Most of the confusion over socialism is understandable, as I’ll explain elsewhere on this website, but it has also presented significant challenges and opportunities for those who have embraced this ideology. Because people generally don’t understand what socialism is, socialists, liberals, and progressives have been able to sway many people into identifying as “socialist” despite having very little in common with the historical ideas associated with this political philosophy. When Westerners think of socialism, even self-described socialists, they typically imagine specific socialized industries or authoritarian regimes, but rarely do they contemplate the socialized societies Marx and others dreamed of making.

For instance, many American socialists support single-payer health care, free college tuition, and other progressive policy ideas, but very few of these people openly advocate for the socialization of agriculture or requiring all industries to be collectively owned.