Friday, February 19, 2016

Sanders, Social Democracy, and Socialism

The Bernie Sanders phenomenon is gaining momentum in the wake of his strong showing in Iowa and twenty-two point margin of victory in New Hampshire. In this year of the outsider, voters are flocking to Trump and Sanders, and, though there is a long way to go, it's not impossible that both corporate parties will see their voting bases in full revolt. Let us hope so.

Extreme imperialist Hillary Clinton is particularly unappealing in her identity politics quest to be the first woman president of the U.S. While Donald Trump calls Vladimir Putin a genuine leader and trusts in his negotiator skills to deal with him, Clinton regards him as the personification of evil and eagerly courts WWIII to put him in his place. On Sanders, her sound bite of the moment is that she agrees with his "democratic socialist" analysis, but as an experienced politician "knows how to do it" (i.e., reign in Wall Street), better than the (allegedly) utopian dreamer Sanders. Given her $200,000 lecture fees on the Wall Street circuit, and the avalanche of corporate money inundating her campaign coffers, it's not a very convincing claim.

Meanwhile, the corporate media seem to have lost themselves in the Bermuda Triangle of spin vis-a-vis Sanders, eager to find some means of discrediting his surging campaign, then simply lapsing into silence at their inability to do so. This is the common fate of New Deal holdovers like Jerry Brown (1992) Dennis Kucinich (2004) and Jesse Jackson (1988). They are either slandered or rendered invisible by non-coverage. Such contemptuous treatment extends to populists of the right as well. When libertarian Ron Paul finished second in the 2008 Nevada primary, the corporate media reported the first place finisher and the third place finisher, but ignored Paul.

Although Sanders supporters may not know it, their candidate didn't necessarily win the New Hampshire primary in terms of delegate count. There are hundreds of "super-delegates" in the party that do not even have to consider the primary results in deciding whom to support, and the vast majority are in Hillary Clinton's pocket at the moment. These are Democratic Party elites, not average Joes, and very subject to the crackpot realist philosophy alleging that liberal populists like Sanders "can't win" a general election. After the tie in Iowa and the 22-point Sanders rout in New Hampshire, Clinton has nearly four hundred delegates and Sanders around forty. It's actually possible for her to lose every primary from now on and still take the nomination via her control of the super-delegates. But according to what Jeffrey St. Clair calls "the Sandernistas," the super-delegates will shift their allegiance to Sanders once they see how popular and inspiring he is. Sure. This ignores the fact that the super-delegates were invented precisely to ward off liberal populists like Sanders. Do we really think it's an accident that the Democratic Party has collaborated extensively in the erosion of the New Deal for the last forty years?  

Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist, but there is really nothing socialist about him, which is not to say he is undeserving of support. Sanders stands for a deepened and expanded New Deal, which was slandered by FDR's enemies as "socialism," though it never was that. FDR claimed his achievement was to have restored the capitalist system after the 1929 collapse, and he accused the rich of ingratitude for his efforts. This is quite correct.

As for socialism, if it means anything, it means the workers are in charge of the economy, primarily by deciding what to do with the economic surpluses their labor generates. This would entail a fundamental restructuring of society, with corporate boards replaced by worker committees, which would be free to create a radically different society. Sanders is clearly not calling for this. Tellingly, Sanders backer Robert Reich (Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton) has a new book out entitled "Saving Capitalism." That is precisely what the Sanders campaign seeks to do.

The social democracy advocated by Sanders and Reich has been proven to work elsewhere (Scandinavia), though it does not do away with the divide between wealth-makers and wealth-takers, i.e. social classes. To his credit, Sanders wants to reduce inequality, though apparently without realizing that "inequality" is the wrong term to describe the relationship between a parasite and its host. A fungus and a blighted potato do not have an unequal relationship, they have a parasitic relationship, and there's no way to end up with a healthy potato without eliminating the fungus. The big banks and insurance companies are the "fungus." They produce nothing of any value to society, merely reproduce diseased social relations.

Yes, we can reduce the extent of the fungus, and should, which is what Sanders wants to do. But we should be clear that social and economic health require that the body politic be fungus-free. Would you trust a doctor that said the best treatment for cancer is to keep a "balance" between healthy cells and cancer cells, in order to take advantage of the "dynamism" of cancer? This is the liberal line on capitalism. It's a crock.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Donald Trumps Political Correctness Again

The dissing of Donald Trump was dealt another blow on Tuesday as the maverick billionaire registered 35% support in an eight-candidate race in the New Hampshire Republican primary, this after winning 42% support in a CNN national poll just prior to the Iowa caucus the week before. His continued popularity is said to be reflective of racist, sexist, and even Nazi ideas finding favor with stupid voters, in contrast to his establishment rivals, whose lesser support derives from their principled promotion of (try not to gag) a sensible consensus. 

