American Socialism

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1865: Karl Marx (1818-1883), philosopher and German politician. (Photo by Roger Viollet Collection/Getty Images)

Positive views of socialism appear to be on the rise here in the United States. The economic downturn during the Coronavirus pandemic might be making it more popular. However, Americans across the board don’t have a great idea of what socialism means, so its popularity might depend on how people are asked. And of course, media likes to divide that popularity along arbitrary generational lines.

Socialism is more popular the younger Americans get.

I’ve read a bunch of excuses for why this happens from pundits supporting blind capitalism. Younger generations are clueless. Young Americans didn’t grow up fearing communism. The list goes on.

They can’t seem to grasp that pro-Capitalist politicians have shit on the two youngest generations twice. People have lost jobs, gone into educational debt, seen their friends die to prescription painkillers, gone into medical debt, witnessed police violence against unarmed victims, and the list goes on. And on. And on.

In other words, the shift in perception on socialism (or socialist policies) is a surprise only to the deluded. And even that is eroding. No matter how hard the former president tried to label his opponent as a dirty, evil socialist, that opponent still won. By an appreciable margin.

Even my views have changed on the matter.

I am old enough to remember the tensions at the end of the Cold War. I lived in West Germany as the Berlin Wall fell. I remember the blatant obliviousness to world affairs when I came back to the United States. At the time, it shocked me that people could outright ignore an adversary such as the USSR, with its alien economics and its intimidating army.

Two GOP-incited economic crises later, and the idea that socialism isn’t communism finally sunk in. I haven’t forgotten the Cold War, or the fear it inspired, but I can’t let outdated fears eclipse modern crises. And I’m not alone.

Socialism – economics that rely on public control of making stuff – has worked in some countries. Socialist health services appear to flourish no matter how hard right-wing extremist politicians lie about them. I figure if it can survive the propaganda, it’s strong enough to survive conservative Twitter.

More than that, I think the American public needs to have more viable socialist alternatives. Pro-capitalist pundits often brag that capitalism thrives on competition. Why not have it compete against people willing to organize under socialist business entities? Hell, to make things spicy, require the socialist companies to pay back any publicly invested money with interest.

Speculation aside, I am more interested in alternatives to enriching people who already have a shitload of money. That interest is tempered with the knowledge that socialism won’t magically fix anything. But it can fix some things. Ignoring this won’t make it go away.

It’s not going away.

The shift in public attitudes towards socialism is only going to get more pronounced as time passes. Even now, with socialism still feared by a majority of Americans, the label didn’t stop Biden from getting elected. And he’s not even a socialist.

In a few years, as long as voting isn’t interfered with too dramatically (it breaks my heart to have to write that), I expect to see more candidates running under openly socialist platforms. Yeah, I’ll see fearmongering where I live, but it’s not going to stop what’s happening. If everyone is lucky, we’ll see something like the New Deal.

If not? I hate to consider the possibility.