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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Bernie Sanders and Democratic Socialism After Super Tuesday (Part Five of a Five Part Series)

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

Bernie Sanders and Democratic Socialism After Super Tuesday

Bernie Sanders, Democratic Socialism, and the Other America (Part Five of a Five Part Series)
Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.
— Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach
Super Tuesday is not the end for democratic socialism and for greater democratic governance. Whether Bernie Sanders is the next president or not, does not matter, precisely because the movement he has created intends to destroy the rigged political system of corporate contributions and a nation controlled by the wealthiest 1% of Americans. It is, nevertheless, a formidable task to subvert the dominant ideas. It must continually be shown that these ideas do not conform to reality, especially the reality for the working class and poor. For instance, the promise of social mobility that capitalism holds out to the public is continually challenged with economic crisis (boom-bust cycle). Downturns in the economy then result in layoffs, underemployment, and financial crisis for individuals. As a result, in the richest country in the world, 1 in 7 in the United States now relies on food stamps to survive. Clearly evidence like this contradicts the theory underlying capitalism and opens the door for the possibility of revolutionary change. Addressing the structural nature of capitalism itself is the precondition for remediating an economy that will better serve the common good.
The eight-hundred pound gorilla in the room
Nobody is addressing, at least directly, the class warfare issue. Bernie Sanders hammers away on how the rich are getting richer and the middle class poorer, and how the rich need to pay their share of taxes. But the discussion shuts down when any serious analysis, usually by politicians, academics and the media, starts to “following the money.” They leave the discussion satisfied by the fact that business is business and that corporate executives have fiduciary responsibility to create profits for their shareholders. And this means attempting to obfuscate the systemic analysis of a market economy designed to serve the 1%. What would an analysis look like if the rights of workers were discussed in terms of the vast majority of profits they create? Why couldn’t this discussion run parallel to the vast majority of profits created by major league baseball players for the owners of major league teams?
Revolution means bridging the distance between labor and capital by paying workers the lion’s share of the surplus value they create. And this is why Bernie is the best chance yet for the average person in the United States who supplies their labor to a corporation or business. For Marx, gaining a deeper insight into the contradictions of capitalism was not a purely intellectual exercise. The point of developing theory was to inform political practice—but this only comes about first and foremost from the concrete existential experience of real live human beings. Moreover, the point of learning about historical struggles is so the working class can better understand what are the most effective levers for changing society. Ideas alone are insufficient for altering capitalist relations.
Conservatives like Josef Schumpeter have argued that the “success” of capitalism would indeed lead to socialism, while liberals like Marx understood that the victory of socialism over capitalism was not inevitable. Capitalism, despite being wracked by internal contradictions and periodic economic crises, is not going to collapse of its own accord.  What is needed is revolutionary social change focused on class struggle to claim the wealth created by workers and the power of elites illegitimately expropriated form the democratic majority. Indeed, to achieve any progressive social change, it is imperative to understand that “Power concedes nothing without a demand,” as the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass once put it.
A cursory glance at history confirms this
It is working class people who have had to fight to win the 8-hour workday. It is working class people who have had to fight for and continue to fight for just wages, equal pay for women, and civil rights. None of these gains were handed to working class people by some impersonal law of economic development. Nor were they handed down by some benevolent politician. So who might best be the “change agent” for this reconstruction of democratic society? Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton? For sure Trump and the Republicans will never betray their class interests. What is at stake here, on post Super Tuesday, is the much larger issue of democratic governance in politics and economics. Democratic socialism is simply a means to promote a more democratic society, and for all intents and purposes, it transcends both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The goal in this process is to end the oligarchy and plutocracy that has undermined the fundamentals of democratic rule.
And the Congressional Black Caucus is not immune to being co-opted by big money and a rigged economy. Their allegiance to Hilary Clinton is understandable but nevertheless reprehensible. After all, Obama was a perfect example of this for eight years.
Edward Martin is Professor of Public Policy and Administration, Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration at California State University, Long Beach, and co-author of Savage State: Welfare Capitalism and Inequality; Mateo Pimentel lives on the Mexican-US border, writing for many alternative political newsletters and Web sites. He can be reached at: mateo.pimentel@gmail.com.Read other articles by Edward Martin and Mateo Pimentel.

