"Communism" gains ground among Americans

A specter is haunting Americans. About one in 10 of them.

Eleven percent think  "communism" is a "morally superior" system to that which is currently in place in the U.S., and another 13 percent aren't sure, according to a startling new Rasmussen poll, conducted March 12-13.

The poll,  has a margin of error of three percent with a 95 percent level of confidence.

Further, 10 percent say that the "communist system of economics and politics" is better for middle-class Americans, and another 10 percent are undecided. Still, only four percent believe the "communist" economic system to be superior to that of the "free market." No surprise there, given the images of economic austerity in countries ruled by Communist parties.

Significantly however, 12 percent, don't consider communism "a failed ideology." Another 15 percent aren't sure.

Americans appear to be slowly embracing the idea that there is a better way to run society.

"Socialism," a term that carries far less baggage than "communism," is even more accepted by Americans. In an April 2009 Rasmussen poll, only 53 percent said that capitalism was better than socialism. With the margin of error, those who think capitalism is better are statistically tied with those who think socialism is better (20 percent) and those unsure (27 percent).

As in the new poll, young people broke more for the left alternative: about a third said capitalism was better, a third said socialism and another third was unsure.

Those numbers represent what could be the beginning of a stark turnaround in public opinion, and are sure to horrify the tea party crowd - which finds even moderate Democrats too extreme.

So what do communists say?

"The fog of the Cold War is lifting on the one hand," says Sam Webb, national chair of the Communist Party USA, said in an interview, "but still there are misconceptions of what communism is."

The majority of people - the 80 or so percent who reject "communism" as a better system, says Webb, still suffer from misconceptions that gained currency over the years.

In a statistic that supports Webb's point, younger voters were more likely to see communism as morally superior.

And, Webb continues, "If people were able to get a fairer picture of what Communists think and how they see socialist society, the polls would have been far better than they are."

Communists see socialism as a transition between capitalism, our current system, and communism. Socialism, they explain, means that working people democratically run society without interference from big corporations. Communism comes along far later, when class division has disappeared. As socialism progresses towards communism, society becomes more and more democratic.

"If U.S. socialism is to earn the name socialist, it will be democratic at its core," Webb said in an interview. "There is no socialism that isn't democratic."

But are Americans wrong to believe that people were shut out of government in some of the countries that collapsed in 1991?

Not exactly, says Webb.

Despite a record of historic and even heroic achievements - defeating the Nazis, full employment and health care in most, "The countries that were formerly building socialism had a deficit of democracy."

Jarvis Tyner, CPUSA executive vice chair, points to the party's history, noting that its newspaper, the Daily World (predecessor of the People's World), was a leader in the fight to desegregate baseball.

In the 1930s, the CPUSA helped lead the fight against racist lynchings and other violent oppression of African Americans. The party, Tyner says, has always been part of the fight for labor rights, civil rights, women's rights, a just peace and for political and economic democracy.

People, says Webb, are becoming more and more disenchanted with the current system, capitalism, in which workers' rights, a decent living standard and democracy overall, are being curtailed by the big corporations and their "masters" in the Republican Party.

Socialism, says Webb, is not yet on the agenda, but every step forward in securing the rights of working people, in civil rights and in defending democracy against the far-right onslaught is a step in that direction.

Still, the "communism" poll was a surprise to many.

"Here you have one of the most vilified words in the English language, the most lied about," said PW Editor Joe Sims, "and yet 11 percent have a positive outlook towards it. That is huge."

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  • It is indeed surprising that 11% of people in this poll have a positive view of this vilified idea, as Joe Sims said. But I really want to know what they understand that word to mean? And why do only 4% think "communism" is superior to a "free market" economy?

    This is similar to the Rasmussen poll on socialism from last year which there was so much excitement about. Given what most people hear in the mass media, they probably equate any government intervention in the economy or public programs with "socialism". Basically, if Obama's policies are supposedly socialist according to a lot of the media, then a lot of people who don't know any better (but like the president's policies) suddenly think highly of socialism.

    So what does communism mean for people when asked in this poll?

    True, "Americans appear to be slowly embracing the idea that there is a better way to run society," as the article says, but how slow is the pace? And will a majority ever ever ever associate that "better way" of running society with communism?

    As for suggestions that this poll is evidence of the popularity that awaits the CP if we just get out there and promote it and educate folks, I must disagree.

    I say instead of getting excited about the 11%, we need to still be worried about the other 89.

    Posted by C.J., 03/21/2011 6:16pm (3 years ago)

  • This may be a good thing, but hard to ignore the historical evidence of mass murder, man-made famine, etc. that has accompanied socialism and communism
    all over the world. Stalin, Lenin, Castro, Mao Zedong...people don't give up their freedoms without a fight, and many will have to be silenced one way or another. The ideals are good ones....but when non-farmers were given farmlands, they didn't have a clue how to farm, and the results were disastrous.
    It remains to be seen if the US would be any different.
    So, yes, for me it is scary.

    Posted by Alvarro, 03/21/2011 12:07pm (3 years ago)

  • A wonderful article and a spectacular poll!
    I was shocked when I saw the poll released and I truly believe that this is proof that we as communists need to be more bold in our message and visibility. These voters are looking for leadership and the CPUSA is the only party with the vision of how to build socialism in the US. This wasn't just a poll of Americans generally, this was a poll of "likely voters" meaning that it is actually higher generally. Recent polls of the general public indicate that only 21% of the general population identifies themselves as republicans. This poll places the Communist movement in America in the same league as the GOP even above the Greens, Libertarian and other well known third parties. All we have to do to build the Communist Party and to take our rightful position in the realm of major political parties is to claim it.

