Kenyan Muslim Socialist Watch

by zunguzungu

[Glenn] Beck condemned a “guy in the Republican Party who says his favorite president is Theodore Roosevelt.” He then read disapprovingly the Roosevelt quote that “we grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used . . . so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community.”

“Is this what the Republican Party stands for?” Beck demanded. He was answered with boos and cries of “no!” “It’s big government, it’s a socialist utopia and we need to address it as if it is a cancer.”

(Dana Milibank, February 21)

No wonder Beck hates Teddy Bears. A propos of that and the entire Obama-as-Socialist meme, this from Theodore Roosevelt’s 1913 Autobiography:

Because of things I have done on behalf of justice to the workingman, I have often been called a Socialist. Usually I have not taken the trouble even to notice the epithet. I am not afraid of names, and I am not one of those who fear to do what is right because some one else will confound me with partisans with whose principles I am not in accord. Moreover, I know that many American Socialists are highminded and honorable citizens, who in reality are merely radical social reformers. They are oppressed by the brutalities and industrial injustices which we see everywhere about us. When I recall how often I have seen Socialists and ardent non-Socialists working side by side for some specific measure of social or industrial reform, and how I have found opposed to them on the side of privilege many shrill reactionaries who insist on calling all reformers Socialists, I refuse to be panic-stricken by having this title mistakenly applied to me…

He then carefully clarifies that he does not hold with “Marxian socialists” who believe that wage labor (and the industrial system as a whole) necessarily produce class warfare; while he agrees that the labor-capital class division is a serious problem, he thinks it can be managed.[1] But it’s interesting to me that this rhetorical move is actually not primarily about demonize those bad socialists. He concedes much of the Marxian argument (the existence of basically opposed economic interests, for example, and thus, the basic reality of class) and is careful to disagree with them “without impugning their motives.” And it turns out that he only raises the issue of “Marxian socialism” — and disagrees with it — as a way of teeing himself up to rail against the real problem, that is, the entrenched and exploitative status quo of unchecked capitalism:

I have always maintained that our worst revolutionaries to-day are those reactionaries who do not see and will not admit that there is any need for change. Such men seem to believe that the four and a half million Progressive voters, who in 1912 registered their solemn protest against our social and industrial injustices, are “anarchists,” who are not willing to let ill enough alone. If these reactionaries had lived at an earlier time in our history, they would have advocated Sedition Laws, opposed free speech and free assembly, and voted against free schools, free access by settlers to the public lands, mechanics’ lien laws, the prohibition of truck stores and the abolition of imprisonment for debt; and they are the men who to-day oppose minimum wage laws, insurance of workmen against the ills of industrial life and the reform of our legislatures and our courts, which can alone render such measures possible. Some of these reactionaries are not bad men, but merely shortsighted and belated. It is these reactionaries, however, who, by “standing pat” on industrial injustice, incite inevitably to industrial revolt, and it is only we who advocate political and industrial democracy who render possible the progress of our American industry on large constructive lines with a minimum of friction because with a maximum of justice.

Everything possible should be done to secure the wageworkers fair treatment. There should be an increased wage for the worker of increased productiveness. Everything possible should be done against the capitalist who strives, not to reward special efficiency, but to use it as an excuse for reducing the reward of moderate efficiency. The capitalist is an unworthy citizen who pays the efficient man no more than he has been content to pay the average man, and nevertheless reduces the wage of the average man; and effort should be made by the Government to check and punish him. When labor-saving machinery is introduced, special care should be taken — by the Government if necessary — to see that the wage-worker gets his share of the benefit, and that it is not all absorbed by the employer or capitalist.

All this leads me to suspect that Glenn Beck is on to something here. Was Theodore Roosevelt born a Muslim in Kenya? Until we see the birth certificate, it’s too soon to say.


[1] “It would be idle to deny that wage-earners have certain different economic interests from, let us say, manufacturers or importers…I do not even deny that the majority of wage-earners, because they have less property and less industrial security than others and because they do not own the machinery with which they work (as does the farmer) are perhaps in greater need of acting together than are other groups in the community. But I do insist (and I believe that the great majority of wage-earners take the same view) that employers and employees have overwhelming interests in common, both as partners in industry and as citizens of the Republic, and that where these interests are apart they can be adjusted by so altering our laws and their interpretation as to secure to all members of the community social and industrial justice.”