The anti-socialism resolution passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month sent a chilling message not only to socialists in the United States but to many U.S. friends and allies around the world.
By backing a resolution that “denounces socialism in all its forms,” policymakers condemned a broad range of U.S. partners who have implemented various kinds of socialist policies. As several House members acknowledged during the debate over the resolution, the United States has a long history of working with socialist allies and trading partners around the world.
“This is a direct insult to many countries the United States counts among its allies—including NATO member states Spain, Germany, and Portugal—which are governed by parties or heads of state that identify as social democratic or socialist,” said Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), who expressed her reluctance to vote on the resolution.
For most of U.S. history, U.S. officials have strongly opposed socialism. Both Democrats and Republicans have targeted socialists with repression. The United States has repeatedly worked to destroy socialist leaders, ranging from Eugene Debs in the United States during the early twentieth century to leftist leaders across Latin America today.
“We do not believe in socialism,” Donald Trump explained in 2019, when he was U.S. president.
Republicans have repeatedly crafted bills that condemn socialism, often as attempts to tarnish Democrats and discredit social programs. Their major targets have included socialist politicians, social insurance programs such as Medicare and Social Security, and proposals for universal health care and the Green New Deal.
Their latest resolution stokes fears by misleadingly associating the democratic socialism of Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) with the tyrannical rule of Joseph Stalin and other repressive leaders.
“Whether it is communism, Marxism, Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism, anarchism, democratic socialism, ecosocialism, or liberal socialism,” explained John Rose (R-TN), “none of these ideologies should, God willing, ever be implemented in the United States.”
All Republican speakers spoke in favor of the resolution on the logic of “socialism bad, capitalism good,” as Roger Williams (R-TX) put it, but a large number of Democrats spoke against it. Several Democratic officials criticized their Republican colleagues for conflating socialism with authoritarianism, ignoring the threat of fascism, and blocking an amendment that specified that Social Security and Medicare are not socialism.
“This resolution has little to do with intelligent discourse and everything to do with laying the groundwork to cut Social Security and Medicare,” said Mark Pocan (D-WI), who voted against the bill.
Most Democratic speakers made it a point to denounce socialism and proudly identify themselves as capitalists, similar to what President Joe Biden did in his State of the Union address, but several Democratic officials offered strategic reasons for opposing the bill. They noted that the United States has periodically worked with socialist governments, despite longstanding U.S. opposition to socialist policies.
Brad Sherman (D-CA) presented an image of socialist leaders in NATO and emphasized their importance to the United States during the Cold War. “Without them, Stalinism may well have prevailed,” he said. “Yet, this resolution condemns them.”
Sherman added that many former Israeli leaders were socialists. The resolution “equates some of the greatest leaders of Israel with some of the greatest mass murderers of history,” he said.
Other Democratic critics pointed out that the United States still works with many countries with socialist political parties.
“With this resolution, House Republicans are sending a message to these nations that we condemn the domestic political process within their nations,” said Betty McCollum (D-MN), who voted against it. “That is outrageous.”
McCollum noted that many NATO countries that are supporting Ukraine have elected socialist leaders. “Congress should be working to strengthen the relationships with our fellow democracies, not passing poorly written messaging bills that will alienate our friends and allies,” she said.
Regardless, a majority of House members voted in favor of the resolution, making it clear that they oppose socialism in all its forms, whether at home or abroad. All Republicans who cast votes agreed that socialism must be condemned, and a majority of Democrats joined them. Not a single speaker defended socialism, despite the fact that a large portion of the U.S. population has a favorable view of socialism.
With this approach, House leaders demonstrated that they are so strongly opposed to socialism that they will alienate a large number of their constituents and vilify several of their allies, even at a time of war. Their resolution sent the disturbing message to socialists around the world that they will not be tolerated by powerful policymakers within the U.S. government.
This first appeared on Foreign Policy in Focus.