“I’ve stayed away from calling myself a socialist because I didn’t want to spend half my life explaining that I didn’t believe in the Soviet Union or concentration camps.”– Bernie Sanders, Boston Globe, 1981
Capitalism has triumphed all over the world, but this triumph is only the prelude to the triumph of labour over capital. — V.I. Lenin, The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism (1913)
I do not shy away from calling myself a socialist but, I came by my avowed socialism organically. When I ran against Nancy Pelosi in 2008 with a platform of ending US Empire and using the freed-up budget to fund programs like free education, healthcare, and housing, etc, I realized that if my platform were implemented, our country would be heading towards a social democracy.
Gradually, though, I realized that mere reforms (even though mostly positive) would be near impossible within the system of capitalism. As a US history major, I could see all the times that mere reforms always collapsed over time with the constant erosion of laws passed by the capitalist US lawmakers, or just plain violence of the “captains of industry” against workers and other oppressed populations.
Besides, the US has a lot of bad karma to make up for with its near extermination of the indigenous populations and a war that killed almost a million to abolish the evil institution of forced slavery which never should have existed in the first place—yet, we are supposed to trust the establishment to reform itself? I began to see that socialism was true change from the bottom-up through the power of the working-class that could transform an oppressive society (Czarist Russia; Batista Cuba) into communities that took care of its people after seizing power from mis-leaders and overcoming exploitation.
Now, the Democrat and Republican parties and their toadies in the corporate media are fear-mongering over the Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, being a “socialist” or “commie,” even though Sanders has gone out of his own way to disabuse people of that misconception of his politics.
For example, on February 9, Sanders was on Meet the Press, and had this to say about the commentator’s charge that he (Sanders) is being perceived as a communist:
“We got a president of the United States who’s cozying up to the autocrat, Putin, who says nice things about Kim Jong-un. You know, so you want to talk about cozying up to communists around the world — it ain’t me, it is Donald Trump.” – Bernie Sanders, Meet the Press – February 9, 2020
Sanders revealed himself as a red-baiting, McCarthy-ite establishment Democrat, a la Pelosi or Clinton, but people still think he’s a “commie?” Read on.
Never to forget that Sanders called the heroic Hugo Chávez a “dead, communist dictator,” during his campaign in 2015 and recently, and erroneously, labeled the successor to Chávez, Nicolas Maduro, a “vicious tyrant.” Whatever one thinks about Sanders, love, hate, or indifferent; to do any of these because you think he is a “commie” is just plain ridiculous. Sanders is no member of the proletariat and regularly and aggressively seeks membership into one of the most exclusive and tyrannical clubs in the world: The U.S. Senate.
The question arises how shall we label Sanders if not a “commie?”
Is he a “socialist,” “democratic socialist,” “social democrat,” or just plain Democrat Imperialist? Let’s examine these ideologies and draw a conclusion.
“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” — Karl Marx.
As an organic Marxist who has now been able to study some in a more directed manner, I look at the root word in each of the “isms” we are looking at. The root word of “communism” is “community.” Communism is a system where people’s needs are fulfilled from a place where the workers own the means of production and the means to distribute goods and services (obtained during the socialist phase). It is a classless society where the people also have control over their own destinies and the welfare of their communities, but usually under a socially managed economy.
The communist country of Cuba gets some misguided bad p.r. here in the U.S., but even with decades of a barbaric U.S. blockade of Cuba, it provides free education, health care, and other goods and services to its people, but each community also has a strong committee that helps determine those needs and distribution. Without the blockade, Cuba could be one of those worker’s paradises that we hear about, except that its valiant struggle against U.S. imperialism has seen many shortages, but the people of Cuba are always victorious and survive. Plus, they are happy, for the most part. Depression is almost unheard of and drug abuse is nil in a society which we are told is “repressive” and “brutal.”
The root word of socialism is “society,” which seems larger than a community, but its all semantics, yes? I have seen “community” added to things as large as the world and “society” to describe something as small as a gardener’s club.
I have never seen Sanders advocate for anything approaching a classless society, or worker’s paradise, or even the workers owning the means of production and distribution; so to call Sanders a “commie,” or “socialist,” is very definitely shallow and ignorant.
Usually under socialism individuals can still own property. But industrial production, or the chief means of generating wealth, is communally owned and managed by a democratically elected government. There is a distinction between private property and public commons in socialism, but under communism there is not that distinction.
“‘Democratic Socialist’ Is Just a Synonym for New Deal Liberal” — Bernie Sanders himself distancing himself from the “socialist” label on CNN.
It’s hard to define this because there is an organization called Democratic Socialists. For the most part, these have been like Papandreou of Greece who pushed harsh austerity there. Here in the US, they admit that their energy is devoted to “left-wing” democrats, even though, they too allegedly advocate for worker control and democratically elected representatives. There is not one federally elected Democrat who isn’t also an imperialist to one degree or the other, so to advocate the election of Democrats is to advocate for imperialism, in my opinion. Sanders would be more of a D.S., than socialist or communist, but, yeah, he doesn’t advocate for worker control or democratic elections—witness his 2016 capitulation to the evil Hillary Clinton and his constant Russia-baiting to blame Trump’s victory on Putin without condemning the DNC’s treachery against him.
Here, in the U.S. the Democratic Socialists of America lean more heavily on the Democrat part and this is from their own website:
No, we are not a separate party (from the Dems). Like our friends and allies in the feminist, labor, civil rights, religious, and community organizing movements, many of us have been active in the Democratic Party. We work with those movements to strengthen the party’s left wing, represented by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
In a 2015 speech at Georgetown University, Sanders further exposed his pro-capitalist/D.S. sentiments by stating: “He explained that democratic socialism is not tied to Marxism or the abolition of capitalism but rather describes a program of extensive social benefits, funded by broad-based taxes. (Not by ending the immoral subsidies to the war machine–author’s note).”
