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Steven Brust: “A masterful storyteller of contagious glee and self-deprecating badassery” —Skyler White

Am I a Democratic Socialist?

| 80 Comments

I can think of four things that term might mean; if someone knows of others, I’d like to hear them.
 
1. A supporter of the Social Democratic Parties, aka the Second International, whence came all of today’s Labor Parties. They were famous for achieving important reforms and sending the workers of “their” country off to slaughter workers from other countries in the name of increased profit for “their” capitalists.  Also famous for competing with Stalinism over who has done the most within the workers movement to preserve capitalism. They are rotten through and through. No, I’m not one.
 
2. Someone who believes the Scandinavian countries are socialist (hint: this requires not living there) and/or believes in a “mixed” economy, which essentially means a kindlier, gentler capitalism. The idea that now, when capitalism is utterly rotten and threatening global catastrophe, and must use every form of depravity and violence to preserve itself, to ask it to be more gentle is, in my opinion, suicidal. As overt white supremacists and fascists revive as defenders of capitalism, this kind of activity strikes me as nothing short of presenting our throats to the wolves.
 
3. Someone who is in favor of socialism, but either believes, or only supports socialism “insofar as,” it can be achieved electorally. History has taught us a hundred hundred times that ruling classes do not give up their power unless forced to do so, and will destroy democratic forms in a heartbeat if they see that as the only way to preserve their privileges. The state serves the ruling class—that is why it is a ruling class—and a capitalist society means capitalists are the ruling class. They will not go down willingly any more than the slave oligarchy in the US South was willing to. That the economic system they based themselves on was thoroughly rotten and unsustainable only made them more desperate. That’s how it works.
 
4. Someone who believes, first, that the fight to preserve what democratic rights we still have requires a fight for socialism, second, that socialism is, in fact, democracy consistently applied, and, third, in fighting for a society based on democratic workers control of the state, and of production. By this definition, and only by this definition, could I be called a democratic socialist.
skzb

Author: skzb

I play the drum.

80 Comments

  1. Wasn’t the German “opposition” party that sold out Roxa Luxemburg to her death literally called “Social Democrats?”

  2. A social democrat is not a democratic socialist. Norway and Venezuela are social democracies, not democratic socialist states. Yes, Sanders promoting a social democratic agenda for pragmatic reasons confuses this.

  3. Five quotes by Marx and Engels:

    “Above all, it will establish a democratic constitution, and through this, the direct or indirect dominance of the proletariat.” — Friedrich Engels, Principles of Communism, 1847

    “the first step in the revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle for democracy” —The Communist Manifesto, 1848

    “there are countries – such as America, England, and if I were more familiar with your institutions, I would perhaps also add Holland – where the workers can attain their goal by peaceful means.” —Karl Marx, 1872 speech in Amsterdam

    “Thinking men of all classes begin to see that a new line must be struck out, and that this line can only be in the direction of democracy. But in England, where the industrial and agricultural working class forms the immense majority of the people, democracy means the dominion of the working class, neither more nor less. Let, then, that working class prepare itself for the task in store for it, — the ruling of this great empire; let them understand the responsibilities which inevitably will fall to their share. And the best way to do this is to use the power already in their hands, the actual majority they possess in every large town in the kingdom, to send to Parliament men of their own order. […] Moreover, in England a real democratic party is impossible unless it be a working men’s party.” —Frederick Engels, 1881 article in The Labour Standard

    “From Blanqui’s assumption, that any revolution may be made by the outbreak of a small revolutionary minority, follows of itself the necessity of a dictatorship after the success of the venture. This is, of course, a dictatorship, not of the entire revolutionary class, the proletariat, but of the small minority that has made the revolution, and who are themselves previously organized under the dictatorship of one or several individuals.” —Frederick Engels

  4. I read this and the “Answers” post (http://dreamcafe.com/2013/09/13/answers-to-a-few-things-im-tired-of-hearing/) from 2013, and it’s really opened up my eyes as to how imprecise the terminology is on a lot of these issues.

    Like, point 13 on the “Answers” post is all about moving towards a more enlightened form of government, where workers control the mechanisms of the state and can take the steps necessary to reform society towards the “utopian” plan you outlined in there. To me, someone who would fall under category #3 in your post today seems like a person who believes in that goal, but doesn’t believe in the necessity of revolution in order to achieve it, or at least doesn’t believe that yet. Or, maybe, just someone who is willing to give the political process a shot before downing tools and upping weapons.

    I’d probably still consider myself falling under that #3 category at this point, but the events that have occurred since the “Answers” post was written and today are opening my eyes to the probability that our political process is fucked, and “peaceful revolution” is a downright dangerous oxymoron.

  5. skzb

    The first quote is from before they went through the experience of the 1848 revolutions, which is what convinced them at the ruling class will not surrender power peacefully.

    I have no disagreement with the second. That having been accomplished we must, through revolutionary means, fight to defend it.

    As for the third, yes, there are, in theory, circumstances and conditions where it could be accomplished peacefully–there was even a week before the October revolution where Lenin said, if things broke a certain way, insurrection would not be necessary, but the Provisional government went another way and the opportunity was lost. But such opportunities have to do with the power of the working class, with the balance of forces; nowhere does Marx say (after 1848) to abandon the preparation for armed insurrection. Nowhere.

    The 1881 quote speaks of battle using parliamentary means as a form of augmentation, to increase the power of the working class, for a better balance of forces; it does not conflict with Engels belief that the working class must prepare for armed struggle (although the social democrats used that quote, 20 years later, to justify forcing the working class of Germany to slaughter other workers in the name of keeping their parliamentary power. Engels would have been disgusted.

    The last quote I have no quarrel with at all–yes, it must be a rising by the masses, led by a revolutionary organizations, not a putsch carried out by a minority. No one has ever disputed that.

    “Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. “ – The Communist Manifesto

    What else you got?

  6. The 1881 speaks of parliamentary means because he was speaking about a parliamentary system. I’d say the same principles apply to the US, and I don’t think Marx’s 1872 quote contradicts that.

    And, yes, I agree we should be prepared for the bourgeoisie to abandon democracy. If they do, they’ll only further infuriate the working class and increase the odds of a successful revolution.

