For at least the last 60 years in the United States, Socialism was strictly taboo. If someone was a Socialist, he or she was regarded as suspect; possibly disloyal, probably foolish, definitely radical. The term was used as a smear against someone’s character and ideas.Socialists were either godless libertines, lazy freeloaders who wanted the state to take care of them, or else they were Soviet agents, subversive enemies of freedom. You could talk about anything, except Socialism.
Today, a Socialist is running for President of the United States, and young people are overwhelmingly throwing their support behind his candidacy. This is important for us to study for several reasons.
First of all, the support of the youth matters, and matters a lot. These young voters are the future. That means the future is going to look very different. An economic theory has entered the American discourse that was completely forbidden for decades, and it is a theory that fundamentally challenges the prevailing economic system (which, of course, is why it was forbidden).
A generation has emerged which is not afraid to question the Capitalist orthodoxy, and they are the generation who will shape the future.
This also matters because, many, if not most, of these young supporters of Bernie Sanders do not actually know what Socialism is; they are not supporting his candidacy because they are Socialists, but because they are anti-Capitalists.
They recognize that they are the victims of a predatory, parasitic, irrational and unjust economic system, and they want to escape.
No one else among the candidates is addressing this fact, no one else is offering alternatives.
The rest of the candidates are only presenting voters with the choice of either being beaten with the right hand or with the left; being either punched or kicked. The Sanders campaign suggests the option of not being beaten at all.
What this means is that young people in the US are looking for viable political and economic alternatives with the pragmatic open-mindedness of desperately abused people who want a way out…any way. They are losing their patience for taboos when it comes to solving their problems.
While not identical, the taboo of Political Islam today is not that dissimilar to the taboo of Socialism yesterday. Islamists are variously slandered as radicals, Utiopians, Fascists, traitors, so on and so forth; much the way Socialists were slandered in the very recent past.
The social and economic failures of the Capitalist system have forced people to consider alternative systems which they used to shun, or more accurately, alternative systems which they were taught to shun.
There is no alternative system more maligned today than Islamism, and, insofar as Socialism was maligned because it presented a more viable alternative to Capitalism, the aggressive slanders against Islamism evidence how much more viable it is as an alternative.
It is possible, in my opinion, that this maturation of economic and political open-mindedness illustrated by the Sanders’ candidacy, will eventually bring Political Islam to the forefront, not only among Muslims, but non-Muslims as well.
But, for this to come to fruition, the Islamists need to get serious. We need to articulate a real, comprehensive socioeconomic agenda. We need to stop concentrating on simply trying to get Islamist politicians and parties into power, and focus on developing what our platform actually is, what our policies actually are; how Islamic Law and principles translate into clear political and economic plans.