Bernie Sanders has a very real chance of becoming the next president of the United States. He doesn’t exactly have the most stiff competition.
The only legitimate candidate he has to beat for the Democratic Party nomination, Hillary Clinton, is a criminal whose inconsistency on policy and questionable moral compass is not unknown to anybody in the country.
The other party in the bipartisan system, the Republican Party, still has a candidate pool the size of a small town to select from, the two most popular of which, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, aren’t even members of the Republican National Convention, and stand little chance of winning the nomination.
Sanders is a self-proclaimed socialist. A victory for Bernie Sanders as President of the United States would be a massive victory for the socialist movement worldwide. Right? It depends on perspective.
First of all, Sanders claims to be Democratic Socialist, when in fact his policies make it clear that he is a Social Democrat. A welfare statist, in other words, or more accurately, an elderly man with a Scandinavian fetish. One would be hard pressed to locate a speech of his that is free of allusions to Sweden, Norway, Denmark, or Finland. Regardless, Sanders continues to call himself a socialist, and he has yet to be devoured by a mob with pitchforks and torches. That is a good sign in a country known for its intolerance of socialism both domestically and abroad.
In addition to episodes such as Operation Condor, the Palmer Raids, McCarthyism, Sedition, and the backing of coup after coup against democratically elected socialist leaders, the USA also imprisoned perhaps the greatest socialist to ever come from America, Eugene Debs. Bernie is bringing the notion of socialism into the public domain for the first time since the 1950s. He’s making it popular too, Sanders is quite obviously the popular favourite, though direct democracy is not incorporated into the presidential election process.
So what if Sanders were elected? He certainly isn’t popular among the 1%, or any significant portion of the upper class. Even the affluent around me are extra hostile towards Sanders as opposed to other liberal candidates, which is a good sign. Welfare statism is the least egregious form of capitalism. Sanders advocates for many well-intentioned domestic reforms, such as a crackdown on white-collar crimes, legalization of marijuana and decriminalization of other narcotics, deprivatisation of prisons and hospitals, and education reform. But is it a livable alternative to socialism? Not by a long shot.
In a country as large as the United States, it would take much more than the strategies used by Scandinavia to sustain a welfare state. Robert Biel does a phenomenal job outlining most or all of the reasons capitalism cannot continue to exist, most or all of the reasons it is bound to collapse, and welfare statism accentuates almost all of these. The only way Bernie could provide the wealth resources to enact all his policies would be through ramped up imperialism. That’s the worst thing about Bernie Sanders, his foreign policy. Only small hints of it can be found in his speeches, but its imperialist nature is made abundantly clear by his voting history.
The independent candidate from Vermont voted in favour of both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, contrary to his own claims, and has been verbally supportive of intervention in Syria. Sanders voted in favour of sending a huge aid package to the coup government in Ukraine, and has supported Israel in actions against Gaza and Palestine. When asked why he refused to stand against Israel’s actions, Sander’s responded, “”Excuse me! Shut up! You don’t have the microphone.”
Even worse, in my own biased opinion as a Yugoslav at heart, Sanders supported continued NATO intervention in Yugoslavia in 1999, the deadly crusade against Kosovo. According to a Will Miller article titled, “Bernie the Bomber’s Bad Week”, twenty-five people occupied his office to protest him as a result, and Bernie had fifteen arrested for trespass. One of Sanders’ staff members, Jeremy Brecher, quit his job over it.
Sanders recently came out on TV saying he fully supports US interventionism. Bernie Sanders is an old man that grew up in the thick of the Cold War. Maybe in his eyes, he’s radical enough to be one of the “evil empire’s socialists”, but in reality he’s just a plain old liberal, and an enemy of socialism.
Bernie has gifted the world with some gems reinforcing this fact. He can be quoted calling Hugo Chavez, “dead communist dictator,”. When it was suggested by conservative Mike Huckabee that “Lenin and Stalin would love this stuff,” Sanders responded, “but that’s not socialism, that’s totalitarianism”. Coincidentally, Lenin perfectly described people like Bernie Sanders as “opportunists and social-chauvinists,” saying, “They are defending the temporary privileges of a minority of the workers…”
All candidates for the presidency this cycle are just as toxic as Bernie, if not more so, so he might be the best to support of the bunch, but I would suggest you not waste your time at all. We need, as Lenin said in 1916, a leader to, “go down lower and deeper, to the real masses… teach the masses to appreciate their true political interests, to fight for socialism and for the revolution.”