The Achievement of Bernie Sanders

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by Neil Godfrey

You may have to open Twitter to make the video work. Transcript:

It’s common to say now that the Sanders campaign failed. I think that’s a mistake. I think it was an extraordinary success, completely shifted the arena of debate and discussion. Issues that were unthinkable a couple of years ago are now right in the middle of attention. The worst crime that he committed in the eyes of the establishment is not the policies that he was proposing; it is the fact that he was able to inspire popular movements which had already been developing (Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and many others) and turned them into an activist movement – which doesn’t just show up every couple of years to push a lever and then go home, but applies constant pressure, constant activism, and so on. That could affect the Biden administration.

Interesting to pair this quote with a lengthier interview in Jacobin:

Noam Chomsky: “Bernie Sanders Has Inspired a Mass Popular Movement”

Here Chomsky discusses more the labour movement itself at some length. But he does repeat the words in the DemocracyNow interview with a more direct focus on what is “frightening the business class”.

The reason why Sanders is vilified in the media pretty much across the spectrum is not so much because of his policies. It’s because he has inspired a mass popular movement which doesn’t just show up every four years to push a button but is acting constantly — pressuring — to achieve changes and having some success. That’s frightening for the business class. The role of the public is to be passive spectators and not to interfere.

And on tonight’s news I heard a commentator expressing dismay at the prospect that Australia’s major airline, QANTAS, is facing the prospect of nationalization, which reminded me of a series of reflections like the following:

Will coronavirus signal the end of capitalism?

It begins with a flashback to the Black Death:

The pandemic begins in Asia, rips through the capital cities of Europe and wipes out at least a third of all human beings in its way. When it is all over, revolts begin, cherished institutions fall, and the entire economic system has to be reconfigured.

That is a short history of the Black Death, a bubonic plague pandemic caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis, which spread from Mongolia to Western Europe in the 1340s.

Because the economy then was based on local agriculture and crafts, ordinary life bounced back relatively quickly.

But, by radically reducing the number of workers, it gave the survivors increased bargaining power, which soon translated into new concepts of liberty among the population of medieval cities.

That, in turn, started a process of economic change that brought an end to the feudal system and, some argue, triggered the rise of capitalism.

The relevance of that comparison to today?

Today, capitalism faces its own plague nightmare. Though the COVID-19 virus may kill between 1 percent and 4 percent of those who catch it, it is about to have an impact on a much more complex economy than the one that existed back in the 1340s – one with a much more fragile geopolitical order, and on a society already gripped with foreboding over climate change.

And another, a thought that has often surfaced in past years but now seems an imminent possibility:

Is this the end of the liberal international order? And what might take its place?

“Every day the liberal international order seems less liberal, less international and less orderly,” says the Lowy Institute’s executive director Michael Fullilove.

He cautions against adopting a simplistic narrative that pits an insurgent China against the US.

“I personally think it will be much messier and probably more dangerous than a simple bifurcation,” he says.

And meanwhile, an ignorant, corrupt fool keeps reassuring his supporters that everything will be back to normal in a matter of weeks while they find new scapegoats to blame for anything that will dash those expectations.



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Neil Godfrey

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4 thoughts on “The Achievement of Bernie Sanders”

  1. After the Great Depression, people were predicting the end of capitalism. The situation now is much the same. The very wealthy are in the trenches protecting their ill-gotten gains and the rest of us are walking around with fingers up our noses. They will not let the status quo go easily. Start collecting pitchforks and torches.

    1. We know that the New Deal followed by the World War “saved” the system in the U.S. With the “new world order” following WW2 controls were introduced to prevent the sorts of excesses that had led to October 1929 crash. Those controls have been being eroded since the 1980s. Failure to recall the lessons, hubris (especially in ignoring the warnings of the possibility of a pandemic like this) . . . . all over again.

      You are right. There will be no easy transition. Is “National Socialism” in the U.S. a real possibility?

  2. Extraordinary success? They used to say if you put a red rossete on a pig in Gorton, it would be elected. If they’d put a pig up against Biden it would probably be THE candidate come November. Senile Old White Male who can’t keep his hands to himself apparently, and with all the charisma of a brick… and the Dem voters go for it. Bernie couldn’t overcome that? That isn’t “extraordinarysuccess; it is failure in all caps. The world went into lockdown and onto the ‘Net. This should have been Sanders’ moment if he had any notion. It was taking it to the netizens that was I thought the best part of his 2015-16 campaign. The best thing Trump does is his sold-out, queuing-round-the-block, stadium rallys. Instead Sanders pulls out.


    President Trump will walk it. Sad

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