Democratic Party, Politics, Socialism, Uncategorized

The Sanders “Revolution” Is a Blind Alley

“The working class will acquire the sense of the new discipline, the freely assumed self-discipline of the Social Democracy, not as a result of the discipline imposed on it by the capitalist state, but by extirpating, to the last root, its old habits of obedience and servility.”–Rosa Luxemburg

Bernie Sanders’ reformist welfare state capitalism is not, in any way, shape, or form socialist, let alone Marxist. His way is just a prettier repackaging of neoliberalism for desperate Millennials emeeging from the warm nest of the post-WWII capitalist bubble into the cold reality of late-stage capitalism in crisis.

Sanders & his ilk seek to improve the material conditions of the middle, and to a much lesser extent, working classes WITHOUT addressing the system which creates and will continue to create the conditions seeking to be reformed.

Sanders’ kabuki theater “revolution” is a essentially a morphine drip for the petty bourgeois Millennials who are the first generation in the advnced post-industrial west to experiance the full savagry of late stage-capitalism in crisis. His policies would make the current generation more comfortable with their misery under the current system, and would have as a consequence the INTENSIFICATION AND PROLONGATION of the crisis and its’ attendent woes & brutalities. Only the overthrow of the capitalist system and its replacement with communism will ameliorate the condition of the working classes & disintegrate the class barriers that stratify society. Sanders is a new coat of paint on the walls of the same old reformist blind alley.

 

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2016 Election, Uncategorized

This Is Not The Revolutionary You Are Looking For

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There have been some truly astounding and naive (and borderline racist) attacks on Rep. John Lewis, Civil Rights icon, by supporters of the liberal Vermont Democratic currently running for President. Sanders involvement in the Civil Rights Movement was very much an aspect of his radical student days, another notch in the belt of a budding white liberal intellectual. This is not in and of itself a bad thing at all, far from it, but to act as those this makes him some sort of equal to John Lewis, let alone MLK, is whitewashing history to the point if ridiculousness. According to Mother Jones (hardly a Clinton organ, that publication) Sanders was arrested while working for CORE and SNCC, but he quit both operations entirely when participation start to hurt his grades. Mother Jones reporter Tim Murphy summarizes it this way:

“Sanders’ involvement was, by comparison [to SNCC Leader and future Congressman John Lewis] brief and localized, his sacrifices limited to one arrest for protesting and a bad GPA from neglecting his studies.”

Bernie Sanders had enough privilege to be able to walk away from the civil rights movement when it started to impact him in a negative way and to come back again when he had bored of his studies and it was more convenient for him to do so.  Black activists and revolutionaries were not so lucky. They didn’t get to walk away when the going got a little tough. Just like I wouldn’t claim to be a civil rights leader because I am decent white person who tries to listen and better himself, Sanders and his supporters should not claim he was anything more than an enlightened bystander in the movement. And for Sanders supporters to use a discredited photograph and misrepresentation of facts and history to attack and discredit a true hero of the people like John Lewis, just because he didn’t remember Sanders or choose to support him, is reprehensible and the worst sort of politics, the sort of politics that is rightfully condemned when Trump or Cruz does it.

Again, I am so tough on Sanders not because he spit in my cheerios or anything (he’d probably have made a fun intro to Poli Sci professor back in my Junior College days) but because he has claimed a reputation as a “revolutionary” that he has not earned. At least Clinton, as cynical and establishment as she is, has never claimed to be anything other than a left of center Democrat at most. Sanders entire shtick is that he is going to rally the American people together to “destroy inequality and the 1%” and it’s grip on the levers of power in politics and economics. How do you do that as the head of the most power manifestation of that power and inequality? The U.S. Presidency is not, and has never been, a revolutionary office. It is an office of entrenched imperial authority, a powerful force for institutional change at best and of gross repression and exploitation at its worse. It makes me angry that Sanders is all but promising free college to a new generation of young people without any sort of honest discussion on how this is to be done in a congressional system that is jerry-rigged and gerrymandered in favor of incumbent, especially conservative Republican, elements.

