By Peta Lindsay
January 4, 2012
Recently the Pew Center for research published a poll in which they found that 49 percent of young people in the U.S. have a favorable view of socialism, while only 43 percent reported viewing it unfavorably. The report also revealed that African Americans have a favorable view of socialism at a rate of 55 percent to 36 percent.
This news seems to have taken some in the capitalist media by surprise—but should it? Our experiences and our conditions shape our consciousness. And in our relatively short lifetimes, the experiences of my generation have certainly run contrary to the myth that the capitalist free market is a force for “peace,” “freedom” and “prosperity.”
In the last 10 years, we have seen endless wars that were premised on lies and driven by profit. Weapons contractors, financiers, oil executives and the politicians and generals who sit on the boards of these major corporations have literally made a killing through record profits from the death and destruction that they have been allowed to wreak abroad.
Millions of people across the country, the majority of them young, have marched against these wars and if we lived in a true democracy, if the decision to pursue these wars had ever been brought before the people, there is no doubt that our brothers and sisters in uniform would already be home.
The cost of these wars is rarely discussed in the mainstream media, but we feel it every day when we look for government services that we need and find that they have been cut for lack of funds.
Many of us are surprised to find ourselves in need of government assistance at all. We all grew up hearing that if we studied hard and worked hard we would succeed. So those of us who could went to college despite rising education costs, shouldering crippling loans for the promise of a good job and a foundation for a good life. After graduating, we found that the market had no intention of keeping that promise.
Employment opportunities are declining, unemployment in this country is officially at 8.6 percent but in reality far higher. And there are fewer jobs today than there were two years ago. It is not just the unemployed who are suffering. Many of us are underemployed—meaning we work but we do not earn enough to survive. Many of us take temporary work or work part time, taking jobs with no benefits or internships with no pay, because the “job creators” have eliminated decent-paying positions knowing that they can squeeze more labor and more profit from the “standing army of the unemployed.”
Our wages are going down while the cost of living goes up. The explosive growth of the Occupy Wall Street movement forced the mainstream media to acknowledge this truth. Young people have been sold out by this system, and we are becoming more and more willing to fight back. We want peace, we want equality, we want jobs, and we want the wealth that our labor creates to be used to provide the things that our people need. We want socialism.
Obama cannot resolve the crisis of capitalism
Many people thought that the election of an African American president would result in better lives for African Americans in the U.S. But Obama’s election coincided with a crisis of capitalism that no capitalist leader, not even Obama, can resolve. The official unemployment rate for Black youth is at 41.3 percent. (americanprogress.org, July 2011)
Predatory lending and the housing crisis led to high rates of foreclosure for many families in the U.S., but the rates for African Americans were astronomical. Home ownership has always been important in our community, because it is something that has historically been denied to us by legal and extralegal means. While the segregationist laws that kept home ownership out of our reach for so long have been overturned, the laws of the free market allow the banks to kick us out of the homes that we have purchased.
Historically, economic and social gains made by African Americans were never a natural by-product of the free market but always the result of a struggle that forced reforms and government intervention in the market. We have struggled for centuries to bring ourselves closer to equality. There will never be full equality under capitalism, a system that must keep workers divided, that must keep some super exploited in order to drive everyone’s wages down so the capitalists can profit.
Conservatives are afraid that ‘capitalism’ has become a dirty word
They are right to be afraid, though it is certainly not just an issue of semantics. We have seen the devastation wrought by capitalism, and we are no longer accepting that this is the way it has to be. This past year, we have also seen our sisters and brothers in Tunisia and in Egypt fight and win. In the Occupy movement and beyond, we are developing strategies and tactics for our struggle right here. It is a new year and we will fight for a new system. One that offers us true equality, decent-paying jobs, education, housing, health care, all those things our class needs and deserves. Join us in the fight for socialism.