Socialism a Political Ideology That Is Becoming Increasingly Popular
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Socialism is a very prominent political ideology in the media and politics today. It has become common that more and more senators and congresspeople alike, have become outspoken on their support of a Democratic Socialism Government. Many seem to love the idea of abolishing capitalism and having the population control their own means of production as a whole. On the flipside, people seem to argue that socialism is a hand out, not likely to happen, and can be the demise of America’s economy. The United States seems to be split between the pros and the cons of Socialism, but many ponder the thought: can Socialism be beneficial, and a feasible future for Americans?
Socialism, in its most simplest form is big government. Individuals rely solely on the state for basic needs such as healthcare, education, and food. This essentially gets rid of social classes, and eliminates poverty. People who are in favor of socialism believe that a shared ownership, and equally distributed goods makes a more equitable society. According to Democratic Socialists of America, they believe that “both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives” (What is Democratic).
A main problem that not just America faces but the entire world faces, is poverty. There are more than 3 billion people in the world who do not have the funds to live and support their basic needs. This is a huge problem in densely populated areas such as New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago to name a few. Some people often seem to complain about the fact that there are people living on the streets, begging for money, and taking up public spaces. Implementing socialism will have opposite effects, add efforts to get rid of homelessness and add an incentive to work and enhance your needs.
One of the most influential leaders, and early pioneer of socialism is Karl Marx. The ideology of socialism gained popularity in the middle of the 19th century when workers of factories during the industrial revolution era were being treated unfairly with being paid low wages and unsafe working conditions. People were living in extreme poverty while the wealthy owners of these corporations gained even more wealth. Karl Marx, a German philosopher, wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1846 and stated “The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them” (Lynch). Marx’s views on socialism is that man is oppressed from the terrors of capitalism, or the one percent specifically. The working class is alienated and punished for the society that they had no control or say in. It was either sink or swim for the poorer classes.
Scholar Paul Brians claimed that ‘Socialists rejected the argument that the wealthy deserve their wealth because they created it,’ Brians says, ‘instead believing that wealth is created by the working class and wrongfully appropriated by the rich.’ (The Week). The working class works tirelessly, often working more than eight hours to meet quotas, and rarely reap the benefits from their labor. The idea of socialism spread to the United States by migrating German immigrants, and created the Socialist Labor Party in the year 1876. It is one of America’s oldest political parties, and the ideology derives from Marxism and De-Leonism. (The Week). Fred Haack, a shoe store owner and salesman, was the first socialist to hold public office in the United States. He was elected to city council in Wisconsin in 1897.
Around four years later many supporters broke away from the Socialist Labor Party, and started the “Socialist Party of America” which elected numerous state legislators and mayors over a few decades. Many of these socialists, as like today, were in favor of public transportation, parks, libraries and community centers. They also wanted to implement an appropriate living wage for workers. In later years, socialism fell out of popularity around the beginning of World War I. Many socialists were adamant about America not entering the war, and in turn, the majority public looked at socialists as unpatriotic and un American.
The Espionage Act, passed by congress in 1917, was meant to outlaw speech against the war efforts, “…which prohibited many forms of speech, including ‘any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States or the flag of the United States, or the uniform of the Army or Navy’” (Kennedy). The Espionage Act criminalized thousands of Socialism supporters and got them arrested, including Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist Party of America leader, and other famed anarchists. Many have contested the act, saying that it violated American’s rights to freedom of speech, but it was eventually ruled that it did not. During this time, the “Red Scare”, a fear of a rise in radical leftism, communism, and anarchism in the United States was growing, thus resulting in the roundup of many radical socialists.
Bernard (Bernie) Sanders, another influence to socialism; was born in 1941, and is a self proclaimed Democratic Socialist. He was elected U.S Senator for Vermont in 2007, and “the longest-serving Independent in congressional history, he was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1990 and caucuses with the Democratic Party, enabling his appointment to congressional committees and at times giving Democrats a majority”(Bernie Sanders). He is famous for his liberal stance, his support of redistribution of wealth to lower income classes, and for his strong advocacy and protests during the Civil Rights Movement. His advocacy for wealth redistribution stems from his own financial struggles growing up.
According to Britannica “he founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus. A reliable opponent of Pres. George W. Bush’s administration and the Republican Party, he voted against the Iraq War and distinguished himself in particular for his opposition to tax cuts benefiting wealthy individuals and corporations and to cuts in spending for social welfare programs. He was reelected seven times, usually by wide margins”(McNamee). He feels as though there should not be any large tax breaks for the wealthy top one percent, and instead implement tax breaks on the lower and struggling classes, for the people who actually need it. In 2010, he held a whopping nine hour filibuster on Bush’s plans for the tax cuts. His speech was about how corporations hoard the nation’s wealth for themselves, and the decline of the middle class in America. He is also a strong advocate for renewable energy sources, climate change, and other social welfare issues.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York’s 14th Congressional District winner in 2018’s Midterm Elections, is another influence and supporter of the Democratic Socialist movement. A 29 year old, the youngest to ever be elected to Congress, has been fairly outspoken in her support for helping marginalized groups of people reliant on government subsidies. Conservatives fear and openly mock the young congresswoman for her “radical” political views but little do people know she has influenced millions of young millennial voters in shaping their political ideologies.