My little brother is now excited about having his dream of a free college education come true…but it is a betrayal of his enthusiasm and hope, a crass exercise in cynical emotional manipulation, for Sanders to promise these things as quick legislative fixes instead of the monumental political and institutional slogs they are inevitably going to be. This is the hipster-ification of radical and revolutionary politics that emerged after the collapse of President Obama’s laudable Hope and Change platform. Sanders is a symptom of the cynical navel gazing savior seeking tendencies that have always bedeviled the left and far left; the admission that top down revolutionary change is not only possible, but desirable. This is the utopian tendency of the left in a nutshell. Reform must not be mistaken for revolution. In Sanders we that mistake is taken and turned into a political gospel, his base feeding off the reflected ego that comes from seeing what you want to see out of political ennui bordering on desperation. Electing Sanders would not tear off the chains that link us to an oppressive and inherently violent system: it would merely make those chains more colorful and comfortable so that a whole new generation can slip into them and be sanguine about the prospect of living forever in an exploitative monolith that occasionally gives those who whine the most and loudest a bit of relief from its deprivations. This is not revolution, this is acquiescence. People like my brother deserve a the truth, real hope, real ways to fight for a system that is truly just and democratic and revolutionary, with real opportunities that do not require a toeing of the institutional line. He deserves real hope, and real change, not a false hope and the mimicry of change. Revolution is not performance art, and it is not something that can be brought from the top down, no matter how many people vote for the man at the top.

The Sanders of the world would have us believe that racism is a class issue exclusively or primarily. This is wrong and perhaps even a deliberate obfuscation of reality. Racism is the exact OPPOSITE of a class issue! It violates the bounds and meaning of class at every level. Racism in the U.S. is an institutional caste system based on fear, exploitation, white enrichment, and power. The class element is secondary, or even tertiary to this. Sanders looks at poverty and sees a lot of black faces and white faces…what he fails to realize is that the black faces are there because they are SUPPOSED to be! The system is DESIGNED that way! How else does a convicted violent white felon have twice as much chance as getting a job as a more qualified black college graduate applicant? This is the trap FDR, LBJ, and the Bill Clinton fell into, seeing race as a class issue and thus trying a blanket approach to reform that neglected to even ACKNOWLEDGE that the inherent racist corruption of the system itself would keep the benefits of the social welfare programs and market reforms from benefiting all aspects of society equally. Clinton hit on that in he closing argument last night, and it quite impressed me. Not saying she “gets it”, because of course she does not, she is as much of a shill as Sanders, but at least she does not play up this class issue that has always been yet ANOTHER way for white liberals to avoid the giant rampaging elephant in the room that is institutional racism. Clinton, at least, has never claimed to be a revolutionary figure. As Emperor, at least she would be clothed. Do not buy into the Bernie as Revolutionary Savior meme. As the great Rebel Commander in Charge of Forces Orbiting the Forest Moon of Endor warned us all: “It’s  Trap!”

If you want to read more about Sanders political activities in the 60’s please read this excellent profile by Tim Murphy of Mother Jones magazine:

http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2016/02/bernie-sanders-core-university-chicago

 

 

 

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2016 Election, Uncategorized

Why Bernie Sanders Continues to Vex Me

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Ahead of the Iowa Caucuses, the New Hampshire Primary, and the Illinois Primary in March, I am finally ready to make my endorsement for President of the United States. Before I say who I support, though, I feel it is important for people to understand why I came to the decision I did. I did not come to my position lightly. I have weighed the options, watched the debates, engaged with supporters on every side of the aisle and switched my opinion many times in my own mind. I am, first and foremost, a radical thinker. I do not believe in the office of the Presidency as it is currently understood or practiced.

I do not believe in our capitalist system or in our electoral system. We are not a democracy. We have never been a democracy. We should be, but we have never been one. We are a society steeped in racism, sexism, steeped in privilege, economic, social, class based and otherwise (oh so so much otherwise besides). Half of our existence we have been a slave based nation & the other half we have been, to varying degrees, an apartheid state. We must recognize this fact about ourselves if we ever hope to change.

