Reality Check for Democrats: Would Martin Luther King Be Supporting Bernie?

Civil Rights leader was a harsh critic of capitalism.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Jeff Cohen

Emphasis Mine

Corporate mainstream media have sanitized and distorted the life and teachings of Martin Luther King Jr., putting him in the category of a “civil rights leader” who focused narrowly on racial discrimination; end of story.

Missing from the story is that Dr. King was also a tough-minded critic of our capitalist economic structure, much like Bernie Sanders is today.

The reality is that King himself supported democratic socialism – and that civil rights activists and socialists have walked arm-in-arm for more than a century.

The same news outlets that omit such facts keep telling us that the mass of African American voters in South Carolina and elsewhere are diehard devotees of Hillary (and Bill) Clinton – implying that blacks are somehow wary of Bernie Sanders and his “democratic socialism.”

Here are some key historical facts and quotes that get almost no attention in mainstream media:

1909:  Many socialists – both blacks and whites – were involved in forming the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), our country’s oldest civil rights group.  Among them was renowned black intellectual W.E.B. Dubois.

1925:  Prominent African American socialist A. Philip Randolph became the first president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a union that played a major role in activism for civil and economic rights (including the 1963 “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”).

1952:  In a fascinating letter to Coretta Scott, the woman he would marry a year later, Martin King wrote: “I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic. . . . Today capitalism has out-lived its usefulness.”

1965:  King wrote an essay in Pageant magazine, “The Bravest Man I Ever Knew,” extolling Norman Thomas as “America’s foremost socialist” and favorably quoting a black activist who said of Thomas: “He was for us before any other white folks were.”

1965:  After passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965, King became even more vocal about economic rights: “What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter if you can’t afford to buy a hamburger?”

1965-66:  King supported President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” but urged more – calling for a “gigantic Marshall Plan” for our naton’s poor of all races.

1966:  In remarks to staffers at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), King said:

“You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. . . . It really means that we are saying something is wrong with capitalism. There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.”

March 1967:  King commented to SCLC’s board that “the evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.”

April 1967:  In his speech denouncing the U.S. war in Vietnam at New York’s Riverside Church, King extended his economic critique abroad, complaining about “capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries.”

May 1967:  In a report to SCLC’s staff, King said:

“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power . . . this means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation and militarism are all tied together . . . you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others the whole structure of American life must be changed.”

August 1967:  In his final speech to an SCLC convention, King declared:

“One day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life’s marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. And you see, my friends, when you deal with this you begin to ask the question, ‘Who owns the oil?’ You begin to ask the question, ‘Who owns the iron ore?’ You begin to ask the question, ‘Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that’s two-thirds water?’”

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968 as he and SCLC were mobilizing a multiracial army of the poor to descend nonviolently on Washington D.C. demanding a “Poor Peoples Bill of Rights.” He told a New York Times reporter that “you could say we’re involved in the class struggle.”

A year before he was murdered, King said the following to journalist David Halberstam: “For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of the South, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you’ve got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values.”

Unlike what Hillary Clinton professes today, Dr. King came to reject the idea of slow, incremental change.  He thought big.  He proposed solutions that could really solve social problems.

Unlike corporate-dominated U.S. media, King was not at all afraid of democratic socialism.  Other eminent African American leaders have been unafraid. Perhaps it’s historically fitting that former NAACP president Ben Jealous has recently campaigned for Bernie Sanders in South Carolina.

If mainstream journalists did more reporting on the candidates’ actual records, instead of crystal-ball gazing about the alleged hold that the Clintons have over African American voters, news consumers would know about the deplorable record of racially-biased incarceration and economic hardship brought on by Clinton administration policies. (See Michelle Alexander’s “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote.”)

With income inequality even greater now than during Martin Luther King’s final years, is there much doubt that King would be supporting the progressive domestic agenda of Bernie Sanders?

Before Bernie was making these kinds of big economic reform proposals, King was making them – but mainstream media didn’t want to hear them at the time . . . or now.

Jeff Cohen is director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College, cofounder of the online activism group RootsAction.org – and founder of the media watch group FAIR, which defended  Gary Webb against the backlash.

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/reality-check-democrats-would-martin-luther-king-be-supporting-bernie?akid=13969.123424.eAvq7w&rd=1&src=newsletter1050548&t=6

Stop Comparing Trump and Sanders: The Two Candidates Aren’t Equal and Opposite Radicals

Both candidates’ supporters are fed up with their country, but the sources of their rage are radically different.

Source: AlterNet

Author: Matthew Rozsa/The Good Men Project

Emphasis Mine

This piece originally appeared on The Good Men Project.

As the 2016 presidential election gathers steam, it’s tempting to compare the Bernie Sanders surge among Democrats with the Donald Trump phenomenon among Republicans. After all, both candidates are marshalling support from the ideological grassroots in their respective parties (the left in Sanders’ case, the right for Trump), and both have successfully tapped into a deeper anger that animates their campaigns.

When you reflect on the nature of that anger, however, a crucial distinction between the two candidates emerges: Sanders is drawing on a compassionate anger, while Trump is fanning the flames of a selfish anger. This may seem like a small difference, but it’s one that will literally determine the fate of millions. First, a quick moment of clarification. When I discuss “compassionate” and “selfish” forms of anger, I’m referring to the underlying philosophy embedded in a given set of frustrations. Although both forms of anger tap into a visceral sense of outrage within their listeners, the former insists that they exhibit empathy for others, while the latter encourages them to focus on advancing their own interests at the expense of others. Thus – to use the analogy of a schoolyard setting – the practitioner of empathetic anger will demand that the rules be fair and the toys be shared, while the practitioner of selfish anger will raise a fuss whenever he’s losing the game or doesn’t have as many toys as he’d like… regardless of whether real cheating or unjust inequality is actually involved.

