Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sanders De-Cyphered

So some would like us to believe
Election frenzy possesses the USA every four years because they have all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining the nation’s destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls and choose one of the two leaders who have already been chosen for us.

We should not be surprised that populist ideas are making a comeback. Many believe Bernie Sanders role in the nomination contest is to sheep-dog the disenchanted back into the Democratic Party fold. He will shepherd his supporters towards Hillary Clinton’s after she defeats him with her massively superior financial resources and corporate media approval. He will help legitimize the plutocratic “two party system” – in which the Republicans and Democrats function as “two wings of the same bird of prey.” Democratic Party activists will try to sell their Wall Street-protecting nominee as the candidate for the 99 percent and Sanders will fuel this deadly illusion of the lesser evil. Those genuine radicals will sadly experience a deepened sense of powerlessness that will be engendered when Sanders is defeated, as he almost certainly will be. The best thing and the worse thing that can be said of Sanders is that he meant well.

As Howard Zinn said, “the really critical thing isn’t who is sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in-– in the streets, in the cafeterias, in the halls of government, in the factories. Who is protesting, who is occupying offices and demonstrating – those are the things that determine what happens.”

Before and after those two minutes in a voting booth, casting our ballots, our time, our energy, should be spent in educating, agitating, organizing our fellow citizens in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the schools. Our objective should be to build, painstakingly, patiently but energetically, a movement that, when it reaches a certain critical mass, would shake whoever is in the White House. This election, like others before, will suck up political energy that would be better expended elsewhere; and, as usual, little, if any, good will come from of it. In order to vote for Bernie as a presidential candidate, you have to join the Democratic Party. But even that is not the real issue. The issue is many people will volunteer for the Sanders campaign and dump thousands of hours of activist time into the dead-end of the Democratic Party. Those activists could be doing grass-roots movement work. Bernie's candidacy for the Democrats will not help the movement, it will deliver those people to the Democrats. Mainly what Bernie's campaign will do is to re-legitimize a Party that has lost all legitimacy. Dumping the Democrats would prove his belief in principal over party. To support Hillary, if she defeats him in the primaries, makes Sanders a paper tiger.

There are very much two Bernie Sanders. One persona most definitely can come across as sincere about concern for the poor and disadvantaged, but make no mistake, his other side is a militarist who isn’t about to challenge U.S. supremacy. The “military industrial complex” is something Sanders likes to denounce yet he embraced the building of a wasteful F-35 fighter jet base in his home state.  

He supported the war in Kosovo against Serbia, the invasion of Afghanistan, funding for the endless Iraq disaster as well as the losing and misguided War on Terror. He voted in favor of Clinton’s 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which expanded the federal death penalty and acted as the precursor to the Patriot Act.

As for Israel, Bernie Sanders has been would never halt the $3 billion the U.S. government sends to the country every year. Last summer he backed Israel’s murderous bombing of Gaza. He’s even questioned Palestine’s right to resist. Several former members of Sander’s staff have also been employed by AIPAC, including Israel apologists David Sirota and Joel Barkin. Want to change in the U.S. policy in the Middle East? Bernie isn’t your man. Sanders doesn’t oppose U.S. power, nor does his campaign do a single thing to build independent politics in the country, perhaps the last chance to salvage any democracy we may have left. In the end, Bernie Sanders will play the lesser-evil card and plea for us all to hold our noses and vote for Hillary Clinton, who guarantees a future of more war and economic inequality.

“The Vermont senator has given out more than $200,000 through his two PACs, Friends of Bernie and Progressive Voters of America. The PVA, in turn, has donated tens of thousands of dollars to embattled red-state Democrats like Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana”

Mark Begich promotes expanded oil and natural gas drilling on federal lands, starting with opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to energy exploration. Begich voted multiple times against ending or reducing federal tax subsidies to oil and gas companies, helping to convince Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to drop such a move from the Nevadan’s budget proposal, and in voting for development of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas.
Kay Hagan as a North Carolina senator is just as protective of her state’s capitalist interests as. In her case, it is the tobacco lobby. When the European Union mandated that cigarette packages labeling consists of at least 75 percent warnings that the contents were carcinogenic, she and other politicians warned the European Union warning of dire consequences should the Union adopt the regulations on cigarette packaging it was proposing. The Senators said the proposed regulations would violate international trade rules and adversely affect trade relations with the United States.
Mary Landrieu from Louisiana is a politician in thrall to the power of oil companies. Senator Mary Landrieu calls on government to lift EPA ban on BP. The ban imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency to prevent BP from securing sensitive federal contracts  even as the state sues the oil firm for the environmental damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. His voting record? When GW Bush was president Landrieu voted 74% in line with Bush supporting tax cuts eleven times and also cuts to the Death Estate tax.

What Bernie Sanders means by “socialism” is something more like capitalism with a human face. But this is not what socialism is about. The Scandinavian model have indeed managed to achieve social welfare objectives, but has never involved fundamental alterations of capitalism’s underlying property relations. Neither would Sanders. Scandinavian reformists thought the benign hand of the state would replace the merciless invisible hand of the market but today the reformers have their hands full trying to retain what they can from the gains of the past.

That’s why socialists won’t be jumping on his band-wagon anytime soon. Nevertheless, it has been a terribly long time that an aspirant for the presidency of the United States is talking about “socialism”, no matter how vague his meaning of it is. If Sanders succeeds in getting the idea of socialism back in peoples’ minds, he might even be sowing the seeds of thought that will someday take hold in a more constructive way and that would be very welcomed. The best thing about Bernie Sanders is that he talks about “socialism” even if he really means something else by the word.