Although we can't support his candidacy, we at Legalienate do not accept that Trump's popularity lacks all logical basis or is somehow unreflective of democracy. It's perfectly logical and also democratic in that it is going AGAINST what the establishment media and candidates are saying is right and true and so, and has had Trump at or near the top of state and national polls for over seven months, in spite of continuously negative media attention. The logic of his support may be superficial, but it is hardly senseless.  Everyone knows that the American people have been told forever that the U.S. "is the greatest country in the world," while at the same time it can no longer be denied that the American middle class is in substantial decline, which means to most people that the U.S. is no longer the greatest country in the world. So Trump the billionaire comes along and says he can restore the U.S. to "greatness." He doesn't need a lot of specifics right now because his rivals are the ones who have been instrumental in assaulting the middle class, which Trump has not been. So the initial logic for his support is that at least he's not a conventional politician reciting sound bites someone else has crafted in order to manipulate the electorate. As for democratic support, on immigration there is strong democratic sentiment against continuing to let in millions of largely poor, uneducated people without legal documents, and letting in millions more with documents, but with all of the hassles and problems that mass immigration entails in a time of middle class decline, and with no end in sight. Again, Trump doesn't need specifics, since he is the only candidate independent enough to even raise the issue of there being social costs to mass immigration. (Who knew?)

 The establishment's inability to do anything other than cry "racist" or "misogynist" or some other politically correct pejorative at this tells everyone else that power has no answers to popular concerns, and is in fact contemptuous of them in this and many other cases. That neither deserves nor is it likely to win majority support in a time of rising political discontent.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Vote As The Class You Are, Not The Race You Aren’t

As the incumbent occupier of subsidized housing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue works on his legacy by fending off mad dogs of the neo-zio-con right and still bringing us closer to provoking war with Russia, a seemingly eternal presidential race for the next tenant continues while the nation passes through a critical period of confusion, disinformation and social-economic disorder. All this is part of the divide and rule politics to reinforce the weakening foundation of a political economic structure that threatens a global as well as national population if it ever collapses.

Bernie Sanders’ candidacy offers some hope for reform that will make things as humane as social democratically controlled capitalism was back in the days of FDR and the New Deal. This means better for some but only at the expense of most, with the groups showing profit and loss undergoing some degrees of change. Exercising more control of banks and corporations while offering a higher minimum wage and lower cost education and health care can almost seem nirvana in the face of damnation, but a victory for Sanders may actually help the nation survive long enough to initiate a second phase of truly revolutionary change in the system and not just some of its aspects. But many divisive old myths and newer fables about capitalism and democracy will have to be confronted and dealt with if that is to happen. Among them:

That “people of color” are all members of the 1%, or at least seem so to those who think raising the minimum wage and lowering the cost of education and health care only offer help to “people of no color”. Those who subscribe to this belief often entertain the nearly demented notion that great power in America somehow accrues to working “people of no color” who do not have college degrees, whose jobs have vanished, whose income has declined, who’ve seen taxes, crime and immigration increase, social costs rise, public budgets cut, and income inequality assume epic proportions. Particularly guilty in this group, according to many with incomes, college degrees and enough financial security to afford being judgmental of others, are religious Christians, with evangelicals being the worst and most disrespected of all.

This segment of the population is often stigmatized as enjoying “white privilege”- shared along with other “whites” like Warren Buffet, Donald Trump, Bill Gates and some homeless woman sleeping under a bridge - or worse, mounting in racist opposition to social change as a result of losing this alleged privilege to working “people of color”, with college degrees.

Such notions are especially popular among beneficiaries of marketplace trickle down success through commercial gentrification, cheap labor immigration and all other profits-for-some-at-loss-for-most policies. Many upper middle-professional class members of society who truly wish for a more just nation are either helpless to, totally incapable of, or have little desire to confront real power or create social transformation beyond electing one or another member of their class to represent their interests on the board, the council, the congress or at the White House. And that class includes more multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-racial and gender fluid people than ever before. Hooray?

Scapegoating those who have less but are not quite poor only makes sense to the innocently thoughtless or those most consciously responsible for maintaining a system that demands a social underclass in order to tolerate and rationalize a wealthy overclass.

