June 11, 2010
The Socialism debate

Fri, Jun 11, 2010

Over the past two months or so there has been a new input into the usual debate in the public domain on political issues. This is in the form of an issue whose pros and cons have been so well debated for over two centuries now as to make it almost redundant in this modern world.{{more}} We refer here to socialism, a subject which evoked heated responses in the cold-war world of the seventies and eighties but which, except for a few countries in the world today, is hardly on the global political agenda. To what end can we attribute this resurgence of a socialism debate?

It would have been nice to consider it as an indication of growing political and intellectual maturity, a welcome shift to discussion on paths and alternative models of development. Regrettably, any objective examination of the issues being raised in this debate would reveal that this is not the case. Overwhelmingly, the anti-socialism rhetoric revolves around the words and deeds of three persons: our own Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and retired Cuban leader Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz. Add to this mix the age-old arguments about the supposed contradictions between socialism and religious beliefs and, at the very heart of the argument, the premise of the right to private property, and you have the sum total of this new public discussion.

It is not by chance that this debate is being force-fed on us. In some political circles in the United States of America, those still infected with the long-obsolete bug of racism, similar hysteria is being whipped up, to fuel opposition to the administration of America’s first Black President, Barack Obama. In so doing, no attempt is being made at objective analysis of policies and their implications for the development process. Rather, there is resort to the hysteria of the past, playing on the fears of many. The only reason why the anti-Obama bashing has not caught on here is the obvious one of skin colour.

In our context, too, there is little evidence policy-wise of any “threat” of socialism. The proposed Constitution, rejected in last November’s Referendum, was far from compatible with what is required to underpin a socialist state. The Gonsalves government has been generous, in more than one Budget presentation, to big business interests. There is absolutely no evidence, in policy terms of any move towards some “socialism”, no matter what the rhetoric of PM Gonsalves and his friends. Perhaps it is that rhetoric, particularly in the context of ALBA gatherings, which raises concerns. If so, then citizens have a right to voice those concerns, to challenge the premise of support for any policy or action of which we do not approve. And whether the government approves or not, citizens have a right to air their views on our foreign policy directions.

But to use these to deliberately mislead the less well-informed and the gullible about some “socialist” threat to our “God-given”, freedom-loving , democratic way of life, is less than honest and does our country no good. The scare-mongering about Grenada, the millions who perished under Stalin or in Cambodia, may succeed in igniting latent fears, but serves little useful purpose if one intends to have an honest debate. Was it socialism which brought genocide to the original inhabitants of the Americas and instituted the greatest crime against humanity – slavery of African people? In case we forget, it was capitalism.

This does not mean that there are not positive features of capitalism, but we as a colonised people must resist being corralled into such a cul-de-sac as this false debate seems to want to lead us. It is incumbent on us not only to scrutinise the policies of the government, but to criticise the sometimes statist approach to development, and to analyse trends. But for the sake of our country, let’s shelve this dishonest and misleading campaign and the resort to playing on the fears of our people.