Posts Tagged ‘Democratic Socialists of America’

Sanders Ahead of Biden in Race for Democratic Nomination

January 27, 2020

Great news from across the Pond! According to a brief report in today’s I, Bernie Sanders is ahead of Joe Biden for nomination as the Democratic candidate for the presidency in a poll in New Hampshire. The report reads

Surveys suggest US senator Bernie Sanders and former vice-president Joe Biden are locked in a tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Mr Sanders led a poll of New Hampshire voters with 25 per cent support. Mr Biden is on 16 per cent, according to a poll by CNN and the University of New Hampshire.

The American left-wing magazine, Counterpunch, had a piece about this last Friday by David Swanson. He stated that CNN had broadcast a very biased debate the week before intended to discredit Bernie’s campaign. The poll was intended to show CNN how successful they’d been. But they hadn’t. Support for Bernie was up 7 per cent, and down 2 per cent each for Biden and Warren. Swanson reports that Bernie won in the following categories, writing

Among men the winner is Bernie.
Among women the winner is Bernie.
Among whites the winner is Bernie.
Among non-whites the winner is Bernie.
Among registered voters the winner is Bernie.
Among those paid less than $50k the winner is Bernie.
Among those paid more than $50k the winner is Bernie.
Among non-college graduates the winner is Bernie.
Among college graduates the winner is Bernie.
Among non-white college graduates the winner is Bernie.
Among 18-49 year olds the winner is Bernie.
Among independents the winner is Bernie.
Among liberals the winner is Bernie.
Among those with their minds made up the winner is Bernie.
Among those without their minds made up the winner is Bernie.

Biden, by contrast, is only the winner among White college students, the over 45s, Democrats and moderates.

CNN asked people which candidate agreed the most on the issue that mattered to them, and who best understood the problems facing them. The answer to both was Bernie. But they reported that most people responded Biden when asked which candidate would best unite the Democrat party. This is highly questionable, as Biden is hugely offensive to large numbers of people. The broadcaster also reports that Biden is the candidate with the best chance of beating Trump. This is probably because the public has been told that Biden will, over and over.

Swanson concludes, however, that CNN’s bias is counterproductive. If people know that CNN wants them to vote against Bernie, then CNN has lost and Bernies wins. And Bernie should win, as he has the most support. But CNN has got to obscure that.

The good news is that what CNN tells people is becoming the opposite of effective. If CNN and its fellow corporate media outlets can convince people to vote against their own interests and to imagine that they came up with that idea themselves, Bernie Sanders is done. But if word leaks out that it’s CNN telling people to vote the way CNN wants, then CNN is done, and Bernie Sanders is headed to the White House.

The most electable candidate is the candidate with the most support. Only if this simple fact can be successfully hidden, can CNN continue its role as overseer of elections.

See: https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/01/24/cnn-poll-sanders-is-the-most-electable/

Although Sanders is running for the Democratic nomination, he’s a member of Democratic Socialists of America. He wants Americans to enjoy strong unions, worker-owned cooperatives, an America that supports working people, and most of all, Medicare For All. The state should pay for their medical treatment similar to the healthcare systems of the other western countries.

And the corporate elite have been desperate to stop him because of this, with the corporativist wing of the Democrats intriguing against him in favour of Hillary Clinton. And it was also pretty clear a few days ago that the extreme right was frightened of him after this poll, as Carl Benjamin aka Sargon of Akkad, the man who bust UKIP, put up another hit piece against Bernie on his YouTube channel.

But this is very optimistic news. If Bernie wins, he will transform America. And because America is still the dominant superpower, that influence will spread around the world to empower working women and men everywhere.

Go, Bernie, go! And win!

Manifesto for a Truly Democratic, Socialist America

January 23, 2020

Bhaskar Sunkara, The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality (London: Verso 2019).

