History repeats itself, observed Karl Marx, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.
In the 1950s the “red scare” warned of communists sympathetic to the Soviet Union lurking around every corner of the US. On Tuesday, the White House was back at it, this time raising the spectre of Marx, Bernie Sanders and working mothers in Sweden.
A pre-election report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers sounds the alarm: “Coincident with the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth [May 1818], socialism is making a comeback in American political discourse. Detailed policy proposals from self-declared socialists are gaining support in Congress and among much of the electorate.”
The paper also just happens to be “coincident” with the 2018 midterm elections. It does not take a wild leap of imagination to foresee a feedback loop in which the Fox News host Sean Hannity cites the study as evidence of socialism posing an existential threat, after which Donald Trump talks and tweets about the issue.
Entitled Opportunity Costs of Socialism, the report struck many observers as an attempt by Republicans to neutralise what could be the winning issue for Democrats – healthcare – cloaked in academese about Das Kapital and the follies of “Maoist China, Cuba, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)”.