More millennial Americans are starting to think they’ve had enough with capitalism. Many would even prefer to relocate and live in any socialist country. In a survey conducted by YouGov last month, they found out that millennials were the only American age group that preferred socialism over capitalism.
Last year, the Democratic Socialists of America became the fastest growing political group in the United States. Their membership almost quintupled, rising from 6,500 to 30,000. Their median age group also changed from 60 to 35.
Why are American millennials suddenly so attracted to socialism? The answer is pretty clear: rising student loans, higher rents, job insecurity, and stagnant wages.
When the idea of socialism surfaced, it gave them a ray of hope. The movement can resolve these major stresses they currently face. It also offers different systems that could subsidize all of their needs.
Post-war American Socialism
During the World War II, an uneasy alliance between communists and socialists was forged. Conservatives and liberals also became allies because of their common fight against fascism. The alliance soon disintegrated, though. The Soviet Union built communist regimes in the eastern European countries when the war ended.
After the Cold War, the gap between other socialists and communists got worse. Socialists saw themselves as Democrats who oppose the one-party rule imposed by the Soviet Union.
For instance, the Labor Party won in the British elections of 1945. They subsequently developed a national health care system. The group also gained public control of major industries and utilities.
The party eventually lost its majority in 1951. They relinquished the government offices to the Conservatives who won the next elections. The Great Depression was ended by the end of the Second World War.
Examples of Socialism in USA
Despite its deep roots, different faces of socialism can still be seen in the United States. Here are some examples:
Corporate Bailouts and Welfare
What most people don’t realize is that we all use and benefit from socialism. This example of socialism is something the Republicans like and fight for. You see, they do not like it when socialism is used for the poor or working class.
However, when millionaires and their corporate donors are involved, it’s a different story. Socialism suddenly becomes as American as a hot apple pie.
People who belong in the working class make up the majority of taxpayers. They pay for welfare for corporations and individuals who have money more than all of us combined. When the government offers a subsidy to a billion-dollar company, you are the one paying for it.
Deserving students in the United States are rewarded by the government. If you show true potential and work hard in school, the government will provide you with a college scholarship to help advance your education.
Your tax dollars have been used to give college scholarship for future scientists, doctors, lawyers, and even U.S. presidents.
Health Care for All
In addition to education, government taxpayer funds have been allocated to provide health care for low-income U.S. citizens. Republicans are against this program for many reasons.
What they fail to understand is that when people can’t afford to pay steep medical bills, they simply don’t. The bill stays there and does not magically disappear out of thin air. The loss taken by the hospital, doctor or insurance company is just passed down to everyone else.
This is why giving people a low-income option works. Medical costs are reduced not only for them but for all taxpayers. It’s actually the main argument regarding a health care mandate. You are not being forced to buy health care. Costs actually decrease for everyone if all of us are covered.
Construction of State Properties
You’ve probably seen construction workers doing their thing while you’re on your daily commute. They are there to fix potholes, repave roads and highways, and erect buildings. They are the ones responsible for fixing everything in your town.
How are they paid by the government that hires them? They themselves, as well as the work they do, is made possible by taxpayer-funded state socialism.
Insurance for the Unemployed
You pay payroll taxes throughout your entire working life. Some taxes are directed to a program that provides for the unemployed temporarily until they can get another job. The logic behind this is pretty straightforward: you pay for the sake of others, they do the same for you.
These days, you’ll never know when you might lose your job. You may need to get temporary assistance until you are able to get back on your feet. This possibility is recognized by the government.
Metro or City Buses
Everybody needs a means of transportation. Don’t have your own car? No problem. A city bus can help you get from point A to point B safely. This is one of the benefits from taxpayer funds.
The fee you pay the government funds the city buses. As a result, millions of people are able to go to work without having to worry about getting their own vehicle.
Occupy Wall Street: A Socialist Movement
Occupy Wall Street (OWS) was a progressive movement that kicked off on September 17, 2011. People gathered in Zuccotti Park, located in the Wall Street financial district of New York City, to protest. The rally received global attention, giving birth to a surge in the movement against worldwide economic inequality.
Adbusters, an anti-consumerist magazine based in Canada, was responsible for initiating the call for a protest. Among the main issues raised by OWS were greed, corruption, economic inequality, and the unnecessary influence corporations had on the government.
“We are the 99%” was the slogan of the OWS. The phrase refers to wealth distribution and income inequality in the U.S. – the wealthiest make up 1% of the population.
Protesters made consensus-based decisions to achieve their goals. General assemblies were organized. During those meetings, members emphasized compensation through direct action by petitioning to authorities.
On November 15, 2011, authorities forced protesters out of Zuccotti Park. It was not the end of the movement, though. Protesters shifted their focus to occupying board meetings, universities, college campuses, banks, and foreclosed homes.
Democratic Socialists of America DSA and What They Really Want
In recent years, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) made headlines thanks to socialist candidate Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It’s worth noting, though, that in the organization, they are actually moderates.
Many people say one of the most surprising things about the DSA is the fact that democratic socialists in America do exist. That was probably just under the radar until Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez became the faces of the movement.
Maria Svart, the national director of the Democratic Socialists of America, recently spoke with The Gist’s Mike Pesca and she explained what democratic socialism is all about.
“We believe that people should have the ability to live a dignified life and that it’s possible in the wealthiest country in the history of the world,” the American socialist said. “Democratic socialism is the idea that we make the economy run, and so we should control it. We should own and control our workplaces. We should actually have real democratic control over public investment decisions. Other aspects of our society should be run democratically.”