    Posted by Jordan, 03/21/2011 10:39am (3 years ago)

  • Some friends and I are tracking how the Republican right uses various propaganda themes. Frequently they're forced to present incredibly contradictory charges.

    "Communism has failed" is, as you mentioned, one theme. But simultaneously, Communism is just around the corner because of the incredible successes the communists and their dupes and fellow travellers have created. On another paired theme, the communist ideology is and always has been a ridiculous belief system that nobody in the right mind could agree with. And it is so seductive and addictive that positive steps must be taken to snuff it out, even if Constitutional liberties must suffer.

    Similarly, communists are incredibly stupid and they've taken over the universities. They're welfare bums and folks too lazy to work while spending decades of the most intense labor to implement their ideas.

    They have, however, come up with one ideology they call "Political Correctness" that they define however they need for the propaganda tasks of the day. Moreover, it's the really lazy citizen's political version of the old alchemist's universal solvent, dissolving all manner of topics they'd otherwise have to think about; now, almost any dispute, however complex, they simply sweep into the category of PC and they're against it.

    Posted by Shawn Ajers, 03/21/2011 5:18am (3 years ago)

  • ["The fog of the Cold War is lifting on the one hand," says Sam Webb, national chair of the Communist Party USA, said in an interview, "but still there are misconceptions of what communism is."

    The majority of people - the 80 or so percent who reject "communism" as a better system, says Webb, still suffer from misconceptions that gained currency over the years.]

    I couldn't agree with Sam more. Now is the time for communists to lead in educating the American people and in helping to dispel the misconceptions about communism and socialism.

    The fact that the American people are moving forward on this issue should end all the reactionary talk about changing the name of the Communist party. Also we can even hope that certain misconceptions about Leninism can also be dispelled-- esp. among some party members!

    Posted by Thomas Riggins, 03/19/2011 11:23am (3 years ago)

  • Hi
    You didn't mention if YOUR version of communism and socialism... still use money and ownership. If your version of those terms.... still includes money and ownership, then they are economic systems and many of us are against that... as money and ownership cause rat-racing, which leads to pyramid schemes such as capitalism. Notice that not a single other living thing on the entire planet... uses economies. Its strictly a capitalist invention. So you see, you only used ONE version of communism and socialism as your example. Look at the USA military supply/survival system. See the requisition forms instead of money? See the custodianship instead of ownership? Its a commune... moneyless, ownerless. Everyone is on the same team... and they tend to take care of one another instead of competing. Do you see ANY fear for survival due to lack of basic survival supplies... among military commune members? No. Do you see any fear for survival on the civilian side? Rampant. Please cover ALL the bases... mention ALL the types of communalism and socialism... not just the herd-think pre-programmed versions. The words/phenomena "community", "communion", and "communication"... three of the best things in life... are based upon the word commune. Take care.

    Larry "Wingnut" Wendlandt
    MaStars - Mothers Against Stuff That Ain't Right
    (anti-capitalism-ists)
    Bessemer MI USA

    Posted by Wingnut, 03/19/2011 7:18am (3 years ago)

  • I think the poll results are indicitive of the fact that "the market economy" or "free enterprise" have become a failed model for most Americans.
    A failure nearly as profound, and obvious as the collapse of the former USSR.
    One of the problems is that we indeed do have Socialisim, Cartel Socialisim that is, and there is no hiding the fact that in one's Parents or Grandparents time, or within living memory the People were much better off.
    Anyone with but eyes to see can easily conclude the only possible remedy to these ills is more progressive,
    collectivist, and common-people centered solutions.
    It has become obvious, the only survivable road, leads to the Left.

    Posted by Randy Smith, 03/19/2011 12:33am (3 years ago)

  • If people don't believe that it's morally acceptable to have corrupt corporations owning and controlling everything, how could they believe that it's acceptable for corrupt government leaders to own and control everything? . Under our current system power is in the hands of a few, and under communism, power is also in the hands of a few. The only system that allows the means of production to be in the hands of the masses is Distributism. Under this system, government is local and business is local. Also, there are guilds that provide education, funding, for businesses, as well as regulation for large businesses. Yes, under this system, regulations are local. Larger businesses are more likely to be owned by employees, and consumer cooperatives will be prevalent. Corporations will still exist. However, They would have to become members of the local guild, made up of local small business leaders, workers, professionals, and consumers, so that all businesses have the good of the whole community at heart. THIS IS OWNERSHIP AND CONTROL NOT BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OR BY BIG BUSINESSES, BUT BY ORDINARY WORKING PEOPLE. this is something both Liberals and conservatives can come to like. This is what Dorothy Day, Belloc, and Chesterton fought for.

    Posted by Sean Hellem, 03/19/2011 12:17am (3 years ago)

  • I think it appropriate to point out that Milwaukee, WI was at one time one of the richest, most prosperous, beautiful, and efficiently run cities in all of America. How did it get that way? It developed under a long tenure of socialist mayors who were fiscally conservative and very socially progressive.

    Posted by Old Fart, 03/18/2011 9:35pm (3 years ago)

  • I'm happy to say that I use to be a Republican, but Reaganomics lost me. Why was I supporting them while they supported the rich man not the people that made this country great. While working at Winchester rifle factory I first read the People's world thanks to Joelle and her father. What I read I liked. I went to a few meetings and found people that believed things could and should change and this gave me hope for my country. Politics was a dirty word now it's a place to start making my views heard. I believe in the workers of the world and someday they will believe in Communism. And in the future democracy will be true to the ideals of this country,honesty in leadership with a future for all hard working people

    Posted by David W. P. Roy, 03/18/2011 5:01pm (3 years ago)

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