By: Chris Burke
In the world of political commentary nothing annoys me more than a pundit or columnist misusing a word, whether the misuse is deliberate or a result of the commentator’s own ignorance. Misusing words in the course of political discussion smacks of laziness, an unwillingness to have an honest discussion about an issue, or to conduct basic research. Often, the word is used to discredit a political opponent as these words are rarely used in a positive manner.
Today’s misused word comes courtesy of Margaret Wente (I know, I’m about as unsurprised as you are right now) in her latest article for the Globe and Mail. Writing on the Parti Quebecois potential victory in the upcoming election, Wente states that PQ leader Pauline Marois is, “basically a socialist”. I’d like to think that Canada is better than this that our political discourse doesn’t include throwing around the word “socialist” as an insult while simultaneously misusing the word in the process.
Wente’s comment creates two misconceptions 1) That the PQ is a socialist party and 2) confusion as to what socialism is. Understanding the later will help debunk the former. Knowing what socialism is will clearly show that the PQ is not socialist.
What is socialism? Simply put: socialism is an economic system in which the labourers control the means of production. Goods and services are produced for direct consumption rather than a private profit. It is an economic system entirely different from capitalism.
What socialism is not: it is not wealth redistribution. The need for a government to redistribute wealth arises out of a system that allows for the accumulation of wealth into the hands of the few to occur, when that accumulation results in a widening wage gap, the government may step in and redistribute the wealth through taxes, for example. A socialist economic system does not have as one of its goals the accumulation of wealth. As stated above, goods and services are produced for direct use not a private profit. When you hear political commentators accuse those who want to take from the rich and give to the poor of being socialist, remember that the idea of socialism is to eliminate that rich/poor class divide. Is this what the PQ wants? Do they want to eliminate capitalism and transfer control of the means of production to the labourers? No, they do not.
The PQ is not a socialist party. They are a social-democratic party. While they believe in using government to defend social rights and work to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of wealth, it does this within the framework of a capitalist system. Unless Wente is going to make a case demonstrating that the PQ is going to do away with capitalism in Quebec, then her claim that the PQ is a socialist party is absolutely baseless. It is nothing more than a cheap insult designed to diminish the PQ and create further misconceptions about socialism. The 1837 Society encourages honest discussion and debate, which is the opposite of Wente has done.