In my conversations with friends, coworkers, and various netizens in social media or news comment sections, I’m often subject to a handful of overused and meaningless attack phrases that have become part of the lexicon of left-bashers. For example:
- Socialism has failed everywhere it was tried
- Every socialist leader has been a violent dictator
- I prefer freedom because I’m an American
- You and the other “libtards” worship your Messiah while he destroys the country
- If you hate America and freedom so much, why don’t you move to Communist Russia?
Notwithstanding that I despise the neoliberal policies of Barack Obama, and notwithstanding that “libtard” is an offensive portmanteau (not only for the politically correct reasons, but also because socialism is incompatible with liberalism), the last statement is one of my favorites. Sometimes it’s Cuba or North Korea or Nazi Germany, of course, but usually they tend to go with Russia. Of course, Russia hasn’t been Communist since things went to hell nearly a quarter century ago, and most Russians would prefer it to their current capitalist conditions. Nazi Germany stood directly opposed to Communism as one of Hitler’s core tenets, but this is a silly argument to begin with because it’s just another example of Godwin’s Law.
It does bring up a great question, though. If I could live in a nation with a rich leftist history, with a number of groundbreaking socialists setting new standards and driving the nation forward over the decades and centuries, where could I live? I’ve studied the lives of quite a number of them and know they come from all around the world, but where have they made the kind of impact I’d like to see from a nation’s leading thinkers and doers?
First, I imagine a country where the natives live communally1. There’s plenty of work and plenty of spoils to go around, so everyone should contribute and everyone should reap the benefits. It’s an “intentional community” design that has existed even amongst the most primitive humans for most of recorded history, so finding a country like this won’t be difficult, but the issue is that eventually, someone’s going to show up and start taking over.
Hopefully there will be men among the invaders who yearn to continue the concept of ensuring a good standard of living for everyone. Someone2 will write a book (or several) on such ideas as progressive taxation, old-age pension, and a stipend to help each citizen launch into adulthood. Another will suggest free medical care for all who are in need3. Many4 will warn of the spectre of unmitigated profit, unchecked greed from a class of elites that possess power through their manipulation of labor and unregulated markets.
Surely there will be wars. At times we will need to stand strong against engaging in these fights and we shall have a presidential candidate5 who stands defiant in the face of the pro-war hawks and tells the population to resist, that the war is unjust and that imperialism has no place in such a free and democratic nation. Other times, we will be hit and must retaliate, and we shall have a brilliant scientist6 devise one of the most devastating weapons ever created to put a direct and powerful end to the conflict.
During these times of trouble, our nation could band together, uniting under the ideas of liberty and justice… perhaps egalitarianism and fraternity, as well. A great man7 could write a poem, a pledge of sorts, to bind us together… and though he may be a minister, he would not insert his religion into this pledge because he knows this country has been built on secular values.
Oh, and the local government! My city could have mayors8 that launch the first public works administrations, the first fire and police commissions, some of the first public city parks, the first public housing project, and they could municipalize street lighting, sewage disposal, water purification and other important functions that should not be trusted to private industry. The city I live in could prosper… could double in size and become one of the most diverse and worker-friendly cities in the entire nation.
Diversity could be a problem, but we’d have ourselves a civil rights pioneer9 to address that. He would give his life for the cause but we would become better and more accepting as a nation because of his tireless work. Like all those mentioned before him, he would have a lasting positive impact on the entire country.
And like all those before him, he would be a socialist. Does it sound far-fetched?
- Native Americans and Common Land Ownership
- Tom Paine and Agrarian Justice
- Ben Franklin and the Pennsylvania Hospital
- Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson
- Eugene V. Debs as Socialist Party presidential candidate
- Albert Einstein, creator of the A Bomb and author of Why Socialism?
- Francis Bellamy, socialist, wrote original Pledge of Allegiance
- Emil Seidel, Daniel Hoan, Frank Zeidler – Socialist Party Milwaukee Mayors
- Martin Luther King, Jr. and the “Where Do We Go From Here?” speech
While Franklin, Hamilton, and Jefferson existed before the days of Marx and, therefore, before the advent of socialism as a named and studied school of economic thought, their calls for free healthcare and warnings against the profiteers are hallmarks of the socialist movement. Paine is less disputed because his Agrarian Justice and other pamphlets are literal precursors to the works of Marx and Engels. The Americans throughout the remainder of the list, though, were all active, vocal, and self-identifying members of the socialist community. Not only does this country exist, but this country is indeed the United States.
It appears I’ve found a country with a long and powerful socialist history. Perhaps I shall maintain my residence here and join those historic figures in continuing the leftist tradition in the good old US of A.