Despite the apocalyptic warnings of right-wing wackos and the lobbying of lame-brain hipster leftists, there’s more than a few reasons why the U.S. won’t ever embrace socialism as an economic practice.
I’ve noticed something rather peculiar about all of the people I have met that purport to be proponents of “socialism” -- i.e., that economic-political system that involves public ownership of stuff and collectivism and municipalization and the Nordic model and probably a whole bunch of other things that sound good in theory but are next to impossible to implement as models in the U.S.
The thing that strikes me most about these in-name-only socialists is that, by and large, they are some of the most capitalistic mofos I have ever encountered. Not once…once…have I ran into a pro-socialist American that seemed to be making less than 400 percent the federal poverty line (the best measure out there to determine who exactly is middle class, in case you were wondering.)
These incessant Debs quoters, it dawns upon me, AREN’T a repressed underclass of laborers, peasants and unorganized workers. In fact, not only are the pseudo-socialists anything but victims of capitalism, in just about every instance I can think of, these so-called socialists are actually members of the neo-bourgeoisie they claim to hate with a fiery passion.
Correct me if I am wrong here, but isn’t socialism supposed to be a philosophy of the layman, of the non-elites that have to sweat and toil and perform grueling physical labor? Say what you will about Marx, but the dude -- despite having a couple of doctorates to his name -- lived the part of a Bohemian dirt farmer pretty well; reportedly, old K.M. lived in such abject poverty in London that three of his kids wound up starving to death.
With that in mind, there’s something really insincere to me about a bunch of college-educated, loan-applying, house-owning, non-starved, administrative/bureaucratic office folks claiming to be advocates of a socialist program, of any order. Really, you guys are advocates of collectivization, when you yourselves practically worship at the alter of mass consumerism?
If you want to talk about why socialism (nor its nine thousand permutations, like democratic socialism or Owenism or Bernsteinism or social democracy -- despite the seemingly redundant title, actually a different subsystem than ‘democratic socialism,’ if you can believe it) will never take off as an American institution, that’s pretty much why: there’s no way Americans will EVER embrace symbolic collectivization when the alternative of individualistic consumption is so damned omnipresent in U.S. culture.
With a systematic ideology as nuanced and ill-defined as “socialism,” of course, it’s going to be difficult to frame the question of why folks in the U.S. will never fully accept whatever it is that socialism, well, is. For the sake of keeping things simple, we’ll refer to “socialism” as the classical Marxist definition of a halfway Capitalistic-Communistic state -- where the free market is still kinda’ free, but all of the really serious stuff, like healthcare and utilities and major industrial production, like petroleum and mining -- have all been nationalized.
Despite what all of the Obama-haters have been yelling about, the United States already IS a socialist nation, in some ways. The fact that a lion’s share of the federal debt can be traced back to social security trusts and Medicare spending is pretty much all the datum you need to say, yeah, we’re kinda’ not a “pure” capitalist society, by any stretch of the imagination.
In theory, a lot of the things hardcore socialists want seem pretty damned desirable. Guaranteed government jobs, if you can’t find one in the private sector? Sounds cool to me. Universal health care coverage AND free education? Call me crazy, but if the gubberment wanted to yank half of my paycheck away so that me, my hypothetical wife and my even more hypothetical children would have guaranteed access to health services -- dental, reproductive health, the whole kit, caboodle and she-bang -- I’d be more than willing to fork it over. There’s really no goddamn excuse in the world why America has homeless people, either; not only should there be more federal housing out there, I think it’s downright inhuman that we here in the states don’t have guaranteed, government-assured access to shelter and food for every man, woman and child in the nation.
Now, here’s the problem with that; all of the above shit costs money, and in case you weren’t aware of it, America don’t have a whole hell of a lot left of it anymore. Of course, some of the socialist ideals could, theoretically, be achieved by massive restructurings of government programs -- I mean, really, would it be THAT difficult to streamline Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare into some sort of across-the-board safety net for ALL Americans?
The answer, I am afraid, is “yes.” Even though the feds certainly have the ability to restructure the trifecta of welfare-state programs into a universal health-and-job-security program for everybody, it simply isn’t going to be happening in THIS America, for a number of reasons.
First, there’s a lot of people that don’t WANT everybody to have socially-assured safety nets. As in, millions, tens of millions, hell, maybe even a 100 million or so that are damned, damned, damned opposed to the idea of expanding social security and Medicaid programs -- or really, even having them instituted in the first place. And it’s not just the people you think would be opposed to the measures; not only is “socialization” of government programming an idea despised by the capitalist classes, it’s also a measure loathed by a ton of working class and poor folks, as well.
