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The untold Socialist history of the United States

globinfo freexchange

Abby Martin spoke with renowned Marxist Economist Richard Wolff to discuss the growing popularity of Socialism under Trump and its historical roots in America, misconceptions about Russia and China’s economic success and Marx’s theory of alienation and monopoly capitalism.

Wolff explains:

A hundred years ago, 1916 to be precise, was the first time that the Socialist Party of America put forward a candidate for president. His name was Allan Benson and he ran for president a hundred years ago and he got 600,000 votes in the United States. That worked out to three percent of the vote.

The Socialist Party thought that was a good beginning, so they ran again four years later, in 1920, little less than a hundred years ago, and they had a different candidate. A man named Eugene Victor Debs, a head of the railway Workers Union, very good orator. And he did better. He got 900,000 votes. That's a 50% increase in four years, four percent of the total vote.

Four years later, another socialist ran, 1924. Only he changed the name because by that time, the fear of socialism had led to an enormous effort by the government. Most famously, the Palmer Raids up in Boston, hounding Communists and Socialists and arresting them. And people got a little scared, so what the third effort was, would they change the name.

They didn't call it the Socialist Party, they called it the Progressive Party and they ran a man from Wisconsin named Robert La Follette - famous politician from Wisconsin. He ran for president under progressive, but he was clearly a Socialist, like the others. He got 5 million votes. They went up five times. It worked out to 17% of the total vote that year for president. 

And it was a shot across the bow of American business. They began to realize, they had a Socialist movement in America that was not only big, but growing fast. And down came a repression that we're still living the results of literally a century of demonizing Socialists and demonizing radicals. And making them feel, or be portrayed as alien to America, or as odd, or as scary, or as bomb-throwing lunatics, or however the play was done.

And we have to understand that we, the Socialists of this era, are coming out of a kind of hibernation, imposed on us by a winter of repression that comes out of our success 100 years ago.



In other words, Wolff reveals that this is not the first time that Socialism is becoming increasingly popular in the US working class.

Nearly 100 years ago, Socialism was gaining ground in the American society, despite the US corporate state suppression. After decades of corporate anti-Socialist propaganda, the American people and especially the American youth discover again Socialism, as they realize that capitalism is now an obsolete system. Not only (more and more frequently), generates financial instability and inequality, but it turns out that it has devastating consequences for the natural environment and the planet as a whole. Especially young generations are seeking alternatives, and Socialism is among the most promising ones.

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