  7. skzb

    When they do, we have to be prepared. If we have been working to convince them to rely on parliamentary means, they will not be prepared. “Yes, by all means,” we can tell them, “vote for the candidates of the revolutionary party, but never trust that the enemy will permit change this way, rely only on your own strength. If you put your trust in the parliamentary system, you are putting your trust in a state run by our enemies.”

  8. I completely agree we should not tell anyone to trust the system. But many people believe they can. The easiest solution is to win an election and see what happens. If you can’t win democratically in the US, you can’t hope to win by any other means. You need Engels’ “actual majority”.

  9. skzb

    By the time there is even a *danger* of winning a majority for socialism, democracy will be suppressed and the working class crushed. That is exactly what fascism is. If we waited to prepare until after they bourgeoisie refused to respect an election, the working class would be facing a massacre. Fortunately, as the Yellow Vests and the Metomoros workers and the Oakland teachers are showing us, the working class feels this lesson instinctively, and also, fortunately, we are able to learn from history and thus avoid those mistakes.

  10. skzb

    Oh, I missed Kragar’s question: Yes, that was the German Social Democracy, the 2nd International.

  11. So do you start the revolution now? Or when? And why don’t you try to ameliorate things in the meantime?

  12. skzb

    The revolution will begin when the contradictions reach an intolerable point.

    I do not believe things can be ameliorated, because I do not think capitalism, at this stage, has the flexibility–that is why however many well-intentioned liberals push for marginal improvements, things keep getting worse. Convincing the working class to support marginal improvements that, supposedly, will be magnanimously granted by alien class forces does nothing to advance their confidence in themselves, their unity, their fighting spirit; it only ties them further to their class enemies, ultimately placing their heads on the block.

    If I am wrong, and things *can* be ameliorated, then only the working class, independent of the capitalist parties, can do so. It is, in any case, the only thing that ever has.

  13. A $15 minimum wage, universal health care, and free higher public education are ameliorations that are possible under capitalism. That’s why I support Sanders, even though he’s only pushing a social democrat agenda.

  14. The ruling elites have long used tools of ignoring, then ridiculing, then marginalizing genuine reforms via their platforms of power in the corporate dominated mass media.

    But those tried-and-true techniques have lost much of their sting; the U.S. House of Representatives is now openly debating medicare-for-all proposals, unthinkable 10 or maybe even five years ago.

    So the elites’ power to control the conversation is slipping away. History shows that, rather than give up, the ruling class will swap out sophisticated propoganda for more hamfisted measures. We could be in for a bumpy ride.

  15. skzb

    Will, you asked above if the condition of workers shouldn’t be ameliorated “in the meantime.” Of course, if the condition of the workers are ameliorated, there will be no revolution, because conditions will not drive the working class to revolt. And, if capitalism is able to do that, so much the better: no one with any sense wants to go through the pain of a revolution, and particularly the period after a revolution, if it is not necessary.

    And this, of course, is the argument of those who insist we can reform capitalism, make it more human. They continue these arguments until capitalism in a given place at a given time finds itself unable to give reforms, and finds the working class unprepared because they’ve been assured capitalism will give them reforms to make their lives bearable, and then they are crushed under the heel of fascism and millions of lives are lost in the wars produced by such crises.

    This is why I utterly reject attempts to “ameliorate” the condition of workers from above, by electing this-or-that politician singing the empty song of reform. The working class must depend only on itself, rejecting all politicians and trade union bureaucrats who want to “help” them. These people are betrayers. If, in the course of the struggle, there *are* reforms to be won (I doubt it, but I’ve been wrong before), only fear of the power of the working class, not the supposed kindness of political operative, can win them. Either way, the way forward is to organize the working class, to build socialist consciousness within the working class, to show them they can trust no one but themselves.

    What amazes me is that today, with every tiny little reform once gained no being taken away, people are still telling us to trust politicians–and politicians in capitalist parties no less! It boggles the mind.

  16. I believe in democracy, but we don’t really have one.
    A modern economic system that works to the benefit of all possible people rather than the benefit of a very few is what I believe would be the best. As a shorthand, I would call such a system Socialism. We clearly don’t have such a system.

    There are some real big problems that are going to occur relatively soon that are a direct result of the current systems in place and which those systems are not suited to dealing with. Climate change and the complete disruption of the current labor system from automation replacement are just two. (Automation replacement leaving large segments of the workforce without a method of collecting income is a bug directly within the current labor system — having tedious jobs done by machines should really be a feature in a sane economic system).

    In a truly democratic or representative democratic system, by definition the people do control the system. So, I support changes to move us into that direction. To get there, we do need to successfully engage, awaken and educate the populace. Once the vast majority of the people are on board, then the desires and actions of autocrats become irrelevant although things like nuclear, chemical and biological weapons provide for some very nasty scenarios if anyone were insane enough to give autocrats unfettered access to such systems. Ahem.

    True democratic reform leads, inevitably, to true revolutionary economic change.

    So, I guess that’s my position in a nutshell.

  17. By “democratic reform” I mean changes to the underlying systems, not just electing a few new politicians.

  18. It looks to me like our problems are deeper than capitalism and socialism.

    There was a time when we had a coal-based economy. Coal brought us railroads. Railroad tracks go from point A to point B, and the trains have to be carefully regulated. Get an unscheduled train and you’re likely to have a trainwreck. Railroads gave us bigger cities than we could have without them. And people could ride trains from city to city, and to any stop along the way. They could hire horse carriages to take them other places. Our warships required coaling stations close to wherever we needed ships, so it was necessary to own Hawaii and the Philippines etc. All very centralized.

    Then we mostly switched to oil. Oil brought us highways. You can drive a truck anywhere there’s a road, and if you follow the rules of the road you can go anywhere without telling anyone where that is. The cities got bigger. Towns that were useful to cities got bigger. Gasoline or diesel tractors replaced sharecroppers; farms got bigger and more “productive”. Tremendous wealth compared to before.

    The wealth increased so fast it could be shared with the workers. If a factory worker bought a powerboat he could ride around on lakes, so what? An RV he could ride across the country on his vacation? Great. A 4WD he could use to get close to his deer stand in hunting season? Fine. Share the wealth, within reason.

