William Blum, (and then) Manuel García, Jr.
On Feb 5, 2016, Bill Blum (BBlum6@aol.com) wrote:
Anti-Empire Report, February 5, 2016
Blum’s discussion of Sanders, in the above, was published by Counter Punch:
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
“It appears that the German and Japanese people only relinquished their imperial culture and mindset when they were bombed back to the stone age during World War II. Something similar may be the only cure for the same pathology that is embedded into the very social fabric of the United States.” [Bill Blum]
This is the essential fact that I came to long ago. I think this a universal truth, like “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It is probably embedded in our genetic coding. Richard Dawkins’ book “The Selfish Gene” would lead you to that realization.
Ambrose Bierce wrote “Politics, n. strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.” After having read Dawkins, one could put the adjective “selfish” in front of “interests” in Bierce’s definition, though it is a bit redundant.
On your earlier points about short memory and/or attention span in public political speech, John Kenneth Galbraith said: “Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory.” In his day this was understood to be irony.
I found the writings of Toni Judt (1948-2010) to be the clearest on the use to the labels “socialist” versus “social democrat,” and the value of applying that political approach in the U.S. (the closest to it now in the U.S. is Bernie).
Judt was a historian of the 20th century, he grew up in a Jewish Marxist Eastern European family that emigrated to England, and he benefited from post WWII English socialism to become a university scholar and writer, eventually teaching at NYU. Judt was superb.
If the insights and attitudes that Judt represented could become mainstream in this country then it wouldn’t require a WWII-type holocaust to reorient the U.S. social fabric.
I found the writings of Toni Judt to be the clearest on the use to the labels “socialist” versus “social democrat,” and the value of applying that political approach in the U.S. (the closest to it now in the U.S. is Bernie). [MG,Jr.]
He’s the closest to what? An example of the uncertainty surrounding the two concepts?
Judt’s point is that the word “socialist” is too prejudiced in the American public mind (from decades of anti-communist propaganda) as equal to “communist” = “bad” = dictatorial = enslaving. Rather than fruitlessly trying to correct this imprinted misrepresentation, Judt believed American style “social democrats” should use that label, and emphasize their preference for popular democracy (as opposed to Citizens’ United style corporate “democracy” = oligarchy), which was aimed for social benefit.
The social democracy that reigned in Western Europe from 1945 to 1975 was demonstrably the most successful form of socialism ever practiced, where it is clearly understood that it was a “compromise,” it was capitalism restrained by socialist goals.
The fundamental point here is that political pragmatism motivated by socialist ideals has been proven to work for the good of many millions of people for at least three decades: “social democracy.” On the other hand, the imposition of ideological purity on populations (in the name of a higher and future good) was a failure that has poisoned the words “communist” and “socialist” in billions of minds around the world.
The quibbling by comfortable armchair leftists about whether Bernie Sanders is a “real” socialist or not is just silly. He is obviously a social democrat of the classic European post WWII mold, and that is by far the best alternative now realistically available to the American electorate.
“In a land without sheep, a goat is a prized possession.”
Manuel Garcia, Jr.
My comments above are also my response to the articles below (also from 5 February 2016).
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Hillary Clinton is the past, she is the candidate of the people who run the country (the parasites of the status quo).
Bernie Sanders is the candidate of the people who are the country, and of the generation that will be the country for the next three to four decades.
Bernie Sanders has accomplished what no leftist and ultra-leftist organization, big or small, has been able to do since at least the presidential campaign of George McGovern, and probably since the Great Depression: motivate millions of Americans to become politically active for a socialist agenda (an agenda of “social democracy”).
The carping by ideologues to the orthodox far left from Sanders only highlights how far removed from reality they remain, where reality in this case means having any significant impact on the pubic political consciousness, and any practical effect in causing some substantive improvement in the lives of the American people.
As Jorge Semprún (1923-2011) learned from an old communist wise man, when they were both imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp, dialectical materialism “is the art and technique of always landing on your feet.” The criticisms of Sanders by leftist ideologues strikes me as a nervous dance in which the authors are trying to arrive at positions they can later point to as justified by the subsequent course of events (“I told you so.”). But, as they haven’t a clue as to what that course of events will be, they are either nervously equivocal and prolix, or stridently sarcastic to cloak that nervousness: will they land on their feet?
The hundreds of millions of Americans who work for a living, struggle to raise families, and desperately want a fairer political economy that is not a myriad of interlocking rip-offs that feed off of them are showing themselves ready to listen to the message of Bernie Sanders. They are not concerned with leftist orthodoxy and ideological purity, they want pragmatic social democracy now. Also, they have zero interest in the nuanced critiques of avocational leftists who are anxious to land on the feet, whatever happens.