The S Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism


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John Nichols

The "S" Word: A Short History of an American Tradition...Socialism

A" One of the most popular ongoing features on Glenn Beck's daily radio program is called America's March to Socialism. A" John Nichols, a leading political reporter in the US, here offers his unapologetic retort to the return of red-baiting in American political life-arguing that socialism has a long, proud American history. Tom Paine was enamoured of early socialists, Horace Greeley employed Karl Marx as a correspondent, and Helen Keller was an avowed socialist.

Moreover, we owe many basic American institutions, like the Social Security system, to the ideas and efforts of American socialists. Recent polls show that Americans, especially young Americans, are more open to socialism and alternatives to capitalism than in decades.


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Indeed, as The New Yorker put it, There hasn't been so much talk of socialism in an American election since , when Eugene Victor Debs, candidate of the Socialist Party, made his fifth run for president from a cell in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats in Congress, is the only candidate so far to challenge Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for president.

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But it is also due to the residue of the long Cold War demonization of communism and the failure of centrally planned economies in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Cuba, and China. Of course, the Marxism-Leninism of those countries is only one strand of a progressive socialist tradition that also includes social democracy in its various forms, which is still a vital political force in most European countries — most prominently in Scandinavia.

American Tradition

Comfortable in the conviction that the U. But it is slowly dawning on wide portions of the American public — crushed by stagnant wages, robbed of middle-class jobs by competition with low-wage countries, deprived of health care, burdened by student debt and the astronomical costs of a college education — that this supposed superiority of ours is no longer true, if it ever was.


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But a younger generation of American voters — unmarked by the Cold War and the red scare of the McCarthy era — is much more open to the appeal of socialism and its notion of a solidarity that provides a minimum of financial and social security to every citizen.

In a long article this month for American Prospect, Peter Dreier, a professor of politics at Occidental College, cited a Pew poll finding that young Americans are about equally divided in their attitudes toward socialism and capitalism — with socialism even getting a slight edge. Ultimately, it is the message more than the labels that will catch fire in this campaign.

Whether Sanders is labeled a socialist, a democratic socialist, a social democrat, a progressive, a liberal, a populist — or is disparaged by critics as a pinko commie — his message that there is too much concentration of wealth in this country at the expense of greater prosperity for all is certain to resonate.

Two-thirds think CEO pay is too high. Three of four think climate change is a serious or very serious matter. In his interview with Stephanopoulos, Sanders says his unusual career in politics should make people wary of underestimating him.

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Darrell Delamaide is a political columnist for MarketWatch in Washington. Economic Calendar Tax Withholding Calculator.

The S Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism The S Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism
The S Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism The S Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism
The S Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism The S Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism
The S Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism The S Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism
The S Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism The S Word: A Short History of an American Tradition... Socialism

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