By Fidel Azazi
Socialism used to be an intimidating term in The United States used to fuel the fear and feed the witch-hunts against communist Americans who were regarded as traitors especially during the two World Wars.
Until recently, Socialism had relegated to the side-lines of American politics and has been showing signs of positive connotations. Thanks in large part to Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The 2016 presidential contender was a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist who aligned with an angry and huge voting bloc with the country’s disillusioned and severely marginalized youth.
Bernie Sanders managed to re brand socialism as “cool” and paved the way for a charismatic left-wing populist like him. House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had volunteered on Sanders’ campaign in 2016 has become an overnight sensation after her unprecedented victory in 2018 midterm elections defeating 10 terms Democratic incumbent Joseph Crowley. Socialism now is becoming an acceptable term in the United States because it is being associated with such popular names. However, the rise has caused a counter fever from Trump ism that accused socialists of trading individual rights with total governmental control.
So, the main question that lies: Is Socialism threatening the status quo or the future of politics in America?
To understand Democratic Socialism in America, it is essential to start from the basics. Capitalism, socialism, and communism exist along, a sort of economic spectrum. Capitalism has little to no governmental control over the economy while Communism has complete control. Whereas socialism is balancing a more moderate governance module against that of communism and capitalism which both occupy the extreme opposite sides of the economic spectrum. Under socialism, major health and services industries are nationalized while individual ownership, capital and liberties remain outside of the government’s intervention. The government primarily is responsible for the redistribution of wealth in a way that is deemed fair and equitable to the population.
Whereas Democratic Socialism lies in the spectrum between Capitalism and Socialism. While most Americans don’t want to abolish the former, they tend to agree that the system is fundamentally broken and that more government intervention is required in areas like providing universal health care and expand the taxes on corporations and the ultra rich. This module is known as the Nordic Module which is applied in Scandinavia and, some parts of Western Europe.
To understand why the debate over Democratic Socialism in the U.S. is so heated, we need to look at the historical context.
Even before the Germans Karl Marx and Fredrich Ingles released their communist manifesto in 1848, the ideals of socialism had already taken place in the United States. That was followed by Thomas Pain’s famous writings that helped the rebels to fight against the British, he soon transitioned into new causes like taxing the wealthy landlords to help pay for a basic income for all citizens. He didn’t call it socialism at the time, but it became cross-sectional at the beginning of the 19th century. Those socialist principles incubated in labor unions and then expanded after the industrial revolution when wealth was dramatically increased and concentrated by a very small proportion of the population. Capitalism was then the enemy of the working class and by 1901 socialist unions established the Socialist Party of America. Within a decade, socialists began winning multiple local state and national level elections. And by 1912, the party even nominated a candidate for president.
But it all shifted by the beginning of World War I, with the overthrow of Imperialist Russia and the rise of the oppressive Communist Soviet Union and since then, the U.S. began cracking down on all socialist movements in what became known as the first Red Scare nationwide. By the 1920s, American socialism continued to decline and with the rise of FDR’s New Deal that established Social Security and paved the way for thousands of public sector jobs by taking the thunder of the Socialist Party which continued to decline. And with the fall of Nazi Germany in World War II, there was a huge power vacuum in Europe that the Democratic U.S. and its western allies fulfilled to combat the communist regimes and its satellite states. By then the term socialist and communist became synonymous and with the second Red Scare nationwide, a brutal witch hunt was designed to target any sympathizers to the Soviets or communist countries. No one was subject from scrutiny from teachers to journalists and even students.
By the 1960s the paradigm shifted the other way with the rise of countercultures, left-wing politics, the civil rights movement, and the anti-war movement. Despite the fact that liberal ideas became mainstreamed, socialism faded to the background and by the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989 which ended decades of the cold war had closed the chapter on a long cold era.
With the fall of the autocratic dictatorships, the U.S. was happy to promote democracy and liberal ideology on a very wide and controversial practices.
Then the 2008 Global Recession changed the game when millions of Americans lost their jobs. This was the image of adulthood when millennials where then transitioning to and not the image of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Public outrage reached a breaking point where movements like Occupy Wall street started to gain momentum by demonizing capitalism and blaming it for the country’s economic widespread inequality. Burdened by student debts and tough job market, millennials became convinced that the current system isn’t working. It wasn’t until Bernie Sanders announced his presidential campaign in 2015 where America’s socialist movement was reborn.
So, where Americans agree on socialism or not, there does appear to be a consensus about American politics today, the free market system in the U.S. as it is now is dysfunctional making the American Dream lost. Opportunities and incomes are not being fairly distributed. In the end, the 20th-century labels will never solve the 21st-century problems. The American economy should be structured to fit the human need and not accumulate profit and a socialist society will make people far more empowered in controlling their own destiny.