FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

House Socialists, Field Socialists and Bernie

by

shutterstock_292784240

I wholeheartedly support the populist programs that Bernie Sanders advocates—from single-payer healthcare, to free college tuition, to taxing the rich and more.  But borrowing from Malcolm X, Bernie is a house socialist and I’m a field socialist.

Bernie doesn’t want to replace or overthrow capitalism.  Like all house socialists, he thinks capitalism can be fixed or tamed with reforms.  By contrast, we field socialists understand that the essence of capitalism—private ownership of major industry, resources, banks, and the exploitation of labor by appropriating surplus value (profit)—is antithetical to democracy.  In fact, for all of Bernie’s talk about “democratic socialism”, he and other house socialists turn a blind eye to the lack of economic democracy that is the very hallmark of the capitalist system.  Because Bernie is in favor of tweaking capitalism but opposed to dismantling it, he ignores the systemic lack of democracy in the workplace and the economy—the very aspects that most affects people’s lives.

Bernie rightly denounces the unequal distribution of wealth, wherethe top 1% owns more than the rest combined.  But like all house socialists, Bernie fails to identify important institutions as being controlled by and serving the interests of the 1%.  Congress, the Democratic and Republican parties, the national media, the police and the military are all captives of the 1%.  In a class-divided society, all important institutions are wielded as tools of the dominant class.  Field socialists understand that these institutions answer only to the needs of the 1%, even though much effort is made by official propagandists to convince us that they serve us all.  Bernie and other house socialists aid the 1% in the criminal charade of pretending that government institutions, the police and the military exist and operate independent of the class divisions in our society.

This is why it’s no surprise that Bernie and other like-minded house socialists are military hawks.  They see the US army as “our” army rather than a weapon of the 1%.  This is why Bernie has voted for nearly every war appropriations bill.  This is why Bernie supports drones and US military involvement in the Middle East; why he supported military action in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere.  This is why Bernie supported sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s that caused the deaths of more than half a million children and he supported US military action in Kosovo in 1999. This is why Bernie refuses to denounce the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine but supports billions in military aid for Israel, Saudi Arabia and other brutal US client states that serve to extend the reach and protect the interests of the 1% overseas.

Field socialists oppose imperial war-making, understanding that the individuals and institutions of the 1% that exploit us here at home cannot be trusted to defend our interests abroad.  In contrast to the hawkish house socialists, field socialists demand: “All US Troops Out Now!”  “Dismantle All US Military Bases Abroad!” “Not One Bomb, Not One Bullet for the Wars of the One Percent!”  “Money for Jobs, Not for War!”  (For a complete field socialist election platform, see here.)

Because house socialists like Bernie limit their critique to reforms of the existing system, they are unable to propose concrete, workable solutions for the big problems we face.  Take climate change, for example.  Sure, house socialists say we must do more.  But they emphasize tweaking economic incentives in the hope of persuading energy monopolies to change their behavior.  House socialists support keeping the energy industry in the hands of private, profit-mad corporations.  But gentle persuasion hasn’t changed corporate behavior up to now and we shouldn’t expect it to succeed in the future.  As long as there are profits to be made by disregarding rules and incentives, corporations will do so.  No incentives and no amount of persuasion can induce a leopard to change its spots; you have to replace the leopard.  (For a field socialist analysis of climate change and the energy monopolies, see here.)

Few Americans realize that there are different kinds of socialists. Since house socialists are less of a threat to the powers-that-be, they tend to get a wider hearing than field socialists.  In many European countries, house socialist parties have mass followings. House socialists have served as prime ministers in France, Sweden, Portugal, Norway, Luxemburg and elsewhere.  Yet, capitalism hums merrily along in Europe as in most of the rest of the world.  If electing house socialists to high office made a crucial difference to addressing global injustice, climate change or endless war, we would have seen it by now.

