Define the terms of debate

If you listen to right-wingnut talk radio these days, you’re learning a great deal about yourself. If you voted for Obama/Democrats in ’08, that is. You are learning, for example, that at any given point in time, you’re a socialist, a communist, a Marxist, a Leninist, a Trotskyite, a traitor and, just for good measure, a card-carrying wooly bugger. Well, if all of us who voted for Obama are all these dreadful things, it might be a good time to review what they are. It’s been a long time since I took my “Hey Everybody, Let’s Hate America!” classes in college, and I’m a little fuzzy on the details these days.

As a socialist, you support an economic system where the means of production are owned by the state. As a communist, you advocate a more totalitarian version of socialism, one in which the society is both classless and led by one political party. Private property is pretty much history, with the government as the owner of all means of production and the planner of the country’s economy.

As a Marxist, you believe that the fully realized communist state is the final stage of the revolution of the working class, and that to get to this ideal state, a culture must first go through the socialist phase, one that would mark a transition from the inequalities of capitalism to the classlessness of communism. In this transitional socialist phase, the society would eventually experience a superabundance of both goods and services. Only then, said Marx, would the final revolution of the proletariat (working class) be possible, and only then would true communism be achieved. As a Leninist, you support the ideas and acts of V.I. Lenin, the Russian leader who, while a great supporter of Marx’s theories, felt it necessary to adapt them to the realities of a backward and predominantly agrarian Russia in 1917, the year of the Revolution. As a Trotskyite, named for Leon Trotsky, one of Lenin’s brilliant and impassioned lieutenants, you support a more “pure” form of Marxism, which means a return to Marxist fundamentals freed of the adaptations created by both Lenin and Lenin’s successor, Stalin, with whom Trotsky clashed bitterly throughout the ’20s and ’30s. Trotskyites were also notorious for supporting the concept of the “permanent revolution,” which would ultimately result in a planetary overthrow of the capitalists. And as a traitor, you support healthcare reform, don’t stay awake at night worrying about people of the same gender touching each other, are genuinely intrigued by the concept of “green jobs,” drink strong, dark beers brewed by psuedo-Trotskyites, and buy Lady Gaga tunes online.

My, how politically sophisticated you are. And all this time, you probably thought you were just some schmuck voting for a guy who looked to be a shade more on the ball than that crotchety old coot McCain!