Towards an anarchist perspective of the 2016 primaries

Bernie Sanders addresses a crowd in Portland, Oregon

While the Republicans undergo an identity crisis, Bernie Sanders has revealed that a shockingly large number of Americans think another world is possible.

The 2016 election has highlighted deep ideological divides across the country and presented some very encouraging signs for communists. The media script for the 2016 primaries featured Hillary Clinton as a lock for the Democrats while Republican voters chose between party hacks with identical positions on policy. While the Republicans have unmasked themselves as unashamed xenophobic hate mongers, what is occurring overall in the election cycle is not only surprising, but is in many ways encouraging. In this article I will try to look at the state of US politics right now and what it means for us as libertarian communists.

First off, let me start with the Republicans. The Republican base has revolted against the Party elite over what they see as an unwillingness by establishment politicians to stand firm to Republican values. Additionally, Republican voters harbor an increasingly volatile resentment of both the government and society itself. To this end the base has aligned themselves with the campaigns of Texas senator Ted Cruz and businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump.

Both candidates are despised by the Party elite who regard them as unelectable, insulting, and damaging to the Republican party brand. In 2013, the government shut down for weeks after Cruz spearheaded a refusal by the Republican congress to ratify President Obama’s budget. The shutdown was a national embarrassment to the Republican party establishment, and Cruz was held responsible. At a time when Republican politicians are voting with uniformity, Cruz also became an unlikely opponent of free trade agreements and subsidies for ethanol production. While a senator, Cruz further angered Republican politicians through unprofessional conduct in Congress, reportedly embarrassing his colleagues with long rants about their unwillingness to push for more right wing policies.

Cruz has run afoul of the Republican Party establishment for other reasons as well. Cruz has surrounded himself with conspiracy theorists such as Frank Gaffney who Cruz recently appointed as one of his top national security advisers. Gaffney recently warned in an interview about, "a coming together of... Islamists — Islamic supremacists if you will, the Muslim Brotherhood — and Black Lives Matter and Occupy movements and sort of anarchists and other assorted radicals on the left" who are "joining forces" to create a "very violent prospect, in fact a revolutionary one." Following the Brussels attacks Cruz stated that he thinks police should "patrol and secure" "Muslim neighborhoods" across the country. Cruz has racked up an impressive array of extreme right wing elements who most mainstream Republicans try to distance themselves from. For instance Cruz has been enjoying the support of pundit Glenn Beck who famously accused Barack Obama of being a "racist" with a “deep-seated hatred of white people.” Beck, a Mormon, has recently spoken at several Cruz rallies passionately telling the audience that God wants them to vote for Cruz in order to fulfill a prophecy that is written in the Book of Mormon. Cruz has also received the support of right wing pastor Kevin Swanson, who recently said the leaders of the Girl Scouts should be executed for their support of LGBT rights.

Despite his support from the radical religious right Cruz will certainly lose to the obvious Republican front runner, Donald Trump. Trump began his campaign by doing what he always does, drawing attention to himself with crude jokes and political incorrectness. By doing so, he appealed to Republicans and Independents who hate the political establishment and politicians in general. His crass remarks during the debates were like a breath of fresh air to voters whose lives are not reflected by the wholesome charms of traditional Republican candidates such as Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. By transporting his crude witticisms from reality TV to the comparatively restrained tone of the presidential race, Trump was able to sell himself as a genuine political outsider who would refuse to cow to the pressures of the liberal interest groups that control Washington.

The popularity of Trump and Cruz can be traced to the most serious issues affecting the Republican Party voter base today. The Republican base is made up mostly of middle aged whites. As a recent groundbreaking study has shown, “The mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.” The decline in life expectancy seems to be due to an increase in suicides, alcoholism, and substance abuse. This group of voters sees their lives getting worse each year, and they feel, correctly, as though the media and the political establishment are not addressing the issues that are important to them. In desperation they are seeking out candidates to “make America great again,” or, in other words, start making their life expectancy go up again, instead of down. It should be no wonder then, that one-time Republican front runner Ben Carson opened up the February 25th Republican debates by proclaiming, “our nation is heading off the abyss of destruction.” Noam Chomsky presciently commented that Trump’s rise represented the, “breakdown of society.” Indeed, the Party elite is aghast at how well their efforts at politicizing religion and racism have succeeded. Much of the blame for this current situation may not lie with the Party elite itself, but rather with the Koch brothers who have tried for decades to foment insurgency within the Party in an effort to create a militant grassroots movement. The current situation bears many similarities to the sudden rise of the Tea Party 7 years ago.