There has been much talk about “transformational” Presidencies, turning points in American history which pivot on the leadership of one man (and it has been a man, always…always a man unfortunately). I am done with this paradigm. History has shown us that change does not, CANNOT in fact, come from above. Indeed, it is dangerous, anti-democratic, and destructive to ideals of human rights, decency, and radical justice to state otherwise. When we displace our radical nature, our radical thoughts and ideas and hopes, and put them onto the shoulders of one human who can “fix the system” or “lead a revolution” we are in fact betraying ourselves and our potential.

As Ta-Nehisi Coates, who I am beginning to see as the radical conscious of my American generation, said: “Radicals expand the political imagination and, hopefully, prevent incrementalism from becoming a virtue.” It is not imaginative to say “this fellow will fix it” or “this fellow will save us” or “this fellow will lead the revolution”. That is a closing of the radical mind, it is a distraction, a dangerous one, a fatal one, one that leads us down the road to politics as personality. We abdicate our responsibilities as human beings, as potential radicals who strive for change, when we put our collective energy and focus into a drive for power over a system instead of a striving to DESTROY the system that is destroying us.

Bernie Sanders said that the idea of reparations for the half a millennium of abuses the U.S. has committed against black people is “divisive” and could never pass through Congress. He has not said the same about his promises to the white middle and working classes regarding College, tax, and healthcare reform. And it is a largely white audience that these ideas are addressed to…black audiences have much more important things to worry about, much more pressing and immediate and life or death concerns. They don’t have the privilege to think saving the welfare state is the top priority for this nation. Our reforms have never reached ALL Americans, they have never benefited black and white equally because none of these reforms EVER addressed the central problem of this nation: black and white people are not, never HAVE BEEN treated equally. If we won’t even admit there is a problem, then no solution, no matter how high minded and liberal seeming, will address the root of our pain. It was when he said that one word, “divisive” that Sen. Sanders lost me.

Having said all that I will declare that I support former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for President. In the end, she knows the game. She knows the struggle of being someone who is constantly being underestimated and insulted for who she is. She is a woman in America, and the fact that she is so powerful and privileged by measures of wealth and class and she STILL is seen as an alien element in the system because of her gender, and yet STILL strives for power and influence in our system is something that I cannot help but respect and admire. She knows the ins and outs, she does not lie and pretend she is a radical. She is cynical, calculating, a shill, and has friends in high places…but that is what our system needs in a leader. We have yet to let a woman have the reigns of power over our system, as corrupted as it is, and we cannot claim to have tried everything within the confines of that system until we allow a representative of that half of humanity that has been perpetually disenfranchised to have a go at running it all.

Radical change cannot come from above, but stability and predictability can, and for us radicals a stable and predictable system, a bit of breathing space, is just what we need in the coming months and years in order for us to gather our strength for REAL change and a REAL program of protest and revolution. Sanders is a dead end, he is a salve for our wounds and a boost to our ego. He is not he change we are looking for, and if we stop looking with him, or if we seek change THROUGH him, we are betraying our potential. Let Clinton have the White House, let her have the power. We should not concern ourselves with such trivial things. I will vote for Clinton because I believe that with her in office it will free us from worrying about the mundane and profane issues of power politics and look to RADICAL solutions, not from above, but from the bottom up.

The problem, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is not in our system or in our leadership but IN OURSELVES and our inaction and cynicism. We don’t need Bernie Sanders. We don’t need the White House. We need our heads clear and our eyes looking forward to NEW and RADICAL solutions to our problems. I do not like Hillary Clinton personally, I do not like her connections, but I can say, deep down, that I can trust her with the White House and with that power. The Sanders moment has shown us that we thirst for real change. Let us not stop with Sanders, let us not waste our time with him. Let’s try for something more. We deserve more than Sanders. Our system, such as it is, deserves Hillary Clinton. She is made for it. Let her have a chance.

