Dark Horse- Bernie Sanders 2016: The “S” Word

A caller to the Thom Hartmann program called to ask how to define for friends and family what a democratic Socialist was. Thom struggled with a somewhat long-winded response, indicative of the difference between nuanced characterizations of issues on the Left and the bumper-sticker simplicity of the Right. Given that the Right has worked hard to turn the word socialism, let alone, any concept or interpretation in a pejorative, it would seem that it is not a simple argument. Those words mean more to people over 40 who still recall the Cold War and the constant, generation’s long drumbeat about communism.

There are a couple of deep and unassailable truths here. The first is that neither China nor the Soviet Union were ever actually Communist, let alone socialist. They were dictatorships, more closely aligned to fascism than communism. The second ultimate truth is that we are all socialist by nature, and that even the most strident capitalist is, well, socialist.

The root of socialism is of course “social,” that intangible mix of family, community, culture and survival that we all are born to. To be social is to be part of society, and no matter how much Ayn Rand cultists infect neo-Libertarian or Tea Party ideology, we all rely and depend upon society to degrees few of us realize. The Bible, Koran, Torah, the parliamentary system, the constitution when realized fully are all socialist institutions and documents: We the People!

Communism and Socialism are not synonymous terms, except for the intentionally ignorant. Like capitalism and true democracy none have ever been honestly attempted on a grand scale, and so, all systems of economy and government on the planet are at worst corruptions and at best hybrids of one another. Bernie sanders has long described himself as a social-democrat, and through no small part of his life was active in the socialist party in Vermont. Sanders is running now as a democrat. That doesn’t make a great deal of allies on either the right or the far left.

Despite criticism from so-called purists in the socialist party, it is astounding that his message has found such resonance among voters and supporters. Just one or two elections ago mainstream candidates were all but running from being described or even associated with socialists. While on the ever aging Right socialism is still ubiquitous with communism, progressives and liberals, and many unaffiliated younger voters are far less alarmed by the word. In truth, many of his positions, consistent with socialist ideals, have become mainstream. A new generation, informed in politics, justice and social issues by the Occupy movement and the blatantly corrupt marriage of money and politics, embraces solutions and issues championed by Sanders, ideas once held as far left utopianism.

Still criticism by the left against Sanders persists. According to the website socialistworker.org:
“We do support many of Sanders’ proposals for reform, like free higher education, the breakup of the mega-banks, a green jobs program to promote alternative energy and stop climate change, and measures to challenge corporate domination of the political system. We also disagree with Sanders’ support for apartheid Israel and his failure to consistently challenge U.S. imperialism, his weak position on the issue of racist police violence, and his support for restrictions on immigrant rights.”

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly for a malleable campaign which must react swiftly to a veritable hail storm of issues from terrorism, the Iran nuclear deal, the death of Sandra Bland and gun violence. For a candidate who fashions himself as a true reformer, Sanders has shown an ability to react quickly while actually listening to constituents rather than promoting focus group and special interest positions.

But for many on the Left, particularly in the socialist party, an often splintered group known for bitter internal battles, the problem is party affiliation. Ashley Smith and Alan Maass, writing for the Socialist Worker, believe Sanders’ “biggest problem is Sanders’ relationship to the Democratic Party. It poses as the “party of the people,” but it is, in fact, a capitalist party, funded and controlled by Corporate America and the political elite. The party establishment tolerates liberals and even radicals in their midst, so long as they don’t represent a significant threat. (http://socialistworker.org/2015/05/27/an-faq-on-sanders-and-the-left)”

But elections are won in the middle, and Sanders has built an amazing base, drawing record crowds around the nation, including in red states such as Texas. Those audiences are comfortable and encouraged that he does not shy away from being identified as a socialist.

The issue in the campaign is not that Bernie Sanders is running as a democrat or identifies as a socialist. The greatest threat to sanders’ campaign currently are the Press, factionalism on the Left and the Corporate Oligarchy, which holds inordinate sway over both parties, particularly when it comes to elections. But socialism is dangerous, right?

The Press and corporate oligarchy could be viewed as one in the same. Since the Reagan administration it has emerged as the information wing for that oligarchy. There remains a synergy between corporate media coverage of select corporately sympathetic candidates and the amount of money, especially following the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, flowing to candidates (http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2015/07/for-gop-senators-running-for-white-house-campaign-cash-correlates-with-export-import-bank-position/ ).