Depending on who you ask, the nation’s lower class represents anywhere from 12 percent to a quarter of the nation (factoring in the working poor, of course.) Combined with America’s working classes -- in other words, the non-post-secondary-educated folks that populate mills, operate machinery, drive trucks and serve as security personnel -- their social rank jumps up to a plurality of the nation, representing between 54-to-57 percent of the entire U.S. population. With that in mind, you quickly deduce that the average American is more or less a neo-Prole, and since they outnumber the “higher classes,” certainly, their ability to influence economic and social policy -- after all, they are THE majority -- WOULD seem to tilt the national ideology away from hyper capitalism and towards socialism-lite, wouldn’t it?
Well, no, and then, more no. For starters, the only people in America that seem well versed in Marxist doctrine are people that are in no way shape or form part of that lower dyad of American society. Hell, try ambling into a truck stop or a field of soil turners, and asking them what they think about dialectic materialism some time; socialist ideals are about as implanted in the American layman as a taste for dry British comedies and suppressing belches around others.
So, uh, with that in mind, why wouldn’t America’s lower classes want to promote a political, social and economic system that’s catered to their needs as laborers and service providers? Well, a lot of reasons, actually, beginning with the fact that most lower class people are downright CONVINCED that they’re members of the American Middle Class, even though they received subsidized aid, live in mobile home parks and have part-time employment at Wal-Mart. When they hear doom saying about socialism, what they generally interpret that right wing rabble rousing as is “we’re going to give your money to minorities,” and as such? Don’t expect a very big turnout for the annual gathering of North Dakotan Communists or the Arkansas chapter of Socialist Workers anytime soon. As long as a majority of America’s working class and working poor remain Caucasians, I absolutely guarantee you that collectivist ideals will NEVER become popular movements throughout these “united” States.
More than anything, THAT’S the main reason why socialism just doesn’t fly as a realistic proposition in the States -- the people that would benefit from socialist programming, that under classical socialist ideology, ought to be socialists themselves -- have nary a goddamn interest in any collectivist goals or ambitions. The American working class doesn’t want to own stake in the companies they work for, and they couldn’t care less about the means of production. While it would probably behoove them to have universal health care or more expansive worker security programs, they’re not going to fight for them even though, as a plurality, they could easily dictate the nation’s policies by unionizing. Simply put, America’s poor and working classes are actually the most INDIVIDUALISTIC people in the entire country; most of them have no desire to collectivize and care more about the success of themselves and their families than they do anything that resembles social progression on the national level. Pardon my French, but the lower half of the U.S. dyad just don’t give a shit about itself. Things like communal goals or social improvements don’t mean anything to them; instead of fighting for a more equitable economic structure that at least gives them a fair shot at escaping poverty, they would much rather just be poor and save the effort for whatever luxury and leisure items they can accumulate by hook or crook.
That’s the great irony of the socialist dilemma; if you’re well-versed on things like class warfare and economic inequality, you’re probably an educated sort that has managed to move on up to the middle class (or more likely, you were born into the middle class already.) Marxism may be something the impoverished in Latin America and Asia have a firm grasp on, but here in America? All the poor here read is the Bible and whatever’s written on their latest sack of fast food; unless they just so happen to stumble upon “Acts” and get curious with their Wikipedia searches, working class America’s exposure to socialist ideology is destined to be limited to whatever Glenn Beck and the NRA newsletter tells them about it.
All in all, if you want to know why socialism will never become a true political movement throughout America, all you have to do is think about one word: “effort.”
It would require “effort” to get a socialization movement going. It would require people to read about socialist ideology and make coordinated efforts to influence public policy, by voting for, supporting and promoting socialism. It means people would have to voluntarily lower their standards of living and take a financial hit for the greater good of their own culture and children. Even if a 48 percent tax rate would guarantee jobs, housing, education and healthcare to every U.S. citizen, there would be at least 48 percent of the population that would fight like hell against it. They would rather use that additional 18 percent of tax dollars to buy all that delightful, capitalistic crap they really don’t need: Camel cigarettes and Starbucks coffees and flat screen televisions and new tablet devices and Xbox Live subscriptions and brand new cars and suburban homes and McDonalds’ fish nuggets. People in America don’t hate socialism because they view it as a threat to democracy, but because they see it as a barrier to them and their ceaseless pursuit of materialistic nothingness.
America is a nation that would forego universal, federally-guaranteed health, employment and housing safety nets if it meant they COULDN’T spend an extra $300 a month to watch “Game of Thrones,” and own a Smartphone or eat at P.F. Chang’s less than three times a week.
Marx said that socialism was a no-brainer for the workers of the world, since they only had their chains to lose. Well, in America, socialism would mean potentially losing our chains…our favorite fast food chains, our favorite retail chains and our favorite big box chains.
Collective social security and free health care access, we can do without. The potentiality that we may lose some disposable income and have to live within our means, for any duration of time, no matter how brief? Now that my friends, is just about as un-American as it gets.