This paper examines the relationship between race, socialism, and democracy in America. It is organized into five sections and a conclusion. The first section explores how socialism has been viewed by many black leaders and intellectuals as necessary, imperative perhaps, in the black struggle for material equality, and further investigates the relationship of this black perspective on socialism to white opposition. The second section uses the most recent historical work to identify the factors that have the stalled the development of socialism in America. I also assess how these factors have changed or not in terms of making the socialist project more likely. In the third section, I analyze available poll data on American opinion about socialism from the 1930s to the present. While the data show unambiguously increased support for socialism since the 1930s, socialism does not today command the support of a majority of the American people. In the fourth section I examine the paradigmatic Franklin Roosevelt presidency on how liberal Democratic presidents have avoided the socialist label while embracing socialist programs. The fifth section is a brief examination of what socialism—really existing socialism—means in the early twenty-first century, and the idea of “socialist smuggling” as manifested in the presidencies of FDR and Lyndon Johnson. The speculative conclusion asks what are the prospects for the socialist project, and whether the white liberal cosmopolitan bourgeoisie rather than the white working class might become a mass base for the socialist project.
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Research Article| January 21 2020
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Robert C. Smith; Democracy, Race, and the Socialist Project in the United States. National Review of Black Politics 21 January 2020; 1 (1): 34–48. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/nrbp.2020.1.1.34
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