Bernie Sanders Isn’t Promoting Social Safety Net, But Leninism
In a Hill opinion piece published last month, Lanny Davis dismissed fears over Sen. Bernie Sanders’ radical social agenda, and particularly the idea of socialism. by claiming that Sanders’ socio-economic model is nothing more than a model of Scandinaviana Keynesian welfare state based on high taxation and redistribution of national resources.
In short, Davis argues, Sanders proposes social democracy, not authoritarian socialism.
Some of Sanders’ competitors in the Democratic primary election have criticized his ambitious health care and free college plans as a fiscal pipe dream and a loss-making project.
All this is correct. Except that Sanders is not merely a proponent of a social policy on health care or education, two issues that without a doubt reflect real social problems that require urgent solutions.
In September Sanders pointed out that “billionaires should not exist.” As Fareed Zakaria has noted, Scandinavian countries “have more billionaires per capita than the United States.”
Sanders has set the reduction of inequality as a primary goal. If such inequality is also the result of wealth creation and provides employment or improves the conditions of large numbers of people, it does not seem to matter to Bernie.
Sanders has launched an ideological war against rich people. It is not merely a war against the tax code or the health care system. It is more than that.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, for example, has supported taxation on the wealthiest. Early in February Bloomberg unveiled a plan that that would unravel the corporate tax breaks signed into law by Trump and impose an extra tax of 5% on incomes above $5 million a year.
This increased revenue would help fund educational and health care reforms. Former Vice President Joe Biden has also proposed taxes on the wealthy and corporations to spend on social programs. Even billionaires such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have expressed support for taxing the wealthy.
But none of these candidates have advocated the abolition of billionaires or embraced the radical concept of full equality — nobody has more or less than others — as an end in itself.
In other words, Sanders’ discourse is what the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called “a rebellion in slave morality,” meaning a negative energy against what is considered to be oppressive. It builds identity on the basis of rejection and negation of the other.
If we translate this concept to an empirical reality, Sanders’ beliefs are closer to Lenin’s concept of class warfare. In Lenin’s world, there is no possibility of reconciliation between capital and labor.
“The food must be taken from the rich,” said Lenin. He even urged the mases to independently confiscate food from the rich and “the better-off should be left without food for three days, as they have stocks.”
Sanders’ ideology is creating a sort of folklore that could turn dangerously hegemonic. This could have devastating consequences and polarize our society further than it has under the Trump administration. Furthermore, such rhetoric could have devastating consequences on America’s foreign policy, an area where the executive branch has more leverage than on any other issue.
Sanders embodies what progressive grassroot organizations have called intersectionality. Intersectional theory holds that people suffer from multiple sources of oppression because of their race, social class, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion and other identities. These different forms of oppression don’t exist independently of each other.
There are oppressors and oppressed in America and in the world. All forms of oppression converge. Some social agencies use the concept of intersectionality to encourage dynamic conversations and dialogues about different experiences of discrimination and adverse situations, and that is fine.
However, intersectionality has become the instrument of grassroots movements that move from oppressive situations to a friend-enemy dichotomy where the Manichean oppressor/oppressed formula turns into irreconcilable warfare. This is the case of groups such as MoveOn.
According to this view, the oppressed should form one united front, including the poor, women, LGBT, racial and ethnic minorities, the Third World, the Palestinians and progressives. Among the oppressors we can find the wealthy, white Americans, Republicans, Israelis, etc. There is not much room for flexibility or nuance.
This concept has revived archaic notions of oppressor/oppressed dichotomy that were generated in the Soviet Union and its communist ideology.
Sanders has defended communist regimes only because they initially fought regimes of privilege and oppression. But he has failed to admit their own oppression. Sanders turned apologetic of the Castro regime despite the misery in which the Cuban people find themselves.
He has also refused to condemn the Venezuelan regime and admit that Nicolas Maduro is a dictator. He called the resignation of Evo Morales in Bolivia a coup d’état while Morales resorted to fraud to perpetuate himself in power.
Sanders has defined the Israeli leadership as “racist” but has been willfully ignorant to Palestinian incitement, terror and refusal to negotiate.
Sanders is not only supported by bread-and-butter unions but also by grassroot left-wing groups such as MoveOn and others. Like Sanders, MoveOn has called for a boycott of the AIPAC policy conference, accusing the bi-partisan group of bigotry.
The group also filed a petition denouncing reports on violations of freedom of the press in Venezuela as being false, despite the overwhelming evidence of these violations. MoveOn also joined a pro-Iran lobbyist organization, the National Iranian American Council, to vocally oppose Trump’s killing of Al Quds Force chief Qassim Soleimani and intentionally raised the fear of an imminent American-Iranian war.
As Tomas Wright from the Brookings institution has pointed out, “Sanders may dramatically change U.S. foreign policy, but his shift will have very little to do with the substantive ideas in his formal writings and remarks and everything to do with his own instincts and beliefs.”
Indeed, if Sanders premises rely on the dichotomic view of oppressor and oppressed, it is clear that he views the U.S as a source of trouble, whose intervention in world affairs inflates rather than mitigates conflict.
The fact that Sanders reminds in his public speeches of the fact that the U.S supported coups in Iran and Guatemala more than half a century ago clarifies Sanders’s point: The U.S is a negative world force.
What could be expected, therefore, is that the U.S will retrench to its geographical boundaries, will cease to take responsibility for world stability and leave important allies, such as Taiwan and Ukraine, to the mercy of China and Russia, let alone promote democracy and human rights.
Sanders began to gain momentum in the primaries because he did very well in Iowa and won New Hampshire and Nevada. Americans like winners and, therefore, Sanders’ early victories gave him strong momentum.
This energy was slowed by the South Carolina and Super Tuesday primary elections, but Sanders is far from being totally defeated. Democratic candidates should not only focus on the need to defeat Trump but the need to defeat Sanders and his entire political folklore.
Publicado en newsmax.com el 9 de marzo, 2020
“Las opiniones aqui publicadas son responsabilidad absoluta de su autor”
Luis Fleischman es profesor de Sociología del Palm Beach State College, cofundador del Palm Beach Center for Democracy and Policy Research y director del InterAmerican Institute for Democracy. También es autor de “Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Threat to U.S. Security.” (América Latina en la era pos-Chávez: La amenaza para la seguridad de EE.UU).