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Why #PlaidShirtGuy Wore A Socialist Rose

Why #PlaidShirtGuy Wore A Socialist Rose

Peter Dreier

It isn’t easy to upstage Donald Trump, but Tyler Linfesty—a 17-year old high school student from Billings, Montana—managed to divert attention away from the president at a recent Trump rally in his hometown.

Socialist, Democratic Socialism, Social Democrats. Does anyone expect your average American voter to know, or care, about the differences represented by these labels? Hence Trump’s latest smear to equate US socialists with those in Venezuela, a more incompetent, unrepentant, kleptomaniac group you will not find.

If progressives would only study the recent sordid history of world socialism, they would not be campaigning as socialists, which moniker automatically relegates them to a defensive position from day one, making it easy for Trump to lie to the under-informed electorate, which regrettably, is the overwhelming majority.

This just cedes the territory to the irrational opposition. It’s time to bring back socialism as a viable and respected part of our body politic. We shouldn’t accede to the Trumpian ignoranti, it only debases our own status.

In addition, there are plenty of successful cases of socialism – even in the US – it does not have a sordid history. You have bought into the right-wing vilification of it because some, who are not true socialists, nor democrats, (read Venezuela’s Chavez here), have been associated with it.

I’m a proud member of DSA. If you believe in its principles you should be, too.

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Chavez wasn’t perfect, but reading Golinger’s work about the NED in Venezuela might be worth your time if you want to opine on Venzuela and Chavez’s tenure as leader. Weisbrot, with CEPR, also had many insightful articles about it.

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They are doing the same about Brazil but Americans can discern between money for social programs like health care and social security and billions poured on chambers of commerce equally dispensed to businesses, free tax dollars, or tax giveaways, it is still our money but socialism is bad because Americans see commie pinko pigs. THEY never see the smoldering dead of capitalist imperialist pigs genocide South America like bleaching a kitchen floor for Standard Oil infinitum. It’s all in the stereotyping, all in the demonizing because the corporations who operate Republicans created the Freedom Caucus and ALEC. The same corporations own mass media so it is NOT fake, the OMIT, they censor war and demonize socialism. They do not show the public socialist societies who are progressive, peaceful nations. They show Brazil and Venezuela which the CIA has helped murder their politicians also since Brazil was militarily governed from 64 to 85. The liberal president was impeached in 2016 without a hearing and now a right wing nut like Trump runs Brazil but NOT reported in the socialist demonizing. Vote them out!!!


Perhaps I was not as eloquent as I should have been. It’s not a criticism of Chavez per se that I meant to convey, but rather his vilification, and by extension socialism, by the right, and the MSM for that matter, that is the point. For me, Chavez is a mixed bad. Perhaps he’s a true socialist, perhaps not. But he has some non-democratic tendencies that give one pause.

The real point is that socialism, based on broad democratic foundations, is a good thing, not something to be ashamed of or to be hidden behind some veneer of political acceptability.

For me, socialism is about achieving the greatest social benefit, at the least cost. If it were more cost-effective to have a private sector health care system, I would be OK with that. But the facts seem to tell us that socializing healthcare risk (not the delivery system necessarily), is the most rational thing to do, especially when broad public interests are involved (for example, healthcare).

It would make no sense to socialize pizza, but it makes a lot of sense to socialize healthcare and, perhaps, a minimum income system. The benefits exceed the costs, but that kind of analysis necessary needs to include all societal costs and not be limited to internalized costs only. This has been a challenge in, for example, the energy sector, which has large externalities not reflected in prices.


Regarding Chavez, I may give him a bit more benefit of the doubt, but it’s true that he tried to overthrow the gov’t before he was elected, and then there was a coup against him, which the IRI (part of the NED) took some credit for (and I believe that was actually reported here on CD when it came out), but I’d also say he was in a very different situation, one in which the USA and a strong (and welathy) opposition, which also controlled most of the private media, were against him. To me, it’s an interesting political question, but that’s my privilege. I didn’t have to live it, only observe it from outside. When such forces are aligned against a democracy, how should a democracy respond? In the US, we haven’t really had to face that yet. (We could get into his failure to support the Bolivarian Circles, which I think was his greatest flaw, coupled with a failure to diversify Venezuela’s economy while oil prices were very high. Like I said, not perfect, but I can’t ignore the good he did, either.)

