What if Bernie Sanders were really talking about socialism?

Socialism has re-entered the realm of popular political discussion in the United States, for the first time in decades. There are several reasons for this, the most important being that a quarter-century has passed since the fall of the Soviet Union and the force of the bogey it represented has little resonance for a younger generation; several years of ongoing economic turmoil has led to more people being willing to question capitalism; and the popularity of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign because of the Vermont senator’s willingness to challenge the status quo.

Senator Sanders routinely speaks in front of large, enthusiastic crowds and although it remains unlikely that he will win the Democratic Party nomination, his strong showing and common-sense demeanor has forced the corporate media to expand the ordinarily heavily constricted boundaries of political and economic discourse. He calls himself a “democratic socialist,” and the corporate media by and large seems content to use his label, often even dropping the “democratic” and simply referring to him, without the usual rancor, as a “socialist.”

So is it really true that socialism has become acceptable and mainstream? Or, to be more direct: Is Bernie Sanders really a socialist?

Bernie Sanders rally in Louisiana (photo by Bart Everson)

Bernie Sanders rally in Louisiana (photo by Bart Everson)

The answer to the first question remains to be answered, but the answer to the second is “no.” Senator Sanders offers reforms to the capitalist system. Significant reforms, ideas and platforms far beyond any other major-party candidate for president. These would certainly be welcome if they could be enacted. But they are still reforms, not real change. Reforms, unfortunately, can and are taken away — as the past three decades have vividly demonstrated. Just as Keynesianism is not going to save us, there is no going back to the past nor is it still possible to believe capitalism can be a progressive force.

In the first Democratic Party presidential primary debate, Senator Sanders offered Denmark and Sweden as examples of the democratic socialism he has in mind. The front-runner, Hillary Clinton, immediately parried with a claim that the United States dare not “turn our backs on what built the greatest middle class in the history of the world.” That more of those in the broad middle or with less are struggling just to keep a roof over their heads and keep from drowning in debt, that wages have been stagnant since the 1970s while the one percent grab all the gains, that prospects for students and recent graduates are more dismal than for their parents or grandparents, it would seem that Secretary Clinton’s middle class doesn’t have it so good.

Europe versus the United States

It tales no more than a cursory glance at Denmark, Sweden or many other countries to see the unreality of her claim. For one thing, health care is a right in most of the countries of the world, but in the United States health care is a privilege reserved for those with money or a full-time job (if it has reasonable benefits). In Denmark, all people who reach age 65 are entitled to a retirement pension, all residents have sickness benefits if they are unable to work, health care is a right, stays in public hospitals are free and paid parental leave is available up to 46 weeks. Danish workers are entitled to five weeks of vacation each year by law and many workers have a negotiated sixth week of vacation.

European countries require 20 to 30 day of vacation, and Australia and New Zealand require 20 days. The United States is the only advanced capitalist country that mandates none.

The idea that working people in the U.S. have it good is laughable. Secretary Clinton is no different than her Republican challengers in her ideological belief in “American exceptionalism,” the nationalist term used by United Statesians to claim theirs is the greatest country and a mandatory ideology for those seeking political office. However much better life may be there, however, it isn’t true that Denmark or Sweden are socialist countries. Those countries, and others applying versions of the Scandinavian welfare model, are capitalist countries that have laws and regulations to ameliorate the conditions of capitalism. So austerity is not an impossibility there; the relentless downward pressure applied to working people under capitalism is in force across Europe.

It is no accident that the European Union bureaucracy is unaccountable to any democratic vote; the E.U. is designed by central bankers to benefit European big business and financiers. European capitalists desire the ability to challenge the United States for economic supremacy, but cannot do so without the combined clout of a united continent. This wish underlies the anti-democratic push to steadily tighten the European Union, including mandatory national budget benchmarks that require cutting social safety nets and policies that are designed to break down solidarity among wage earners and different regions by imposing harsher competition through imposed austerity.

The European Union, in its current capitalist form, is a logical step for business leaders who desire greater commercial power on a global basis: It creates a “free trade” zone complete with suppression of social accountability while giving muscle to a currency that has the potential of challenging the U.S. dollar as the world’s pre-eminent currency. Europeans’ ability to keep the reforms they have won are dependent on their organizing and going into the streets, the same as in the U.S. or any other country.

