With the Presidential election drawing near, we finally have the first opponent for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary: Bernie Sanders, Independent/ Democratic Socialist from Vermont. The Republican primary has Rand Paul, Cruz, Jeb, Rubio and most recently Ben Carson. This week we might get a couple more: Mike “Hucksterbee”, the former Governor of Arkansas and Carly Fiorina, who drove Hewlett Packard into the ground wrecking a major corporation. Fiorina also tried to run for California senate, but only succeeded in dumping $6.5 million from her own purse into her doomed campaign.
The one we need to talk about today is Bernie Sanders. We have to be implacable critics, merciless critics of Bernie Sanders and the rationale is this: Imagine a series of gears in a gear box, a little wheel, a middle sized wheel and a big wheel. Now consider what the Washington Post wrote about late last week, that Bernie sees himself as a kind of a middle wheel, the large wheel is Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party establishment. Charles Lane, one of the scribblers for the Washington Post, writes “Bernie Sanders sees his task as to pull the Democratic establishment to the Left and impact the Hillary campaign.” At this phase – not generally, but right now – one such thing that we can reasonably think that we can do is we are going to be an even smaller wheel which is nevertheless going to mesh with Bernie Sanders and pull the whole shebang more to the Left. (We apologize for the crude terminology “the left” but you get the idea. Without a more satisfactory vocabulary what we mean to say is more in the direction of The American System or more toward New Deal Economics) So in other words, if Bernie can pull on Hillary and the Democratic Party establishment, WE can pull on Bernie and therefore affect the entire thing. So from the little wheel > to the middle wheel > to the big wheel. Bernie is vulnerable to us.
Bernie declared his presidential candidacy this week in a very strange and half-hearted way. The general danger with a character like this is that Bernie is simply a catch basin to catch people who are horrified by Hillary and horrified by the Democrats, Bernie is supposed to immobilize them and keep them within the Democratic Party, keep them within that outlook and then when that is played out he will lead them back into the Democratic Party and back into the arms of Hillary. This is what he said that he “will support the Democratic nominee as [he] always has.” He will not be an Independent, he will not do anything. We think this allows for quite a bit of cynicism about the whole entire thing. This is a little like Ron Paul running as the right wing man of Romney in the previous election. We can see Bernie as a kind of Left wingman for Hillary with the included idea that somebody more radical would have a hard time getting through Bernie. But that can work both ways, and it is up to us to decide which way that goes.
Here is what Bernie talks about: income inequality, he reels off a bunch of statistics which are fine like, the top 1/ 10th of 1% controls more property than the bottom 90%. OK, fine. The problem with this is, this is regarded simply as a problem of distribution. The word “production” never arises meaning, there is no problem of production that the wealth does not exist, for Bernie it is just that the wealth has been wrongly distributed and that we submit is a bankrupt position.
But even worse is that Bernie really has no specific measures that he comes up with. He says, “We ought to tax billionaires” His main demagogy is that he is against the billionaire class and they have too much power, again, that is fine, so what are you going to do with them? Are you going to raise the personal income tax marginal rate to 90%? We don’t hear it. Are you going to reinstate the estate tax? We don’t hear it. NO DETAILS. Bernie has nothing specific.
We call upon you to take a look at Miliband, the leader of the Labour Party in the UK, is a similar kind of faker but knows his business better. Miliband came out with a stone monument in which they had chiseled and carved the election promises of the Labor Party this political cycle. Miliband claimed if he got to be Prime Minister, he would take that obelisk – with the promises chiseled on it like the 10 commandments – and put it in the back garden of 10 Downing Street so he would never forget what he promised to do. Bernie doesn’t work this way. Bernie’s first big spiel is income inequality then he comes to Citizens United and Campaign Finance Reform. These are obviously very big deals for him and still he doesn’t tell you how he imagines getting money out of politics. Hillary Clinton had talked about a Constitutional Amendment but the problem with this is that as soon as you begin to address it as an election question it is very hard to formulate anything that would work. We would submit that our approach is, don’t allow these oligarchs to end up with so much money. The Wall Street Sales Tax which goes after where the money really is: in the banks, the hedge funds and then, by extension, in the pockets of these oligarchs is going to be much more effective in shrinking the surplus the Koch Brothers would have available to put into these campaigns. Bernie has nothing about that in terms of program, just platitudes like “Let’s get money out of politics”, well fine but no specifics, fuzzy like Carter in 1976.
