How to Be a Socialist

Three Methods:Practicing Socialism in Your CommunityJoining Larger Socialist MovementsLearning about Socialism

The goal of socialism is collective ownership over the production of wealth and goods, although socialists often disagree over whether to bring this about through revolution, reform, or the creation of small-scale socialist living and working arrangements. Socialism is a deep and complex philosophy, with many variations, and exploring it thoroughly may require a great deal of reading and discussion. However much you know about socialism, there are many actions you can consider taking to advance socialist causes or put its ideals into practice.

Method 1
Practicing Socialism in Your Community

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    Talk to people from all backgrounds. There are many branches and philosophies within socialism, but one major focus is cooperation and opposition to many hierarchies, such as those based on money, class, or race. Seek out people you wouldn't normally get a chance to meet, especially people employed in low-paying jobs or struggling at the bottom of these hierarchies. This doesn't make you a socialist, but it may teach you a more realistic and detailed understanding of the social experiences socialism seeks to eliminate.
    • Understand that most socialists desire to restructure society to eliminate this type of suffering, not just alleviate it with private charity.[1]
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    Campaign against inequality. Socialism has long been associated with fighting oppression of all types, not just those types based on economics or class divides.
    • Consider learning about and involving yourself in movements that work to end anti-immigrant hatred, racism, and discrimination based on sex, gender, or sexuality.[2] Even movements that are rarely discussed in mainstream society, such as the campaign against inhuman prison conditions, have been championed by socialists for over a century.[3]
    • Consider joining an organization that educates people on these topics, protests them, and/or helps oppressed people.
    • Speak out when you witness discrimination occur. File a discrimination charge against employers when appropriate, following these guidelines for the U.S. or the E.U.
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    Make changes in your workplace. If you work at a small business or are well-respected at your workplace, you may be in a position to argue for a more equal payment structure, or for giving lower-status employees a chance to contribute ideas and assist in decision-making. Even if you are not in a position to accomplish this, you may be able to start a petition or lawsuit against oppressive management decisions, such as mistreatment of employees or discriminatory hiring practices.
    • Small business owners looking to retire or move on may be convinced to sell their business to their employees. While this can take on several different forms depending on the legal path the owner decides to take, this can be the basis for a full worker cooperative, or at least a more equal system in which the current employees share the profits between them.[4]
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    Unionize your workplace. Historically, the relationship between trade unions and socialists has been controversial, with a long history of both cooperation and strife.[5][6] However, even if you join an anti-socialist labor union, you may find non-socialist allies for certain common goals, such as workers' rights.
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    Work from within the union. Many unions, ironically, are organized in top-down, privilege-based hierarchies, or are ineffective at defending their members' labor rights. If you are working on the union staff, and demonstrating that you are a serious and effective union member, you may be able to alter this situation. Note that arguing socialism may be less effective than training all union members in union operations, and encouraging them to involve themselves in meetings and strategy discussions.
    • Some socialist organizations recommend working in the rank-and-file of the union staff for six months before trying to make big changes.[7]
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    Start a cooperative living or working arrangement. There are many types of cooperatives, but the basic idea is a community that makes decisions and shares benefits on an equal basis. This could be a group of friends who distribute income and resources evenly, or a more worker cooperative in which all workers have equal decision making power in a business-like entity.

Method 2
Joining Larger Socialist Movements

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    Join a socialist organization. Read about the philosophy and methods of several organizations before joining, as they may vary widely from your own socialist ideals. One broad, international coalition where you can find many socialist organizations is the Progressive Alliance.
    • In the United States, consider the radical International Socialist Organization, or the moderate Democratic Socialists of America.
    • In many European nations, socialist or socialist-sympathizing parties hold seats in national parliaments, as well as the E.U. parliament.
    • In Latin America, the Foro de Sao Paulo involves many socialist organizations. Cuba is the only current socialist state in the Americas, but socialist guerilla fighters called FARC are currently fighting in Columbia.[8]
    • In Asia and Africa, there are many socialist movements, typically on the regional or national level. For example, several Naxalite groups associated with the (Maoist) Communist Party of India are currently engaged in guerrilla warfare in that country.[9]
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    Campaign for socialist causes within another movement. More moderate socialists sometimes prefer to support candidates for other parties, or pressure non-socialists in power. Joining or temporarily working with a more widely recognized progressive organization may give you a chance to have a more far-reaching effect.
    • This strategy is most common in the United States, where socialists rarely succeed in elections.
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    Attend international socialist gatherings. Consider traveling to see an international socialist or progressive conference. These often include people from a wide variety of socialist philosophies, allowing you to discuss the topic and make connections.
    • Look for announcements about possible repeats of conferences such as Socialism, Marxism, and World Social Forum.
    • The Left Forum is a progressive, academic-focused convention in New York with socialist roots.

Method 3
Learning about Socialism

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    Read introductory works. Socialism is a complex philosophy, and has inspired many interpretations, courses of action, and related ideas. If you are not familiar with its history and basic ideas, try starting with a book written as an introduction to the topic, such as the following:
    • Introducing Marxism by Rius, an informative, humorous guide in comic book format[10]
    • Introduction to Socialism by Leo Huberman and Paul Sweezy, socialist intellectuals writing in 1968[11]
    • Introducing Marxism by Rupert Woodfin
    • Marx's Kapital for Beginners by David N. Smith and Phil Evans
    • Marx: A Very Short Introduction by Peter Singer
    • Socialism: A Very Short Introduction by Michael Newman
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    Read Marx and Engels. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, in 19th century Germany, collaborated on texts which are considered fundamental to socialist philosophy, especially Das Kapital. The Communist Manifesto, a much shorter book, is a good summary of their philosophy and social-economic analysis.
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    Read other major figures. There are many socialist factions, often grouped into several umbrellas. Some of the most influential socialist movements follow the writings and actions of Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky. These figures represent a wide range of socialist theory, some directly opposed to each other.
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    Look for other socialist authors. There are many other socialist authors, writing from many different perspectives, nations, and time periods. Find works by Fidel Castro, Harpal Brar, Ella Rule, Claudia Jones, Angela Davis, Rosa Luxemburg and Bhagat Singh, or read introductory works about them.
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    Read socialist newspapers and magazines. Socialist news sources often have a more international focus than other media, and can be a good opportunity to find out about various socialist perspectives on current effects. Examples include The Proletarian Online, Cuba Solidarity Campaign, Massalijn, Lalkar, Liberation News, The Green Left Weekly, Indymedia, Red Pepper, Socialist Worker, Socialist Review, International Socialist, New Internationalist, New Left Review, New Politics, and Socialist Standard.



  • Keep in mind that many people equate socialism with anarchism. If you wish to discuss socialism, you may have to explain the differences often.

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