A basic sketch of socialism

What would socialism look like? There is no specific set of formulae, but some basics are:

  • Everybody who contributes to production earns a share of the proceeds — in wages and whatever other form is appropriate — and everybody is entitled to have a say in what is produced, how it is produced and how it is distributed, and that these collective decisions are made in the context of the broader community and in quantities sufficient to meet needs, and that pricing and other decisions are not made outside the community or without input from suppliers, distributors and buyers.
  • Nobody is entitled to take disproportionately large shares off the top because they are in a power position.
  • Every person who reaches retirement age is entitled to a pension that can be lived on in dignity. Disabled people who are unable to work are treated with dignity and supported with state assistance; disabled people who are able to work can do so.
  • Quality health care, food, shelter and education are human rights.
  • Artistic expression and all other human endeavors are encouraged, and — because nobody will have to work excessive hours except those who freely volunteer for the extra pay — everybody will have sufficient time and rest to pursue their interests and hobbies.

In such a world, there would not be extreme wealth and the power that wealth concentrates; political opinion-making would not be dominated by a numerically tiny but powerful class perpetrating its rule. Without extreme wealth, there would be no widespread poverty; large groups of people would not have their living standard driven as low as possible to support the accumulation of a few.

In any country in which a model of worker cooperation or self-management (in which enterprises are run collectively and with an eye on benefitting the community) is the predominant model, there would need to be regulations to augment good will. Constitutional guarantees would be necessary as well. Some industries are simply much larger than others. In a complex, industrialized society, some enterprises are going to be much larger than others. Minimizing the problems that would derive from size imbalances would be a constant concern.

Furthermore, if enterprises are run on a cooperative basis, then it is only logical that relations among enterprises should also be run on a cooperative basis. An alternative to capitalist markets would have to be devised — such an alternative would have to be based on local input with all interested parties involved. Such an alternative would have to be able to determine demand, ensure sufficient supply, allow for fair pricing throughout the supply chain and be flexible enough to enable changes in the conditions of any factor, or multiple factors, to be accounted for in a reasonably timely and appropriate fashion. Prices would be negotiated, with all enterprises’ financial information publicly available so no unfair profiteering could take place.

Investment would need to go to where it is needed, a determination made with as many inputs as possible, but because of its importance banking is one area that would have to be in state hands and not in collectives. Financial speculation must be definitively ended, with banking reduced to a public utility. Enterprises seeking loans to finance expansions or other projects will have to prove their case, but should have access to investment funds if a body of decision-makers, which like all other bodies would be as inclusive as possible, agrees that the project is socially useful or necessary. Energy, another critical industry, would also be nationalized and under democratic control.

Government infrastructure projects should be subject to the same parameters as enterprises, with the added proviso that the people in the affected area have the right to make their voices heard in meaningful ways on local political bodies and on any other appropriate public boards. No private developer wielding power through vast accumulations of money will be able to destroy forests or neighborhoods to build a project designed for the developer to reap profits while the community is degraded. Development would be controlled through democratic processes at local levels, and regional or national infrastructure projects should require input from local bodies representing all affected areas.

None of the foregoing is being talked about by Bernie Sanders, and certainly not any other candidate for the U.S. presidency. But such gains are unattainable under capitalism, no matter how many reforms are (temporarily) extracted from industrialists, financiers and the politicians who whistle their tune.

32 comments on “What if Bernie Sanders were really talking about socialism?

  1. fridihem says:

    Whoever the writer of this article is…………why is it that this one and most other American writers Always get it wrong……..for eg about Denmark and Sweden……….they are not democratic socialist countries……….they are Social Democracies…………and nothing else

    • Had you been paying attention, you would have read that the article clearly states that Denmark and Sweden “are capitalist countries that have laws and regulations to ameliorate the conditions of capitalism.” That they are not socialist countries is the very point.

  2. Rotha says:

    Living in a Capitalist society, those descriptions of socialism sound attractive, but pause and think who is going to make it all happen.

    The answer is “The Bureaucracy” and this leaves one section of the population with all the power. Human beings do not operate in an idealised fashion. The culture of the people is as influential as the system itself. Denmark and Sweden sound great- but I have never been there, so can’t wish their system on to us.

    Capitalism is horrible. No doubt about it, and the kind of Capitalism that we in Australia have at the moment has descended into Market-ism. Markets are ‘made’ and satisfied. Diseases are invented, dependency is produced, and advertising replaces science. Capitalism has encountered more problems recently. The booms and busts follow each other in quick succession, since there are fewer countries to plunder, now with the internet and fast communication, swindling someone far away is less possible.

