With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and record levels of unemployment, the conversation around socialism in the U.S. has resurfaced in surprising ways. So we thought we’d revisit this episode from 2019.
Image: The cover art for the album “Power to the Working Class: Revolutionary songs written &amp; sung by workers &amp; students in struggle.” Source: Library of Congress
This episode and related resources are funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this show, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Red in the Stars and Stripes? Lesson Set
At many times throughout American history, there have been organized movements in favor of socialism. This debate continues in today’s politics, as several candidates in the Democratic Party have advocated for a more socialist approach to the United States economy. For some Americans, socialism represents a more equitable distribution of power and wealth. For others, its values are completely antithetical to the “American Dream” and free enterprise.
This lesson, and the corresponding BackStory episode, focus on how the United States has grappled with socialism throughout its history. It covers the rise of labor movements in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the Pullman Strike and the contributions of Eugene V. Debs. It outlines the unique politics of Milwaukee, Wisconsin which elected three socialist mayors between 1910 and 1960. It discusses conservative critiques of socialism put forward by media figures such as Clarence Manion that still resonate in political discourse today. Finally, it examines the perspective of the current mayor of Jackson, Mississippi who is a self-identified socialist.
For many people, there is a negative connotation to the term “socialism.” This lesson explores some of the reasons behind this stigma. The goal is to get students to use a critical lens when examining the ongoing confrontation between socialism and capitalism throughout American history.