Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 20, 2019

Bernie Sanders arrives at the Finland Station

Filed under: DSA,Jacobin — louisproyect @ 8:29 pm

Yesterday I was the recipient of two communications making the case for supporting Bernie Sanders’s candidacy, both filled with the sense of excitement that must have gripped Russian workers when V.I. Lenin stepped out of the German train that had arrived at Finland Station on April 16, 1917.

Bhaskar Sunkara was positively beside himself, telling Guardian readers that “Sanders started a revolution in 2016. In 2020, he can finish it”. I guess I have a different understanding of revolution than Sunkara, whose Marxism is not burdened by too rigid understandings of socialism gleaned from Lenin’s writings. He must have the same idea as Sanders who captured the imagination of white youth in 2016 by calling for a political revolution against the billionaire class. Heaven forfend the notion that a social revolution would be necessary to make scumbags like Stephen Schwarzman and David Koch squeeze some working people into their 30-room apartments as Lenin advocated in “Can the Bolsheviks Retain State Power”:

The squad arrives at the rich man’s flat, inspects it and finds that it consists of five rooms occupied by two men and two women—“You must squeeze up a bit into two rooms this winter, citizens, and prepare two rooms for two families now living in cellars. Until the time, with the aid of engineers (you are an engineer, aren’t you?), we have built good dwellings for everybody, you will have to squeeze up a little. Your telephone will serve ten families. This will save a hundred hours of work wasted on shopping, and so forth.”

In fact, it seems the only assault on the ruling class considered by the “democratic socialists” is to impose a 70 percent marginal tax rate that the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler regards as “not so radical” and that New York Magazine’s Eric Levitz embraces as a “a Moderate, Evidence-Based Policy”. Nothing that Ocasio-Cortez or Sanders have ever said addresses the question of whether a society that allows people to accumulate personal wealth of $51 billion (Koch) or a measly $13 billion (Schwarzman) can ever be truly democratic.

Sunkara writes, “Before 2016, who could forget that the Democratic party was dominated by charter-school supporting politicians and anti-public-sector-union types like Cory Booker and Rahm Emanuel?” All that supposedly changed with Bernie Sanders. Either Sunkara is blissfully aware of Sanders’s position on charter schools, or, being aware of it, decided to sweep it under the rug.

In May 2016, Sanders told an Ohio audience: “I believe in public education, and I believe in public charter schools. I do not believe in private – privately controlled charter schools.” I hope one of his aides clued him in that charter schools in LA are public schools. That is the problem, after all. They drain public resources into an essentially private enterprise. Indeed, Bernie voted for the Charter School Expansion Act of 1998. He believes, however, that they must be “held to the same standards of transparency as public schools to ensure accountability for these privately managed organizations.” As if schools that are in the back pocket of hedge fund billionaires can ever be transparent.

Prior to his 2016 remarks in Ohio, Sanders entered pro-charter testimony in the Congressional Record from a ninth-grade student who said:

While I am fortunate that my family has been able to send me to private school, it should not be only the economically elite who have access to alternative education. I think a solution to this problem is federal legislation encouraging states to institute charter schools. Options would then open up for disadvantaged students. Because charter schools are still technically public schools, any student could go to the school of their choice. Students, like adults, need options; no school fits all students, just like no company is right for all workers.

Even this 9th grader could distinguish between a private school and a public charter school.

Jacobin editor Meagan Day is even more ebullient over Sanders’s candidacy than Sunkara. Her article is titled “Bernie Is Running, Thank God”. Day believes a class war is raging and that Sanders is the only one running who wants to build working-class forces to fight back. It seems that “neoliberal politicians in both parties have shamelessly and relentlessly deregulated corporations, cut taxes on the rich, stymied unions, starved social services, privatized public goods, and bailed out economic elites while imposing austerity on everyone else.” I guess Hillary Clinton was one of those “neoliberal politicians” but that did not prevent Sanders for urging a vote for her in 2016. By the same token, so is Andrew Cuomo who got A. O-C’s nod as well.

