The appeal of socialism is growing across the Western world. The values underpinning liberalism and capitalism are consistently vilified while socialist-infused rhetoric and promises are flourishing.
In this newsletter we will look at this shift in political attitude towards socialism and its variants (like communism) from both an economic and an ideological perspective. But first, if you like this newsletter, consider subscribing - it is free.
The data behind
A recent article published by the UK newspaper, INDEPENDENT, reads: “Support for socialism gaining traction in US, poll suggests”. In it, Chantal Da Silva, writes that:
When we look at the demographics, the real change has occurred among young people. The Axios poll reveals that, today, the “18-34 year-olds are almost evenly split between those who view capitalism positively and those who view it negatively (49% vs. 46%). Two years ago, that margin was a gaping 20 points (58% vs. 38%). By contrast, views among adults ages 35 and older haven’t budged, with wide margins of 35-64 year-olds and 65+ saying they view capitalism in a positive light.
Among adults in Gen Z (ages 18-24), perceptions of capitalism are truly underwater: 42% have a positive view and 54% have a negative view.”
This is not just a US phenomenon. It is happening all across the Western world.
In the UK, “67 per cent of young Brits want a socialist economic system, finds new poll”. The finding comes from the IEA (an institution which favours free markets and individual autonomy) and it was published in the Summer of 2021 in a paper called “Left turn ahead?”.
The paper is a detailed analysis of how left-wing the younger generation in the UK (and across the liberal, capitalist Western world) has become. Below is a snapshot from the paper which highlights some of the recent titles from Teen Vogue.
And here is a chart from a YouGov poll from 2016. Clearly, those who believe that communism (to which we will return shortly) would have worked IF [insert reason] have never lived under a communist regime nor understood (if they read) the history of communism. Hint: it doesn’t come from a humanity-loving, hope-generating place. Quite the contrary.
Why is the shift towards socialism happening?
Part of the reason for why many young people view socialism as the solution to their problems is the nature of the issues they face.
Economically, coming of age during the financial crisis of 2008-2009, younger generations (millennials in particular) have seen the dangers of what the propagandists in the media, politics and academia called “capitalism” - when in reality was (and still is) the result of a growing corporatocracy (big companies controlling institutions) fused with socialist initiatives (government getting bigger in its role, size and importance, further centralising the economy and society, making it look more like corporatism).
This mixture, which is antithetical to capitalism, has continued to grow after the 2008-2009 crisis, but younger generations weren’t concerned with such subtleties: for them, their future was in jeopardy and everywhere they looked capitalism was to be blamed.
A recent Bloomberg article further stressed the economic hardship with an analysis called “Millennials Are Running Out of Time to Build Wealth”.
There are many reasons for why economic prospects for the younger generations (Gen Z doesn’t seem to face better prospects either) have deteriorated:
low interest rates that destroy savings and inflate asset prices, making it harder to build a stake in the economy
high cost of housing making harder to have a home and thus a long-term interest in society
growing student debt
and stagnating wages are just a few.
All of the above, I have to stress, are inefficiencies that continue to exist precisely because we are not living in a capitalist society which would have cleared them long time ago: they persist because of the controlled / managed / centralised state of the economy by the growing governments and central banks.
“The typical Baby Boomers had about $113,000 — in today’s dollars — in wealth in 1989, when they were in their early 40s. Older millennials had a net worth of just $91,000 in 2019. “
Economic reasons are only part of the reason for the turn towards left-wing utopias. Propaganda plays another key role in this process.
An example of brainwashing the young with how great socialism is can be seen in the list above of Vogue articles.
“In both Britain and America some 70 percent of academics identify themselves as ‘on the left,’ while the surrounding culture is increasingly hostile to traditional values, or to any claim that might be made for the high achievements of Western civilisation.” Such wrote Sir Roger Scruton in his 2015 book, “How to be a conservative”.