The Marxist Critique (Part 4 of a 5 Part Series)

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

The Marxist Critique

Bernie Sanders, Democratic Socialism, and the Other America (Part 4 of a 5 Part Series)
Where do we go from here?
From the moment Karl Marx put pen to paper, pro-capitalist political commentators and academics have attempted to bury his ideas. But successive generations of political activists have continually turned to Marx’s ideas, from working class labor activists who joined the various communist and socialist parties in the early 20th century, to student radicals who stood up to the horrors of Vietnam war in the 1960s. All have bravely embraced Marx’s searing indictment of capitalism and the nature of class antagonisms resulting in revolution. Today, with millions around the world plunged into the indignity and pain of unemployment, hunger, and homelessness, Marx’s ideas have an enduring relevance. Indeed, for those of us who want to win a society free of misery and class inequality that scar our world, Marx’s ideas are essential for understanding why modern capitalism is so obscene. We argue that Marxist thought and action is an indispensable guide to action.
Despite all the pronouncements that class does not exist, that the biggest divisions are those between nations, sexes, or cultures, Marx was correct in his assessment about the nature of capitalism. It is a system defined by the exploitation of the working class by the capitalists. When Marx wrote the Communist Manifesto and later on Capital, capitalism dominated only in pockets of Europe and North America. The vast majority of the world’s population was peasants, independent farmers, or members of tribal groups.  However, capitalism quickly became a global system as demonstrated by the work of world systems theorists, such as Immanuel Wallerstein. Capitalist strategies, from colonial times to the industrial revolution, sought to remove peasants and indigenous peoples from their land and push them into rapidly-developing urban centers where capital intensive industries were emerging. What developed as a result was a working class dependent upon selling their labor power in exchange for wages while becoming increasingly polarized with respect to the grotesque inequalities that resulted from labor and capital being pit against each other.
Let’s look at this on a global scale. According to a UN document published in 2006, the concentration of wealth reveals that the richest 1 percent of adults own 40 percent of global assets and the top 10 percent own 85 percent. In contrast, the bottom half of the world’s adult population – or about 1.85 billion people – own only 1 percent of the world’s assets. Far from being a broken economic system, international capitalism is designed to function accordingly. This is part of the structure of society and helps to explain why the social classes not only exist but are “hostile camps” to each other. For the international elites, their wealth does not simply result randomly out of thin air.  Neither are the profits of the capitalists the product of genius or hard work, but rather they come from workers: the surplus value they create. And because the capitalists are locked into competition with each other, they are always seeking ways to cut costs and maximize profits. Capitalism is, therefore, characterized by a never-ending struggle between labor and capital. Thus class struggle is waged as an open battle but desperately kept hidden and hushed as inappropriate public discussion.
Marx was also correct when he argued that the only group in society capable of fundamentally challenging inequality, exploitation, and oppression was the very class that was most impacted by those injustices: the working class. The horrors of capitalism, Marx argued, inevitably push its victims to resist the very system that keeps them in chains and that the working class has the revolutionary capacity to be that same system’s gravediggers. The reasons are numerous for Marx. First, the working class has the majority on their side. But more important than numbers is the centrality of workers to production and profit-making. Without labor in the workplace, industry produces nothing, not a single product would be produced. Even in the case of technology and robotics, trained workers are needed to maintain the very technology that attempts to cut labor costs. Second, if labor withdraws en massefrom capital, the source of profits dry up. No other group in society has this power to challenge the functioning of capitalism in such a fundamental way. This is how workers truly wield power. While capitalism forces workers to compete against each other for scarce jobs, it does unite workers in the need to cooperate with each other to combat exploitation. Third, the need for collective action in turn requires that workers build democratic organizations that can inspire solidarity in order to organize the majority of workers to take action (see Martin and Pimentel, Future of Solidarity andMarxist Praxis, Catholic Solidarity, and Human Dignity).
It is this collective nature of struggle and working class life under capitalism that gives workers the capacity to reorder society, or “socially construct” a new economy in the interests of the majority. The only way workers can abolish the conditions of exploitation is to collectivize and socialize the means of production and distribution, democratizing all aspects of production and decision making, through worker-owned cooperatives or as major stockholders in enterprise. Given the interdependent nature of the world economy, this process would necessarily be international, and hence Marx’s call for workers of the world to unite translates counterintuitively to saving capitalism and capitalists from themselves. If workers have no money to spend, then any economic system, no matter how primitive or modern, collapses on itself—and on all of us together.
The “ruling ideas” today insist on the notion of social mobility, meaning, that if individual actors “work hard,” anybody can make it. Inequality, accordingly, is not structured into the system. Moreover, the competitive, individualistic, dog-eat-dog nature of capitalism reflects, not the interests of the elite, but instead something so basic as human nature that it is easily legitimized as a self-evident truth of nature. Once again, Marx was correct when he argued that a key weapon in the hands of the ruling class is ideology, that is, systems of ideas that attempt to naturalize privileges and the subordinate position of the majority of people, the working class. This is not surprising: the capitalist system tramples on the needs and desires of the majority of people in the interests of a minority. To preserve the “status quo” and prevent the “grave digging,” the 1% must successfully break up the majority, subvert “solidarity,” and win over others to the idea that nothing else, as a socially constructed economic model, is really possible. The ruling class has the resources and assets for disseminating and promoting its ideas on a huge scale. The working class needs to disseminate its propaganda as counterpoint to capitalist hegemony.
Edward Martin is Professor of Public Policy and Administration, Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration at California State University, Long Beach, and co-author of Savage State: Welfare Capitalism and Inequality; Mateo Pimentel lives on the Mexican-US border, writing for many alternative political newsletters and Web sites. He can be reached at: mateo.pimentel@gmail.com.Read other articles by Edward Martin and Mateo Pimentel.