The Jacobin/DSA Democratic Party (JDDP) socialists are worried that young white people might be seduced by Elizabeth Warren whose program sounds an awful lot like Sanders’s. There have been a steady stream of articles from the JDDP warning them away from the treacherous Harvard law professor. Published on the same day as Day’s article, Shawn Gude likened her to Louis Brandeis, who as a Progressive was opposed to trusts but not capitalism. As for Bernie Sanders, he was our age’s version of Eugene V. Debs, who believed that nothing “could close the structural gulf between workers and capitalists.” You also got Berkeley Ph.D. student Ziad Jilani drawing a red line between Sanders and Warren in a Jacobin article last month titled “Why the Differences Between Sanders and Warren Matter”. Jilani, who was a staff member of a PAC that supported Warren in the past, sees her in the same way as Shawn Gude. As a proponent of “fair-minded” capitalism, she only wants to “rein in” big business.

Finally, there’s Bhaskar Sunkara, who once again used the bully pulpit of a Guardian op-ed last August to pose the question “Think Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the same?” Unlike Warren, Sanders “was trained in the dying remnants of the Socialist party and cut his political teeth in trade union and civil rights organizing…The rich were not morally confused but rather have a vested interest in the exploitation of others. Power would have to be taken from them by force.”

Power would have to be taken from them by force? Ooh, boy. I can’t wait for Bernie Sanders to lead a squad of workers into 740 Park Avenue to force Stephen Schwarzman to put a roof over the heads of some people living in a shelter.

I should add that Sunkara was not always this willing to exaggerate Sanders’s class struggle bona fides. In 2015, he told Vox:

Sanders is, in many ways, a good social democrat. That’s not a bad start, but we want to not only build a welfare state, but go beyond it. We want a society in which political democracy is extended into economic and social realms as well, where workers own and control their places of employment, not just get a decent wage.

Well, of course. So, why all the bullshit about taking power by force or, even worse, comparing Sanders to Eugene V. Debs? Debs was far closer to Lenin than he was to the Scandinavian welfare states that Sanders identified as his brand of socialism to Bob Schieffer in a Face the Nation interview.

In 1904, when Debs was a presidential candidate, he made a speech that could not be further from the agenda of the JDDP. He said:

The capitalist class is represented by the Republican, Democratic, Populist and Prohibition parties, all of which stand for private ownership of the means of production, and the triumph of any one of which will mean continued wage-slavery to the working class.

As the Populist and Prohibition sections of the capitalist party represent minority elements which propose to reform the capitalist system without disturbing wage-slavery, a vain and impossible task, they will be omitted from this discussion with all the credit due the rank and file for their good intentions.

The Republican and Democratic parties, or, to be more exact, the Republican-Democratic party, represent the capitalist class in the class struggle. They are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not to principles.

To tell you the god’s honest truth, I’d have a lot less animosity toward the JDDP if it simply dropped all the rhetoric about power being taken from the rich by force and stopped pretending it had anything to do with Eugene V. Debs. While they would never admit to it, they really are well-intended liberals just like the kids who rang doorbells for Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy and George McGovern when I was the same age as Bhaskar Sunkara. None of these doorbell-pushers needed to invoke Karl Kautsky to justify their misguided efforts to end the war by electing peace candidates.

In the early 70s, young people were confronted by the enormous crisis of an unceasing war in Indochina just as they are today facing an unceasing economic crisis that forces them into the precariat. War and economic misery are a function of capitalist rule. To achieve peace and economic security, it is necessary to build a revolutionary party that regards both the Democrats and Republicans as mortal enemies—just as Eugene V. Debs put it.

When I began writing about the need for a nonsectarian revolutionary party in the early 80s, I had high hopes that something might have come together by now. Unfortunately, I was overly optimistic. Today, the JDDP has sucked all the oxygen out of the room and there is no telling when new revolutionary forces will emerged. My guess is that the failure of the JDDP to put a dent into the capitalist system over the next decade at least will begin to wake people up. Maybe I’ll be around to see that.

29 Comments »

  1. The picture with this post is doubly unfortunate, quite apart from showing Sanders descending in Lenin mode from the train at the Finland Station. First the figure standing behind the avatar is clearly J Stalin (who was not at the station). Why is poor Sanders thus associated with Stalin? Second, the picture is of a painting, not a photo, done in the 1930s to associate the Great Leader with Lenin: a clear falsification of history!
    Doubtless LP is a repentant Marxist!

