In America, socialism has become the ultimate dirty word. But is the attempt to vilify the concept of a socialist society due to a basic lack of understanding? The documentary short America's Unofficial Religion: The War on an Idea believes it is, and seeks to rectify these misconceptions by providing a thorough history and context in which to view socialistic ideals.
Nearly every major developed country in the world provides a structure through which socialist parties can find representation in the political dialogue. This excludes the United States in large measure. As the film argues, the perception of socialism is akin to slavery among U.S. citizens and inspires images of uncontrolled government intrusion upon every aspect of our daily lives.
In truth, many of the programs held most dear among U.S. citizens originated from a socialist philosophy, including public education, social security, and unemployment insurance. The film defines the doctrine of socialism as one of fair wages, affordable housing and the right to free health care and education. In short, it implies a taking back of power from the small percentage that owns the majority of wealth in the country.
These ideals pose a considerable threat to America's power structure. Throughout history, a communist witch hunt has ensued against those who dared to promote the socialist philosophy. Perhaps this was no more apparent than when workers attempted to unionize for fair wages and an eight hour work day in the early decades of the twentieth century. When the notion of socialism began to enhance in popularity among the masses, the power elite employed ever more menacing means of containing and decimated the movement in its tracks. This culminated in the blacklist led by the House on Un-American Activities Committee and the execution of convicted communists Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
Aided by interview subjects including the founder of the Party for Socialism and Liberation Brian Becker, America's Unofficial Religion: The War on an Idea portrays these and other events with sobering and absorbing insight. The issues they discuss retain an enormous relevance to the climate of today as the power divide between the wealthy and the lower classes continues to grow.