This brings us to the current election cycle. As the most recent Democratic debate demonstrated, Sanders is practically monomaniacal in his focus on the problem of income inequality in America. Whether he’s discussing the importance of raising the minimum wage, proposing a substitute for Obamacare that would guarantee free health coverage for everyone, or advocating policies that would lower college tuition and student loan rates, all of his positions are bound by a common thread. Sanders sees an America that, despite proclaiming itself the “land of opportunity,” is clearly rigged to offer better opportunities for the affluent than the poor.

Similarly, despite its nickname as the “land of the free,” Sanders vocalizes a widespread outrage at the notion that anyone can have a freedom worth having while languishing in insurmountable poverty. Listening to his rhetoric, one hears undeniable echoes of Franklin Roosevelt’s famous Economic Bill of Rights:

“We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.”

Whereas Sanders’ campaign has been fueled by a consistent ideology of economic progressivism (or, as he likes to call it, democratic socialism), the Trump boom has gathered momentum by pitting various groups of Americans against each other. It’s easy to forget that when Trump skyrocketed to his current frontrunner status over the summer, it was by vilifying undocumented Mexican immigrants as rapists and criminals. Since that time, his campaign has wallowed in the depth of misogyny, racism, and Islamophobia, with Trump garnering headlines and gaining support by openly promoting the prejudices that have marginalized non-white males in the past. While it’s tempting to identify this pattern of bigotry as the common thread tying his campaign themes together, this wouldn’t be precisely accurate. The actual thread is Trump’s cynical awareness of the fact that, by shattering the so-called “politically correct” taboos against attacking traditionally oppressed groups of people, he can simultaneously speak on behalf of the privileged while making both them and himself seem like the underdogs.

Indeed, the evidence of this can be found not on the many occasions when Trump’s hate mongering has succeeded, but on the numerous times it has failed. Take his anti-Semitic comments during a speech in front of the Republican Jewish Coalition; when he declared to his appalled audience that “you’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money,” he clearly intended to position himself as a brave challenger of a Jew-controlled status quo. This approach didn’t gain traction, so naturally he abandoned it, but structurally it was identical to the rhetoric he has successfully used against Mexicans or Muslims – insinuate that racist assumptions about those groups are correct, feed off of the media outrage regarding his remarks, and profit from the support that rallies behind him for “speaking the truth.” The same thing can be said of his efforts to mobilize a bigoted reaction against the Cuban heritage of his chief rival, Ted Cruz; when he urged an Iowa audience to remember that “not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba,” the goal was once again to politically weaponized what he hoped would be the racist inclinations of his own supporters. The fact that this tactic didn’t work against Cubans (and thus Cruz) simply proves that Trump’s strategy, though often successful, is still a hit-and-miss affair. Of course, because the hits yield such great rewards and the misses have yet to hurt him politically, Trump has no particular incentive to stop.

Even though Trump will probably never redeem the quality of his anger, though, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from his actions. If Americans truly want to elevate the quality of their political discourse, it is imperative to start by distinguishing between the type of anger that speaks to legitimate needs among the vulnerable and the type of anger that only sows seeds of dissent and hatred. This is an issue that transcends the Sanders and Trump campaigns, or indeed the 2016 presidential election entirely. At its core, this is about what it means to be a responsible citizen within a democratic society – something that Sanders clearly understands, and Trump just as clearly does not.

Matthew Rozsa is a Ph.D. student in history at Lehigh University as well as a political columnist. His editorials have been published in “The Morning Call,” “The Express-Times,” “The Newark Star-Ledger,” “The Baltimore Sun,” and various college newspapers and blogs. He actively encourages people to reach out to him at matt.rozsa@gmail.co

See:http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/stop-comparing-trump-and-sanders-two-candidates-arent-equal-and-opposite-radicals?akid=13935.123424.2TWQRD&rd=1&src=newsletter1049911&t=8

Bringing Socialism Back: How Bernie Sanders is Reviving an American Tradition – See more at: http://portside.org/2015-12-17/bringing-socialism-back-how-bernie-sanders-reviving-american-tradition#sthash.1nZaohKJ.dpuf

The Sanders campaign is resurrecting socialist electoral politics and paving the way for a more radical public discourse. Only the revival of a decimated labor movement and the rebirth of socialist political parties that can bring them all together could result in the major redistribution of wealth and power that would allow real movement on these individual issues. – See more at: http://portside.org/2015-12-17/bringing-socialism-back-how-bernie-sanders-reviving-american-tradition#sthash.1nZaohKJ.dpuf

Source: Portside

Author: Joseph M. Schwartz

Emphasis Mine

Socialism. For most of recent U.S. history, the word was only used in mainstream discourse as invective, hurled by the Right against anyone who advocated that the government do anything but shrink, as anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist once put it, “to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”
How is it, then, that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a democratic socialist, has repeatedly drawn crowds in the thousands or tens of thousands in cities and towns throughout the nation and is within striking distance of Hillary Clinton in Iowa and New Hampshire? In a country that’s supposed to be terrified of socialism, how did a socialist become a serious presidential contender?
Young people who came to political consciousness after the Cold War are less hostile to socialism than their elders, who associate the term with authoritarian Communist regimes. In a Pew poll from December 2011, 49 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds in the United States held a favorable view of socialism; only 46 percent had a favorable view of capitalism. A New York Times/CBS News survey taken shortly before Sanders’ Nov. 19, 2015, Georgetown University speech on democratic socialism found that 56 percent of Democratic primary voters felt positively about socialism versus only 29 percent who felt negatively. Most of those polled probably do not envision socialism to be democratic ownership of the means of production, but they do associate capitalism with inequality, massive student debt and a stagnant labor market. They envision socialism to be a more egalitarian and just society.
 