    Comment by John Whitfield — February 20, 2019 @ 9:30 pm

  2. Louis, what do you think about Kshama Sawant’s statement?
    https://www.socialistalternative.org/2019/02/20/lets-use-bernies-2020-campaign-to-launch-a-mass-working-class-fightback/
    Even though Sanders makes Eduard Bernstein look like a wild-eyed radical in comparison, he is definitely to the left of every major figure in mainstream U.S. politics since the late ’70s (granted, this says more about U.S. politics than it says about Sanders, but “since the late ’70s” is essentially my entire lifetime, and my kids are adults now). The fact that the most popular U.S. politician identifies himself as a socialist is a big deal, even if his version of “socialism” would have been called “liberalism” prior to the Reagan era and is devoid of many key socialist features such as, you know, the emancipation of the working class and all that. Sawant is essentially proposing supporting the Sanders campaign while consistently pointing out its shortcomings and staying the hell out of the Democratic Party.

    Comment by Dave Palmer — February 21, 2019 @ 3:25 am

  3. The most salient point here is that whatever Sanders’s virtues might be–even granting purely for the sake of argument that he deserves to be called a socialist, no major social change will ever emanate primarily from an elected official.

    It wasn’t Nancy Pelosi who ended the first gov. shutdown–it was airport workers who found ways to carry out labor actions. This is the source of power, never the Democratic Party–and what’s more BTW FYI not the fucking Mueller Report, false Grail of the Democrats, which will be a dead letter by the time Trump is re-elected with a majority in both houses of Congress.

    The alternative to a mass labor movement in Trump’s second term may well be a military coup.

    On another note–Stalin in the background? Aargh!! A painting, not a photograph? What villainy! Humorless dick.

    Insects may be going extinct, but it’s nice to know that the pseudoleft will never run out of idiots.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 21, 2019 @ 12:38 pm

  4. Farans: Of course no major social change will come from an elected official; Bernie’s campaign video actually makes this point, and Sawant’s statement makes it much more forcefully. But Bernie’s campaign has engaged millions of people; that’s a force that can accomplish major social change, if directed to something other than just pulling a lever for the Democratic slate. That’s why I think Sawant’s push to use the Bernie campaign as a springboard for a mass worker’s fightback makes sense.

    By the way, I think (hope?) that John Whitfield was trying to be humorous.

    Comment by Dave Palmer — February 21, 2019 @ 1:55 pm

  5. In order to be humorous you must first possess a sense of humor–such as Louis displayed in his choice of illustration.

    In any case, actual campaigns are staffed by hundreds and (maybe) thousands, not millions–and those organizations vanish like the dew after election day, having sucked all the energy out of the air.

    U.S. history does not provide us with many examples of “millions” being galvanized into action by a presidential campaign.

    “Millions” just means millions of TV viewers and maybe voters–which is of course precisely the problem–these campaigns do all they do within the alienating envelope of TV air time and fundraising committees, quite removed from the everyday lives and practical concerns of working people, and focused only on meaningless rallies and the few minutes spent in the voting booth to the exclusion of most other things.

    Galvanized to what purpose anyway? For labor actions with a long-term strategy, you need a reliable cadre of organizers who are NOT busy with the minutiae of campaigns for office.

    As to points made by Sanders in his campaign video, saying something and meaning anything by it are two entirely different matters. Ever heard of “lip service?”

    You’re just pissed off that anyone would have the nerve to talk back to you–a big problem with Democrats. That’s when the smugness comes out.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 21, 2019 @ 5:27 pm

  6. No, but if Sanders gets the nomination, count on there being a deluge of red baiting in this vein, so in actuality the analogy is not so much with Lenin as it might be with Allende.

    Comment by Sue Sponte — February 21, 2019 @ 6:50 pm

  7. Farans: All good points; not sure why you think I’m pissed off, smug, or a Democrat. Sawant seems to be arguing, in essence, for using the Sanders campaign to recruit for a cadre organization. What do you think about that?

    Comment by Dave Palmer — February 21, 2019 @ 6:53 pm

  8. not sure why … .

    Don’t imagine you would be.

    Short answer as to what I think: I think it wouldn’t fly–and wonder what she actually said to whom and when. Source?

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 21, 2019 @ 7:59 pm

  9. OK–following your link. …

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 21, 2019 @ 8:15 pm

  10. Working people need our own party, independent of corporate money and power, and that fights alongside our movements rather than against them.

    I think Bernie should run as an independent socialist, as I have, and use his campaign to launch a new mass party for working people … .

