Is communism still relevant to American politics?
This question was debated live online yesterday in 20-minute discussion hosted by the Huffington Post. Debate moderator Alyona Minkovski noted that the words "communism" and "socialism" have become once again commonplace since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, as right-wing politicians have accused the Democrats of moving the nation toward these types of societies. (video below, or visit Huffington Post here.)
Additionally, polls have shown that Americans are increasingly favorable toward socialism and communism, at least in theory.
"It's very silly and a desperate attempt to try to smear Democrats because of the history of anti-communism in this country," Communist Party USA Vice Chair Libero Della Piana said of the charges against the Democrats. "The right wing in this country has always used anti-communism as a way to shut down progress and to shut down positive legislation and to shut down discussion. It goes back to the McCarthy period and long before that."
Dr. Norman Markowitz, a professor of history at Rutgers University also spoke in defense of the communists. Opposing him and Della Piana was Benjamin Shapiro, a syndicated columnist and author of Porn Generation: How Social Liberalism is Corrupting our Youth and Bullies: How the Left's Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America.
Between the left and right was Truthout contributor Sam Sacks.
The debate spanned the history of Marxist ideas in the United States and capitalism - for better or worse - in American society now. Shapiro argued that American progress derived from its free market fundamentals, while Markowitz and Sacks pointed out that the U.S. has had some planning and a mixed economy for much of its existence. Della Piana and Markowitz argued that the emergence of an American middle class was a result of a center-left coalition.
According to Markowitz, the most successful left organization in the United States is the Communist Party USA. Della Piana discussed the role of his party and its feelings toward the Obama administration.
Photo: Screenshot from the debate.