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Sanders, Our Tony Blair: A Defamation of Socialism

Like Blair, Sanders is a pathetic lapdog, settling cozily into the lap of Clinton, Harridan of War and Militarism, Whoremonger of Wall Street, Ambition-Driven Power-Seeker. It doesn’t get any worse, the betrayal of principle that, given his quick, abject submission, makes one doubt his radicalism from the start. Again like Blair he perfected the rhetoric of labor rights, yet driveled off into meaningless protestations of wanting a political revolution (which even Blair realized to be a giant disconnect). And for both, the same status-quo foreign policy of warmed over Cold War and confrontation with Russia and China.

Speaking to the Convention tonight serves to legitimate its prearranged agenda, its shabby ticket, its claims to being a progressive alternative to Republican neo-fascism. I would have preferred seeing him standing outside with his followers who he brazenly deceived, and risk arrest over principle—principle: peace, social justice, single-payer health care, strict and severe curtailment of corporate and banking monopolization and power, environmental rigor, all, inside the Convention, being operationally contemned, neglected, destroyed (with the same phony rhetorical flourish of seeming progressivism).

The two party system never looked this bleak before, Trump, the Mussolini of our time, Clinton, everything rotten and deplorable one can say about a purported Centrism spilling over the line to Far Right reactionary policies maintaining and intensifying a Class-State. There is little to choose between the candidates or their parties—when push comes to shove, a militarized plutocracy, already far along, carried further. On July 23, before I became aware of the WikiLeaks revelations, I wrote the following Comment to the New York Times:

Clinton-Kaine is hardly an alternative to Trump-Pence. Both parties and their candidates resonate on the synthesis of militarism and hegemony, and differ marginally on social-welfare legislation and programs. America thereby confirms its Rightist orientation to public policy, starting with outsize military budgets and a push to deregulation and privatization.

I pity Wall Street, having to choose between two peas in a pod both eager to serve its interests. Indeed, Clinton is merely Trump in all but party label.

The seeming difference between nationalism (Trump) and internationalism (Clinton) is spurious; both sides are interventionist and confrontational. I suspect the further growth in global tensions, whichever candidate wins.

America has been bereft of leadership for much of the time since FDR, a bipartisan demiurge of mediocrity and belligerence. The future hardly looks favorable to rule of law and human rights; instead, targeted assassination the current symbolization–and who knows what other moral abomination lies down the pike?
Aaron Blake, in the Washington Post (July 24), compiled a list of “the latest, most damaging things in the DNC’s leaked emails.” Parenthetically, the leaks have been blamed by party officials on Russia, using a familiar red-baiting technique to divert attention from the actual content of the emails. If Putin had single-handedly pulled off the caper, this still would not change the obvious sabotaging of the Sanders campaign, a crime of duplicity easily the match of Watergate. And now, Putin and Russia, according to Clinton spokespeople (repeatedly endlessly by television guests in her camp), are favorably inclined to Trump and interfering in US domestic politics. Who needs the Democrats’ use of tried-and-true McCarthyism when Joseph Stalin will do?

Wasserman Schultz, DNC chair, is especially culpable in using the Committee to favor Clinton, despite the expectation that it should take a strictly neutral stand on the candidates. Knowing the favoritism shown–(e.g., bad-mouthing Sanders as an atheist, to be used in religious settings like Kentucky), Clinton, her campaign team, Wasserman Schultz, the DNC, all consistently casting doubt on his person, ideas, viability—Sanders’s firm endorsement of “the presumptive nominee” speaks volumes about his capitulation, to the disappointment of those who believed in him. (That he was booed by his own supporters when he mentioned Clinton this afternoon, was indeed heart-warming.)

Wasserman Schultz complained (late April) to party officials about Sanders’s concern over fair treatment: “Spoken like someone who has never been a member of the Democratic Party and has no understanding of what we do.” If only that were true, rather than the camp follower he has become! And Marc Elias, the Clinton campaign lawyer, sought to discredit him (early May), suggesting “the DNC put out a statement saying that the accusations [of] the Sanders campaign are not true.” He added, “the DNC should push back DIRECTLY at Sanders and say that what he is saying is false and harmful to the Democratic party.” That was the time to fight back, the party’s stacked cards against him already an open secret.

Then we find Mark Paustenbach, DNC national press secretary, charging (late May) that Sanders “never had his act together, that his campaign was a mess.” It’s all Sanders’s fault; the DNC, Clinton, the party, appear as the product of immaculate conception in this telling. Too, Clinton and the party discouraged candidate debates, denying Sanders exposure and the chance to make his case. Everything about the campaign appears ugly, biased, yes, rigged, and yet Sanders endorses Clinton and is complicit in promoting the party’s fortunes. I would regard that decision as, groveling in the dirt.