    Bernie will run as a Democrat. He probably won’t get the nomination. If he then runs as an independent, Trump (who IMHO will never be impeached or indicted for anything) will be re-elected, quite possibly with a majority in both houses of Congress. Then, when he fails even more abysmally, we can worry about a military coup or worse on top of the stonking great recession that is inevitable no matter who wins national office.

    This is what’s wrong with starting “at the top” politically so to speak. We need a lot of labor action and citizen organizing first. Local candidacies like Sawant’s are another matter, but even these should not be at the center of things.

    Once the mass base is in place, the people will have some protection. Until then, watch out.

    I think KS is trying so to speak to capitalize on the Sanders phenomenon for reasons of her own. Maybe they’re good reasons–maybe not. I’m faintly reminded of Robert Kett’s rebels on Mousehold Heath in 1549 submitting petitions in the name of the King.

    It isn’t clear to me what KS means by “mass party”–suspect this is a moving target. But it’s pretty likely that Sanders and the DSA won’t play ball, and I rather imagine KS knows that.

    So no, I don’t think this is the clarion call for a socialist mass party behind BS. I think this is aimed beyond Sanders himself–not sure where it’s going.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 21, 2019 @ 8:43 pm

  11. I would like Sanders more if he supported Maduro in Venezuela.

    Comment by stangya sorensa — February 23, 2019 @ 2:37 pm

  12. What’s happening with the DSA illustrates a problem that so many Marxists face when they become involved in electoral politics and coalitions – they seem to lose all critical faculties.

    I have absolutely no problem with a socialist organisation having a strategy which involves supporting a left wing Democrat like Bernie, or even one like Warren. I also have little problem with such an organisation calling for a vote for the Democrat over Trump whoever the candidate may be. We can debate whether this is the correct call or not, but it’s a perfectly legitimate tactical question which seems virtually inevitable given the current balance of forces in politics at the moment. Such issues are part and parcel of being involved in grown-up politics in anything above workplace or street-level activism.

    The problem is that organisations like the DSA (or at least its leadership) and publications like Jacobin seem to think that in order to enter into a coalition with people like Sanders, you need to recast them as some sort of revolutionary leader, and essentially twist Marxism to support this attitude. There’s no need for this. All people need to do is say “Yes Bernie’s at best a social democrat, or left liberal, but he’s the most left wing candidate with any prayer of winning. His election may actually benefit working class people in a limited regard, and his campaign will serve to pull the political discourse of the country to the left. Therefore, we will support him, while criticising anything we disagree with, because we’re Marxists and he’s not.” I see nothing wrong with that. However, it seems that for many, a tactical question of which politician to support in a presidential campaign requires a complete revision of Marxism into providing left cover for soft reformism. It’s bizarre to watch.

    Personally, I think this process comes from people desperately seeking a short cut. Rather than take on the rather daunting task of building a genuinely working class socialist movement, it’s much easier just to project those qualities onto Bernie Sanders’s primary campaign. The unfortunate by-product is the bastardisation of Marxism beyond recognition in order to facilitate this.

    Comment by Tim N — February 23, 2019 @ 3:40 pm

  13. Tim–I personally feel a little more the way you do than I think Louis P. does–but perhaps the devil is in the word “support.” If that means throwing yourself 100% into a presidential campaign full stop, it’s incredibly risky because all the organization to protect workers directly against the depredations of the one percent will be put on hold–and if the campaign fails, the danger will be increased tenfold. I think people are very wrong to see the DSA/DNC route as “safe.”

    Even if the campaign succeeds, little will be accomplished and the next political pendulum swing or the one after that can wipe out all the gains.

    The people must be defended, IMHO, and this can only come about when they organize to defend themselves rather than refer the matter to committees of wealthy donors amid the spectacle of endless televised campaign advertising and so-called “debate.”

    This is why I am cold to Sawant’s plea for Bernie to spark the mass movement.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 23, 2019 @ 4:59 pm

  14. Farans – I don’t disagree with any of that really. What I think the left really lacks is an honest assessment of their own resources and influence. A lot of the time I see people essentially being swept up in this or that campaign or movement (it’s happening over here with Corbynism) while convincing themselves that they are in fact “influencing” or even “driving” said movement. In reality they are simply tailing it. There’s nothing terribly wrong with that in and of itself, sometimes you just need to go with the flow; but deluding yourself and others leads to some terrible mistakes.

