Never Allow a Crisis to Go to Waste: Barack Obama and the Evolution of American Socialism
Author and attorney Bart DePalma explains how American socialism evolved after the collapse of the Soviet Union from classical state ownership of the means of production into a new asymmetric form - using progressive tools to achieve socialist ends, while misrepresenting the result as pragmatic "reforms of capitalism."
This evolution of socialism had its roots in German zwangswirtshaft or "war socialism" and French Marxist philosopher Andre Gorz' revolutionary reforms meant to bring about a de facto socialism where the privately owned economy was reduced to the status of civil servants.
Never Allow A Crisis To Go To Waste describes how President Barack Obama's administration put the full evolution of socialist theory into practice, from the classical socialism of his nationalization of Chrysler and General Motors to the new asymmetric approach of his "clean energy economy" and "Obamacare."
The book is written for a general audience and well supported with several hundred sources. The point of view is from a libertarian conservative perspective.
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"Socialist," like "fascist," has become a political smear-word for labeling (or libeling) ideological opponents. It's critical to recognize, therefore, that Bart DePalma's excellent "Never Allow a Crisis to Go to Waste" is emphatically not a rightwing screed in which "socialism" is code for "anything I don't like" and "socialist" means "anyone who disagrees with me." Instead, it is a legitimate, honest, non-polemical, and well-sourced review of the philosophical and economic theories that have come to flower in the policies and tactics of the Barack Obama administration. My first reaction was that "Never Allow..." was the Obama version of the late Barbara Olson's essential Hell to Pay: The Unfolding Story of Hillary Rodham Clinton, which traced the reification of HRC's Methodist sense of "social justice" through the practical radicalism of Saul Alinsky. Ultimately, DePalma's is the better and more important book. Obviously, Obama is the one with power in his hands. But as DePalma makes clear, Obama has also surpassed Hillary as Alinsky's star pupil, who -- while every bit as ruthless as HRC -- comes across as less threatening because he "prefer[s] instead to try to charm opponents into accepting his proposals" (p. 23). The other reason "Never Allow..." is a superior book is the thoroughly documented history the author brings to the table. While Olson's analysis emphasized Alinsky, DePalma goes back further to thinkers and strategists like Andre Gorz, Peter Dreier, Walter Rathenau, and Michael Harrington to trace the specific influences that influenced The Man for the Season (chapter 4 title), Barack Obama. It's here where DePalma's extensive documentation is most impressive: 35 pages of small-type notes and citations source well-selected quotations from the self-described socialists' own writings. They make it clear how, with specific application to the auto company bailouts, health care, and "green jobs," Obama is following an explicitly socialist playbook. That means this book is not a complete history of American socialism -- there's very little in here about Eugene Debs or the New Deal, for example. The key is the word "evolution" in the book's subtitle. It's easy enough to discount claims that Obama is a socialist by noting that he's not outright seizing huge sectors of the economy the way traditional socialist governments generally do. But apart from the fact that that's more or less exactly what he did do with the auto industry ("The Obama takeover of Chrysler and General Motors was a virtual replay of the British Labour Party's nationalization of the British Leyland auto company in 1975" [p. 102]) and very nearly did with the banks, the "evolution of American socialism" is mainly in the question of tactics. As DePalma notes, nationalization was never an end in itself. It's a means. The end is always political control and the redistribution of wealth into the hands of the favored. Obama's socialism does that through regulation, "reform," and heavy-handed threats, not by sending troops to seize the power plants. DePalma dubs this "asymmetric socialism." He also coins the brilliant "venture socialist" to describe the administration's attempts to use government "investment" to jump-start industries for which there is no market demand: electric cars, solar power, and compact fluorescent light bulbs. All of this is in hopes of creating a brave new clean energy, "green jobs" economy in which, again, wealth flows to the favored. In his final section, DePalma suggests the Tea Party movement as one of the best tools for unseating and overturning Obama's socialism. I can't say I agree with him on that, especially given how Tea Party members seem -- even before he became the apparently-inevitable nominee -- to be coalescing around Romney, whom DePalma rightly identifies, quoting Obama advisor David Axelrod, as the author of the "template" that "inspired our own health care plan" (p. 285). More fundamentally, I side with Garet Garrett, who wrote way back in 1938 that "There are those who still think they are holding...