John Nichols, Washington correspondent for The Nation and author of The "S" Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism writes on the three things Occupy Wall Street have gotten right from the start, and where to go from here.
On June 23, John Nichols, author of The "S" Word: : A Short History of an American Tradition ... Socialism, joined Phil Gasper in Madison, WI for an event to discuss the history of socialism in America and its increasing popularity during today's crisis of capitalism. The event was sponsored by the International Socialist Organization, Haymarket Books, Verso Books, and WORT 89.9 FM Madison.
"One does not need to be a socialist to understand that socialism has been a part of this country's journey from the start."—John Nichols
I'm particularly fond of the following quote from Socialist Party of America leader Eugene Debs:
I am not a Labor Leader; I do not want you to follow me or anyone else; if you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, some one else would lead you out. You must use your heads as well as your hands, and get yourself out of your present condition.
It truly encapsulates the notion that socialism cannot be constructed from above but rather through actions and ideas of ordinary people. This idea, and Debs as a monumental figure in US history, informs John Nichol's attempt to revive interest in US socialism and rescue it from the red-baiting of the right in his new book The "S" Word: A Short History of An American Tradition...Socialism. In Paul Buhle's (a remarkable historian in his own right) review of the book he suggests that socialism is a historical undercurrent in progressive US politics:
From the May 2 edition of the Nation, an extended article by John Nichols, adapted from his latest book, The "S" Word.
If there's one constant in the elite national discourse of the moment, it is the claim that America was founded as a capitalist country and that socialism is a dangerous foreign import that, despite our unwarranted faith in free trade, must be barred at the border. This most conventional "wisdom"—increasingly accepted at least until the recent grassroots mobilizations in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Maine—has held that everything public is inferior to everything private, that corporations are always good and unions always bad, that progressive taxation is inherently evil and that the best economic model is the one that allows the wealthy to gobble up as much of the Republic as they choose before anything trickles down to the great mass of Americans. Rush Limbaugh informs us regularly that proposals to tax people as rich as he is for the purpose of providing healthcare for kids and jobs for the unemployed are "antithetical" to the nation's original intent and that Barack Obama's reforms are "destroying this country as it was founded."