    In the case of the DSA, my impression from afar is that this self-delusion has led to a confused analysis of what the Democratic Party is, and an over-estimation of what the left of the Democratic Party can really achieve. This has led to what you describe, with everything (or at least a huge amount) being thrown into getting left Democrats elected.

    I actually think that sometimes the far left can underestimate the importance of elections for the working class movement. However, an electoral strategy is only useful if it advances the building of the movement as a whole. If electoralism becomes the be-all and end-all, then it leads to the problems you describe.

    Comment by Tim N — February 23, 2019 @ 5:12 pm

  15. As an aside, it’s also rather depressing to see how so many people who have ostensibly been revolutionaries for such a long time, fold completely at the emergence of even the mildest of reformist movements. The rapidity at which they dusted off Kautsky really was instructive.

    Comment by Tim N — February 23, 2019 @ 5:31 pm

  16. Tim. Hm. I have the impression, however, that despite the depredations of Thatcherism and New Labour, there is more left in GB of an authentic working-class political tradition than in the U.S. Post WWII the US establishment, including the liberal McCarthyite Kennedy family, scorched the earth to burn out every trace of working-class socialist organization–even succeeding in turning the civil rights movement (as far as white people are concerned) into a sodality for the bright future of youthful entrepreneurs of color and more women of all colors on corporate boards of governance–the true Grail of the Hillary Clinton school of neoliberalism.

    It does look as if the third rail of working-class politics in Britain and in Europe generally is in the depth and intensity of anti-immigrant feeling–this seems to be the Achilles heel of the left over there and the path by which a new kind of fascism is gaining entrance. In the US, the Republicans are pushing hard to create a prairie fire over immigraton, but their strength remains their passive investment in good old US. racism against the descendants of the African slaves and Native Americans. The rest of it so far is a bit more muted than it may be on your side, though we certainly have it–especially as manifested in anti-Islamism, which does get pretty virulent under the banner of fighting “terrorism”and the bloody shirt of “9/11.”

    If we had some of the traditions associated historically with Labour, given the slightly different configuration of “white people” chauvinism here, we might be a bit better off than we actually are.

    That said, Corbyn remains problematic for us–or for me, at least–I increasingly have the feeling that–while I of course reject the New York Times line that JC is an antisemite who wants to play Stalin–I just don’t get what’s up with Corbynism and have a very uneasy feeling about its future and its meaning for labor activism in general–whereas a while back I saw it as a very hopeful sign.

    Comment by \Farans Kalosar — February 23, 2019 @ 6:01 pm

  17. Farans –

    You’re correct that the working class political tradition in Britain is stronger than in America in many ways. However, it’s important not to over-emphasise this too much. I still, rather unfashionably, agree with Lenin’s diagnosis that the Labour Party is a capitalist* workers’ party. People often emphasise the latter aspect and ignore the former. The Labour Party has always been pro-capitalist. At its best, it fights for a better deal for working class people within the capitalist system. At its worst, it promises that and doesn’t deliver. The difficulty is that many, many good socialists have ended up thinking, because of the Labour Party’s working class base, that all they need to do is capture the Party’s leadership and gain a parliamentary majority, and we will achieve socialism. The problem with this is that it ignores the fact that, firstly the majority of trade union leaders and Members of Parliament remain pro-capitalist, and will try as much as they can to scupper any such attempt; secondly, that the state, in the form of the civil service, the military and the police will do the same; and thirdly, that the majority of the working class are currently pro-capitalist. That latter point is the most important. Working class people tend to vote social democrat because what they want is a party that fights for their interests within the current system. So many are supporting Corbyn. The same people also supported Blair. They support the leader that they think is most likely to make gains for them within the current system.

    When it comes to the Democratic Party, from the outside it appears that a classical liberal party has successfully coopted many of the elements that would traditionally make up a social democratic or labour party – the pro-capitalist trade union bureaucracy, reformist civil rights activists, social liberal intellectuals, etc., and the voting base such a party would have. I don’t think the democratic party is *therefore* a social democratic organisation. It’s a bourgeois liberal party that has occupied much of the space a social democratic party would. How comrades in the U.S. relate to that is up to them. Personally, I’d suggest relating to Sanders and his supporters much like Marxists in Europe would relate to social democrats – support against right wing assaults, but criticism from the left. How that plays out in practice is your business.