    Of course we extracted the cheapest and easiest oil first. We kept looking for more, and finding it, and on average it keeps getting more expensive to find and more expensive to extract. We must use increasing amounts of oil to extract what’s left. Shale oil takes a lot of work to extract, and at some point we’re down to shale oil that we burn as much oil extracting as we get oil out. We’ll quit before then.

    The wealth increases a lot slower than before. Nobody’s as prosperous, though some of the new technology like the computer stuff kind of makes up for it. It’s no longer true that the rich can share the wealth, they’re feeling the pinch. And when they take a bigger share of a smaller pie, everybody else feels the pinch worse.

    To the extent that this is the problem, we won’t solve it by revolting. That’s a distraction from finding cheap plentiful energy. Not to say that the owners are good guys who deserve their stuff. But the revolt is a side issue, it won’t give us more oil. If they won’t organize new energy sources then we have to get them out of the way, but they aren’t the point.

    It’s the cold equations we have to solve, whether or not we dispose of any classes of people.

  19. Jonah:”The wealth increases a lot slower than before.” That does not appear to be true. Wealth is increasing hugely. What has occurred is that the sharing has simply stopped.
    Synopsis — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wealth_in_the_United_States. Google increase in total wealth for many more references.

    At some point, the oligarchs viewed the cold equations and decided they wanted everything. Through self rationalizing dragon style logic they ignore that their path leads to total collapse. Or they don’t care as long as they can have a yacht a foot bigger than their rival.

  20. How do you measure wealth?

    Is it by GDP? If we spend $4 to extract $5 of oil, and the oil is sold for $5, so GDP has increased by $5?

    The workers spend the $4, so GDP has increased by $9?

    It looks to me like the money is being manipulated in ways that keep GDP from meaning what we’d want it to. Did almost 1/4 of the wealth in the USA disappear between 2007 and 2009? Or was it a trick?

    “Through self rationalizing dragon style logic they ignore that their path leads to total collapse.”

    Maybe it’s me, but total collapse doesn’t look like wealth increasing hugely. It just doesn’t.

    We have less oil than we used to. Fracking has given us a way to suck out the last dregs faster. This is not really wealth.

  21. It’s all about short-term v. long-term thinking. Corporations demand that their operations focus on turning a profit in the short-term. Nothing else matters. If the oceans start to boil and the very atmosphere becomes deadly a few hundred years from now? As long as there are profits next quarter and for the fiscal year.

    The population, however, is perfectly capable of long-term thinking. That’s why huge majorities in the U.S. favor radical action to combat climate change, profits-be-damned. And rightly so. But the government, currently in the pockets of the corporations, is unresponsive to these concerns.

    Same goes for health care, taxing the wealthy, peace, education, full employment, just wages, and the like. What the people need is power. Power to force the current government to move forward on these issues, or power to take the reins themselves. Probably more likely the latter.

  22. Steve Halter, yep, wealth is growing rapidly. It’s just not going to the people who do the work, or to the people who are excluded from doing the work.

  23. Steve Brust,

    “Will, you asked above if the condition of workers shouldn’t be ameliorated “in the meantime.” Of course, if the condition of the workers are ameliorated, there will be no revolution, because conditions will not drive the working class to revolt.”

    So your position is we should make the working class suffer as much as possible until they revolt? Gotta disagree.

    Yes, there will come a point where capitalists will not grant any more concessions. That’s why we should keep trying to make life better for the working class until we reach that point.

  24. Kragar:Exactly. Huge majorities favoring things that don’t then happen is precisely how to tell that we aren’t in anything resembling a democracy.
    Will: (Short post answering my post) Yes.

    Jonah:The various articles (or at least the useful ones) define what they mean by wealth. Dragons horde their wealth purely for their own idiosyncratic reasons. The removal of wealth from the system leads to the collapse. Also, oil will shortly not equate to wealth, it just happens that a lot of very rich people’s current wealth is in those terms.

  25. skzb

    Will: I assume that was not a deliberate misreading of what I said, so kindly reread it.

  26. Steve, this is the part I’m having trouble with, and I’m sorry if I’m misreading you:

    “This is why I utterly reject attempts to “ameliorate” the condition of workers from above, by electing this-or-that politician singing the empty song of reform. The working class must depend only on itself, rejecting all politicians and trade union bureaucrats who want to “help” them. These people are betrayers. If, in the course of the struggle, there *are* reforms to be won (I doubt it, but I’ve been wrong before), only fear of the power of the working class, not the supposed kindness of political operative, can win them. Either way, the way forward is to organize the working class, to build socialist consciousness within the working class, to show them they can trust no one but themselves.”

    A $15 minimum wage, universal health care, and free public higher education are viable ameliorations. We know this because other capitalist countries support them. Yet you seem to be rejecting the idea that we should do anything to support them until the working class wins them by doing something which you have not identified. What is that thing that you think the working class should do instead of voting for Sanders?

    And out of curiosity, are you suggesting that the working class does not support those three things? The polls suggest they do, and the capitalists are doing what they can to suppress them.

  27. skzb

    First of all, “We know this because other capitalist countries support them. ” is, with all due respect, shoddy reasoning. It goes, “they are capitalist, and we are capitalist, and they can do it, so we can do it.” It takes the abstraction, “capitalism” out of its historic context.

    Look at how and when and under what circumstances those other capitalist countries got them. They were not granted by a magnanimous politicians, but they were either won by direct working class struggle, or through the creation of labor parties (which also emerged from working class struggle). Also, and probably more significant, is they were won during the post-war boom, when capitalism had some flexibility—flexibility that is now, in my opinion, lacking. Under no conditions ever were they won by saying, “support this or that politician from a capitalist party.”

    And, by the way, I’m all for medicaire for all, and if the ruling class becomes so frightened of working class outrage that they manage to give that (I don’t think can for the reasons I stated, but, as I say, I could be wrong), then I think that’s great. However, $15 minimum wage??? Seriously? I cannot believe that there are those actually going out there, fighting for a minimum wage that no one can actually live on! “But it’s an improvement!” they cry. Why not $30? Well, because, of course, it is unreasonable to expect politicians to approve that. And that is why asking the working class to rely on politicians is betrayal.

  28. Not saying they will do it. Only saying they can. The only way to find out if they will is to get Sanders elected.

    And, yes, strikes are a good thing.

