Are Socialists Liberals? — OR — Is Liberalism Leftist?

August 12, 2009

Are Socialists Liberals? — OR — Is Liberalism Leftist?

A funny thing happened on the way to an argument.

I was discussing various aspects of socialism and its relationship to democracy and fascism,etc, and someone spoke to me of the writings of F A Hayek.

I’m not a big fan of those who go out of their way to prop up a kind of conservative capitalism while, at the same time, disparaging all socialism as the same thing – lumping together Trotsky, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Eugene Debs into one big socialist totalitarian stew.

At this point, the world still seemed definable into the Left/Center/Right spectrum or continuum. In my mind I sometimes pictured Hitler and Stalin holding hands at the Left and Right ends forming us all into a big circle.

So I did a little research into Hayek. Usually if Conservatives tell you about someone’s writings, they all point to the same work, seemingly unaware of the author’s other works. In this case I stumbled on to Hayek’s excellent “Why I Am Not a Conservative”.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig6/hayek1.html

What I came away with was an interesting mental image of the political ‘spectrum’ as a sort of isosceles triangle. With Conservatism in one corner, opposed by Socialism and Liberalism/Progressivism in the top corner. The idea was that the Progressive Liberals are always trying to pull the cart ‘forward’ while the Conservatives resist change. And the Socialists are there trying to collectivise everyone into a totalitarian state.

While reading this, I realised that Hayek, by not differentiating Socialists as Right and Left or Nationalist and Internationalists, had left the idea incomplete. Hayek of course saw all totalitarians the same and all Socialism ended up with Hitler or Stalin and it didnt really matter.

The problem with this is that it fails to recognise and inform as to how those extremes come about from fairly rational and normal populations. We must differentiate them to understand the perils of totalitarianism and we must understand them to seek out the ‘goodness’ that may reside within a movement.

What I came to see was more of a diamond shape, where Liberalism was at the top as a result of progressive interests. Socialism was at the left where social programs protected the individual and the marginalized from the exploiting classes and planted the seeds for equality and internationalism. Conservatism was at the right where the state protected the traditions and intangible ‘values’ and reinforced the ideas of patriotism and nationalism. On the bottom was totalitarianism where one could arrive by corrupting either the right or the left.

But what stared me in the face was this contradiction that only then came to me. Socialists aren’t really Liberals. ‘Liberal’ in the US is almost a negative term. It has come to mean a nebulous ideal that either at one time is anti-establishment or wants to spend all the taxes of the rich on Welfare. In a way, those are both fairly accurate descriptions of the Left and of Socialists or Communists in a capitalist state, BUT, they do not describe LIBERALS.

The real description of a Liberal is someone who wants to maximize personal freedom, personal success and what ever opportunities present themselves. That, however, does not describe Socialism.

A Socialist, at least an honest Socialist, should tell you that true and complete personal freedom comes at the expense of equality. This is not to say that Liberals or Libertarians are wrong, wronghearted or misguided. They simply see the world in more Darwinian terms and they probably enjoy some personal success which they would want to expand. American Libertarians, to me, seek their means through some Conservative routes – they would hold the Constitution or portions of it, maintain Capitalism and the overarching systems of the US. Socialists at the more extreme would arrive at their Utopia without those trappings if necessary. But it may happen through a revolution which leaves those institutions at the side of the road.

Socialists, therefore, seek to mellow this drive to universal personal freedom with a measure of equality. Ensuring universal equality is to some degree an artificial control. It requires a mechanism to ensure equality and opportunity. That mechanism doesn’t need to ensure SAMENESS, just equal opportunity. This means that mechanism or government may need to control, operate or oversee some of the services provided to the populace.

Communism may fall between Liberalism and Socialism, or it may fall between Socialism and Totalitarianism. It depends on what its specific mechanism or government looks like.

So if this is the case then, why would a Liberal want a helmet law? They wouldn’t. Each for themselves as they see fit. Although I cant see why a Socialist would need one either… Why would a Liberal want laws restricting guns or any sports? They wouldn’t. A Liberal would demand that the minority which abuses the right to own guns would be stringently punished but that the actions of a relatively small minority would not affect the rest.

