US: Socialism more popular than capitalism among youth and African Americans

The occupy movement brought opposition to capitalism from the margins into the mainstream

Despite near universal demonization of socialist ideas in the corporate media and political establishment, according to a new Pew Research Center Poll half of young people aged 18-29 view socialism positively while only 43 percent react negatively to the term. In the same age group, only 46 percent have positive views of capitalism, while 47 percent view capitalism negatively. 

While these numbers remain close, its notable that just 20 months ago, last time Pew asked the same questions, the numbers were reversed. At that time, according to Pew’s findings, a slim majority of young people, 49 to 43 percent, viewed socialism negatively.

Undoubtedly the impact of Occupy Wall Street on consciousness is an important factor. In a matter of weeks, the occupy movement brought opposition to capitalism from the margins into the mainstream. With that has come growing interest and demand for a real political alternative to this system.

Pew breaks their findings down by race, income, age, and political affiliation. Notably African Americans view socialism most favorably, at 55 to 36 percent. While over all the U.S. population – particularly those over 30 – still has a negative view of socialism (60 to 31 percent, a 19 point spread), among the lowest income bracket (less than $30,000) positive and negative views are almost even at 43 to 46 percent. Meanwhile, half of the poorest Americans view capitalism negatively, while just 39 percent support capitalism.

These numbers underscore the tremendous potential to build a mass socialist movement in the U.S. today. After decades of Cold War propaganda and the confusion created by the warped legacy of Stalinism, the re-emergence of widespread socialist sympathies since the onset of the financial crisis is especially significant. While the corporate-sponsored politicians of both mainstream parties remain ardent defenders of capitalism, their constituents – particularly the rising generation – are increasingly hostile to the system. 

As fresh struggles of working people and youth erupt in the coming months and years, support for socialist ideas will undoubtedly grow further. The efforts of the corporate media and capitalist political parties to marginalize and shut out socialist voices are no longer sustainable.

Still, for most youth and workers searching for a way out of the mess capitalism has created, positive views of socialism do not yet indicate a clear understanding of genuine Marxist ideas. Views undoubtedly range from support for European welfare state systems and other “mixed economy” models to simply general longing for more wealth equality and a spirit of social solidarity. As of yet, only a small minority clearly aims to build a democratically planned socialist economy.

So for those who want to see system change, however, the historic challenge is to transform passive, general support for the ideas of socialism into active participation in the socialist movement and clarity on how society can be transformed.

If you are among the un-organized supporters of socialism, now is the time to step forward and join the struggle.

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January 2012