From the Occupy Wall Street protests to the policies of Bernie Sanders, Marxism has taken root in American society and enjoyed renewed interest among younger generations of Americans. There are a number of countries that still exercise socialist policies and have strict state regulated marketplaces, such as China, Sweden, and Denmark.
A recent survey by the Victims of Communism Memorial Fund found that 44% of millennials would prefer to live in a socialist country than a capitalist country. The survey also found that more than half of millennials found state run economic systems, including communism and fascism, more preferable than capitalism.
What we refer to as modern day socialists and marxists stem from the neo-marxist tradition of the twentieth century, which found roots in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and Jean Paul Sartre’s brand of existentialism. What we refer to as modern marxism extends far beyond markets and economics and has been applied to many social sciences, including women’s studies, race relations, psychology, and anthropology.
The roots of marxism and his moral critique of capitalism lies in man’s everlasting class struggle against the rich bourgeoisie. Along with Max Weber, Marx is actually considered one of three founders of sociology.
A split among socialist and marxists thinkers exists whether the solution for capitalism should arise from state run enterprise or worker’s control of the means of production, resembling a sort of syndicalist system.
As many attitudes toward socialism and communism soured during the 1960’s and 70s, many of its greatest sympathizers found footholds in France, east Germany, and in underground America. In the west, many far-left candidates, including Jeremy Corbyn, Francois Hollande, and Bernie Sanders have become hugely influential in their native countries through their progressive policies and marxist policies, such as universal health care and an expanded social safety net. Beyond this, there are many example of Marx’s influence still present and growing in American society.
Marxism in Modern Markets and Government
A lot of federal policies have actually been shaped by marxist ideology and worker’s rights movements in the early 20th century.
- 40 hour work week
- Social security and federal insurance programs
- Free public education
- Government funded infrastructure and libraries
There are also many other programs the federal government supplies that are geared toward supporting the economic development of poor people. Federal programs have been aimed to provide affordable real estate prices for Americans looking to buy a home and provide low-interest loans to help poorer americans purchase a mortgage. Most notably, renewed interest in green technology and energy management have been spurred by progressive policies aimed to provide sustainable energy.
Other initiatives have sprouted from this tradition, including federal grants for research and the funding of Planned Parenthood. This mostly took root in the Great Society program instituted by Linden B. Johnson during the 1960s, which saw the creation of Medicare and Medicaid among many other federal welfare programs.
Many worker owned partnerships and corporations have sprouted up across the United States in the past decade. Some of these have been realized in employee stock-ownership plans; approximately 7,000 ESOPs operate in the United States and are operated by about 14 million workers. This number continues to grow each year and many younger and poorer Americans are starting to embrace socialist-esque policies as a path forward toward collective prosperity.
Will the Communist Movement Ever Be
Many of Marx’s predictions of capitalism have actually been realized in the modern world.
- The globalization of commerce
- Growing income gap between the rich and poor
- Slowdown of economic growth and GDP resulting from reduced profits
- Stagnant wage growth
This begs the question how much mainstream play the marxist ideology will get in the upcoming years. With rising national debt, action will be required to fix a broken spending system. Whether this will involve austerity measures with market based policies or greater government control over the market is yet to be seen.
Cryptocurrencies and deregulated currencies also pose a threat to the marxist ideology and make it nearly impossible to impose taxation policies that benefit the state. This also begs the question of whether America’s unnatural appetites toward luxurious consumer goods will be enough to pacify them toward real change. Would Marx’s revolution truly be realized with American workers listening to an audiobook of the Communist Manifesto as they nestle up with their tablets and scroll through Facebook?
With racial divides and unequal gender pay still a political hotbed in America, marxism will remain an important topic of discussion in the social sciences. Judging from history, marxism will never truly metastasize in the American consciousness and form into a viable party platform. The socialist revolutions of the world were built out of an opportune moment, will that moment be realized here in the United States under our current course?