A Leftist Socialist would never favor immigration laws, but what about the Liberal? The Liberal may become protective if true freedom may impact them in the negative. But ideally, why would the Liberal care who came and went, since everyone has the same opportunity.

The average person sits in the middle of the diamond – the Moderate/Centrist who wants things to continue on roughly the same. The Centrist is pulled at times by the Liberal to find more freedoms and less control, pulled by the Conservative to honor values or traditions or patriotism, pulled by the Socialist to care for their fellow man and seek equality. Allowing too much control by the statists on either the Conservative or the Socialist side can lead into the wilderness of Totalitarianism.

So we see that while the Left or the Right may have their Liberals, true Liberalism is progressive and outside of the Left/Right continuum. Complete Liberalism/Libertarianism leads to Anarchy. It could be the quite happiness of a true stateless and free society, or it could be the dark lawlessness where some have and some have not to include security and health.

Extremism at any point is excessive, it is important to continuously find the balance that maintains freedom and equality and honors traditions without xenophobia or paranoia.

-Pasha
@antipov

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The RIGHT to Govern

May 2, 2009

The God Given RIGHT

When the GOP forgot they had to answer to the electorate, or, What God has given, the voters have taken away.

They whined and stomped their feet. The democrats were going to run their budget proposals through congress with only a mere acknowledgment of the Right. “What about OUR ideas?” They cried. “They aren’t listening to us!” They screamed. The democrats were bound and determined to push their agenda through and the Right decided it would be best for America if they just sat back while the democrats failed. And the Right still hopes the democrats will fail.

The Right is confused and bewildered. After Gingrich and Dubya, the Right believed that not only were they elected to lead, they were Chosen to lead. The senior George HW Bush described the concept himself in 1990 when discussing the first Gulf War:

“I’ve got it boiled down very clearly to good vs. evil. And it helps if you can be that clear in your own mind.”

Luckily, we filled Dubya’s cabinet and shadow government with folks well versed in Senior’s ideals.

Ashcroft, Cheney and Bush and their shadow minions had that clear in their minds. Many of these people had been heard from before in the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). The PNAC was very clear during the Clinton administration that the US should be the global “constabulary force”, should “control” space and drastically expand the military and its nuclear arsenal. The PNAC’s “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” is a scary, almost paranoid vision of how American needs to militarily expand its presence across the globe and build on its military superiority Far into the Future.

On a smaller scale, we now had official morning prayer groups in the Attorney General’s office and there was a movement to introduce non scientific ideas into state sponsored scientific studies. But of course, only Judeo Christian ideas.

http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/rightsandfreedoms/a/canyonflood.htm

The President established the “Faith Based Initiative”, where the state would hand over taxpayer money to church groups. The President said:

“We want to fund programs that save Americans one soul at a time.”
President George W. Bush, January, 2004,

So, I ask you, what is more arrogant than someone assuming that my soul needs saving and that HE is the one to determine just how it needs to be saved?

This administration was above the law and the judgment of the American People, nay even the World’s Peoples. This administration answered only to its own version of God and Destiny.

Not since Nixon have we seen this kind of arrogance in elected officials. Not since Eisenhower have we so blatantly interfered in the politics of another country. And 55 years later we are STILL paying for that decision.

Because of this arrogance, this administration drew up, in private and in public, programs and policies to:

Justify and conduct criminal acts of torture and mental cruelty — If you want to know JUST how serious this torture was, I refer you to Peter Phillips discussion of ONE of the 44 torture AUTOPSIES reviewed by the ACLU.

http://www.counterpunch.org/phillips12022005.html

Squander the international support after 9/11 and develop a “Go it Alone” attitude.

Declare the “Axis of Evil” (woops there goes that Good V Evil theme again), essentially isolating N Korea, and Iran driving them into further extremism.

Insist that Iran and Syria conform to US expectations before ANY dialog would be established. These are SOVEREIGN nations folks.

Declare unilateral and unprovoked war against the Iraqi regime in order to liberate the Iraqis and bring (American) democracy to them, regardless of if they wanted it.

Take the Iraqis to task, even to war, for failing to abide by UN Resolutions, while Israel ignores dozens of resolutions. But the US backs Israel, attacks Iraq and wonders why the Arab world is so upset….