As for the rest of your post, I largely agree with you, and thank you for the thoughtful response. My politics, based on what you wrote here, might be a bit redder than yours. For example, I’d prefer a National Health system rather than single-payer, but if single-payer is what we can get, heck yeah, let’s get it! If you cut away all the dogma of my politics, what remains is a politics that demands the reduction of human suffering. I truly believe that genuine socialism from below, with worker control and all that, will achieve a reduction of suffering, but as I’ve said here before, right now there is no mass movement for my politics. In the meantime, let’s try to make it better (accelerationism is not for me at all).

I do believe in DSA principles, fervently. Therein lies the rub: It takes the length of a treatise or more to define the principles, then try to tie it to the term ‘socialism’, (to which I have as much attachment as any English term, which is to say norminally), then try to educate the current crop of US electorate as to the differences between the US DSA and Venezuelan socialism . (Incidentally, not Chavez, for he was an honorable man, as evident in the movie, ‘This Revolution will not be broadcast’. He did make a major mistake in his dying years, by uniting the many leftist parties under a single PSUV, the death knell to all socialism.)

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Chavez had a big heart and a cheerful optimism regarding the future he was creating for Venezuela. Just watch ‘This Revolution will not be broadcast’ and you will agree. Unfortunately, in his waning years, he was swayed by the likes of old failed Western socialists like Weisbot and decided to consolidate what had been a vibrant noisy group of leftist parties opposing the then oligarchy, and brought them under a single party, the PSUV. As anyone who studied Mexico’s PRI, India’s Congress Party, and of course China’s PCCP will know, this single party dominance signed the death sentence for the progressive movement in Venezuela.

Not long after Chavez’s death, every good paying job, every profitable company, every choice property fell into the hands of PSUV party hacks, who only had to be loyal, not competent. And that is where we are today.

What you write here is very interesting. We may disagree about Weisbrot, but it does speak to what I wondered abut earlier: how does a democracy deal with strong anti-democratic forces?

I ask because it does seem to come down to power: who has it, who doesn’t. And consolidating would be a primary move, it seems to me, but at the same time I can also see the great possibility for corruption. I’m more familiar with Venezuela than the other examples you cite. Any recommendations of books about this subject?

You are very eloquent in your defense of socialism, per se. The problem is, millions, nay hundreds of millions around the world, in India, Mexico, China, in the space of just a few decades, in early 20th century, suffered horribly under what their leaders called socialism. These are historical truths, and there is no denying them even when cited by Trump.

These old dead guys were not DSA quality leaders, and they certainly did not practice DSA type principles. But what happened to them? In my humble opinion, when a single political party controls the state (like the current ugh GOP) and the state owns the means of production, cronyism, corruption and nepotism follow. These impulses follow the money. The money follows the party in power. And the evil doers gravitate to the party. For a truly valuable contemporary study, look into the sad descend of Chavez’s original egalitarian and humanitarian revolution into the current single party sorry state.

Hundreds of millions around the world who lived under socialism are still alive among us. Can we be so audacious as to ignore them all? What is the price of adopting a meaningless name; innocuous to all but those with dark memories of it?

I honestly don’t know, but, for example, there is some evidence that the cost of not socializing health insurance in the US is on the order $2 trillion over 10 years.

For me, it’s not about labels, it’s about rational choices.

It was actually called “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”:

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I stand corrected. I had to convert this video from VHS to DVD - it was that long ago.
Thanks too for the U-tube link.

I don’t recall a particular book at the moment. I’ll look into it and get back to you.

Does it bother you that the Secret Service is vetting people’s
political position to make sure no one who won’t applaud can get
into the bullshitter’s campaign rallies?