The presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders is making further inroads after his debate performance last week. Progressive forces are enthusiastic about his campaign, and believe that he can make a great impact on the American political system. For the purpose of this post, let us cast aside the question of whether or not Bernie can win. At this point, its much more important to deal forthright with the political definitions that are coming to the forefront. Americans have an outright irrational fear of the word socialism. Furthermore, due to American history, the understanding of what socialism is, and represents has been distorted. Bernie Sanders has just added to this misunderstanding. In a story yesterday, Bernie Sanders referred to libraries, fire departments, and police departments as “socialist institutions.”
Interesting how institutions that are meant for us to live in a civilized society are deemed socialist. The police are there to protect property and enforce the existing order and the repression that comes along with it. Good luck with the Sanders campaign making headway in communities of color with this kind of statement. This writer would not be surprised if Bernie Sanders thinks that police are part of the working class. But, that’s another post for another time.
Libraries, fire, and police departments are publicly funded institutions. There is nothing “socialist” about this. This watered down definition of socialism and what it means in general will dissuade people from looking to more radical means as an alternative. Bernie Sanders and his brand of democratic socialism seems to be more about putting bandages over the excesses of capitalism than anything else. It gives people the false notion that socialism can be voted in without challenging the mass misery that capitalism forces on us all.
At a time where a desperate and stagnant capitalism is dismantling public institutions for profit (public school “reform”), an underdeveloped understanding, or a willful distortion of what socialism is about serves little purpose other than to confuse. At best, Bernie Sanders is a Democratic candidate running a left populist campaign. A socialist? Not really. If people really want to understand socialism, it would be better to read the works of Leon Trotsky.