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_Nations_resolutions_concerning_Israel

Deregulated the financial sector, we know what happens from there….

Mission Accomplished

Bring Em On!

No support to the Kyoto Protocols

Illegal wiretapping

Violations of the 6th Amendment of the Constitution

Destruction of public documents

Dismissals of US Attorneys.

And the list goes on.

The Republicans garnered a mandate in the 1994 elections. The American people were looking for something new and also some more narrow interests organized and got out the vote. Little became of that new direction and we saw congressional seats begin to slip back to the democrats as early as 1996. The Republican majority continued to slip until 2002. Even the 2000 elections were split similar to the presidential elections. And don’t forget, Gore won the popular vote. Bush had no clear mandate when he achieved power.

9/11 was the event that solidified Bush’s power and helped justify the RIGHT’s belief that they were fulfilling destiny to defeat the infidel Moslems and bring Judeo Christianity to the world. Kinda like the Crusades. (If we can spark Armageddon and the Rapture, that would be neat too). 911 allowed the RIGHT to bring to the fore those PNAC ideas about US global hegemony. The 2002 elections reinforced that idea in the minds of the RIGHT. The dems, the leftist liberals were no longer fit to lead. They played Satan’s hand and were in bed with our enemies. Actually the gains made in the Senate and the House were relatively insubstantial.

What the American People seemed to be realizing was that the narrow issue focus that brought the Republicans to power, seemed to lack the real depth to lead the country on multiple complex issues. The Bush cabinet was over stocked with big oil, big business and Bush I’s cronies. Every ideal was subservient to the fear of Moslem or Hispanic foreigners bent on destroying our way of life. Every argument was punctuated with fear. Every right was sacrificed for security. And while we yelled voicelessly against FEAR, FEAR, FEAR, the administration went quietly about subtle changes to policies and regulations to further codify their values. For example:

“Instead of taking the Endangered Species Act head on, the administration is working to destroy the effectiveness of it through executive rule changes,” said Brian Nowicki, a conservation biologist at the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, which promotes species conservation. “They can’t just attack it outright, so they try to stop it out of the spotlight.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A26242-2004Jul3.html

Much of these differences were apparent in the race between Obama and McCain. McCain seemed to represent not only a kind of status quo, but a very narrow scope of abilities to lead the country.

The massive gains in the Congress and Obama’s popular vote count placed the left in office with a CLEAR mandate.

What God gives, the voters have taken away.

Each party must remember that they must always, at some point, answer to the electorate. The New RIGHT squandered its opportunity to lead. The Left (is it New, or Old?) has been given back the mantle. The minority ( I hate to say ‘losing’ ) party needs to understand that their influence was greatly limited by the last election. That was what the American People decided. It is neither in the RIGHT’s interest for the government to fail, nor is it moral. Everyone has a moral obligation to work for the success of the decisions of the representatives elected by the people.

You can argue and disagree, but there isn’t room for whining and subversion.

Of course, that goes for all of us, for now and in the future.

*** Nationalism and super-patriotism with a sense of historic mission.
*** Aggressive militarism even to the extent of glorifying war as good for the national or individual spirit.
*** Use of violence or threats of violence to impose views on others
*** Authoritarian reliance on a leader or elite not constitutionally responsible to an electorate.
*** Cult of personality around a charismatic leader.
*** Reaction against the values of Modernism, usually with emotional attacks against both liberalism and communism.
*** Exhortations for the homogeneous masses of common folk (Volkish in German, Populist in the U.S.) to join voluntarily in a heroic mission_often metaphysical and romanticized in character.
*** Dehumanization and scapegoating of the enemy_seeing the enemy as an inferior or subhuman force, perhaps involved in a conspiracy that justifies eradicating them.
*** The self image of being a superior form of social organization beyond socialism, capitalism and democracy.
*** Elements of national socialist ideological roots, for example, ostensible support for the industrial working class or farmers; but ultimately, the forging of an alliance with an elite sector of society.
*** Abandonment of any consistent ideology in a drive for state power.

The Hallmarks of Fascism as defined by Chip Berlet in 1992

Taken without permission from:

http://remember.org/hist.root.what.html