Democratic Socialism: From Fromm to Sanders

“His value as a person lies in his salability, not in his human qualities of love, reason, or in his artistic capacities. Happiness becomes identical with consumption of newer and better commodities, the drinking in of music, screen plays, fun, sex, liquor and cigarettes. Not having a sense of self except the one which conformity with the majority can give, he is insecure, anxious, depending on approval. He is alienated from himself, worships the product of his own hands, the leaders of his own making, as if they were above him, rather than made by him. He is in a sense back where he was before the great human evolution began in the second Millennium BC. He is incapable of love and to use his reason, to make decisions, in fact incapable to appreciate life and thus ready and even willing to destroy everything. The world is again fragmented, has lost its unity; he is again worshiping diversified things, with the only exception that now they are man-made, rather than part of nature.”

“The facts, however, are that the modern, alienated individual has opinions and prejudices but no convictions, has likes and dislikes, but no will. His opinions and prejudices, likes and dislikes, are manipulated in the same way as his tastes, by powerful propaganda machines—which might not be effective were he not already conditioned to such influences by advertising and by his whole alienated way of life.The average voter is poorly informed too. While he reads his newspaper regularly, the whole world is so alienated from him that nothing makes real sense or carries real meaning. He reads of billions of dollars being spent, of millions of people being killed; figures, abstractions, which are in no way interpreted in a concrete, meaningful picture of the world. The science fiction he reads is little different from the science news. Everything is unreal, unlimited, impersonal. Facts are so many lists of memory items, like puzzles in a game, not elements on which his life and that of his children depends. we come across a person who acts and feels like an automaton; who never experiences anything which is really his; who experiences himself entirely as the person he thinks he is supposed to be; whose artificial smile has replaced genuine laughter; whose meaning-less chatter has replaced communicative speech; whose dulled despair has taken the place of genuine pain.”

“Suppose that in our Western culture movies, radios, television, sports events and newspapers ceased to function for only four weeks. With these main avenues of escape closed, what would be the consequence for people thrown back upon own resources? I have no doubt that even in this short time thousands of nervous breakdowns would occur, and many more thousands of people would be thrown into a state of acute anxiety, not different from the picture which is diagnosed clinically as neurosis.

– Erich Fromm, The Sane Society, 1955


The derisive children’s sandbox terms used by media pundits, Democratic and Republican stooges and the One Percent to describe Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a millionaire himself, would be comedic if it were not so sad. The words used to denigrate Sanders would be instantly recognized by Fromm since they were used in 1955 in the same fashion during the first Cold War.

Sanders, a self proclaimed Democratic Socialist,  is, in fact, not the demon that nuts like MSNBC’s Chris Matthews claim him to be. According to the publication The Hill, Matthews  compared Sander’s to the Nazis. That’s interesting because, according to The Hill, “Sanders is Jewish and most of his family members were killed in the Holocaust.”

Antisemitism anyone?

What is a Democratic Socialist?

Fromm describes a Democratic Socialist as one who believes this:

We cannot afford to lose any of the fundamental achievements of modern democracy–either the fundamental one of representative government, that is, government elected by the people and responsible to the people, or any of the rights which the Bill of Rights guarantees to every citizen. Nor can we compromise the newer democratic principle that no one shall be allowed to starve, that society is responsible for all its members, that no one shall be frightened into submission and lose his human pride through fear of unemployment and starvation.

These basic achievements must not only be preserved; they must be fortified and expanded. In spite of the fact that this measure of democracy has been realized–though far from completely–it is not enough. Progress for democracy lies in enhancing the actual freedom, initiative, and spontaneity of the individual, not only in certain private and spiritual matters, but above all in the activity fundamental to every man’s existence, his work. What are the general conditions for that? The irrational and plan-less character of society must be replaced by a planned economy that represents the planned and concerted effort of society as such. Society must master the social problem as rationally as it has mastered nature. One condition for this is the elimination of the secret rule of those who, though few in number, wield great economic power without any responsibility to those whose fate depends on their decisions. “

We may call this new order by the name of democratic socialism but the name does not matter; all that matters is that we establish a rational economic system serving the purposes of the people.”

