COMMENTARY: Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign was so popular that it forced the economic system of socialism into the public consciousness and conversation, despite having long been deliberately buried by the ruling class.
Sanders subscribes to democratic socialism — which is a “tame” version of socialism that does not advocate violent overthrow of the current capitalist regime, but is more of a hybrid system where a representative democratic government oversees an economy with both socialist and well managed, i.e. controlled, capitalist elements. The sort of system observed in various iterations in Western and Northern Europe.
Sanders adopted the Occupy Wall Street’s descriptors, the 1 percent and the 99 percent, referring to the relatively small group of wealthy elite, and the rest of us, and helped make them household words. The terms are an elegant shorthand for the power and wealth differentials that exists in the United States. Note that neither Occupy Wall Street nor Bernie ever used the terms in a partisan manner. The 1 percent does not describe a group allied with just one political party.
Bernie’s oft repeated reference to the 1 percent during the primaries was a conscious effort to inform the public of a key element of the socialist political analysis of America’s governing structure. It needed to be repeated often because it was a new and unfamiliar concept for most of us.
His message was that the social, economic, racial and environmental problems of our society stem directly from a governing system that is run by and for the 1 percent. Unemployment, low wages, poverty, crumbling infrastructure, climate change, cash-starved states and cities, cutbacks in social services, racism, sexism, nationalism and on and on all exist because they either benefit the 1 percent, result from the profit seeking behavior of the 1 percent, or both. Hence, Sanders’ admonition that the 1 percent must be defanged; their money, which terribly deforms our political system, must be taken out of play and their detrimental domination of our economic system ended.
Progressives, who rightly and courageously touted Sanders’ political revolution, had their 15 minutes in the spotlight during the primaries, then saw the light blacked out again when Sanders lost the nomination. With them, unfortunately, went the wider exposure of their ideas. The dominant narrative spouted by the mainstream media returned to the alleged contention between the Democratic and Republican parties.
The story that they have been feeding us is that one political party is the devil and responsible for the nation’s ills, and the other is our savior. Which is which depends upon whether you follow Fox News or MSNBC. Since 90 percent of all U.S. media is owned by six giant corporations — corporations that themselves are part of the 1 percent ruling class — they can achieve amazing uniformity in the messages they want us to hear.
They can also exercise tight control over the things they do not want us to hear.
And what they do not want us to hear are the many stories that prove they and their 1 percent buddies are responsible for our misery. Rulers throughout history have long used the “divide and conquer” strategy to weaken the ability of their citizenry to oppose them. Thus, here they set non-union workers against unionized workers, Christians against Muslims, whites against blacks, Americans against “foreigners,” straights against gays, and so on.
In recent years, the two political parties have become far more polarized than previously. This provides yet another highly charged opportunity to pit us against one another by exploiting peoples’ party loyalty, setting Democrats against Republicans and vice versa. This is all a grand distraction. Neither party is the actual culprit. Both are paid well to do the bidding of their 1 percent bosses, who are pulling the strings.
The noise of cross-party attacks is constant and deafening. One job of progressives is to expose this charade as widely as possible. To reveal it as a cover for the reality that the Dems and Repubs have more in common than not. That they share the values and goals of the 1 percent, not those of their constituents.
Do not be misdirected. Neither party should be the primary target of our opposition. We all need to set and keep our sights on the superrich and the corporations that comprise our de facto unelected government.
Max Mastellone is a long-time activist and a Las Cruces resident.