The United States has maintained a familiar enemy for nearly all modern history; not a country, but an ideology: communism. Communist ideology has left a mark of disaster and devastation on every nation it has touched, but today’s Americans do not realize this and economic turmoil is growing the political ideology’s roots in our own country.
The Cold War birthed the fight of communism versus capitalism, but antiwar movements in the early 1970’s increased American favor for communism, now American acceptance for this form of governance is once again at a high.
In 1973, polls showed one in four Americans believed socialism was favorable for some countries. Tom Smith explains in his 1983 research assessment on American attitudes toward communism, “During the 1960s the public thought American power was more likely to increase than Soviet power. The perceived American edge declined, however, and in 1974 Soviet power was rated as more likely to rise than American. This Soviet advantage was seen as persisting throughout the 1970s, but with the margin declining until in 1980 momentum was finally seen as returning to America.”
As some Americans questioned the success of capitalism, they were enticed by the promises of communism. This shifted dramatically in the opposite direction when American power rose once again, proving the capitalist system was capable of victory. This is a consistent trend.
Following the 2008 and 2009 financial crisis and recession, however, support for communist and socialist policies grew once again. In 2009, 20 percent of American viewed socialist economic policies as favorable, among Americans making $20,000 a year or less, preference to capitalism led socialism by only 8 points, per a Rasmussen Reports, poll. Following economic devastation, once again communist and socialist policy emerged as an answer for some Americans.
Support for communist and socialist agenda has increased steadily since, with a Pew Research poll showing in 2011 31 percent of Americans view socialism favorably. Note, the skew not only leans towards people on the lower end of the income scale but the youth as well. 49 percent of people surveyed between the ages of 18-29 viewed socialism favorably, three percent more than those in the same age group who viewed capitalism favorably.
Today, American favor towards socialism is at a high once again. A YouGov report from October 2017 found, 34 percent of Americans would have preferred to live in a socialist country. With 51 percent of millennials taking preference toward a socialist or communist government in the U.S., rather than our capitalist system.
The Huffington Post of April 2017 presents an answer to why Millennials and low-income Americans view communist and socialist policy as ideal. Contributor Sean Vazquez explains, “Born after the Cold War was winding down, most millennials don’t consider the Soviet Union the arch-enemy their parents did, and favor a more liberal view… True socialism and communism haven’t influenced this generation’s life as much as it did their parents and grandparent’s generations. They have, however, been negatively affected by the mishandling of the economy by the capitalist system… Socialism or communism are viewed by Millennials as an alternative to the disasters capitalism has created.”
Surveys consistently show younger Americans cannot identify prominent socialist and communist leaders of the past, such as Mao-Tse-Tung, Stalin, or Lenin. The aforementioned YouGov report found that 7 of 10 Americans could not even correctly define the term communism.
As Dennis Prager explains in a PragerU webcast, modern Americans are not taught of the dangers communist governments have introduced to the world. While Americans are taught the horrors of the Nazi government in Germany, as modern Americans antagonize Nazi identities (rightly so), the same treatment is not granted to communist views.
This is despite the fact that in the last 100 years, communist governments in Soviet Russia put 20 million Soviet citizens to death under repressive policies, 1.6 million were killed during forced population transfer, and a minimum of 2.7 million died in the Gulags, labor colonies and special settlements. The Wall Street Journal explains in a report, “If we add to this list the deaths caused by communist regimes that the Soviet Union created and supported — including those in Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, North Korea, Vietnam, and Cambodia — the total number of victims is closer to 100 million. That makes communism the greatest catastrophe in human history.”
Yet, communism is not taught this way, and thus, its roots in socialist economic policy are seen as acceptable. In the 1980’s Ronald Reagan was able to rekindle faith in the country and the capitalist system, dispelling this favor toward communist and socialist agendas. Today, a lack of education regarding communism and socialism has propelled the idea that can solve our economic woes. It cannot; it can only bring destruction as it has since the theory’s existence.