Whatever the case, it has now gotten to a point where the elite can no longer control the base and the veneer of respectability that the Republican Party tries to command can longer be maintained. This election cycle almost certainly signals a major turning point for the party. The Party will have to decide whether or not to embrace its new identity as an openly racist populist party, or to try, by means of a figurative coup at the convention, to sabotage the campaigns of Trump and Cruz in favor of the more respectable John Kasich.

Against all odds, Sanders makes it far into the primary

Perhaps of more interest to communists is the revolt taking place on the other end of the political spectrum amongst the Democratic Party base. The Democratic Party primary was supposed to be an easy win for centrist Hillary Clinton. Her politics of quietly pushing the Democratic Party to the right has been key in shaping the current identity of the party as a representative of fiscally conservative and socially liberal Wall Street. As I’ve written about before, Hillary Clinton supported NAFTA, she supported the escalation of the war on drugs, she supported the dismantling of the welfare system, she voted for the Iraq war and was the leading US figure in the 2011 Libyan intervention. Her entire professional career, from her time as a lawyer representing Tysons Foods and Wal-Mart, to her support of the military coup in Honduras has been characterized by a series of right wing policies that have pushed back against all forms of government protection for the world’s poor.

Sanders, for his part, is about as far as you can get to the left while still being an American politician. He describes himself as a democratic socialist. He openly supports expanding Medicare to not only all US citizens, but undocumented citizens as well. He supports raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour. He wants to kick start the economy with massive investments into renewable energy. He is opposed to the war on drugs and wants to curb the powers of the police. He opposed NAFTA, he opposed the Iraq war, and he has supported treatment and prevention rather than policing as a more appropriate reaction to drug abuse.

Given the fact that Sanders regularly points out that the media is owned by large corporations and/or billionaires such as Jeff Bezos (Washington Post) and Rupert Murdoch (NewsCorp), the corporate media’s reaction to his campaign has been predictably over the top negative. At first the goal was to try and simply ignore his candidacy. However, after tying Clinton in Iowa and receiving increasingly high poll numbers, the media went into attack mode. Two well-known incidents in particular highlighted the media’s frenzied panic over Sanders’ continued success. One well-known incident came in a single 16-hour period between March 6th and March 7th, when the Jeff Bezos owned Washington Post ran 16 negative Bernie Sanders articles while publishing 0 positive ones. Another well-known incident of the media trying to sabotage Sanders came from the New York Times in a March 15th article about Sanders’ record of pushing for progressive policies in the Senate. The article originally was somewhat favorable to Sanders, and although it described him as the “liberal mirror image of the Tea-Party”, it also made note of how as a senator he, “secured money for dairy farmers and community health centers, blocked banks from hiring foreign workers and reined in the Federal Reserve.” The Sanders campaign even linked to the article on their website. However, after the Sanders campaign linked to the article, a number of mysterious edits to the article were made. First of all, the title had been changed from Bernie Sanders Scored Victories for Years Through Legislative Side Doors to Via Legislative Doors, Bernie Sanders Won Modest Victories. Next, a quote from a Sanders adviser saying, “it has been a very successful strategy” was deleted and replaced with the following two paragraphs

Quote:
But in his presidential campaign Mr. Sanders is trying to scale up those kinds of proposals as a national agenda, and there is little to draw from his small-ball legislative approach to suggest that he could succeed.
Mr. Sanders is suddenly promising not just a few stars here and there, but the moon and a good part of the sun, from free college tuition paid for with giant tax hikes to a huge increase in government health care, which has made even liberal Democrats skeptical.

As Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone,

Quote:
There were other changes...The salutary line about Sanders being an ‘effective, albeit modest legislator’ – a key passage that in the original article directly contradicted the Clinton-camp contention that Sanders can't ‘get things done’ – is now followed by a sort of disclaimer:
‘He has enacted his agenda piece by piece, in politically digestible chunks with few sweeping legislative achievements in a quarter-century in Congress’…Worse, the line about ‘tacking on amendments to larger bills that scratch his particular policy itches’ has now, absurdly, been rewritten to read:‘…tacking on amendments to larger bills to succeed at the margins.’

The list of media efforts to sabotage the Sanders campaign are legion, and too numerous to document here, but these are the two most well-known incidents.
Despite all of the odds stacked against him, Sanders is surviving in the race far longer than anyone expected. A recent Bloomberg poll of democrats show that he Clinton are tied for support nationally. It is still conceivable for him to win a majority of the delegates in the nomination process, but he will have to rack up major upsets in upcoming states in order to do this. His victory in the race is not inconceivable, however it is unlikely.

What does the Sanders phenomenon mean for communists?

The Democratic Party nomination process has highlighted the fact that a very substantial portion of the population has views about how society should be run that are far to the left of both political parties. The question is what does this mean for libertarian communists and how do we relate to this progressive movement? Our major talking point on the Sanders election campaign should be; why do we need politics? For example, why should someone who is working two full time jobs in order to survive wait for the majority of Americans to vote for a politician who will address this issue? Direct action outside of the political parties solves this issue without needing to enter into the corporate media dominated circus of the election process. We do not need to wait for the government to protect us or give us rights, we should take them through organizing and direct action.

It should also be pointed out that Sanders simply does not go far enough. I agree that Sanders’ policies would improve the world. However, were we put on this earth to spend each day working in a cubicle, at a checkout counter, in a warehouse, just so various companies can out compete each other on the marketplace? What kind of life is that? Can’t we envision something better?

For now, the Sanders campaign has shown that people are open to the idea of another world. Let’s organize and take it.

Posted By

Soapy
Mar 25 2016 21:03

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  • “Our nation is heading off the abyss of destruction”

    Ben Carson

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Comments

akai
Mar 26 2016 07:59

You make good points however there are still lots of questions. l would think actually the first one would be serious action to counter the right-wing, xenophobic, racists and relgious sentiments that it seems a lot of working class people have as a reaction to their situation. Let's say that there is a movement with lots of criticism to the type of capitalism you have now and social democracy has become popular with some quarter of the population. First, this is still social democracy, which is not exactly anti-capitalist, nor is it anti-state - but admittedly, for Americans this is probably as left as they can expect to see in mainstream politics. l do believe that part of these people can be radicalized towards more libertarian ideas, especially as they will be confronted by obvious fact that voting and the American "democratic" system is a sham. Of course this situation should be used to make some push ahead for the libertarian movement. However, beyond that, there is still the situation that working class frustrations tend to go in other directions and if that is not addressed in any way, at the very best there are decades of political polarization and, most likely, and intensely disgusting future American political establishment ahead.

schalken
Mar 27 2016 04:40

Respectfully, I don't think Sanders has shown that people are open to "another world." He's shown that people are open to a very slight rejiggering of this world. Let's fight with Bernie for higher wages -- but don't talk about abolishing wage slavery. Let's get big money out of the capitalist state's elections -- so that the capitalist state can get back to safeguarding capitalism more "fairly." Etc.

It's interesting that some radicals see grand significance in Bernie, while many to the center of the far-right and far-left on the bourgeois political spectrum can only yawn. Hence the Cato Institute's Marian Tupy writing in the Atlantic:

Quote:
Considering the negative connotations of “socialism” in America, it is a bit of a puzzle why Sanders insists on using that word. It would be much less contentious and more correct if he gave his worldview its proper name: not “democratic socialism,” which implies socialism brought about through a vote, but social democracy.

Unsurprisingly, for Tupy, a right-libertarian, Bernie is a bona fide non-capitalist simply because he advocates higher taxes. Many leftists agree. Hence Robert Reich:

Quote:
America’s most successful and beloved government programs are social insurance - Social Security and Medicare. A highway is a shared social expenditure, as is the military and public parks and schools. The problem is we now have excessive socialism for the rich (bailouts of Wall Street, subsidies for Big Ag and Big Pharma, monopolization by cable companies and giant health insurers, giant tax-deductible CEO pay packages) - all of which Bernie wants to end or prevent.

