Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Yes, Donald...Bernie Sanders is a communist but not a Communist, a Marxist but not a Leninist

At a rally in Cleveland on March 12, 2016, then primary candidate Donald Trump noted that Bernie Sanders is a communist:

   " Hillary cannot seem to win, even against a communist," Trump marveled. He said it's a wonder how "in our great, great world that a communist cannot be beaten by Hillary Clinton. It’s terrible."

    Trump added, "Wouldn’t it be fun to meet Bernie in the finals."

Fast foward to February 2, 2020, now-President Trump in a pre-Super Bowl interview said:

    “I think he’s a communist. I mean, you know, look, I think of communism when I think of Bernie.”

    “Now, you could say socialist, but didn’t he get married in Moscow? I think of Bernie sort of as a socialist but far beyond a socialist. At least he’s true to what he believes.”

A week later, we were offered this:

    “Obviously I am not a communist,” Sanders told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” adding that Trump “maybe doesn’t know the difference.”
    Sanders has described himself as a "democratic socialist."
    Sanders also said Trump was a “pathological liar” for suggesting that he got “married in Moscow.” Sanders said he was in Russia to participate in a sister city program.

This week Washington Post Columnist Megan McArdle offered an opinion in Bernie Sanders is not just a garden-variety social democrat:

    The world of comic books, in which characters are constantly dying and being revived or reinvented for a new legion of fans, eventually had to invent a concept known as the “retcon” — short for “retroactive continuity.”
    You’ll have noticed the phenomenon in film and television even if you never knew its name: “retconning” means altering an already-established past story line, to cover up growing plot holes or simply to free an author to craft a more enjoyable narrative in the present, one unhindered by the back catalogue.
    The term has obvious applications to modern politics. As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) looks increasingly likely to win the Democratic nomination, left-of-center people are anxious to downgrade Sanders’s self-described socialism into something more politically palatable — like Great Society liberalism, or perhaps, at maximum, a Nordic-style welfare state.
    In this, they struggle with an inconveniently well-documented Early Bernie Sanders, with his calls to nationalize “utilities, banks and major industries,“ his kind words for left-wing dictatorships, and his “very strange honeymoon” in the U.S.S.R. — where he blasted U.S. foreign policy before returning home to say “Let’s take the strengths of both systems. … Let’s learn from each other.”
    One should be forgiven almost any number of youthful flirtations with bad ideology. But Sanders was in his early 40s when he went gaga for Nicaragua’s brutal Sandinista regime, and 46 during his sojourn on the Volga. In February 2019, when he was refusing to describe Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro as a “dictator,” Sanders was 77.

And so here we are in February 2020 about to confront the truth about Bernie, the truth explained here on Monday, May 23, 2016, in So Bernie-the-Stalinist has been vetted and would do well against Donald in swing states like Ohio?.

Of course Bernie is not a Stalinist. He and his supporters try to sell him as a "democratic socialist" sorta, kinda like a member of the British Labour Party. Fortunately for them, about 99% of Americans know nothing about the Labour Party. Notice the italics-added detail in the Wikipedia description:

    The Labour Party is a centre-left political party in the United Kingdom that has been described as an alliance of social democrats, democratic socialists and trade unionists.

You see, there are social democrats and then there are democratic socialists and they are not the same. Bernie says he is a democratic socialist. So let's look at the two terms as they are explained in the Wikipedia entries linked above:

Social democrats advocate social democracy, a political, social and economic philosophy that supports economic and social interventions to promote social justice within the framework of a liberal democratic polity and a capitalist-oriented economy. The protocols and norms used to accomplish this involve a commitment to representative and participatory democracy, measures for income redistribution, regulation of the economy in the general interest and social welfare provisions. It
  • aims to create the conditions for capitalism to lead to greater democratic, egalitarian and solidaristic outcomes;
  • is characterized by a commitment to policies aimed at curbing inequality, eliminating oppression of underprivileged groups and eradicating poverty as well as support for universally accessible public services like care for the elderly, child care, education, health care and workers' compensation.
That is not Bernie. Bernie insists he is democratic socialist.

Democratic socialists advocate democratic socialism, a political philosophy supporting political democracy within a socially owned economy, with a particular emphasis on workers' self-management and democratic control of economic institutions within a market socialist economy or some form of a decentralized planned socialist economy. Democratic socialists argue that capitalism is inherently incompatible with the values of freedom, equality and solidarity and that these ideals can only be achieved through the realization of a socialist society. Although most democratic socialists seek a gradual transition to socialism, democratic socialism can support either revolutionary or reformist politics as means to establish socialism.

