Christian Schneider

Author, Columnist

Rooted in Socialism

If you go to enough conservative events, eventually you\’re going to hear the \”S\” word bandied about. Inevitably, someone will warn of the impending doom if the \”socialist\” Democrats take over. While I\’m certainly sympathetic to the cause, I generally to bristle at these attempts to tie modern Democrats to the murderous regimes of Lenin and Stalin. Nancy Pelosi\’s reconstructed visage may break my HDTV, but I\’m guessing she\’s not going to steal and murder my children.

In any event, if any state has a history of being friendly to socialism, it is Wisconsin. Milwaukee famously elected three Socialist mayors in the first half of the 20th Century – a feat unique to large American cities. The State Senate and Assembly often housed members of the Socialist Party in the \’20s and \’30s – in some years, there were more Socialists than Democrats. Yet while they were socialist in name, rarely did they govern as Socialists in practice. (Much of this is detailed in Robert Booth Fowler\’s excellent new book \”Wisconsin Votes.\”)

It\’s even more interesting when one examines the modern Democratic agenda and its roots within the Socialist movement of the early 1900\’s. For instance, look at many of the current Democratic talking points: We have to tax excessive oil profits. We have to tax hospital profits. Insurance companies are charging us too much, so we should have government take over health care and tax business to pay for it.

If these sound familiar, it\’s because these attempts to \”tax the profiteers\” have been around for the entirety of Wisconsin\’s history. And predominantly from the Socialist Party.

Check out this campaign flier from Socialist Party candidate for U.S. Senate Candidate Victor L. Berger, in which he vows to \”Tax the Profiteers.\” (Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society\’s Online Collection)


Again, this doesn\’t mean modern Democrats and the vile European Socialist Regimes are married to one another. But at the very least, they are pen pals.

SIDE NOTE: Berger, who was one of the founding members of the Socialist Party in Wisconsin, had a phenomenal public career. From his Historical Society biography:

Berger was elected the first Socialist member of Congress and served from 1911 to 1913. He was reelected in 1918 and 1919. Congress excluded his seat on grounds of sedition, a charge for which he was sentenced to a 20-year prison term. The U.S. Supreme Court reversed this decision in 1921. He was allowed to take his seat when reelected in 1922.


  1. However, is the mutual admiration between Churchill, FDR, Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini in the 1930s was a coincidence? FDR’s policies were named ‘socialist’ when he implemented them for the obvious reason.

  2. FDR being a democrat.

  3. Were Hitler, Mussolini and Stalin Democrats? I thought at least two of them were Republicans.

  4. Obviously since they were not Americans, they could be neither Democrat nor Republican. What’s in a name?

  5. Your grasp of political history is rather weak. The Milwaukee Democratic-Socialists where aligned with Western European socialist parties, that includes the Labor Party of Great Britain … the party of Tony Blair.

    The Milwaukee Socialist where decidedly anti-communist, they produced balanced budgets that gave the City of Milwaukee a triple A bond rating, and they excelled at instituting pragmatic and effective social programs.

    One can argue that Milwaukee was at its zenith in 1929 under a Socialist Mayor. Milwaukee has declined, in part, because of the deterioration in the education, health and youth activities programs that were subsequently mishandled by conservative democrat and republican politicians at the state, county and city level.

    In terms of not being pragmatic or scientific and sticking to unproven arguments for the sake of ideological purity, the Wisconsin right and Bolsheviks show remarkable similarities.

    Read your history before putting you foot in your mouth.

  6. Christian Schneider

    June 7, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    From Robert Booth Fowler’s Book, page 110:

    “[Emil]Seidel’s victory was a significant first step toward the long mayoral rule of Milwaukee by the Socialists, dominance that over the years produced a remarkably successful city administration, though it was not a full realization of the socialist ideology. In fact, little in Milwaukee was ever socialized by the Socialist governments of the city.”

    I believe that’s exactly what I said. So feel free to e-mail Mr. Fowler (a professor emeritus of political science at UW-Madison) to discuss his weak grasp of history. Next time I’ll remember to throw in all the irrelevant points you made.

  7. Terrence Berres

    June 10, 2008 at 10:18 am

    “One can argue that Milwaukee was at its zenith in 1929 under a Socialist Mayor.”

    Sounds like a symposium topic: ‘When did Milwaukee’s long decline begin?’ If I recall, John Gurda might argue for as late as 1960.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *