Obama is regularly described as a Socialist or Marxist or Communist. This is an extremely outrageous and daft claim not supported by the least amount of evidence. It is only believed by a delusional fringe of the far right, not by anyone who has examined the facts. If you do you will see that Obama is actually a centrist moderate, whose desire for bipartisanship has not been met halfway. Others claim he was a member of a Communist party in his youth or was friends with Communists (these are the same people who claim he was born in Kenya).
By socialist, his critics mean all forms of Marxism (there are several different types but I’ll stick to the main themes). This usually involves the abolition of private property and state nationalisation of everything. Democracy and the free press are removed and everything is held in common. All workers would collectively own their business. There would be massive collective farms. Presumably there would also massive concentration camps or gulags for opponents of the regime. Ask yourself, does this resemble America in the slightest way? Absolutely not, this is why I called these people delusional.
Obama has not nationalised industries nor has he greatly increased taxes on the rich. The idea of the Buffett tax, that the rich should pay the same rate as everyone else could hardly be called radical. There has been no major expansion of the welfare state (only the natural adjustments arising from the recession). There is still private healthcare, private schools, private roads, gated communities etc. He has not abolished Wall Street; in fact corporate profits are at a record high. So how is he a Communist?
In fact most Communists would oppose Obama. This is because Marx predicted that capitalism will collapse and give way to socialism, but the welfare state delays this. Government assistance to the poor satisfies people enough so that they don’t launch a revolution but not enough to remove the inequalities of society. In effect Communists see the Welfare State as a bribe to the poor to support capitalism. (I don’t support this argument but as a politics student I have studied it.) Marx originally called for workers to seize control of the factories and run them themselves. By abolishing capitalism and inequality there would be no need for the state which would wither away. Obama has never even slightly insinuated he supported any of these ideas and many actual socialists have explained how Obama does not share their ideas.
Some people try to draw a link between Obama and socialism by quoting Marx’s 10 point plan for socialism. (Marx considered this socialism as a halfway house between capitalism and his ideal of Communism.) Compare here the claims that Obama does meet this test here, here and here. (Warning they’re completely daft.)
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
This clearly hasn’t happened. There still is and always will be private property and Obama has never said he wants to change this.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
When Marx wrote this (in 1848), it was a radical idea. However since then it has become common in almost all countries (I think some of the Arab oil states are an exception). This too was introduced by Lincoln during the Civil War and has remained in place under Republicans like Ronald Reagan. Are they socialists? The tax system is not heavily progressive and is offset by regressive taxes such as excise taxes and payroll taxes.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
Similar to point one. Some try to claim the inheritance tax is fulfilment of this aim, but the tax isn’t 100% and is only applied to estates worth more than $5,000,000, clearly not Marxist. It was not introduced by Obama, but rather by Lincoln during the Civil War.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
I don’t think there’s any point discussing how this hasn’t happened
5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
Some people claim the Federal Reserve is this bank, but Marx meant an actual bank that made loans and held your savings. There are still private banks and Obama has not made any attempt to nationalise all of them. The bank bailout actually occurred under Bush. So yet again Obama fails the socialist test.
6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.
No Obama hasn’t nationalised any of these. Apparently the FCC and the postal service counts (Really? These guys are scrapping the bottom of the barrel here.)
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
This is the most important point; in effect this is the core of Communism. It is also nowhere near anything Obama believes in.
8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
Can anyone point out what work armies there are?
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
I don’t how it’s possible to end the distinction between town and country, suffice to say it hasn’t happened.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.
This was a radical point in 1848 but like point number 2 it has been almost universally accepted. Are people really claiming opposing child labour makes you a socialist? It’s true that there is public education in every country I know of. America is different in that there is a large private education sector as opposed to most European countries where there is only a public sector.
So Obama (like almost all politicians in almost all countries) supports public education and a progressive income tax. Even still he has not launched any new changes; rather he left things the way he found them. Attempts to link him to the other points are laughably absurd. No socialist revolution going on here.