Bernie, Hillary, and the Legacy of Socialism (Part Three of a Five Part Series)

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

Bernie, Hillary, and the Legacy of Socialism

Bernie Sanders, Democratic Socialism, and The Other America (Part Three of a Five Part Series)
The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas.
— Karl Marx, The German Ideology
Capitalism, Michael Harrington argued, is characterized by a never-ending struggle between labor on one hand and the capitalists and their allies (co-opted government and legal system) on the other. For Harrington this constituted class struggle, a struggle waged over the cost of labor, safety and conditions at work, health care, education, living-wage work, public transport, etc. The conflict is created when workers are paid less than the value they produce. This is exacerbated by the fact that capitalists are locked into competition with each other and are always seeking ways to cut costs and maximize profits. This design is perpetuated by elites in order to maintain their wealth and status, foremost.
In two of his great works, Socialism (1972) and The New American Poverty (1985), Harrington argued similarly to Marx in The German Ideology, where the bourgeoisie use their “free speech” to buy politicians, judges, and religious functionaries in order to craft an ideology to legitimize their status. This legitimized status then becomes an economic dogma, taking on an almost divine status. Nevertheless, this interpretation of capitalism became popular in the 1950s with the Frankfurt School exiles now located at the New School for Social Research in New York City. One of these scholars, Jürgen Habermas, later formalized this phenomenon in his Legitimation Crisis, 1975, along with other scholars such as Robert Dahl, Who Governs? C. Wright Mills, The Power Elite, Ted Lowi, The End of Liberalism and William Domhoff, Who Rules America?
In Socialism: Past and Future (1989), Harrington posthumously argued that another key weapon in ideological domination was the attempt by elites to “normalize” their privileges in the minds of the majority and to make the majority understand that it is in their best interests to subordinate their interests to elites. Today “elites” translate into the 1%. The “proletariat” (99%) must be conditioned to the idea that nothing else is possible and that the most effective means for this indoctrination must come through education, government, media, etc., as platforms for disseminating and promoting dominant ideas and values. Harrington uses the mass media as an example in which he argues that the media has the capacity to shape public debate on a national scale. They are far from neutral observers.
To deflect attention away from the real problems – underemployment, unemployment, poverty, elite control, unjust distributions of economic wealth, etc., – the media help stoke anti-egalitarian sentiments whenever they decide to give primetime coverage to elites who simultaneously reinforce elitist values. Nevertheless, few underemployed, unemployed, or poverty stricken people are interviewed regarding their personal experiences and analysis of their own poverty since this would invariably lead to more penetrating questions on the causes of the cycle of poverty. And according to Harrington’s insights, this clearly explains why major media outlets such as MSNBC, FOX News, CNN, ABC, NBC, and CBS refuse any significant exposure to Bernie Sanders, and why the critical underlying issues that he represents – specifically that class conflict is an inherent dimension of market capitalism – is completely disregarded. That is, real human beings are expendable in market economies. What do the major media outlets care as long as their profit margins and their massive financial investments are performing for their shareholders?
Democratic socialism
In alignment with Marx and socialism itself, the solution Harrington argued was that people have fundamental democratic rights, both politically and economically. Political and economic rights are therefore both inseparable parts and essential for a democratic society and a democratic economy. Harrington, like Marx, was an Enlightenment democrat, as in small “d.” Workers have a democratic and economic right to the profits and “surplus value” they create in any economic relationship. Moreover, Harrington argued that democratic economic rights must also be extended to a democratic welfare state as well, one where welfare is understood as government sponsored living wage work – to replace the welfare handouts.