More broadly, a bipartisan consensus has developed that the rich and corporations are too powerful. In a December 2011 Pew poll, 77 percent of respondents (including 53 percent of Republicans) agreed that “there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and corporations.” More than 40 years of ruling class attacks on working people has revived interest in a political tradition historically associated with the assertion of working class power-socialism.
But at this point in American politics, as right-wing, quasi-fascist populists like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and others of their Tea Party ilk are on the rise, we also seem to be faced with an old political choice: socialism or barbarism. Whether progressive politicians can tap into the rising anti-corporate sentiment around the country is at the heart of a battle that may define the future of the United States: Will downwardly mobile, white, middle- and working-class people follow the nativist, racist politics of Trump and Tea Partiers (who espouse the myth that the game is rigged in favor of undeserving poor people of color), or lead a charge against the corporate elites responsible for the devastation of working- class communities?

This may be the very audience, however, for whom the term socialism still sticks in the craw. In a 2011 Pew poll, 55 percent of African Americans and 44 percent of Latinos held a favorable view of socialism-versus only 24 percent of whites. One might ask, then: Should we really care that the term “socialism” is less radioactive than it used to be? With so much baggage attached to the word, shouldn’t activists and politicians just call themselves something else? Why worry about a label as long as you’re pursuing policies that benefit the many rather than the few? Is socialism still relevant in the 21st century?

Fear of the `s’ word
To answer this question, first consider how the political establishment uses the word. The Right (and sometimes the Democrats) deploy anti-socialist sentiment against any reform that challenges corporate power. Take the debate over healthcare reform, for example. To avoid being labeled “socialist,” Obama opted for an Affordable Care Act that expanded the number of insured via massive government subsidies to the private healthcare industry-instead of fighting for Medicare for All and abolishing private health insurers. The Right, of course, screamed that the president and the Democratic Party as a whole were all socialists anyway and worked (and continues to work) to undermine efforts to expand healthcare coverage to anyone.
But what if the United States had had a real socialist Left, rather than one conjured up by Republicans, that was large, well-organized and politically relevant during the healthcare reform debate? What would have been different? For one thing, it would have been tougher for the Right to scream “socialist!” at Obama, since actual socialists would be important, visible forces in American politics, writing articles and knocking on doors and appearing on cable news. Republicans would have had to attack the real socialists-potentially opening up some breathing room for President Obama to carry out more progresssive reforms. But socialists wouldn’t have just done the Democrats a favor-they would also demand the party go much further than the overly complicated and insurance company friendly Obamacare towards a universal single-payer healthcare program. The Democrats needed a push from the Left on healthcare reform, and virtually no one was there to give it to them.
What is democratic socialism?
So what do we mean by “democratic socialism“? Democratic socialists want to deepen democracy by extending it from the political sphere into the economic and cultural realms. We believe in the idea that “what touches all should be governed by all.” The decisions by top-level corporate CEOs and managers, for example, have serious effects on their employees, consumers and the general public-why don’t those employees, consumers and the public have a say in how those decisions get made?

Democratic socialists believe that human beings should democratically control the wealth that we create in common. The Mark Zuckerbergs and Bill Gateses of the world did not create Facebook and Microsoft; tens of thousands of programmers, technical workers and administrative employees did-and they should have a democratic voice in how those firms are run.

To be able to participate democratically, we all need equal access to those social, cultural and educational goods that enable us to develop our human potential. Thus, democratic socialists also believe that all human beings should be guaranteed access, as a basic social right, to high-quality education, healthcare, housing, income security, job training and more.
And to achieve people’s equal moral worth, democratic socialists also fight against oppression based on race, gender, sexuality, nationality and more. We do not reduce all forms of oppression to the economic; economic democracy is important, but we also need strong legal and cultural guarantees against other forms of undemocratic domination and exclusion.
What socialism can do for you
The United States has a rich-but hidden-socialist history. Socialists and Communists played a key role in organizing the industrial unions in the 1930s and in building the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s; Martin Luther King Jr. identified as a democratic socialist; Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph, the two key organizers of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom were both members of the Socialist Party. Not only did Socialist candidate Eugene V. Debs receive roughly 6 percent of the vote for president in 1912, but on the eve of U.S. entry into World War I, members of the Socialist Party held 1,200 public offices in 340 cities. They served as mayors of 79 cities in 24 states, including Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Reading, Penn., and Buffalo.
Brutally repressed by the federal government for opposing World War I and later by the Cold War hysteria of the McCarthy era, socialists never regained comparable influence. But as organizers and thinkers they have always played a significant role in social movements. The real legacy of the last significant socialist campaigns for president, those of Eugene V. Debs and Norman Thomas, is how the major parties, especially the Democrats, co-opted their calls for workers’ rights, the regulation of corporate excess and the establishment of social insurance programs.
As the erosion of the liberal and social democratic gains of the post-World War II era throughout the United States, Europe and elsewhere shows, absent greater democratic control over the economy, capital will always work to erode the gains made by working people. This inability to gain greater democratic control over capital may be a contributing factor to why the emerging social movements resisting oligarchic domination have a “flash”-like character. They erupt and raise crucial issues, but as the neoliberal state rarely grants concessions to these movements, they often fade in strength. Winning concrete reforms tends to empower social movements; the failure to improve the lives of their participants usually leads these movements to dissipate.

In the United States, nascent movements like Occupy Wall Street, the Fight for 15, Black Lives Matter and 350.org have won notable reforms. But few flash movements have succeeded in enacting systemic change. Only the revival of a decimated labor movement and the rebirth of governing socialist political parties could result in the major redistribution of wealth and power thatwould allow real change on these issues.

