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Do you think the label "Socialist"has any negative connotation in Canada (as it does/did in the US)?

wild goose chase

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Okay, so Bernie Sanders running as an openly socialist candidate has gotten people stateside talking about whether or not now "socialism", just the word itself, is still that bogeyman associated with communism and that other side that was the enemy during the Cold War, that makes voters steer clear of any politician who espouses it as label.

That's one thing I always heard was a big contrast between the US and Canada, but I'm not sure how large the difference is for the current generation. While I wouldn't say that socialism is necessarily used exceptionally often as a name for an ideology in Canada in the general public/mass media apart from young folks on university campuses (supporters of the NDP don't really seem to say "I'm a socialist", or I support "socialism" directly in those terms, but rather describe views that could be called socialism in the US without necessarily using the word), I do still definitely think it still doesn't have that stigma that I hear for US politicians.

It seems like such a cultural difference to hear someone have to say "No, no... I mean democratic socialism, not something like the Soviet Union". I don't think people in Canada generally have a knee-jerk reaction to the word negatively in that way, nor do they (well at least not that I've ever heard) conflate socialism with communism or socialism with authoritarian regimes of the Cold War, but at the same time we're not Sweden or anything either.

Someone not too long ago, since the subject of Bernie Sanders' use of the term came up, asked me if "socialism" was seen positively in Canada or if the label was ever tarnished by the "red scare" the way it was stateside, but I didn't know exactly how to answer (though I was born in the latter part of the 80s so maybe I wasn't the right demographic to ask, compared to someone who was brought up in and really got a feel for the attitudes at the peak of Cold War paranoia).

So in general in terms of the word "socialism", I don't think it's viewed negatively but at the same time it's not eagerly used that often either explicitly as a label by the average guy on the street.
 
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Johnny Au

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I view myself as a socialist.

There are some Canadians who use the term "socialism" to mean "an ideology I don't like." Examples of these people include Ford Nation.

The Christian right also don't like socialism (and yes, it would be ironic if they were to learn that Jesus could be considered a socialist).
 

King of Kensington

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I don't know how many Canadians specifically identify as socialists, but at worst I think progressive voters are indifferent to it. The NDP thought that taking socialism out of the preamble of its constitution was a great idea, but ultimately it just looks a desperate attempt to appeal to people who wouldn't vote NDP anyway, or an imitation centrist liberal party that has no purpose.
 

Admiral Beez

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IMO, people don't understand the true meanings of the labels. For example, liberal refers not to this murky, bigger gov't is better, gov't does it best, that we see from Liberals, but refers to free market economics, liberal means free of interference. As for socialist, even I don't understand that one.
 

wild goose chase

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In Australia, the free market sense of the word "liberal" is still used in politics as in the name of their Liberal Party, unlike in North America.
 

CodeMonkey

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The socialist connotation in its negative form is without a doubt rooted in the Cold War era, and politicians have used it for years to invoke emotions to covey a message without saying a whole lot.
 

wild goose chase

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The socialist connotation in its negative form is without a doubt rooted in the Cold War era, and politicians have used it for years to invoke emotions to covey a message without saying a whole lot.
But it's interesting that it evokes such a knee-jerk negative connotation stateside while it doesn't (at least as much) north of the border. I wonder if being a smaller player in the Cold War made the Red Scare less of a thing here.

But Canada and the US were nonetheless strong allies so I would have imagined that both countries would be shaken up by the fear of the Cold War but the idea that "socialism" specifically is a scary word never seemed to make it up here. Yeah, if you said the word "communist"or "communism" for Canadians that would definitely evoke associations with authoritarian regimes but specifically "socialism" not really, while in the US they seem to use socialist and communist interchangeably and both seem just as negative.
 

CodeMonkey

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But it's interesting that it evokes such a knee-jerk negative connotation stateside while it doesn't (at least as much) north of the border. I wonder if being a smaller player in the Cold War made the Red Scare less of a thing here.

But Canada and the US were nonetheless strong allies so I would have imagined that both countries would be shaken up by the fear of the Cold War but the idea that "socialism" specifically is a scary word never seemed to make it up here. Yeah, if you said the word "communist"or "communism" for Canadians that would definitely evoke associations with authoritarian regimes but specifically "socialism" not really, while in the US they seem to use socialist and communist interchangeably and both seem just as negative.


Source: Torontoist/Toronto Star (June 10, 1995)

Its definitely made its way up here, maybe a little late, but it shows how ingrained it can become once its embedded into a generation. Just look how much the NDP are still despised in this province, people waved to billboards of Bob Rae (we where a simpler people back then), and after twenty-five years and a NDP leader who wasn't part of the Bob Rae era its still stuck to them like bad B.O.
 

wild goose chase

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Oh right, I'd forgotten how unpopular Bob Rae was (was still a kid when he was actually in power, but still recall him and also Mike Harris afterwards, both of whom were disliked for different reasons). I'm not sure if it specifically had to do with the Cold War or external factors (like the Red Scare) which over by then I'd imagine, but more domestic concerns like the perception that the NDP's policies/ideas wouldn't work within the province after what Bob Rae had done.
 

CodeMonkey

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Oh right, I'd forgotten how unpopular Bob Rae was (was still a kid when he was actually in power, but still recall him and also Mike Harris afterwards, both of whom were disliked for different reasons). I'm not sure if it specifically had to do with the Cold War or external factors (like the Red Scare) which over by then I'd imagine, but more domestic concerns like the perception that the NDP's policies/ideas wouldn't work within the province after what Bob Rae had done.
We did have a bit of a red scare in the 50's and 60's, but my point I was trying to illustrate was how broad a single word can manifest anger in people, but for different reasons.
 

King of Kensington

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The election of the Ontario NDP was actually the first election of a Left government in the Western world after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

And while Rae certainly made some very bad decisions and ended up alienating his own base, there was indeed hysterical business opposition to his government. There were billboards on Bay St. that red-baited his government.

Here's a piece about that by the longtime NDP stalwart Gerald Caplan:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/second-reading/the-hidden-history-of-bob-raes-government-in-ontario/article1314254/
 
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