Millennials and Gen Z-ers are becoming increasingly comfortable with socialism, according to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation (VOC), which conducts an annual poll assessing Americans' attitudes toward socialism.
VOC Executive Director Marion Smith attributes this trend shown in VOC's poll, as well as in other national polls, to a failure of American educational institutions, definitional misunderstandings and a double standard in media and on social media.
"We are seeing the high watermark, politically, of socialism [and] Marxism in the United States," Smith told Fox News. "Never before in history has the United States seen positive opinions of these ideologies to the extent that we’re seeing today. That's just a fact."
Support for progressive, self-identified democratic-socialist politicians including former 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has increased among young voters.
Supporters arrive for Sen. Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign event at Navy Pier in Chicago, March 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
The national Black Lives Matter group, part of a political and social movement against racism and police violence that many American citizens and corporations have endorsed, was co-founded by Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza, who have called themselves "trained Marxists," and Opal Tometi, who observed Venezuela's 2015 election at the invitation of the socialist government.
Tometi was swarmed by government critics during the election on Twitter after posting about the relief she felt being "in a place where there is intelligent political discourse."
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BLM's website previously stated in the "What We Believe" section of its website that the group disrupts "the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and 'villages'..."
The group did not respond to a request for comment.
"We live in a world where, over the last few years, Venezuela has turned from a market economy and a very prosperous country into a humanitarian disaster through, in their words ... democratic socialism, supported by the Cuban Communist Party and supported by loans from the People’s Republic of China. That’s the world we live in," Smith said.
Pedestrians walk past a mural depicting the late President Hugo Chavez, in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Leonardo Fernandez)
He continued: "For many years, when self-described socialists or democratic socialists in the United States have been asked, ‘What kind of society do you think is headed in the right direction?’ -- until it became untenable to say ‘Venezuela,’ they fully embraced the [Hugo] Chavez and Maduro direction of Venezuela."
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More young Americans are unaware that some 100 million people have been killed by communist parties in power over the last century, and many are unaware that the Chinese Communist Party is responsible for more deaths than Nazi Germany, according to the VOC.
There has also been a decrease in the number of young Americans who believe Friedrich Engels' and Karl Marx's "The Communist Manifesto" secures liberty better than the Declaration of Independence, the VOC found.
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"We’ve definitely had a double standard, both in scholarship and education, and popular culture -- journalism -- between the crimes of Nazism and the crimes of communist regimes," Smith said. "You combine that lack of a moral reckoning about the legacy of communism with a failure of education to teach basic 20th-century history, and you add on ... a normalization of the term 'socialism' -- of Marxist rhetoric -- and that leads to a dangerous normalization of socialism as a path forward."
In this June 5, 1989 file photo, a Chinese man stands alone to block a line of tanks heading east on Beijing's Changan Blvd. in Tiananmen Square. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener, File )
As historian Lee Edwards, Ph.D., notes, "What most millennials mean by 'socialism' seems to be a mix of our welfare state and what they perceive to be Swedish democratic socialism. But Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries including Denmark favor the free market and are content with private rather than government ownership of their major industries."
Americans can blame the normalization of socialist rhetoric not only on definitional misunderstandings and the failures of educational institutions and media to give proportional attention to history and today’s current events, but on social media, as well. Smith says there is a double standard on social media to suppress fascist rhetoric and promote socialist and Marxist rhetoric.
"The best policy is to embrace free speech. The worst policy is to ban certain things and elevate Marxist rhetoric and allow for the denial of the victims of communism, and that is the policy that Facebook and other social media platforms have embraced as of today," he said.
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Support for a transition away from a capitalist economic system has also increased, in part because of a misunderstanding of the word and the differences between big business and free enterprise, Smith said.
"There certainly is a difference between big business and economic freedom, and I think that a lot of younger people especially view the excesses of mega-corporations as somehow being related to free enterprise," he said. "A more realistic assessment is that corporate boardrooms and the Chinese Communist Party have basically been collaborating to take manufacturing out of the U.S. and rely on coercive labor in China, and ... that hurts the little guy in China and the American worker."
Workers walk by the perimeter fence of what is officially known as a vocational skills education centre in Dabancheng in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, China September 4, 2018. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo - RC112C876810)
He added that if Americans understood the correlation between free enterprise and the "exercise of liberty in the economic realm, we would understand that we have a joint cause."
There was a positive takeaway from the poll, however, that also appears to be an oxymoron: While there is an increasingly positive attitude toward socialism and an increasingly negative attitude toward capitalism among younger generations, there is also distrust in government to take care of individual interests.
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"I think there’s also a hopeful set of findings in our poll, which is that when asked basic questions about who do you trust most to look after your own interests, the government, the community of yourself? … Overwhelmingly, but also the majority of Millennials and Gen-Zers, would trust themselves by far, secondly then their community, and last and by far, the government," Smith said.
He added later that it remains to be seen whether Millenials and Gen Z-ers "will moderate their opinions" of if the positive trend toward socialism will continue as "older generations -- who are much more pro-American, anti-communist, anti-fascist, appreciative of democracy, free speech, free enterprise" die off.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.