Even more, the number of Americans donating to elections and candidates, primarily via Super-PACs is dangerously skewed to a very elite minority, all of them wealthy and expecting a return on investment. That idea of return on investment is the structural strategy behind the American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, a pipeline for corporate-crafted legislation placed in the hands of legislators. That fundamentally threatens the democratic process of voting, in the same way it would be undemocratic and unfair had a law passed allowing corporate CEOs to dictate all their employees vote for a specific candidate or face retribution or termination.

Just as alarming is the skewe3d coverage by the media in favor of select candidates while ignoring others. The coverage by networks and outlets favors candidates like Donald Trump with near constant coverage and validation despite a lack of substance in a campaign which is very clearly more about entertainment and Trump’s ego. There is nothing in any of his positions and comments beneficial to the pressing issues of the nation. More substantive candidates, attempting to have rational, real conversations have been kept out of regular media, those messages relying almost entirely upon social media. Social vs traditional media will be covered in a later post.

Factionalism within the Left remains a looming question. In the 2014 mid-terms low turnout on the left enabled key victories on the right. Particularly on the Left, dominated by younger voters there is both apathy and discontent. Both were reasons many young people refused to vote in 2014. Sanders has inspired many, even if coverage of his meteoric popularity has been ignored by the mainstream press. The factionalism on the Left may be a greater issue for Hillary Clinton than for Sanders. That remains to be seen. At the end of July she still led nationally in polls, but that lead was shrinking steadily. Still, the corporately co-opted DNC, like their GOP counterparts is pressing ahead with their choice: Hillary Clinton.

Getting out the vote is the key. Too many young people and progressives no longer have faith in that process. Numbers of votes are still the key. Someone is going to cast those votes. The right is counting on the elderly and actively working to polarize the nation along racial and economic lines. At the end of the day the candidates you get into office are the ones who drive the policies, make the laws and impose them on the rest of us. Voting is the only way to offset the corruption in the system.

Expecting any candidate to be 100% ideologically pure 100% of the time in a complex and diverse nation of 380 million is unrealistic and foolish.

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Capitalism didn’t give you that, nor did the government.

Thank Gaia that we’ve managed to maintain a historical thread of reality through the last century, however timid and broken it may be. There are answers in the history explored below, a long forgotten history that we’ve been coerced into negating. This whispers to the common sense of the community and the village within us; the inclination that leads one to turn to her/his neighbors for help and information before turning to the the state authorities or the closest blaring talking box—because you still know your neighbors and what they go through. Remember that impulse based on instinct? Capitalism didn’t give you that, nor did the government.

From “An Overview of the Spanish Libertarian Movement

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Maybe if the Marxists sold cookies

It’s like a game of pool, Left against Right in a game of eight ball. Just one problem: while the Left is over against the wall bickering with one another the Right is running the table and taking a walk with all the winnings. And normally I’d say that the Left is getting what it deserves, but the consequence is that it takes us all down the crapper as well.imagesFM3M3JT4

I had this conversation with someone over the weekend. And it isn’t new. I’ve heard it many times, and has actually been a huge bone of contention with me. It was a report from someone about yet another squabble among groups on the Left. This involved accusations against the ISO, or International Socialists organization. It was said that they attempt to infiltrate and take over other groups, and that has led to far more than simply friction and animosity. The biggest point of contention, it seemed to me was that the ISO was being accused of trying to run everything in a Soviet-style politburo sort of power takeover. My reaction was that if they are that big of douche bags, just don’t invite them.

“Well they are really well organized with lots of resources,” came the reply.

Here’s the deal, this really isn’t about the ISO. I really don’t know jack about the ISO, nor do I care. I’ve only met a couple of ISO members informally and really didn’t draw any lasting impression. I will say this. The girl scouts are really well organized and have loads of resources, but I’m not hanging out with them any time soon or entering into any grassroots coalition. I do love their cookies, however, especially the Somoas; coconut and dark chocolate and…

Hell, maybe if the Marxists sold cookies… Still, I spent a lot of time in Eastern Europe during the early and mid 1910s, and Marxists make really poor piss cookies.

