Back in 2008, I responded to accusations that Obama is a socialist.
Permit me a similar response now to CNBC host Joe Kernen’s accusation that Paul Krugman is a communist. Paraphrasing one of the most memorable lines from an earlier presidential campaign, “I have served with communists; I know communists; communists are friends of mine. Paul Krugman is no communist.”*
Nor is the bailout of Wall Street by the Bush and Obama administrations. Communism is not about more government regulation and spending, and thus attempting to save capitalism from the capitalists, but expanding the possibilities of a different, more just economy and society. It means creating the conditions—political, cultural, and economic—in which the workers who produce the surplus that makes society possible determine how much surplus there will be and what to do with it. That’s the aim of communism, to make the kinds of changes in the existing economy and society that move us in the direction of economic and social justice, that create more democratic ways of producing and distributing the goods and services we need to live on.
To call Paul Krugman (or, for that matter, Dean Baker) a communist is the worst kind of red-baiting reminiscent of McCarthyism and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. It’s the sign of a desperate political and economic campaign, which refuses to recognize that the United States now suffers from the worst levels of economic and social inequality since the Gilded Age. There is no communism in the economic theories of Krugman or in the plans and campaign promises of the Obama-Biden ticket. Communists welcome the calls for looser monetary policy and more stimulus spending proposed by Krugman and the promises to put people back to work of the Obama campaign, because they are much better than the policies of both right-wing neoclassical economists and the Romney-Ryan campaign, but they’re not enough. Communists don’t want just to fix the current economic and social system; they want to work with others to challenge the injustices of capitalism and create a fundamentally different economic and social system.
*For younger readers, here’s the reference.