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GUEST COLUMN

Election hype confuses ‘Swedish socialism' with ‘real socialism'

Monday, November 17, 2008 - 10:24 am

In the waning days of the historic presidential election, Joe the Plumber was trotted out as the hero of Sen. John McCain's seemingly heroic push against “redistributionism.” Joe's debut on the national scene was accompanied by terminology which is almost never used in the context of American politics: “socialism,” “Swedish socialism,” “European socialism,” “Marxism.” All these were being used almost interchangeably, as if they constituted the same danger or sprang from the same ideological and philosophical background.

Socialism has nothing to do with “Swedish socialism.” I should know — I lived under socialism for the first 30 years of my life. No, not the fake one Barack Obama was supposed to plunge the country into with reckless abandon. The real one: The one with red flags, asinine propaganda, censorship, persecution and Moscow-controlled puppets in the government. I was born on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain in the “People's Republic of Poland,” and at age 20 I first looked at a drab piece of concrete called the Berlin Wall, dreaming that one day I would perhaps be able to escape socialism and somehow make my way to the “Western socialism” of the German Federal Republic or any other country beyond the wall. It took another 10 years to accomplish that.

As far as I know, in Sweden there are no dissidents rotting in prisons, the Swedish TV stations do not start their daily programming by singing the Internationale, and Marxism is not being taught in Stockholm kindergartens. Their model of capitalism is obviously different from the American one, but it is difficult to imagine why we should be scared of our president-elect as a surreptitious “Swede-in-Chief.”

Conflating Western socialism with the totalitarian systems of government in the Warsaw Pact countries is both false and dangerous. Back in the years of communist Poland, the government sometimes professed that their goal was to achieve “real socialism,” thus suggesting that all the other types of socialism — including the Swedish one — were fake or at least inferior. That is not particularly surprising since the communists thought the entire Western world was fake and inferior. However, they clearly saw a huge difference between their petty dictatorships and liberal Western democracies.

I hope American politicians will always remember what the difference between “Swedish socialism” and “real socialism” is. It is more or less the same as the difference between a chair and an electric chair.

Andrzej Heyduk is a Fort Wayne resident and a longtime columnist for Dziennik Zwiazkowy, the largest Polish language daily in the United States, based in Chicago.