Since only recently discovering the social media platform, Reddit, I have been posting various things to various sub-Reddits, depending on the subject matter of whatever I’m posting. Knowing it was possibly going to be considered unwelcome on the very popular Anarchism sub-Reddit, I posted a song I just wrote, called “Bernie 2020.” It got some positive response from some folks, as it did on other platforms. (I haven’t sung it to a live audience yet.) But then it got taken down by the moderators of the Anarchism sub-Reddit, because it’s about electoral politics.
Let me say at the outset, for any of you who are moderators of the Anarchism sub-Reddit, this is not at all a dig at you — I understand these spaces need structure and moderation in order to flourish, and I appreciate your efforts. I already thought my post might be removed, or at least roundly criticized, for liberalism or whatnot. But the experience, along with a conversation I’ve been having with my friend Peter Werbe, an editor of the Fifth Estate newspaper, has inspired me to share some thoughts.
I suppose the intended audience for what I’m saying here are mainly my fellow anarchists, particularly in the US — along with anyone else who might be interested, of course. But especially anyone out there who is generally too far left to bother with voting.
I am an anarchist, or a libertarian socialist, if you like — take your pick of terms. Either of these terms means different things to different people at different times, in different situations, and nothing is ever as concrete as people would like to believe. But for me, and for many others, the term “anarchist” is shorthand for one who believes that society would work best if it were horizontally organized, in the form of collectively-owned and collectively-managed enterprises of all varieties.
It also tends to indicate one who, like me, has a deep distrust in the possibility that severely hierarchical institutions like the US federal government can possibly be reformed. This distrust among anarchists of reformist movements dates back at least to the aftermath of the Europe-wide rebellions of 1848, which saw many reforms in many governments, none of which managed to eliminate the widespread poverty and misery of most of the European laboring classes in the decades following 1848.
Indeed, on every continent save Antarctica, the histories of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries are full of reformers in government with apparently good intentions, failing to deliver on them. History is also full of reformers who did deliver on reform, such that their populations often saw their lives improve dramatically — only for the great leaders of social and economic reform to turn out to be genocidal maniacs, intent on world or regional domination, such as Franklin Roosevelt or Saddam Hussein.
History also gives us some prominent examples of how the failure of social democratic governments to provide for their populations gave rise to fascist movements. Notable occasions include Italy in the 1920’s, Germany in the 1930’s, and right now, in an ongoing process with an undetermined outcome in India, Brazil, the Philippines and the United States, to name four fairly major countries.
But for those of us who have an outlook that we would describe as anarchist or socialist, or for anyone who is most especially opposed to the possibility of fascism, it seems most crucial to me that we note the following: in instances where social democratic rule has been instrumental in maintaining relatively prosperous societies for the past few decades, we do not see fascist movements of any significant size — such as in Denmark, Norway, or Switzerland. In countries with social democratic governments that have more fully embraced privatization and other neoliberal reforms, fascist movements have much more fully taken root — such as, once again, in Italy, along with other countries I’ve already mentioned, particularly my own.
I travel and play music for a living, more or less, mainly in Europe and North America, so I’m also talking from direct, first-hand knowledge here, when it comes to 21st century developments, not just what I’ve processed second-hand.
Our Orangeman was the natural outcome of decades of neoliberalism and austerity. In Europe, it’s common knowledge that the fascist movements got their big boost with the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, which here in the US the media generally refers to as a “recession,” while they refer to our economy as “booming” — in stark contrast to what most people are experiencing, and what most people can see when they look around them, if they don’t live in a gated community.
Point is, there are different forms of governments, much as I’d prefer neither rule by corporations — which make no pretense of representing anyone’s interests but their stockholders — or allegedly representative governments. But as much as there are tendencies toward corruption and all sorts of other problems with representative government, including within the so-called advanced social democracies, all governments are not the same.
In fact, they can be very different. There’s a big difference, for example, between a state that has been completely captured by corporate interests, and a state that hasn’t been. There are big differences to be seen between governments that rule in such a way that their population is able to prosper, as opposed to those that don’t, or can’t.
