A constant fear trots along a major part of the political system in America. The fear of Communism. A fear so large it seemingly consumes the mindsets of right wing parties. Two of Generation Z’s most beloved politicians: Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Bernie Sanders. Perhaps the most notable similarity between the two is that they are both democratic socialists who push for progressive reform that are labelled as ‘radical’ in the US but are basic rights in many other countries, like Switzerland. Many republicans often try to convince the public that AOC and Sanders are communists, including Trump. It’s no secret that many politicians use their opponents’ political stance to degrade them; right wing politicians from time to time are labelled as fascists, left wings are sometimes labelled as communists. It’s a dog eat dog world. What’s the fear of communism in the States about? Why are liberal left wings often conflated with it?
Before US-China tensions, there was another Communist country the US had been heavily antagonistic with. This was known as the Cold War(1947-1991). To understand this, we should look back circa 1917, when Russia had a communist revolution. A long ruling monarchy was overthrown by the working class and a group called the Bolsheviks seized control. The Bolsheviks were a communist group whose leader, Vladimir Lenin was heavily inspired by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and their Communist Manifesto. This group later took charge of Russia and hence the Soviet Union was formed. This was known as the First Red Scare. The second Red Scare resurfaced as tensions during the Cold War between the USA and Soviet Union rose, hysteria over fears of communism infiltrating and slithering its way into the US intensified. The US government tried its best to vilify communism to gain public support in any expenses spent for the Cold War (military, space etc). Many Americans were concerned about communist infiltration and government espionage. When a couple, the Rosenbergs who worked for the government and was involved in the building of the Atomic Bomb, was found to be guilty of spying for the Soviets, this intensified anti-communist hysteria. This fear was real but perhaps put out of proportion by the actions of the government. This dire scare led federal employees, Hollywood actors or even working class people to be investigated by a committee called the House of Un-American Activities, which had the FBI involved. Simultaneously, a senator by the name of Joseph McCarthy was closely tied to frequently exposing or accusing communist infiltration. Anyone accused by McCarthy lost their jobs and their reputation. For years, no one dared to speak up against McCarthy’s ridiculous accusations as they would’ve been labelled as ‘communist sympathisers.’ This was until McCarthy had attempted to accuse the military, resulting in the media and many being against him. In the end, he lost all credibility. However, the stigma he created (known as McCarthyism) during the Cold War left a legacy that still remains. It manifests itself during political debates, when politicians use one’s political views as derogatory remarks against another, which is what Bernie Sanders was always accused of during his presidential campaign. The red scare has left an imprint that vilifies anything progressive.
It is true that on paper, socialism and communism seem quite similar. However, in democratic countries, more often we see socialist aspects. The main difference is that socialism is compatible with democracy and human rights, whereas, communism involves pushing for equality through an authoritarian state. So no, someone who pushes for reform for the better of the marginalized in society, that may involve left- wing ideologies, is not a communist. What scares the right wing and even some democrats about democratic socialism is that it would alter the rudimentary principles that America is built and thrives on: Capitalism.