For all their problems-and there are many-this is the promise of European parties like Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain. But the Syriza government retreated back to austerity policies, in part because Northern European socialist leaders failed to abandon their support for austerity. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party may represent the first step in rank-and-file socialists breaking with “third way” neo-liberal leadership.
Is Bernie really a socialist?
For Sanders, “democratic socialism” is a byword for what is needed to unseat the oligarchs who rule this new Gilded Age. In his much-anticipated Georgetown speech, Sanders defined democratic socialism as “a government which works for all of the American people, not just powerful special interests.” Aligning himself with the liberal social welfare policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, Sanders called for restoring progressive income and strict corporate taxation to fund Medicare for All, paid parental leave, publicly financed child care and tuition-free public higher education.
Yet he backed away from some basic tenets of democratic socialism. He told the audience, “I don’t believe the government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production.” But democratic socialists want to democratize decisions over what we make, how we make it and who controls the social surplus.
In truth, Sanders is campaigning more as a social democrat than as a democratic socialist. While social democrats and democratic socialists share a number of political goals, they also differ on some key questions of what an ideal society would look like and how we can get there. Democratic socialists ultimately want to abolish capitalism; most traditional social democrats favor a government-regulated capitalist economy that includes strong labor rights, full employment policies and progressive taxation that funds a robust welfare state.
So why doesn’t Sanders simply call himself a New Deal or Great Society liberal or (in today’s terms) a “progressive”? In part, because he cannot run from the democratic socialist label that he has proudly worn throughout his political career. As recently as 1988, as mayor of Burlington, Vt., he stated that he desired a society “where human beings can own the means of production and work together rather than having to work as semi-slaves to other people who can hire and fire.

But today, Sanders is running to win, and invoking the welfare state accomplishments of FDR and LBJ plays better with the electorate and the mainstream media than referencing iconic American socialists like Eugene V. Debs. In his Georgetown speech, Sanders relied less on references to Denmark and Sweden; rather, he channeled FDR’s 1944 State of the Union address in which hecalled for an Economic Bill of Rights, saying, “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. ‘Necessitous men are not free men.'”

Sanders’ campaign rhetoric does occasionally stray into more explicitly democratic socialist territory, though. He understands the nature of class conflict between workers and the corporate moguls. Unlike most liberals, Sanders recognizes that power relations between the rich and the rest of us determine policy outcomes. He believes progressive change will not occur absent a revival of the labor movement and other grassroots movements for social justice. And while Sanders’ platform calls primarily for government to heal the ravages of unrestrained capitalism, it also includes more radical reforms that shift control over capital from corporations to social ownership: a proposal for federal financial aid to workers’ cooperatives, a public infrastructure investment of $1 trillion over five years to create 13 million public jobs, and the creation of a postal banking system to provide low-cost financial services to people presently exploited by check-cashing services and payday lenders.
 
Harnessing the socialist energy
While Sanders is not running a full bore democratic socialist campaign, socialists must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The Sanders campaign represents the most explicit anticorporate, radical campaign for the U.S. presidency in decades. Thus the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), of which I am a vice-chair, is running an “independent expenditure campaign” (uncoordinated with the official campaign) that aims to build the movement around Sanders-and its “political revolution”-over the long run.
For us, even if Sanders’ platform isn’t fully socialist, his campaign is a gift from the socialist gods. In just six months, Sanders has received campaign contributions from 800,000 individuals, signed up tens of thousands of campaign workers and introduced the term “democratic socialism” and a social democratic program to tens of millions of Americans who wouldn’t know the difference between Trotsky and a tchotchke. Since the start of the Sanders campaign, the number of people joining DSA each month has more than doubled.
 

Though elected to both the House and Senate as an independent, Sanders chose to run in the Democratic presidential primary because he understood he would reach a national audience in the widely viewed debates and garner far more votes in the Democratic primaries than he would as an independent in the general election. The people most vulnerable to wall-to-wall Republican rule (women, trade unionists, people of color) simply won’t “waste” their votes on third-party candidates in contested states in a presidential election.

The mere fact of a socialist in the Democratic primary debates has created unprecedented new conversations. Anderson Cooper’s initial question to Sanders in the first Democratic presidential

debate, in front of 15 million viewers, implicitly tried to red-bait him by asking, “How can any kind of a socialist win a general election in the United States?” The question led to a lengthy discussion among the candidates as to whether democratic socialism or capitalism promised a more just society. When has the capitalist nature of our society last been challenged in a major presidential forum?

