23 August 2019
Billed as a 'parody'
A new edition of Monopoly apparently created as a “parody” of socialism has been met with a wave of backlash online.
Monopoly: Socialism follows in the wake of other plays on the classic game, including last year’s Monopoly for Millennials, which stopped players from buying property (because they could only afford to rent) and replaced train stations with vegan eateries and meditation retreats.
Historian Nick Kapur subjected himself to Monopoly: Socialism in a lengthy and informative Twitter thread, calling the game – which has the tagline “Winning is for capitalists” and features red and black iconography and old-fashioned player tokens (including a gramophone and typewriter) that harken back to the Red Scare of the Cold War era – “mean-spirited and woefully ill-informed”.
As in normal Monopoly, players make their way around the board by rolling dice, but the game’s cards, spaces and mechanics have been changed to seemingly mock the concept of socialism.
Among the property squares around the edge of the board are a hospital and school that players can invest in, while the iconic ‘Go’ space now pays out $50 instead of the usual $200 in an apparent jab that socialism results in everyone being poorer.
Kapur points out that several of the game’s misguided attempts to parody socialism don’t make sense. The centre of the board features a ‘community fund’ space from which all the players can take money to help purchase things in a socialist sharing of wealth.
But as Kapur notes, the game is designed in such a way that the fund quickly runs dry, requiring the players to keep putting money in voluntarily – something the historican says is “more of a billionaire philanthropy model” than a socialist one.
What’s more, any taxes are also taken from the community fund and paid to the bank, a private holder of wealth – something that flies in the face of a socialist economy. In a similar manner, another card takes money off one player determined to be doing too well, but removes the chips from the game rather than sharing them between the rest of the group.
“It goes without saying that this game is entirely uninterested in trying to understand what socialism actually is and how it might function,” Kapur says.
In its seemingly flailing attempts to stick one to its perception of socialists, the game’s cards also take aim at veganism (“Everyone loves the tofu-chip cookies you made in honour of Karl Marx’s birthday,” one card reads), environmental activism and even voting.
Kapur’s thread (it’s absolutely worth reading in full) has understandably stirred up a heated conversation about Monopoly: Socialism online, with many pointing out the irony that Monopoly originated as The Landlord’s Game, a satire of capitalism created by progressive designer Lizzie Magie.
Magie’s anti-capitalist game was then cloned by Charles Darrow as Monopoly, which embraced and encouraged the capitalist pursuit of wealth and property. Monopoly was seen as so vehemently anti-socialist that Fidel Castro ordered every copy of the game in Cuba burned in 1959.
A pro-socialist pastiche of Monopoly, Class Struggle, was created in the seventies by Professor Bertell Ollman. With Karl Marx and Nelson Rockefeller arm-wrestling on its cover, its release in the midst of the Cold War was followed by a wave of customer complaints about the game’s “subversive” nature that led at least one retailer to discard all of its stock.
Class Struggle vanished in the early nineties, surviving as an online print-and-play game. Former Labour leader Ed Miliband recently donated a copy to the British Museum exhibition Playing with Money, having played the game as a child after his father, Marxist historian Ralph Miliband, was gifted a copy by Ollman.
Pick up September’s issue of Tabletop Gaming (out today, August 23rd!) to read more about the history of Class Struggle and its relation to Monopoly.
Monopoly: Socialism was available exclusively at US supermarket Target, but the game's store page has since been taken down – whether that's in response to the online backlash isn't clear.
I bought a copy of Hasbro's mean-spirited and woefully ill-informed "MONOPOLY: SOCIALISM" board game so you don't have to - a thread 1/ pic.twitter.com/YhZWDjkAnj— Nick Kapur (@nick_kapur) August 21, 2019