Socialism is the stage of society, in Marxist doctrine, coming between the capitalist stage and the communist stage, in which private ownership of the means of production has been eliminated.
Capitalism, on the other hand, is an economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution, such as land, factories, communications, and transportation systems, are privately owned and operated in a relatively competitive environment through the investment of capital to produce profits.
Socialism in America traces its roots to the arrival of German immigrants in the 1850s when Marxism and its most fervent disciple of that time, Friedrich Engels, was growing in popularity.
The socialist party in America was born and grew dramatically between 1900 and 1912. Under the charismatic leadership of Eugene V. Debs in 1912, 160 council members, 145 aldermen, 1 congressman, and 56 mayors including those of Milwaukee, WI, Berkeley, CA, and Schenectady, NY, were elected as socialists.
Debs converted to socialism while serving jail time for his part in the Pullman Strike of 1897, and began to edit the Appeal to Reason publication. From 1900 to 1920, Debs ran for president on the socialist ticket while increasing the membership of the socialist party tenfold. Although Debs insisted he was a Marxist, he spoke more about poverty and injustice than classic socialist concerns such as the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat. (Marx)
In 1912, Marxist Socialist and jailbird Debs received 900,000 votes, which were six percent of the presidential votes cast that year, principally for his stand against America’s involvement in WW 1. Debs appealed not only to blue-collar workers hungry for improved working conditions and higher wages, but also to such intellectuals as authors Jack London and Upton Sinclair.
“Creeping socialism,” an expression used in modern times to describe America’s drift toward socialism, was created by author F. A. Hayek in his book The Road to Serfdom. Published in 1944, Hayek’s book warned of the dangers of state control over the means of production, which he believed to be occurring.
Hayek believed that excessive governmental controls on society did not deliver on their promises and that their ideology actually delivered dismal economic results. However, more importantly, he affirmed, it produces a psychological change in the character of the people in that man’s desire to better himself is altered. According to Hayek socialism strips man of his desire to succeed.
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