    As for $15 minimum wage, no one’s saying we should stop there. But first we have to get there.

  29. I thought Steve’s message was clear. I will try to repeat it in my own words. If I get it wrong then maybe he will say where I’m wrong and I”ll learn something.

    The argument is that the owners will not give up anything without a fight.

    Supporting Sanders is not giving them a fight at all. Sanders, a politician, talks about what he will give to citizens. Citizens give him money and time. Supporting Sanders is like going to the politicians with your bowl and asking “Please sir, may I have some more?”

    So then the Democratic Party answers you. “No, you may not have ‘more’. We have rules we have made up about how you have to ask, and you have not begged urgently enough. The rules we have for how the decision is made are sacrosanct and cannot be broken unless we decide to break them. Sorry. Next time beg harder.”

    And Sanders replies too. “So sorry, voters! Better luck next time! Now I want you to vote for Kamala Harris (Or Joe Biden, or whoever.) Support me again in 2 years or 4 years, and THIS time we’ll win together!”

    If you’re strong you can demand Sanders, and the party will give you Sanders. Then when he wins the election and he starts to back down on his promises, you demand that you get what was promised and he delivers.

    Or you demand a constitutional convention to replace the rules of the game with your rules, and they go along.

    When you’re strong and you agree among yourselves then you get what you want if it’s something the economy can provide.

    (Where the working class and automation fit in together I’m not clear, but that isn’t about what Steve is saying.)

  30. Yes, I’ve heard the sheepdog theory. I don’t buy it.

  31. It doesn’t matter what Bernie wants if this is the outcome.

    Asking Bernie to fight the Establishment and get good stuff for you, is not getting power yourself. If he has to play by the game with rules that can’t let him win, and he plays by those rules, it doesn’t get you any power.

    You only get them to recognize your power when you are in fact powerful.

  32. Jonah, you are now in the realm of “It doesn’t matter if you want to be a tool of Satan.” You believe this. I do not.

    I am talking about three specific things Sanders fights for. I think they are worth supporting, and more importantly, so does the working class.

  33. And since we’re now at the point where we’re arguing what we believe, I’ll only return if I spot an error of fact that seems worth correcting.

    Mind you, I completely agree it’s good to educate people about socialism. I would be more popular with liberals if I stopped doing that. But I don’t think the choice is between helping the working class within the system or educating people for the collapse of the system. I embrace “and”.

  34. “Jonah, you are now in the realm of “It doesn’t matter if you want to be a tool of Satan.”

    It doesn’t matter whether Bernie WANTS to be a tool of Satan, if he in fact IS a tool of Satan.

    Is it true? If he gets elected president and proceeds to get his programs put in place, that proves he isn’t.

    I don’t see any other way he can prove it. Do I think that will happen? Probably not. But I’d be happy if it does.

  35. Will–

    My understanding of the “sheep-dog” theory is that Bernie Sanders was supposed to go around talking a good game about a genuinely progressive program, which would get young people all riled up. Then, when push came to shove, he was to bow out of the race and deliver his army of young and enthused supporters over to the corporate democrats, who excite no one. Well, that’s pretty much exactly what happened, isn’t it? Except that the young people didn’t really go for it. What part of that is there to disagree with?

    skzb–

    The modern day Democrats in the United States are adept at coopting and then selling out genuine reformers, but it seems the Social Democrats of Germany in the interwar period went even further. Their targets ended up beaten to death with a rifle butt and dumped in a river as opposed to merely being discredited and defrocked. Now that’s a sell out!

    Sad.

  36. skzb

    Kragar: Yeah. The German Social Democrats still may hold the record for the greatest betrayal, maybe the greatest *two* betrayals, of the working class, rivaled only by the Stalinists refusing to unload the guns the Spanish workers were waiting for.

  37. Which commonly misused examples are closer to “socialist”? The Scandinavian countries, or Venezuela?

  38. Neither. Which of these ducks is closer to being a cat? The mallard or the wood duck?

  39. If you’re trying to figure out whether Norway or Venezuela is more socialist, the answer is Norway (though both are social democracies, not socialist states): https://www.peoplespolicyproject.org/2019/01/27/norway-is-far-more-socialist-than-venezuela/

  40. Unlike in UK LeGuin’s EarthSea novels, there is no True Language that truly reflects reality and is the one true way to talk. People develop meanings by connotation, by a sort of consensus, and different communities talk different ways.

    I believe I understand some of the other meanings for “socialism” though I don’t advocate them.

    Here’s one — Some people make a distinction between “freedom from threats” and “freedom to do”. Some of the people who make that distinction, say that government should be about “freedom from” only, and not “freedom to”. So they think that government should concentrate on things like military and police. Things to protect us from external and internal threats. Anything that government does to help out poor people who cannot achieve without government aid, is socialism and therefore wrong.

    Here’s another — By exactly the same reasoning that some people use to say that natural ecosystems balance themselves and should be left alone by humans, some people argue that ;free markets regulate themselves the best possible way by themselves, and should be entirely left alone by governments. Any attempt by government to provide things for people that free markets don’t provide them naturally, is socialism and therefore wrong. Also any attempt to regulate the economy.

    Here’s a third — People should pay for what they get. Superior people deserve more, and they will get more by their own efforts. Adequate people will do OK. Inferior people must not thrive or the breed will be weakened. If they are coddled and given things they don’t deserve, that’s bad for society. It follows that people should benefit from government according to what they pay. The people who pay the most taxes should get the most benefit. The top 10% has 45% of the income and pays 53% of the taxes. So they ought to get 53% of the benefits. When the bottom 90% get more than their share of the benefits, that’s socialism and therefore wrong.

    Etc.

    These are all moral arguments. As a moral relativist I am not much impressed by any of them.

  41. Will:Yes, if asking which is more of a Social Democracy then Norway wins. Neither is a Socialist state.

  42. I wanted to make a note about a common misconception on Socialism I have seen in practice about the webs and which I think probably has lead some commenters here astray in the past.

    Recently, Trump yelled at GM to reopen a plant. There were then a number of people commenting (some at a humor attempt, others not) that he was just doing Socialism as “isn’t government control of industry Socialism.”

