Socialism once made America Great
One way to look at it is, yeah, young people are more open to that [socialist] approach but when you look at what they mean by it, it gets right back to basic equity and opportunity for all—and a perception that some folks don’t have that opportunity.Mohamed Younis, editor in chief at Gallup
Donald Trump is not the first Republican President warning that Medicare would lead the US away from freedom and toward socialism. Ronald Reagan who “tore down the Berlin wall”, the perhaps greatest symbol of communism and lack of freedom, originally spoke of socialism in this way. Both Lyndon B. Johnson and John F. Kennedy were labeled socialists by their adversaries.
a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.
The term “socialism” has been used to describe positions as far apart as anarchism, Soviet state communism, and social democracy; however, it necessarily implies an opposition to the untrammeled workings of the economic market.The socialist parties that have arisen in most European countries from the late 19th century have generally tended toward social democracyOxford Dictionary
An Icon of American Socialism
Those who produce should have, but we know that those who produce the most — that is, those who work hardest, and at the most difficult and most menial tasks, have the least.
Eugene V. Debs, Walls and Bars (1927)
While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
I have no country to fight for; my country is the earth, and I am a citizen of the world.
The most heroic word in all languages is revolution.
When great changes occur in history, when great principles are involved, as a rule the majority are wrong.Eugene V. Debs
Besides Medicare for All, free college tuition and consumer protections. This quote from the Socialist Party platform of 1912 is illustrative of socialists far-reaching influence in America:
An eight-hour workday at a decent wage, a public-works program for the jobless (realized later in the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration), safety regulations for workers in the mines and factories, a child-labor law, an old-age pension, unemployment and accident insurance, a graduated income tax, an inheritance tax, suffrage for women, a direct vote in national elections doing away with the electoral college, the creation of separate departments of health, education, and labor, and a convention to revise the Constitution. The first of their political demands was absolute freedom of the press, speech, and assembly.”
If the nostrums of socialism are so baleful, the antidote must be the blessing of laissez-faire freed from the heavy hand of government. We have enjoyed such periods. The Gilded Age produced unbridled capitalism and a culture of excess that led to financial panics impoverishing millions at the hands of corporate profiteers professing the sanctity of property. This led to near class warfare between exploited workers and industrial barons in mines and factories, and among hard-pressed farmers and railroad magnates in the fields. The “yeoman” cultivators of national myth were often as not landless tenants maltreated by distant trusts. The invisible hand of the market had its thumb on the scale abetted by the visible hand of government whose intrusion through the courts and, when necessary, troops, the tycoons were all too glad to invite.
Much of this history has fallen down the memory hole of what Gore Vidal famously called the United States of Amnesia. As a nation, we seem to have forgotten the circumstances that turned rock-ribbed Americans of the industrial age into labor activists, social reformers, populists, and, yes, socialists. Their responses to the injustices they endured often overlapped and literally bled into one another.
The Socialists did not believe that either of the two major parties were capable of enacting these goals. But, as it turned out, many of them were realized within a few years and most became lawThe Daily Beast – Opinion: How Socialism made America Great by Jack Schwartz.
This era of good feeling lasted for no more than 50 years, coming to an end with the Reagan reaction. Labor unions were broken, the income gap between the wealthy and the rest of the country grew exponentially, all boats were not lifted, greed was good, the ideal of the common man gave way to the cult of the individual and the nation polarized over social grievance exacerbated by immigration and race as a distraction from the economic disparities that plagued it.
Conservatives would tell us that it is the job of government to protect the entrepreneur’s right to own and control his property, and then get out of the way, thereby guaranteeing his freedom, and ours. Critics of this 18th-century notion might ask: What happens when we effectively become part of the owner’s property and the proprietor is a faceless corporation whose only obligation is to its shareholders? The question Socialists asked 100 years ago is again a pressing one today: When economic power is concentrated in the hands of a corporate handful, what becomes of our society, and our democracy? A new generation is no longer intimidated by the wolf-cry of “socialism” but is willing to reclaim the socialist ethos as a legitimate part of the American reformist experience.
We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.Justice Louis D. Brandeis
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