Obama, Marxism, and Communism

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 29 2010 2:40 PM

Obama, Marxism, and Communism

After I reviewed Stanley Kurtz's Radical-in-Chief, Jonah Goldberg criticized me for conflating socialism and communism.

Socialism isn’t the scare word Weigel and others (David Frum comes to mind) say it is. I will be honest and admit that I wish it was more of a scare word than it is, but it’s really not one. I don’t think Americans think of gulags, bread lines and Red Dawn when they hear the word "socialist."  They think of those things when they hear the word "Communist," which is a different thing than socialism (or at least that’s what every book on the subject and every sincere democratic socialist I’ve ever spoken to says).

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

Advertisement

We were both playing mindreader on a massive scale, but based on what I've seen at political rallies since 2009 I get the sense that many Americans worried about "socialism" are actually worried about communism. Glenn Beck, for example, conflates socialism and the totalitarian state promised in "The Road to Serfdom" all the time.

Joel Mathis notices that Kurtz didn't agree with Goldberg, either:

[T]he fact is that a lot of Radical-in-Chief is about good old fashioned Marxism. There’s the story of Reverend Wright’s adventures in Cuba, for example, which drew  Obama  to Wright’s church, I claim. And Obama himself was a revolutionary Marxist at Occidental College. Also, many of the Swedish-style socialist organizers who trained and sponsored Obama supported Marxist regimes like Cuba and Nicaragua. Alice Palmer, who chose Obama to be her successor in the Illinois State Senate, was a fan of the Soviet Union. Bill Ayers often wears the red star. Despite their democratic professions, many of Obama’s stealth-socialist community organizer colleagues believed that a violent socialist revolution would be necessary in the future. And some of Obama’s mentors favored Swedish social experiments that skirted the boundary between democratic socialism and outright authoritarianism. Even Obama’s most gradualist mentors saw their ideological stealth as a modern version of Communist Party strategy during the Popular Front period.

One of Kurtz's main points is that the media and historians have not paid much attention to the connections between international socialists and communists and the Democratic socialists in this country. He spends some time, for example, going back over Jesse Jackson's advocacy for third world socialists during the 1984 presidential campaign, and points out that Jeremiah Wright stood in for Jackson on one journey to Cuba. Where the critique of Kurtz as a "red-baiter" comes in is where he applies the transitive property -- Obama allied with Wright, which means he probably endeared himself to a mentor who looked kindly on third world communists and socialists, which mean that Obama is sympathetic to socialism and Marxism. And I think lefty politics are full of people like Obama, who talk radical when they're young, then become mainstream liberals.


David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

How Movies Like Contagion and Outbreak Distort Our Response to Real Epidemics

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Everything You Should Know About Today’s Eclipse

An Unscientific Ranking of Really, Really Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Lexicon Valley
Oct. 23 2014 10:30 AM Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 8:51 AM The Male-Dominated Culture of Business in Tech Is Not Great for Women
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 23 2014 11:08 AM Seeing the Familiar in Black and White
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.