    The answer is that no, what Trump is doing is trying to be a dictator. Dictators like to dictate–that’s kind of what they do.

    Socialism is the workers control of the means of production. The government should naturally flow from this control–not the other way around. Who is in control makes all the difference. I see very few workers involved in the Trump administration.

  43. It’s kleptocrats, all the way down…

  44. After this new wave of progressive Democrat congresspeople have their energy absorbed and their reform attempts derailed by the corporate Dems who actually run the show, then can we finally give up on “reforming” the Democratic party from within?

    a/k/a

    “What is Biden Waiting For?”

  45. The Democratic Party is no more the party of the workers than the Republican Party is the party of limited government.

  46. skzb

    Kragar: Some will never be convinced, no matter what.
    kuku: Yep.

  47. And now Biden is in!

    NPR has been running “reports” on Biden’s early campaign that are indistinguishable from paid advertisements.

    The man who gutted bankruptcy protection to increase the profits of his beloved credit card companies, NAFTA, the 1996 Crime Bill, Iraq war 2003, and on and on and on is your likely Democratic Nominee.

  48. Kragar- JFC, I hope not! There are a whole slate of highly competent women running, none of whom have ever lost an election. I cling to a tiny hope that the Democratic leadership might suddenly develop a crumb of sense or conscience and realize that appeasing racist conservatives is not a winning strategy. Two years of impeachment trials followed by an inspirational candidate proposing real change is the only way to energize dispirited and new voters. Swing voters are a myth. A loud mouth, old, establishment white man won’t bring any fence sitting Democrats to the polls.

  49. I hope it’s Biden.

    Since Sarah Palin is unlikely to get the Democratic nomination. She would be better, but it looks just too unlikely.

    We are unlikely to get any significant progress until after the Democratic Party collapses.

  50. Jonah- You’re just hoping for violent revolution, then? Or one party rule? At the moment, the Democratic party, for all its manifold flaws, is our only viable alternative to complete autocracy.

    I know there are plenty of disaster cheerleaders who hope for things to get worse to make revolution more palatable, but things are already quite bad enough for me, thank you. I’d just as soon minimize the death on the way to revolution, rather than shoot for a maximum body count. Almost all of the people dying now and likely to die in the near future are victims of the racists and plutocrats. I’d like to keep as many of them alive as possible until we are finally ready to give sanity a try.

  51. The Democrats are not a viable alternative.

    I must hope for the collapse of the duopoly. I don’t know how likely that is. Neither do you.

    They try to present themselves as inevitable, hoping that no one will oppose them because people will think that all opposition must fail. You have believed them about that.

    Is it true? We will not find out whether they must inevitably succeed until they fail.

  52. We are currently locked in a local minimum. Picture that we are standing in a valley. There are groups of people who are trying to raise the cost of leaving the valley. In this case these groups fall into two self identified subsets.
    At the same time both groups are also raising the cost of staying in the valley.
    Thus, we have a race condition. At what point will the cost of staying in the valley exceed the cost of leaving the valley? What will the exit condition look like–smooth and gentle or sudden and violent?

  53. Steve- I think I understand the cost of continuing to prop up Democrats. Even the best of them only promise an amelioration of the status quo, a kinder, gentler domination of the working class by plutocrats. True progress cannot be made until both the Democratic agenda, such as it is, is thrown out along with the much more clearly abhorrent Republican agenda.

    I just have no taste for bloodshed. Too many are dying already on the altar of Rule by the Best People. Not just the obvious murders on the southern border, but the thousands in Puerto Rico denied aid, the tens of thousands denied access to affordable medicine, the hundreds of thousands addicted to opiates, the millions rotting pointlessly in prison.

    Sitting back and saying that we just have to wait for it all to fail is too heartless for me. The edge of the valley seems pretty high right now, but how much blood would have to flood it before we could swim out?

    So, unless I misunderstand what you are hinting at, lets all carve a few steps in the side of the valley! Let’s choose the best bad candidate, fight with all our might to get her elected, flood congress with equally mediocre choices, then hold their feet to the fire until some tiny progress is made. Bloodless revolutions might not be the norm, but does that mean they aren’t worth fighting for?

    If enough working class people get access to free education, free child care, free health care, and a living wage, then enough of them might suddenly find enough peace of mind to envision an even better future.

  54. larswyrdson:Yes, I wildly prefer a non violent revolution. A revolution is just a change replaces the status quo (either political, economic, technical, …). It doesn’t necessarily have to be violent.

    Convincing ordinary people that those are the steps that we want and that, no there aren’t dragons outside the valley no matter what the groups building the walls around the valley are saying is one aspect–that is fully needed.

    The other tricky part comes when we start carving the steps in the side of the valley. Historically, there are people who are sitting on top of the walls on the valley sides that they have built to keep us all in. They either think they are in a better position or they just enjoy throwing rocks at the people inside the valley.

  55. I’ll also note that I am wildly in favor of large hurricanes not making landfall and killing lots of people. To this effect, I do what I can to ameliorate climate change.

    Of course, hurricanes, once they occur do not particularly care about my opinions. But, if we can all act together we can actually change the probability that lots of hurricanes of increased size will kill lots of people.

  56. I brought up Joe Biden to show how rotten the “leadership” of the Democratic party is, abetted by their able helpers in the corporate-controlled media. The DNC is making exactly the same “mistake” with Biden in 2020 than they did with Clinton in 2016.

    The truth seems to me that the DNC would not mind winning the White House if they can do so with “one of their guys,” but would prefer a loss to the Republicans to the election of even a mild reformer like Sanders or Warren.

    But I do agree with larswyrdson that there is hope in organizing. Massive popular pressure is needed to force those in power to make genuine reforms. The leaders may take credit for it after, but the popular pressure will have been the thing that did the trick.

    Guido’s Venezualan fiasco, the “loss” in Syria, the rise of AOC and other radical voices tells me that the system’s ability to control the narrative and determine outcomes is diminishing. It still responds with the same answers, but I deem that fewer and fewer are listening.

  57. @larswyrdson “Let’s choose the best bad candidate, fight with all our might to get her elected, flood congress with equally mediocre choices, then hold their feet to the fire until some tiny progress is made.”

