You would think any political theory that resulted in the deaths of 100 million people would have been discredited by now, but socialism is back in style.
The bicentennial of Karl Marx’s birth has coincided with a groundswell of support for the communist theorist’s ideas. Dozens of Democrats running for local office have embraced the socialist label, and national party leaders are advocating bigger government as they jockey for position on the left wing of the party.
Marion Smith, executive director of the nonpartisan Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, said both parties should be able to get behind opposition to Marxism.
“It’s important that neither of America’s two major parties embrace the failed ideology of communism,” Mr. Smith said. “We have 100 years of proof — Marxism doesn’t work.”
Millennials who prefer socialism to capitalism are helping shift the Democratic Party to the left on the economy.
In a speech last week, Hillary Clinton said being a capitalist probably did not help her win the 2016 Democratic nomination against Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent and avowed socialist.
“It’s hard to know,” Mrs. Clinton said at the Shared Value Leadership Summit in New York City. “But I mean, if you’re in the Iowa caucuses and 41 percent of Democrats are socialists or self-described socialists, and I’m asked, ‘Are you a capitalist?’ and I say, ‘Yes, but with appropriate regulation and appropriate accountability.’ You know, that probably gets lost in the ‘Oh my gosh, she’s a capitalist!’ “
Democrats who have been mentioned as contenders for the 2020 presidential nomination apparently got the memo.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Mr. Sanders have endorsed a “federal jobs guarantee” program introduced last month by Sen. Cory A. Booker of New Jersey.
The legislation would pay every American who wants to work $15 per hour with benefits.
“The federal jobs guarantee is an idea that demands to be taken seriously,” Mr. Booker said in a statement. “Creating an employment guarantee would give all Americans a shot at a day’s work and, by introducing competition into the labor market, raise wages and improve benefits for all workers.”
Mr. Sanders intends to roll out a plan that reportedly would divide America into 12 districts that would give initial approval to regional jobs programs and pass them along to the federal Labor Department for final approval.
Although national leaders of the Democratic Party, with few exceptions, have shied away from the socialist term, candidates running for local office have embraced the label as a badge of honor.
Franklin Bynum recently ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination to become a judge in Houston.
“Yes, I’m running as a socialist,” Mr. Bynum told The New York Times. “I’m a far-left candidate. What I’m trying to do is be a Democrat who actually stands for something and tells people, ‘Here’s how we are going to materially improve conditions in your life.’ “
The Democratic Socialists of America reports that membership has grown from about 5,000 to 35,000 since the 2016 elections. The number of chapters has swelled from 40 to 181.
Cultural influence has matched political power.
Newspapers and magazines published paeans to Marx leading up to his 200th birthday on May 5. A New York Times op-ed exclaimed, “Happy birthday, Karl Marx. You were right!” Teen Vogue informed its adolescent readership, “The communist scholar’s ideas are more prevalent than you might realize.”
A report released last year by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation found that the majority of millennials would prefer to live in a socialist or communist country. When asked for their preferred socioeconomic order, 44 percent said socialism, 42 percent said capitalism and 7 percent said communism.
It should come as no surprise that committed socialists see the makings of a long-awaited uprising.
David North, national chairman of the Socialist Equality Party in the United States, said there are “growing signs that a new period of mass revolutionary struggles by the working class has begun.”
In a speech published May 6 by the World Socialist Web Site, Mr. North said the presidential election of Donald Trump is the “most visible and ghoulish expression of the universal degeneracy of the capitalist class.”
“But the ascendancy of Trump is of not only symbolic significance,” he said. “Throughout the 20th century, and especially in the aftermath of World War II, the United States functioned as the ultimate guarantor of the stability and survival of the world capitalist system. It is incapable of playing that role any longer.”