Tuesday, August 18, 2015

But what do Socialists think about Bernie Sanders?

(Update: What the Sanders campaign might mean for the future of Socialism is discussed below, and I mention American's increasingly more favorable views toward Socialism. Today the Christian Science Monitor has more on that with new survey results)

Bernie is sometimes called a Socialist and it's sometimes said he identifies as a Democratic Socialist. That's an amorphous term usually understood to mean something like a European style Democratic Socialist, also an amorphous term since, like it has in the US, the political center in Europe has shifted significantly to the right over the past few decades. In general though Democratic Socialists don't seek to overthrow Capitalism but to reform it. Some of those reforms include state ownership of utilities and certain industries, and social programs like Social Security, Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, etc. that liberal Democrats also support more or less.

Bernie Sanders rally in Los Angeles on August 10
There are different currents in actual Socialism and the differences mainly have to do with tactics, The primary difference is whether they believe the transition to Socialism can be achieved by the vote or must be accomplished through revolution.

Naturally Socialists are interested in Sanders' presidential candidacy and whether the policies he's promoting, which are intended to reform but not overthrow the Capitalist system, hurt or help the cause of Socialism, and whether they would make the US more fertile ground for Socialism.

This statement about it is from the Party for Socialism and Liberation, one of several Socialist parties or organizations that run candidates for political office as a way to educate people about Socialism. They like it that a person who identifies as a Socialist can run a viable campaign for US president as Sanders is doing, and they place his campaign in the context of other social foment taking place such as the Black Lives Matter Movement and the campaign to increase the wages of people who work at places like McDonald's and Wal Mart, and say that, like those, Sanders' popularity is another good sign, like those public opinion surveys that show that young people are as open to Socialism as they are to Capitalism, that, despite setbacks to Socialism's brand like the Soviet Union, history isn't over and a more humane and equitable world is still possible.

I'll be writing more about the different Socialist takes on Sanders as his saga unfolds. I haven't had much to say about Sanders' campaign because I see it as being solidly in the context of Democratic Party politics, about which I write quite a bit. His popularity is an expression of popular discontent, and of the fact that people want something besides what they're getting from Democrats, but from the time he entered politics, when he became mayor of Burlington Vermont, through his tenure in the US House and now the Senate, Sanders has worked within the umbrella of the Democratic Party -- he gets committee assignments as a Democrat and votes with them on critical issues like filibusters-- and he has gone along with most of its more egregious policies, like its support for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the bombing of Yugoslavia; he generally hasn't opposed US imperialism in its military or economic faces. He's a gun rights advocate.

Sanders has been a steady voice against Neoliberalism -- Reaganomics -- but doesn't openly call Democrats out for their embrace of it and isn't using this presidential campaign to speak out against their embrace of it. Much of his support is coming from Democratic Party liberals who aren't really aware of how their party has capitulated to Reaganomics, and his campaign isn't going to do much to change the course the country is on toward being just another third world country and a cheap labor pool for an increasingly powerful and bloated Capitalist system.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. Based on your definitions I guess I'm an old fashioned democratic European Socialist. Strong unions. Don't kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. And a democratic government as arbitrator/referee. The balance of a fair & equitable mixed market has been lost horribly & Clintonism didn't help....:(