Unfortunately for Bernie, democratic socialism falls clearly within Wikipedia's initial broad definition of  small-c communism as, "a philosophical, social, political and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is a socioeconomic order structured upon the ideas of common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money and the state."

In other words, Trump is correct when he says about Bernie: "I think of communism when I think of Bernie.... I think of Bernie sort of as a socialist but far beyond a socialist. At least he’s true to what he believes."

When confronted with a social democrat ally, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, telling the HuffPost that a worst-case scenario with Sanders in the White House is a compromise on health care that ends up adding a public option, Bernie objected outlining his democratic socialist (communist) proposal as explained in Politico:

    “But my view is that Medicare for All, the bill that we wrote, is in a sense already a compromise,” Sanders said.
    He added that the proposal has a four-year transition period that would bring down the age required for Medicare eligibility from 65 to 55 to 45 to 35.
    “And then we cover everybody,” Sanders said. “No more premiums. No more co-payments. No more deductibles. No more out-of-pocket expenses. And we’re gonna fund it publicly, and, for the average American, it will be a significant, significant reduction in his or her health care costs.”

This writer has on more than one occasion suggested that dropping the age requirement in Medicare might be the only real solution to the health care problem. But Sanders failed to say what needed to be said - no more health insurance companies and all medical providers of all kinds will be controlled by a federal government-controlled bureaucracy. And that is clearly not the only way social democrats might provide universally accessible health care. But it is the only way a democratic socialist (small-c communist) would address the subject...and most other subjects.

The differences between all the socialism, communism, and Communism. It's complicated. With The passage of time much seems to get lost, particularly the simplest of facts that could inform us.

Most do not know that Lenin was 13 the year Marx died - they weren't buddies, they lived totally different lives in totally different times. Marx was a German philosopher, a theorist living in Britain. Lenin was a Russian revolutionary who wrote some ideas adapting Marxist theory to support a violent revolution. Marx was a small "c" communist, Lenin was a large "C" Communist, the ideology that permeated a nation-state, the Soviet Union.

Marx built on and critiqued the most well-known political economists of his day, the British classical capitalist economists Adam Smith and David Ricardo.

According to orthodox Marxist theory, the overthrow of capitalism by socialists in contemporary society is inevitable. Marxists believe that a socialist society is far better for the majority of the populace than its capitalist counterpart.

The German Ideology, a set of manuscripts written by Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) in 1846 but not published until 1932, explores the reality that in ruling the material force of society, the ruling class is simultaneously the ruling intellectual force of society.

The ruling class controls the production and distribution of ideas of their age. As the ruling class changes with time, so too do the ideals and the new ruling class must instill upon its society its own ideas which will become universal.

The ruling ideas are thought to be the universal interest. However, it is an illusion that the ideas of the ruling class are the communal interests. This system will forever remain in place so long as society is organized around the need for a ruling class. In other words, communal interests must be organized around the community at large.  A thoughtful, though perhaps quaint, mid-19th Century take on the world.

In the 20th century, Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) developed Leninism. an adaptation of Marxism to the socio-economic and political conditions of Imperial Russia (1721–1917). This body of theory later became the official ideology of some Communist states.

In his 1917 publication in The State and Revolution Lenin explicitly discusses the practical implementation of "dictatorship of the proletariat" through means of violent revolution. Lenin further explained: "Dictatorship does not necessarily mean the abolition of democracy for the class that exercises the dictatorship over other classes; but it does mean the abolition of democracy (or very material restriction, which is also a form of abolition) for the class over which, or against which, the dictatorship is exercised."

Bernie is stuck on the Marxist thoughtful, though perhaps quaint, mid-19th Century take on the world. So are a fair number of college students in each generation, including today.

But most Americans are not comfortable with the democratic socialist take, though they are accepting of the need for some action consistent with social democracy. The problem is Bernie, by his own adamant insistence,  wants us all to know he is a democratic socialist which unfortunately means he is a small-c communist.

Polling indicates Bernie has a fair chance to become the Democratic Presidential nominee.

If Trump doesn't shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, or maybe even if he does, the path is pretty clear for hiim to beat Bernie. At least in the America I think I understand.

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