Harrington urged the following goals for democratic socialism: dignified living-wage work, environmental sustainability, progressive tax policies, democratic participation in the economy, local community empowerment, global non-violence, and social justice with respect to race, ethnicity, gender, and social class. The transformation into a democratic socialist society for Harrington has to do with confronting those institutions within society who have an overabundance of power, while simultaneously redistributing this power democratically into the political and economic dimension of people’s lives. All of this for Harrington demands legislative reform and is the key to: (1) bridging the labor-capital schism in the United States, and (2) transforming a market economy into an economy that prioritizes economic rights. This is what The Other America was really driving at, not simply a critique of society but a democratic transformation.
The legacy of socialism is not utopian
Is there anything we could possibly learn from socialism and socialist thinkers such as Robert Owen, David Ricardo, Karl Marx, John Stuart Mill, and Albert Einstein that would benefit the United States? None of what they offer is utopian; they offer a strategic plan to remediate inequalities, such as the 1% hammering the 99%. FDR’s Economic Bill of Rights and the foundation of any democratic socialist or social democratic society, such as those in Northern and Western Europe, is based precisely on realistic and pragmatic solutions, and these are derived from progressive tax schemes by making the rich pay their “fair share.”
This is exactly where the funding will come from, and those who have suffered financially over the past several years do not mind at all that wealth is redistributed. And this is why Hillary Clinton is irrelevant. Her husband’s appearances on her behalf will not help even as Hillary attempts to sound more and more like Bernie. The new sound and fury in her voice is hollow. There is no real fire in her belly because she is personally aligned with Wall Street—not the middle class and poor.
The social and existential distance that exits between Hillary and her 1% allies in the media and Congress is one major reason for the misanalysis of why the Bern is scorching the field. But the other more formidable reason is that they do not care to know, really, what it is like to lose a home, a job, a car, have a son killed in Iraq, have massive debt from a health care emergency, have manic stress from inability to pay creditors just to stay solvent in America. Hillary is not there for them—and never will be. She now claims that she will go after the hedge fund moguls. But do you really think Hillary would go after her son-in-law’s hedge fund? That’s how her son-in-law and daughter earn a very lucrative income. And if her son-in-law’s hedge fund closes in on some public pension funds and carves it up for Wall Street, do you think she really cares if retirees get screwed in the process? It is the trust factor that matters principally because of all the contradictions.
For example, while in office, Hillary has nodded her approval of labor, but functioned as a corporate centrist, serving on the board of trustees for Wal-Mart, one of the ugliest, union-busting corporations in the country whose workers depend on food stamps. She talks the relevant environmental lingo, yet as Secretary of State she supports fracking and the Keystone Pipeline, the Transpacific Partnership, and remains silent in the face of crippling trade embargos on Venezuela. She mentions human rights in terms of LGBT and women’s reproductive rights but no protest of the right-wing coups on Haiti and Honduras. And the devastating foreign policy outcomes where Palestine is still living in virtual reservation in Gaza, the Benghazi disaster leaving Libya in a state of anarchy, the Iraq War with over 4,000 dead Americans, one million dead and wounded civilians, and the resulting birth of ISIS in reaction to these foreign policy blunders. Bernie is correct regarding foreign policy. It is not a matter of experience but of judgment.
Now Hillary is starting to change these positions. Who cares if she called herself a moderate democrat months ago, and now after a couple narrow victories over Bernie, a progressive.  She has a proven track record of having people like Ruppert Murdock do a fund raiser for her and proudly claim “you can hardly be a lawyer and not represent banks.” Ann Coulter said it best on Bill Maher:  Hillary “cares more about the Chamber of Commerce than the American people.” And that is true for Ann Coulter and the Republicans as well.
Read:  Part One here; Part Two here
Edward Martin is Professor of Public Policy and Administration, Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration at California State University, Long Beach, and co-author of Savage State: Welfare Capitalism and Inequality; Mateo Pimentel lives on the Mexican-US border, writing for many alternative political newsletters and Web sites. He can be reached at: mateo.pimentel@gmail.com.Read other articles by Edward Martin and Mateo Pimentel.

