The ideology of socialism in the United States is not unheard of, and believe it or not, it is practiced even today, unknowingly and in lesser magnitude.
Its history in the country can be traced to the Socialist Party of America, which was founded in 1901 and dissolved in 1972. Some claim that the ideology can be traced farther back to 1859, when several immigrants―especially the ones from Germany―came to the United States.
In these initial days, when the theories and ideas of Karl Marx were largely being propagated, accepted, and implemented, several unions based upon the socialist thought of Marx came into being. These included the National Typographic Union in 1852, United Hatters of 1856, and the Iron Molders' Union of North America in 1859.
The reason why socialism is often frowned upon in the United States, is that it leads to communism. Also, it is often tagged as a reaction to capitalism. But, the truth is; it is a reaction to the cruelty and inhuman brutality of capitalism. As the name suggests, 'socialism' is all about society; carried out in a manner which benefits the society.
What is Socialism?
Only Karl Marx can answer that! Whatever we know about socialism is mere interpretation of the philosophies put forth by thinkers. In a broad sense, socialism is a social, economic, and political theory and ideology that aims at bringing the process of 'production' under the control of every faction of the society.
Many interpretations of Marx's writings advocate state ownership of capital, or factors of production or public control of production. However the broader interpretation is different. Socialism, in real, has a process of production where the haves and have-not's combine to become one class and have equal share in the contribution and benefit of the process.
Marx always predicted that have-nots would always rise to abolish the haves and establish one single class. This process was supposed to be dynamic and the government was supposed to be merely a medium through which one class would work on the process of production.
Hence, the idea of state owned production and factors of production. Some very important elements of socialism that we often tend to ignore consist of actually finding our interest in work, without getting alienated from one's own self, collectively contributing in cash or kind to the society and to the production process.
Socialism in America
No economy in this world can survive without adapting to the merits of all economic, social, and political ideologies. The United States is no exception, and hence, you see a hint of socialism in these ideologies in the country―the magnitude though, is very small.
Examples of socialism started with the propaganda of Eugene V. Debs and writings of Theodore H. White. Debs ran for the presidency as a candidate of the Socialist Party of America in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920. Before that he participated in Pullman Strike in 1897, for which he was jailed. It was here that he converted to socialism.
The party participated in the Progressive Movement and worked on making 'one class, one nation', a success. Following the failure of 1912 elections, socialism fell out of favor. Furthermore, there was a drastic shift in the supporters when Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt's policies catered to the demands of all the people who were have-nots.
The Cold War saw the complete disappearance of socialism in the United States as the social constitution was highly anti-communist and pro-American capitalist. Recession that struck the US economy saw marked revival of socialism.
Examples of socialism and pro-socialist policies can be traced to the well-thought-out Obama administration policies (which were immaturely criticized by some people for their socialistic approach). Though socialism is not thoroughly taking over capitalism today, the need for it is now being genuinely felt.
Some decisions of administration in international diplomacy and some internal employment and resource allocation laws did hint at the revival of socialism. The year 2010 saw the Obama administration work for a very important cause, employment for people. Call it socialism, or even 'Obama policy', the Democrats have indeed improved the nation's condition.
When Obama and his administration started adopting policies that were aimed at saving the American society from economic recession and further economic downfall, they were subjected to sarcasm and criticism.
However, the critics never realized that socialism is the need of the moment―not to introduce the 'Red' banner in the States, but to improve the economy and stop the ongoing troubles of the people.
Socialism is not a political proclamation or some evil-planned-dictatorship, but is merely an ideology that places the concern for people's well-being before anything else. All we need is a liberal acceptance of the pure and simple meaning of socialism, as put forth by Marx.