    So companies have realised that the best thing to do is to sell to Governments. Governments have the power to mandate compliance. Citizens can be forced to consume goods and services which they are not interested in, or are even actively opposed to.

    Experts can be bought, or bluffed or blackmailed into recommending that Governments should do this or that, and the bureaucracy will ensure that Governments have the ‘best’ advice.

    We will have to think a lot harder, and give a lot more of our people power over their own lives, if we are to escape collapse. Our present system is just as unsustainable as The Soviet Union’s brand of Socialism and our problem is the same as theirs.

    We have not figured out how to manage the interaction between bureaucrats and powerful people and companies.

    • Greetings, Rotha. You have brought up thoughts that many people share. A brief response by me would be that it must the people themselves, not any bureaucracy, that would implement any system based on economic democracy. With more democracy and more freedom come more responsibility. A society in which decisions are made democratically is a society in which a large majority of people actively participate, and one based on cooperation rather than competition.

      It is certainly true that human societies to date have featured hierarchy, and societies of all types since the Industrial Revolution have featured bureaucracies. All those societies featured scarcities of one sort or another, and an elite that arrogated to itself a disproportionate share of resources and consumables. But today enough is produced for everybody, so a rational system would distribute products so that everybody would have enough.

      Only a radically different system would be capable of achieving this. I go into more detail in an article I wrote on economic democracy. At the risk of sounding like I am self-promoting, I write on this topic is much more detail in the final chapter of my book It’s Not Over: Learning From the Socialist Experiment, which will be published in February 2006. Among books written by others are Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism by Rick Wolff and America Beyond Capitalism by Gar Alperovitz, both of which I have reviewed on this blog.

      Yes, the system of the Soviet Union did not prove a permanent alternative (for complicated reasons) and we won’t see a resurrection of that model. And capitalism is not sustainable; infinite growth on a finite planet is impossible. We can have a lot more power in our own lives if we organize ourselves for what will be a long struggle.

      • tim rad says:

        For the majority of Human history, actually humans do not live in a society with classes, competition, and hierarchy..rather in a one with cooperation, brotherhood, and some sort of communism, albeit a primitive one. You can still see its remains on hunter gatherer societies like the Indians, or other tribes.

        So there’s no reason to believe that our attempt to establish socialism will simply end as a totalitarianism just because that’s “human nature”. The so called human nature, in fact, has developed and changed several times along with changes in economic & production system (hunter gatherer, slavery, feudalism, capitalism, etc).

        • Excellent points, Tim. Humanity could not have survived our hunger-gatherer stage without being cooperative.

          I’ll throw out another example of change: Until recently, humanity overwhelmingly believed that one family was chosen by God to rule forever, with no limitations on the scope of that rule. Today, such an idea would be laughed at. Someday the idea that one person should get hundreds or thousands of times more than everybody else will be looked at the same way.

    • Edward Greisch says:

      Bureaucrats don’t have any power. If you get your paycheck from a government and you are not a politician, you are a bureaucrat. I was a bureaucrat for 27 years. Bureaucrats are required to carry out what the politicians write into law to the letter. Failing to do so can get a bureaucrat into jail.

    • Patrick says:

      Hello Rotha,

      If I may add my own thoughts to what has already been said, while I certainly have no reservations about denouncing the catastrophic failure of the former Soviet Union’s attempt at creating an egalitarian society, or even a internally coherent society, and would not want to be so naive as to just suggest that under socialism the desire for power, demagoguery, and simple greed would magically vanish from the human experience, I do think there is a difference in kind between the current capitalist configuration of society, the old Soviet system, the ominous rise of the alliance of the state and capital, and the kinds of human relations that would be brought about by and exist in a socialist system.

      (Somewhat ominously, an alliance of the state with the interests of corporate capital, at the risk of sounding somewhat melodramatic, was Mussolini’s explicit definition of Fascism, so I find the notion of the emergence of modern analogues of such relationships very deeply problematic.)

      I can certainly relate to the concerns and reservations one often encounters when reflecting on the alternative possibilities of political and economic organisation that Mr. Dolack is gesticulates toward under the name of socialism.

      Essentially, what I like to consider when I think of socialist and egalitarian possibilities is that within a collective mode of organisation, there would not exist the same kind of institutional drive for domination that exists at the present time, rather such drives would become, in individuals, an aberration, something that will perhaps inspire the same confusion and utter lack of comprehension the capitalist class experiences in response to the call for socialism.