Democratic Socialism and the 2016 US Presidential Election (Part Two of a Five Part Series)

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

Democratic Socialism and the 2016 US Presidential Election

Bernie Sanders, Democratic Socialism, and the Other America (Part Two of a Five Part Series)
In 1962, Michael Harrington wrote The Other America, which basically identified the causes of poverty and inequality in the United States as the result of unregulated free market capitalism. This book in turn had a significant impact on the thinking of John F. Kennedy and the role of government in promoting greater social justice. But it was the Johnson Administration and the War on Poverty programs (Medicaid, Medicare, Food Stamps, Expanded Social Security Benefits, etc.) that followed the Kennedy Administration’s lead. What the Johnson Administration did was address the issues facing The Other America, such as the fact that the economic system in the United States had created two parallel Americas: one in which socialism existed for the rich; and where individualistic capitalism existed for the poor. Harrington further argued that this bi-polar arrangement was destroying not only the foundations of the US economy but the very foundation of civil society. And it was MLK, influenced by Vincent Harding and James Cone, who echoed this in his 1967 speech against the Vietnam War, arguing that racial justice and economic justice must not be separated from the other in promoting global social justice.
In The Other America, Harrington drew on three major sources to support his argument on two Americas: statistical analysis of current trends in poverty; critiques of the market economy by way of Utpon Sinclair’s The Jungle; and the penetrating historical analysis by historian Edward Bellamy in Looking Backward: 2000-1887, a penetrating critique of the Gilded Age. But what people did not know at the time of the publication of The Other America, was that Harrington was a socialist – a “democratic socialist” – and founding member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). The DSA argued that the Democratic Party was held captive by its clientele, the wealthy and elite in America, and that it had become unresponsive to the rights of labor, increasing poverty, inequality, and racism in America. In fact, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party were becoming increasingly similar according to the DSA. Yet, it was Harrington and others on the New Left, such as the scholars at the New School for Social Research, and the critical social theorists such as Herbert Marcuse and Jürgen Habermas, and Marxists such as Paul Sweezy, Paul Baran and Harry Magdoff, who argued that the structural nature of capitalist arrangements fomented class conflict and class warfare. In fact, Harrington, along with these other scholars, argued that intrinsic to competitive market capitalism is an ongoing struggle between labor and capital, profit maximization over labor, and the liberal right to private property to the exclusion and marginalization of labor. Systemic poverty was no longer a random phenomenon beyond human understanding, and Harrington had made this form of economic analysis de riguer within academic and journalistic settings. Even in his appearances on William F. Buckley’s Firing Line, Harrington consistently argued not only for the moral grounding of a just economy but also its sound economic sense. And all of this had a huge impact on a young Bernie Sanders.
Sanders is one of these DSA styled socialists, not the type that promotes a state run system that owns and controls the means of production and every aspect of people’s lives. Far from the raging Bolsheviks and Trotskyites at the turn of the twentieth century, Sanders has explained his version of DSA style socialism on numerous media outlets over the years. So the media know well what he is all about. He has a public record. His position is clear, and his untiring explanation of his DSA position is basically a repeat of The Other America, which calls for economic rights in a democratic society, exactly what FDR called for in his Economic Bill of Rights. And if the market cannot accommodate these rights, then the government of the United States, or any democratic government for that matter, has a moral duty to provide fundamental human needs as economic rights. This is exactly the same form of social democracy that has developed in the Scandinavian countries, Canada, New Zealand, etc., and it is amazingly similar to what the Catholic Church prescribed in 1965, at the end of Vatican II in a document titled Gaudium et Spes (Church in the Modern World). Jesuit Theologian Daniel O’Hanlon and Vatican observer Gary MacEoin have argued that Harrington’s The Other America not only influenced Pope John XXIII, who commenced the Vatican II Council in 1962, but also Pope Paul VI, who concluded the Council in 1965. What an interesting parallel between Harrington of the DSA, and some savvy popes who understood that the common good on a global scale demanded a social mortgage.
Fast forward to 2016.
As a result of the Great Recession in 2008, most Americans today have literally struggled for their economic lives in one way or another. The manifestations have been felt painfully in wage-reductions, job loss, depleted 401K accounts, raided pensions, short sales on homes, foreclosures on homes, survival credit card debt, financial bankruptcy, healthcare bankruptcy, family financial stress, repossessions, economic and emotional scars of the phony war in the Middle East, soldier deaths, wounded veterans, etc. At the same time, billionaires and the 1% have been doing better than ever with record economic growth, publicly funded bailouts of corporations, and multibillion dollar tax breaks to boot. In contrast, the pain that everyday people have experienced is real. But the only political candidate today that seems to have identified this devastation and translated it into real political issues of substance is Bernie Sanders. He has tapped into this pain and has thus been able to pound away on some of the most pressing policy issues of our time. Sanders has continually repeated the chorus of injustices that people have experienced as a direct result of the billionaire conquest of our democratic society and the financial destruction of the middle class. Suffice it to say, the poor and underclass in America have almost completely slipped under the radar. The result of this has been that two different Americas have re-emerged, and the use of the term “re-emerged” is intentional here because this has all happened before in the history of the US.