Bernie’s third point is “Be clean,” meaning don’t have negative campaigning. Don’t have negative campaigning??? ARE WE NUTS? This “Be clean” is a bid for the petty bourgeoisie mushhead prig vote that does not like negative campaigning, is very fastidious about fighting dirty. If you are dealing with mass traction economic issues, those are life and death issues for a lot of people, their lives are at stake and their futures. You are dealing with economic issues that determine whether you are going to have a decent existence or one that is nasty, brutish and short as some type of underemployed wage slave. Bernie is being noble at the expense of a lot of poor people who can’t afford him to be so noble.
His fourth point is that he wants to imitate the Scandinavian social democracies like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland is also in the Nordic Council. Bernie seems to see these places as a kind of paradise. We can only say that this depends on not having any idea of how these Scandinavian societies actually work. It is true that they have a significantly more robust social safety net than you are going to find in America but these are profoundly Malthusian societies. They are drenched in decades of zero growth anti-technology/ anti-science propaganda and they are oligarchically ruled. If you want to know who is the most powerful voice in, for example, Sweden it would be the Wallenberg family. The Wallenbergs are banking and finance dynasty can be traced back for generations. Jacob Wallenberg, the current scion of the family, has sat on the board of directors for multiple corporations such as the Coca-Cola Company as well as serving on the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group.
We would say that this is not a model that you can propose to the American people especially because what Sweden does not have is what America does have are the mass movements, the labor movements of the 1930’s. The Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s. The anti-war movement of the 1960’s and now we have the stirrings of some new populist movement (albeit aborted by Occupy Wall Street) but the desire to do something about finance oligarchy is still alive and rumbling. So Bernie wants to propose the Scandinavian model and we think these places are not really suitable to be imitated here.
So Bernie says he is going to be raising issues and that he wants to win but he doesn’t really have any program in the sense that we would say it. He says, “That corporations must pay their fair share” well Bernie what is their fair share and how are you going to do that? He is against the Trans Pacific Partnership and the trade deals but this is also very weak to say no to Fast Track and the underlying bill. You cannot just sit there on the defensive, you have to go on the offensive. Offensive means 15% protective tariff and he doesn’t go anywhere in that direction.
He was asked, “How are you different from Hillary Clinton?” He says, “Well she voted for the Iraq war and I voted against it.” Bernie, how about Syria? Tell us about the Syrian war. Tell us about Ukraine, the big one where everybody can get their head blown off. Is it worth it? Bernie, talk to us about these issues. So you see that this is a very weak, a very flawed, a very fragmented kind of an approach. We look towards whatever Bernie thinks is happening and see he has all sorts of vision of sugar plums dancing in his head. This is in a sense a sort of Left catch basin for disgruntled Democrats and people horrified by Hillary that keeps them from going into specific radical demands, mass traction economic demands for working people that actually have a chance of changing the system.
He claims that his campaign is revolutionary and we think that it is not because none of his demands are revolutionary, they are all at best just mild reforms. They are not revolutionary reforms. A revolutionary reform once again is a demand which makes sense, seems fair, is understandable and a lot of people would support it in the logic of the given system. The people under the given system would see it as fair and necessary but that same demand actually blows up the power relation of the old system. Seizing the Federal Reserve does that and we notice with horror that Bernie Sanders says NOTHING, zero, zip about the Federal Reserve system. And of course, Bernie Sanders theoretically supports the Wall Street Sales Tax in some watered down version but he does not mention that in these campaign appearances. Whether Bernie is in bad faith or not is another question but the basis of this maneuver to run is to create a sort of catch basin.
We want to engage the Bernie Sanders campaign where ever we can. We want to be at their meetings, we want to intervene, we want to put Bernie on the spot. We want to question him, we want to say, “Bernie, you are very vague, you are very evasive, you are an uncertain trumpet, you don’t have a program, why don’t you get a program or get out of the way” We need to regard Bernie Sanders as an engagement that will go on for the next several months. We need to get Sander’s program points and a better idea of where he comes from and why?
When Bernie announced for president he said, “I only have 10 mins because I have to go back and vote”. This is NOT how you announce for president. Little Rand got himself on an aircraft carrier and strutted and posed and mugged for several minutes. Little Rand gave more time to photographers than Bernie gave to the whole thing. So you get the idea, we think this is suspiciously light in personal commitment. We also think that the phraseology he used when he said, “I am prepared to run for the Democratic Presidential nomination”. Wait a minute, what does that mean “prepared” are you doing it or are you not?