    Once you have elected the best bad candidate, you have no power to hold their feet to the fire. They know they are the best you can get. What will you do to them? Tell them if they don’t do better than their best, that you will instead choose somebody worse?

    It takes everything you’ve got to get a bad candidate elected. At that point you’re wasted.

  58. Jonah- If the electorate is engaged and active, then that is who drives the agenda. Politicians are never secure, because there is always someone else ready to take their job. Election cycles now start the day they take the oath of office. They may listen more willingly to lobbyists and big donors, but believe me, they pay close attention to every call from constituents, and aides keep running tallies of what voters want. And if that doesn’t work, then real engagement takes over: mass protests, work strikes, sit ins. The point is to never rest, never count on a hero to save you, because they do not exist, at least not in politics.

    And what alternative do you imagine there is? Disengagement until complete ecosystem and societal breakdown and then a hearty round of “I told you so”? Letting the Republicans have their way could easily doom human life, which might teach them a valuable lesson, right before the end. That sounds very satisfying, in a small minded way, but is not a winning strategy for anyone.

  59. “And what alternative do you imagine there is?”

    This is not an argument.

    The Democratic Party will do nothing about climate change while their big donors pay them not to. You can lobby all you want and they will be at least marginally polite, but they will not budge.

    You might as well pray over your good luck charm, and when someone says it will do no good, you ask them for a better alternative. The good luck charm at least wastes less of your time and money.

    It’s more effective to campaign for a third party. That would appear to have no good effect, but it has a better chance than supporting the Democrats.

    What I think might possibly work best is to try to persuade the big donors to lobby for what you want. Don’t try to persuade the hired help. Go for the actual decision-makers.

  60. Jonah- yes, you are right, “What alternative do you imagine there is?” is not an argument. It is a question. As in, what alternative do you imagine there is?

    So, if I understand you correctly, my other choices are to support a third party candidate, who will either not win or do nothing, but I will feel morally superior for supporting?

    Or beg rich people to support social and environmental justice?

    Look, I am aware that Nancy, Chuck, and Joe all think Warren Buffett is much more important than the million or so species about to go extinct. But even they are better than almost any Republican in office. I don’t expect them to ever change, but the Democratic party consists of a lot of people, and who those people are change all the time. All you need is a another election like 2018 and a few more AOCs to take seats and the whole platform can change. The Democratic Party of 1929 bears little resemblance to the Democratic Party of 1932. Revolutions happen many ways, especially when an existential threat looms.

    I understand you are feeling depressed and cynical about American politics. Who wouldn’t? But waiting around for someone else to save us is not a viable option. We must use the tools at our disposal to free ourselves.

  61. “Look, I am aware that Nancy, Chuck, and Joe all think Warren Buffett is much more important than the million or so species about to go extinct. But even they are better than almost any Republican in office.”

    It isn’t a matter of which is “better”.

    They are the duopoly. They agree on the important questions, and they stage an elaborate charade to compete about.

    A vote for the Democratic Party is a vote for extinction.

    We don’t know for sure how bad things are, or how fast they’re getting better. Maybe the Democrats are better than the republicans, and so maybe voting Democrat is a vote for extinction in 12 years instead of 8 years, or 40 years instead of 30 years, or if we’re very very lucky for extinction in 80 years instead of 60 years.

    But they are not good enough to vote for.

    “All you need is a another election like 2018 and a few more AOCs to take seats and the whole platform can change.”

    You can believe that a few AOCs will do that. I can’t stop you from believing that.

    “I understand you are feeling depressed and cynical about American politics. Who wouldn’t?”

    I am not particularly depressed. There is hope. The Democratic Party may be on the edge of committing suicide. And you can help.

    The fewer people who care about their bullshit, the sooner they will cash in their winnings and go play some other scam.

  62. Jonah- so, what is your action plan? Other than not voting?

  63. I support the Green Party. In the short run this does hardly any more good than supporting Democrats. (Except that it ISN’T supporting Democrats, so it isn’t doing that amount of active harm.)

    My hope is that when the Democratic Party collapses, we will be ready to provide an alternative.

    To some extent we have a clear short-run plan, and a long-run philosophy. But of course we disagree pretty much.

    We have a minority of vegans who say that the party has to become a vegan party and announce that when we get the majority of votes we will make farm animals illegal and meat-eating illegal.

    We have some fraction of socialists, and the loudest of them say that we must make it clear that when we win we will immediately destroy all capitalism, no exceptions, and take all the wealth from the capitalists. They say that pretty much everybody under 35 loves socialism and hates capitalism, so this approach will not lose us any votes except from people who deserve to lose their bennies and perqs. They say that capitalism is the only serious problem, and once the capitalists are gone the working class will easily solve all the other problems. Other socialists tend to shut up when these guys are around.

    The party is mostly friendly to gay, trans, etc. We have a minority of TERFs who say that it’s vitally important to recognize that trans women are not women. What makes it an issue is that real women deserve to have their own restrooms and locker rooms where they can socialize with no men around, and since trans women are men they must be excluded. If it was white people instead of women this would be segregation, but it’s different.

    We are in favor of reparations for descendants of slaves. We have not agreed about any details of how that should go. The people who have the most to say about that, say that it would be condescending for us to decide that. We should leave it entirely to african-americans. They would create an organization that would receive the money and decide what to do with it, decide who deserves to have some of it, etc. They would decide how much they are owed, and when they decide that the US government has given them enough they will say so. To me this does not look like a way to run a railroad, but then it isn’t a railroad. We are generally in agreement to also give reparations to native americans, but we have talked about that even less.

    We are generally agreed about election reform, but some of us believe that AV and IRV are good voting systems, while two minorities are certain that the only voting systems that are good enough are SCORE and STAR, respectively. While we try to get voters to support a switch, they explain at great length that the reforms which have the most momentum are very very bad. And then they argue with each other.

    We have some controversy about the Green Party Green New Deal. It’s largely semantic, though. Some say that we cannot get enough techie changes — renewable energy etc — to save the existing hi-tech economy, and we must revert to a lo-tech economy where the large majority of the population will grow food on small farms, and give up modern conveniences like internet, HVAC, railroads, and modern healthcare. Others say that we will have to give up *this existing* hi-tech economy, but we can keep a lot of technology, and have energy to do lots of things even though we will probably have to get by with much less concrete, steel, etc. We would use the energy when we get it, and not always have it when we want it. If we can keep a significant amount of transportation going then we can probably keep more people alive during the transition….

