Is Socialism on the Rise?

Alex Clackson 

Image © Hossam el-Hamalawy حسام الحملاوي

As the economic crisis in Europe continues to make life challenging for ordinary citizens through high unemployment rates and cuts in the public sector, people are starting to wonder whether the capitalist system, which Europe has trusted so well over so many years, is the answer to today’s woes. Over the last five years, the economy of Europe, the United States and other parts of the world has been anything but stable. Just when the population thought the recession of 2008 was coming to an end, the world was hit with another one just a few years later. In the United Kingdom, the unemployment rates for young people are soaring and the recent cuts to the public sector have angered the citizens to the point where the Coalition government no longer have the trust of the British youth. As the new generation searches for answers to today’s economic and social problems, the concept of socialism seems to be making a return.

Even though socialist principles are only starting to make an appearance, it is an extraordinary revival of a theory which was considered dead and buried after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many scholars and politicians in the 1990s proclaimed capitalism to be the outright winner of the battle of the political and economic theories on how to organise and live on our planet. And while capitalism is still currently standing on its feet, the recent economic and social troubles are hitting it hard and it seems it is only a matter of time before capitalism receives a knockout blow. Whether socialism will step up to prove to the world that it can save our planet is highly debatable and too early to say. But the recent polls in America certainly show that people are willing to give Marx another try. 

Rasmussen just released the results of a recent poll on political attitudes. It found only 53% clearly preferred capitalism. Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. People in their thirties are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism. Adults over 40 strongly favour capitalism, and just 13% of those older Americans believe socialism is better. Another study has found that Americans react more favourably to socialism now than they did 19 months ago. While 60% of Americans still have a negative reaction to socialism, 31% responded positively when Pew Research Centre asked for their reaction to the word earlier this month. Only 29% reacted positively when Pew asked the same question in May of 2010. Those aged 18-29 showed an even greater shift. While the young used to have a net negative reaction to socialism (43%-49%), today they view it positively (49%-43%). It is crucial to notice that it is the new generation which is more willing to accept that capitalism is struggling and our world needs another way of living. Yet it is not just the ordinary citizens who are proclaiming a need for change. Obama has also embraced the Occupy Wall Street movement and their “We are the 99%” motto. At a campaign event earlier this year, Obama told Occupy protesters, “You are the reason I ran for office.”

In the United Kingdom, the Green Party has been voted as the most progressive party in England and many consider them the most likely to push for one of the top 3 party political positions in the future. Whether this shift will become a reality and how long it will take is challenging to say. Nevertheless, what is important to learn from this, is that people are no longer satisfied with the status quo. Many factors continue to change on our planet: the size of the population, the climate, technology and science. Politics is also an ever changing entity. However, politicians rarely endorse change on a grand scale. Therefore it is up to the people to push for a positive change which can solve the modern day problems and supply our planet with a new hope that everything will be just fine.

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