As names and titles and ideologies become blurred and distorted in recent years, the old adage that if you repeat a lie over and over enough times it winds up becoming fact certainly rings true where the subject of Socialism pops up. The tendency of our media and our friends on the right wing side of the spectrum to paint Liberals with the same brush as Socialists is one of those stereotypes that just ain't so.
From the same batch of interviews that gave us Saul Alinsky earlier this week, I also ran across an interview recorded two weeks later, also for Harper's Magazine and their weekly radio program At Issue, with Michael Harrington. A name not mentioned much these days, Michael Harrington was an American Socialist, political activist and Political Science Professor who was also founder of the Democratic Socialists Of America. A writer of several books, the most popular being The Other America: Poverty In The United States which came out in 1962. Since his death in 1989 he's been largely overlooked and mostly forgotten where discussions of political ideology are concerned. Too bad. Perhaps Harrington isn't as catchy a name as Alinsky.
In this interview he talks about the differences between Liberalism and Socialism:
Michael Harrington: “The Liberal is convinced that working within the structure of a Capitalist society, no matter how modified, still a Capitalist society; an ameliorated, reformist welfare-state Capitalist society. But a society in which wealth is systematically maldistributed. That working within the framework of such a society it’s possible to achieve a just social order through reform without attacking the basic fundamentals of the society, the structure of the society. I believe, and Socialists believe, that as long as you have that fundamental structure of inequality, every reform is going to be eviscerated or subverted. For example; although most people don’t know it, the money spent on public housing in the United States is about half the value of one tax deduction for the homebuilding, middle-class and rich. In 1962 we spent about $865 million on Public housing and that tax deduction for the one-fifth top income recipients in this country was worth a $Billion and a Half. Or let me take an example from Europe which is sited in my article in the current issue of Harper’s: In Europe, when industry was nationalized, the main recipient of benefit from that nationalization, and I’m in favor of it, but the main recipient of benefits from it was private industry.”
An insightful interview with more than the average number of eerie prophecies, particularly since the interview was conducted in February 1970.
More essential listening.