Not a single-issue candidate.
In addition to the class conflict-warfare theme underlying Bernie Sanders political campaign (which is really what Citizens United and campaign finance reform is all about) are several other related issues. Bernie Sanders opposed the Iraq War Authorization, Wall Street Bailout (TARP), Patriot Act 2001, Patriot Act Reauthorization 2006, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Death Penalty, Keystone XL Pipeline, Border Fence Legislation 2006, and Offshore Oil Drilling. He supports: breaking up big banks; reauthorizing Glass-Steagall; and rescinding Citizens Unitedand the corporate takeover of democracy in the US. He opposed the Brady bill simply because it made owners of gun shops criminally liable for guns they sold to non-criminals. But the key point is this: Sanders understands the human economic tragedy suffered as a result of the 1%. Bernie Sanders has a movement going that will not be stopped, regardless of whether or not the media provide a shallow analysis of his campaign. Even if he is not elected president of the United States, his influence will carry on because the issues are like raw wounds, compounded by Citizens Unitedundermining of legitimate democratic governance. What constitutes illegitimate governance is corporate money paid to congressmen, congresswomen, and senators, in order to do the business of big business as a priority, not the people’s business. See some of the relevant research published by Larry Bartels, Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Guilded Age, Princeton University Press, 2008; Benjamin Page and Lawrence Jacobs, Class War? What Americans Really Think About Economic Inequality, University of Chicago Press, 2009; Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” Perspectives on Politics, 2014, 564-581; and Edward Martin, “Oligarchy, Anarchy, and Social Justice,” Contemporary Justice Review, 2015, 55-67.
What the establishment elites and media want desperately to avoid is the class conflict-warfare theme underlying all of this. Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie mentioned at a recent Republican debate, February 8, 2016, that raising taxes on millionaires is “a failed idea and a failed policy; it’s class warfare.” Imagine that! The rich are now being oppressed! So the establishment plays victim and wants to avoid any historical narrative of actual life-and-death struggles that took place throughout the history of the United States, resulting from class conflict-warfare, and tragically, to which the United States is reverting. This narrative is becoming uncomfortably reminiscent. Big business, government, military, bureaucracy, and the money media (military-industrial-bureaucratic-media complex) do not want a systematic analysis of the economic issues and the underlying causes of poverty and inequality taking place in the United States. After all, why would they jeopardize their profit margins?
Their bottom line is profits, and they want to make sure their profit margins are steadily increasing. They do not want a systemic analysis of stagnant wages by American workers over the past forty years or trade deals leveraged on developing countries and fast-tracked fascist style through Congress as is the TPP. Yet, imagine ifThe Other America, “war on poverty” safety nets were missing when the Great Recession hit. Robert Reich has argued that the reason it was a Great Recession, and not another Great Depression, was precisely because The Other America, “war on poverty” “socialist” public policies were in place. Absent these socialist strategies, the economic damage would have been catastrophic. Other economists, such as Richard Wolff, Stephen Resnick, and John Roemer, argue that the safety net might already be a thing of the past. The ironic tragedy is that this has a boomerang effect on the rich themselves if workers themselves are unable to purchase or consume. Henry Ford understood this effect.  Workers need to spend. If not he would soon be out of business. Hauntingly, Marx and Engels’ prediction in the Communist Manifesto has become increasingly significant in that the bourgeoisie produces “its own gravediggers.”
So, what is really the heart and soul of The Other America? What are the underlying principles that made this analysis by Michael Harrington, and embedded in Bernie Sanders, so incredibly insightful? To start, it will be helpful to draw on some economists and their conceptual frameworks as the foundation for The Other America. For example, John Kenneth Galbraith and Robert Heilbroner have argued that since capitalism has become an oligopoly, the entire system was in essence “too big to fail.” That is where that idea originates. Failure was not an option since the system would collapse on everyone. New Left critics like C. Wright Mills and Herbert Marcuse have argued that the “market” invariably tends toward crisis, which is only satiated in warfare. Could this be why some US military generals are calling for women to now register for the draft? Marxists further argued that the fundamental tendency built into the very nature of capital accumulation is toward the crisis of overproduction and under-consumption, forcing the economic system known today as market capitalism to invariably work against its own interests. The result: economic collapse. John Maynard Keynes argued that this could be prevented and effectively managed through public policy; however, Harrington was not convinced of this at all. His vision was one of a democratic economy where workers were co-owners of the means of production, not simply as a right in that they create the “surplus value,” but that it also makes good economic sense for workers and business in maintaining a healthy economy. The operative presupposition: the more workers make the more they spend to keep the economy healthy. Higher financial returns to shareholders do not necessarily guarantee this.
Read:  Part One here
Edward Martin is Professor of Public Policy and Administration, Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration at California State University, Long Beach, and co-author of Savage State: Welfare Capitalism and Inequality; Mateo Pimentel lives on the Mexican-US border, writing for many alternative political newsletters and Web sites. He can be reached at: mateo.pimentel@gmail.com.Read other articles by Edward Martin and Mateo Pimentel.

