There has been a historic resurgence of support for socialism in the United States in the past several years. Thirteen million people voted for democratic socialist Bernie Sanders for president in 2016.
Democratic socialists Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York City, and Rashida Tlaib, of Detroit, were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018. Other leftist candidates have been elected to state legislatures and city councils in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland and New York.
Communists, revolutionary socialists, and other anti-capitalists are prominent in the struggles against fascists in the streets of Charlottesville, Portland, Berkeley and other cities. They also play an important role in the movements to end the detention and deportation of migrants, police brutality and mass incarceration, the assault on women’s rights, and the exploitation of workers.
Different kinds of left organizations are growing throughout the country. A Harris Poll in March indicated that half the population 40 and younger would prefer to live in a socialist country.
This renewal of socialist aspirations is hardly surprising. Tens of millions of young people have been shaped by the grave economic crisis of 2008-09 and the Occupy movement against economic inequality in 2011. To many of them, the future appears grim because good jobs, affordable housing and health care, and pensions are increasingly out of reach.
The Trump Republicans’ brazen white supremacy, sexism and authoritarianism have driven vast numbers to embrace left-wing politics. And many have been alienated by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi’s insistence that “We’re capitalist, and that’s the way it is.”
Today’s revival of socialism doesn’t approach the zenith of leftist politics in the early 20th century, but this level of public discussion on the meaning and merits of socialism hasn’t been seen since the 1960s.
To be sure, many of those who express support for socialism today equate it with universal health care, free higher education, and other social benefits which can be found in liberal, social democratic and socialist societies. But many others are indeed genuine socialists who recognize that the abolition of capitalism is necessary to save the planet and meet the needs of the vast majority of humanity.
The politics of democratic socialist politicians like Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, and Tlaib, and many of their followers, is actually a mix of New Deal liberalism and social democracy, combining limited regulation of markets and social protections with some public control over private capital.
In contrast, communists, revolutionary socialists, and many other anti-capitalists support socialist transformation — the creation of a new workers government, public ownership and control of most economic enterprises, democratic economic planning, an end to imperialist wars, and sweeping measures to abolish national oppression, racism and sexism.
Most young people fighting for revolutionary change today appreciate the achievements of 20th century socialism while acknowledging the mistakes and problems that are part of that history.
They’re committed to this emancipatory project because they refuse to accept the endless holocausts, atrocities, and degradations produced by U.S. and global capitalism, and they understand that another world is possible.