Bernie Sanders, the Socialist
Sanders established himself as Hillary Clinton’s top challenger for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination. The Vermont senator, who is now 77 years old, ran as a “Democratic socialist.” But in his long political career, he has always been comfortable with just calling himself a “socialist.”
According to him, his ideology is framed this way: “Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.”
The central tenet of his campaign was his fight for equality among the poor and middle class and against the billionaire class. Due to his socialist beliefs, he positioned himself further left of the center compared to Clinton.
During his campaign, Sanders said college should be free for everyone. “A college degree is the new high school diploma,” he wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece.
He argued that if a majority of Americans do not have access to a proper college education, class equality is impossible. He also introduced a plan to make tuition at public colleges and universities free by taxing speculators at Wall Street.
Ocasio-Cortez has become a popular name in the Democratic Party since June. Two months ago, she pulled off an unexpected upset in the New York midterm primaries after defeating top Democrat Rep. Joe Crowley.
The Bronx native is a democratic socialist and her political mentor is Sen. Sanders. She has turned into a surrogate on the road for progressive primary candidates. She’s actually everywhere these days. In August, she seemed to be campaigning for different left-leaning Democrats in Hawaii, Kansas, and Michigan.
She was also offered $10,000 last month by writer and podcast host Ben Shapiro – a prominent conservative. “Miss Ocasio-Cortez, I’m really excited that you’ve been elevated to that position and I would love to have a real conversation with you about the issues,” he said.
The host added, “Not only am I eager to discuss the issues with you, I’m willing to offer $10,000 to your campaign, today, for you to come on our Sunday special.”
He concluded his offer by saying, “However you want to do it, I am more than willing to talk to you.”
Shapiro told Fox Business at the time that he did not expect a response from the politician.
However, Ocasio-Cortez did deliver a statement in response to his offer, tweeting, “Just like catcalling, I don’t owe a response to unsolicited requests from men with bad intentions.”
According to the Ocasio-Cortez campaign team, the social media post was Ocasio-Cortez’s full statement on the matter.
Ocasio-Cortez’s platform calls for a tuition-free college and universal healthcare. She also believes housing should be a common right for all Americans.
Socialism and Democratic Socialism
“Socialist” remains an often misunderstood – and sometimes dirty – term in the U.S. political sphere. One reason for that way of thinking is the Cold War, in which paranoia toward the Soviet Union was widespread across the United States.
In the traditional sense, a socialist simply means a person who is adherent of socialism.
Socialism is defined by a system of social organization in which the distribution of income and private property is controlled by the society. This basically means it is an economy that’s state-controlled.
The state has power over all means of production, including offices, resources, firms, and factories. It’s worth noting, though, that there are different forms of socialism. There are systems in which the means of production is under the control and ownership of workers.
Academics have long been debating about what socialism really is.
“The academic debates about socialism’s ‘meaning’ are huge and arcane and rife with disagreements, but what all definitions have in common is either the elimination of the market or its strict containment,” said former DSA board member Frances Fox Piven, who is also a political scientist at the City University of New York.
Socialists generally believe the government is responsible for providing a wide range of basic services to the public. This means they should give citizens education and health care for free or at a significant discount so everyone could afford it.
“Democratic socialist” and “socialist” are often used interchangeably these past few years. It can be confusing for some given that democratic socialists don’t necessarily believe the government is responsible for all facets of the economy.
However, they do believe the government should help people by providing their most basic needs. They also think the government should assist people so they can all have an equal chance at success.
In 2006, Sen. Sanders offered a longer definition of democratic socialism during an interview.
“I think [democratic socialism] means the government has got to play a very important role in making sure that as a right of citizenship all of our people have healthcare; that as a right, all of our kids, regardless of income, have quality childcare, are able to go to college without going deeply into debt; that it means we do not allow large corporations and moneyed interests to destroy our environment; that we create a government in which it is not dominated by big money interest,” he explained.
The politician added, “I mean, to me, it means democracy, frankly. That’s all it means.”
Democratic socialists are also strong believers of democracy and all the principles that come with it. They are by no means advocates of authoritarian governments. Many Americans associate socialism with authoritarianism but democratic socialists don’t think the same way.
“At the root of our socialism is a profound commitment to democracy, as means and end. As we are unlikely to see an immediate end to capitalism tomorrow, DSA fights for reforms today that will weaken the power of corporations and increase the power of working people,” reads an excerpt from the DSA’s official website.
They don’t feel that socialism should be forced on everyone. They do, however, think they are fundamentally anti-capitalist. According to democratic socialists, the government should urge businesses under private ownership to give workers as much control as possible.
Democratic socialists like Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders, as well as the DSA, put a great deal of emphasis on social justice. They are even pushing for the rise of an economy that is largely controlled by workers instead of the owners.
Major Policy Reforms
Many believe today’s democratic socialists don’t see positive policy reforms as something that could be accumulated until one day, we suddenly just have socialism. In a recent interview, DSA member and New York state Senate candidate Julia Salazar said, “There’s no question that we have to expand and comprehensively fund the social safety net, but if we do that without altering the more basic structures that disempower people and keep them in wage slavery, we’re never going to see long-term social change.”
This is the reason why democratic socialists mostly choose what reforms they should rally behind. They favor battles that can ultimately change the lives of ordinary people for the better. Additionally, they teach people the value of coming together to fight against a huge threat: the capitalist Goliaths who are currently reigning over our society.
Featured image: Occupy Bank of America March 15, 2012, Occupy Wall Street targets BofA with a rally and march. Activists “moved in” to a branch by setting up a sidewalk living room on the theory that ‘the bank took our homes so we’re moving in with them.’ A half dozen people were arrested. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Mike Fleshman