To the Editor:
This is in response to Laura Motley, quoted in your article ("Democratic Socialism Seems Like It's Arrived," by Francis Flisiuk, July 19, 2018):
"When the boomers retire or die, [socialism's] going to happen," she said. "I have conversations with my parents who are centrist democrats urging them to get on the right side of history. But there's a strange fear of disrupting the status quo and I think we need to get over that."
It's not the unfortunate (for Ms. Motley) longevity of the boomer generation that has held back socialism in the United States, nor are socialist ideas just discovered by her age cohort. Labor unions founded by German immigrants schooled in Marxism (such as the National Typographic Union in 1852, United Hatters in 1856, and Iron Moulders' Union of North America in 1859) were based on socialist principles. In 1900, the Socialist Party was founded, and just before the outbreak of World War I, socialists held well more than 250 municipal offices (including the mayoralties of Milwaukee, Berkeley and Schenectady). The socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason had 700,000 subscribers, and when Eugene Debs campaigned for President in 1912 he received 6 percent of the vote.
Government suppression — a succession of "Red Scares" throughout the twentieth century — had far more to do with the erosion of popular support for socialism than "centrist Democrats" (although Democratic Party executives certainly took pains to thwart Bernie Sanders' campaign in 2016). And socialist candidates for public office have been treated, at best, dismissively — major media ignored Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez until she won her primary race; The New York Times was caught flat-footed, having failed to report that she was even running. [That's not] about "boomers" — The Times' local political reporters are barely out of their twenties. It's about corporate capitalism, which will always work to maintain divisions of class, race, gender, age, ability, and status in this country — anything to keep people from working together to unmask it.
So please don't disparage "boomers," Ms. Motley. Many of us have been "on the right side of history" and "disrupting the status quo" for many years (from the time of the civil rights, anti-war and second-wave feminist movements, and ACT-UP). Hoping for our deaths so that socialism can have its day ignores history — and simply isn't helpful.
Very truly yours,
Ellen D. Murphy, 67