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Politics, Uncategorized

Why I Am Not “Feeling The Bern”

Ok, it’s been a LONG ASS TIME since I have posted anything on here, so of course I have to break my radio silence by posting something that will most likely make 75% of my readers hate me forever…but I don’t care so enjoy!
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I will say, up front, that what I am writing is from my OWN perspective. I am not writing this as someone who thinks he understand “the black point of view” because A. I do not, and B. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A UNIFIED BLACK PERSPECTIVE ON ANYTHING, just like there is no unified woman, LGBTQ or even white male perspective. We are all shaped by our experiences to one degree or another, and no community is a monolith. That being said, let’s get into this thing:
I have been told by my liberal friends, liberal sparring partners, liberal family members etc etc that I MUST vote for and support Bernie Sanders for president of the US. The reasons why are myriad: he is the “only one” who gets “it” (whatever IT means), he is the only one who can beat Trump (I doubt Trump even makes it to the general, but I digress…), that he alone can bring about a “political revolution” in the U.S. just by being elected (didn’t we go through this before, in ’08?) and that not voting for him is tantamount to personally ushering a Republican into the Oval Office.
 
Enough is enough. I will vote for Bernie Sanders for one reason, and one reason only: he is not Trump, Ted Cruz, or Hillary Clinton. That is it. I am not impressed by Sanders having “marched w/ MLK”, especially not the way that this fact has been used by my fellows on the left to shame anyone, especially black folks, who DARE to question whether or not he is the best thing to happen to Civil Rights since the aforementioned Rev. Dr. King, Jr. Anyone can march, anyone can stage a sit in or hold a sign. Sanders is a well meaning, old, civil rights era liberal, he is not some sort of revolutionary racial savior. And to tell our fellow Americans, who happen to be black, that they should “know who their friends are” or “stop making trouble” is to show that we are still quite racist in our attitudes. Sanders boggled his first response to BLM, though he has engaged them since then, and he continues to put his foot in his mouth when it comes to issues of racial justice. Just the other day he said he did not believe that reparations for slavery was a viable option for making the US a more fair and just place because the issue would be “divisive” and have a hard time “getting through Congress”. As Ta-Nehisi Coates puts it in his piece analyzing this very issue (and which I link to at the bottom of this piece):
“The spectacle of a socialist candidate opposing reparations as “divisive” (there are few political labels more divisive in the minds of Americans than socialist) is only rivaled by the implausibility of Sanders posing as a pragmatist”. I find his sudden concern for Congressional feasibility rich given that most of his platform has no chance in hell of passing through anything less than a Democratic Super Majority in both Houses of Congress. Why is it that issues that matter the most to black people and that could have a real impact on the lives of black folks and strike a real blow against institutional racism are always considered “divisive” or “not proper” or “a non-starter”? Sanders seems to think that a blanket approach to economic injustice i.e. a few basic tweaks and overhauls to the economic and regulatory systems, would have in the end benefit all Americans, regardless of race. This, to put it politely, is complete and utter bullshit.
Again, as Ta-Nehisi Coates has showed, many times and in much more beautiful language than I can ever muster, that the best liberal programs in the world will do nothing to lessen the burden on African Americans if it is not coupled with an understanding that every system in the US is tainted, corrupted, by racism. Housing aid after WWII, Welfare Reform in the 90s, the New Deal in the 30s, all these things were meant to lift “the masses” out of poverty, but were designed, intentionally and not, to exclude or to marginalize black folks. Unless Sanders wakes up to the fact that you must first attack the ROOTS of racism in this country, inequality at ALL levels of civil society, then his policy pledges and kind words mean nothing. It also bothers me, as someone who has took the time to study and read up on the issues, that Sanders and his supporters INSIST that the Senator is a “democratic socialist”. This is not true. A democratic socialist would be in favor of the workers taking control of the means of production, abolishing wage labor, and allowing for direct democratic control over all aspects of the economy and government. I see nothing of the sort suggested by the Sanders camp. He pays lip service to true revolutionary ideas and to the radical streak in many young people, but he does not have policies to back up his very strong assertions. His platform does nothing to undermine capitalism, to attack the imperialist tendencies of our government systems, or to remove our military from the many bases we have all over the world imposing our will and whims on everyone else.
He is a New Deal/War On Poverty style liberal Democrat, which is, I admit, better than the Democrats have put forward for years, but a socialist this does not make. Do I think that Bernie Sanders is some sort of closet racist? Absolutely not. Do I think he is an old white man who thinks he has the answers to why black people are suffering? Abso-fucking-lutely. He is no different than many other “liberal white saviors” who seem to come and go with such frequency in American Democratic Party Politics. I even wrote about this issue once before on this blog
So, to sum up, yes, I will be voting for Sanders, NO, I do not think he is the most “revolutionary political figure” in recent U.S. political history, and no, he is NOT a Democratic Socialist, or any kind of socialist. He is a white liberal Democrat from the east coast running for President, the same sort the Democrats have been putting forward for a generation or more. Nothing more, nothing less. And one more thing about those white liberal Bernie Sanders supports who like to lecture everyone about everything race, radicalism, or revolutionary: shut up, now. As my brilliantly political minded wife put it to me, they come off less like Che Guevara and more like Brian Griffin from Family Guy. 
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ piece on Sen. Sanders and Reparations: Why Precisely is Bernie Sanders Against Reparations?
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Civil rights, Politics

