Despite a comprehensive repudiation by historians of the belief that the original Pilgrims were socialists who only began to succeed and prosper once they turned to capitalism, on this Thanksgiving conservative leaders and writers continue to spread the urban legend that the settlers were almost doomed by their socialist-ways.
Some background: according to real historians, the Pilgrims held their land in common “in the interest of realizing a profit sooner, and was only intended for the short term; historians say the Pilgrims were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism.” But the settlers, who came from different part of England, “spoke different dialects and had different methods of farming, and looked upon each other with great wariness.” Because of such difficulties, the colony scrapped the land arrangements in 1623, yet the colony held the first Thanksgiving in 1621 and the original “arrangement did not produce famine.”
But that hasn’t stopped the Right from propagating the myth that the failures of “socialism” forced them to embrace capitalism. In order to make the myth seem true, Fox News commentator John Stossel simply moves the date of the first Thanksgiving from 1621 to 1623:
Had today’s political class been in power in 1623, tomorrow’s holiday would have been called “Starvation Day” instead of Thanksgiving. Of course, most of us wouldn’t be alive to celebrate it.
Every year around this time, schoolchildren are taught about that wonderful day when Pilgrims and Native Americans shared the fruits of the harvest. But the first Thanksgiving in 1623 almost didn’t happen.
Long before the failure of modern socialism, the earliest European settlers gave us a dramatic demonstration of the fatal flaws of collectivism. Unfortunately, few Americans today know it.
The Pilgrims at Plymouth Colony organized their farm economy along communal lines. The goal was to share the work and produce equally.
That’s why they nearly all starved.
Phyllis Schlafly lauded a book by Coral Ridge Ministries which views the Pilgrims as the first example of failed socialists in America, and even Congressman Todd Akin repeated the legend on the House Floor:
They came here with the idea that, after trying socialism that it wasn’t going to work. They realized that it was unbiblical and it was a form of theft. So they pitched socialism out, they learned that in the early 1620s.