Yet without a major shift in sentiment among voters of color and women, Sanders is unlikely to win the nomination. Sanders enthusiasts, who are mostly white, have to focus their efforts on expanding the racial base of the campaign. But, regardless of who wins the nomination, Sanders will leave behind him a transformed political landscape. His tactical decision to run as a Democrat has the potential to further divide Democrats between elites who accommodate themselves to neoliberalism and the populist “democratic” wing of the party.
Today, Democrats are divided between affluent, suburban social liberals who are economically moderate-even pro-corporate-and an urban, youth, black, Latino, Asian American, Native American and trade union base that favors more social democratic policies. Over the past 30 years, the national Democratic leadership-Bill Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Debbie Wasserman Schultz-has moved the party in a decidedly pro-corporate, free-trade direction to cultivate wealthy donors. Sanders’ rise represents the revolt of the party’s rank and file against this corporate-friendly establishment.
Successful Left independent or third-party candidates invariably have to garner support from the same constituencies that progressive Democrats depend on, and almost all third-party victories in the United States occur in local non-partisan races. There are only a few dozen third-party members out of the nearly 7,400 state legislators in the United States. Kshama Sawant, a member of Socialist Alternative, has won twice in Seattle’s non-partisan city council race, drawing strong backing from unions and left-leaning Democratic activists (and some Democratic elected officials). But given state government’s major role in funding public works, social democracy cannot be achieved in any one city.
The party that rules state government profoundly affects what is possible at the municipal level. My recollection is that in the 1970s and 1980s, DSA (and one of its predecessor organizations, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee) had more than 30 members who were elected members of state legislatures or city councils. Almost all of those socialist officials first won Democratic primaries against conservative Democratic opponents. In the seven states (most notably in New York, Connecticut and Oregon) where third parties can combine their votes with major party lines, the Working Families Party has tried to develop an “inside-outside,” “fusion” strategy vis-a-vis the Democrats. But the Democratic corporate establishment will never fear progressive electoral activists unless they are willing to punish pro-corporate Democrats by either challenging them in primaries or withholding support in general elections.
The mere fact of a socialist in the Democratic primary debates has created unprecedented new conversations. Anderson Cooper’s initial question to Sanders in the first Democratic presidential
The tragedy of Jesse Jackson’s 1988 campaign was that despite winning 7 million votes from voters of color, trade unionists and white progressives, the campaign failed to turn its Rainbow Coalition into an electoral organization that could continue the campaign’s fight for racial and economic justice. This lesson is not lost on Sanders; he clearly understands that his campaign must survive his presidential bid.
As In These Times went to press, the Sanders campaign only has official staff in the early primary states of New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada. Consequently, the Sanders movement is extremely decentralized, and driven by volunteers and social media. Only if these local activists are able to create multi-racial progressive coalitions and organizations that outlast the campaign can Sanders’ call for political revolution be realized.
 
Campaign organizations themselves rarely build democratic, grassroots organizations that persist after the election (see Obama’s Organizing for America). Sanders activists must keep this in mind and ask themselves: “What can we do in our locality to build the political revolution?” The Right still dominates politics at the state and local level; thus, Sanders activists can play a particularly crucial role in the 24 states where Republicans control all three branches of the government.
Embracing the `s’ word
Sanders has captivated the attention of America’s youth. He has generated a national conversation about democratic socialist values and social democratic policies. Sanders understands that to win such programs will take the revival of mass movements for low wage justice, immigrant rights, environmental sustainability and racial equality. To build an independent left that operates electorally both inside and outside the Democratic Party, the Sanders campaign-and socialists-must bring together white progressives with activists of color and progressive trade unionists. The ultimate logic of such a politics is the socialist demand for workers’ rights and greater democratic control over investment.
If Sanders’ call for a political revolution is to be sustained, then his campaign must give rise to a stronger organization of long-distance runners for democracy-a vibrant U.S. democratic socialist movement. Electoral campaigns can mobilize people and alter political discourse, but engaged citizens can spark a revolution only if they build social movements and the political institutions and organizations that sustain political work over the long-term.

And because anti-socialism is the ideology that bipartisan political elites deploy to rule out any reforms that limit the prerogatives of capital, now is the time for socialists to come out of the closet. Sanders running in the Democratic primaries provides an opportunity for socialists to do just that, and for the broad Left to gain strength. If and when socialism becomes a legitimate part of mainstream U.S. politics, only then will the political revolution begin.

Joseph M. Schwartz
[Joseph M. Schwartz is a professor of political science at Temple University. He is a Vice-Chair of Democratic Socialists of America and the author, most recently, of The Future of Democratic Equality: Reconstructing Social Solidarity in a Fragmented U.S. (Routledge, 2009).]
Thanks to the author for sending this to Portside.

– See more at: http://portside.org/2015-12-17/bringing-socialism-back-how-bernie-sanders-reviving-american-tradition#sthash.1nZaohKJ.dpuf

See: http://portside.org/2015-12-17/bringing-socialism-back-how-bernie-sanders-reviving-american-tradition

Bernie Sanders’s Refreshingly Sane Foreign Policy

In his speech last week, Sanders said what every presidential candidate ought to say about ISIS and the Middle East.

Source: AlterNet

Author:Sean Illing / Salon

See: http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/bernie-sanderss-refreshingly-sane-foreign-policy?akid=13718.123424.aks17V&rd=1&src=newsletter1046419&t=16

Sanders’ Address on Democratic Socialism: Amazing and Blacked-Out

Our government belongs to all of us, and not just the one percent.

Source: RSN

Author: Scot Galindez

Emphasis Mine

At Georgetown University on Thursday afternoon, Bernie Sanders outlined his vision of what democratic socialism is. Earlier that morning, Hillary Clinton gave an address on fighting ISIS. MSNBC showed all of Hillary’s speech but ignored Bernie. There has been some media coverage of the speech, but nobody cut live to Sanders like they did for Clinton.

I did see more coverage of the lead carnival barker, Donald Trump, saying he would implement a registry for Muslims, while one of the most important, substantive speeches of the election cycle was almost ignored.

The media blackout of Sanders is not going away anytime soon. Bernie supporters must go around the media and use the social media to help the campaign get their message out. Share stories widely, support independent media, help Bernie 2016 TV get off the ground. If we don’t do these things, we will surely be watching Hillary Clinton win the nomination.

Luckily for those of us feeling the bern, Georgetown University streamed the speech on Ustream. I watched the stream on Bernie 2016 TV with nearly 3,000 others using Twitter and other platforms to discuss the speech as it took place. People were very excited as Bernie laid out his vision.

Bernie opened by invoking the vision of FDR:

In his inaugural remarks in January 1937, in the midst of the Great Depression, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt looked out at the nation and this is what he saw.

He saw tens of millions of its citizens denied the basic necessities of life.

