Commentary: Progressive Suckers

By Scott Hogenson | July 7, 2008 | 8:29pm EDT

Every now and then, America's political Left tinkers with language in an effort to re-invent itself or its opposition, or to otherwise overcome the connotations associated with certain words and phrases.

2003 has seen a number of efforts along these lines. People who think abortion is wrong are increasingly referred to as "anti-choice" rather than "pro-life." Radical environmentalists are beginning to lean more prominently to the term "conservationist." Liberals are more broadly embracing the term "progressive" as a political label.

In her remarks during the Sept. 24 debate among some of the candidates in the California recall election, Arianna Huffington told the audience the Oct. 7 election offered "an unprecedented, historic opportunity here to elect an independent progressive governor on a simple plurality."

A Sept. 25 editorial in The New York Times noted, "Four progressive political groups sued the Bush administration this week, charging that the Secret Service is systematically keeping protesters away from the president's public appearances."

That same day, the Boston Globe quoted liberal city Councilman Felix D. Arroyo as saying, "The vote expands in [November] to the progressives and people of color. Definitely I feel this is a winning campaign," in describing his optimism about being reelected.

These are just a few recent examples of how the word 'progressive' is coming to replace liberal in political discourse. The problem is, there's nothing progressive about progressive politics. It's a new use for an old phrase that constitutes the soul of socialism and communism.

"If we are to restore civil society and move from tax socialism to tax justice, we need to abolish progressive taxation," wrote the CATO Institute's James Dorn in 1996, noting that "In 1848 (Karl) Marx and (Fredrick) Engels proposed that progressive taxation be used "to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeois, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state."

If you'd rather get this direct from the source, consider Engles' 'The Principles of Communism.' In Chapter 18, entitled, 'What will be the course of this revolution?" the first "main measure," mentioned by Engles is the "limitation of private property through progressive taxation."

The "Elections Statement 2000," published on the website of Democratic Socialists of America, notes "We operate within progressive coalitions as an open socialist presence and bring to these movements an analysis and strategy which recognizes the fundamental need to democratize global corporate power."

Indeed, the DSA's "first statement" on the upcoming 2004 elections says in its opening paragraph that it has "urged DSA members and our allies, in working for progressive candidates in the primaries, to advance our support for peace, universal health care, workers' rights and a living wage, reproductive rights, racial justice, etc. Only a Democratic campaign that emphasizes a progressive agenda can effectively mobilize the broad constituencies of working people, women, people of color, peace activists, environmentalists and global justice activists that will be needed to defeat the Bush regime."

Such dissections by conservatives are virtually guaranteed to draw howls of 'McCarthyism' and 'Red Baiting,' from dedicated Leftists, but the facts speak for themselves.

The treatise 'Eleven Years On the Railroad, in the C.P. and the PLM/PLP,' published by the Progressive Labor Party, (whose party logo encourages people to "Fight for Communism"), is blunt in linking progressive politics to communist revolution.

"This strength of the old communist movement was nurtured by the group of communists within the old CP [Communist Party] that eventually organized the Progressive Labor Movement (PLM) in 1962, predecessor of the Progressive Labor Party," reads the white paper. "The goal of the PLM and PLP was essentially to adopt what was positive from the old communist movement but to avoid its revisionist errors by putting forward communist revolution openly."

One of the best ways to monitor coming political trends is to pay close attention to the language, which is the first and most important tool in making radical policies more palatable.

The movement away from the use of 'liberal' and toward 'progressive' in American politics is one rooted in the hope of duping uninformed voters into supporting candidates and parties bent on advancing a socialist agenda. It is synonymous with socialism and is a moniker that thrives on suckers.

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