By Roger D. Harris

Posted on January 28, 2016 by the Communications Committee

This article is the sixth to appear in The Sanders Campaign: A Symposium.

Lately the s-word has gotten ink in the corporate media – and not all pejorative – now that a candidate in the presidential primary of one the major corporate parties has had the temerity to run as some sort of socialist.

That socialism has legs in the world beyond the Beltway comes as no surprise to the Peace and Freedom Party, the only ballot qualified socialist party in California. Check out these statistics. In the Washington Post ("The Fix", January 17), Aaron Blake reports the following polling results:

  • 43% of likely participants in the Iowa caucus identify as “socialists” compared to only 38% as “capitalists” in a January Selzer poll.
  • 47% of all American voters are willing to vote socialist in a June Gallup poll; 59% among Democrats.
  • 56% of Democratic voters had a positive view of socialism in a November NYT/CBS poll; 49% considered themselves “anti-Wall Street.”
Blake concludes that "this number proves Bernie Sanders can win Iowa."

Ted Rall (CounterPunch, January 20) agrees with the Post about Sanders' prospects in Iowa, despite the fact that "no ideology, not even radical Islam, has come under heavier systemic assault than socialism."

Rall posits a "reverse-propaganda paradigm." "As America’s continuously lauded state religion," he notes, "capitalism takes the blame for all its associated evils" in the eyes of the public. As a consequence, he adds, "Socialism can’t be that bad."

Democratic-Socialism and Straight-up Socialism

Just what kind of socialism does Mr. Sanders profess? Bernie Sanders considers himself to be a democratic-socialist (others might call him a social democrat), which generally promotes a partnership between capitalists –who own the major means of production (e.g., factories, agri-business, utilities) – and the workers – who produce the wealth. Under such an arrangement, the capitalists still rule but they have the discretion to make concessions to the workers such as allowing some degree of social welfare; that is, welfare state capitalism. In contrast, unhyphenated socialism posits a system where those who work the means of production also rule.

What a wonderful world it would be if capitalists could be taught to play nice with others. But the very nature of capitalism, based on the profit motive to maximize individual gain, structurally determines an insatiable appetite for wealth. And even if you grant that some capitalists could be "job creators," it still is the class of people who actually do the work who are the "wealth creators."

Yet sharing is not a strong point of a capitalist system, which uses all of its state power to exploit workers by extracting the wealth that they have created. For example, we can look back at the financial crisis of 2008, which was created by irresponsible capitalist speculation, but which was paid for by the workers bailing out the capitalists who in turn gave themselves big bonuses for so successfully bilking the tax payers.

Bernie Sanders in the White House

So what if the senator from Vermont does make it to the White house, does it mean that socialism is upon us in the USA? What are the probabilities of the Democratic Party turning against its capitalist underwriters?

Rall hails a potential presidential victory by Sanders as "an important prerevolutionary moment," but cautions:

If elected, President Sanders will be ineffective. Either that, or he’ll sell out. Such is the nature of this system: it chews up and spits out those who don’t go along to get along.

Roger D. Harris is a member of the Peace and Freedom Party State Central Committee from Marin County.

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