Putting the Red back in Red, White, and Blue
Updated: Feb 26
Why love of country, love of democracy, and love of each other are vital elements of building socialism
An enduring myth about the political left is that we are not patriots. Right-leaning commentators since McCarthy have claimed that leftists “hate America” or want to destroy the country. Far-right fear mongers paint a dire picture of a socialist future. In order to progress with socialist movements in their transference to the masses of the working people, we must counter this grotesque misrepresentation of our ideals.
To this purpose, it is necessary to separate the love of a country from the support for the economic system that stratifies political participation and opportunity for socio-economic mobility. I believe that socialism is a humanistic project that elevates the country and people to higher states of prosperity. I therefore conceptualize socialism as an economic system based on love: that of country, of democracy, and of each other.
Love of Country
Patriotism can be healthy. Love of country roots the individual in a broader community and provides a sense of purpose and belonging – factors that are often missing in everyday life in the 21st century. Coupled with my belief in the capacity of governments of the people to overcome the problems we face, I believe that expressions of love and loyalty are not outdated relics of a past age, but useful and healthy mechanisms of social belonging.
But what is patriotism at its core? It is a sense of belonging derived from a shared and common experience of being citizens of a particular country. Belonging in a shared project plays an enormous role in creating identity and sustainable contentment in individuals. Coupling our socialist economic and democratic project to a desire to renew our country can only produce positive results, as it will provide expression to our desire to work together for a common cause. It will provide a compass and a map to the millions who want to get involved, but see no opportunities or meaning in doing so.
Socialism is not an alien belief system imported from other lands to invade and destroy what it means to belong to the United States. Our national identity is not fixed in capitalism. Our identity is about a love for something greater than ourselves, and that is precisely what socialism promises: the building up of a greater future.
Love of Democracy
The people of the United States love democracy. The idea is inseparable from our national identity – it is encoded in our DNA and it is who we are. The rule of the few over the many is an infuriating concept, which is what makes the toxic entanglement of business and government frustrating and incomprehensible.
To those of us who were raised with the idea that the people are sovereign, the idea that our votes can be diluted by corporations is incomprehensible. In addition, legislation that would ease our suffering by bringing our government and social services into the 21st century would stand a chance because the lobbyists who fight against it have preferential access to the lawmakers.
It is frustrating, disappointing, and infuriating, and we attempt to convince ourselves that our problems are our own fault, that we didn’t work hard enough or the poor are lazy and get what they deserve. The reality that the ultra-rich are an institutionalized socio-economic group that concentrates and passes wealth to their descendants and that entry into that class is nearly impossible for the working people of our country goes against our feeling of how the United States should be. Who should change this if not the people?
That is why, when I say I am against capitalism, I say at the same time that I am for the United States, for a government of the people, and for a more perfect union. Democracy and liberty, of which we so often speak in our political discourse, will come to fruition through socialism because it is through socialism that the people will have equal access to political power and economic participation.
I believe it is necessary at this point to make a note on the use of force. Unfortunately, socialists are often accused of harboring undemocratic, anti-social tendencies, including the desire to use force to affect political or systemic change. I reject the use of force in its entirety because I believe that force undermines and delegitimizes a political project, no matter what the ideological basis of that project is. This is why coups are roundly condemned in the international order as illegitimate, while free and fair elections are not.
It is respect for legal norms that confer social and political legitimacy on a process of political change. On a more basic level, harming others because of ideological disagreement is an inhumane, cruel tactic that will only beget more violence and will eventually undermine the stability of a political project.
This is an important reason why the socialist projects of Central and Eastern Europe are often criticized by the people who lived in them: not because of ideological, material, or political shortcomings, but because of the states’ use of repression and violence to silence their critics. This is not a way towards convincing people of the righteousness or worth of a project. This is a way to historical infamy.
Therefore, let me say unequivocally that I condemn and repudiate any effort to attempt to change the legal or constitutional system of the United States by force. I should not have to make this declaration, as I believe it is an unfair assumption of the political left that we seek change in such a manner.
My feeling of necessity to make this declaration is perhaps ironic, considering the legions of far-right supporters in the US who advocate and actually commit acts of violence against the constitutional order, including during the Capitol riot of 6 January, the anti-lockdown protests of fall 2020 that saw heavily-armed mobs occupy state legislative buildings and the brutal attacks against Black Lives Matter activists throughout 2020.
The left will retain its legitimacy and show the apolitical and the political center that we are a peaceful group seeking only to raise up our country and our people. In doing so we legitimize ourselves in comparison to the violence of the far-right and show that indeed the country is safer in the workers’ hands.
Love of Each Other
A significant argument that often reoccurs in the anti-socialist, anti-collectivist discourses is that socialism degrades the human spirit and harms the individual. I have already written about how capitalism does this as a matter of course in a previous article, namely through the commodification and compartmentalization of everyday life and the erosion of social bonds in the face of profit.
Socialism is ultimately about loving other people enough to help them. This means being ok with paying a little more in taxes because it will help someone access healthcare to live a longer, happier life. It means sharing collective responsibility for economic decision-making so that the gains of an enterprise can benefit everyone who made them possible. It means looking out for the most vulnerable — those who had a rough start or suffered setbacks beyond their control. It does not mean becoming weaker or becoming poorer.
By helping each other we create a richer society capable of maximizing the success and potential of all of its members, and through that surge of new energy and ideas, we will prosper as never before.
I have been a patriot for my country for many years. I carry the United States with me wherever I go in the wide world and consider my passport a prized possession not only because of the ability to travel but because it is a physical link between myself and my homeland.
Though I am happy living abroad, I carry that love with me every day, and it breaks my heart all the more to see how our country and people continue to needlessly suffer because the changes we need are simply not profitable. Our country is sick and runaway, politicized capitalism is causing the illness. To save our country, we must embrace a socialist future.