We White Liberals Need To Listen & Learn

Marissa Johnson, left,  Mara Jacqueline Willaford and Sen. Bernie Sanders, far right  (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Marissa Johnson, left, Mara Jacqueline Willaford and Sen. Bernie Sanders, far right (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

I will say upfront that I like a lot of what Bernie Sanders says he stands for: I support his position on student debt relief and free college tuition, he says the right things and supports the relevant bills regarding financial regulation and the breaking up of the big banks. He seems to be supportive of LGBT Rights and has a relatively sane point of view when it comes to foreign policy (with the exception of a little too friendly attitude to Israel, who I actually see as an enemy to the interests of our country). I will consider voting for him in the Illinois Primary next year, and I probably will end up voting for him as I will cut off my own hand before voting for that hawkish corporatist shill Hillary Clinton…

Here comes the “But”…

I am concerned about the response Bernie Sanders has had to the black activist movement in particular and the Black voting bloc in general. African Americans are THE key voting block that lets the Democratic Party get into power at all. Without the almost unified Black Vote in presidential elections, every President after Lyndon Johnson would have been a Republican. Bernie Sanders seems to have the “all lives matter” mentality when it comes to his policy prescriptions i.e. if we reform the economic and regulatory systems of the US everyone will benefit and advance equally. US History has shown that is never the case. From the New Deal to Federal Housing Assistance to the Great Society to Welfare Reform in the 90s, every upgrade or expansion of the welfare state has either passed black Americans behind, ignored them entirely, or in the case of Housing actively held them back. I am not saying that Bernie Sanders’ remedies will have the same issues, but there is no historical or logical reason to believe they will be any different. If Sanders wants to really address the true institutional racism problem in the US he will embrace the Black Lives Matter movement’s values totally, and start an ongoing dialogue with the black communities across the US in order to understand what THEY think must be done to address the deeply racist United States government and society. He is a older, White, Upper Middle Class, man in a position of power.That is a fact, not a condemnation, and this fact comes with its fair share of privilege and biases. Take his tone deaf response to the Black Lives Matter disruption of his appearance at the Netroots conference:

