OPINION: Young socialists must learn more than just political slogans
“Eat the rich!”
It’s a gathering weep for dozens of young people eager to get involved in political activism. But who are the rich? And what do they mean by “eat?”
Many young people are turning their backs on capitalism and becoming socialists. My long-time readers will know that I think this is encouraging.
At second glance, however, there is certainly room for pessimism. Do young people even know what socialism is? Such a question may seem insulting at first, but 20% of survey respondents with a positive view of socialism said that socialism “builds and improves capitalism”, according to Research bench.
Socialism improves capitalism? I can just imagine Lenin turning around in his mausoleum.
Political illiteracy is not just a problem young people have, or even young socialists, but the general American public seems to suffer from.
In America, we only talk about liberals and conservatives, or Democrats and Republicans. It does not matter that such labels are practically useless and useless. Rep. Ilhan Omar and Senator Joe Manchin are both Democrats — surely they have the same values and politics, right?
So what do all these words mean? I implied that a lot of people don’t know what socialism is – but do people even know what capitalism is?
Socialists must be able to answer these questions, especially if we engage in political activism of any kind. Our policy is constantly scrutinized – and from all sides. Liberals and Conservatives unite against us. Not being able to answer these questions makes us feel helpless, which hurts our movement in the public eye.
It’s easy to be liberal – you don’t have to read anything. All it takes to be a liberal these days is to be skeptical of conservatives who throw “groomer” accusations to transgender people but does virtually nothing about it.
But to be a socialist and not be ridiculed in political discussions requires an understanding of politics, history, philosophy, and economics that is not required of other political ideologies in America. For example, no one asks a conservative if his ideology contradicts “human nature”, but socialists are faced with such absurdity All the time.
Where more mainstream ideologies can afford to dismiss such arguments as nonsense and move on, socialists cannot. We are always expected to explain ourselves. We are guilty until proven guilty. Is socialism against human nature? Well, we answer, what is human nature anyway? Each philosopher seems to have a different answer. Are humans naturally selfish and greedy? But aren’t humans also naturally empathetic and compassionate?
We are constantly asked to apologize for our history. We are told of the “horrors” of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. Some respond by saying that they are “democratic” socialists, unlike those authoritarian villains.
I wish they painted a different picture – take the Soviet Union, for example. The socialists of the October Revolution took an illiterate and destitute population society under despotic tsarist rule and transformed it into a global superpower. It was the socialists who were the first to succeed in space! It was the socialists who expanded rights for women, educated the masses and made it seem truly possible that the the last could be the first.
You don’t have to be naive. The Soviet Union made many mistakesmany of which were unnecessary, but we should also be able to openly consider emulating their successes – because they certainly had some!
My socialist friends, I urge you to learn more than slogans if you want socialism to succeed. You need to understand your positions and those of your opponents. You have to learn history, how the economy works, and read boring old philosophers. It’s tedious and tedious, but when everyone’s out to get us, we can’t afford to look clueless.
Jared Quigg (he/him) is a sophomore majoring in journalism and political science.