Social Democracy or the Nordic Model:
If Sanders was close to any “socialist” philosophy, it would be this model. Social democracy is a political, social and economic philosophy that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a liberal democratic polity and a capitalist-oriented economy. Social democracy does not seek to abolish or replace capitalism.
The problem with this model working here in the U.S. is that the U.S. is an imperialist state that dumps most of its resources into actively murdering people around the world, or maintaining a vast empire of military bases and troops that commit global carnage. No Nordic country that has great social programs and services maintains anywhere near the scale of this kind of militarism and, thus, are able to use their resources for the betterment of society.
Since Sanders is a friend of the military industrial complex, he can talk about these wonderful social programs all he wants, but it’s just talk. He has voted for nearly every gross military budget and war funding since he began his tenure in the U.S. Congress. He defends and supports the F-35 program in Vermont to bring “jobs,” yet doesn’t listen to some of his constituency who are adamantly opposed to supporting a boondoggle of an aircraft that’s only purpose is to kill.
In 2006, I pledged that I would never again support a pro-war/imperialist candidate, no matter their political affiliation. In a bid to “look tough” and reassure the establishment of his slavish devotion to Empire, Bernie Sanders recently told this to the New York Slimes in a candidate interview:
Question (Times): Would you consider military force to pre-empt an Iranian or North Korean nuclear or missile test?
Answer (Sanders): Yes.
Not only is preemptive military strike an international war crime, true socialism is not imperialist. Period.
An economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.
Look at my root word theory—the root word of capitalism is “capital,” so the most important thing in capitalism is amassing as much capital as possible by any means necessary: war, exploitation of the workers, environmental devastation and exploitation–then environmental capitalism (i.e. Green New Deal proposed by some Democrats), the murder of labor leaders all over the world; the murder/ouster of political leaders (i.e. Evo Morales of Bolivia) all over the world, predatory banking policies; predatory micro-loans; the predatory sickness industry (ie, the Cancer-Industrial-Complex), etc.
Imperialism is the dying gasp of capitalism and used to open new markets and attain monopoly control over resources like water and oil.
The above is a designation that I just made up. It’s a member of the Democrat party, like Sanders, that just held ridiculous impeachment hearings against Trump for things other than what the U.S. government does best: commit war crimes and crimes against humanity around the world.
It’s a Democrat, like Sanders, that even though he says he doesn’t want the U.S. to send troops to places like Venezuela, he condemns its democratically elected leaders, and by extension, the people who elected them.
It’s a Democrat, like Sanders, who voted against Bush invading Iraq, but voted for every war funding bill that comes their way. It’s a Democrat, like Sanders, who co-sponsored resolutions calling for Muammar Qaddafi to “step down” from power in Libya, as if the U.S. Senate has anything to do with who’s in power in Libya? Sanders loves to cite “human rights abuses” in other countries, but never addresses the human rights abuses right here in the U.S. and with its military arm abroad.
A Democrat Imperialist, like Sanders, supports the use of drones to murder people abroad.
I can see many leftists being drawn in not by Bernie Sanders so much himself, as they know his flaws and shortcomings, but they think that there is some “hope” (bullshit word used liberally during the Obama campaign and look where that got us) in the energy of his followers.
As someone who has paid a lot of attention to the Sanders’ phenomena over the past five-years, I have to say that I look at the excitement over Sanders like the excitement over Obama—then Obama got elected and smashed all the hope that he raised, particularly among black youth. Even if Sanders does transcend his own party, gets the nomination, and is elected, if we are honest with ourselves, will he be able to pass any of his reforms without becoming a dictator? I will get some response to this article in the form of “No, Sanders is not perfect, but we have to get him elected and then hold his feet to the fire.”
Really? Get the hell out of here with the “hold his feet to the fire,” bullcrap. Many told me that about Obama, then when we tried to “hold his feed to the fire” I was told to “give him a chance,” then I was shunned by the same people who should have been on Obama’s case about upholding his campaign promises. Again, voters are projecting their good values on a Democrat candidate who doesn’t deserve the support, in my opinion.
The Sanders energy was huge in 2016 going into the convention and many of his delegates and supporters said that they would not vote for Hillary Clinton, until she got the nomination and until Sanders campaigned for her and told his people to vote for her. To me, if he were legit, he would have gone back to being an independent and taken that energy with him instead of allowing it to be dissipated back into the vicious Democrat party. I saw a stat that 90% of Sanders voters (many of the rest voted for Trump) seamlessly went to Clinton for the general mostly because they had formed an unearned trust in their candidate and he led them astray like a bad shepherd.
The Sanders movement is like a tsunami that has swept the nation twice now, but will thin out and go down the drain, again this year. Why? Because it’s a confused movement predicated on a façade of progressive thought. Even though many people in his party are against him, they know he is a reliable vote and a reliable supporter of Democrat Imperialists from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama and like a good dog, he can be beaten, but will come back licking their hands for love and validation.
Yes, I will agree that perhaps some of the disaffected Sanders voters that didn’t cave along with Sanders to the monster Clinton inched a little closer to the left, or true socialism, but we cannot keep relying on crumbs, the clock is ticking: the nuclear clock is seconds away from annihilation and catastrophic climate change is not getting better.
Social programs like healthcare, education, housing, and a clean environment are humans rights for all, but so is peace and a right to self-determination of all the peoples–which socialism supports, but Sanders (and other so-called leading DemSocs do not) clearly does not.
So, love Sanders, hate him, puzzle over him (like me), or whatever your feelings for him, please don’t call him a “commie,”socialist,” or “antiwar.” If he really were any of those things, he’d have my support, because he wouldn’t be a member of the left-wing of the War Party.