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Five Things to Know About Socialism: Misconceptions and history about this political and social ideology.

Throughout the United States’ history, “socialism” has been used as a scare word. During the Cold War, anti-communist propaganda forced an entire generation to know little about socialism yet despise it anyway. It is through this widespread misguidance that the United States was able to turn “socialism” into a curse word. I know the reader may not agree with everything written in this brief article; I only hope to provide a different, respectful perspective on what socialism is and how it functions.

First, the theory of socialism was developed in the early-19th century through thinkers like Robert Owen, Henri de Saint-Simon, and Charles Fourier. These political theorists developed the first theories of socialism. This early form of socialist thought has become known as “utopian socialism.”

Second, socialism is a political theory that exists as a modern phenomenon. This means that without the existence of the capitalist system, socialist thought would not exist as it does today. Because socialist theory first developed to critique the flaws of capitalism–the inequalities and injustices that befall the working class as well as minority groups of which the capitalist system takes advantage–socialism’s beginning relies solely on the existence of capitalism.

Third, socialism seeks to free the working class from the oppression of the elite class. Business-owning capitalists are known to increase profit in any way possible. This endangers the workers who labor for the capitalist owner. This is why labor unions developed in the American industrial boom of the late 19th- and early-20th centuries. Socialism seeks to put the means of production–the machinery, tools, and other labor-assistance–into the hands of the workers to democratically decide how the business should function.

Fourth, there are many types of socialism. Utopian socialism developed in the early-19th century. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels introduced “scientific socialism” in the mid-1800s with their published theory known as The Communist Manifesto. From these and other political theorists came the development of numerous socialist theories–Marxism, Agrarianism, State Socialism, and even Christian Socialism.

Last, socialism has its flaws. It can be forgotten or ignored by socialist thinkers of all ages that the ideology is flawed. There will always be problems that arise within any system of political-economy; whether capitalism, socialism, or even anarchism, societal problems will always exist. This does not mean we should not work to solve the problems that arise within the capitalist system. Rather, it means we should work harder to solve them. That is one truth of humanity–we have always worked to solve problems.

Sources: Political Ideologies by Paul Wetherly, Models of Political Economy (POLI-330R) instructed by Dr. Gramby-Sobukwe.

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