Socialism or Barbarism: A Super Tuesday opera.

Andrew Duffy
7 min readMar 6, 2020

“Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,”

- “The Second Coming” William Butler Yeats

During the Second World War, the RAF had an adage that went as follows “You only take the flak when you are over the target” If the enemy is gunning for you, it’s a sign of success. The quote is apt when describing the current position of Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Primary.

Not unlike the Obama administration’s approach to attacking the Middle East, the Democrats assault on Sanders has been asymmetrical. From ignoring the campaign in its early stage to the production of scare stories regarding Sanders past contact with communist leaders in Latin America, the media has done everything but disguise its disgust at the success of a “socialist” within the American Political System. With the Primary at its peak, the choice has been reduced to a binary between Sanders and former Vice-President Joe Biden.

The case for Sanders as not only a viable candidate but as the strongest candidate is as follows- Between the former and Vice-President Biden, the senator is the only candidate who can combine the following strengths in adequate amounts to undermine Trump’s strategy.

  1. Sincerity: Between the 2016 and 2020 elections Sanders maintained a 71 per cent national approval rating, the highest of any national-level elected official. those polled cited his authenticity and consistency as the primary factor in giving Sanders their approval.
  2. Clarity of vision and analysis: Sanders is an undeservedly underrated orator. The senator has cultivated an idiosyncratic message that relies on repetition to identify the injustices in the political and economic life of the United States. Sanders has continually outlined the culprits of the devastation inflicted upon the rust-belt, articulated how the corporate elite have devested the working class and most crucially has outlined the solution in generating a vision of what America could be instead.
  3. An ability to speak to the dispossessed: If one was to judge candidates by what they get up to when the cameras aren’t rolling, Sanders competes in a league of his own. Since 2016 Obama has given speeches to financial institutions and closed-door donor meetings that generate six-figure cheques for his bank account. Hilary Clinton has embarked on a self-pity tour blaming every conceivable culprit but her arrogance for gifting the White House to Trump. Biden has undertaken trojan work in suppressing the ascendant progressive wing of the Democratic party by endorsing centrist candidates and serenading the same hard-right Republicans that laboured to undermine the administration he served in. Sanders? He went to the left-behinds and he listened. he held rallies, town halls and information meetings in the heart of Trump country, and has pushed legalisation rejecting the worst aspects of Trump’s administration, including in defiance of unspoken edicts, the imperial foreign policy upon which the US derives its hegemony.

The above points Illustrate Sanders strengths of character and policy that transcend classic partisan and ideological divides. He is the only Democrat that can bridge an electoral gap between disillusioned former Obama supporters and Trump voters who’ve dumped their MAGA hats in fits of despair. The discontented put Trump in the White House, they are the cohort that will decide if and when he exits.

The clear development gap between the US and the rest of the industrialised world is key to the rise of the Democratic socialist movement in the United States. This a welcome development for leftists and socialists everywhere and should be commended and supported when possible. However, as a student of the bearded one, it is imperative to point out that this movement is not socialism per se but rather an adherent to a philosophy best described as capitalisn’t.

The free-market Reaganite model of capitalism has made a mockery of the American Dream. The international scandal known as the US healthcare system leads the world in preventable deaths. Tuition fees skyrocket, leaving generations enslaved to debt in a nation that defines itself on freedom. Real wages stagnate as entire regions are left decimated by globalization and increasingly alien to the wealthy coasts. The Democratic Socialist movement has arisen in response to such outrages and seeks to fundamentally change the system. However, this does not necessitate the removal of capitalism but rather it’s supplementation to create a healthier national political economy. The essential vitamins are as follows: Universal Healthcare, a living wage, the revival of the union movement and a Green New Deal which aims to holistically tackle the climate crisis, and decaying national infrastructure. This is the Sanders platform. notably absent is workers ownership of the means of production (sighs), the public ownership of essential utilities (a la Corbyn) or gulags. This isn’t a socialist platform, it;’s a Swedish one. Bernie is the American Olof Palme, not the Castro of Vermont.