Some teachers are in fact outright political activists for socialist, often communist, ideas. The recent case of Gabriel Gipe who was suspended for “politically indoctrinating students” is not an isolated one.
“Gipe revealed that he indexes students' political standings throughout the year, and watches as the class inches further left. "So, they take an ideology quiz and I put [the results] on the [classroom] wall. Every year, they get further and further left … I'm like, 'These ideologies are considered extreme, right? Extreme times breed extreme ideologies.' Right? There is a reason why Generation Z, these kids, are becoming further and further left," said Gipe.”
Also, socialism is attractive because of its supposed call to unity against an invisible force that oppresses people. In other words, socialism calls for a neverending war on reality - there will always be oppressive people in key institutions. The biggest eneymy in changing things for the better is ourselves, not other people. However, socialists rarely see themselves as part of the problem.
So, socialism is appealing, especially to younger people, because a) life is hard, b) “experts” have lied and continue to lie about capitalism, c) propaganda from the academia, the media and other institutions (see tech companies’ censorship of views opposing left-wing agendas) and d) its false promises of unity and better future.
What is Socialism?
There are many definitions of socialism, as one would expect. Here are a few from Merriam-Webster:
“any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods”
“a system of society or group living in which there is no private property”
“a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state”
There is not a single country today that is successfully running under a purely socialist regime. That is, there are countries who have (or had) a blend of socialist (e.g. welfare state) and non-socialist policies (e.g. private property laws), because socialism alone does not work - it goes against human nature because it involves coercion at every step.
When faced with the reality that socialist utopias don’t work, some people change their minds but many don’t. Instead, they go further into the rabbit hole of the “promised land” that communism offers. Except that communism delivers anything but truth, good and beauty, let alone economic prosperity.
The total number of people killed under communist regimes (i.e. in the name of socialist utopias) in the 20th century was estimated to be between 80 - 100 million. This does not take into account any economic, social and cultural devastation that far-left regimes have inflicted upon the individual since the turn of the century.
The above figure comes from a book called “The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression”, published in 2000 and represents the first comprehensive attempt to catalogue and analyze the crimes of Communism over seventy years.
U.S.S.R.: 20 million deaths;
China: 65 million deaths;
Vietnam: 1 million deaths;
North Korea: 2 million deaths;
Cambodia: 2 million deaths:
Eastern Europe: 1 million deaths;
Latin America: 150,000 deaths;
Africa: 1.7 million deaths;
Afghanistan: 1.5 million deaths;
The international Communist movement and Communist parties not in power: about 10,000 deaths;
The total approaches 100 million people killed.
These total is likely higher if we were to add the 21st century killings done by communist regimes. Here is 1377 pages of the crimes committed by the Chinese Communist Party in recent years.
I will end this newsletter with an essay by Leszek Kolakowski called “What is Socialism?” which was, of course, banned by communists.
“We intend to tell you what socialism is. But first we must tell you what it is not - and our views on this matter were once very different from what they are at present.