Instead of addressing the actual concerns of the Black Lives Matter protesters or even debating them on the merit of their positions, he let his privilege get the better of him and he scolded the activists. A quote from a Salon article on the Netroots debacle quotes Sanders as saying this in response to the Black Lives Matter disruption: “But I’ve spent 50 years of my life fighting for civil rights. If you don’t want me to be here, that’s okay.” He then went on to “remind” people that he “marched with MLK” and was a big supporter of Civil Rights back in the good ol’ days of white liberal activism. This is the political rhetoric equivalent of the “but some of my best friends are black” argument against examining ones own privilege. Sanders repeated this sort of defensive white liberal guilt speak when he was confronted once again at his speech in Seattle. When interrupted by protesters who said they were with the Black Lives Matter Movement (which is very much a grassroots and decentralized movement) he reacted like a deer caught in the headlights and eventually left the stage. Instead of saying he respected the fact that they were outraged over institutional racism and that he would devote his campaign to addressing the concerns of the one voting block he CANNOT afford to alienate if he wants the nomination, he harrumphed off stage and muttered aloud “I guess I’m not wanted hear.” One could almost hear the collective black political activist head slamming into the desk. Black voters are savvy, perhaps THE most savvy political bloc in the entire country (Black Women especially vote at a higher rate than any other group in the nation). They know when they are being pandered too, and also when they are being taken for granted. The response of White Bernie Sanders supporters online is not helping. When I deigned to criticize (rather gently) Sen. Sanders’ response to the disruption, I was inundated with dozens and dozens of responses saying that black voters should “know why their real friends are” and that “Bernie is the ONLY person” who can “solve” structural racism. Some even said that “those people” are not acting intelligent and don’t know how to protest “the right way” so as not to “force” white voters to not support black issues. Talk about taking a group for granted…

Political activism is messy, it is often annoying to outsiders and unpleasant. It is rarely polite or even civil. That is exactly the point though: activism is never effective unless it galls and disrupts, especially those with authority, especially those who actually have the potential to do something and the willingness to listen if pestered enough. Black Lives Matter doesn’t bother protesting Donald Trump or Rick Santorum for the same reason SNCC or MLK didn’t bother showing up at Strom Thurmond or George Wallace rallies: those on the racist and bigoted Right and Far Right will NEVER care what black protesters and activists have to say, not matter what they do or how much they disrupt or protest. They have already decided that black people are the enemy and nothing will change them. It is a waste of time, creativity, and energy to try and get the attention of folks who already see you as less than human. You make REAL change happen by embarrassing, manipulating, disrupting and petitioning moderates and liberals, people who may actually do something concrete if they see that the political stakes are too costly to ignore. But no establishment leader, no matter how progressive, will act on the issues important to a oppressed minority, even a politically essential one, unless they are MADE TO. This was proven over and over again during the Eisenhower, JFK, LBJ and Clinton administrations. Black activists have never gotten the desired results for themselves and their communities by “playing nice” with the white liberal savior of the moment. Bernie Sanders is on point with a lot of things, but he is not the “only person who can save us” or the “solution to institutional racism”. SNCC and MLK had to agitate against and antagonize liberals all over the country, from the White House and the Justice Department on down, before they deigned to do things like send in the national guard to desegregate schools or sign the Voting Rights Act. These things did NOT come about because of the beneficence of White Liberal politicians.

The great political commentator and activist Imani Gandy  got right to the heart of the issue of White Liberal privilege and political entitlement in an article on her “Angry Black Lady Chronicles” blog (which I will link to at the bottom of this post):

“As a white liberal of adult age in the 1960s, [A White Liberal was] politically required to do these things, right? And if the answer is yes—and we all know that it is—why the hell are you tossing Bernie Sanders’ record of doing them in Black people’s faces in order to shut down conversations about structural racism, police brutality, and the #BlackLivesMatter movement?”

White Liberals may have good intentions and many good ideas, but they DON’T understand what is “best” for the black community and black activists, who are as varied and diverse in their interests and issues as any other segment of the population. We have to realize that it is not Black Lives Matter who needs white liberals, but white liberals who need Black Lives Matter.

Here is a Link to the positively genius article Imani Gandy wrote about Bernie Sanders and his supporters response to Black Lives Matter: http://rhrealitycheck.org/ablc/2015/07/22/youre-white-marched-dr-king/ 

UPDATE 8/10/15

At his 27,000 person rally in L.A. tonight Bernie Sanders opened by inviting #BlackLivesMatter activists onto the stage to speak to the crowd. This information comes from Los Angeles Times politics reporter Kurtis Lee. I have to say, that is a very impressive and prompt response to the criticism leveled against him by #BlackLivesMatter and people on the far left like me. Very Impressive.

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