POINT/COUNTERPOINT | Eric Schechter
Editor’s Note: Eric Schechter’s response to the Sanders’s announcement reproduced below, critiquing not only Sanders, but the pronouncements on the occasion by some commentators such as Matt Taibbi and David Swanson, has provoked a highly illuminating exchange among people on the left with definite and cogent opinions. In the interest of expanding our political debate about the issues raised by a candidate like Sanders, and to afford this lucid debate a wider readership, we are reposting below a portion of the comments (some fiery, as could be expected) already filed by members of our Facebook group and Eric’s own personal site(s). We may update this thread as circumstances advise, but in the meantime readers can visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/greanvillepost/
Today Bernie Sanders announced his run for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. Matt Taibbi promptly posted an article praising Sanders for his sincere concern for the people:
And David Swanson posted an article that attacks all the fuss over elections:
And I partly agree and partly disagree with all three of them, so I’ll talk about that. First I’ll describe the political positions of the three of them, as I see them. But I’ll admit that I have not read extensively in the writings or speeches of any of them, so it’s possible that I have the wrong impression of one or more of them.
Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist, but in my view he’s not much of a socialist. He attacks billionaires and corporations, and their undue influence over politics, but I have never seen him attack capitalism itself, so in my view his attack on billionaires and corporations is rather superficial. And he has been a good friend of the military-industrial complex, something I would not associate with socialism. He has also been a friend of Israel’s apartheid — again, not socialism — though in recent months he apparently has backed away from that a little. He seems to me sincerely concerned with the well being of his constituents, much as Matt Taibbi says. His mannerism suggests to me a great lack of duplicity. And so I think the reason he has not attacked capitalism directly is simply because he has not understood it properly. He has been fooled by the propaganda of capitalism that is all around us (as have Taibbi and Swanson).
Taibbi is a journalist, regularly publishing in Rolling Stone magazine, and what I’ve seen him write is about the corruption in our economic system. So he, too, attacks billionaires and corporations and their undue influence.
Swanson is an essayist, regularly publishing on the web, and his chief concern is about ending war. I don’t recall seeing him write about economics. I have seen him say explicitly that it is possible to end war without doing a lot of other things first; in particular, he has said explicitly that it is possible to end war without ending capitalism. On this I disagree with him, but I can understand his thinking this, in view of the aforementioned propaganda.
The article by Swanson contained some really funny bits, which I want to quote here:
Yes, Bernie Sanders would be a far superior president to Hillary Clinton. That requires a bit of elaboration. Something I just scraped off my shoe would be a far superior president to Hillary Clinton. …
I’m not against elections. I think we should have one some day. At the presidential level we do not currently have elections. That office is not up for election; it is up for sale.
I agree with Swanson’s assessment. And yet I still have some hope for the election. It’s a long shot, but I think it deserves mention. It’s not just about winning the election (though that would be nice). First and foremost, it’s about the campaign leading up to the election.
A candidate for president — one who already has as much name-recognition as Sanders — has the opportunity to make a lot of speeches and get many of them heard by many people. This may be an opportunity to change the minds of some people.
I don’t think Sanders is the ideal candidate to accomplish that. As I’ve already explained, I don’t consider him to be much of a socialist. But it’s possible that he’ll have a “come-to-Jesus moment,” and he’ll actually start attacking apartheid and the military-industrial complex and capitalism in earnest.
And it is even possible that these speeches of his will appear in newspapers and television. Quite honestly, the first priority of the owners of the newspaper and television chains is not to promote the capitalist ideology, but to get more readers and viewers — i.e., to increase their own short-term profits. (Capitalism is short-sighted, by nature.)
For Sanders to radicalize his views in this fashion is already unlikely. What is even more unlikely is that he will give speeches brilliant enough to make the USer public understand what is wrong with capitalism.
Unlikely, but still possible. I can dream, can’t I?
[box] Eric Schechter is a senior contributing editor with The Greanville post. A former professor of mathematics with Vanderbilt University, he is now, in retirement, an activist for peace, environmental protection and social justice—all of which require the elimination of capitalism in any of its forms as the main global paradigm. His personal websites include his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LeftyMathProf [/box]