An accompanying fable has it that privilege in America is awarded or denied almost exclusively by identity group membership, with special separatist labels assigned, as in designations of “gay” or “ Latino” or “white” or “black” or more up to date separatist euphemisms like people of color, some color, or no color. Of course we are treated by authority according to these separatist designations and need to initially respond as members of them, but if we continue living by those imposed restrictions we might as well become an opaque race of species fluid creatures who accept further reductionisms that maintain social divisions so the one minority with real power, the rich, can continue controlling an oligarchy and convincing its subjects they have a democracy by remaining in their proper roles as minorities.

Existing evils inflicted upon people negatively treated as minorities must be opposed and overcome, most obviously when they take innocent lives as when unarmed “black” men are shot down by police. But it must be understood that even before the movement called “Black Lives Matter”, some black lives mattered a hell of a lot more than others. Rest assured that few if any among the “Black Bourgeoisie” that has grown far beyond its number when Frazier wrote about it back in 1957, are likely to be shot in the back while fleeing a traffic stop for not having proper headlights or no license plates. If Lebron James or Bill Cosby or Beyonce or Denzel Washington were stopped by a cop it would more likely be for an autograph, but if there was any legal complication, lawyers and media would be on the scene very quickly to make sure justice would be served on their behalf.

Those who suffer the worst outrages of injustice, whether part of an alleged racial minority or not, are almost always among the lower, not higher, economic class.

In fact, when a past incident took place in which an upper class and famous African-American Academic was insulted at being mistaken for a burglar by a police officer – after a caller to the police advised he might be one – it became a national incident and ended up with the president inviting everyone over to the half-white house for a friendly chat over beer or coffee or whatever beverage was served. No such invitation has been extended to the next of kin of any of the black men recently murdered – not simply insulted, but murdered - by the police. This is class speaking more loudly than race, and that’s the way our rulers want it. And far too many of their servants accept it as long as the checks keep coming in and there is a group or cause to identify with that talks the proper talk, and then walks the proper walk. To the bank.

Under our political economic rules there is a very thin line between dedicated service to the people suffering injustice, and almost as dedicated service to perpetuating the system which creates the need for such service. Back in the 1960s, rising consciousness and anger at racism led to radical and even revolutionary demands for change. The most militant activists were often hired to administer government and private non-profit programs that maintained things as they were by helping out only some and not all, and soon they were derided as “poverty pimps” by many necessarily left out of programs that would only serve a relative few, in the interest of profits for even fewer. Many of those militants, just as now, were sincere about helping others, but they helped themselves first with paychecks offering entry to the middle class, and the system far more by rationalizing its limitations.

Even now, entertaining theatrics at the Super Bowl reduced some to being all a-twitter about the alleged political impact of a halftime performance in which dancers wore black berets, like the Black Panthers did in the 60s, forgetting that some of those Panthers died for being truly revolutionary, while their memory was to become a fashion-pop culture moment at a commercial orgy watched by millions who wouldn’t know a black panther from a blue dahlia. The sincerity and talents of the artist-performers was nice, and they got paid big money for dancing and singing at a national circus but nobody in the projects or the penitentiary will see a check for that performance, nor will the kin of dead black panthers likely be invited to the White House for a sympathetic chat over beer, or sangria.

According to some of the reductionist identity games played with the consciousness of Americans, we, or at least “Latinos” should be proud because not one but two wealthy “Latinos” are running for president in the republican primaries. Yippee. Better yet, an even more wealthy woman is in the democratic primaries and has already been coronated as first CEO of the empire to use the lady’s room and not the men’s room before giving orders to destroy one or another nation. Wowee, is this an exceptional nation, or what?

War, colonialism, racism, sexism and all the other categories of inhumanity still practiced and profitable to minorities must end if we are to have a future as a truly human race. Some parts of Islam have it that “there is no god but god” and that needs no science to be accepted by the faithful. But we need to learn the scientific, material fact that “there is no race but human” if we are to rise above the material horror of abuse of people and the environment in order to achieve benefit for a relatively tiny group at cost to the entire race. That is the root of our present dilemma, and we won’t solve our problem by continuing to go along with the program.

 Living in observance of hyphenated divisions among ourselves does not make us any different in the eyes of those who hate us for what our country does to them. “Terrorists” who attack us do not observe identity politics beyond the identity we share, whether we understand it, like it, accept it, or not. We are Americans who pay the price for what a minority exercises in policy while we argue among ourselves over which of us should be affirmed this cycle, and which should be forgotten. Democracy means majority rule with respect for the minority, not what we have under capital, which is minority rule with contempt for the majority. Vote for what may make us a materially better, stronger and democratic human race. You owe it to your racial brothers and sisters, and our future depends on it.