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Millennials in America have a troubling view of communism and socialism

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Memorial to the Victims of Communism in Prague


Last year the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation released their inaugural annual report on U.S. attitudes towards communism and socialism. The results were dispiriting.

“We discovered a rampant amnesia about the crimes of communist regimes,” says Marion Smith, “and a growing inclination among younger Americans toward favorable views of communism and socialism.”

Their latest survey was recently released—and the responses are just as troubling:

• 7 in 10 Millennials (like most Americans) either don’t know the definition of communism or misidentify it for socialism.

• 7 out of 10 underestimate number killed by communism. Less than one third know more than 100 million people were killed by communism.

• At least one-in-fiveMillennials view communist leaders favorably: Che Guevara (31 percent), Karl Marx (32 percent), Vladimir Lenin (23 percent), Putin (21 percent), Mao Zedong (19 percent).

• More Millennials (44 percent) prefer to live in a socialist country than live in a capitalist country (42 percent).

• Of all Americans, Millennials are the least unfavorable to communism. Only one in three (36 percent) have a “very unfavorable” view of communism.

“Communism isn’t back: It never left,” says Smith. “We simply forgot about it. And as it rears its ugly head once more, openly and shamelessly, we seem far less prepared to meet the ideological challenge in this century compared to the last.”

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Nothing new. I remember encountering similar attitudes in the 1980s, and quite frankly Reagan had to produce the “bear” commercial to get moderates to wake up about the things they should have known if they’d just read some Solzhenitsyn. No?

  • Red Robbo

    Supporters of the status quo can relax: the DSA and Sanders, who you would probably identify as socialist or communist, are social democrats. Marx and Engels, by contrast, wanted something rather different: ‘in place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all’ (Communist Manifesto, 1848). Nothing like this exists, or has existed. The old lie about Russia being socialist or communist (Marx and Engels used the terms interchangeably) –and later, China, Cuba, Venezuela, etc –was identified remarkably early: in the August 1918 edition of the Socialist Standard.
    Lenin wrote of Russia in 1918: ‘reality says that State capitalism would be a step forward for us; if we were able to bring about State capitalism in a short time it would be a victory for us’ (The Chief Task of Our Time).
    In his Report of an Investigation into the Peasant Movement in Hunan (1927), Mao admitted that the coming revolution would not be socialist: ‘To overthrow these feudal forces is the real objective of the revolution’.
    Here is what Fidel said when urging Mexican businesspeople to invest in Cuba, in 1988:
    “We are capitalists, but state capitalists. We are not private capitalists.” (Daum, Walter , 1990,. The Life and Death of Stalinism; A Resurrection of Marxist Theory, NY: Socialist Voice Publishing., p.232)
    And if you do not believe those dictators, try Thatcher: ‘there is only one economic system in the world, and that is capitalism. The difference lies in whether the capital is in the hands of the State or whether the greater part of it is in the hands of people outside of State control,’ ( House of Commons speech, 24 November, 1976).
    Joshua Kurlantzick provides a modern day assessment: ‘the most serious threat from state capitalism is that the two big state capitalist authoritarian powers, China and Russia, will use their state companies as weapons in conflicts with other countries, as vehicles to control certain types of natural resources, as vehicles for obtaining and stealing sensitive technology from other nations, or as tools for undermining environmental and labor norms in countries where their state companies invest’ (State Capitalism: How the Return of Statism is Transforming the World, OUP USA, June 2016).
    Finally, with regard to Bernie’s ‘socialism’:
    ”Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen said that while he’s flattered to see Denmark discussed in a widely-watched US presidential debate he doesn’t think the socialist shoe fits. “I know that some people in the US associate the Nordic model with some sort of socialism,” he said, “therefore I would like to make one thing clear. Denmark is far from a socialist planned economy. Denmark is a market economy.” (2016).

    • “Lenin wrote of Russia in 1918: ‘reality says that State capitalism ”

      Read Lenin. He called it “market socialism” not state capitalism. State capitalism is an oxymoron.

      It’s an old trick of socialists to re-brand their failed states. When Hitler invaded Russia Stalin rebranded National Socialism as capitalist. Don’t listen to them. Read the originals. Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Castro, all were devout socialists honestly trying to implement Marx’s ideas.

      Also, read the Communist Manifesto. We have implemented 8 of the 10 demands.

      • Red Robbo

        Paragraph 37:”Reality tells us that state capitalism would be a step forward. If in a small space of time we could achieve state capitalism in Russia, that would be a victory.”
        Lenin does not use the term ‘market socialism’.

        • Did you bother to read the article you link to. Lenin is not calling the Soviet economy “state capitalism.” He thinks it would be a step in the right direction toward socialism, an aid to achieving socialism. He considered Germany to have state capitalism, but the Germans thought they were socialists, and were. But the only reason he praises “state capitalism” is that he thinks it destroys the petit bourgeois, small business people. He did eventually murder most of the small business people and establish his version of socialism.

          Google for Lenin “market socialism” “new economic policy”. There are hundreds of results. Lenin often called his system that after the massive disaster of his attempt get rid of money and banks. He came of with the “new economic policy” that brought back banks and money and he called it market socialism. But that occurred after the speech you link to.

          • Red Robbo

            >Read Lenin. He called it “market socialism” not state capitalism
            The term ‘market socialism’ is not used by Lenin in any of the English language translations of his works available online.

          • Funny! I found it everywhere with a simple search.

          • Red Robbo

            You stated: Read Lenin. He called it “market socialism” not state capitalism
            My search revealed that the term ‘market socialism’ is not used by Lenin in any of the English language translations of his works available online.
            You are welcome to prove me wrong!

  • JimmyD

    What we must understand is that the attractiveness of socialism and communism is due to societal revulsion to the excesses of capitalism. A natural reaction to the self-congratulating individualist who ignores love of neighbor is to band together with others to put a stop to his raging pride.

    • It’s an ancient socialist trick to label everything failed as capitalist. There are no capitalist system left, except for maybe Singapore and Hong Kong. We’re all socialist to some degree. The US is the most socialist today that it has ever been. Today, millenials can’t pay off student debt because they can’t get decent jobs and they can’t get jobs because high taxes, crushing regulations and insane healthcare costs make it impossible for businesses to expand. At the same time millenials are paying the social security and Medicare of retirees while paying insanely high premiums for healthcare insurance because federal law requires them to subsidize older, sicker people. The only surprise is that it took millenials so long to get upset.

      But they’ve been lied to about living under capitalism. All of their problems come from huge increases in socialism.