Bernie Sanders, Democratic Socialism, and The Other America

Dissident Voice: a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and social justice

Bernie Sanders, Democratic Socialism, andThe Other America

The Legacy of Michael Harrington, Hillary Clinton, and the Marxist Critique (Part One of a Five Part Series)
As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world’s problems or, for that matter, to any problems.
– Pope Francis I, Laudato Si
Democrats and Republicans, and all those who hold fast to the divine status of the market, clearly do not want a national discussion about free markets, capitalism, and those for whom free markets are really designed to serve. This is why the richest 1% in the United States is alarmingly concerned about Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist who has gained serious political momentum in electoral politics with his success in Iowa and New Hampshire. What elites fear is that the problems associated with capitalism, and the rationale for their elite status, will reveal that the outcomes of the unfettered market result in class warfare. And all of this has captivated America’s youth, who remain transfixed on Sanders’ message of radical inequality and the subversion of democratic governance through Citizens United.
The media spin Bernie’s popularity amongst young voters as merely symptomatic of youthful inexperience. They paint Sanders as a slick politician who promises pipe dreams of free college tuition, student debt modification, and free universal health care. But what the media and elites truly fail to address is the fact that even the parents of the young voters ask, “Why not?” The elites fail to acknowledge the feelings that young voters and their parents have when together they recognize publicly that, if all major industrialized countries have such social benefits, then so should they.
Just as we all must pay for our mistakes in life, Bill Clinton is paying the price for his mistakes right now. His laundry list of follies includes the likes of Larry Summers, Robert Rubin, Alan Greenspan, Phil Graham, and all the lunatic elites who have facilitated the hijacking of the US—those who deregulated the economy by abolishing the Glass-Steagall, and thereby creating fraudulent financial investments based on financial derivatives (betting against you own investments) which they then replaced with economic collapse, short sales on homes, foreclosures, job loss, wage cuts, underemployment, wage stagnation, survival credit card debt, usury level student loans, and the longest war in the history of the US. The 1% has provided an apologetic for the continued free market and economic massacre. They blame Obama even though the economy has improved modestly, and yet, the aftermath is still personal devastation, even with the help of TARP funds, HARP funds, and Obamacare.
None of this affected the 1%; their stock portfolios boomed. In fact, the 1% claim they would like to improve things even more by cutting social security and replacing it with a private Wall-Street-funded pension. How’s that for generosity? Nothing to be afraid of since the new Dodd-Frank legislation has fixed the problem… Right! Maybe the 1% can explain how Goldman Sachs recently settled a 5 billion dollar lawsuit over fraudulent mortgages without any executive having to serve jail time.  So much for reform and breaking up the big banks! Dodd-Frank did nothing! Other gestures of generosity include increasing the age for retirement to 67, as well as growing the economy on the backs of workers by demanding 4% GDP growth to fix the sluggish economy—just like the old command economies of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. What remains unstated is that, to do this, workers will need to work longer and harder without the overtime, compensation, or benefit packages that should come with all of this. The problem here is not about capital, competition, and the profit motive. It is not about the threat of a socialist workers’ utopia where the state owns everything and redistributes wealth based on need. The problem is about political corruption and elite actors being held captive to big money and corporate interests so as to legitimize pure avarice wrapped in free market dogma.
The rest of us? We are expendable. Any discussion or question regarding the equitable distribution of wealth and workers’ rights and their creation of surplus profit is essentially verboten. Nor will the 1% allow any discussion in this regard, whether media, elite academics and universities, or corporate financial apologists. Such discussion is easily shut down by simply writing it off as socialism, the new “s” word. And what CNN (TimeWarner), MSNBC (Comcast), and FOX News (Ruppert Murdoch) want is for no one to seriously trace the money. If they do, they will find out that the 1% invest their money, not only in Wall Street, but also in NASDAQ and other markets around the world. And these markets reciprocate with great loyalty.
To be fair to the capitalist class, they have no real fear of the “s” word as such, or Bolsheviks and anarchists. After all, they believe that Bernie Sanders is not electable as a socialist even though the country and economy has been held together for the past seventy years by socialist programs and policies to mitigate, in microeconomic terms, market failures. What the 1% dread at a visceral level is that their bourgeois existence, justified through the impartial microeconomic laws of the universe, will be exposed, not by a rival economic theory such as socialism, but by the deeper levels of existential human suffering that have finally crucified the middle class and poor at the most fundamental level—their economic existence. Who can argue rationally against this? When personal concrete experience contradicts the sacred dogma of economic theory, the theory needs to change. This Marxist concept, coined as “praxis,” needs to be understood and utilized as the intellectual sledge hammer to undo Citizens Unitedand the power-elite who want to desperately conceal the rift between people’s personal economic tragedies and things economically “sacred.” Go ahead and thank Antonio Gramsci (Prison Notebooks), Paolo Freire (Pedagogy of the Oppressed), and the entire movement of critical social theorists of the Frankfurt School (Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Jürgen Habermas), jailed, imprisoned, or banished because they dared to question the divine status of the market and the nature of authoritarianism that kept liberal markets in place.