    So — we agree we want a society that can survive, that isn’t inevitably doomed like the fossil-fuel economy. And we want a society where no one is oppressed. We have one plan for approaching that with minimal deaths, and several plans for what it is we want to approach. No one else is thinking about that, the major political parties are focused almost entirely on winning the next election.

    By keeping a third party on the ballot, we might provide a structure for many millions of ex-Democrats to migrate to, and they will turn it into a copy of the Democratic Party that will start out less corrupt. Or maybe something else will work out.

    It can’t get much immediate result. But it’s the only possibility I see.

  64. Jonah- fair enough! I’ll hope that the Green Party gains enough political capital to become a viable third party without losing its soul, along with hoping that the Democrats undergo a cultural transformation into a party that can serve more than the narrow interests of the economic elites. Both wishes are a bit blue sky, but there are practical steps that can be taken to at least advance the possibilities. Revolutions take many forms, and transforming the culture of a political party to change its goals is one of the less painful forms.

    In the meantime, though, the Republican Party’s culture has evolved over the last 50 years to one pursuing absolute one party rule by exploiting white supremacy, homophobia, and religious intolerance as tools of oppression. It is not ignoring the danger of climate change, it is actively trying to exacerbate it beyond any motive of mere profit. They not only disdain the poor and refugees, they scapegoat the unfortunate for all the ills they themselves cause, and seek to make life harder in every way they can. They hope that maximizing the misery of the world will also maximize their relative advantage. Even if they make the world virtually unlivable for themselves, they are gambling that they will still have enough resources hoarded to survive when everyone else dies.

    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/10/magazine/climate-change-pinkertons.html

    Of course, 99% of those that identify as Republicans don’t have the means to benefit from this strategy. That is the grift. Even those that do are taking a ridiculous gamble, based mostly on their own certainty of destiny and moral superiority.

    I’m all for long term thinking in fighting this international kleptocracy, but time is desperately short for any non-violent solution. Given 4 more years to consolidate their power and lock in disenfranchisement and the destruction of institutions, there will be no political means left to remove them.

  65. You are again repeating the tired old argument for Democrats.

    The Democrats have cried wolf too many times. They continue to argue that the Republicans are so bad that we have to vote for awful Democrats — this time, one more time — because stopping the Republicans in the short run is the most important thing.

    Of course Democrats like you — do you deny that you are a Democratic Party partisan? — try to keep using that stale old argument because it is all you have.

    There is no other argument left for voting Democrat except the claim that the Republicans are worse. There is no other possible excuse.

    But that one doesn’t work either, not on anybody who is paying attention. Somebody would have to be awfully stupid to still be fooled by that.

    It’s dead, Jim.

    It is not resting. It isn’t stunned. It isn’t pining for the fnords. It is expired. It’s gone to meet its maker. If you hadn’t nailed it to its perch it would be pushing up daisies. This is an ex-parrot.

    Democrats don’t get to say this any more. It’s just too stupid.

  66. I agree with you, Jonah. The Democratic Party as currently constituted is a Whore of Babylon, with apologies to the hardworking and honest sex workers out there. The nomination and media coronation of Bidenopithicus Wallstreetius is just the latest affront.

    However, the Democratic Party could POSSIBLY be dragged, kicking and screaming, into a genuinely progressive direction. But it would take nothing less than a powerful mass-movement of the working class, taking over at the grass-roots level and then on up from there.

  67. Kragar:Yeah and I think the dragging, kicking and screaming is what larswyrdson is saying. ?

    The DNC is essentially a money gathering operation largely for the benefit of its top officers/selected candidates and it is in the pocket of Wall Street. Their own emails show that.

    Unfortunately, for third parties in the US, the state election systems have been largely gamed to favor the two parties. So, a takeover is one of the more effective ways to get into that system.

    If we can end in a party that is recognizes and is for, “first, that the fight to preserve what democratic rights we still have requires a fight for socialism, second, that socialism is, in fact, democracy consistently applied, and, third, in fighting for a society based on democratic workers control of the state, and of production.” then I don’t care too much what its name is.

    Getting there is, of course, the trick. I will note that the Green Party isn’t such a party either, as of yet.

  68. “However, the Democratic Party could POSSIBLY be dragged, kicking and screaming, into a genuinely progressive direction.”

    Read the DNC bylaws, if you believe that.

    https://democrats.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/DNC-Charter-Bylaws-8.25.18-with-Amendments.pdf

    I may possibly have misread this; judge for yourself. It looks to me like the DNC Chairman has tremendous power. The Executive Committee has most of the remaining power, and that does not include people sent to the DNC by state parties. The DNC National Committee is salted with about 1/4 membership of people from special groups and organizations that plausibly will be controlled by the old guard. However, it might be possible to take over some of them as well as state parties. If not, you need to control not a majority of state parties, but 2/3 of them plus one to get a majority vote in the DNC.

    The first year you get a majority in the DNC, you do not get to add items to the agenda, unless the old Resolutions Committee approves them. You can do more AFTER the presidential election. You can however vote against agenda items the chairman has presented.

    The next year you can throw out the chairman at a meeting he convenes, or at a meeting requested by at least a quarter of the membership. You can remove part of the Executive Committee then too. You can replace another fraction of the Executive Committee at the second meeting after the election. Some of them can only be replaced when the dummy organizations they come from replace them.

    Before you have taken over 2/3 of the state parties, there are mechanisms in place to stop you. For example, if somebody decides that your county organization has not done *enough* for Affirmative Action, they can complain to the DNC. And if the old DNC decides that your state party has not done enough to bring your county into compliance, they can take action themselves. You can be purged from the party even when you have a majority backing you in your state.

    The old DNC can change its bylaws by majority vote given 30 days notice.

    They have established that they are not legally required to follow their bylaws anyway.

    It looks to me like the way you can reform the Democratic parry is basicly by persuading the donors that the party is no longer worth funding. Then the old guard will have no reason to stop you. They will fade away, and everything about the party that depends on funding — the advertising experts, the marketing gurus, the focus groups and professionals of all kinds — will fade away. You will be left with the party name and the opportunity to start a new party with that name, organized by volunteers.

