In History: Let’s talk about Socialism


While many political pundits will argue socialism will be the death of American society, the political ideology is not illegal.

And Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, a self-described socialist, is leading in multiple polls in both New Hampshire and Iowa.

But Sanders is not the first Socialist to place his stake in American politics. The first mention of socialism dates back to the early 19th century when segments of Utopian Socialist philosophers began spreading their beliefs.

The party has longstanding roots with labor unions and industrial workers.  With the rise of unions at the turn of the century, multiple prominent politicians and public figures spread the message as well.

The first socialist politician to win public office in the United States was Victor L. Berger who won Wisconsin’s 10th congressional district in 1910.  He promoted pensions for public workers, organized labor workers, and other progressive reforms.

Before WWI socialist anti-draft protestors reached totals as large as 20,000.  Soon after, socialists began being arrested under the espionage act. This prompted the historic Eugene V. Debs case. He was sentenced to ten years in prison until President Warren G. Harden pardoned him 32 months later.

During the 1930s, many conservatives equated Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal with socialism.  The Popular Front period and the rise of communism in Russia lead to the red scare in the 1950s.

McCarthyism is likely the most notorious instance of anti-socialist and anti-communist sentiments.  U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin led a campaign to oust communists in Washington and Hollywood. Eventually a number of Supreme Court cases led to the decline and the media demonized him as a public figure.

Today, Sanders is running as a Democrat and seems to be doing just fine despite stigmas associated with his socialist beliefs. But it remains to be seen whether or not he can survive the long haul.