Unfortunately, there’s no field socialist to vote for in the upcoming presidential election.  Nor do we in the US yet have a mass labor party—rooted in the working class and linked to fighting trade unions—which could serve as a real alternative to the parties of the 1%.  Given this void, it’s not surprising that those fed up with the status quo might put their hopes in Bernie Sanders, a house socialist seeking to be the leader of a big-business party.  But beware: while a vote for the house socialist candidate of a capitalist party might make some people feel good, no one should expect it to change much.

Bruce Lesnick is a long-time political activist who lives and writes in Washington State.  He blogs at blogspot.com.  He can be reached at blesnick@bugbusters.net.

More articles by:
July 26, 2016
Andrew Levine
Pillory Hillary Now
Kshama Sawant
A Call to Action: Walk Out from the Democratic National Convention!
Paul Street
An Update on the Hate…
Jeffrey St. Clair
Don’t Cry For Me, DNC: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Ellen Brown
Japan’s “Helicopter Money” Play: Road to Hyperinflation or Cure for Debt Deflation?
Angie Beeman
Why Doesn’t Middle America Trust Hillary? She Thinks She’s Better Than Us and We Know It
Fran Shor
Beyond Trump vs Clinton
Richard W. Behan
The Banana Republic of America: Democracy Be Damned
Binoy Kampmark
Undermining Bernie Sanders: the DNC Campaign, WikiLeaks and Russia
Arun Gupta
Trickledown Revenge: the Racial Politics of Donald Trump
Sen. Bernard Sanders
What This Election is About: Speech to DNC Convention
David Swanson
DNC Now Less Popular Than Atheism
Linn Washington Jr.
‘Clintonville’ Reflects True Horror of Poverty in US
Deepak Tripathi
Britain in the Doldrums After the Brexit Vote
Louisa Willcox
Grizzly Threats: Arbitrary Lines on Political Maps
Robert J. Gould
Proactive Philanthropy: Don’t Wait, Reach Out!
Victor Grossman
Horror and Sorrow in Germany
Nyla Ali Khan
Regionalism, Ethnicity, and Trifurcation: All in the Name of National Integration
Andrew Feinberg
The Good TPP
400 US Academics
Letter to US Government Officials Concerning Recent Events in Turkey
July 25, 2016
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
As the Election Turns: Trump the Anti-Neocon, Hillary the New Darling of the Neocons
Ted Rall
Hillary’s Strategy: Snub Liberal Democrats, Move Right to Nab Anti-Trump Republicans
William K. Black
Doubling Down on Wall Street: Hillary and Tim Kaine
Russell Mokhiber
Bernie Delegates Take on Bernie Sanders
Quincy Saul
Resurgent Mexico
Andy Thayer
Letter to a Bernie Activist
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan is Strengthened by the Failed Coup, But Turkey is the Loser
Robert Fisk
The Hypocrisies of Terror Talk
Lee Hall
Purloined Platitudes and Bipartisan Bunk: An Adjunct’s View
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of Collective Punishment: Russia, Doping and WADA
Nozomi Hayase
Cryptography as Democratic Weapon Against Demagoguery
Cesar Chelala
The Real Donald Trump
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Propaganda Machinery and State Surveillance of Muslim Children
Denis Conroy
Australia: Election Time Blues for Clones
Marjorie Cohn
Killing With Robots Increases Militarization of Police
David Swanson
RNC War Party, DNC War Makers
Eugene Schulman
The US Role in the Israeli-Palestine Conflict
Nauman Sadiq
Imran Khan’s Faustian Bargain
Peter Breschard
Kaine the Weepy Executioner
Weekend Edition
July 22, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Good as Goldman: Hillary and Wall Street
Joseph E. Lowndes
From Silent Majority to White-Hot Rage: Observations from Cleveland
Paul Street
Political Correctness: Handle with Care
Richard Moser
Actions Express Priorities: 40 Years of Failed Lesser Evil Voting
Eric Draitser
Hillary and Tim Kaine: a Match Made on Wall Street
Conn Hallinan
The Big Boom: Nukes And NATO
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail