Socialism refers to a broad set of economic theories of social organization advocating public or state ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods, and a society characterized by economic equality for all individuals, with an egalitarian method of compensation. Modern socialism originated in the late 19th-century intellectual and working class political movement that criticized the effects of industrialization and private ownership on society.
Socialism is not a concrete philosophy, but in fact a collection of various theories and models, many of which were implemented in various countries in the late 19th and early 20th century, although many socialists do not agree with them.
Socialism and communism are often used interchangeably. Insofar as both seek a level of collective ownership of the means of production and an egalitarian class structure, they are similar. However, communism, as espoused most famously by Karl Marx openly seeks an end to class all-together with the ultimate end of the state, goals not necessarily sought by all socialists. Thus, it can be argued that while communists are also probably socialists, not all socialists can be called communists.
Socialism in Southern Victory
Socialism in the United States
Socialism gained an eloquent and ardent prophet in former President of the United States Abraham Lincoln, who embraced the ideology in the years after the Confederate States won the War of Secession. After he was defeated in the election of 1864, Lincoln criss-crossed the United States, advocating for workers' rights. His philosophy was borrowed from the works of other socialist thinkers, including Karl Marx. Lincoln did not embrace the more radical and revolutionary elements of socialist thought, instead maintaining faith in representative government, making him a democratic socialist rather than an orthodox revolutionary one.
With the U.S. again defeated by the C.S. during the Second Mexican War in 1882, Lincoln attempted to convince the Republican Party to adopt a more socialist platform. Most Republicans disagreed, and opted to defect to the then-rudderless Democratic Party. In response, Lincoln gathered minor socialist organizations and approximately one third of the Republican party (specifically its left-wing) and formed the Socialist Party. However, the Democratic Party would retain a monopoly on power until 1920.
Socialists generally opposed the Great War at the outset, but Socialists in political office ultimately supported a war declaration and funding. The U.S. was finally able to triumph over the C.S. in 1917. With its long time enemy finally defeated, the U.S. turned inward, and began pulling away from the Remembrance mindset that marked the decades of Democratic rule. Labor issues arose, and the Socialists were able to capitalize on this, forming a coalition with Republican Party (now a minor party with only regional appeal in the Midwest) and thus gaining control in the House of Representatives. In 1920, Upton Sinclair was elected as the first Socialist President of the United States.
However, once in power the party did not institute any radical changes, and certainly did not abolish the capitalist style of economy. The Socialists in power also made no change in the policy of open-ended military occupation of Canada which they inherited from the Roosevelt Administration. They offered the Canadians neither an option of renewed independence nor of incorporation in the United States and gaining full civil rights, and President Sinclair authorized brutal repression of an uprising early in the 1920s. Moreover, Socialist administrations (like Democratic ones) left the running of captured Confederate territories in the hands of ex-Confederate officials like Luther Bliss in Kentucky.
With the disastrous Blackford Administration (1929-1933), which was marked by a softening on reparations against the Confederate States, the stock market crash, and the Pacific War, the Socialist Party and socialism as an ideology lost its relevance. The Democrats ascended once again, but proved no more capable of resolving the country's woes. In 1936, the Socialist Party was given another chance when Al Smith was elected as President. However, Smith's domestic agenda did not seem substantially rooted in the socialist ideology. In foreign policy, Smith engaged the C.S., now under the rule of Jake Featherston and the Freedom Party, agreeing to a plebiscite which eventually returned most of the territory the U.S. had gained from the C.S. in 1917. While there was arguably an ideological basis for Smith's decision, there were almost certainly pragmatic considerations, as most of that territory had been restive under U.S. rule, and force had done nothing to squelch the restiveness.
While the Socialist Party first under Smith and then under his successor Charles W. La Follette were able to lead the country to victory over the C.S. during the Second Great War, the ideological underpinnings of the party were of necessity compromised. After the war, the Democrats were again swept back into office.
Socialism in Confederate States
In the racially and economically stratified society of the Confederate States, socialism was embraced more readily by the Negro population than by the white population. The leaders of the Red Rebellion of 1915 were thoroughly versed in the writings of Lincoln and Marx. With the failure of the Red Rebellion, socialism lost legitimacy in the C.S. until the chaotic days after the Great War ended in 1917, when the Whigs' fortunes reached their lowest ebb, and the Confederate Socialist Party reached its zenith, winning four seats in the 1917 Congressional elections, from Louisiana, Cuba, and Chihuahua. (These were the only Confederate elections in which black veterans of the Great War were able to vote, a right of which they were deprived long before the Freedom Party came to power.) The CSP promoted a platform of racial equality, and as a result was despised by the Freedom Party. Once the Freedom Party dominated the Confederate government, its hatred of the Socialist Party morphed into persecution, with many Socialists winding up in concentration camps.