Introduction

This is a superb book, though conditions have changed since the book was published last year through Labour’s election defeat and the fall of Corbyn, that the new age of socialist activism and success Sunkara looks forward to is now far more doubtful. Sunkara is an American radical journalist, and the founder and editor of the left-wing magazine, Jacobin. Originally from Trinidade, he immigrated to the USA with his family when he was young. Growing up in New York, he read extensively in the Big Apple’s public library, where he came to realise the country’s dependence on services provided by the state. He immersed himself in the history and literature of socialism, finally joining the Democratic Socialists of America. He is also a registered Democrat.

The book comes praised by Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, Naomi Klein and Owen Jones. The book was partly inspired by the success of Jeremy Corbyn over here and Bernie Sanders in America in bringing socialism back into the political arena after decades of neoliberalism. This is made clear by the blurb on the dust jacket’s inside flap. This states

Socialism was pronounced dead when the Soviet Union collapsed. But with the success of Jeremy Corbyn’s left-led Labour party and increasing economic inequality, the politics of class struggle and wealth redistribution is back on the agenda. In The Socialist Manifesto Bhaskar Sunkara offers a primer on socialism for the twenty-first century, outlining where it came from, what it is, and what a socialist political system might look like.

Tracing the history of some of socialism’s highs and lows – from the creation of Germany’s Social Democratic Party through bloody communist revolutions to the predicaments of midcentury social democracy – Sunkara contends that, in our global age, socialism is still the only way forward. Drawing on history and his own experience in left-wing activism, Sunkara explains how socialists can win better wages and housing and create democratic institutions in workplaces and communities.

In showing how and why socialism can work today, The Socialist Manifesto is for anyone seeking a real solution to the vast inequalities of our age.

The Way to Socialism in America

The book begins with a ‘Day in the Life of a Socialist Citizen’, which maps out one possible path for the transformation of America into a socialist state. Sunkara asks the reader to imagine himself as a worker at Jon Bongiovi’s pasta sauce business in Texas to show that, even under a benign and paternalistic employer, the capitalist system still leaves the workers poor and powerless. In order to compete, the firm must not only make a profit, but invest in machinery while at the same time either cutting wages or laying people off. However, the workers are empowered by a new wave of strikes and left-wing activism that sees the election of President Springsteen. Springsteen establishes a welfare state, which allows the workers to devote more of their time and energy to pressing for their demands without having to fear for their livelihood. The worker’s movement continues making gains until the economy has become nationalised. Individual firms still exist, and are run by the workers themselves rather than the state. Some of them fail. But there are also government banking schemes to help workers set up their own businesses, though still state-owned and collectively managed, when they have a good idea and are fed up with their present job. Like bottling pasta sauce. America is still a vibrant democracy, and there are a number of other parties, including a capitalist party, though that is waning in popularity. It’s not utopia, but it is a system where workers are genuinely valued.

The Rise and Transformation of Socialism from Marxism to Reformism

The socialism, whose history the book tells and advocates, is that the Marxist and Marxist derived parties, Communism and social democracy, rather than the Utopian socialism of the generation before Marx and the more extreme versions of anarchist communism and syndicalism. The book naturally describes the career of Marx and Engels, and the formation of the German SDP. This moved away from revolutionary Marxism to reformism under the influences of Eduard Bernstein and Karl Kautsky, who believed that capitalism’s survival and the growing prosperity of industrial workers had disproven crucial aspects of Marxist doctrine. Initially pacifist, like the other European socialist parties, the SDP voted for war credits at the outbreak of the First World War. This caused a split, with a minority forming the Independent Socialists (USPD) and the Communist Party. When the 1919 revolution broke out, the majority SDP under President Ebert moved to crush it using right-wing Freikorps brigades. Although the SDP was one prop of the Weimar coalition, it was never able to establish socialism in Germany, and so fell with the other parties in the collapse of the Republic to the Nazis.

