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Bernie Sanders, Socialism and Class Struggle in the United States

By Zahid Alvarez | Posted February 1, 2016


Bernie_in_Phoenix_2015_2

Originally posted on Sept. 21

 

A specter is haunting America—the specter of socialism.

 

It has been 23 years since the fall of the Soviet Union, and America faces the prospect of a Socialist becoming President. In a post-Cold War world marked by environmental cataclysm, economic and political instability, and economic inequality at home and abroad, one government after another around the world has been deposed of conservatives, neo-liberals and pro-capitalist parties and leaders. The left phenomenon in Greece with SYRIZA, Podemos in Spain and even the left-leaning Labor candidate Jeremy Corbyn in England are indicators of the Left regaining a hold on the imagination of people on an international scale. Looking at the aftermath of the economic crisis in 2008, it’s easy to understand why Bernie Sanders’ brand of “democratic socialism,” the philosophy of the community managing the economic base of society for the benefit of all, is gaining more favor among students, workers and progressives.

 

The 2011 Wisconsin Demonstrations against the controversial Right-To-Work Republican legislation spurred Wisconsin workers and their unions to fight against a law that would severely limit their working and union rights. For most of the fall and winter of that year, massive protests drawing in thousands of people in the state capitol held the attention of working people across the country.Although the effort to stop the anti-union law did not succeed, American workers had gained a shot of experience in class struggle, and derailed the long and arduous retreat unions had been going into since the capitalist victory of the neo-liberal decade. Then followed Occupy Wall Street, which highlighted the growing economic disparity between poor and wealthy Americans, as well as the subtle hold corporations and wealthy individuals have in government. Dismissed by the mainstream media as noisemaking rebels without a cause, many major cities in the United States saw a large turnout at Occupy events where activists, unions, students and even dissatisfied veterans showed up to camp in public squares until something was done about it.


The mood of betrayal and anger many people were feeling at that time in the streets was perfectly summed up with words on a protester’s picket sign—“Where is the hope and change we voted for?”


Squabbling among our own political leaders, including the Republicans’ shutdown of the government and President Obama’s inability to find common ground with them, have left many Americans with the impression that the government cannot find stability within itself, let alone impart it to the American people.

 

More recently, the Black Lives Matter movement and the Fight for 15 have shown the racial and economic divides that still has a deep root in contemporary American society. With the shootings of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Erick Garner, an explosion of outrage at institutional racism in the U.S. has sparked a new civil rights movement that has largely been dormant since the 1960s.


Real wages of ordinary Americans have dropped steadily since the 1970s, according to Dr. Richard Wolff, professor of economics at University of Massachusetts Amherst. It’s no wonder that following the bail-out of Wall Street banks with no indictment of any kind of their CEOs and shareholders, low wage fast food and retail workers drew the conclusion that they deserved a raise as well.

 

The platform Sanders has crafted to appeal to voters in 2016 includes reform of the criminal justice system by abolishing for-profit-prisons, free and universal healthcare and education for everyone, and empowering trade and labor unions to act as a counterbalance against the power of big business in government.Sanders has made it clear with his message to the elite in American society that they cannot have it all. His call for a political revolution against the billionaire class has brought the old ideas of class struggle into our contemporary age to the forefront by telling his admirers and supporters to fight, not to follow.



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