The New Socialists: Young, Red and Willing to Share

Opinions of Capitalism among people under 30 is at the lowest point in years. A poll released this month, revealed that young Americans aged 18-29 favour Socialism (51%) over Capitalism (45%). The 45% figure for those who held a positive view of Capitalism fell 23% from 68% in 2010, suggesting the fallout from the Great Recession might have impacted Capitalism’s appeal to young people.

There is also an increasing number of young people joining Socialist groups, an emergence of a new generation of Socialist politicians in the UK and USA, and a growing youth readership of Socialist publications. Interestingly, the Democratic Socialists of America have seen their local chapters jump from 40 to 181 – including 10 in Texas! 

More and more young people are embracing Socialism and driving a new Red Wave across the USA and the West.

I DIDN’T REALISE I WAS A SOCIALIST

“When we talk about the word 'socialism,' I think what it really means is just democratic participation in our economic dignity and our economic, social, and racial dignity. It is about direct representation and people actually having power and stake over their economic and social wellness, at the end of the day.” - Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, 28, Democratic Socialist.

Following the financial crash of 2008, and the ensuing Great Recession it became increasingly clear that no matter how hard young people tried, how much education they attained, how many jobs and hours they worked, that they still weren’t guaranteed the basic securities their parents had enjoyed – such as a home, secure employment, a pension.

Many young people started to realise that the existing systems in place weren’t necessarily working for them. They began to look elsewhere. Reeling from the aftereffects of the Great Recession, young people were effectively nudged towards Socialism (whether they called it this or not), a system built on the values of fairness, equality and collective action.

“I want to live in a world where everyone is treated fairly. Where there is no extreme poverty or extreme wealth. Why should one person have so much, when others have nothing? I want to live in a world where people work together and we live sustainably – we don’t continue harming the environment for things we don’t need, and everyone has enough.” - Emma, 23, The Love Network

Socialistic values are increasingly resonating with young people. While some may not explicitly call it Socialism, they speak about wanting to live in a world built on fairness, community and equal opportunity.

ROOTS OF A RISING POLITICAL MOVEMENT

 21st Century Socialism was personified by the likes of Bernie Sanders in the USA, and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. Old school Socialists, who existed as fringe actors on the edge of mainstream politics for decades. After the crash, as young people began to embrace them and their ideas, they became the youth’s political heroes. Sanders earned 71% of the youth vote in the 2016 Democratic primaries, and Corbyn’s Labour Party inspired a 20% increase in youth voter turnout in the last UK General Election, earning 63% of the 18-34 vote.

They inspired a new generation of Socialists to enter politics, and this summer 28-year-old Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio Cortez became the new face of Socialism. The Bronx-native, who until last year was working as a bartender beat out 10-term Democrat, Joe Crowley to win the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th Congressional District. In true Youthquake fashion Ocasio Cortez captured the imaginations of young progressive New Yorkers – including, as she told Stephen Colbert, two 19-year-olds she was shocked to hear were “voting in an off-year Midterm primary election”. Running on the promise of Medicare for all, a $15 Minimum Wage, and a refusal to take Corporate PAC money, she spoke directly to young people’s values. Ocasio Cortez is now on track to become the youngest Congresswoman in history.

A vocal group of young politically charged Socialists, with the support of young voters are changing the face of American politics. Their numbers are growing, and their voices are growing louder. In the month of Trump’s election as President, membership of the Democratic Socialists of America grew to over eight times its previous size. On June 26th, the day after Ocasio Cortez’s victory, 1152 new Democratic Socialists joined the ranks. Similarly, since Corbyn assumed leadership of the Labour Party in the UK – the party’s membership has grown from 190,000 to 552,000. By comparison, there are only 124,000 Conservatives.

Young people are looking beyond the propaganda of the Cold War period and are recognising that the values of Socialism resonate strongly with the values of them and their peers – fairness, equality and community.