      The same capitalist system that promotes and rewards the behaviours of human beings as atomised self-interested sociopaths, the sorts of bureaucracies and systems of control and repression that at present serve to oppress humanity, i.e. the superstructure of capitalism, will be revolutionised just as much as the capitalist base, the means and relations of production, will be seized and used to overturn it.

      To describe this another way, if I take a step back and looks at the phenomena such as the financial industry of Wall Street, the Technocrats of the Troika in Europe, the endless machinations of the military-industrial-complex and its legions of faceless soldiers, policemen and spies that, at present, are devoted to chocking the life out of the human race (in quite a literal sense as well when one thinks of climate change, not to mention the barbarities of economic exploitation and barefaced imperialism inflicted on developing developing nations) I cannot help but look at these institutions and feel, aside from nausea and indignation, (and forgive my glibness but there is only so much doom and gloom I can stand in one comments section) just a little bit impressed…

      Bastards they may be, but the current system of endless greed, exploitation, and domination has rather a lot of very clever bastards working for it… and greedy, exploitive, domineering it may be… it is very competent at what accomplishing what it seeks to achieve.

      What I’m getting at is, in the current system, there is an enormous amount of time, energy, and human potential invested (I would say wasted) in what essentially boils down to the day to day running of a great machine devoted exclusively to making the vast majority of human lives on the planet as unbearable as is necessary in order to extract the maximum benefit of what is, at the end of the day, an elite few in a position to benefit from the arrangement.

      Could you imagine what could be achieved if that same time, energy and human creativity were devoted toward an actual productive activity?

      I don’t mean to come across as ridiculously whimsical, but if this were the case, that is, if the same level of energy was directed toward uplifting the human condition, while perhaps presenting some novel challenges compared to the difficulties that come up through ruthlessly exploiting human beings as effectively as possible, it could still manage a rather impressive result on the whole.

      To talk in more concrete terms, right now, the single biggest employer on the planet is the US Department of Defence. The next biggest employer is the People’s Liberation Army. Between the two of them that is somewhere in the area of five to six MILLION human beings whose entire productive existence is directed toward annihilating other human beings, and when they are not doing that, endlessly practising and devising new and innovative ways of annihilating other humans beings!

      Possibly the single most unproductive activity conceivable for them to be doing. Those same millions could be doing something, frankly almost anything they could be doing at all and without a shadow of a doubt be more productive… and of much greater benefit to humanity.

      And that’s all without mentioning the industrial capacity, natural resources, intellectual, organisational, and technological expertise that goes into propping up these utterly useless institutions which represent the two largest institutions on the planet!

      You mention advertising? Advertising companies, as you make note of Rotha, expend untold efforts attempting to, in some instances quite literally, persuade people to make into fetishes and desire beyond all useful value things which they have absolutely no need for or use value whatsoever. After that, a whole network of supply chains exist to make sure that all of these empty, useless, commodities are gotten to where people do not need them as expeditiously as possible!

      People starve, while at the same time, people in other places become so hopelessly addicted to food they are in serious danger of eating themselves to death.

      The NSA, GCHQ and other intelligence agencies have taken it upon themselves to intercept, record, and evaluate all electronic human communications.

      The point I am somewhat belabouring is that, if one looks at the current way the world is organised with a critical eye, there exists both a truly awe-inspiring capacity for production of value, and the same time there exists absolutely staggering efforts to ensure all of that production is utterly wasted.

      Capitalism, as Marx recognised, for all its terrible injustices, is without doubt the most productive, and powerful modes of human organisation that has ever existed!

      As capitalism develops, it develops the very systems that make a more just and human world possible! This includes both the superstructure and the base, the means of production simply need to be seized and re-purposed!

      The problem is that, right now, all of said means of production and the superstructures that organise it, are directed toward excursively toward serving the interests of the capitalists who control it.

      The potential of socialism, to my mind, is that all of the productive human capacity could be redirected toward serving actual, existing, human needs and, as Mr. Dolack points out, have more than enough productivity left over to ensure every human being an existence worthy of their dignity.

      Of course, this would not be easy. But it actually only seems so overwhelming, despite the fact that, for the most part, it is already happening, because, in perhaps what is the most pernicious aspect of the capitalist system, all relationships are mediated through capital.