I don’t care about labels. I could care less about Marxist versus Trotskyist ideology or whatever. Too many damn labels, which just builds this elitist and antagonistic little walls, reducing the left and progressives to a cabal of disparate cliques. I hated cliques in high school, and I still loathe them today.

What bugs me is that they will fight each other over a paragraph in Das capital while the Right runs away with the gold. I don’t care if you are a Humanist, Socialist, anarchist or whatever. What I want is that shi…stuff gets done. I will stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone, of whatever political, social, ideological or philosophical persuasion, including the ISO, as long as they are focused on making this country and planet predominant with the ideals of love, respect, human dignity and the broadest possible realization of human rights which encompasses the widest possible range of humanity while marginalizing power, greed, narrow-mindedness and ignorance.

Lefties, the Rightwing thinks you’re a joke for acting like children and playing “let’s change the world” from your 7 member club houses. Produce something. Win something. And, by the way, getting 9 of your white friends to march on the street with hand drawn pithy signs or pounding a drum isn’t a protest, it’s a nuisance. If you don’t own the street, and run the sidewalk with hundreds or thousands, if you don’t own the message and make a difference you’re not a revolutionary you’re just a bunch of jerks who are in my way while I’m trying to get to the ATM or the train.

Am I weak? The only way we win is with coalitions. The only way we stop the Right, the corporations and the corrupted politicians is via numbers. But weak? I’ve stood up to mega-corporations, the government, been arrested in a war zone by two different armies and more. I call for peaceful but definite revolution and pound the desk against oppression everyday on my radio show, so much that some are afraid that the clock is ticking on my safety and freedom.

I want every time these a-holes think we’re dupes or weak, we put 10,000, a million in the streets like they do in Ukraine or Brazil, Turkey, Bangkok and Egypt. I want what the Bosnians do, sweep the police aside because there’s 8,000 of us and 200 of them, and if they shoot at us or kill a few of those that only speeds up the process and demand of real change. That we demand police serve the people. That politicians serve the people, and if they don’t, we demand the police do their sworn duty to take them to jail. And if they don’t we the people march the politicians, bankers, Koch Brothers and any police that refuse to uphold the law to jail.

Too much? I boy can dream…I could use a cookie!

WC Turck has been called “The most dangerous voice on the Left.” He can be heard on Chicago’s only voice for activism, and the true Progressive voice, Q4 radio, streaming weekdays from 9-11am. And listen to Revolution and Beer Weekend with partner and cohost BL Murray Saturdays from 1-3pm. Turck is the author of 4 books. His first novel “Broken: One soldiers unexpected journey home,” was recommended by the National Association of Mental Health Institutes in 2008 for its treatment of PTSD. “Everything for Love” is a memoir of love and war during the siege of Sarajevo. “Burn Down the Sky” was published in 2010 on Amazon as an e-book fictionalized his experiences and insights on the frontlines of the war on terror. “The Last Man,” an Occupy novel is a warning about world ruled by a single corporation. Turck wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart: A revolutionary Christmas Carol,” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” His current project is to build and proliferate truly independent media and radio stations across the country.

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The Jeremy Hammond Reader

jhOK, not really. However, I did think it would be useful to post some links related to Jeremy Hammond and his recent sentencing to 10 years federal prison because people are curious–as they should be. His crime? He exposed collusion between the government and the private sector to frame political dissenters as terrorists. They don’t like it when you point that out. Not your grandmother’s America.

The first is by is by a wonderful and passionate woman who I recently spoke with for a HuffPo article about Jeremy’s twin brother Jason. Her recent article was actually held for release by the request of Jeremy’s legal team, and happened a few months ago. The second is about last year’s attempt by his support community to have Judge Preska recuse herself. The 3rd is his “official” statement at his sentencing last Friday, with the names of FBI-selected targets redacted. The fourth is what is currently thought to be his full statement, without omissions.

Vivien Wiesman HuffPo article about Jeremy

About last year’s attempt by his support community to have Judge Preska recuse herself:

Jeremy’s statements during sentencing (censored):

Thought to be Jeremy’s statements during sentencing (uncensored):

And a perspective piece by Chris Hedges about his interview with Jeremy a few days before his sentencing:

Here’s our interview with Sue Crabtree on WCPT’s Our Town with Mike Sanders. She’s the woman who has done an enormous share of the organizing within his support network; all gratis.

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