Academic journal article et Cetera

You Cannot Represent Yourself. Youmust Be Represented: I. F. Stone and Defining American Communism

Academic journal article et Cetera

You Cannot Represent Yourself. Youmust Be Represented: I. F. Stone and Defining American Communism

Article excerpt

Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) puts the number of socialists in the House at 17. He made the comments during an April 2009 breakfast speech in Birmingham, Alabama, in which he praised President Obama. Bachus said that Obama is a better listener than President Bush, but that Obama was being steered dangerously to the left by Congress. Bachus, the top Republican on the House Financial Services Committee, voted for the 2008 bank bailout that other Republicans opposed and criticized as socialism. Recently, he has been critical of the way the bailout has been conducted and has called on the Treasury Department to be more transparent in how they make decisions (Alarkon 2009, par. 1-6). Asked to clarify his comments after the speech, Bachus refused to name anyone except for Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the Senate's only independent member.

Bachus did not define socialist or socialism, but said the members themselves were open about their affiliation. Sanders' spokesman Will Wiquist was later interviewed in Washington. Wiquist said that as far as he knew, there were no other socialists in Congress and that his boss was an independent who identifies with the Democratic Socialist Party as it is in Scandinavia, where government achievements include high education and childhood health rates and little poverty or crime. Sanders' affiliations were not related to the Socialist Party in America in any way. "It's a different brand of socialism than the congressman is probably thinking of," Wiquist said (Bouma 2009, par. 1-9). It is important to note here that even Sanders' spokesperson was on the defense when it comes to Sanders' socialist affiliation. Why is it so important to find out who the Socialist 17 are? Apparently, in Washington, the wrong affiliation can have detrimental results to a career even if someone else creates an illusion of an affiliation. For Bachus, Congress is turning too far toward the left. For the Congressman, this means Socialism and Socialism is against America and the American way of life. Bachus' Socialist marker is the same as calling one a traitor.

The ability to position people at the margins or to define them as un-American becomes a rhetorical resource that can be used across context and history. Bachus' tactics of naming numbers rather than names at a local meeting is immediately reminiscent of the tactics of Joseph McCarthy who did the same thing at a 1950 Wheeling, West Virginia fund raiser. Claiming Truman's State Department employed Communists, McCarthy said, "There the bright young men who are born with silver spoons in their mouths are the ones who have been most traitorous. I have here in my hand a list of 205, a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department" (McCarthy 1950, par. 17-18). Guilt by association would lead the listener to believe that the State Department supported the Communist cause.

Controversy raged between the years 1950 and 1954 as McCarthy chaired the Senate's permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. During this time, McCarthy was the best-known and most feared member of the entire United States Senate as he used his position to attempt to identify people within the government as Communists or "fellow travelers" in both the Truman and Eisenhower administration. Although McCarthy was unable to prove his accusations, he never had to. His torch and burn rhetoric of unsubstantiated innuendo was enough to ruin the reputation of anyone who stumbled in his way (Finkelstein 2005, p. 6). McCarthy was not the only one who used such strategies to alienate those with political beliefs that differed from what was perceived to be the status quo.

Because name-calling and guilt by association tactics remain in use today, it is essential that we understand their rhetorical ramifications in both social and legal settings. Changes in the law, in the subject of the law, and how we think about the law can result in a change in the very nature of the state itself. …

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