What’s this “socialism,” anyway?
It started with Christian Utopian Socialists such as the Hutterites, an Anabaptist branch that lived on communes. They felt that living in a communal manner, rather than seeking financial profit from each other, emulated Christ and his disciples. (I’m not saying Jesus was a socialist; but He did say, “You cannot serve both God and Money … Be on guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of his possessions!” Between pure socialism and unbridled capitalism, which would He preach?) History is littered with efforts by Christians to practice socialist ideals.
Neither pure socialism nor pure capitalism appears to work. Capitalism is too harsh and socialism ignores people’s selfish side. Each is theoretically consistent with democracy. In practice, either eventually perverts democracy, ending with a small group running things, usually corruptly, and holding power through force and/or propaganda. (Kerala, an Indian province, seems an exception. I’d love to visit there.)
Karl Marx didn’t invent socialism. He built on the work of many highly regarded philosophers we don’t find it necessary to hate. Marx essentially said that while capitalism had helped societies marshal technologies to develop new material goods, which worked great for some, but was not working for most people, and was therefore unsustainable.
During the early 20th Century, many local and even Congressional elections brought socialists to office in U.S. cities and states. Only extreme right-wingers considered it evil.
Then Russian Communists came to power. Although the Czar needed overthrowing; it’s probably unfortunate that the Communists wrested control of the revolution from the other groups involved. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics perverted socialism. While some (Julius Martov?) were benign idealists, Stalin and others clearly sought and retained power through any available means. While early on the Soviet Union tried to improve the lives of the average citizen, few would try to excuse Stalin’s conduct.