He saw millions of families trying to live on incomes so meager that the pall of family disaster hung over them day by day.

He saw millions denied education, recreation, and the opportunity to better their lot and the lot of their children.

He saw millions lacking the means to buy the products they needed and by their poverty and lack of disposable income denying employment to many other millions.

He saw one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.

And he acted. Against the ferocious opposition of the ruling class of his day, people he called economic royalists, Roosevelt implemented a series of programs that put millions of people back to work, took them out of poverty and restored their faith in government. He redefined the relationship of the federal government to the people of our country. He combated cynicism, fear and despair. He reinvigorated democracy. He transformed the country.

And that is what we have to do today.

A tall order for sure, but the time has come for another transformation. FDR’s “economic royalists” are today’s Wall Street ruling class that needs to be challenged before they consolidate more power. The Billionaire class owns the media and increasingly owns the government. Establishment politics will do nothing to curb their greed. It’s time to fight back.

Bernie went on to say:

And, by the way, almost everything he proposed was called “socialist.”

Social Security, which transformed life for the elderly in this country was “socialist.” The concept of the “minimum wage” was seen as a radical intrusion into the marketplace and was described as “socialist.” Unemployment insurance, abolishing child labor, the 40-hour work week, collective bargaining, strong banking regulations, deposit insurance, and job programs that put millions of people to work were all described, in one way or another, as “socialist.” Yet, these programs have become the fabric of our nation and the foundation of the middle class.

Thirty years later, in the 1960s, President Johnson passed Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care to millions of senior citizens and families with children, persons with disabilities and some of the most vulnerable people in this county. Once again these vitally important programs were derided by the right wing as socialist programs that were a threat to our American way of life.

That was then. Now is now.

Prior to World War II and McCarthyism, socialism was not a dirty word. Many American icons were self-described socialists. Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Margaret Sanger, John Dewey, W.E.B. Du Bois, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, James Farmer, and of course Martin Luther King, whom Sanders quotes further down in the speech.

In 1952, a young King wrote in a letter to Coretta Scott: “I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic.” In a 1966 speech to his staff, King declared: “Something is wrong … with capitalism. Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.”

Next time your conservative friends slam socialism as unpatriotic, remind them that the author of the pledge of allegiance, Francis Bellamy, was a socialist, a Christian socialist known for his fiery sermons on economic justice.

Back to Bernie:

Today, in 2015, despite the Wall Street crash of 2008, which drove this country into the worst economic downturn since the Depression, the American people are clearly better off economically than we were in 1937.

But, here is a very hard truth that we must acknowledge and address. Despite a huge increase in technology and productivity, despite major growth in the U.S. and global economy, tens of millions of American families continue to lack the basic necessities of life, while millions more struggle every day to provide a minimal standard of living for their families. The reality is that for the last 40 years the great middle class of this country has been in decline and faith in our political system is now extremely low.

The rich get much richer. Almost everyone else gets poorer. Super PACs funded by billionaires buy elections. Ordinary people don’t vote. We have an economic and political crisis in this country and the same old, same old establishment politics and economics will not effectively address it.

If we are serious about transforming our country, if we are serious about rebuilding the middle class, if we are serious about reinvigorating our democracy, we need to develop a political movement which, once again, is prepared to take on and defeat a ruling class whose greed is destroying our nation. The billionaire class cannot have it all. Our government belongs to all of us, and not just the one percent.

Now that sums it all up. Are we ready to follow Bernie’s lead and take our country back? It’s time to get off the sidelines. Bernie needs all of us to have his back. He is fighting the bankers, today’s robber barons. They are not going to just roll over, they are fighting back and they will get dirty. We need to be prepared to take them on and defeat them.

I’m not one to say that this is our last chance; progress can help us move forward in the future. But we have not had a better chance to take on the ruling class, and it may be a long time before we have a vehicle like we have now. Let’s not blow it.

We need to create a culture which, as Pope Francis reminds us, cannot just be based on the worship of money. We must not accept a nation in which billionaires compete as to the size of their super-yachts, while children in America go hungry and veterans sleep out on the streets.

Today, in America, we are the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, but few Americans know that because so much of the new income and wealth goes to the people on top. In fact, over the last 30 years, there has been a massive transfer of wealth – trillions of wealth – going from the middle class to the top one-tenth of 1 percent – a handful of people who have seen a doubling of the percentage of the wealth they own over that period.

Unbelievably, and grotesquely, the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns nearly as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

Today, in America, millions of our people are working two or three jobs just to survive. In fact, Americans work longer hours than do the people of any industrialized country. Despite the incredibly hard work and long hours of the American middle class, 58 percent of all new income generated today is going to the top one percent.

Today, in America, as the middle class continues to disappear, median family income, is $4,100 less than it was in 1999. The median male worker made over $700 less than he did 42 years ago, after adjusting for inflation. Last year, the median female worker earned more than $1,000 less than she did in 2007.

Today, in America, the wealthiest country in the history of the world, more than half of older workers have no retirement savings – zero – while millions of elderly and people with disabilities are trying to survive on $12,000 or $13,000 a year. From Vermont to California, older workers are scared to death. “How will I retire with dignity?” they ask.

Today, in America, nearly 47 million Americans are living in poverty and over 20 percent of our children, including 36 percent of African American children, are living in poverty — the highest rate of childhood poverty of nearly any major country on earth.

Today, in America, 29 million Americans have no health insurance and even more are underinsured with outrageously high co-payments and deductibles. Further, with the United States paying the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, 1 out of 5 patients cannot afford to fill the prescriptions their doctors write.

Today, in America, youth unemployment and underemployment is over 35 percent. Meanwhile, we have more people in jail than any other country and countless lives are being destroyed as we spend $80 billion a year locking up fellow Americans.

