The August 12 edition of Metro, the mostly vacuous free daily newssheet that’s alarmingly popular among commuters in big cities around the world, made a major intervention in the national controversy over whether or not the Obama administration’s health care reform effort is “socialist,” as so many of the Town Hall crazies have claimed. No, it’s not socialism, they reassure their readers. But according to the Marx scholars at Metro, that’s because the only examples of socialist healthcare systems in the world are Cuba, Russia, and – quel horreur! – Sweden. It’s also worth noting that the header for the article includes a large silhouette of Fidel Castro standing at a podium, placed next to a headline that reads, “Socialism: You Have No Idea.” I don’t think I need to comment on how hilariously ironic this is.
The editors also took care to include a handy map that purports to highlight “the policies of the world’s countries most rooted in socialism.” And which countries comprise this honor roll? That would be China, Cuba, Vietnam, and yes, North Korea. Further enlightenment is provided by the reprinting of the “real” definition of socialism, lifted directly from that seminal text in the history of socialist thought, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. We should all be thankful that Metro has done us all the service of letting our fellow citizens know that we advocate the creation of “a system in which there is no private property; a system in which the means of production are controlled by the state” and “a stage of society distinguished by unequal distribution and goods and pay according to work done.” I’m glad that’s been cleared up. DSA’s membership rolls should be swelling as we speak!
If there’s any glimmer of hope in this article, it’s in the response of the man (and woman) on the street to the question “What’s your definition of socialism?” These responses were generally positive and thoughtful (insofar as a sound bite can be thoughtful), though it should be noted that most of the respondents were younger, creative types living in New York. I’d like to see the responses in a (nonexistent) Lebanon, PA edition of Metro. I’m sure they would be less encouraging.
So Metro, thanks for taking on the notion that the Obama health reform effort is a form of socialism. But before you go besmirching the good name of socialism again by equating it with one-party rule and prison camps, give us a call, won’t you? We'd be glad to talk. You can reach us at 212-727-8610. Ask for Erik or Frank.