      If food is made and thrown away without being eaten, but generates capital, then it is not waste. If food is fed to the hungry, but no capital or potential for future capital is generated, than it is waste.

      Use, abuse, excess, deficiency, production, value, all are conceived of entirely independently of any reality save that which capitalism imposes upon the world, it is at once the most ruthlessly efficient, and at the same time, catastrophically wasteful system conceivable!

      However, all that needs to be done is take these core values and adjust them so that, rather than the entirety of human society being organised around the class interest of capital, the core value is instead the human society itself.

      Value is transformed from capitalist value into human value.

      It is my opinion that the true measure of a socialist system is not whether it is as effective as capitalism at providing humans with an abundance or accumulation of things that have, or we are persuaded have, some exchange or use value, but rather, to reconfigure value such that what is valuable is so insofar as it furthers the good of humanity.

      This isn’t to say, for instance, that some level of material abundance is not necessary to achieve this, but that instead of the production and accumulation of value expressed through the accumulation of capital, what is valuable is expressed through an expansion of what is human.

      Not necessarily a literal increase in the number of human beings, but a greater

      To try and bring this rambling monstrosity of a comment to a close, socialism is not only more than a naive fantasy, but it is the process by which the very instruments of the system of capitalist oppression are transformed into the instruments to liberate humanity from that self-same oppression.

      Now, to backtrack a little from the bombastic idealism I’ve been shameless indulging in… This isn’t to say that a socialist system would somehow eliminate all social ills and we would all exist in some sort of nonsensical wonderland. (I’m not that ridiculous.) There will still be a great many problems, but, rather than these problems being negotiated through the exchange and accumulation of capital, they will be negotiated through humanity.

      I do sincerely think, however, that through such a revaluation of value itself, the same bureaucracy that exists as an instrument of capitalist oppression, will be remade as a mode of human liberation.

      Ideas, ideologies, organisations, and social practices, are just as much the result of human production as any other aspect of the world humans inhabit. Thus, just as the the rest of the world is revalued in the wake of a genuine socialist revolution, so too will the ideas, organisations and ideologies that form this world’s superstructure.

      What I want to stress is that, true socialism is much, much more than a more equitable form of distribution within the same general paradigm of capitalism! Rather, it is the sublimation of capitalism through which not just the distribution of the material value produced by human society, but the human conception of value itself, and the valuation of all things, is qualitatively transformed through an ongoing revolutionary praxis.

      This means that, in effect, we will not know exactly how a functional socialist system will… uh… function… until such a system is actually in existence, or in the process of being brought into existence. Theorising and speculation alone can only take us so far, humanity cannot ‘think itself free’ of the capitalist system, though, the task of critique of both the capitalist system as a whole as well as the status quo remain a vital aspect of this revolutionary praxis.

      P.S. Sorry this is so ridiculously long and rambling… I just enjoy talking about these kinds of things, and it certainly restores some feeling of optimism in me, as opposed to the creeping dread I feel at the approach of a general election…

      • Patrick says:

        P.P.S. I am having second thoughts about this comment… I am agonising over all the syntax errors… This is why I should not write giant comments on a cell phone…

      • Patrick, don’t worry about any typos. We get your point, clearly. Well said!

        To follow up on your comment, I like to put it this way: Human beings possess a great many characteristics, in various combinations. Under capitalism, greed and a willingness to step on other people are rewarded. Under a different system geared toward human need instead of private profit based on cooperatives and social property (socialism if we like or “economic democracy” is that is preferred), then cooperation will be rewarded.

        It is indeed not a matter of finding ourselves in a utopian world — such a thing cannot exist — but in a world where different human traits can come to the fore and structures that promote the good of everyone instead of a minuscule elite. Not perfect, but much better.

  3. Patrick says:

    One of the criticisms I’ve often heard of Bernie Sanders is that his role within the Democratic Party is that of a “sheepdog”. That is to say, his role is to corral the left wing of the party, get younger voters excited and absorbed in the election (much like the rhetoric of “Hope and Change” did in the 2008 election).

    When this is accomplished, Sanders would then (as he has already pledged to do) bow out and ensure his former supporters are disheartened enough to swallow the usual “lesser of two evils” argument and vote for HRC (or some other neo-liberal hawkish ghoul otherwise indistinguishable from HRC) that has been deemed acceptable by the powers that be…

    I honestly don’t know if this is too cynical, and I’ve been chastised by friends who earnestly consider Sanders a positive force in electoral politics, if for no other reason than the prospect of providing a welcome breath of fresh air to the whole process.

