For people who were born in the 60s, socialism was seen as taboo. The hatred against the word socialism equates to the hatred against Nazi. Actually there has been a lot of discussion of the connection between Nazi and socialism, or in some people’s mind socialism equates to Nazi. Socialism is everything that the American dreamers oppose to: lack of individual rights, lack of freedom to choose, the inability to become millionaires, the interference of governmental policies. As Bernie Sanders emerges from the pool of the 2016 presidential candidates, people gasp because a socialist is now considered as a presidential candidate.
“But he (Bernie Sanders) will never become president”, Grandpa once again began the discussion around politics, making everyone uncomfortable around the table, “because he is socialist and socialist is such an ugly word.” Grandpa represents a big portion of the American voters, since 60% of the citizens of the age 65 and older vote compared to 23% of age 18-34.
To the people of age 65 and older, socialism is such an ugly word due to a couple of reasons. First, the misconception comes from the “inevitable” connection between socialism and totalitarianism, the equation between socialism and Nazi. George Reisman argues that the governmental ownership of the industries by the Nazi government makes Nazis socialist, and therefore socialists are Nazis. It all started with Germany’s attempts to control inflation and merchandise prices, which resulted in economic chaos because of course economic chaos are resulted from governmental control instead of capitalism market. Then one thing lead to another, Germany found itself stuck in a market that was heavily regulated by the government, ergo Germany became totalitarianism and socialism became Nazi.
Despite the extensive research and flawless arguments Reisman made for the Nazi equates socialism article, socialism doesn’t equate Nazi. Even though Nazi started in the name of socialism, and there were elements of public ownership in Nazi’s government regime. It does not mean that all socialist systems are Nazis. It is the same logic flow as apples are fruits but not all fruits are apples. Second, the economic chaos was the heritage of WWI, after which Germany was under numerous economic sanctions. These sanctions made sure that Germany suffered economic crisis which benefited the victors of WWI. Governmental attempts to regulate the market were the results of the economic chaos instead of the roots.
I know no matter how ridiculous the arguments were for the Nazi-socialism equation, many American populations would still buy into it because the hatred towards socialism has been part of the American identity for decades and without it, the Cold War and many other political decisions would have been meaningless.
What if the Cold War was really meaningless? Nationalism instead of socialism was the root of the Cold War and a lot of other societal problems. Why would the rise of a socialist society bother anyone if it were not for the fear that Soviet Union would be stronger than U.S.? The fear stems from the idea that U.S. should be the strongest and most power nation in the whole world, which is nationalism. Nationalism is irrational and destructive. Would becoming the most powerful nation benefit the everyday life of ordinary people? Would remaining the most powerful nation pay people’s medical bills? Would remaining the most powerful nation pay college tuition? The answers to all those questions is no. Yet, American people love and believe that America should be the most powerful country in the world. For which, they would invade Iraq and fear the rise of China. The fanatic passion for wars and anti-China have been causing a lot global tension and are implemented under the sacrifice of the national budget. Is it effective? What is the end goal of these irrational nationalist political behaviors?
I could not figure out the purpose. Maybe it’s the distraction of the real national problems, e.g. education tuition, healthcare, racial injustice, etc. Maybe it is a political game that some politicians play to avoid the mentioning of the declining people’s living standards and to blame their political inability to others.
The issues with nationalism, social fear, wars, China have been set in a certain tone in the society, the changing of which requires high levels of critical thinking. The prevalence and persuasive nature of the social media have made sure that the percentage of the population who possess these “crazy” political viewpoints is low. The people who do not buy in the nationalism, socialism-Nazi equation viewpoints are labeled as outcasts.
Eventually the question is not why Bernie Sanders is not electable because he is a socialist; instead the question is that why socialism is a bad word that can stop a person from being electable? Are we living a sane world with an insane socialist becoming more and more popular among the poor, or are we living in an insane world with a sane socialist who tries to right what has been wrong for far too long?