationship between health and human relationships. She is also the author of Striking Flint: Genora (Johnson) Dollinger Remembers the 1936-1937 General Motors Sit-Down Strike (1996) and Market Madness and Mental Illness: The Crisis in Mental Health Care (1999) and Power and Powerlessness. She is a member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981. She can be reached through her web site or by

For more, read POWER and Powerlessness. Available at
RELATED ARTICLE: Socialism in America Equals Hope for the World / By Paul A. Donovan


8 comments on “America in Crisis, Part II: The Liberal Challenge and the Prospects for Socialism
  1. Hi Susan – Nice read BUT I would suggest that the term “socialism” has been tainted by historical misuse and abuse. I would suggest an ethic of self-appreciation through – “Circle Values” (meaning Personal-Power or The exercise of power-over one’s private self through an understanding of Equality and Belonging Virtues) in its place. example from my soon to be published book Little Davey – View of Reality; Chipmunka Publishing, UK.
    SPIRITUALITY (a term having no relation to religion, as in separate from deism)
    Because the spiritual dimension of human development has four related capacities—
    (1) to have and respond to dreams, visions, ideals, spiritual teaching, goals, and theories;
    (2) to accept these as a reflection of our unknown or unrealized potential;
    (3) to express these using symbols in speech, art, and logic
    (4) We naturally seek the courage and strength to be a better person by using symbolic expression toward action directed at making the possible a reality—to affect change.
    [Based on a multicultural program for enhanced generational respect for First Nations Spiritual Values, Elementary School, Saskatchewan, Canada.]
    * Confuscius used “Born full of goodness” as a beginning.
    * You may understand from the aforementioned that society has a long way to go to a cultural revolution in mindfulness. Perhaps it was in realizing the superficiality of the majority of peoples involved in social change movements that many became disillusioned and gave up.

  2. While it is obviously intelligent to be sensitive—especially in a nation so heavily indoctrinated against socialism —let alone communism—as the US, to the manner in which radical topics are presented, I disagree with the previous post that we must avoid using the word “socialism”. Running from acknowledging one’s position is not only dishonest but cowardly and liberals in this nation have made a little industry of it with despicable results. Their normal response to the Right has been to roll over or cave in on just about every issue of major importance—notably in matters of “defense”, “anticommunism,” or related to the “sacredness” of the obscene budgets we approve for the MIC—and they’re still at it, as we speak, a misguided posture that will probably cost them the 2008 elections since the country is deservedly nauseated with their endless invertebrateness.

    As a matter of pragmatic politics, not even principles, history shows that the Right must never be appeased in the battle of ideas because it has no sense of fairness, is never satiated, and in any case no matter what you call it, sooner or later the establishment’s “better brains” consisting of its well-paid sociopathic apologists such as David Horowitz, will inevitably spot you and flush you out with all the ferocity the system reserves for systemic challenges and “heretics”, and you will have given them an extra weapon to hit you with: the suggestion you “had something to hide.”

    Socialism doesn’t need to hide. It is a word that no matter what anyone says has much more honor and moral foundation than capitalism will ever have. Denying it is to grant a free pass to the Right’s endless lies and propaganda and to run from the task of properly educating the masses about history and social concepts. It is capitalism that needs to hide, and they do exactly that by pretending to be the natural economic system of the US (“The American Way of Life”), or by using innocuous sounding labels such as “Free Enterprise System.” Still, the stain remains 100 miles wide and keeps expanding with each and every crime the system generates. Archbishop Helder Camera once said, to “study capitalism is to indict it” and he was characteristically right.

    Socialism, like all things of value, must be defended and not betrayed—right from the start.

  3. A felicitous coincidence! I just arrived from this blog’s homepage where I saw this admirable quote by MLK which I think brilliantly applies to this discussion:

    “Cowardice asks the question, ‘Is it safe?’ Expediency asks the question, ‘Is it politic?’ Vanity asks the question, ‘Is it popular? But, conscience asks the question, ‘Is it right?’ And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.”—Martin Luther King, Jr

    I think it says it all.

  4. Impeccable analysis IMHO and she certainly nails those skunky liberals who have squandered so many opportunities to do the right thing (I mean the left thing!)…and Melville’s riposte to this lady who’s suggesting something that sounds like an Oprah Winfrey approach to politics, idealistic, fluffy and all the rest is right on the money.

  5. ouvirieristcestmoi, how do we get the liberals out of the way?

    I’m speaking here mostly about the DLC types, the professional politicos, the spinmasters…as the roots have clearly moved past their former centrism and are waiting for true leadership…I think Americans wishing to replace capitalism with socialism need to teach/lead the liberals and the masses into political strategies that don’t rely so much on formalistic electioneering. Especially these days that elections are more plainly rigged than ever! At the same time, we should seek and prmote people like Cindy Sheehan to the forefront—the incorruptibles. It’s long overdue.

  6. The following is a response to Tynan Melville who responded to my comment (above).
    I wasn’t being sensitive, nor running from acknowledging a position, but clarifying. Name-calling will get you no-where. As for defending and not betraying Socialism –
    Isn’t the aim a – just society?

    Circle Values define “power” as a concept that is alien to our dominant culture. Perhaps Socialism is an effort by members of the dominant culture to exercise Circle Values? If so – say so! “Wisdom begins by calling things by their right name.” Chinese Proverb

    “Human beings have a need no other living creatures share, and if we don’t learn to deal with that need, we’ll become extinct: our need for power. If we don’t learn how to deal with our need for power, we’re not ever going to have a mentally healthy society.” Mary Goulding in Psychotherapy Networker: The Wisdom of the Elders; Psychotherapy’s Elders Throw Down the Gauntlet by Michael Ventura

    Circle Values are about Equality and Belonging Virtues. You know – like Socialists proclaim! Why not vote for people who proclaim Circle Values on social issues and therefore recognise the difference between social enterprise and corporate enterprise, rather than a political party?

    My suggestion was to use the term Circle Values in order to relay consciousness of “we and us”, which does not negate, nor is it a drive toward collectivist rule-mongering denigrating “me, myself and I” but simply nullifies “Other”. i.e. state your value system first – then it don’t matter what you call it…

    Because everything in the universe is part of a single whole, everything is connected in some way to everything else. So the hurt of one is the hurt of all. The honour of one is the honour of all. Because it is only possible to understand something if we understand how it is connected to everything else, we need holistic thinking or feeling-thought (depth of reason). Because the physical and spiritual domains are two aspects of one reality, showing respect is a basic law of life. Breaking of a spiritual principle will affect the physical world and vice versa. A balanced life is one that honours both. Because, self-fulfilment of our true humanity through the exercise of one’s personal-power or self actualisation is the self-generated, participatory, creative process of developing new personal qualities or “true learning”, a person learns in a whole and balanced manner when the four dimensions of personhood are involved in the process – intellectual, spiritual, physical and emotional. (spiritual meaning holism, having nothing to do with deism, though deism is not precluded)

    Myself–I will vote NDP, New Democratic Party on October 10th, because they most strongly and unashamedly promote–Circle Values, although this is not what they call their platform 🙂 Don’t forget – vote MMP (Mixed Member Proportional) and bring Ontario true electoral representation.

    Shine ON*
    Author RANTing OUt the Devil and Little Davey Chipmunka Publishing, U.K.

  7. ca in Crisis, Part II: The Liberal Challenge and the Prospects for Socialism at The Greanville Journal is a quite interesting post but quite difficult to understand for me –

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