Brexit, Trumpism, Sanders, and the Decrepit State of Capitalism: Against Political Determinism

 
by Michael Rectenwald

Published simultaneously in With Sober Senses and CLG News.

 

There’s a basic article of faith in leftist thought, held especially dearly by most among the U.S. left. It is so entrenched and so seldom challenged that it has attained the status of myth, an unquestioned origin story on par with the Book of Genesis, as the latter must have been regarded within Christendom during the Middle Ages.

The myth goes like this: During the 1980s, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, two arch right-wing and highly potent politicians, rose to power in their respective nations, the U.S. and the U.K. They thereafter began to institute what was for the vast majority a vile and destructive political and economic scheme: “neoliberalism.” Previous to the instalment of this neoliberal scheme, the working class had experienced relative economic improvement, and capitalists seemed happy too (as if we care). But suddenly, and seemingly without cause (although the failure of Keynesianism was apparent in the unprecedented stagflation of the 1970s), these evil political twins, prompted by wizards who formalized the approach, introduced the nefarious ideology of neoliberalism to the world. As cruel and heartless representatives of the capitalist class (which, indeed, they were), they and their supporters caused the Fall from the supposed Paradise of Keynesian reformism that had preceded them. In this mythological version of reality, neoliberalism is understood merely as a set of essentially unwarranted and unusually brutal policies, an ideological and political formation that was hatched in the brains of evil masterminds conspiring in right-wing think tanks, concocted to dupe and punish the vast majority for the benefit of the rich and powerful.

This narrative sounds cartoonish or religious in character, but only because it is – not because I have made it so. It is a typical leftist personification of world-historical forces in lieu of an actual analysis within political economy. It amounts to what I have elsewhere called “political reductionism,” which is similar to what Andrew Kliman has referred to as “political determinism.” Kliman describes political determinism as such: “They [Keynesians and social democrats] think that the capitalists [and/or their political representatives] control capitalism––not the other way around––so that the system can become something it’s not once different people with different priorities assume control of it.” Thus, if only such people as Reagan and Thatcher had never been elected, or better yet, had never been born …
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The Eternal Sunshine of the Vanguardist Mind: How Socialist Alternative Substitutes Opportunism for Theory

 

#opportunism4Bernie

 

by Brendan Cooney

 

It must be great to be Kshama Sawant and the rest of the leadership of Socialist Alternative right now. After years of slogging it out in the trenches, selling papers for the revolution, attaching themselves like leeches to every popular movement that came along, they finally have proof that they have a winning strategy and that they are the party to lead the coming revolution. After all, they have Kshama Sawant, an avowed socialist, sitting on the Seattle City Council. With her help Seattle has won a $15 an hour minimum wage.

On top of all this, Socialist Alternative (SA) had another reason to be wildly optimistic and full of self-importance this election season as Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, came quite close to challenging Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. All of the sudden it was socially acceptable to call yourself a socialist in mixed company, and thousands of people began to show up at Sanders rallies to hear him talk about a “rigged economy” and fighting the “billionaire class”. SA has seen this as an opening for them to push for the organization of a new mass party, one that will challenge the political dominance of the Democrats and Republicans––a party that could be influenced by a vanguard group like SA. So they have jumped into the fray with their “#movement4bernie” campaign, endorsing Sanders and actively promoting his campaign, all the while agitating for him to leave the Democrats and form a third party.
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