The bottom line is that today in America we not only have massive wealth and income inequality, but a power structure which protects that inequality. A handful of super-wealthy campaign contributors have enormous influence over the political process, while their lobbyists determine much of what goes on in Congress.

Amen. Now this is leadership. No empty soaring rhetoric. Bernie Sanders is speaking truth to power. The comparisons to FDR are coming into focus for me. This guy is ready to transform our country in the same way Roosevelt did with the New Deal. Leaders like this come about once in a generation.

We can’t afford to wait for another leader emerge who is ready to take on the ruling class. We need to rise up now! As Bernie regularly says, “Think big, it’s not time to play it safe.” Incremental change won’t work; we need to take bold action.

In 1944, in his State of the Union speech, President Roosevelt outlined what he called a second Bill of Rights. This is one of the most important speeches ever made by a president but, unfortunately, it has not gotten the attention that it deserves.

In that remarkable speech this is what Roosevelt stated, and I quote: “We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men.” End of quote. In other words, real freedom must include economic security. That was Roosevelt’s vision 70 years ago. It is my vision today. It is a vision that we have not yet achieved. It is time that we did.

In that speech, Roosevelt described the economic rights that he believed every American was entitled to: The right to a decent job at decent pay, the right to adequate food, clothing, and time off from work, the right for every business, large and small, to function in an atmosphere free from unfair competition and domination by monopolies. The right of all Americans to have a decent home and decent health care.

What Roosevelt was stating in 1944, what Martin Luther King Jr. stated in similar terms 20 years later, and what I believe today is that true freedom does not occur without economic security.

People are not truly free when they are unable to feed their family. People are not truly free when they are unable to retire with dignity. People are not truly free when they are unemployed or underpaid or when they are exhausted by working long hours. People are not truly free when they have no health care.

Free the people!!! I have been poor so I understand where FDR, Dr. King, and Bernie are coming from. I know what it’s like to suffer because I couldn’t afford health care. I know what it’s like to not be sure if I could find a warm place to sleep or a warm shower. I was in America, but I was not free. I was prisoner to just finding what I needed to survive. I was not happy. Life was a chore. All around me I saw great wealth. I often wondered, what did I do wrong to deserve to be punished?

I fought back. I became an activist. I worked with Mitch Snyder, Phil Berrigan, William Thomas and others who helped me get back on my feet. Then I met Marc Ash after the stolen election and decided the most effective thing I could do was help build an independent media organization.

While I am doing better, I have not forgotten what it is like to struggle, not from paycheck to paycheck but from day to day, hour to hour. We must stand up for those still struggling hour to hour. They need us to transform America into a country that puts human need above corporate greed.

So let me define for you, simply and straightforwardly, what democratic socialism means to me. It builds on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans. And it builds on what Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1968 when he stated that; “This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.” It builds on the success of many other countries around the world that have done a far better job than we have in protecting the needs of their working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor.

Democratic socialism means that we must create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy.

Democratic socialism means that we must reform a political system in America today which is not only grossly unfair but, in many respects, corrupt.

It is a system, for example, which during the 1990s allowed Wall Street to spend $5 billion in lobbying and campaign contributions to get deregulated. Then, ten years later, after the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior of Wall Street led to their collapse, it is a system which provided trillions in government aid to bail them out. Wall Street used their wealth and power to get Congress to do their bidding for deregulation and then, when their greed caused their collapse, they used their wealth and power to get Congress to bail them out. Quite a system!

And, then, to add insult to injury, we were told that not only were the banks too big to fail, the bankers were too big to jail. Kids who get caught possessing marijuana get police records. Wall Street CEOs who help destroy the economy get raises in their salaries. This is what Martin Luther King, Jr. meant by socialism for the rich and rugged individualism for everyone else.

In my view, it’s time we had democratic socialism for working families, not just Wall Street, billionaires and large corporations. It means that we should not be providing welfare for corporations, huge tax breaks for the very rich, or trade policies which boost corporate profits as workers lose their jobs. It means that we create a government that works for works for all of us, not just powerful special interests. It means that economic rights must be an essential part of what America stands for.

It means that health care should be a right of all people, not a privilege. This is not a radical idea. It exists in every other major country on earth. Not just Denmark, Sweden or Finland. It exists in Canada, France, Germany and Taiwan. That is why I believe in a Medicare-for-all single payer health care system. Yes. The Affordable Care Act, which I helped write and voted for, is a step forward for this country. But we must build on it and go further.

Medicare for all would not only guarantee health care for all people, not only save middle class families and our entire nation significant sums of money, it would radically improve the lives of all Americans and bring about significant improvements in our economy.

People who get sick will not have to worry about paying a deductible or making a co-payment. They could go to the doctor when they should, and not end up in the emergency room. Business owners will not have to spend enormous amounts of time worrying about how they are going to provide health care for their employees. Workers will not have to be trapped in jobs they do not like simply because their employers are offering them decent health insurance plans. Instead, they will be able to pursue the jobs and work they love, which could be an enormous boon for the economy. And by the way, moving to a Medicare for all program will end the disgrace of Americans paying, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs.

Democratic socialism means that, in the year 2015, a college degree is equivalent to what a high school degree was 50 years ago – and that public education must allow every person in this country, who has the ability, the qualifications and the desire, the right to go to a public colleges or university tuition free. This is also not a radical idea. It exists today in many countries around the world. In fact, it used to exist in the United States.

Democratic socialism means that our government does everything it can to create a full employment economy. It makes far more sense to put millions of people back to work rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, than to have a real unemployment rate of almost 10%. It is far smarter to invest in jobs and educational opportunities for unemployed young people, than to lock them up and spend $80 billion a year through mass incarceration.