The corporate owners of the Democratic party would much prefer Trump to remain in office than see an honest social democrat in the White House. Just like their counterparts in the Blairite faction of the British Labour party prefer Johnson than Corbyn in possession of the keys to No 10. The extreme centre continues to hold out, in Bonnie Tyler fashion for another Blair/Clinton. The decision to back a second referendum on Brexit, thus allowing nationism to take precedent over economics, is what doomed Labour in 2019. American progressives should continue to listen to their grassroots rather than the white noise of the commentariat

The contrast between Sanders and his rival could not be more striking. Vice President Biden is yesterdays candidate. A party dinosaur motivated by personal vanity and a stubborn desire to occupy the oval office for the sake of doing so. Even a casual glance at his record reveals his signature alongside just about every piece of legislation responsible for tearing up the New Deal. Biden has supported free-trade deals that have laid millions off work. Supported repeal of the Glass-Segal act that ensured sensible regulation of the predatory US financial system, in doing so he helped lay the foundation for the 2008 financial crisis that he claims to have helped solve. Support for the monstrous Iraq War which resulted in an unfathomable cost for the people of Iraq, the Middle East and the families of US/coalition soldiers sent into the 8th year mire. Sanders opposed every single one of these decisions.

Trumps best asset for re-election. Warren professes to be “capitalist” to her “bones”, yet styles her self as the standard-bearer of structural change. The reality of the senator’s agenda became more transparent as the primary drones on. Warren had no intention of beating Trump, the numbers (which as a professor of consumer protection she must appreciate) simply didn’t allow her to possibly receive the nomination following a dismal Super Tuesday showing. Now out of the race, Warren refuses to make an endorsement, leaving her supporters conflicted as to who to flock to next. Sanders would be the obvious choice but the senator’s refusal to back him will continue to deprive support for social democracy within the party allowing Biden to slip in. As I (a man) criticise Warren it is important to acknowledge the tragedy that a female president, so sorely overdue, will not arrive this cycle. As a feminist, I will not claim that material issues matter “more” than gender equality. As a socialist, I state that they are inextricably linked and I deeply hope that all feminists and socialists can converge in common opposition to capitalism, patriarchy and imperialism.

Senator Warren in her strive to be all things to all wings of the party alienated both moderates and progressives alike. Her aim as “unity” candidate was to preserve a reactionary, militaristic and anti-democratic political institution that has always served to mitigate progressive change by implementing gradual solutions. A female president elected within the system would be a plus. A female president elected on the back of the movement to overall the system would be a revelation.

Warren instead serves as the engineer for the defeat of her “good friend” Bernie Sanders by splitting the progressive vote into crucial states such a Minnesota, Texas and Masschuttes and allowing the all-father of centrism Biden to win. In exchange lies a cabinet position and possibly a place on the ticket as Vice President. This course of events has significantly escalated the risk of Trump’s re-election, as the progressive base is rightly disguised. Those already disenfranchised from the previous cycle are confronted with yet another compelling piece of evidence for the irredeemably rotten reality of the political system. Come November 4th turnout will be at a record low and Trumps committed personality cult will appear in their droves to re-elect the perceived champion of “Real America”.

For reasons outlined above I firmly believe that Sanders would beat Trump if he receives the nomination Despite the label of populist being applied to both Trump and Sanders by a liberal commentariat hellbent on dismissing anything critical of the establishment, the truth could not be more distant. Sanders is the chalk to Trumps artificial, GMO, trans-fat infested cheese. The anger of Sanders base is based on real issues and is directed at real culprits. Only a progressive “populist” can hope to challenge a fascistic presidency that threatens to put our planet into an irreversible tailspin of social, economic and environmental cataclysm from which organised human life can not escape.

While not a model socialist by international standards, Sanders has appeared time after to time to persuade America away from disastrous economic, social and foreign policy decisions. He is exactly the person to lead a movement to introduce the radical ideas of basic welfare, diplomacy and common decency into the American public sphere. As per the classic Yeats Poem “The Second Coming” the centre can not hold, from its disintegration, the choice is socialism or barbarism. Civilisation simply can not afford our apathy.

Go join a Union. Get involved with a tenants association. Spread class consciousness, register to vote (necessary but far from sufficient). Fight back for the sake of everyone. Above all be kind to those you meet, all struggle against capitalism is fruitless if you lack decency in interpersonal affairs. As the mighty Tony Benn said “Bloody toughen up” This fight is just getting started.

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Andrew Duffy

Atypical Zoomer: polymath-lite, writer, son, student, propagandist, thinker, vagabond. ~ on a mission to thrive, not just survive.