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Wednesday, 30 May 2012 02:57

Are Progressives really Communists?

Written by 
Marx and Lemon Marx and Lemon Artist: Rick Spisak

Marx & LemonIs Progressivism the New Communism?


by R.W. Spisak Jr. News Director PNN

Roots of American Progressivism arise from the corruption of the post civil era civil governance and the excesses of the Industrial Revolutions. Abolitionists, Women Rights Advocates and Labor Organizers pulled together for more responsive governance. Progressives at the turn of the century were more concerned with participation and access than in a strictly economic critique. So, no, Progressivism, new or old, has nothing to do with the theories or the failed practices associate with Marx and Engels.

Progressives always favored more democracy, more participation for citizens and worked for an end to patronage. [see Teapot Dome] This led to a more professional government and launched the movement to a more citizen centric government. They called for "Initiative, Referendum and Recall." All of which created more, not less public input in political decisions. The recall of Wisconsin's Walker would not have been possible without the reforms of the Progressive movement.

Since Communism is at root primarily an economic critique we can readily see that its roots are in different soils. Especially if the "Communism", referred to, is the popular bogey of the American Right. The Communism, of the theoretician Marx was quite different than the practice of tyrants like "Stalin" and "Mao". Marx never included genocide as a key to his economic plan.

Progressives spoke for the poor, the factory worker, not the gold-plated. Progressives marched for Women's rights, Voting Rights for African Americans, better treatment for Native Americans. Child labor laws were championed by the Progressive Movement. Minimum wage and worker compensation standards were all the product of progressives. All of which were systematically opposed by Conservatives who even opposed Social Security. These Social Darwinists remain with us even today. The same lack of compassion was heard when at the Republican Debate when a questioner asked about a man whose had no medical insurance the crowd present cheered, when Sen. Ron Paul said, he should die. His capital crime, he couldn't afford health care. Compassion, thought by some to be a Christian value, especially for the poor, seems not to have touched these compassionless conservatives.

Upton Sinclair wrote his book “The Jungle” detailing how workers were cheated, corners and fingers cut and diseased meats sold to the public, creating an outcry for serious food quality regulation (clearly dampening the verve of the marketplace.) Sinclair and other “Muckrakers” wrote their progressive critiques of the excesses of laissez faire Darwinian Corporatism.

Let's look closely at DEREGULATION. Who opposes regulation of the marketplace and why. If your pregnant wife was given thalidomide by a pharmaceutical company who knew the results would be disastrous, would you prefer they be regulated or should we leave them unfettered by safety concerns. If your Water department didn't buy it's chemicals from a reputable firm, burdened by onerous rules of chemical purity maybe they could save taxpayers dollars by using any white powder filler like the Chinese firm who put anything white, into a baby formulae. Should completely deregulate the airlines? Why require pilots to be trained, doesn't that impose terrible costs on airlines, they only promised you a seat, not a safe flight?

When we look at the products of progressive reform, from the end of child labor, to Voting rights for women, a regulated food and drug industry and safer factory conditions, it is difficult to see any connection between these civic achievements and the economic theories of Marx and Engels. Next time someone with a “selective” knowledge of history tells you business regulations are a sinister progressive plot to steal your freedom. Tell them you heard it's a plot to limit the freedom of the polluter and the deregulated CORPORATION. And when they denounce Progressives as something akin to the tyrants behind the Rusty Iron Curtain, you can explain, that Progressives have sought to empower people, to improve democratic access for citizens for more than a century. They stood alongside women when they marched for their right to vote. Tell your wife that's a communist plot.

This Essay originally appeared in the Stuart News. It was published paired with a Right-wing essay, calling all Progressives Communists

Last modified on Monday, 11 June 2012 04:38
Rick Spisak

Richard began organizing while still in high school. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s work to end Apartheid in America and he joined in actions which opposed the Viet Nam War, and Women's Reproductive Rights.

One of the founding members of Miami for Peace, he has produced environmental and political reports since the 1970s. He produced the “Shock & Awe Cartoonarium”, a collection of Human rights, and Anti-war cartoons. He also authored a comic book explaining the U.S.A. Patriot Act.

Richard covered the 2008 Democratic Convention as a Blogger affiliated with the Florida Progressive Coalition. A past President of the Treasure Coast Chapter of the ACLU of Florida. Now he Co-Produces a Weekly News Program called Progressive News Network available on the web at

solidarity & peace

Richard W. Spisak Jr.



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