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Socialism: Yeah?

April 14, 2011

The United States of America has had a long relationship with socialism, though never being socialistic itself. Its presence has been felt by way of our involvement in World War II, both Red Scares, and the Cuban Revolution, amongst other instances. Undoubtedly, the general consensus held by the American people at large concerning socialism is that it is inherently evil, but why?

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels is an analysis of the class struggle in Germany at that time and of capitalism’s shortcomings. Commissioned by the Communist League, an international organization focused on utopian socialism, it was created essentially to be their mission statement, but is now considered the foundation upon which most historical socialistic revolutions built their belief systems. Interpreting only information found in the Manifesto, one finds a system for social redistribution and the abolishment of property:

The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all the other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, and conquest of political power by the proletariat.


In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.

Goals that, though radically distant from the governmental status quo, seem relatively harmless.

However, as many Americans haven’t read socialist literature nor know much about its idealistic foundation, they judge its merit based on the violent uprisings led by socialist revolutionaries that have occurred throughout history, e.g. the October Revolution in Russia, Hitler’s Nazi Germany, and the Cuban Revolution led by Castro. One’s natural reaction to the massacre of peaceful protesters, the attempted extermination of an entire people, and the execution of any and every dissenter is that of disgust, but the difficulty that many Americans have experienced is of separating the socialist canon from the actions of these violent revolutionaries. We’ve let the brutality shown by many socialist revolutionaries cloud our understanding of the socialist ideology to the point of it becoming to us a political system whose only belief is violence.

Yes, the Red Terror was not a wonderful period in Russian history, and yes, the Bolsheviks were socialists, but it’s necessary to recognize that their determination to maintain power at any cost was a product of their own greed, not of socialistic ideals. What we need to understand as a people is that though there have been many historical instances of violence caused by socialist leaders, violence is a product of angry people, not a tenet of socialism. Our inherent distaste for anything socialism is founded on our ignorance of socialist theory, as well as our inability to discern socialism as a political system from the violence caused by revolutionaries who agree with it.

A poll for kicks: 

  1. rgrossca permalink
    April 14, 2011 2:56 AM

    I agree with your point that Americans are so caught up in the violence that sometimes accompanies the initiation of socialism in a country. If Americans read up a bit, they would understand that not too far away, in Canada, there once was a socialist state, which did not start with violence. The first socialist government of North America and one of the most influential came to power in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan in 1944. The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation of Tommy Douglas won against the old Liberal regime which had dominated Saskatchewan politics since 1905. This socialist government won 5 consecutive terms in office. During his time in office he created the Saskatchewan Power Corp., extending electricity services to rural villages, created the first public car insurance agency in Canada, created many government and public owned businesses many of which still exist today in Saskatchewan, allowed the unionization of the public service, created the first system of Universal Health Care in Canada (which would later be adopted nationally in 1965), and created Saskatchewan’s Bill of Rights, the first such charter in Canada. They lost power with the uproar of democracy in Canada at the time.

    But this is just one example of the positives a socialist government did, and it so happened to be in our neighboring country.

    Great Post.

  2. rianhandler permalink
    April 14, 2011 5:12 PM

    You bring up a lot of interesting and valid points in your blog. The word socialism is frequently thrown around by the media to conjure up feelings of panic or distrust towards certain people in government. For example, Obama is often called a socialist because of his views on public health care. I agree with you that most Americans do not know, or care to know, about the true foundation of socialism. I can’t say that I’m an expert either. However, I think you bring up a great point about how people mostly just confuse socialism with violence and greed. Nice job

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