Posts Tagged ‘pope’
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Tags: anticommunism, Catholic Church, Cold War, history, labor, Marx, pope, United States
Pope Francis offered the only possible response to his being accused of being a Marxist. First, that the “Marxist ideology is wrong.” (How could an official of the Catholic Church, much less the Bishop of Rome, assert otherwise?) And then:
“But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended.”
That really is the only way to respond to the kinds of outrageous insults right-wing commentators and business pundits have hurled at him after the publication of Evangelii Gaudium.
And Priyamvada Gopal gets it:
The use of “Marxist” as a slur – along with kindred terms such as “socialist” and “communist” – is not a uniquely American phenomenon but is most familiar to us from the era of the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee, established in 1938 and, later, Joseph McCarthy’s committee.
In that context, and during the “red scares” which followed it during the cold war, these were appellations used to identify and punish any criticism of capitalism, however sympathetic or merely reformist. Indeed, any dissent from mainstream dogma was “un-American”.
As we all know, in the United States, any criticism of individual capitalists or capitalism as an economic and social system still is considered to be associated with Marxism or communism, long after the Fall of the Wall.
But I do need to correct Gopal’s rendering of the long tradition of American anticommunism on one point: the first “red scare” wasn’t in 1918 but earlier, in the nineteenth century, in response to the upsurge of union organizing and the related hunger demonstrations and then in reaction to the Paris Commune.
News sources, especially in America, were becoming increasingly worried about the rise of what they perceived as a Communist movement in Paris. This ‘red fear’ was based on both fascination and anxiety over the ideology. Because of the Commune’s close ties with labor unions, the International Working Men’s Association, socialists, and Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the Commune thus “further reinforced the bourgeois notion of class war,” as Gay Gullickson notes. “Journalists regularly referred to the ‘Reds’ in Paris and used ‘communist’ as a synonym for ‘communard’….” Some journalists even used all three terms interchangeably. Both American newspapers and periodicals followed a similar path in criticizing the Commune and exposing it to the rest of the world. One historian notes that, “[t]he chorus of abuse in the American press quickly mounted as the Commune unfolded, and after its destruction it was frequently used to epitomize all the horrors of ‘communist’ philosophy….The Commune [brought] out [people’s] worst anxieties about the family, religion, property, and social order.” The Paris Commune became the great fear of anti-Communist Americans who saw the actions of the working class in Europe as a major threat.
So, yes, the “red menace” attacks on the pope have a long lineage in the United States, which stretch back to the nineteenth century—and have clearly outlasted the Cold War.
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Tags: Catholic Church, inequality, Joseph Stiglitz, Obama, pope, United States
On my reading, Obama’s speech borrows heavily from the ideas in Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson’s Winner-Take-All Society and Joseph Stiglitz’s The Price of Inequality. Both the best and the worst parts.
The best parts have to do with the existence and effects of inequality, such as the following paragraphs:
The combined trends of increased inequality and decreasing mobility pose a fundamental threat to the American Dream, our way of life, and what we stand for around the globe. And it is not simply a moral claim that I’m making here. There are practical consequences to rising inequality and reduced mobility.
For one thing, these trends are bad for our economy. One study finds that growth is more fragile and recessions are more frequent in countries with greater inequality. And that makes sense. When families have less to spend, that means businesses have fewer customers, and households rack up greater mortgage and credit card debt; meanwhile, concentrated wealth at the top is less likely to result in the kind of broadly based consumer spending that drives our economy, and together with lax regulation, may contribute to risky speculative bubbles.
And rising inequality and declining mobility are also bad for our families and social cohesion — not just because we tend to trust our institutions less, but studies show we actually tend to trust each other less when there’s greater inequality. And greater inequality is associated with less mobility between generations. That means it’s not just temporary; the effects last. It creates a vicious cycle. For example, by the time she turns three years old, a child born into a low-income home hears 30 million fewer words than a child from a well-off family, which means by the time she starts school she’s already behind, and that deficit can compound itself over time.
And finally, rising inequality and declining mobility are bad for our democracy. Ordinary folks can’t write massive campaign checks or hire high-priced lobbyists and lawyers to secure policies that tilt the playing field in their favor at everyone else’s expense. And so people get the bad taste that the system is rigged, and that increases cynicism and polarization, and it decreases the political participation that is a requisite part of our system of self-government.
And the worst? The liberal myth that economic growth, including bringing manufacturing jobs back to the United States, will reverse the longstanding trend of rising inequality.
To begin with, we have to continue to relentlessly push a growth agenda. It may be true that in today’s economy, growth alone does not guarantee higher wages and incomes. We’ve seen that. But what’s also true is we can’t tackle inequality if the economic pie is shrinking or stagnant. The fact is if you’re a progressive and you want to help the middle class and the working poor, you’ve still got to be concerned about competitiveness and productivity and business confidence that spurs private sector investment.
Is this, once again, the theory of trickledown economics, which the pope argues “has never been confirmed by the facts”?