    I agree, anti-immigrant racism is the number one issue here for the British left to tackle. It’s actually an important example of the limitations of Labourism that Corbyn has completely failed in this regard. After the 2016 referendum result, one of the first things Labour did was say they would not campaign for membership of the EEA, and later they said they would campaign for a customs union. In other words, they would not campaign for freedom of movement for people, but just for goods. That’s shameful, quite frankly. The left of Labour is, and always has been, imbued with the traditions of “bread and butter” economism and Stalinist British Road to Socialism nonsense.

    You may be better off with having Labour traditions, but that doesn’t preclude “white people chauvinism”. The British Labourite tradition, the welfare state, the relative affluence of Britain’s working class aristocracy, was built on the surplus generated by colonialism. It’s trying to square that which has led a lot of formerly privileged white British workers down the path of reaction. It’s not edifying to witness.

    “That said, Corbyn remains problematic for us–or for me, at least–I increasingly have the feeling that–while I of course reject the New York Times line that JC is an antisemite who wants to play Stalin–I just don’t get what’s up with Corbynism and have a very uneasy feeling about its future and its meaning for labor activism in general–whereas a while back I saw it as a very hopeful sign.”

    The important thing to understand here is that Corbyn is a member of the activist left in Britain. It brings many good, and a few slightly disturbing points. The good points are that he is accountable to a movement beyond the Parliamentary Labour Party. He is accountable to the unions, to anti-war activists, to anti-racism campaigners, and so forth. The disturbing points are that he brings with him the baggage of several decades of the crazy left. The British left, like the left throughout the world, has been heavily influenced by Stalinism. While Corbyn is not a Stalinist himself; he is imbued with the politics of the British Road to Socialism, uncritical support for “anti-imperialist” dictators, and acceptance of racism among white workers as just one of those things.

    My main concern is that we are making *a lot* of compromises with regards to anti-immigrant racism, in exchange for…what? Renationalised trains? That’s all well and good, but it’s not socialism. My criticism of the British left is the same as the one I made of the DSA. Yes, of course support Corbyn, but don’t lose your critical faculties. Corbyn will fail. Reformism always fails. If you don’t think that, you’re not a Marxist.

    Comment by Tim N — February 23, 2019 @ 11:45 pm

  18. Amen brother. Not only does reformism always fail–though not always right away–but when it does fail, it exposes working people in the “advanced”countries to far greater dangers in principle than they were in pre-reform. This makes them double down on whatever privileges they enjoy as vs. “shithole people” from “shithole countries”–which only undermines them more in the long run.

    But hey, with the insect extinction–on top of and distinct from global warming–it looks as if the human species has had it anyway, so maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about politics. In the U.S., this usually elicits advice to trust in “Gah-ahd” or (if you are deeply serious) “Gaw-DUH”–who has done such a terrific job hitherto.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 24, 2019 @ 8:54 pm

  19. “Amen brother.”

    Testify!

    “Not only does reformism always fail–though not always right away–but when it does fail, it exposes working people in the “advanced”countries to far greater dangers in principle than they were in pre-reform.”

    That’s an interesting assertion. Can you show your working on that one please? I’d like to see where you’re coming from.

    “But hey, with the insect extinction–on top of and distinct from global warming–it looks as if the human species has had it anyway, so maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about politics”

    Interestingly enough, environmentalism is an illustrative point about the limitations of Labourism. For all the problems with AOC and the Green New Deal, she’s at least advancing a programme which attempts to address the issue of how capitalism is going to make us extinct. Corbyn is, and many of his supporters are, avowed environmentalists, yet nothing like that has been advanced by the Labour leadership. There has been no genuine attempt to draw up an environmentalist programme which properly addresses the issue of climate change. The reason being that the foremost contributor to the Labour Party is Unite the Union, which represents many workers involved in fossil fuel and nuclear industry. If Corbyn drew up a plan that effectively tackled climate change, it would bring him into direct conflict with Unite. It’s a prime example of how the interests of the trade union bureaucracy don’t always line up with the interests of the working class as a whole. When said bureaucracy essentially runs the party; it’s not an independent working class organisation, it’s the political expression of the trade union bureaucracy. That’s not the same thing.

    While having a major party that at least attempts to address working class interests is a good thing; we shouldn’t lionize Labourism. Labourism is an unholy alliance between bourgeois liberals and trade union bureaucrats.

