Socialism has become a popular topic for liberal discussion. Thousands of young people are joining moderate socialist organizations such as SP, DSA, or one of the Bernie-ite electoral groups.
It is wonderful to see so many people committing to a better world, but I’m not sure how serious they are. It would be good to take a look backward to see how this discussion was conducted over the ages.
Socialism was a suitable subject for tea parties and Utopian literature for a couple of centuries before the 20th. There were even some harmless experiments, including one here in North Texas in the 1850s. The draft law of the Confederacy ended the Texas experiments with guns and terror.
The hippies of the 1960s recapitulated that early period and did some more harmless experimenting with communal living, counter-cultural institutions and what they called the “land trip.” Almost all of them either gave it up or moved to Costa Rica or both.
In 1917, though, the talk got serious. Since then, serious advocates of socialism have realized that an opposition exists and it’s not just arguing politely. Millions died in the civil war after that first socialist economy was established.
The “arguments” of the opposition then took the form of fascism. In Italy, Germany, and Spain, the socialists were put down with guns and terror. No sooner had the Nazis been defeated than the “arguments” of the opposition began killing millions in Korea, Vietnam, Guatemala, Iran, Chile, South Africa, Angola, and Indonesia. Sorry if I left some out.
Here in the United States, only a few of the advocates of socialism actually died and a few, not a whole lot, were imprisoned. But an awful lot of them lost their jobs and suffered blacklisting. Many Americans are still terrified of socialism because the terror that began in 1947 worked rather well for the anti-socialists. If it hadn’t, they would have gone much further, as they did in other nations.
Socialism is serious business. It’s not enough to discuss and advocate it. We need a plan.