Marxist Writer: Conservatives Who Call Obama a Socialist Have a Point, But It'll Backfire On Them

On Thursday, American novelist and editor Benjamin Kunkel, who believes in the long-term "nonviability of capitalism," was the subject of an interview in the liberal online magazine Salon in which he stated that right-wing allegations about President Obama's socialist agenda are both "quite absurd" and "not altogether wrong."

The relevant exchange between Kunkel and interviewer Josh Eidelson (emphasis added):

EIDELSON: In 2012, Michele Bachmann told Iowa caucus-goers, “We are unwilling to allow Barack Obama to implement socialism in the United States of America.” What do you make of that kind of rhetoric on the right? Does it help or hurt Americans’ interest in or openness to actual socialism?

KUNKEL:  I think it ought to help…

One [sic] the one hand, it’s quite absurd: Obama’s obviously a neoliberal in the line of every president we’ve had since Reagan.

And at the same time, she’s not altogether wrong, in that if you go back and look at the 10 demands that are stated in the Communist Manifesto – and they deliberately picked the word “communist,” because “socialist” sounded too reformist, so we’re not even talking about socialism, we’re talking about so-called communism — if you look at those 10 demands, they’ve been substantially realized in the United States. And you know, evidently we’re living under a totalitarian Stalinist dictatorship and have been for nearly a hundred years — that’s the America that Michele Bachmann loves, it’s a Stalinist dictatorship…I mean, by some measures, right, you could say that [based on overlap with the Manifesto].

Among other comments in the interview from Kunkel, whose new collection of economic and political essays is called Utopia or Bust:

-- "[The U.S. has] more or less formalized the democratic dictatorship of capital through our campaign finance system."

-- "[A]t least in theory, you could have a market economy where everybody receives the same income. It might not work for other reasons — because there would be, I suppose, no incentive at all to do a better job than someone else in terms of what you received in compensation — but at least in theory, there’s no incompatibility between an absolute equality of income, and absolute freedom in terms of how that income’s spent."

-- "[The] Occupy [movement], of course, was more anarchist than Marxist in spirit, but there were plenty of Marxists — or socialists, or whatever you want to call them — involved with the movement. And so I think that Marxism seems better prepared to change the world than it was a few years ago."

-- "[P]eople who hate the idea of socialism, and hate the idea of Marx, and think that he was just a sort of embryonic Stalin, might just go back and look at those 10 demands in the Communist Manifesto, and see which of them they disagree with. Maybe there’s one or two, but it won’t be a lot."

Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson
Tom Johnson is a contributing writer for NewsBusters