The same sentiment goes for Ted Rall, who nicely summarizes what Sanders really aims for :

Quote:
In the ur-democratic socialist nations of Norway, Denmark and Sweden, citizens’ elected representatives propose and vote on laws — just like here.

There is no state economy. There are, like here, small private businesses and giant corporations.

So what makes them socialist? Government regulations and the social safety net. Government agencies tell power companies, for example, how much they may pollute the air and sets the minimum wage. There is, as in all capitalist societies, poverty. But the government mitigates its effects. Welfare and unemployment benefits, social security for retirees, free or subsidized healthcare make things easier when times are tough.

The United States is a democratic socialist country, albeit a lame one.

Senator Sanders wants less lameness.

So -- pretty much every defender of capitalist society yawns at Bernie's "socialism," but we're getting psyched up? Are we really that desperate for any sign of a change in our fortunes?

schalken
Mar 27 2016 05:02
Quote:
First, this is still social democracy, which is not exactly anti-capitalist, nor is it anti-state - but admittedly, for Americans this is probably as left as they can expect to see in mainstream politics.

Social democracy is "not exactly anti-capitalist?" Is it even anti-capitalist a little? In 1914 social democracy finally and definitively betrayed the working class. In 1918 it did everything it could to drown the class in blood. And 100 years later we're cheering on the resurgence of a variant that is even less ostensibly radical?

I agree with your sentiment -- that Sanders is no radical -- but disagree with the hint that we should be heartened because people are increasingly open to a certain set of capitalist policies. I think that if we are revolutionaries at all, we must break with the idea that we exist on the same continuum -- just further out -- than the left. We want two completely different things. Reform is not a prelude to revolution. The left's success is not ours.

Apart from the terminological confusion, Sanders and his movement have nothing to do with socialism. If one of his followers is confronted by an equally confused right-winger who wants to rant about socialism, nine times out of ten you can expect the Sandersista to counter lamely with some line about highways or fire engines being examples of socialism.

I don't see any particular value in Sanders's campaign. To the extent that people will be disillusioned by his nomination being blocked by the Democratic party machine, their belief in democracy will be reinforced: "next time we just have to be more involved in the process!" or "we need to set up a third party!"

kingzog
Mar 27 2016 06:11

Interesting. I was just reading an article on this topic and the author made the point that it n the 70's and to a lesser extent, the 80's, baby boomers were about 50% pro-socialism. But to them it meant significant amount of state ownership of business, along soviet lines. . Nowadays tho, this generation views socialism not as state run enterprise, but as a welfare state, and we view state ownership quite negatively. Of course, these surveys always assume socialism= state ownership, but at least the author acknowledged that a welfare state isn't really Socialism.

I think the big factor here is coming of age during the recession. A lot of us either view state benefits(food stamps and Medicaid) very favorably as we had to survive on them to extent or have had friends, family and so on, survive on them at some point. Ditto unemployment. And the stock market crash basically destroyed our faith in the free markets.

akai
Mar 27 2016 06:59

Schalken, l agree with you that social democracy is nothing to recommend. And l am quite critical of those who act like it is something desirable or those who are all hyped up to vote. That said, my point was that perhaps a certain part of those people could be swayed - given the fact that electoral democracy is a sham, especially in the US with all the party/corporate interests. There is just a lot of disillusionment and it would be good if people managed to channel some part of that in a more anti-statist and anti-capitalist direction.

The Pigeon
Mar 27 2016 21:33

The Trump-Sanders duality reveals, as Soapy pointed out, an ideological divide. And not only that but this is also a fissure in the political machinery. I believe Soapy's conclusion is that this opening up is where we sow our seeds. Sanders is in a sense just as much a spectacle as Donald Trump, but in reverse.

Chilli Sauce
Mar 28 2016 02:21
Quote:
I agree with your sentiment -- that Sanders is no radical -- but disagree with the hint that we should be heartened because people are increasingly open to a certain set of capitalist policies.

I don't know schalken, I think you're conflating two things here. One is the history, legacy, and ideological use of social democracy. The other is what the Sanders campaign reveals about the shifting political sensibilities of, in particular, young Americans.

Should we have a criticism of Sanders by virtue of him being a politician? Of course. Should we have criticisms of both his tepid social democracy and his campaign's understanding of how we achieve social democratic reforms? Of course we should.

That said, huge swaths of Americans are supporting a self-declared "socialist". That wouldn't have happened 20 years ago, 10 years ago, or even 4 years ago. However flawed that term may be or however flawed their understanding of that term may be, there is clearly something deeper going on here.

Here, I think there's a good possibility you're right:

Quote:
To the extent that people will be disillusioned by his nomination being blocked by the Democratic party machine, their belief in democracy will be reinforced: "next time we just have to be more involved in the process!" or "we need to set up a third party!"

On the other hand, I think becoming disillusioned with statist, social democratic solutions is a stage a lot of people are going to pass through first if we're ever going to achieve a mass revolutionary movement. Personally - and given here that no one is endorsing Sanders or his campaign - I think having a cautiously optimist approach to what the Sanders campaign may signal is pretty reasonable.

Juan Conatz
Mar 28 2016 02:48

I think the radical left and the reformist left feed off each other, and the fortunes for both are linked in ways many of us don't like to admit. It's hard to imagine a radical left significantly emerging in a place and time where the reformist left is more or less marginalized. If someone has an example of this, I'd like to hear it.

Noah Fence
Mar 28 2016 04:34

I see no connection of any substance here. Sanders socialism(lol) is more likely to act as a brake on people's desire for meaningful change. The idea that a difference can only be made through the ballot box is once again reinforced.
Sanders is either a cynical, deceitful piece of shit or a deluded fool. Either way, fuck him. Where does he get off with his theft of the word 'socialism? Surely he can't be stupid enough to really believe that this is what he promotes? Just a marketing buzz word to these fucking charlatans. He can call it socialism as many times as he likes but then I once repeatedly called a turd a banana, when I took a bite of it though, it still tasted like shit.
Sanders and Corbyn are an obstacle of false hope of massive proportions. Their rise should not give hope to libcoms - we really should know better.

kingzog
Mar 28 2016 07:30
Quote:
I think the radical left and the reformist left feed off each other, and the fortunes for both are linked in ways many of us don't like to admit. It's hard to imagine a radical left significantly emerging in a place and time where the reformist left is more or less marginalized. If someone has an example of this, I'd like to hear it.

Totally, and history confirms this, yes. You don't get left communism without social democracy.

This might be an aside, but a lot of ppl forget that Marx's theory and practice emerged from Chartism- not English political economy and German philosophy alone(so study Chartism more and value form less folks). Chartism and the mutual aid type organizations and so on fueled the labor movement and this context truly made radicalism possible in theory and in practice. It doesn't always have to work precisely like that, but it pretty much always has.

schalken
Mar 28 2016 08:15
Quote:
You don't get left communism without social democracy.

This might be an aside, but a lot of ppl forget that Marx's theory and practice emerged from Chartism- not English political economy and German philosophy alone(so study Chartism more and value form less folks). Chartism and the mutual aid type organizations and so on fueled the labor movement and this context truly made radicalism possible in theory and in practice. It doesn't always have to work precisely like that, but it pretty much always has.

This seems to be suggesting that reformist parties mechanically spawn more radical elements. But isn't the reverse also true? Sure, maybe the chartists informed Marx, but it's not as if Chartism led to communism. Marx was a late-comer to communism. Babeuf 50 years earlier prefigured him. Somebody called Ludwig Gall supposedly advocated ideas that were very similar to Marx, a full decade or two before Chartism and Marx came onto the scene. Maybe it was these first (modern, conscious) communists who awakened Chartist reformism?

Or perhaps a better way to think of it is that when the class is in action, a certain segment always lags behind, looks to reforms, and a certain segment always finds more clarity and identifies revolution as the way forward. Encouraging the reformist segment as a way to bolster the revolutionary element seems odd. Especially when that laggard section isn't even part of the class, as in the case of Sanders and the Democrats...

Ed
Mar 28 2016 10:03
schalken wrote:
Encouraging the reformist segment as a way to bolster the revolutionary element seems odd.