    Some of my more optimistic acquaintances maintain that even if Sanders is an empty hope, his presence and the discussion of the issues he raises serve as leverage with which to open up a space within the county’s political imaginary for some future, hopelessly abstract, genuinely revolutionary movement.

    I have to admit, especially when juxtaposed with the Trump/Carson/Skeletor ticket the Republican primary seems to be offering up, that without Sanders at least offering something approaching a rational discourse, I would be in a very dark place right now.

    Basically, what I’d like to know is whether you think that, by bringing a modicum of sanity to the proceedings, Sanders is an overall positive force in American electoral politics and political conciousness, or whether his presence is essentially lending legitimacy to a farce and ultimately nothing more than an exercise in lowering expectations?

    I mean, I have something of a mind to consider all participation in the proceedings at this point to be at best a waste of energy that could be better directed elsewhere, and, at worst, an endorsement of a system designed explicitly to eviscerate genuine democratic potential and preserve what little dignity the office of the president has left at this point.

    On the other hand, I also have a notion that, beyond merely embracing the requisite level of hopelessness and despair that is the hallmark of a ‘good citizen’ in our time, not participating in the process does nothing to inconvenience it, and opens my own position up to the standard accusations of being irrational, antidemocratic, or in favour of some sort of generalised violence in place of political discourse…

    Ironically, that last accusation of being some sort of violent revolutionary is, ironically, usually meant as a thinly veiled threat of violence against myself as punishment for a perceived hostility toward an ideological belief system whoever I’m talking to happens to be unable to differentiate from their own shallow self-identity…

    (I meet these people with a saddening, but unsurprising, frequency when I have a history of medieval philosophy class in basement of the Business School Campus Doom-Fortress two days a week.)

    I honestly think that a general paralysis and despondence is the true purpose of most political spectacle in this country.

    Sorry, if I sound a bit grim… And rambling…

    So, on a lighter note…


    Laughing at the intellectual-dwarfs with comically misshapen heads on cable news sometimes cheers me up when I’m feeling petty.

    • Greetings, Patrick. And thank you for adding intelligent comments to a necessary discussion.

      To answer your question of whether Sanders is an overall positive force in U.S. electoral politics or simply lending legitimacy to a farce, I think some of both of these positions are true. I do believe it a positive that ideas ordinarily never discussed seriously in the corporate media are being heard. It is also true that in almost all presidential campaigns, somebody serves the job of keeping people inclined to leave the orbit of the Democratic Party onside. Sanders is doing that job now, regardless of what intentions he may have, but at least he is doing so through promoting ideas further outside ordinarily discourse than others, such as Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinich, who have served in this role in the past.

      The long journey toward a rational, sustainable future that has put capitalism into the rear-view mirror in the global North has to start somewhere, and although the rise of Bernie Sanders, or Jeremy Corbyn, or Podemos, have no potential to be vehicles for that, they can serve as starting points that can be surpassed. We have long decades of capitalist propaganda that have put ideas like “there is no alternative” into heads around the world and undoing that will require counter-presentations that offer something different and better to go along with the practical experience that capitalist decline has begun to administer.

  4. Interesting your point about the EU and democracy. It’s recently come out that the CIA helped finance the formation of the EU – as it clearly serves US corporate interests: http://ragingbullshit.com/2015/10/31/the-cia-connection-how-euro-federalists-were-financed-by-us-spy-chiefs/

    • Interesting. It turns out the article you linked to was originally published in The Telegraph, a leading voice of the British establishment, in 2000. That The Telegraph, a Tory publication, published it before euro-skepticism took hold in the Conservative Party, makes it all the more authoritative. Following up, I found a 2001 article in the EU Observer that states “irrefutable documents are available to the public, according to Sir Richard Body, who gives his version of the facts in his recent book, England for the English.’ ”

      This article says that the CIA played “an important role” in shoring up support for British membership in the E.U., but the author, upon finding this out in the 1970s, could not get any British newspaper to publish the story.

  5. tubularsock says:

    SD, you always produce incredible, well reasoned, intelligent posts. And those who respond follow with very well thought out and interesting responses. Tubularsock really, no kidding aside, loves your work.

    But here’s Tubularsock simple point. Forget Sanders. He’s a sideshow like Trump! It is all part of the manic magic show but remember just how easy it is to trick the eye.