The middle class and underclass had no real chance to organize against this since they had no power or effective community organizing efforts like those of Saul Alinsky. The union movement made a go of it in Europe and the United States, but the unions in the US soon became victims of their own success. In other words, they had it so good that they no longer wanted to “rock the boat” for greater economic rights. But it is radically different now because the middle class is starting to feel it slip away – their economic well-being – toward a new address on skid row. The 1% dread this revelation, and it is frankly too late. The new skid row middle class know they are expendable. There is no denying it. This is the reason why the electorate in 2016 will turn on establishment Wall Street democrats and embrace Bernie Sanders. This is why Hillary and Bill, Republicans and libertarians, media freaks like Chris Matthews, write off Bernie Sanders as just a youthful fad. The truth that they want avoided? That the liberal market economy is only for a few, as in the 1%. And all of this undermines market shares for Comcast, Time Warner, and Fox News.
This can all be changed with a socialist avant-garde demanding an economic bill of rights to make the economy accountable democratically to all citizens as “the peoples economy.”
Trump and his cult following of neo-fascists are another story altogether. And how can Trump possibly win the loyalty of voters whose class interests he opposes? Even though Trump tells the public he is funding his own campaign, he in no way will sever his ties from corporate elites who benefit from his class status and he from theirs. Do his followers really believe he has their best interests at heart, especially if this means greater economic justice which will, without doubt, invariably conflict with his economic self-interest? Trump’s cryptic remarks that wages in the US are already too high reveal where this will lead: downward pressure on wages to maximize profits. This is the real “art of the deal” and will be the starting point for Trump’s negotiations in the future should the hustler become president of the United States.
Insofar as it manifests itself today in the US and around the world, capitalism is “on trial.” This will no doubt entail an analysis questioning the underlying causes of poverty and inequality and this may lead to questioning the liberal notions of the private ownership of capital and the priority of capital over labor. Naturally, liberals and Keynesians will talk about managing the problems of the market through tweaking public policy, etc. They will argue that the boom-bust cycle and the downward pressure on wages that result from private capital investment does indeed result in outcomes such as unemployment, underemployment, poverty, and all the assortment of health-related maladies that accompany these disasters. This is arrogantly dismissed as an acceptable transaction cost on the way to an eventual bull market, understood in terms of the most efficient means known in the world today for allocating scarce resources through the free market. Yet, Bernie Sanders is relentless in focusing on the issues and has not lost sight of the real outcomes of the billionaires getting richer, the middle class disappearing, and the poor, left in the dust.
The mixed or regulated economy since the New Deal and Great Society programs were supposed to solve the problems of liberal capitalism. These remedies, based on socialist strategies implemented in Northern and Western Europe, have worked well to stabilize economic conditions in these European countries, even in the midst of Europe’s current “great recession.” We argued above, nevertheless, that socialist remedies have always been in place in the US, going way back to the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890. Yet, if both theories, capitalism and socialism, are understood as flexible models that can work harmoniously, it should not be a problem at least as both have been applied intelligently over the past two centuries. In industrialized and post-industrialized countries, capitalism has been able to take on a variety of forms, socially, culturally, politically, and ethically. As an economic system, it has been able to morph into a Scandinavian model, Western European model, Australian-New Zealand model, Japanese model, Chinese model, Russian model, English model, Irish model, and US model. All of these are different versions of capitalist development and for that matter socialist development. But without public sector support and public financial investment, the capitalist system on its own will collapse, according to Nobel economists Simon Kuznets and Kenneth Arrow since extensive public infrastructure investment is needed to maintain the entire system.
We argue here that capitalism is dependent on pubic financial support without which the entire system would collapse. Public infrastructure investment is imperative, and this above all includes education, understood as a public good. What is needed to make capitalism work better in the US in particular is more public funding in providing free health care, free public education, public financial support in housing, etc., since markets tend to provide these “commodities” to a shrinking pool of consumers as Kuznets and Arrow have argued. The remedy is regulation of the capitalist system and prioritization of public financial support to maintain a healthy economy. Whether defined as democratic socialism or social democracy, the market economy that we know needs to be understood as an entire public good, or as Elinor Ostrom describes it, a “common pool resource.”  The market needs to be understood and dealt with as a public resource, not a private enterprise subject to the laws and rules of traditional private property and is too important as a strategic economic asset to place in the hands of individuals seeking their own rational interests often at the expense of others. Not all is a zero-sum game, but too often economic matters result in this relationship. This is one of the major themes of Bernie Sanders and democratic socialism, and why the Bern is a very dangerous man. The Friedman-Greenspan School of libertarian thought has only undermined capital development by undermining the public infrastructure to support its development, regardless of the nomenclature as capitalist or socialist.
Edward Martin is Professor of Public Policy and Administration, Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration at California State University, Long Beach, and co-author of Savage State: Welfare Capitalism and Inequality; Mateo Pimentel lives on the Mexican-US border, writing for many alternative political newsletters and Web sites. He can be reached at: mateo.pimentel@gmail.com.Read other articles by Edward Martin and Mateo Pimentel.