Russian Communism

Sunkara’s account of the rise of Russian communism is interesting for his argument that the Bolsheviks originally weren’t any more dictatorial than their rivals, the Mensheviks. Even Kautsky recognised the need for a strong, centralised party. But Lenin originally was no dictator. Pravda rejected 44 of his articles, and the were other voices as strong or stronger within the party. What pushed it towards first authoritarianism and then totalitarianism was the stubborn opposition of the rival socialist parties, the Mensheviks and the Socialist Revolutionaries. They were invited to join a government coalition with the Bolsheviks, but walked out and began active opposition. The Revolution was then threatened by the revolt of the Whites, leading to the Civil War, in which Britain and other western countries sent troops in order to overthrow the Bolshevik regime. This, and the chaotic conditions created by the Revolution itself led to the Bolshevik party assuming a monopoly of state power, partly as the only means available of restoring order. This began the party’s journey towards the murderously repressive state it became, though interparty democracy was still alive in the 1920s before the rise of Stalin.

Mao and China

The emergence of communism in China, its seizure of power and the reign of Chairman Mao is also covered as an example of socialism in the Third World. The nations of the Developing World, like China, took over revolutionary socialism – communism – rather than reformism, because conditions in Russia more closely resembled those in their nations. Russian had been a largely agricultural country, in which the majority of its citizens were peasants. Industrial workers’ similarly represented only a minuscule fraction of the Chinese population, and so Mao turned to the peasants instead as a revolutionary force. This chapter concludes that Chinese communism was less about empowering and liberating the workers than as a movement for national modernisation.

Sweden and the Rise and Fall of Social Democracy

The book also examines the rise and progress of Swedish social democracy. The Swedish socialist party took power early through alliances with the Agrarians and the Liberals. This allowed them to introduce generous welfare legislation and transform the country from one of the most socially backward, feudal and patriarchal states in Europe to the progressive nation it is today. But there were also losses as well as gains. The Swedes compromised their commitment to all-out socialism by preserving private industry – only 5 per cent of the Swedish economy was nationalised – and acting to regulate the economy in alliance with the trade unions and industrialists. This corporative system collapsed during the oil crisis of the 1970s. This caused inflation. The government tried to resist wage rises, which the unions resisted. The industrialists resented the growth of working class activism and began measures to counteract them. Olof Palme, the country’s prime minister, then moved in a left-ward direction through establishing funds that would allow the trade unions gradually to buy up companies. The industrialists recognised an existential threat, and succeeded in overthrowing the government.

The Swedish model, meanwhile, had been highly influential through Labour party MP Anthony Crosland’s The Future of Socialism, which in turn led to Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way’ as the Labour government in Britain moved from social democracy to a more left-wing alternative to neoliberalism. Other European socialist parties followed, such as the German SDP. France’s President Mitterand in the 1980s tried to break this pattern in the 1980s, but his government was also overthrown through capital flight, the industrialists taking their money out of the French economy. Mitterand tried to hang on by promising to safeguard industry and govern responsibly, but it was no use.

Socialism and America

The chapter on socialism in America is particularly interesting, as it shows, contrary to the impression given by America’s two-party system, that the country has a very strong history and tradition of working class parties and socialism, from combative unions like the IWW to organised parties like the Knights of Labor, Democratic Socialists of America, and the Socialist Labor, Populist, Progressive and Communist Parties. However, socialism has never gained power there, as it has in Britain and Europe, because of a variety of factors. These include the extreme violence of the state and private industry, the latter hiring gunmen, to put down strikes; factional infighting between socialist groups, partly caused by the extreme range of socialist opinions and the restriction of some socialist groups to particular ethnicities, and the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War.

A strategy for Success

Thechapter ‘How We Win’ contains Sunakara’s own observations and recommendations for socialist campaigning and the construction of genuine socialism in America. These are

