Despite widespread rejection of socialist ideas in the media and political establishment, according to a new PewPoll (12/28/11) half of young people aged 18-29 view socialism positively while only 43 percent react negatively to the term. In the same age group, only 46 percent have positive views of capitalism.

Just 20 months ago the numbers were reversed, with a slim majority of young people, 49 to 43 percent, viewing socialism negatively. Undoubtedly the impact of Occupy Wall Street on consciousness is an important factor. In a matter of weeks, the occupy movement brought opposition to capitalism from the margins into the mainstream. With that has come growing interest in a real political alternative to this system.

Notably African Americans view socialism most favorably, at 55 to 36 percent. While the over-all population – particularly those over 30 – still has a negative view of socialism (60 to 31 percent), among the lowest income bracket (less than $30,000), half view capitalism negatively, while just 39 percent support capitalism.

These numbers underscore the tremendous potential to build a mass socialist movement in the U.S. today. After decades of Cold War propaganda and the confusion created by the warped legacy of Stalinism, the re-emergence of widespread socialist sympathies is especially significant. While the corporate-sponsored politicians of both mainstream parties remain ardent defenders of capitalism, their constituents – particularly the rising generation – are increasingly hostile to the system.

Still, for most youth and workers searching for a way out of the mess capitalism has created, positive views of socialism do not yet indicate a clear understanding of genuine Marxist ideas. Views range from support for European welfare state systems and other “mixed economy” models to simply general longing for more wealth equality. As of yet, only a small minority clearly aims to build a democratically planned socialist economy.

The historic challenge is to transform passive, general support for the ideas of socialism into active participation in the socialist movement and clarity on how society can be transformed. Now is the time to step forward and join the struggle. Please consider joining Socialist Alternative today.