Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Be Careful What You Ask For

“Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss”
Won’t get fooled again – The Who

No election would be complete without denial, delusion, deception, and those words: “the lesser of two evils.” At every election leftists argue about third parties and the ‘lesser evil’ and ‘tactical voting’. Truth is the bosses have both parties in the palms of their hands, while we need one of our own. Workers who are so hypnotised by the promise of reforms, those patches on a rotten social structure, that they neglect to observe the rottenness of the capitalist system itself, will naturally support that party whose program promises them most, providing that they retain enough infantile trustfulness to believe anything from the mouth of a politician. Suicidal though this is, and regrettable from the socialist standpoint, there is no doubt that the workers who want to vote for Sanders believe they are acting intelligently. He might bring some seeming advantage to some other sections of the workers. He might introduce measures bringing fleeting relief to the some of the working class who forget to ask themselves why reform legislation is necessary, and why, in spite of it, their conditions still grow steadily worse.

Socialism distinguishes itself from capitalism by this fundamental requirement: the community shall own the means of production in common. Sanders believes in the capitalist system. He might advocate reform of capitalism’s current excesses, but he is pro-capitalist. The Socialist Party doesn’t see capitalism as a reformable institution but Sanders does. When pressed about his brand of “socialism”, Sanders refers to the Scandinavian nations like Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden who have governments that tax heavily and provide excellent free public education and health care, for example. Sanders is arguing that police departments, fire departments, and public libraries are all "socialist institutions" making similar statements about how the highway system is fundamentally socialist. This comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of socialism. Claiming that things like police forces, the military, corporate welfare, the prison system, the CIA, the DHS, Border Patrol, and the FBI are socialist institutions is absolutely absurd. He is for a kinder, gentler capitalism. Sanders believes in a basic market economy with a welfare state and a healthy amount of regulation, standard fare for a Democrat politician’s promises.

 Sanders is a Democrat in every way but the name. He's a FDR New Deal-style reformer. Sanders once explained “I’m not that much of a socialist compared to Eisenhower” who was a Republican. Sanders has drawn parallels between his own views and those of beloved figures like Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr. and Pope Francis. The Socialist Party, recognizes that in Sanders and his political allies are an obstacle to the development of a mass revolutionary socialist movement.

 He has voted with the Democrats, nearly 100 percent of the time. The Democratic establishment funded his 2006 senate campaign, including $10,000 from HillPAC, Hillary Clinton’s funding arm. Sanders refused to support Nader’s 2004 presidential campaign as an Independent. “Not only am I going to vote for John Kerry,” Sanders said, “I am going to run around this country and do everything I can to dissuade people from voting for Ralph Nader.”

Sanders’s model, Eugene Debs, was jailed for his opposition to World War I yet Sanders has cast vote after vote for sending troops to war and bombing one side or another. He supported NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999. He’s voted for sending troops to Afghanistan. He supported increase in military spending. He has voted for billions in foreign and military aid to Israel. Sanders supported the Israeli invasion of Gaza in 2014.

Sanders envisions a “socialist” utopia built and operating on the back of a capitalist infrastructure. Not only does he fail to see the incompatibility he blatantly ignores the incongruity of the two. Like all politicians of both major parties Sanders is selling America a fantasy. We have seen "left-wing" governments elsewhere and how their electoral promises turn to nothing e.g. Syriza in Greece. Bernie Sanders fashionable use of the terms “revolution” and “socialist” denigrates any relevance these terms have ever held. Sanders, for all his sloganeering about “revolution,” has not remotely proposed that end capitalism.  His vision for America is one in which economic decisions and ownership remain firmly in private, profit-taking hands while the government intervenes to a limited extent with the purpose of partially regulating some business activities and distributing income and wealth and social benefits in a more gently way. He can call himself a socialist but he says nothing about the need for a social revolution to expropriate the expropriators and remove the master class from control of economy, society, politics, and culture

To build a movement strong enough to defeat the power of the capitalist system will be a protracted struggle of historic proportion and will not be resolved in one election cycle. It will take a sea change in American thinking and understanding. Perhaps, and all socialists hope it is the case, we may well be moving into a good time to talk about revolution and socialism. But real change requires thinking beyond an individual campaign. The tendency of reformers to place all their eggs in the Democratic basket and all their hopes in single charismatic leaders has prevented genuine social movements from gaining momentum. Revolution requires changing the political landscape. It means banishing the fantasy that the world’s problems can be solved if we just vote for the right Democrat. Eugene Debs and his fellow socialists understood that the social ills demanded an independent workers’ movement with a strong electoral component. The virtual disappearance of such ideas and goals in the last few generations is one of the reasons for the triumph of the right wing. Real system change is always called too radical to be taken seriously. A workers’ party is one that builds its base of support among those who’ve seen their ideals betrayed and rejected by the major parties, by those who’ve realized that neither of the two big parties serve their needs, and by those whose alienation from the two parties has kept them away from voting booths. It engages working people in a way that enables them to represent their own interests. It runs candidates at all levels, from school board to city hall to statehouse to Congress to the White House. The 1% fear more than anything else a permanent and well-organized working class party and have nightmares about finding such a new party seated in legislatures.