    If there was anything that we have learned from the 2000 election is that the deal has been rigged. PERIOD.

    It has already been decided: Hillary and Jeb will get their parties nominations. (that is part A)

    Hillary wins the election. (that is part B)

    And the PEOPLE will be lead to believe that their vote counted! (that is part C)

    And then ………….

    Goodnight America, sleep until 2020. There is nothing for you to do until the next magic show.

    Now Tubularsock has been told that he is cynical and that the process WORKS! And Tubularsock would have to agree ……. Because in the fact the process DOES WORK and that is exactly why Tubularsock is cynical!

    Seeing how the process “works” is what we are watching now and so will be the outcome.

    Cheers my friend.

    • Wow, thanks for your most kind comments, Tubularsock.

      As to your parts A, B and C, that may be the scenario planned, but the Republican primary voters don’t seem to be cooperating so far. Trump and Carson will fade, and an establishment figure will get the Republican nomination. I do believe that Jeb Bush is the first choice among the big business types who direct the Republican Party, but they will ultimately have to settle on a second choice because Bush seems unlikely to do well with the primary voters. He’d also be toxic in a general election, which may give some of his backers pause.

      I also would be cautious as to Part B — remember that George W. Bush’s backers had to steal both the 2000 and 2004 elections, and Republicans actively work to suppress the vote. The Democratic and Republican parties may agree on neoliberal ideology and many other things, but we are talking about two groups of people who want the spoils of victory and do oppose each other, even if for personal career reasons. That said, the Republican Party is no longer capable of winning a national election, and if it is Hillary Clinton vs. Jeb Bush, then Clinton will win.

      Since we’ll get more austerity either way, Part C will be surely true.

      • tubularsock says:

        SD ….. Tubularsock agrees but remember Daddy Bush isn’t dead yet and that old boy has some serious secrets. Jeb can’t win it but sometimes it’s just a show anyway. No other Republican can win it either so to please Daddy could be the safe choice for the money power.

        Sure they could attempt to steal the election but why bother. To placate the “people” what’s the loss to the money boys? The “people” get their First Woman President like they got President Step-And-Fetch-It and the power structure remains business as usual.

        Now Tubularsock would really be happy if Tubularsock was totally WRONG. And time will tell but when all is lost blame the Russians!

  6. troutsky says:

    I still believe discourse matters and ruptures are possible in that sphere. So if Bernie were to suddenly hone in on a key trope of capitalist ideology,that “the Market is in us” , he could start to establish a terrain for more radical critiques. If he were to take market fundamentalism head on, and clearly articulate the alternative of democratic planning, he could start a shift and defy his role of legitimation. Would he lose “progressives” by this challenge? Could he be pushed to stake out such a position? Don’t know.

    As for alternatives, I’m wondering if others here have heard of Parecon, read any Michael Albert, if so, what do y’all think? Albert highlights the role of a “coordinator class” in undermining past experiments with socialism.

    • Greetings, Troutsky. I confess to knowing little of Parecon, but would like to know more about it; to the degree that I am familiar with Michael Albert I find his work quite interesting. Readers can find more information at this link on the ZNet web site.

      Doing a quickie search, I found these definitions:

      “Participatory economics, often abbreviated parecon, is an economic system based on participatory decision making as the primary economic mechanism for the allocation of the factors of production and guidance of production in a given society. … Parecon is a vision for how to conduct economic affairs consistent with liberatory values including solidarity, diversity, equity, self management, ecological sustainability, peace, and classlessness.”

      I definitely like that. Thanks for the tip — I will look more into it.

    • johnnyrutherford2 says:

      Hi Troutsky. Parecon is interesting, but readers might be interested in the critique of it made by Takis Fotopoulos (a few years back), which I thought made many valid points, as well as the alternative vision they propose called Inclusive Democracy (link below). I think both models have elements worth exploring but my main point is to stress that everyone must take far more account of ecological limits (see comment below). I have provided another link to Ted Trainer long paper on economic vision, which is very sensitive to ecological issues.



      • troutsky says:

        Thanks for the links johnny. There is,coincidentally, an effort being made by Gar Alperowitz and others to present and debate these various models- it is called the New Systems Project and there is actually a webinar today I will be watching. I think tone is important in presenting critiques, and avoiding the old adversarial schisms. Hopefully a collegial atmosphere can be established.