The most charitable thing I can say is, he lacks the courage of his convictions. And since courage and convictions go together, I’m not certain of the latter. He and Blair both have danced around the May Pole of democratic socialism, each reducing its visions of equality, equity, anti-militarism, and humaneness to a shambles. Meanwhile, the term “Berniebro” is being used within Democratic circles as a scare term whose associations can be readily filled in.

Consider the party, its moral collapse beginning right after World War II, and certainly by the time of Kennedy, in which it subsisted on a diet of anti-communism as the gristle for political advancement. Foreign policy was a travesty, the more seeming “liberal” domestically, the more cutthroat, from Lyndon Johnson to Bill Clinton and beyond, abroad, the result being to vitiate the record in both spheres. So why be surprised today, with Obama and Hillary Clinton—and, to go a step further, so poisonous the roots and heritage of the party in wallowing in anti-communism that it has affected Sanders as well. Try as one might for any sustained, critical analysis of foreign policy on the part of Sanders, and one gets in return the claptrap of a political revolution, to change the subject.

By virtue of his attendance and participation at the Convention, Sanders provides an objective (if unintentional) mea culpa, a formal acknowledgment of personal fault or error. Perhaps, knowing as he and everyone else knew, that the Democratic party was hopelessly corrupt, a willing agency of Cold War, business aggrandizement, surveillance, he should have gone Third Party from the beginning, affirmed proudly the American socialism of Debs, at the least, and/or professed the need for structural reconstruction and social transformation making common cause with socialism on a global basis. He should also have showed unremitting opposition to Obama, and, the most egregious hole in his armor, step forward, formulate and expand on a foreign policy worthy of democratic socialism and international peace. Even his candidacy, as he allowed it to play out, reduces him to a minor role in a totalitarian show trial, now put on exhibition, permitted to have his say, on condition of humbling himself before the capitalist-military deities calling the shots.

As he reached the podium, I wondered, will there ever be a Left again in America, not that Sanders is a worthy standard-bearer, but serving as an object lesson for the here and now, would radicalism take hold, not just at the leadership level, but a true mass base capable of unifying working people into a cohesive class-spearhead for structural and social change? The PEOPLE matter, not the politicians, and surveying the present American scene, the prognosis for the democratization of wealth and power in America looks bleak. (I this afternoon watched Al Sharpton being interviewed on MSNBC, the stale air of Clinton-ism coming through loud and clear.)

We await. In the afternoon, when he was booed by supporters for urging they vote for Clinton and Kaine (himself an abominable choice, the conservative Virginian), Sanders said: “Brothers and sisters, this is the real world that we live in.” If that’s the case, why then run? There is not a transcendent bone in his body. Now, more of the same, the refurbished lesser-of-two evils argument, addressed to those who believe change is still possible. The let-down of those who worked for him is palpable. Sanders is a puppet, with no one pulling the strings, the debacle his own creation. That he speaks with such urgency indicates one trapped behind the walls of his own self-importance—too banal to be thought treachery.

The air is thickened throughout the day with calls for unity, in this context, a despicable word, code for silence, submission, look-the-other-way, take pride in America as it is, not as it might be—a call to arms, literally, embracing such Democratic policies as armed drones for targeted assassination, pushing NATO by every means possible right up to the borders of Russia, patrolling the waters off China with aircraft-carrier battle groups, and planning and executing paramilitary operations which clear the way for regime change, expanded spheres of influence, market penetration, the whole dirty deal.

Does Sanders protest against all or any of these US activities, activities his designated candidate, Clinton, has favored, and POTUS has carried forward. Unity! By all means, for otherwise lies world communism steamrolling over and pulverizing The Homeland, an act of treason committed by anyone who fails to toe the line. The hour approaches.

Let’s listen. Not a word on foreign policy. Praise for Obama, thankful he pulled us out of depression. A veritable orgasm of cheerleading for Clinton, more than any other speaker before the Convention. Unashamed toadying. Worse, outright falsification of positions taken, as in his litany, Hillary Clinton knows, Hillary Clinton understands.

Wall Street brought to its knees by one who received $700,000 from Goldman for a pair of feel-good speeches? Sanders creates a magical hypothetical of Clinton’s positions bearing no relation to reality, whether on health care or banking regulation, or countless other issues ticked off. Yes, we disagreed during the primaries—but “that is what democracy is all about.” And now, we can march into the future together, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. What a con job—and not a peep out of his supporters on the floor. A euphoric experience in deceit and cruelty.

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Norman Pollack Ph.D. Harvard, Guggenheim Fellow, early writings on American Populism as a radical movement, prof., activist.. His interests are social theory and the structural analysis of capitalism and fascism. He can be reached at pollackn@msu.edu.

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