  69. Here’s an interesting fact — the DNC is not the Democratic Party. In fact, there isn’t really such a thing ( or a Republican Party).
    It gets very complex, but basically each state sets laws as to what appears on a ballot and how they get labeled. The DNC runs the Democratic presidential convention but is basically a fundraiser.
    If the state parties don’t want to, they don’t have to pay any attention to the DNC.

    The DNC is a perpetual con (So is the RNC).

  70. Jonah- I won’t call myself a Democratic partisan, no. That would imply I support the party for itself, which is in no way true. I have a particularly low regard for the policies and methods of the DNC, which is an entity distinct from the Party itself. I take it you are not a fan, but as a single example, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez just managed to take a seat from a party insider with years of seniority, running a grassroots campaign. Their power isn’t absolute. In any case, I honestly don’t give a crap about whether my “team” is winning.

    I have an agenda of policies that I want enacted, and I promote the most likely strategies for doing so. If I thought supporting a Green, or Socialist, or Bull Moose party candidate would advance those goals, then that is what I would do. But as Steve Halter points out, the political barrier to third party relevance is very high. Short of a regime changing revolution, I don’t think there is any way to make a dent in that in less than 20 years, and we don’t have 20 years.

    Now I am, absolutely and without equivocation, a Republic anti-partisan. I completely agree with SB that the material consequences of capitalism are the driving force in our social and environmental misery, but even in that framework, there are good actors and bad actors, resistors and the complicit. The Republicans have proven themselves, from the RNC down to most junior legislator, absolutely unfit to govern and an existential threat in and of themselves, beyond the inhumane system they are trying to exploit for selfish gain. The aren’t just capitalism apologists, they have aligned themselves with an international cabal of criminal plutocrats.

    Unless they are destroyed as a viable political force, I don’t think there is any hope of advancing the cause of justice in this country, or in the rest of the world. Given the imminent threat of their consolidating power to the point that they cannot be challenged, voting a straight Democratic ticket is the only check on them that I can imagine. Nothing else could break their stranglehold. But putting Democrats in charge is not the goal, it’s only the first step. After that, we would have to either replace them with a brand new party or radically change what it means to be a Democrat.

    It has happened many time before, after all. As GOP love to point out, it wasn’t that long ago that the Democrats were the white supremacy party. If there were a sufficient ground swell, I think its possible to transform them into a party of social responsibility. Whether that could get us all the way to true revolutionary transformation, I don’t know, but in the short run, I think trying to take control of the government away from the Republicans outweighs any other concern.

  71. @larswyrdson I don’t think it makes sense for us to keep repeating ourselves, so I’ll quit.

    I find your point of view incredibly naive, but so be it. We surely won’t convince each other by sheer repetition.

  72. …and I think saying that the Republicans are no worse than the Democrats lacks any sense of proportion.

    Let’s leave it at that.

  73. OK, that wasn’t what I said, so I will repeat myself another time.

    Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are survivable. We have great big crises brewing that are likely to kill us, and either of them will prevent us from preparing.

    Neither is adequate.

    They are like pro wrestlers. They compete intensely, at creating personas that get audience attention, that make them marketable and get them more money. They are not so much competing at performing wrestling moves on each other.

    Cheering for one of them to win the fight is largely irrelevant. But if you enjoy the kayfabe you can go ahead and cheer for the side you want to win the fight.

  74. So glad you felt free to repeat yourself another time again once more!

    In case I have still misunderstood, I misstated when I said you thought Republicans were no worse than Democrats. What you actually believe is that the politicians in both parties are just pro-wrestlers posturing but pursuing the same policies.

    Elizabeth Warren would actually make a very fine President, btw. Just what I think. Maybe not the greatest this country has ever had, but easily in the top 25%. I don’t even feel like I have to compromise to vote for her. My opinion, based on her public persona and statements. I have no ability to foretell the future. I can’t guarantee the limp noodles that make up so much of her party would support her.

    But we have to depend on ourselves to set the agenda, no matter who gets elected. We’ll just have a better chance of doing it if we elect someone who isn’t a complete jackass.

  75. “But we have to depend on ourselves to set the agenda, no matter who gets elected.”

    I say that you don’t get to set the agenda, no matter what candidate runs. The duopoly sets the agenda.

    The recent women’s-rights issues are the duopoly announcing that unless you vote for the duopoly, you can’t stop the duopoly from arbitrarily doing horrible things.

  76. Jonah- Thinking that antiabortion & choice politicians are all just cooperating in a bluff to suppress dissent is… difficult to support, my friend. Is this a Deep State theory?

    OK, last question: Jesse Ventura is elected President in 2020. Is your job done? The Green Party is in charge. Are you absolved from all responsibility?

    All political power is derived from the consent of the governed. When you let those in charge take your consent for granted, that is when they are free to ignore what you want.

  77. It’s the system. The players in the system don’t have to understand their strategy.

    When the USA and USSR were the two superpowers, whenever one side threatened to reduce funding for their military, the other military did something threatening. Were the two militaries cooperating to keep their funding high? Despite their intense competition they never quite got into a shooting war against each other. Likely most of them weren’t thinking about cooperation at all. But somehow it worked out that way.

    “OK, last question: Jesse Ventura is elected President in 2020. Is your job done? The Green Party is in charge. Are you absolved from all responsibility?”

    We would need to also control the legislature, and for the senate that would take at least 2 elections.

    At that point we would have to carry out our policies, and keep the support of the public.

    That would involve election reform, so that third parties got power proportional to their voting strength. After that was done the Green Party would promptly break down into smaller parties that would cooperate on their areas of agreement.

    It would probably involve a renewable-energy project comparable to the WWII mobilization. We would have to do it effectively enough that the public would continue to support it. That would be something like a 10-year project, with half the results showing up the last 2 years. Likely the public would be upset that results came so slow, and we would have to manage to explain to them adequately.

    It would have to involve a way to remove power from TBTF corporations, particularly big banks and the 7 or so mass media corporations. We couldn’t keep power for 10 years without doing that. They would stop us.

    Etc.

    Winning elections is only the beginning.

  78. “Winning elections is only the beginning.:

    I agree.

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