Tuesday, April 24, 2012

ARE PROGRESSIVES COMMUNISTS in Disguise?

[Across this great country of OURS... THE RIGHT IS RAISING THE HUE'N CRY - Our local paper asked me to respond to an essay that was titled...]
Is Progressivism the New Communism?
R.W. Spisak Jr.

When the schoolyard bully tries to pick a fight, first he tries name calling. Progressives from the beginning supported the overthrow of monarchies, they fought and died for democratic self government. Progressives opposed slavery, and supported women's right to vote. If you think that's a COMMUNIST PLOT, go ask your wife.
Progressive fought to end cozy crony governments and instead worked to professionalize government. One of the first battles modern progressives fought was to establish the direct election of U.S. Senators. Progressives teamed up with Women Rights Advocates and Labor Organizers and together opposed child labor and fought for compulsory free public education for all children. Progressives at the turn of the century were more concerned with citizen participation and access than in a Marxian economic critique. So, no, Progressivism, new or old, has nothing to do with either the theories or the failed practices associated with Communism.


Progressives favor more democracy, more participation for citizens not less. They never concocted rules to make voting harder for citizens. Turn of the century progressives fought to expand and empower citizens. They began a national movement that called for "Initiative, Referendum and Recall." All of which created more not less public input in political decisions. The recall referendum of Wisconsin's Governor Walker would not have been possible without the reforms of the Progressive movement.

 This desire for citizen empowerment is the opposite of the despotic overreach of the tyrant. Fear-mongers resort to the crayon of heated language with their schoolyard taunts since they have no facts. Fifties era charges of “commie” are absurd when the historic record is examined. Today's Occupy Movement is one example of the progressive spirit; the call to end Wall Street's speculative madness is another. Somehow, none of these contemporary Robber Barons have seen an indictment for their massive frauds. Progressivism, still stands against the abuses of the powerful, and shares nothing with the ideology of the tyrant.

Progressives spoke then and now, for the poor, and the factory worker, not the gold-plated billionaire. “Minimum wage”, “weekends” and “vacations” are all the product of progressive principals. All of these were systematically opposed by Conservatives, some of whom are still trying to privatize Social Security. When Upton Sinclair wrote his seminal book “The Jungle” detailing the disgusting conditions in the meat packing industry, the result a public outcry and national food safety regulations. (No doubt dampening the verve of the marketplace.) Sinclair and other “Muckrakers” criticized free range Darwinian Corporatism and Americans demanded regulations. 


Who opposes regulation today and why? If your pregnant wife was given thalidomide by a pharmaceutical company who knew the results would be disastrous, would you prefer they be unencumbered by any responsibilities? Maybe we should complete Reagan's airline deregulation? Lets go totally laissez-faire on airline regulations right? Or are you too squeamish for that. Why should pilots even be licensed? doesn't that impose terrible costs on airlines, they only promised you a seat, not a safe flight right. Who needs mandated maintenance?



Often I find, that people who bemoan the burdens laid upon corporations, seem to have forgotten under what conditions their grandfathers worked. When you take your next pill, would you rather the corporation that manufactured the medicine observed stringent safety guidelines? One man's prudent quality control is another man's brutal governmental regulation.

When we look at the products of progressive reform, from the end of child labor, to a regulated food and drug industry, it is difficult to see any connection between these tremendous achievements of citizen empowerment and the economic theories of Marx and Engels or the genocidal practices of Stalin. 
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