I’ve written many columns for the IDS that are critical of capitalism and perhaps not enough about why people should support socialism instead. Sure, capitalism produces ever-growing inequality, ever-worsening crises and never-ending misery for workers generally and especially in the Global South. But the socialist alternative – why should we back it? That’s the question I intend to answer.
The socialist program is the only political program that can and actually seeks to solve the problems everyday Americans face.
If you’re a student, you should be a socialist. If you’re unemployed or underemployed, you should be a socialist. If you’re sick, disabled or don’t have healthcare, you should be a socialist. If you’re a journalist, if you’re incarcerated, if you’re homeless, if you’re queer, if you live in the territories, if you’re a person of color, if you live on this earth and love it and want to pass it on to your children, you should be a socialist.
One of the things that radicalized me is the absurdly high cost of higher education in this country. Bernie Sanders campaigned for eliminating this financial burden for the millions of students in this country. Socialists believe education is a public good and it has been the socialist countries and social democracies of western Europe who have historically provided their citizens with a free university education.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans support making college tuition free, but the platforms for both major American parties reject this. The Democratic Party platform talks of making college “affordable.” This is well and good, we say, but we respond once again that education is a public good and should be free. Other countries have done this and so can we.
Many other socialists were radicalized over the inequities of the private healthcare system in America. Americans are crushed by medical debt, are often forced to work when they’re sick and sometimes even die because they lack healthcare. For socialists, and even many liberals, this is an injustice that cannot be accepted.
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Socialists assert that healthcare is a human right and should be provided to all. The majority of Americans agree with us. And yet the major political parties still uphold the “right” of private insurers to exist on their political platforms. The best the Democratic Party can offer is, once again, “affordable” healthcare. This is a much better platform than what the Republicans offer, but it is simply not enough.
Socialist countries like Cuba provide high quality healthcare to all of their citizens; even the social democracies of Europe do this. America’s privatized system is backward and cruel and should be abolished.
The problem of unemployment is another issue that only the socialist program is daring enough to solve.
Capitalism produces chronic unemployment. It is not profitable – and therefore not in the interest of the capitalists – to employ everyone. Moreover, Marxists have long argued that unemployment serves the function of driving down wages. The unemployed are an ever-present reminder for all workers that someone is there who will work for less money simply to have a job.
Both the Republican and Democratic Parties support the continued existence of the capitalist system that perpetually produces this unemployment. The socialist program says everyone is entitled to dignified work and that jobs should be guaranteed to all. This isn’t some utopian pipe dream. The former Soviet Union, for example, eliminated cyclical unemployment by the 1930s.
Limited space prevents me from going into further benefits for socialism, but on many more issues the socialist program is simply better than what the two-party system offers to American workers.
Briefly, I can say that many different kinds of people would benefit from socialism. For example, those of us who are queer or are allies of queer people can temporarily align ourselves with the Democratic Party against Republican discrimination, but the socialist program once again will provide the most benefits for the LGBTQ community. Socialists support free medical care for trans people to transition, to name just one policy – countries like Cuba already do this, and we think America should, too.
Socialists will house the homeless in quality public housing, free the incarcerated and wrest power from the oil and gas barons who are making our planet uninhabitable. That last point can’t be stressed enough. Our planet is at stake, and a handful of wealthy people are destroying it for profit. The socialist system, based upon the collective needs of the people instead of the whims of private individuals, will save the earth.
You might be thinking this all sounds lovely, but hasn’t socialism been a historical failure?
Americans, accustomed to Red Scare propaganda, have been trained to believe this. But history complicates this narrative. The Soviet Union existed for 70 years – it would seem, for a very long time at least, socialism did not “fail,” whatever failure is supposed to mean. And countries like Cuba, for example, have suffered at the hands of American meddling for more than six decades. America has not allowed Cuban socialism a chance to succeed or fail on its own, and this can be said of virtually all socialist experiments.
And does capitalism not fail every seven to ten years when the nation falls into another economic crisis, and millions lose their jobs, their homes, their livelihoods?
The socialist countries, though they have had faults like any other country, employed their citizens, provided them with education and healthcare, expanded the rights of women and minorities – is this not success?
For all these reasons and more, you should be a socialist. The capitalist parties of America are either unwilling or unable to solve our problems. The answer to the question, “Why socialism?” is simple: because everything else has failed.
Jared Quigg (he/him) is a senior studying journalism and political science.