      • Takis Fotopoulas makes this critique of Parecon:

        “At the outset, it has to be made clear that Parecon, unlike the ID project, is not a political project about an alternative society. In other words, it is not a model of social organisation in general but simply an economic model. Political, cultural and broader social institutions are completely missing from the Parecon proposal. The explanation given for this is that ‘models for such institutions still await development.’ ”

        I know much too little about Parecon to discuss it or to evaluate this critique, but, to write generally and not in reference to any particular proposal, the political goes with (follows) the economic. I’ve been reading a discussion of Hugo Chávez’s “elementary triangle of socialism”: production for social needs and purposes; social production organized by workers; social ownership of the means of production. Each side of the triangle interpenetrates the others and none can exist successfully without the others. Such a triangle can’t exist without an appropriate political structure.

        As to the Next Systems Project, I will await more concrete proposals. Its statement concludes:

        “It is time for Americans to think boldly about what is required to deal with the systemic difficulties facing the United States. It is time to explore genuine alternatives and new models—’the next system.’ It is time to debate what it will take to move our country to a very different place, one where outcomes that are truly sustainable, equitable, and democratic are commonplace.”

        Although there is no argument against exploring genuine alternatives, I do find the statement unduly vague (and unfortunately nationalistic). There have been concrete proposals put forth by Gar Alperovitz, ones that on the one hand don’t go far enough but on the other hand do provide reasonable ideas on how we might begin what will be a long, difficult struggle from our current starting position. That struggle, however, must be on an international, not a national, basis.

  7. johnnyrutherford2 says:

    Hey Pete,

    You are right we need eco-socialism. But the limits to growth (LTG) analysis suggests it must be massively reconcieved, far beyond what you have outlined. LTG is as much a challenge to industrial society as it is to capitalism (though socialism is a much better place to de-industrialise than capitalism). For the kind of changes we need, see articles below, one from a eco-socialist perspective and one from an eco-anarchist (I debate the two in my head!)




    • Both of your links point explicate well the limits we are beginning to reach and the unsustainability of capitalism. From the first, the Eco-Socialism Initiative:

      “The energy density that has until now been available to us with the now dwindling fossil energy sources, cannot even be approximately achieved with the renewable energy sources. That is, although we indeed have to use some “green technologies”, at the final count, significantly less net energy will be available to us than today. …

      Future sustainable societies will have to manage with a very modest resource base. Mass motorized individual travel, the commonness of long-haul flights, etc. will then no longer be possible. With renewable energies much fewer blast furnaces can be fired, much less cement and aluminum can be produced etc. etc.”

      And from the second, the Simpler Way:

      “A new economy, one that is not driven by profit or market forces, and one that has no growth at all, that produces much less than the present one, and focuses on needs and rights. It might have many private firms and markets, but there must be (participatory, democratic, open and local) social control over what is developed, what is produced, and how it is distributed.  Most economic activity will be local, using local resources, controlled by ordinary citizens, and geared to maximising the quality of life of all in the region.”

      Very little difference between the two perspectives. We will be using less energy in the future; the question is how we will manage that change, and all the associated changes with it. A paper by economist Minqi Li spells out the possible future, and the limits of renewable energy, in sobering terms.

      • johnnyrutherford2 says:

        Thanks Pete for sharing their views on the challenges we face to your readers. Yes both Saral and Ted agree that we face savage limits to growth. There main difference is over how we get to the new society (in large part the old anarchist/socialist debate). I will read that paper by Minqi (who is indeed a very valuable theorist, very conscious of limits) with interest.

        • johnnyrutherford2 says:

          Pete, I have just now flicked that Minqi paper and, while very useful, its a bit dated (2007). He has more recent stuff here – http://content.csbs.utah.edu/~mli/

          Minqi seems to be doing very valuable work. Unlike many/most socialists he is very where of the underlying energy/resource crisis of capitalism, which constitutes its death-nail and sets the parameters for a future viable eco-socialism.

  8. TBestIG says:

    I’m very happy that Sanders is getting so much momentum at the moment. He’s about where Obama was in 2007, and his support base is growing quickly. Mostly I’m worried that the other candidates with their financial superiority will produce attack ads faster than Bernie can defend himself.

    • The bigger question is if people will act collectively on the ideas animating Bernie Sanders’ candidacy. One person can do very little, millions of people can do a lot.

      • TBestIG says:

        Of course. Since the beginning of his campaign he’s tried to tell people it’s not about getting him in, it’s about changing the establishment and the ideas and people behind him. Sadly not many people seem to realize this

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