Bernie-Style Socialism is Still a Hand-Out to Capitalists

Bernie Sanders’ campaign recently released a video with graphics explaining wealth stratification. It is, despite the odd background music, really good, very clear and straightforward. Capitalism trends towards oligarchy, and therefore, wealth and power concentration. This is not news, except to the well indoctrinated.

But you gotta watch Bernie. Listen to his rhetoric, which lacks any discussion of social class and class war. Listen to his solutions, which do not deal with unpaid domestic labor reproducing society, nor even attempt at rectifying economic development’s dependence on capital. It just seems like he doesn’t get the implications of what he is describing. Or maybe he just has been in Washington so long he forgot the slogan, “Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible!”

He is calling for raising the minimum wage to $15/hr. That is a pittance of what we are owed. Dude just described grand larceny committed against the American working class over the past 40 years. Legalized theft based on mugging the unions!

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After such a thorough thrashing of labor, $15/hr is begging to still be underpaid. If the minimum wage would’ve kept track with inflation and production, then $15/hr is still asking for $3.42/hr less than what economists say the minimum wage should be at around $18.42/hr. Bernie is telling us to accept the capitalists’ bullshit bargain.

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He doesn’t mention the more sensible idea of a basic income, currently being experimented with in Denmark. A basic income becomes a floor, a livable stipend everyone gets for being alive. See, some people think it’s immoral to make the threat of starvation an incentive to work. Thus, a basic income would enable people to make more autonomous decisions about what they do with their time.

When does his political revolution become a call to organize and take the country back beyond elections? Or even through them? What about a national program to buy out businesses for worker collectives? Why must we continue to go to places every day that are highly authoritarian top-down places where we have zero decision-making power? Why spend most of our life in neo-feudalism?

Imagine, Bernie says we need a stimulus plan where workers can organize, develop business plans, and get money from the US Government to buy out their companies to run them democratically and cooperatively. That would be much more effective than a stimulus package that is a rehashing of Obama’s second proposed (not passed) stimulus package, one that even liberal economist Paul Krugman considers too small for the needed Keynesian effects.

By just raising the minimum wage, with no other qualifiers, Bernie makes wage hikes for the working poor almost completely dependent upon some oversized social movement each time they can’t take the stress of bare survival any longer. We should be demanding and implementing a new norm for a living wage that would have formal staying power, something that would make the Wall St. speculation tax an actual effective measure, rather than just another regulation to become another cost of doing business.

All in all, I am highly unimpressed with his level of fervor and populist rage. He should be laying out a strategy of reunionization based on cooperative expropriation of businesses with money gotten from a reinstitution of the progressive tax system thereby reappropriating the wealth the capitalists stole from the workers over the past 400 years, and then some. That strategy should then be connected to a stimulus package based on a reengineering of the American economy away from fossil fuels, militarism, and industrial agriculture, towards renewable energy, sustainable ecology, and work automation.

Otherwise, as far as socialists go, he isn’t one. Be realistic folks, and demand the impossible.

Andrew Smolski is a writer and sociologist.