Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 3, 2014

The speech that Bernie Sanders should make, but won’t

Filed under: third parties — louisproyect @ 1:03 pm
Reviving the Progressive Party

The Speech Bernie Sanders Should Give But Won’t


Fellow Americans,

I want to take this opportunity to announce my candidacy for president of the United States and to explain why I have reached this decision.

Let me start by giving you some background on my political career. Unlike other members of the Senate, I have always run as an independent and as a socialist, a term that I am more than willing to defend in debates with other candidates in the race for president. In 2009 one out of five Americans stated a preference for socialism over capitalism. Given the opportunity to speak to the millions of people who have been victims of unemployment, foreclosure, polluted air and water, and a host of other problems caused by corporate greed, I am sure that we can begin to move toward majority support for a system that puts human need above private profit.

In the 1970s I ran as a candidate of the Liberty Union Party in Vermont for the US Senate and for Governor in four different races. While most of you probably haven’t heard of the party, the issues that led to its formation should be familiar. It was against the war in Vietnam and the despoliation of the environment, positions that reflected majority opinion in the United States at the time. I hope to remain true to my roots by stressing the need for peace, Green values, and social justice in my campaign for president.

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  1. Just as Obama was not “the people we were waiting for” neither is Bernie Sanders. Plus, any political speech that even contains the phrase “let me start…” will immediately turn off a huge proportion of listeners (or readers). We live in a 30-second age. Beyond that, no one’s listening. And if we’re looking for “an aroused American citizenry” we would do well to keep in mind that, here in the USA, there are an estimated 68 million porn searches daily on the Internet. That’s the only arousal Americans care about. They don’t give a shit about politics or anyone’s best interests, even their own.

    Comment by Richard Greener — October 3, 2014 @ 1:27 pm

  2. When “one out of five Americans stated a preference for socialism over capitalism” in 2009 they were thinking of European-style capitalist welfare states, not socialism. I don’t personally know a single American who has the slightest understanding of socialism as a free association of producers, or collective ownership, democratic control of the means of production.

    Americans have the political sophistication of a potato.

    Comment by Joe Barnwell — October 3, 2014 @ 4:02 pm

  3. There is an audience for Social Democracy in the US when it is described in concrete, every day terms. The audience shrinks, however, when it is described ideologically.

    I disagree with the cynicism expressed in the first two comments. I believe that there would be a strong response to an establishment figure like Sanders who ran a campaign based upon acknowledging the class war of the last 40 years and proposed policies to reverse the successes of the 1%. Not enough to win an election or come close to doing so, of course, but a response that would expand upon ongoing challenges to the existing social order.

    Comment by Richard Estes — October 3, 2014 @ 4:30 pm

  4. Members of my own family who were talking the robotic Tea Party/libertarian line three years ago are now posting Sanders quotes on FaceBook and, incredibly, denouncing billionaires and corporations. This is two steps forward for them. Maybe it isn’t enough, but it certainly is a big change–as all the fatalistic support for Obama never was or could have been.

    Just to disrupt the universal conditioned American reflex of jumping from “rights” to “private property” to “capitalism = democracy” is huge.

    Is this long-lasting? Is it enough to slip the “S” word (socialism) into the stream of allowable discourse? What if Sanders runs and loses to some dictatorial Tea Party asshole with a majority in both houses of Congress? Where will the disarmed, Kumbaya-chanting, election-loving “socialists” in quotes be then?

    I remain profoundly skeptical. No electoral bandwagons for me. But for now there is no doubt that Sanders is shaking a lot of people up in a way in which they haven’t been shaken for decades. This may be deeper than it seems–with or without the man himself.

    Comment by Pete Glosser — October 3, 2014 @ 8:14 pm

  5. Reblogged this on United States Hypocrisy and commented:
    If only…

    Comment by Caleb Gee — October 4, 2014 @ 6:38 pm

  6. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Bernie Sanders …. a man for all seasons!!

    Comment by Dr. Rex — October 4, 2014 @ 11:18 pm

  7. Richard Estes, I usually find your comments to be highly intelligent, but you’re just another lost liberal in this thread, I’m not a cynic, but a realist trying to find a trace of intelligent socialist politics in the US, and there is none. Social Democracy is effete liberalism under another name–see Europe. As for Bernie Sanders addressing class issues and thus the triumphant, globalized capitalism that now controls us mentally and physically ….

    I’ll repeat my original contention: Americans have no understanding whatsoever of socialism, and Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren run from the topic.

    So why don’t we quit screwing around and actually discuss developing a theory and practice of a genuine socialist movement in America? As matters currently stand, the 2016 election is shaping up as an end game with the Republican proto-fascists kicking Hillary’s and the Dem’s worn out political asses and taking control of all three branches of government.

    But of course, we will continue to screw around– a statement not of cynicism but of well-seasoned observation. And nothing could be much more cynical than continuing to look to the Dems for salvation., and that is the state of “progressive” politics in the US.

    Comment by Joe Barnwell — October 5, 2014 @ 3:52 pm

  8. “Social Democracy is effete liberalism under another name–see Europe.”

    Well, I don’t want to put too much energy into this, I agree with you about Sanders, he’s not going to run as a third party candidate and, even if he did, he’s not going to say anything remotely close to what Louis wrote here. So our argument is necessarily abstract.

    But some European style effete liberalism would help a lot of people. Compare Germany’s response to the 2008 global recession to the US one. The government actually subsided continued employment of people within industry that would have otherwise been laid off. Of course, there’s a capitalist reason for it, Germany made a calculated decision that it would benefit by retaining these people and their skills within the economy. Even so, shouldn’t the left be able to understand these differences and act accordingly?

    Like people in most places, Americans don’t understand “socialism”. In that, they are not very different from Venezuelans, Greeks, Russians or South Africans. Germans and Britons, because of the historical prominence of the Labour Party and the SPD, might do better. Anyway, I doubt that the populace in any of these places could provide a coherent explanation of socialism in relation to the world in which they live. They can, however, relate to politics in terms of their daily lives, their jobs, their homes, health care and the education of their children. A class warfare approach that engages people in this way could push forward a social movement to challenge capitalism.

    Again, I’d be shocked if Sanders did this, and I certainly don’t look to the Democrats for salvation. The end game is not one of “Republican pro to-fascists” taking over all three branches of government, but, rather, one in which the democratic electoral processes in the US and the EU continue to be drained of any opportunity for the populace to challenge economic elites, to participate in any meaningful decisions about the socioeconomic features of their societies. A hollowing out of democracy as Wolfgang Streeck calls it. Would a Sanders third party candidacy reverse this trend? Doubtful, of course, but anything that induces people to envision a world different than the one in which we now live, to envision a way to escape the restrictive boundaries of contemporary discourse and action, should be encouraged. Too bad Sanders is too stodgy to consider it.

    Comment by Richard Estes — October 6, 2014 @ 12:06 am

  9. The end game is not one of “Republican proto-fascists” taking over all three branches of government, but, rather, one in which the democratic electoral processes in the US and the EU continue to be drained of any opportunity for the populace to challenge economic elites, to participate in any meaningful decisions about the socioeconomic features of their societies.

    Are those alternatives necessarily exclusive?

    Fascism may not be the right word. Bourgeois democratic institutions are getting weaker and weaker, and there are a lot of people on the right who regard them with contempt. The working class in the U.S. is being made to feel both invisible and expendable. The police are embracing full militarism with terrifying enthusiasm. But there isn’t a fuehrer; there’s no proliferation of uniforms in every walk of life; there’s no mass mobilization of the population for total war. Instead of people losing themselves in a cult of State and Leader, blood and soil, we have Ayn Randian assholes showing off their selfishness and indifference and invoking State violence only obliquely to ensure their privilege while they bleat about “freedom.”

    Etc., etc.

    To assume this is not a thing because it isn’t exactly fascism, or that rightwing Republicans are not leading the march–at least as far as the insides of peoples heads are concerned–is at least myopic.

    A children’s crusade for Sanders, IMHO, would probably be a big waste of effort. Why, in any case, do people in the U.S. persist in thinking that electing the right president can solve everything when history demonstrates the exact opposite? This is at the forefront of perennial and destructive American illusions. But the response Sanders evokes certainly offers grounds for hope and should not be discarded merely because Sanders is a kind of social democrat.

    Comment by Ed Grimond — October 6, 2014 @ 2:59 pm

  10. Could someone please explain to me why running left-wing candidates in Democratic primaries, and if they win, as Democrats, is such a bad idea, while running the same exact candidates on a third-party line is ok (for those who believe this)? This is a sincere question: maybe there is a good reason, I’ve just never gotten it despite many discussions. It always comes down to the Democrats “are .” I respond that one thing “the Democrats” are is a line on a ballot that can be filled by anyone with any support coalition, the same as a third-party line, only with a much better chance of winning. It’s generally no more difficult (legally, financially, etc.) to run in a Democratic primary than as a third-party/independent in a general election. And often you can do both in succession anyway. Why am I wrong?

    Comment by Dan Edelstein — October 31, 2014 @ 6:19 pm

  11. You’d be surprised how “rigged” the Democratic primary process can be. Not to mention superdelegates etc. The main problem is that outside of the presidential primaries, nobody pays attention to Democratic primaries. If a progressive were in a position to win one (and with it potentially a seat) then the oligarchy either primaries or gerrymanders the seat afterwards.

    The reason I reject support for Democrats is I reject the 2 party system and the spoils system associated with it. I want proportional representation or at least IRV. Democrats won’t support IRV or diverse representation because the people who finance them don’t really believe in democracy. Instead, they rig a 2-party oligarchy. In this oligarchy, you don’t get to register a preference for what you want. Instead, you get 2 choices and you vote for the one you hate less.

    Some progressive Democrats briefly voiced support for electoral reform in 2000-04, after Nader. But no longer. We are back in 2-parties-forever mode with widespread public ignorance that other democracies use things like proportional representation and instant run-off voting.

    It’s no longer a secret. Not many self-respecting progressives are still Democrats.

    Comment by namerequired — November 13, 2014 @ 5:06 am

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