Alexandria, a New York Bronx native, used to be a campaign organizer for Senator Bernie Sanders, and is no stranger to the working class struggles herself. She bartended, and often struggled to pay her rent on time. Her main political angle is focused on the working class, and stated “We have to stick to the message: What are we proposing to the American people? Not, ‘What are we fighting against? We understand that we’re under an antagonistic administration, but what is the vision that is going to earn and deserve the support of working-class Americans? And we need to be explicit in that vision and legislation, not just ‘better,’ but what exactly is our plan?’ (Haltiwanger). She won in a landslide, defeating incumbent Joe Crowley. Although many say her politics are outlandish and not possible, she is a glimmer of hope for working class Americans and other marginalized groups.
Young voters, often under the age of 30 have an immense support in the Socialist party. With high student debt, housing crises, bad job markets and the high prices of healthcare, the promises sound like a dream, but some wonder if it is in the distant reality, or it’s nothing but an empty promise. Medicare for all is a promise that most Democratic socialists want to implement in America. Healthcare that will cover costs for vision, dental, prescriptions and even mental health help. Almost every other developed nation offers free healthcare to its people, and Socialists believe that it is time America doesn’t think about it’s monetary gain, and puts the people first. Fully funded and primary schools and Universities is another promise for the American people.
Everyone should be able to have the opportunity to get an education, no matter their status or income. Canceling student debt, “44 million Americans collectively hold nearly $1.5 trillion in student debt. That means that roughly one in four American adults are paying off student loans. When they graduate, the average student loan borrower has $37,172 in student loans, a $20,000 increase from 13 years ago” (Hess). People having to spend their whole lives after college paying back the money they used to fund their education, with an increased interest rate. Socialists believe that this is no way to live a life. Especially if going to college and obtaining a degree is no longer an absolute guarantee for a high paying job.
A universal job guarantee, where a certain wage is guaranteed for all employees is another factor that Socialists want to implement. This wage will guarantee that they have the funds to live and support themselves. It’s unacceptable that there are millions of people living on the streets or facing homelessness in America, and many Socialists believe that having safe and secure housing is a human right. Ocasio-Cortez stated that “…wants to extend tax benefits to working- and middle-class homeowners, expand the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, provide housing for the homeless, and permanently fund the National Affordable Housing Trust Fund (Haltiwanger).
A Justice Reform System, ending the war on drugs, the criminalization of black and brown people, and the end to privately funded prisons is another hope of Democratic Socialists. A popular phrase you might have heard by supporters of Ocasio- Cortez and Sanders is “Abolish ICE” or “Abolish the police”, which basically means that part of the problem of our broken justice system is the police, and there needs to be a demilitarization of the police force, and maybe even the abolition of the police state as a whole. Socialists also support the federal legalization of marijuana, ending bail, and the release of people who are incarcerated for nonviolent drug charges. ‘Mass incarceration is the latest iteration of a long line of policies (Jim Crow, redlining, etc) rooted in the marginalization of African Americans and people of color,’ her website says. ‘Comprehensive criminal justice reform is part of the work that must be done to heal our past and pursue racial justice in the United States’ (Haltiwanger).
Marginalized groups of people are disproportionately arrested than white people, and is a result of the institutionalized racism that is so blatant here in America. People who have marijuana drug charges, before it was legalized in Colorado and California are still serving their sentences, or have it on their record. Getting rid of all drug charges that are legal now should be a no brainer. The majority of Socialists believe in immigration reform as well, and also that there should be a distinct and fair passage to the United States. Abolishing ICE, the people who tear apart families, people with toddlers and keep them in detention centers is also a main point in democratic socialists ideology. Many of these platforms are things that any humane person can get behind, but some say that this can be bad for America, and can cause more crimes.
The general public seems to push together the ideas of socialism as a utopian and dystopian government. When people hear “socialism” their mind tends to wander to past socialist societies like Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. These are some questionable examples of whether or not socialism can work in America, and one of many that conservatives use to undermine the good of socialism. People against Democratic Socialists believe that the government control of every citizen’s needs, is like a game of monopoly and having such control with an authoritative state would be a demise to all intellectual and cultural pursuits.
Books and articles that could be published would be under strict scrutiny, and we would be controlled by the socialist state. Anti-socialists have also argued that the control of our means of production will have negative effects on the incentive to work and receive the rewards for it. Richard Ebeling from Foundation of Economic Education stated, “The Twentieth-century experiences with socialism, beginning with the communist revolution in Russia in 1917…Personal freedom and virtually all traditional civil liberties were crushed under the centralized power of the Total State. Furthermore, the work ethic of man under socialism was captured in a phrase that became notoriously common throughout the Soviet Union: “They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work” (Ebeling). Supporters of socialism argue that Nazi Germany and the Soviet union were not true definitions of what socialism is and totally encapsulates.
A Socialist society would mean more freedom for individuals and less control of their freedoms. People are most afraid of losing their freedom and having to be controlled by Big Brother, and having to burn all of their books, but this is just not the case. The common man would have the incentive to work and help achieve a greater sense of worth by helping advance the common good. These past societies give a socialist government a bad name and can often leave a bad taste in people’s mouths.
Having a Democratic Socialist government will be beneficial in helping mend all of the societal problems that have been caused by social classes and capitalism, although it may not be in the United States’ future. The government is so divided on what is going to be beneficial for society, or what can cause the downfall of our oh so “great government” that was created nearly 200 years ago. I would like to think that there would be an elimination of poverty, and class struggle in America and if more people, who have a democratic socialist ideology get involved in politics. Those people can actually cause change and have empathy to those who do not have generational wealth and the privileges that so many do have. Its influence in the future can change so many lives for the better. It is about time America starts thinking of the needs of the common good, and not just the needs of themselves and their bank account.