Given these observations about government, society and history that I have made, my take on the current precipice we’re on is this: we can talk about which wars he’s supported and which ones he hasn’t, which military expenditures he’s voted for and which ones he’s voted against. He is far from perfect. But, as with Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, Bernie Sanders is not just the flip side of the same coin. There is no Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is a corrupt, captured institution, and Sanders’ campaign is an insurgent campaign to take it over. A Sanders government could — not would, but could — be a qualitatively different sort of government, of the sort that could make a difference in whether we continue our societal march towards fascism or reverse course.
It’s a very, very long shot, to be sure. The entire corporate media, including the supposedly liberal outlets, are virulently opposed to Sanders (just as they are to Corbyn in the UK). The captured corporate leadership of his own party is horrified by his rise, just as the party’s base is more excited than they’ve been in a very long time. Both the corporate and so-called “public” media will continue to trash Sanders at every opportunity, and his own party leadership would actually rather have fascism than even the threat of socialism — they have made this clear over and over again.
And then, if he gets the nomination, he’ll have the corporate media, his own party, as well as all of the resources of the other party, to oppose his election. If he somehow manages to actually get into the White House, he’ll then be opposed by the vast majority of members of both parties of the Congress, and the corporate media will immediately launch a campaign to depict Sanders and his administration as totally inept. The corporate elite will secretly conspire to sabotage the US economy and blame it on Sanders. They’ll arrange shortages, like in Chile and Venezuela. And that will only be the beginning of the opposition to a Sanders presidency.
The only way he’ll even get as far as winning the nomination to be the Democratic Party candidate will be because of a massive groundswell that can’t be ignored by superdelegates and corrupt officials. The kind of groundswell that threatens to disrupt business as usual, and keep disrupting it, until the state has been un-captured.
A victory of any of the so-called “moderate” candidates — the ones who favor a continuation of the neoliberal Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Obama status quo that led us to our current precipice — will guarantee the further rise of the fascist movement that Trump represents, though it might delay it a bit. A Sanders or Warren victory could disrupt the trend enough that it makes a real difference. If, and only if, one of them gets elected, and then gets massive popular support in the streets, to the point that they are able to actually implement any of their social democratic policies, this could be an opportunity — perhaps our last opportunity, not to be overly dramatic — to avoid ongoing and untold suffering for so many societies, including ours.
To be sure, a movement in the streets will be absolutely required for even the remotest possibility of a Sanders nomination. There are no rules, as you may have noticed — the party leadership is making them up as they go along, in order to keep him out of office. It’s not just about voting — mostly not. But that’s one small element of it. So yes, in case my conclusion for this thought process is not already abundantly clear — take to the streets, shut the cities down, stop business as usual, as much as and wherever possible. But also, vote for Bernie.
If Bernie Sanders has any chance of getting into the White House, it will only be because he was propelled there by a massive popular movement. His own party’s leadership would rather have fascism than socialism, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
You can also download the song in audio form if you look for Song For Today on any podcasting app, or just go to www.davidrovics.com.
If he gets the nomination, let’s be very clear
It won’t be because of anything you hear
On MSNBC, CNN or NPR
When you’re waiting in the waiting room or driving in your car
If he gets the nomination from coast to coast
It won’t be because of essays printed in the Post
If he gets the nomination, it will not be
Because of any real support from the DNC
Or from most of the major figures that we’ve seen before
Bailing out the banks or taking us to war
If he gets the nomination, they’d rather let him go
Than have socialism disrupt their status quo
If he gets the nomination, it will be one campaign
Against a nation’s media and the entire gravy train
Of corporate welfare warlords, and their captured state
The leaders of both parties, with all their political weight
If he gets the nomination, it ain’t the sign out on your lawn
If votes can even be counted, in a country this far gone
If he gets the nomination, one thing we can say
It’ll be in opposition to these forces we can see displayed
There will be no help from the wealthy, or the institutions they control
No kleptocrats will volunteer to give back what they stole
If he gets the nomination, I’m not the only one who knows
It will be because the people rose