The Rise and Fall of Socialism in America
The Socialist Party of America was founded in 1901. It received support from trade unionists, progressive social reformers, populist farmers, and various immigrant groups. But it never did well at the polls, particularly in presidential elections. And its staunch opposition to American involvement in World War I resulted in a large number of defections.
The best showing ever for a Socialist ticket was in 1912, when their candidate, Eugene Debs, received 901,551 total votes, or 6% of the popular vote. In 1920 Debs ran again, this time from prison, and received 913,693 votes, 3.4% of the total.
Socialism rebounded in the 1930s during the Great Depression under the leadership of Norman Thomas, but President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, which introduced America to Welfare-Statism, prevented Socialism from gathering much steam. Later, the party’s opposition to American involvement in World War II cost it much of its support.
The party stopped running presidential candidates after 1956 when its nominee won fewer than 6,000 votes. The party decided, instead, to focus its efforts on educational programs. In the early 1970s the party splintered into three main groups, and the original party changed its name to Social Democrats, USA.
The Resurrection of Socialism in America
It was therefore startling to most people when Newsweek magazine proclaimed on the cover of its February 6, 2009 issue that “We Are All Socialists Now.” As proof, the magazine pointed to the fact that the U.S. government had already — under a conservative Republican administration — effectively nationalized the banking and mortgage industries. The writer of the cover article then asserted, “Whether we want to admit it or not…the America of 2009 is moving toward a modern European state.”
How can this resurrection of Socialism be explained? It relates to the rapid secularization and paganization of American society in recent years, especially since the election of President Barack Obama in 2008.
Socialism always flourishes in a secular society. And the reason is simple. Here’s how Robert Knight of the American Civil Rights Union explained it in a recent article: “…Socialism goes hand in hand with abandoning God and worshiping the idol of an ever-growing government.”1
And that’s how United States Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont, an openly avowed Socialist, won more than 12 million votes in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries — by promising that government would become the National Nanny by providing every need. He promised free college, free health care and another $10 trillion in federal spending. When considering such reckless promises, Robert Knight asks, “What’s not to like if you view government as an ATM machine for all your needs?”2 Or, to put it another way, “Who needs God when government will supply everyone’s needs at someone else’s expense?”3
The Competing Systems
There are really only two types of social organization — collectivism and individualism. In the 20th Century, collectivism took many forms, such as Socialism, Fascism, Nazism, Welfare Statism and Communism. The alternative system, and the only one compatible with individualism and freedom, is Capitalism.
Collectivist systems like Socialism rely on state power to forcibly redistribute wealth. These systems amount to legalized theft. C. Bradley Thompson, who is a professor at Ashland University and a staff member at the John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs, has summarized Socialism brilliantly as a ruling system that “uses compulsion and the organized violence of the State to expropriate wealth from the producer class for its redistribution to the parasitical class.”4
Defenders of Socialism always try to present themselves as compassionate people who care for the underprivileged. They characterize Capitalism as a dog-eat-dog system that produces inequities, with great disparities between the rich and the poor. Thompson responds to these arguments as follows:5
Yes, there are winners and losers in Capitalism. The winners are those who are honest, industrious, thoughtful, prudent, frugal, responsible, disciplined and efficient. The losers are those who are shiftless, lazy, imprudent, extravagant, negligent, impractical and inefficient. Capitalism is the only social system that rewards virtue and punishes vice.
Thompson then sums up his whole argument against Socialism by saying, “Simply put, Socialism rewards sloth and penalizes hard work, while Capitalism rewards hard work and penalizes sloth.”6
The Need for Common Sense
The young people who are swarming to Senator Sanders’ support are a spiritually bankrupt generation who view government as God. They are also a greedy generation that desires “free stuff.”
And they are obviously ignorant of economics and are hard up for common sense, for one of the facts of life is that there are no free meals. Thus, if government gives you a “free” education, you will spend the rest of your life paying exorbitant, confiscatory taxes to cover the cost of that education and the “free” educations of those who follow you. I guess the problem with common sense is that it is not very common.
Some liberal Christian spokesmen have tried to defend Socialism on the grounds that the early Church in Jerusalem practiced Socialism as described in Acts 2:44-45:
44) And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common;
45) and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
Yes, the early Christians, who were severely persecuted, banded together in communal groups to help defend and support each other, but that is a far cry from Socialism. The key here is that they shared their goods of their own free will. No one forced them to do so.
In like manner today, I give a lot of my income to many ministries, churches and social welfare organizations that provide food, clothing and even lodging to poor people. But I do so willingly as an expression of my love of Jesus. No one forces me to do so.
Again, the Socialists utilize the power of the State to force people to give to others through policies that result in a forced redistribution of income. And that is theft, pure and simple. Their desire is to make people dependent on the State because such dependence, in turn, will provide the Socialists with ever greater power over people’s lives.
One interesting thing in this regard that I have noticed over the years is that when Socialist politicians are forced to reveal their income tax returns, they never show any significant donations to help the poor. No, these “compassionate” liberals want to help the poor with your money and mine — not theirs.
Insights About Socialism
Rupert Murdoch, the British media mogul, recently gave a speech about the virtues of Capitalism. In the process, he made a very insightful comment about Socialism:7
Socialism is a form of feudalism. The Lord is the State and the Aristocracy which rises up around the State…The serfs are the same people who have always been serfs throughout history. Socialism doesn’t save anyone from working for the company store. Government just becomes the company store.
Winston Churchill always had a pithy way of presenting profound ideas in brief statements. Here’s what he had to say about Socialism as compared to Capitalism: “The inherent vice of Capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of Socialism is the equal sharing of misery.”8
One blogger, who chooses to remain anonymous, has this to say about the morality of Socialism:9
Socialism is immoral at its core [because] it requires an acceptance that the government owns you, that when the rubber hits the road, you are simply a number, and that if you are more productive than most other people, you will be replaced as a cash cow to be milked for what some group of Statists consider “The Common Good.”
History attests to the fact that people are always willing to surrender their freedoms for the promise of security. That is exactly what Socialism does. Beware!
1) Robert Knight, “Embracing the Socialist,” www.washingtontimes. com, February 14, 2016, page 1.
3) Ibid., page 3.
4) C. Bradley Thompson, “Socialism vs. Capitalism: Which is the Moral System?” http://ashbrook.org, October 1993, page 2.
6) Ibid., page 3.
7) Nick Sorrentino, “Socialism fails because it is largely immoral in its denial of fundamental freedoms,” www.againstcronycapitalism.org, April 22, 2013, page 2.
8) Anonymous, “On Taxes and Socialism,” http://waronsocialism.com, page 4.