All of us know what the ugly side of capitalism looks like. Here are but a few of the countless examples taken from real life:
Following an earthquake or other natural disaster, businesses raise their prices for basic necessities such as batteries, generators, water pumps, tree-removal services, etc. Or in the face of widespread medical needs, drug and health-care prices soar, while new surgical and medical procedures are patented.
The driving force of capitalism is the profit motive; the desire to maximize profit. Any improvement to to-day’s world has to begin with completely eliminating, the profit motive. Otherwise nothing of any significance will change in society, and the apologists for the capitalist system can mouth all their progressive-sounding platitudes they want.

“Self-styled socialist” … How many times have we all read that term in regard to Sanders? He has no desire to get rid of the profit motive. Sanders is not really a socialist, just an old fashioned liberal; and his views on foreign policy are more or less those of conventional Democrats. All his idealistic visions for a more humane, more just, more equitable, and more rational society runs into a brick-wall of the profit motive. The most commonly proposed alternative to both government or private control is worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives and Sanders along with many of his supporters have expressed agreement with such systems. But the problem is that they will still operate within a capitalist society, which means competition, survival of the fittest; which means that if you can’t sell more than your competitors, if you can’t make a sufficient net profit on your sales, you will likely be forced to go out of business; and to prevent such a fate, at some point you may very well be forced to do illegal or immoral things against the public; which means back to the present.
To present the most minor social reform and the smallest State intervention as “socialism” is what the right wing bourgeois parties have always done when they are trying to frighten their conservative supporters. Obviously, Sanders shares this conception of “socialism” with them. Sanders is trying to make us confuse socialism to a somewhat reformed and “just” capitalism “with a human face”, the kind of capitalism that was more or less realized in the highly developed countries after 1945.

 Lesser evilism encourages a race to the bottom. The future doesn’t depend on Bernie Sanders. It depends on all of us who support political revolution. Do we want to change direction or are we content to rubber-stamp the political status quo every election day? If the former, then it’s imperative that we build a socialist party now. We must cease feeding the beast. The problem isn’t merely that Sanders isn’t actually a socialist. It is also that his policies could actually pose a genuine danger to the socialism that we all desperately need. Sanders may well re-distribute some wealth to benefit poorer Americans and his campaign has pulled the word ‘socialism’ out of the garbage can of history and initiated a debate about both capitalism and socialism in the United States. But when those policies implemented by a supposed socialist fail it will be socialism that will be discredited. When the workers want socialism they will not be deceived into believing that support of the non-socialist program of Bernie Sanders will give them it. Sanders seems at times on the verge of characterizing our governing structures as hopelessly broken, yet still stops short of that by affirming that the system can indeed be fixed. Moreover, if his candidacy fails, he plans on supporting the elites’ choice for the White House, Hillary Clinton. Sanders is part of the system, and pledges to remain so by promising allegiance to the Democratic Party. It is back to the zero sum game of supporting the lesser of two evils. For sure, many people demonstrate their faith in Berniw by turning out in their tens of thousands for his meetings. The faith they hold is not the socialist intentions of Bernie. (How many of his supporters have any idea of what real socialism is?). They choose the lesser of two evils, and sometimes the difference between the two evils is so small in their minds that they will choose because of the voice or face of the party leader. It is the situation as there being only a choice between two evils, according to the rules of the game that we attack. The only way we can do this is by offering an alternative – don’t play the game, don’t be forced into a false and hypocritical ‘choice’.

Capitalism has to be superseded if humanity is to survive. Capitalism, by all indications, is intent upon destroying decent life on the planet in the not so distant future. This is not merely the judgment of apocalyptic catastrophe cranks. We either figure how to remove capitalism and radically reconstruct society into an ecologically sustainable post-capitalist society or we can forget about a future. Once we can eliminate the profit motive, the door is open to rational use of natural resources for the first time in human history. We must turn our efforts to exposing capitalism for what it have become, a malignant threat to the very future of life on earth.

Bernie Sanders isn’t really calling for revolutionary change, but just telling his support-base what they want to hear. Sanders regularly says that he is working toward a political revolution to effect real change in the American political system. But his is not a political revolution, far less than a socialist one. Aren’t we tired of hearing the lesser evil thing, where you vote for someone who offers you more of the same crap they’ve been serving up since the 1890s but at least won’t be completely crazy, and we shouldn’t expect anything better. He’s too cozy with the Democratic Party establishment, who are just as corrupt and controlled by the corporate oligarchy as the Republicans. His promise of hope will prove to be just as empty as the one Obama made. If elected, Bernie won’t be able to pass any meaningful legislation. 

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