No one's saying this though. What's being said is that when you've lived your whole life in a country where believing in socialism was akin to being a satanist, the fact that so many people are willing to get behind a self-declared socialist (no matter how different their definition is from ours) is an interesting phenomenon, perhaps one that even signals a positive change in the general political culture.

Also, I disagree with the whole 'how dare he use the word socialism' thing. It's not 'our word' anymore than 'communism' or 'anarchism' or 'feminism' or any other words.. words have contested meanings, the point is to make your definition the most appealing..

Noah Fence
Mar 28 2016 10:41
Quote:
Also, I disagree with the whole 'how dare he use the word socialism' thing. It's not 'our word' anymore than 'communism' or 'anarchism' or 'feminism' or any other words.. words have contested meanings, the point is to make your definition the most appealing..

Yes, within reasonable peramiters but come on Ed, to say that capitalism is socialism is just fucking daft. I wouldn't call a wheel square, I wouldn't say the sea is a bit dry and these people shouldn't say that the capitalism of Corbyn, Sanders etc is socialism. There's got to be limits FFS! Defense of this usage of language beyond reasonable limits supports further muddying of already extremely murky waters.

Spikymike
Mar 28 2016 13:03

As to ''you don't get left communism without social democracy'' let's not get our periods of history too mixed up and be clear that the European Social Democracy pre World War One represented something very different from it's evolution into what it represents today. Then there was still a debate (valid or not) about reform or revolution towards something we might still recognise as socialism or communism. Today as some have said here 'Social Democracy' is at best just an attempt at regulating capitalism.

Chilli Sauce
Mar 28 2016 13:35

Noah, I hope you don't mind if I pick this apart a bit...

Quote:
I see no connection of any substance here. Sanders socialism(lol) is more likely to act as a brake on people's desire for meaningful change.

Of course, ideologically, that's the role of social democracy. No one's disputing that, but that also not what people find interesting about/see potential in Sanders' campaign, either.

Quote:
The idea that a difference can only be made through the ballot box is once again reinforced.

So, maybe yes. On the other hand, let's say Sanders wins the presidency. He's gonna come up short and the experience of being in power will moderate him. That's a given. That means "progressives" will have experienced two presidents in a row that they were super-hyped about, only to be disappointed both times. I think that may make a larger segments of the working class open to an anti-electoral message.

Quote:
Where does he get off with his theft of the word 'socialism? Surely he can't be stupid enough to really believe that this is what he promotes?

The thing is, though, is that he does represent a very real thread of "socialism" that has a long history in the workers' movement. I mean, even the Communist Manifesto, the initial demands set forth are basically social democratic.

I think maybe where we've seen a change is that in the past the reformist believed we could "reform capitalism out of existence", modern social democrats see the reforms themselves as the end goal. But social democracy and social democratic reforms have, arguably, throughout much of history, been a larger part of the socialist movement than full-scale, revolutionary socialism.

Noah Fence
Mar 28 2016 15:42

Picking at is most welcome. I should say that I know this thread is about Sanders but being in the UK and subject to the deification of Corbyn I haven't really studied the U.S. situation. Therefore I have assumed a very close parallel between the 2 cases. If I'm mistaken in this then I put my hands up even though I do think my points must still have some value.

Firstly, the let down factor - I'll pull age rank on you here as I've seen every single election since I took notice as a kid in the seventies that the government of any colour has ALWAYS failed to deliver on its manifesto. Do voters then jump ship and go to another party? Mostly no. Do they see the futility of their choice and start to consider another form of politics? Not a fucking chance. Most commonly, especially with Labour, they will stick to their usual preference and just keep slinging blame at the opposing party. The current orgy of liberal Tory bashing is a case in point - this great frothing group wank acts to fill in the glaring hole in their position, namely the record of Labour in government since it's formation. Mostly a question about this will be met with a deafening silence. At best, the hilarious argument of 'it will be different this time' is all you'll get. The liberal left say they have waited for a long time for someone like Corbyn. Well, when he fails to deliver I see no reason to believe the waiting will stop and a rise in radicalism will ensue.