Here, then, is what socialism is not:
- a society in which someone who has committed no crime sits at home waiting for the police;
- a society in which it is a crime to be the brother, sister, son, or wife of a criminal;
- a society in which some people are unhappy because they say what they think and others are unhappy because they do not;
- a society in which some people are better off because they do not think at all;
- a society in which some people are unhappy because they are Jews and others are happier because they are not;
- a state whose soldiers are the first to set foot in the territory of another country;
- a state where people are better off because they praise their leaders;
- a state where one can be condemned without trial;
- a society whose leaders appoint themselves;
- a society in which ten people live in one room;
- a society that has illiterates and plague epidemics;
- a state that does not permit travel abroad;
- a state that has more spies than nurses and more room in prisons than in hospitals;
- a state where the number of bureaucrats increases more quickly than that of workers;
- a state where people are compelled to lie;
- a state where people are compelled to steal;
- a state where people are compelled to commit crimes;
- a state that possesses colonies;
- a state whose neighbours curse geography;
- a state where cowards are better off than the courageous;
- a state where defence lawyers are usually in agreement with the prosecution;
- a tyranny, an oligarchy, a bureaucracy;
- a society where vast numbers of people turn to God to comfort them in their misery;
- a state that gives literary prizes to talentless hacks and knows better than painters what kind of painting is the best;
- a nation that oppresses other nations;
- a nation that is oppressed by another nation;
- a state that wants all its citizens to have the same views on philosophy, foreign policy, the economy, literature, and morality;
- a state whose government determines the rights of its citizens but whose citizens do not determine the rights of their government;
- a state in which one is responsible for one's ancestors;
- a state in which some people earn forty times as much as others;
- a system of government that is opposed by the majority of the governed;
- one isolated country;
- a group of underdeveloped countries;
- a state that employs nationalist slogans;
- a state whose government believes that nothing matters more than its being in power;
- a state that makes pacts with criminals and adapts its worldview to these pacts;
- a state that wants its foreign ministry to shape the worldview of all mankind at any given moment;
- a state that is not very good at distinguishing between slavery and liberation;
- a state that gives free rein to proponents of racism;
- a state that currently exists;
- a state with private ownership of the means of production;
- a state that considers itself socialist solely because it has abolished private ownership of the means of production;
- a state that is not very good at distinguishing between social revolution and armed invasion;
- a state that does not believe that people under socialism should be happier than people elsewhere;
- a society that is very sad;
- a caste system;
- a state where people can be pushed around, humiliated, and ill-treated with impunity;
- a state where a certain view of world history is obligatory;
- a state whose philosophers and writers always say the same things as the generals and ministers, but always after the latter have said them;
- a state where city maps are state secrets;
- a state where the results of parliamentary elections can always be unerringly predicted;
- a state where slave labour exists;
- a state where feudal bonds exist;
- a state that has a monopoly on telling its citizens all they need to know about the world;
- a state that thinks freedom amounts to obedience to the state;
- a state that sees no difference between what is true and what it is in its interest for people to believe;
- a state where a nation can be transplanted in its entirety from one place to another, willy-nilly;
- a state in which the workers have no influence on the government;
- a state that believes it alone can save mankind;
- a state that thinks it has always been right;
- a state where history is in the service of politics;
- a state whose citizens are not permitted to read the greatest works of contemporary literature, or to see the greatest contemporary works of art, or to hear the best contemporary music;
- a state that is always exceedingly pleased with itself;
- a state that claims the world is very complicated, but in fact believes that it is very simple;
- a state where you have to go through an awful lot of suffering before you can see a doctor;
- a state that has beggars;
- a state that is convinced that no one could ever invent anything better;
- a state that believes that everyone simply adores it, although the opposite is true;
- a state that governs according to the principle oderint dum metuant;
- a state that decides who may criticize it and how;
- a state where one is required each day to say the opposite of what one said the day before and to believe that one is always saying the same thing;
- a state that does not like it at all when its citizens read old newspapers;
- a state where many ignorant people are considered scholars; the politics of its government will not allow you to discover this;
- a state that does not like it at all when its regime is analysed by scholars, but is very happy when this is done by sycophants;
- a state that always knows better than its citizens where the happiness of every one of its citizens lies;
- a state that, while not sacrificing anything for any higher principles, nevertheless believes that it is the leading light of progress.
That was the first part. And now, pay attention, because we are going to tell you what socialism is. Here is what socialism is:
Socialism is a system that ... But what's the point of going into all these details? It's very simple: socialism is just a really wonderful thing.”
Thank you for reading.
Of course, not all left-leaning thinkers are socialists nor should they be dissmessed. Orwell, Berlin, Hess, Maté and Sartre are just a few of many left-leaning intellectuals who are worthy of reading and learning from. However, most that identify as “socialists”, let alone “communists” are a step further on the left-wing spectrum: they transformed themselves into political activists.