    Comment by Tim N — February 25, 2019 @ 12:15 am

  20. Tim–no deep historical research here; merely pointing to what seems obvious. Suppose Trump is re-elected–a lively possibility Robert Reich to the contrary notwithstanding–where will that leave working people in the U.S.? Becalmed in the path of a vast recession with no resource for labor action or mutual aid–and nobody working out the basis of alternative institutions of governance in event of revolution. Likewise no path to solidarity with workers worldwide. Just stuck sucking up the crumbs of white privilege and thanking The Man for saving them from the awful brown- and black-skins who are waiting to storm their citadels.

    Lyndon Johnson said that if you convinced the lowest white man that he was better than the best black man, he’d empty his pockets for you without second thought. This mechanism has worked like a charm in the U.S. for many years–and is extensible, e.g. to “white” hispanics (Ted Cruz anyone?) and people of various Asian nationalities–even a few selected “black people” like the wonderful Bill Cosby, darling of the Reaganites back in the day.

    Politically at some point, IMHO, one unthinkable possibility that emerges is a military coup if some future Mad Dog Mattis and his buddies decide not to go quietly when they can see that the government is no lnger functioning..

    No protection from the “pendulum swings” of electoral politics in any case. Yoy vote, then hunker down and wait for the engulfing wave.

    You can’t join the Democratic or Republican Parties–no membership, no party rep. you can call or talk to–just a televised spectacular and the right to besiege a few corrupt legislators with calls and email to little effect..

    People need a living presence in their lives to combat all the TV and Internet alienated hoopla–a cadre if you will–even a “professional” cadre–that won’t vanish n the first storm. The Occupy model only works briefly when there are encampments; then also disappears, its vaunted transparency converted instantly to total opacity, as the only residue is the Farley files of camp politicos whose paths are now totally obscure absent the daily standups.

    Is that helpful–on way to work, no time for deeper thought. My mantra for the week is protection–the workers need to organize for protection against established politics as well as (because of) the class system. Also, as I’ve said, the mass party IMHO should be well-enough organized to develop at least standards for revolutionary governance and not just wait for the dialectic to do all the work spontaneously, like the “free market”–another 18th century automaton? All this in hste and FWIW–none of it original–tks for your interest. How this would function–accountability-I leave to people with actual experience in organizing, which I don’t have or lay clam to.

    Re labourism–I think this is currently distinctively British at present–liberals (neoliberals post Clinton) in the US at pride themselves on just seeing individuals regardless of class, color, etc.–in GB, class is still on the dinner table. We are beginning to conceptualize the “one percent” and the billionaire class, but only just. Working class is still shrouded in the tattered garb of “middle class.” Income inequality is discussed, but is not as you know the same thing as class … This of course does not apply to the would-be Marxist left-which is both tiny and fragmented–and alas infected with all sorts of too-facile “aniti-imperialist” nonsense and inability to think. Also lots of weird red-brown and”libertarian” linkups–a crazy pattern that seems self-evident to too many simplistically apodicticity-addicted Amurricans–no room here to discuss–Louis P. covers this extensively and gets holy hell for it.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 25, 2019 @ 1:54 pm

  21. “Lay clam to”–too funny to correct

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 25, 2019 @ 3:01 pm

  22. Tim–I shouldn’t keep this up–I have a habit of wearing out my welcome here (sorry Louis)–but I wanted to address the insect extinction bombshell you mentioned because it’s something that is on top of and IMHO actually far more fatal than global warming as such. Evidently the loss of bug biomass is tied to wholesale conversion of land to agricultural use–this contributes to global warming but the insect apocalypse as I understand it does NOT depend on global warming. (Help me out here, people.) I don’t think the Green New Deal addresses the problem of modern agriculture and its effects–only global warming. That is not only not the only issue; it may actually not be the most important one.

    Though I should mention, as the infamous Kirk Sorenson of Flibe Energy pointed out recently to a Tennessee Valley Authority conference, non-nuclear solutions to fossil energy (windmills, solar) do chew up vast quantities of land (he meant this as a plug for Thorium). I wonder if this would keep the land from being farmed and thus contribute bug habitat–maybe windmilll sites could be linked to bug farms??? Maybe split up with some type of reforestation around the sites? An actual environmental benefit to what Sorensen cites as a big drawback in places like Tennessee ???