With the United States devolving into some sort of weird corporate fascist state, isn’t it time to get back on track toward evolving towards a progressive, stable, all-inclusive, well-defended union? America is going the wrong way. Hell will not be pleasant.

I Like the F-35: I Get High on the Jobs it Creates for Vermont

Lets take a brief look at Sanders voting record.

He voted to confirm General David Petraeus, (USA, Ret.) to run operations in the Middle East area of operations. He voted “yes” on funding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, unemployment benefits extensions for veterans of those wars, and enhancing the GI Bill’s benefits. He also voted for funding for a border fence and security along the US-Mexico border. He supports jobs programs, infrastructure improvements, national health insurance and the repeal of President Donald Trump’s tax cut.

The National Interest reported that Sanders supported the deployment of F-35’s to Vermont because it’s a great jobs program for the tiny state and its National Guard Unit was eager to get the aircraft. The publication cited figures that showed that constructing components for the F-35, (its bomb bays and the aircraft’s Gatling Gun) in Vermont accounts for 1600 jobs and roughly $222 million in economic activity

While Trump’s fascist and racist tendencies have made mincemeat out of the traditional, moderate Republican Party into a bunch of Trump ring-kissers, he has also exposed the centrist and right wing elements of the Democratic Party for what it is: A quiet partner in Trump’s assault on immigrants, social programs, and whopping increases in the US defense budget. Its rightward tilt matches the Republican swing in the same direction. No where is that more evident in the desiccated, flip-flopping, right wing leaning Joe Biden (Democrat), put up by Democratic Party leaders as a viable presidential candidate. Yuck!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Sanders disciple, is the long term future of what remains of the Democratic Party; that is, if she doesn’t start a new, progressive party that breaks with one head of the two headed monster. Her voting record includes support for not allowing Russia back into the G7 groups of nations until it gets out of Ukraine; and, on another piece of legislation,  voted “yes” to stopping Trump from reducing funding for NATO. Her voting record matches Sanders in many instances.

Cold War 2020: Nukes and Propaganda

 The timing of the attacks by the Democratic and Republican party vanguard coincides neatly with the “new reality” of Great Power Competition with China and Russia, which the Pentagon and denizens of in the mainstream media—and Washington, DC’s many Thinks Tanks—are pushing. With the trillion dollars to be spent on the nuclear Triad modernization, the current deployment of low yield nuclear weapons on some US Navy submarines—and the open talk of using nuclear weapons, if only in a simulation, by the Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, you’d think the US is heading back to the Cold War mentality of 1955. Perhaps is time to replay Stanley Kubrick’s classic movie Dr. Strangelove or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

That means that language has to accompany the shift to fighting the Stalinist Commies/Socialists in Russia and China. In the coming months and years, US propagandists will have to created an atmosphere of fear in the general public not unlike was done for the War on Terror, and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in the lead up to both wars waged by the US on that hapless country.AZ

The terms Left and Democratic Socialist will become equated with sympathy for China and Russia;  support for repeal of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy; fighting for funding of food stamp programs and environmental protections; the protection of Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid; and pushing for healthcare-for-all and employment insurance.

Those attacks must be pushed back by coalitions like the one Sanders has worked so hard to build. Ocasio-Cortez, and those like her, will have to carry the torch once Sanders passes it on to them. The young men and women of the United States are critical in building a Democratic Socialist front.

The End? 

With all the talk of Artificial Intelligence, robotics and its dangers in war and peace, plus the ominous consequences of Synthetic Biology gone wrong, it’s worth closing with a comment by Fromm on the matter. The world is always looking for modern-day thinkers to  divine the future. But that’s already been done by real intellectuals like Erich Fromm. He was right on many aspects of Democratic Socialism (though not on a total command economy) and below is his take on the future of humanity written in 1955. I fear he may be right.

“In the nineteenth century the problem was that God is dead; in the twentieth [and 21st] century the problem is that man is dead. In the nineteenth century inhumanity meant cruelty; in the twentieth  [and 21st] century it means schizoid self-alienation. The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots. True enough, robots do not rebel. But given man’s nature, robots cannot live and remain sane, they become Golems, they will destroy their world and themselves because they cannot stand any longer the boredom of a meaningless life.”

John Stanton is a Virginia based writer. Reach him at