1. Class-struggle social democracy does not close down avenues for radicals; it opens them.

2. Class-struggle social democracy has the potential to win a major national election today.

3. Winning an election isn’t the same as winning power.

4. They’ll do everything to stop us.

5. Our immediate demands are very much achievable.

6. We must move quickly from social democracy to democratic socialism.

7. We need socialists.

8. The working class had changed over the past hundred and fifty years, but not as much we think.

9. Socialists must embed themselves in working class struggles.

10. It is not enough to work with unions for progressive change. We must wage democratic battles within them.

11. A loose network of leftists and rank-and-file activists isn’t enough. We need a political party.

12. We need to take into account American particularities.

13. We need to democratise our political institutions.

14. Our politics must be universalist.

15. History matters.

Conclusion

This is the clarion call for genuinely radical activism. It will almost certainly start right-wing alarm bells ringing, as Sunkara calls for left-wing activists to join main parties like the Democrats in the US and Labour in Britain. They are not to be infiltrators, but as people genuinely committed to these parties and working peoples’ causes and issues. The claims that the working class has somehow died out or no longer has radical potential is overstated. It has changed, but 60 per cent of the population are still employees drawing wages or a salary, and who have no money of their own. And the book shows very clearly that the transformation to a genuinely socialist economy is needed. Social democracy has won considerable gains for working people, gains that still persist despite constant right-wing attack. But these aren’t enough, and if left unchallenged, capital will always try to destroy them.

The book’s angled towards the US, but its lessons and many of its recommendations still apply of this side of the pond. The resurgence of genuine socialist activism in Britain is now far less certain in Britain. But hopefully this book will help show to more people why it’s still possible and needed. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Far Right ‘Free Speech’ Gathering This Sunday to be Opposed by Anti-Fascists

May 2, 2018

This is another little video from RT, warning about a demonstration at Whitehall which is due to be held this Sunday, 6th May 2018. The demonstration is being organised by the far right, and include Tommy Robinson, Milo Yiannopolous, Count Dankula and Laura Southern.

The organisers have said it is to defend freedom of speech, without which our other freedoms crumble away.

Antifa have said that it will be a march of far right, anti-Muslim bigots and ‘anti-Fascists from across the country need to take to the streets to oppose them.’

Tommy Robinson is the founder and former leader of the Islamophobic English Defence League. Milo Yiannopoulos is the Alt-Right speaker and ‘virtuous troll’, who attacks gays, ethnic minorities, feminism, Islam and the left in general. Earlier this week I put up a video of him leaving a New York bar. He’d popped in just as the Democratic Socialists of America New York chapter were holding a meeting. So they chanted at him, ‘Get out, Nazi scum!’

Yiannopoulos was claiming that he was pushed and threatened, but as the video shows, nothing of the sort happened. Sam Seder and his team over at Sam Seder’s Majority Report also questioned whether it was quite an accident that Yiannopoulos just happened to go there for a drink while the Democratic Socialists were holding a meeting. It looks, they said, like he was trying to put himself back in the news and trying to boost his ailing career again.

And Lauren Southern is another fixture of the Far Right. She was part of the anti-immigrant team, who were planning to cruise round the Med rounding up immigrant boats. They were stopped after a massive outcry and campaigns by anti-racist groups like Hope Not Hate.

Yiannopoulos and the rest of the Far Right have been trying to organise meetings and conferences under the claim that they are defending freedom of speech against attack by the left.

There are issues of democracy involved, so they’re right about that. The legislation criminalising ‘hate speech’ does contravene absolute freedom of speech. But it does so in order to protect ordinary people from abuse, assault and possibly murder whipped up against them for no other reason than that they are of a different ethnicity, colour or religion.

And I don’t believe for a single minute that the far right believes in true freedom of speech either. Fascists have always done their level best to suppress the activities and arguments of their enemies through brute force.

I don’t like the implicit threat in this report, that the meeting will result in violence between the Far Right and the anti-Fascists. But I agree with the principle that anti-Fascists have to march to protest them.

Alt Right Star Milo Yiannopolis Gets Run Out Of New York Bar

April 25, 2018

Here’s another great video from the left-wing American news site, The Young Turks. It’s a video of Milo Yiannopolis, one of the stars of the Alt Right, being run out of a New York bar. Yiannopolis is gay, half-Jewish, and with a fondness for choosing Blacks as his romantic/ sexual partners. Despite this, Yiannopolis’ own comments and remarks are vehemently racist, as well as deeply anti-feminist and, bizarrely, anti-gay, quite apart from the real racism and misogyny at the core of the Alt Right movement itself. A few years ago he caused controversy when he went on a tour of colleges and universities all over America as part of his campaign to spread the ideas of the Alt Right. Or simply to wind up the left and anyone who takes anti-racism and women’s rights seriously. He styles himself a ‘virtuous troll’, you see, which is supposed to justify him performing stunts and making comments that have absolutely no point except to cause offence. In this case, he succeeded, and Yiannopolis was very happy to talk about how intolerant leftists were on campus. Never mind the real intolerance Yiannopolis himself spouts and represents with his very White supremacist and misogynist friends in the Alt Right.

