Americans and their Specter of Socialism

From my Writing Room

Copyright © 2020 by Uwe Bahr

The closer it gets to the election day, the more the political right in the United States is riding their hobbyhorse of “Socialism” in a desperate attempt to defend a President who not only has proved a lack of intellect and morale, but bullies, lies, and sneers. Followers that are still holding on to him – careless or clueless about the incorrectness of terms used in the heated political language – walk straight into the verbal trap, eagerly abusing the mystic expression themselves. And yet, the strenuous iteration does not make it an inch truer.

This writing comes from someone who – not voluntarily – has lived nearly thirty years in the pseudo-Socialism of the extinct German Democratic Republic (GDR). I would not want to have it back.

Nevertheless, a dose of clarification seems necessary at this point in view of the utter nonsense spreading like a virus in Trump’s America almost every time the term “Socialism” is being referenced.

So, my fellow Americans, hold on to your seats, lean back for a minute, grab one of your numerous dictionaries especially Trump supporters should always have at hand, and look up what “Socialism” stands for. I am for my part quoting for you Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (unabridged), page 2162. A pretty heavy book, by the way – but any other American dictionary will do.

Socialism is a – quote – “System or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state.” End quote. Period, that’s it – no more, no less.

Got it?

A socialist command economy – I did not have to see it with my own eyes decades back for coming to the conclusion: Such state controlled, nationalized economy cannot function due to its utter inefficiency. Which makes me wonder: Where in the United States are such circumstances in existence? Is somebody out there who can please prove me wrong?

Hold your politicians, regardless of their political color, responsible for their baseless propaganda trick, don’t let them take you for a fool with an imaginary scapegoat that does not exist. Don’t fall for the catch phrases from political pied pipers who themselves have never lived in Socialism, like no American within the United States has ever even seen a glimmer of Socialism in their country.

For the sake of bettering the conditions for most Americans, it is worth noting here that an accompanying, controlling mechanism – ensuing from the government in terms of checks and balances – must be incorporated in the legal system to protect the little man from exploitation. It’s not called Socialism, but rather: Justice. Those who have – for example – ever worked for America’s largest retailer, W******, (and again, I was there, too), should know what the talk is about. The indiscriminate cut of work hours without any legal regulations versus the corporations own dictates, recurrent bullying, the shortening and eliminating of night shift allowances, the virtually non-existent access to institutions to defend themselves, a broadly lawless work environment in general, as well as a wage which does not allow hard-working Americans to make a decent living – all these facts experienced by the author disparages American citizens to a merely disposable mass of people without rights. The phrase of a “Free Country” becomes a farce here. Not even in the pseudo-Socialism of the GDR have I witnessed human beings being treated like this, which arises the question: Why do Americans, in their very own country with a Christian claim, humiliate their own people that way, albeit the means for a fair treatment and more income justice are available and could be easily arranged? Why?

By the way: If social justice is an interpretation of Socialism, then the pastor in church who commonly calls his sheep all “brothers and sisters”, obviously invoking equality, might be called a communist as well – that is, God forbid, the consecutive comparative of the spell “Socialism.”

Ironically, some 50 years ago, in that very same Socialism I lived through, once a teacher, not exactly convinced of the subject himself, asked his little students what it might look like in Communism. A girl raised her arm, stepped outside the bench and replied with an upright posture: “In Communism they are all brothers and sisters.”

By now we should know what propaganda is. If not – ask your dictionary.

The Pledge of Allegiance and the Hitler-Salute

From my Writing Room

Copyright © 2019 by Uwe Bahr

If one wants to scrutinize history, the background story encompassing this famous, (almost) all-American pledge really turns into quite some remarkable fun. Not too many people seem aware of it.

According to American historians, the pledge in its origin – and (again: almost) the way it is used today – was truly written by a Socialist in 1892 named Francis Bellamy:

“I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Not to worry, for Francis Bellamy was a Baptist minister, and yet he called himself a “Christian Socialist”, thereby advocating the idea of strict separation between church and state. As an aside, I feverishly believe that a Socialist is not too remote from Christianity away, for both incorporate the idea of common good and love of neighbor, they both call their adherents and the rest among themselves “brothers and sisters” at the last, and they both teach to share. If each of these confessions of creed would only be practiced and experienced in a more pure form than man has done at all times and more than likely will continue to do so – how great would that be.

Everything is possible, as we can see. By reading the original text of the Pledge of Allegiance one will not escape the fact that the phrases “the flag of the United States of America” and “under God” were not implied yet, and how could they:

For a convinced Socialist, the pledge was not only intended to relate to the United States but rather to all countries in the world. Mr. Bellamy was thinking big and fraternally aligned his transnational creed with the ideas of the International Socialist Labor Movement, which was in full swing at the time of his writings.

It is eminently notable that a pledge written by an outspoken Socialist serves as a serious endorsement and confession today for the United States of America. It may also elicit a little smile, at least in me.

It is not over yet: The clause “under God” in this pledge, implemented at the urging of President Eisenhower in 1954 and, among others, used in public schools is unconstitutional. At least the Baptist minister once seemed sufficiently acquainted with history to silence any vague suspicion of religious tenor from the outset. For the framers of the Constitution in their First Amendment’s Establishment Clause explicitly excluded any endorsement of any specific religion over another as well as the preference of religion over non-religion on the side of the polity. For the same reason, the US-Constitution lacks each and any reference to God, thereby establishing the American Republic de facto as the first secular state in the modern Western world.

That’s still not the whole story. Bellamy’s pledge was accompanied with an eponymous salute: the right hand lifted and outstretched to the height of the eyes, palm downward, elsewhere also commonly known as Hitler-salute. Will wonders never cease: American schoolchildren effectively and proudly performed this salute in their classrooms for fifty years until 1942 – my father and mother at the other side of the Atlantic, admittedly under different circumstances, even a bit longer until 1945.