If I had a dollar for every time an elder said I would “outgrow” my socialist beliefs, I’d be so rich that I might reconsider capitalism. What a sad day that would be.
I’ve just turned 20, and in a time when socialism in America is as popular as ever among young people. What can explain the socialist phenomenon?
About 60% of students have some form of debt by graduation. For millions of workers, wages have been stagnant since the 1970s despite growth in productivity, and the minimum wage has less purchasing power today than it did in 1968. Over half a million Americans are homeless.
If this isn’t bad enough, climate change, the biggest problem young people face today, is the consequence of industrial capitalism. But when 18-year-old Greta Thunberg expresses concerns, she’s mocked and dismissed by people who will be long dead before the worst effects of climate change come to pass.
Capitalism puts us in debt, makes us poor, denies us housing and threatens our Earth. It’s almost surprising there aren’t more socialists.
I say “almost,” because I’m fully aware of the effectiveness of Cold War-era propaganda. I was born just a couple months after 9/11 — I have no memories of the Soviet Union. The so-called “evil empire” is long gone, but those who have been indoctrinated to hate it sadly remain.
Socialists are clueless of the events of the 20th century, they say.
No, it’s the reactionaries who are clueless!
We remember the Death Squads in Nicaragua, paid for by the Reagan administration. We remember Kennedy’s failed coup d’etat of Castro in Cuba. We remember the illegal overthrow of Grenada’s government by the U.S., which was condemned by the United Nations.
We’re not ignorant of history. We know all too well who the real “evil empire” is.
The reactionaries say we’re “radical.” Is it radical to guarantee healthcare to everyone? To guarantee higher education to everyone? To house everyone? If so, then we’re certainly guilty as charged, but then, most of Europe is the home of radicals.
But perhaps the reactionaries, when calling socialists “radical,” mean our desire to abolish private property. Today it’s radical to demand the enterprise be run democratically, rather than be under the dictatorship of the private capitalist. But it was once fashionable in this country to make the same demands of government. We simply seek to dispel the myth of the divine right of CEOs.
Founding Father Thomas Paine wrote in “Common Sense” that, “we have it in our power to begin the world over again.” The blood of radicals runs through our veins! You conservatives are so concerned with what’s being taught in history class — you taught us too well!
We’ve been told all our lives that we live in the “land of the free,” and we grow up to find that work is coercive, we’re in endless debt and the only freedom we have is the freedom to starve.
Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin was right when he said that freedom under capitalism, “is about the same as it was in the ancient Greek republics: freedom for the slave-owners.” Whether you agree with Lenin’s socialist beliefs or not, the problems he identified with capitalism persist.
Socialists have long been considered utopians, but we’re not. We understand the society we envision, free of exploitation and classes, will not likely come to fruition in our lifetimes. It’s a bitter truth that we accept.
But the groundwork for that society must be laid now because young people depend upon it. The philosopher Karl Marx wrote, “philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” This is the mission statement of the socialist movement.
Young people like myself seek to fundamentally change the world. We’re socialists because we cannot bear to know that people are forced to sleep outside when there are empty houses for sale. We cannot bear that people live and die in wage slavery, knowing little else but the drudgery of work. So we seek the liberation of the working class.
Perhaps you hate us, but remember: This land is our land, too.
Jared Quigg (he/him) is a sophomore studying journalism and political science.