He was all set to have a book published by Simon and Schuster, I believe, until the footage went viral of him on the Joe Rogan Show apparently condoning child abuse. He was talking about his own abuse by a Roman Catholic priest, which he claimed at the time was a very positive thing, and spoke equally positively about how young boys in such relationships weren’t being abused, but were in fact being psychologically helped.

It was rubbish; vile, dangerous, rubbish. Yiannopolis got dropped by the publisher, sacked from one of his jobs and there was considerable anger within the Republican party. So Yiannopolis appeared a little while later to make a tearful speech declaring that he most certainly does not condone child abuse, and that he recognises that he was himself a victim of it.

But he’s still a racist, and no matter how much he complains about the intolerance of the Left, progressive Americans aren’t standing for it.

The clip shows the welcome Yiannopolis got when he went into a bar in New York for a drink. Unknown to him, the New York chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America were already in there for a meeting. And they let him know exactly what they thought of him by chanting ‘Racist scum get out!’ Yiannopolis took their advice and left.

He turned up on social media to complain that the Socialists wouldn’t let him go to his chair or get his bag. The video shows that he made all this up. The Socialists in the bar don’t stop him from doing anything. They just stand there and chant, until Yiannopolis and what looks like a couple of his friends make their way out.

The hosts for this video, Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, state that the Socialists called him a racist because, when he was defining what the Alt Right stood for, he did canvas and take on board the views of White supremacists and the Klan. It’s therefore entirely accurate to describe him as a Nazi. They also make the point that this exactly what he deserves because of his racism and bigotry.

I’ve no doubt that even now various Republican hacks and shills are probably writing articles about how intolerant the Left is, and how they’re blocking free speech and democracy. Just like the Daily Mail and the rest of the right-wing press over here a little while ago was moaning that ‘political correctness’ on British university campuses, and the ‘no-platforming’ of speakers with extreme right-wing, racist, misogynist or other offensive beliefs were a threat to free speech and the democratic free exchange of ideas at university. It’s all nonsense. What they’re really afraid of is the free enquiry they claim to be defending. They resent the fact that students do have and discuss left-wing beliefs, and are active challenging Conservative dogma and policy. And as Tweezer’s despicable treatment of the Windrush generation has shown, all too many in the Tory party are racist and support the institutionally racist maltreatment of non-Whites. From this perspective, it very much looks like their denunciations of ‘left-wing intolerance’ are merely another piece of camouflage to disguise their intention to legitimise real intolerance in the form of racism and right-wing bigotry on campus. All in the name of protecting Conservative values and freedom of speech.

Secular Talk on the Election of More than a Dozen Democratic Socialists in America

November 14, 2017

I gather that last week there were a series of elections in America, and the results in some of them were truly astonishing. In this clip from Secular Talk, host Kyle Kulinski talks about the strong showing the Democrats made in the elections against the Republicans. More spectacularly, more than 12 candidates were elected from the Democratic Socialists of America, who overturned sitting incumbents in the Democrat and Republican constituencies. The Republicans were so scared of one, that they put up posters showing him next to Karl Marx to try and put the voters off. Didn’t work. He got elected.

Other left-wing and alternative news shows, like The Young Turks, have reported that the membership of the Democratic Socialists of America is exploding. It shows how the country is moving left against the corporate corruption of both the major parties, and particularly against the Republican party, with its warmongering, its racism, its determination to destroy genuine science to hide the reality of climate change, and its continuing attacks on America’s ever-growing number of poor people.