    Personally, I was cautiously in favor of New Nukes, specifically Thorium MSR, but am disheartened to see how little progress has been made in recent years–Indonesia teaming up with some unheard-of corporate entity to mass produce little-tested Oak Ridge-style MSRs in shipyards sounds both crazy and dangerous–thorium MSRs still present significant radiation hazards, especially (depending on the fuel cycle and how fuel is produced AFAIK) gamma radiation, and the risk of nuclear proliferation is not nil, even though the larger-scale benefits (far less waste needing to be safeguarded for at most hundreds, not thousands of years–something for which there is precedent in human history),

    At all events, AFAIK, judicious use of new nukes plus renewables might put a dent in fossil fuel consumption, but would do nothing directly to address the evidently more pressing issue of agricultural land use and insect biomass. The severity of the crisis IMHO could justify the risk if the solution were valid on a long-term temporary basis.

    For that matter, better storage and transmission of electricity could also revolutionize electrical power, if power from multiple sources could be effectively stored and transmitted over long distances. Use solar thermal in deserts; store; and transmit to New York … .

    But no impact on agri. land use–this is the big issue re insects evidently–plus pesticides, but mostly habitat destruction AFAIK. How do you stop land clearing for cattle and crops in the Amazon with Bolsonaro in power? So little time …

    Now I really will stop.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 25, 2019 @ 4:44 pm

  23. Some authorities do link insect biomass to global warming, as GW does cause a variety of animal population crashes. http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/climate-driven-crash-in-insect-populations-decimating-food-web/article/534724

    Nonetheless, the land conversion issue appears to function independently and is not AFAIK a GW issue. Issues are interrelated–separate causes nevertheless operative???

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 25, 2019 @ 4:54 pm

  24. “This of course does not apply to the would-be Marxist left-which is both tiny and fragmented–and alas infected with all sorts of too-facile “aniti-imperialist” nonsense and inability to think. Also lots of weird red-brown and”libertarian” linkups–a crazy pattern that seems self-evident to too many simplistically apodicticity-addicted Amurricans–no room here to discuss–Louis P. covers this extensively and gets holy hell for it.”

    All true. I do think though that the lack of an independent social democratic organisation in the US leads some comrades there to think that that is the major obstacle to overcome. In fact, the existence of such a party brings its own problems. Also, many of the issues and debates around the Democratic Party don’t seem, in my view, to be a great deal different from those we have about the Labour Party, despite the obvious and important differences.

    Comment by Tim N — February 25, 2019 @ 6:57 pm

  25. After his consistently horrible comments about Venezuela that legitimize Trump’s efforts to remove Maduro in Venezuela, it is evident that the picture needs to be replaced with one of Sanders as Kerensky.

    Comment by Richard Estes — February 25, 2019 @ 11:28 pm

  26. “25.After his consistently horrible comments about Venezuela that legitimize Trump’s efforts to remove Maduro in Venezuela, it is evident that the picture needs to be replaced with one of Sanders as Kerensky”

    That’s ridiculous and just plain wrong. Surely one can oppose US imperialism in Latin America, and oppose the obvious authoritarianism of Maduro? If we can’t do that, our politics are meaningless. For Christ’s sake WHAT ARE WE FOR? Of course, a socialist national liberation movement in Venezuela will bring down the ire of USA imperialism. Of course we should support Venezuela against that. Does that mean we shouldn’t be troubled, and openly critical, of Maduro’s authoritarian tendencies? It would be ridiculous if we weren’t.

    Comment by Tim N — February 25, 2019 @ 11:42 pm

  27. Sanders is not calling Maduro a “dictator” and says he opposes U.S. intervention. He refuses to recognize Guaido:

    https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/25/politics/bernie-sanders-venezuela-maduro/index.html
    https://www.rt.com/usa/452141-sanders-venezuela-guaido-maduro/

    You could say that’s lipstick on the pig of a bad tendency but it isn’t, as Richard implies, anything close to support for CIA/US military regime change or Trump. On the contrary, FWIW, Sanders is on record as opposing these things.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 26, 2019 @ 12:41 pm

  28. One of my quotes above was from RT. Shoot me–the reporting is accurate but I goofed badly. Here’s another source for the same story:

    https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1091237/bernie-sanders-latest-venezuela-news-guaido-maduro

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 26, 2019 @ 2:29 pm

  29. […] via Bernie Sanders arrives at the Finland Station — Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist […]

    Pingback by Bernie Sanders arrives at the Finland Station — Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist – The Pixie From Everywhere — April 15, 2019 @ 9:39 pm


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