What Both the Left and the Right Need to Know About Socialism

Mark Tordai offers his view on what people on the left and right should focus on when talking about socialism.


By Mark Tordai

Both socialism and capitalism have become fairly popular over the last few years.

Since the U.S. housing and financial crisis in 2009, many people have looked to either ‘ism’ in order to find answers. As far as I was concerned, I was a fairly moderate democrat back in 2009 while living in LA, which is when I began taking classes at a junior college. Too often then, I wondered what happened and who was to blame. Since these matters are far beyond my reach, this post is not going to be about the origins of the housing bubble or the recession. I do, however, want to talk about the rhetoric and jingoism that followed, whether from pundits on Fox News or MSNBC and why their perspectives may not be exactly correct.

First off, what should the right know about socialism?

In 2009, I was introduced to Fox News.Being from Canada, I had never seen one second of one of its shows before but had heard so many negative things that I was turned off to it. In order to critique it however, I began watching Fox News daily. This was for a Media Studies class I took and we were specifically asked to watch and critique Fox News. Not any other news station.

Then, I heard many pundits on Fox News claiming socialism to be many things despite the fact not not everything liberals, progressives, or democrats do can be called socialism. Despite the right’s claims, socialism also doesn’t mean more government regulation over the economy. Socialism doesn’t mean legalizing drugs. It’s not about same-sex marriage and it certainly doesn’t mean granting undocumented workers with residence nor is giving thousands of South American children amnesty.


Socialism means one thing and that’s “the public ownership of the means of production”. In contrast to capitalism, socialists want either “the people” to own and share all property or to have a government own all property and redistribute it equally. Some believe that it will be brought about by an international revolution, which is communism, while some believe in the democratic process. That’s called democratic socialism, and yet some even believe that large state should be in charge of redistribution, which is called state socialism. Either way, it’s all about public or state ownership of property and not allowing private property to exist.

As for the left in this concern, they really need to know a few important things about socialism too. First, while Karl Marx’s view of socialism has never been fully realized as per own his utopia theories, socialism as per the above definition has existed and still does exist on Earth today. Marx’s socialism – or communism – was attempted during the Russian Revolution but Lenin made Marxism more pragmatic and thus the U.S.S.R. was born. It should also be known that many things socialists accuse capitalism of, such as increased poverty, gender and racial inequality as well as fiscal depression happens more often in socialist states than in capitalist ones. That is definitely one important thing that the left needs to know and understand, especially college students and faculty members.

While it might be hip to be a revolutionary, young people often associate socialism, both on the left and right, with things that just aren’t socialism. Some conservative Christians will often associate socialism with atheism. However, there are plenty of Christians in all denominations who are also devout socialists and the same goes for other religions. In fact, there’s nothing which says you can’t both be a socialist and devoutly religious. Marx’s view of socialism is quite anti-religious and atheistic but not all forms of socialism are.

On college campuses nationwide, socialism is often viewed as a more compassionate alternative to capitalism that is synonymous with helping the poor by redistributing wealth from the 1% to help those in need. This however, also is not the case as there is a difference between the social democratic welfare state of the modern world and full on, socialism. Take Sweden for instance, which in many cases has a freer economy than the U.S., it will never be like Venezuela, which does practice actual socialism.

I know a lot about socialism because I used to be a socialist in my youth but have to admit that as a young person I was pretty ignorant of what socialism really was. Truth be told, I was probably more of a social democrat because I still liked having private property. In fact, I found that most people who call themselves socialists are actually social democrats who believe in a mixed economy of welfare and markets.

For me, I’ve always been interested in hearing what others think about controversial issues and what people would do in order to improve society. The problem is, many people hold romantic views of what they believe in and often put the abstract before the concrete.

By listening and understanding, both the left and right might finally get the correct information on what socialism actually is and perhaps change their views on it.

Controversies aside, I know one thing is for certain, socialism is equally not about compassion in the same way it’s also not about food stamps or the latest Hollywood blockbuster.