Not So Scary Anymore: A Socialism for Our Times


(On Tuesday, the initial results of the U.S. elections were cloudy, but some bright spots included the re-election of the entire “Squad” to the House of Representatives, including icons Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the election of new Missouri superstar Cori Bush. Meanwhile, the Republican-wooing approach of presidential nominee Joseph Biden has proved… wanting. We’re thrilled that the movie below has come along to explain to people why what we do is as necessary as it is scary-sounding. (Ed.))

Before the era of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the word “socialism” was taboo in U.S. politics, avoided by politicians molded by the fear of the Cold War and McCarthyism. Only after the fall of the Soviet Union has the term become more palatable to a voting public unable to distinguish between democratic socialism and totalitarian ideologies. Thanks to the efforts of proudly democratic socialist public figures such as Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez—and through organizations such as DSA—the red-baiting of Donald Trump fell flat in this election cycle.

Now comes a new film that examines how modern-day activists for whom the Cold War, Joseph McCarthy, and the Berlin Wall are ancient history, understand socialism. Filmmaker Yael Bridge’s new documentary The Big Scary ‘“S”’ Word, which received a small grant from the DSA Fund, looks at the transformation of socialism in the United States, using the efforts of contemporary socialist organizers as a frame for an in-depth analysis of socialist ideology and its history in the United States. Socialist stalwart Cornel West reminds viewers that socialism is “as American as apple pie.”

The Big Scary “S” Word” is making the rounds on the festival circuit following its October premiere at the Mill Valley Film Festival. It will next be screened virtually at DOC NYC alongside a pre-recorded Q&A session with Bridge. The virtual screenings will be available between November 11 and November 19, and you might want to organize a chapter movie night to discuss the film.

Here’s what some reviewers are saying about the documentary:

The Progressive: “‘The Big Scary “S” Word’ is one of 2020’s do-not-miss films and deserves a Best Documentary Academy Award nomination.”

Talking Points Memo: “The most compelling parts of the film are the stories of Lee Carter, Kshama Sawant, Stephanie Price, and Dicarlo Johnson, contemporary activists who reflect the upsurge of socialism.”

Vimooz: “This film explores where American socialism has been, why and how it was suppressed, and imagines what a renewed American socialism might look like, directly from today’s leading left thinkers and socialists.”

The Daily Beast: “What’s most useful about “‘S’ Word’s” framing is that it identifies the dominant American political ideology—freedom—while arguing that socialism is the only economic system fit to bestow it in the country.”

The American Prospect: “The Big Scary ‘S’ Word” makes a broad and pointedly reassuring case for socialism as the remedy to our towering inequities.”

For more information about the film, and to find all upcoming screenings, check the official “The Big Scary ‘S’ Word” website.