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NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Survey findings show ‘historical amnesia’ about dangers of socialism

Since his 2016 presidential campaign, the socialist ideas of Vermont’s Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders have become more popular among some Americans, especially the younger generation.

Sanders, one of many Democratic presidential candidates for the 2020 election, has openly labeled himself a socialist, while backing socialist policies.

At least four other 2020 presidential candidates — Democrat senators Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren — support Sanders’ Medicare-for-all legislation, which has been championed by the Democratic Socialists of America.

A 2018 Gallup poll found that most Democrats had a positive view of socialism, while less than half of young Americans between ages 18 to 29 had a positive view of capitalism.

That’s why we think it’s important that Americans make sure they understand what socialism is all about and how we all need to keep a historical perspective on why the U.S. is built on democracy and capitalism.

The Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation recently released its fourth annual Report on U.S. Attitudes Toward Socialism, Communism and Collectivism, which showed increased support for communism (36%) among millennials, up 8 points from 2018.

Meanwhile, opinions about capitalism took a steep decline from 2018 to 2019. Of millennials (ages 23-38) and Generation Z (ages 16-22), only 50 percent have a favorable view of capitalism.

“The historical amnesia about the dangers of communism and socialism is on full display in this year’s report,” said Marion Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in the report at https://www.victimsofcommunism.org/2019-annual-poll. “When we don’t educate our youngest generations about the historical truth of 100 million victims murdered at the hands of communist regimes over the past century, we shouldn’t be surprised at their willingness to embrace Marxist ideas. We need to redouble our efforts to educate America’s youth about the history of communist regimes and the dangers of socialism today.”

German socialist revolutionary Karl Marx argued against capitalism in the mid-1800s, predicting the working class would eventually take power over the ruling class, reconstructing society in stages. The next stage after capitalism, he said, would be a socialist form of government.

Socialism advocates public ownership of property and natural resources rather than private ownership. The socialist system of government values cooperation over the competitiveness of a free market economy.

Marx argued that capitalism, with its strict adherence to free market principles, divided people because of competition. He believed communism was the solution. Communism advocates a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs.

But Americans today seem oblivious to the effects of communism around the world in the 20th Century — 7 in 10 Americans do not know that communism killed over 100 million people.

Here are some other findings in the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s Sept. 6-13 survey of 2,100 Americans that should concern us all:

* 70 percent of American millennials say they are likely to vote for a socialist. The number who say they are “extremely likely” to vote for a socialist candidate has doubled from 10 percent in 2018 to 20 percent in 2019.

* While 80 percent of Americans say that they trust themselves more than government or community to take care of their own interests, younger generations are 25 percent less likely to say this.

* Perceptions of communism and Marxism vary widely across generations.

* While 83 percent of Americans say they know at least a little about socialism, 66 percent of Americans cannot accurately define socialism.

* Nearly half of millennials think the government should provide work for everyone who wants to work but can’t find a job.

* 37 percent of millennials think America is one of the most unequal societies in the world.

* One in four Americans say Donald Trump is a bigger threat to world peace than figures like Kim Jung-un, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin.

* Only 57 percent of millennials, compared to 94 percent of the Silent Generation (ages 74 and older), think the Declaration of Independence better guarantees freedom and equality than the Communist Manifesto.

Americans need to consider the words of former President Harry Truman, a Democrat, who said on Jan. 20, 1949, “Communism is based on the belief that man is so weak and inadequate that he is unable to govern himself, and therefore requires the rule of strong masters. Democracy is based on the conviction that man has the moral and intellectual capacity, as well as the inalienable right, to govern himself with reason and justice.”

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