Democratic socialism means that if someone works forty hours a week, that person should not be living in poverty: that we must raise the minimum wage to a living wage – $15 an hour over the next few years. It means that we join the rest of the world and pass the very strong Paid Family and Medical Leave legislation now in Congress. How can it possibly be that the United States, today, is virtually the only nation on earth, large or small, which does not guarantee that a working class woman can stay home for a reasonable period of time with her new-born baby? How absurd is that?

Democratic socialism means that we have government policy which does not allow the greed and profiteering of the fossil fuel industry to destroy our environment and our planet, and that we have a moral responsibility to combat climate change and leave this planet healthy and inhabitable for our kids and grandchildren.

Democratic socialism means, that in a democratic, civilized society the wealthiest people and the largest corporations must pay their fair share of taxes. Yes. Innovation, entrepreneurship and business success should be rewarded. But greed for the sake of greed is not something that public policy should support. It is not acceptable that in a rigged economy in the last two years the wealthiest 15 Americans saw their wealth increase by $170 billion, more wealth than is owned by the bottom 130 million Americans. Let us not forget what Pope Francis has so elegantly stated; “We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”

It is not acceptable that major corporations stash their profits in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens to avoid paying $100 billion in taxes each and every year. It is not acceptable that hedge fund managers pay a lower effective tax rate than nurses or truck drivers. It is not acceptable that billionaire families are able to leave virtually all of their wealth to their families without paying a reasonable estate tax. It is not acceptable that Wall Street speculators are able to gamble trillions of dollars in the derivatives market without paying a nickel in taxes on those transactions.

I couldn’t interrupt Bernie on that roll. Democratic socialism in other words is economic and social justice. It’s my belief system. It is what William Thomas dedicated his life to when he vigiled in front of the White House for years for nuclear disarmament. Thomas, as we called him, saw that greed was destroying our country. Mitch Snyder fasted many times to draw attention to the plight of the homeless and build the largest homeless shelter in the United States within a few blocks of the Capital. He understood that he had to fight the greed of the ruling class that was neglecting those in need. Phil Berrigan was a Christian who understood that the war machine was taking resources that could be used to help the poor. They were my mentors. I know that they would be backing Bernie if they were alive today. Well, maybe not Thomas, it would have been hard to get him to trust a politician.

But Bernie is not a traditional politician, he is a public servant who wants to build a just society. If you feel burned by Obama, Bernie is no Obama. Obama ran and governed as an establishment centrist. Those terms are far from any words I would use to describe Bernie Sanders. Have faith, we can trust Bernie.

Democratic socialism, to me, does not just mean that we must create a nation of economic and social justice. It also means that we must create a vibrant democracy based on the principle of one person one vote. It is extremely sad that the United States, one of the oldest democracies on earth, has one of the lowest voter turnouts of any major country, and that millions of young and working class people have given up on our political system entirely. Every American should be embarrassed that in our last national election 63% of the American people, and 80% of young people, did not vote. Clearly, despite the efforts of many Republican governors to suppress the vote, we must make it easier for people to participate in the political process, not harder. It is not too much to demand that everyone 18 years of age is registered to vote – end of discussion.

Further, it is unacceptable that we have a corrupt campaign finance system which allows millionaires, billionaires and large corporations to contribute as much as they want to Super Pacs to elect candidates who will represent their special interests. We must overturn Citizens United and move to public funding of elections.

If we don’t get the money out of politics, and don’t bring people back into the process, we might as well elect a king or queen and stop having elections. They are a waste of our time and money.

If we continue to sit on the sidelines, we might as well just let the oligarchy take full control. Heck, we might even get lucky and royalty will throw us some big crumbs. I’m just kidding, trying to motivate those who think the system is beyond hope. I believe, as Bernie says, that if we stand together there is nothing we can’t accomplish.

So the next time you hear me attacked as a socialist, remember this:I don’t believe government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.

I believe in private companies that thrive and invest and grow in America instead of shipping jobs and profits overseas.

I believe that most Americans can pay lower taxes – if hedge fund managers who make billions manipulating the marketplace finally pay the taxes they should.

I don’t believe in special treatment for the top 1%, but I do believe in equal treatment for African-Americans who are right to proclaim the moral principle that Black Lives Matter.

I despise appeals to nativism and prejudice, and I do believe in immigration reform that gives Hispanics and others a pathway to citizenship and a better life.

I don’t believe in some foreign “ism,” but I believe deeply in American idealism.

I’m not running for president because it’s my turn, but because it’s the turn of all of us to live in a nation of hope and opportunity not for some, not for the few, but for all.

Now that is change we can believe in. One reason we can believe it is he tells us that he can’t do it alone. Democratic socialism is not something we should fear. What we should fear is unchecked crony capitalism. If we let the billionaire class consolidate their power, America will become an oligarchy and Democracy will no longer exist. We need socialism to save America.

Author’s note: Next week I will look at the rest of the speech, which focused on ISIS and foreign policy. The transcript I used for this article was from his remarks as prepared for delivery. –SMG


Scott Galindez attended Syracuse University, where he first became politically active. The writings of El Salvador’s slain archbishop Oscar Romero and the on-campus South Africa divestment movement converted him from a Reagan supporter to an activist for Peace and Justice. Over the years he has been influenced by the likes of Philip Berrigan, William Thomas, Mitch Snyder, Don White, Lisa Fithian, and Paul Wellstone. Scott met Marc Ash while organizing counterinaugural events after George W. Bush’s first stolen election. Scott will be spending a year covering the presidential election from Iowa.

See: http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/33596-focus-sanders-address-on-democratic-socialism-amazing-and-blacked-out.