There can be no escape nor substantial relief for people from the economic and political domination of the greedy vested interests of which they are now the victims, except through the working people, organized as a powerful political force challenging the oligarchy now in control. Without such a party all political achievement of the workers is inadequate and ineffective, and true social progress utterly impossible. The Socialist Party is ready and willing to merge its political functions in a genuine independent political party of socialist workers and will certainly continue to put forth its best efforts to that end. For the time being, we raise high our unsullied banner, and with principles inviolate and ideals undimmed, we stand as the Socialist Party, appealing to the producing class to join us in building up the party of their class — the party standing staunchly and uncompromisingly for their aspirations. Nothing frightens the ruling class more than the prospect of a truly independent revolutionary working-class movement.

“Conservative or Bourgeois Socialism:
“A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society. To this section belong economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organisers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole-and-corner reformers of every imaginable kind. This form of socialism has, moreover, been worked out into complete systems. The Socialistic bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society, minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. The bourgeoisie naturally conceives the world in which it is supreme to be the best; and bourgeois Socialism develops this comfortable conception into various more or less complete systems. In requiring the proletariat to carry out such a system, and thereby to march straightway into the social New Jerusalem, it but requires in reality, that the proletariat should remain within the bounds of existing society, but should cast away all its hateful ideas concerning the bourgeoisie.” - Communist Manifesto

Sounds like good ol’ Bernie to us.

 It was a real independent workers movement that Marx was trying to assist by helping it to clarify its goals. He wasn’t trying to get reformers elected to be the head of state.

Let us go back a little into history and we see that the origins of the Scandinavian welfare state model was in Otto Bismarck’s Prussia -  a Sickness Insurance Act, an Accident Insurance Law followed, Old Age and Disability legislation and then came a code of factory legislation, with a system of labour exchanges to promote employment. Many of these measures were the first of their kind in the world. Along with the nationalization of the railways this began to look like socialism to many people. Shrewdly Bismarck understood the stick had to be supplemented by the carrot. It was intended to ensure internal unity and class peace while the state intensified an aggressive foreign policy of colonialism and foreign-market penetration, thereby compensating the wealthy for its social-welfare expenses. This policy was also going to drive a wedge between the right wing and left wing of the Social-Democratic Party.

There is a shared premise in the debates regarding Bernie Sanders’ presidential and they tend to assume that Sanders would be able to meaningfully advance his politics if he were to become president. That is, they presuppose the State is neutral and malleable and can be shaped and reshaped by those who govern it. History illustrates a very different story, one in which the political party and personal inclinations of presidents (let alone candidates) are generally irrelevant to how they wield power. Presidents and Prime Ministers have historically advanced the objective interests of the nation-state, prioritizing its international power and the profitability of its economy above all other considerations. It is irrelevant whether Sanders is sincere or a phony, if elected president, he will in fact be sworn to do so. Selecting who will rule without any ability to control the content of that rule, the voter casts the ballot as an act of faith. Investing political and emotional energy into nothing more than the good name of the system (election nights are always exercises in flag-waving celebration of a system that lets us choose our rulers), voters incorrectly argue that voting is better than doing nothing and condemn those who abstain. Yet, the disillusioned are not to blame for forces that they have no control over. And if the disillusioned do become interested in challenging the abuses of everyday life, it will not be through voting but through criticizing the system that voting acclaims. The opposite of hope is not despair. It is power. Everyone gets all emotionally attached to some single "savior" that going to fix the rotten system. There will be no saviors, only WE in massive numbers can affect any real change in the status-quo. Resistance in all forms brings about change. Real and enduring change is hard work.

Using the words of Eugene Debs, "If you are looking for a Moses to lead you out of this capitalist wilderness, you will stay right where you are. I would not lead you into the promised land if I could, because if I led you in, someone else would lead you out." 
Neither Sanders nor any other politician can lead us to the alternative new society we fight for. We must build it for ourselves.

He talks the ‘socialist’ talk, but he has reliably aided and abetted the Pentagon and the militarists in their theft of resources. Resources that were and continue to be stolen from the poor. If Sanders is a socialist, it is only in a very Orwellian sense. More likely, he is another Trojan Horse, mouthing liberal platitudes, but in the end betraying working people.

The “independent” Sanders has enjoyed a special agreement with the Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate. He votes with the Democrats on all procedural matters in exchange for the committee seats and seniority that would be available to him as a Democrat. (He can break this rule in some exceptional cases if Democratic Senate Whip Dick Durbin agrees, but the request is rarely made.) Sanders is free to vote as he wishes on policy matters, but he has almost always voted with the Democrats on such matters.

Consistent with this party loyalty, Sanders refuses to seriously or substantively criticize his “good friend” and Democratic presidential primary “rival” Mrs. Clinton – a militantly corporatist and militarist right-wing Democrat. Sanders has backed Obama’s numerous murderous military actions around the world, from Libya, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Iraq to China, Ukraine, and Russia. During the 1990s, the not-so “independent” Congressman Sanders voted for and/or otherwise supported:
* Economic sanctions that killed more than a million Iraqi civilians
* Every U.S. bombing of Iraq from 1992 on
* The sending of U.S. military units to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to threaten Iraq because “we cannot tolerate aggression”

Sanders has said repeatedly that he will not be a third- party “spoiler” in the general election and thus will direct his primary delegates and voters to line up behind Hillary.Inc. in 2016. In his presidential campaign speeches, Sanders has been unwilling to mention the corporatized Democratic Party as part of the nation’s oligarchy problem. 

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