As far as the word socialism is concerned, even if a partial nationalisation of industry and services is socialist,(which actually I don't accept, surely the very lightest form of true socialism is total nationalisation?), then can the term socialism be applied to a party who's Marxist(LMFAO) chancellor in waiting says(and these quotes are verbatim);

'We are the party of business'

'We are an entrepreneurial party'

Using neo-liberal catch phrases doesn't line up with socialism any more than Anarcho capitalism does with communism.

Maybe I'm cranky and frustrated because of the sea of mindless adoration of Sanders and Corbyn that I'm currently drowning in? Or maybe I'm rightly enraged by the highjacking of genuine change for the nefarious ends of a section of the ruling class that happens to be wearing a caring smile at the moment.

jef costello
Mar 28 2016 15:41
Noah Fence wrote:
Firstly, the let down factor - I'll pull age rank on you here as I've seen every single election since I took notice as a kid in the seventies that the government of any colour has ALWAYS failed to deliver on its manifesto. Do voters then jump ship and go to another party? Mostly no. Do they see the futility of their choice and start to consider another form of politics? Not a fucking chance.
.

The parties have responded to complaints about not keeping promises in their manifestoes. They make a lot fewer of them and make sure they don't have any criteria attached to judge them successful.
I'm pretty sure I read an analysis a whle back on how few promises were now in manifestoes.

Juan Conatz
Mar 28 2016 16:39

You could draw parallels with Corbyn and Sanders, but I think Corbyn is a lot further to the left from what I've seen.

noslavery
Mar 28 2016 19:06

The reason we can see a candidate like Sanders who dare to claim to be socialist is that American workers have less illusion that before. Thus, we need to welcome the situation. We can even support Sanders here and there to make some good ideas that previously were “prohibited” to spread. We, libertarian communists, should also acknowledge that as long as we are socially not effective, reformists take the lead and lead people to nowhere.

Steven.
Mar 28 2016 19:32
Juan Conatz wrote:
You could draw parallels with Corbyn and Sanders, but I think Corbyn is a lot further to the left from what I've seen.

Yes, definitely but that is standard with UK/US politics. Even the most right-wing politicians here are to the left of most of the left-wing politicians in the US, just because of the different political/economic climate/balance of class forces.

kingzog
Mar 28 2016 19:45
Quote:
The reason we can see a candidate like Sanders who dare to claim to be socialist is that American workers have less illusion that before. Thus, we need to welcome the situation. We can even support Sanders here and there to make some good ideas that previously were “prohibited” to spread. We, libertarian communists, should also acknowledge that as long as we are socially not effective, reformists take the lead and lead people to nowhere.

Well, people often simply want what reformists offer- reform. This isn't going "nowhere," it's going towards reforms and concessions from Capital. They may or may not be successfull, but this is what animates ppl. Things like universal, single payer healthcare, and high minimum wages and financial regulation. Bernie's socialism is popular because those policy choices are popular.

You can argue reforms go nowhere, but that's basically saying it's not going to where you want it to go- communism. For Sanders supporters the reforms are the destination- not communism; people think that would be going "nowhere". I don't want to chastize, but look at it from the average person's perspective, either communism is a vague and fantastical fairy tale land(even i get this impression fom many leftist quarters, especially communizers) or its Mao and the USSR. Not appealing choices.

kingzog
Mar 28 2016 19:50

Oh and I'd add that socialism was popular when it fought for reforms and argued for a grand vision of communism's "sometime in the future". Clearly, in hindsight we see lots of mistakes in that. But hindsight is 20/20.... Social democracy really had no plan or vision for revolution when the time came to act, but it doesn't change the fact that the socialist movement was only relevant when it fought for reforms on the day-to-day.

Noah Fence
Mar 28 2016 20:08
noslavery wrote:
The reason we can see a candidate like Sanders who dare to claim to be socialist is that American workers have less illusion that before. Thus, we need to welcome the situation. We can even support Sanders here and there to make some good ideas that previously were “prohibited” to spread. We, libertarian communists, should also acknowledge that as long as we are socially not effective, reformists take the lead and lead people to nowhere.

In a word, no. I may be a clumsy thinker but to me it's very simple. Sanders and a Corbyn are our class enemies. To support them in any way is misleading, collaborative an treacherous. I will not breathe oxygen into the lungs of this delusional mass hysteria.