TYT’s Nomiki Konst Talks to Radical Journos about Rise of Socialist Ideas in Britain and America

October 21, 2017

I’m really delighted that the American progressive news service, The Young Turks, sent their girl Nomiki Konst over here to cover the Labour party conference. In this clip Konst talks to the Guardian journalist, Abi Wilkinson, and Bhaskar Sunkara, the founder and editor of the Jacobin magazine. With the election of Jeremy Corbyn, membership of the Labour part has exploded. In America there’s been a similar rise in people joining the DSA – the Democratic Socialists of America.

The programme explains how the DSA only dates from the 1970s, while the Labour party over here in Britain dates from the beginning of the last century. However, as Wilkinson explains, the party drifted to the right under Tony Blair’s New Labour, which made it much less Socialist, dropping Clause 4, the part of the Constitution which demanded the nationalisation of the means of production. She states that membership of the Labour party started to grow again after Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader, despite no-one expecting him to win. Corbyn followed ‘Red’ Ed Miliband, who she says was personally more left-wing than his policy platform. But he was told that you couldn’t win on a left-wing platform. In America, Socialist ideas have become far more popular thanks to Bernie Sanders in the Democrat party, just like Corbyn over here has popularised them in Labour.

Konst raises the issue of whether left-wing policies, like the NHS and a welfare safety net, are more acceptable here than in America. She feels they are, but Wilkinson states that if the NHS was set up now, there’d be much more opposition to it, with demands for means testing and debates about whether it was affordable. She states that it was in the 1940s that the great ideas for massive reform and big programmes became acceptable.

Konst then turns to Sunkara. Sunkara states that when he founded Jacobin, after the French revolutionary party, the number of socialists he knew were only about a thousand. Now their readership is up to 40,000. He and his friends founded the magazine, despite the small size of its prospective readership, because they found socialist ideas so powerful. He also says that, as far as the writing style for the magazine went, he wanted it to be written in an accessible style like Conservative mags like the Economist. He states that you can read the Economist without knowing or having read anything by Adam Smith. So he wants ordinary working people to be able to read Jacobin without having read anything by Marx. He feels that this is important, as many left-wing magazines and publications he feels talk down to their less educated readers from the working class.

He states that he is somewhat concerned about whether or not the growth of his readership represents a genuine increase in the number of people turning to socialism in America, or whether it just means that they’re reaching more of that niche, in a market that is heavily personalised.

The three talk briefly about the relationship between left-wing parties and the trade unions. Wilkinson states that the Labour party has always had strong links with the unions, and asks if it isn’t true that the Democrats have also had trade union funding, to get a negative or non-committal answer from Konst. She also states how the Scum and the other right-wing papers have tried to break the power of the unions by working up resentment and jealousy against them through publishing the salaries of trade union officials and commenting on how much larger they are than ordinary salaries.

As for the reasons for the growth in Labour party membership and the turn to the Left, Wilkinson states that it’s because of the poverty generated by the past decades of free market policies. This is not only affecting the working class, but also other parts of the population, so that 75 per cent of young people vote or support Labour.

The three also discuss the problems in magazine publishing caused by the decline of the press. Within three years of the crash in America, 800 newspapers had folded, and even the big national newspapers were feeling the pinch. The result of this has been a press that is aimed at the lowest common reader, and entire news networks have been built on this, like Fox News. Thus, Americans were deprived of news at the local level, which would have informed them how bad the political situation really was. Like the Democrats had lost 1,000 seats, and the Koch brothers were engaged in a massive funding campaign at the local level to push through extreme right-wing policies.

In Britain the majority of the press is right-wing, including the Scum, whose readers regard themselves as working class. Konst asks Sunkara whether he has any politicos reading his magazine. He says they’ve a few local senators, and one or two at a national level. Wilkinson states that the Morning Star, a Socialist paper well to the left of the Guardian or Independent, held a fringe event at the Labour conference. Speakers at this event included Diane Abbott, Richard Burgon and another member of the Shadow Cabinet.

This is a very optimistic interview, and I hope this optimism is born out by a Labour victory over here, and the takeover of the Democrat party by progressives and their victory over the Republicans at the next presidential election.

Go Bernie!
Go Jeremy!
And go the working men and women of America and Britain!