Glenn in Wonderland
”When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.” A similar disdain for language would seem to be shared by Lewis Carroll’s character in Alice Through the Looking-Glass and Glenn Greenwald, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Glenn ‘… went on to say that he ‘would describe a lot of people on the right as being socialists,’ such as former White House strategist Steve Bannon and ‘the 2016 iteration’ of former President Donald Trump as a candidate, ‘based on what he was saying.’ ‘I consider Tucker Carlson to be a socialist,’ Greenwald said of the Daily Caller co-founder. He then described an instance where Carlson and Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a self-identified socialist, agreed in their mutual opposition to Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wanting ‘to give tens of millions of dollars to Amazon to bring an office to New York.”(dailycaller.com, 3 March). The word socialism, as originally used by the followers of Robert Owen, appeared for the first time in their Co-operative Magazine of November 1827 and meant common ownership (not nationalisation or state capitalism). The American Marxist Daniel De Leon understood this and saw socialism as a revolutionary change in society. He explained: ‘As a poodle may have his hair cut long or his hair cut short, as he may be trimmed with pink ribbons or with blue ribbons, yet he remains the same old poodle, so capitalism may be trimmed with factory laws, tenement laws, divorce laws and gambling laws, but it remains the same old capitalism. These ‘humanitarian parts’ are only trimming the poodle. Socialism, one and inseparable with its ‘antirent and anticapital parts,’ means to get rid of the poodle’ (Daily People, 2 November, 1908).
Tweedledee and Tweedledum
Helen Keller said of democracy in the US: ‘Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.’ Will the Marxist Unity Slate save us? They say: ‘Thousands of DSA [Democratic Socialists of America] members are inspired by Marxist politics, and we want to unite them around a credible vision for an independent socialist movement in the United States. ‘Slate’ refers not to a slate of leadership candidates, but to our three-point lineup of (1) Constitutional amendment and (2) Resolutions. We believe our three-point slate will help DSA develop a strong ‘programmatic unity’: unity based not on theoretical dogma, but on common struggle and a shared political vision. WE NEED 100 SIGNATURES ON EACH ITEM TO PROCEED TO THE NEXT STAGE! With your support and signatures we can begin to build an ecumenical mass socialist party based on Marxist principles’ (undated, marxistunity.com). Wait! Here’s one that genuine socialists made earlier: the World Socialist Party of the United States. Since its formation in 1916 by 42 defecting members of Local Detroit of the Socialist Party of America (SPA), the WSP has consistently advocated a fully democratic society based upon co-operation and production for use, opposed every single war, participated in working-class struggles, and functioned as a democratic and leaderless organisation. Writing that same year, Keller noted: ‘I became an IWW because I found out that the Socialist party was too slow. It is sinking in the political bog. It is almost, if not quite, impossible for the party to keep its revolutionary character so long as it occupies a place under the government and seeks office under it. The government does not stand for interests the Socialist party is supposed to represent’ (from an interview written by Barbara Bindley published in the NewYork Tribune, 16 January, 1916).
The (Mad) Hatter
‘Deng Xiaoping is famous for the saying ‘it doesn’t matter whether a cat is black or white provided it catches mice.’ As I am an unashamed Dengite in economic theory the equivalent of this is that it is perfectly possible to understand China’s socialist economy in terms of either Western or Marxist economic theory…’ (undated, learningfromchina.net). The author John Ross is a Senior Fellow in Financial Studies at Renmin University, China. The socialism Marx envisaged involved ‘abolition of buying and selling, of the bourgeois conditions of production’ (Communist Manifesto). Oh, the irony! In his Report of an Investigation into the Peasant Movement in Hunan (1927), Mao admitted that the coming revolution would not be socialist: ‘To overthrow these feudal forces is the real objective of the revolution.’ Writing four years earlier Sylvia Pankhurst stated: ‘Socialism means plenty for all. We do not preach a gospel of want and scarcity, but of abundance. Our desire is not to make poor those who today are rich, in order to put the poor in the place where the rich now are. Our desire is not to pull down the present rulers to put other rulers in their places’ (Socialism, Workers’ Dreadnought, 28 July 1923). Does this sound familar? What follows is almost prophetic: ‘…We do not call for limitation of births…’! Socialism in a post-capitalist world of production for use and allocation according to self-defined need will make finance, including Marxian economics, redundant.
”If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.’
Socialism with Chinese characteristics is another dead end. Alice in Wonderland has been banned in multiple countries including China. ‘We are drawn back to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland because when we read it, we become the heretics, dreamers and rebels who would change the world’ (theconversation.com, 16 February).