The Pigeon
Mar 28 2016 22:16

Class collaboration? What is that? Politics is not a battlefield any longer, it's a spectacle, a collective television-dream! There's no sense in believing or not believing in it, it's made out of cloud cotton! Shape those clouds as you wish! Is there a giant cloud upon the horizon, a starry-eyed old Jew with a bottle of syrup in his pocket? Yes- and isn't he a pretty cloud, a pretty dream! Though I'm not sure what it all means. Oh no, now what is happening? It's raining! My heavens! The dream is changing, once more! New clouds brew upon the horizon! I will stuff my pack with as much of this cloud while it's still there for picking, but I must continue upon my journey, towards THE MOUNTAIN.

Pennoid
Mar 29 2016 00:41

Juan, any ideas on how the radicals and reformists are linked? I'm sympathetic to kingzog's point that you don't get left communism, etc. without social democracy. They failed and that helped shed light on better methods (but now basically dead ends).
And to the point about not conflating modern day socdems with the past; it was reading Kautsky that convinced Debs to become a socialist (alongside reading Marx), wasn't it? The Class Struggle and the Erfurt program can serve as pretty good points of departure for discussion about what socialist politics might look like, hope to accomplish.

Fleur
Mar 29 2016 01:24

I'm trying really, really hard to ignore of of this, which is actually impossible but I am trying but I saw this - Angela Davis saying that a new left party is needed.

http://www.democracynow.org/2016/3/28/angela_davis_on_the_fascist_appeal

Just thought I'd post it up because someone mentioned the ubiquitous call for a new party.

Juan Conatz
Mar 29 2016 03:09
Pennoid wrote:
Juan, any ideas on how the radicals and reformists are linked? I'm sympathetic to kingzog's point that you don't get left communism, etc. without social democracy. They failed and that helped shed light on better methods (but now basically dead ends).

I don't have any real thought out opinions on this. It just seems hard to imagine a radical or revolutionary left emerging in a time and place where the reformist left is marginalized or nonexistent. If the latter doesn't exist, it seems the radical right is more likely to grow than anything. I think you see this in the U.S. with the white working class and the 'Patriot' movement. But where radical or revolutionary left has emerged and grown, it was alongside a reformist left. I don't think this is an argument to grow the reformist left, but instead maybe realize it as indicator of opportunities and shifts in the class.

Winstanley
Mar 30 2016 08:13

Is this like somebody's high school paper or something?

Chilli Sauce
Mar 30 2016 13:16
Winstanley wrote:
Is this like somebody's high school paper or something?

I mean, quite clearly it's a libcom blog, but so what if it was?

Chilli Sauce
Mar 30 2016 13:32
Quote:
Firstly, the let down factor - I'll pull age rank on you here as I've seen every single election since I took notice as a kid in the seventies that the government of any colour has ALWAYS failed to deliver on its manifesto. Do voters then jump ship and go to another party? Mostly no. Do they see the futility of their choice and start to consider another form of politics? Not a fucking chance. Most commonly, especially with Labour, they will stick to their usual preference and just keep slinging blame at the opposing party. The current orgy of liberal Tory bashing is a case in point - this great frothing group wank acts to fill in the glaring hole in their position, namely the record of Labour in government since it's formation. Mostly a question about this will be met with a deafening silence. At best, the hilarious argument of 'it will be different this time' is all you'll get. The liberal left say they have waited for a long time for someone like Corbyn. Well, when he fails to deliver I see no reason to believe the waiting will stop and a rise in radicalism will ensue.

Fair enough.

That said, I do think there are slight differences between the US and the UK on this issue. Old Labour was avowedly "socialist" and "socialism" was never the sort of dirty word in the UK that it was/is in the US. I think a massive generational shift in the acceptance of the word/support of the idea (however the hell it's interpreted!) means something - but maybe you're right in questioning my optimism in what it may mean.

In any case, we're still left with the problem in what to do with these mostly young, many newly-politicized Sanders supporters. I tend to think engaging them in non-electoral areas (protests, getting them along to direct actions, workplace stuff) is a pretty good place to start and may give us a bit more of an "in" when Sander/social democracy inevitably comes up short.