Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sanders' Brand of Socialism is Old Fashioned Fascism

Glenn Garvin has an interesting article for—The Sanders Surprise. Senator Bernie Sanders was the contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 who ran as an avowed socialist. I want to focus on one piece of the article; the part where Garvin focusses on Bernie Sanders’ brand of socialism. Here is Garvin on “Sanders Socialism”:

What Sanders means when he says he's a socialist—a democratic socialist, as he's always careful to add—is one of the great underexamined questions of the campaign [This is definitely true]. Sanders himself usually blows it off with a breezy line that he's not Stalin or Kim Jong-un.

"I don't think Sanders is a socialist by any political science definition I've ever heard," says the Middlebury political scientist Matt Dickinson, who writes the widely followed Presidential Power blog and is a longtime Sanders watcher. "There are different definitions, of course, but they all include some version of government ownership of the means of production. I've never heard him say anything along those lines."

Jack Gierzynski, a University of Vermont political scientist, agrees: "The closest Sanders gets to anything that remotely resembles the government replacing the private sector is on single-payer health insurance, where the government would take over the role of the insurance companies. Beyond that, I've never heard any rhetoric from him about the private sector being taken over or the government owning the means of production."

When asked by a reporter if his definition of socialism includes an "overthrow of the capitalist system,” Sanders responded emphatically, "No, no, no. Now you're being provocative. If you follow my campaign, have you heard me talk about overthrowing the capitalist economic system?"

He doesn’t have to talk about overthrowing the capitalist system. His vision is much more sinister and dishonest. He does call for engineering a government takeover of the private sector means of production, but in a way that looks like he’s preserving the private sector. He’ll just tax and control the private sector into an arm of government, leaving private ownership as a hollow technicality. After all, ownership without the freedom to use, direct, and dispose of what one owns is not ownership at all. There’s a model for Sanders’ brand of socialism:

“Each activity and each need of the individual will thereby be regulated. . .,” announced Adolf Hitler upon taking power. “This is Socialism- not such trifles as the private possession of the means of production. Of what importance is that if I range men firmly within a discipline they cannot escape. Let them own land or factories as much as they please. The decisive factor is that the State . . . is supreme over all, regardless of whether they are owners or workers…Our Socialism goes far deeper. What are ownership and income to that? Why need we trouble to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings.” (From Herman Rauschning’s The Voice of Destruction, as quoted in The Ominous Parallels, by Leonard Peikoff, page 231-232. Emphasis added.)

Socialism doesn’t need a technical government takeover of the private sector and the means of production. Fascism is backdoor socialism—“We socialize human beings.” In other words, socialism made palatable to a society that values private property. Fascism is not “extreme capitalism”; a lie fabricated by the Left. Extreme capitalism, better understood as laissez-faire capitalism, features a complete separation of economics and state along the lines of the separation of church and state, and is based on individual rights and  a government limited to protecting individual rights following from the principles laid out in the Declaration of Independence. Fascism, despite a veneer of private property, is totalitarian and unfree.

Don’t be fooled by the “democratic” in Sanders’ democratic socialism. An elected dictatorship is still a dictatorship. Democracy unconstrained by constitutional protections for individual rights is just another form of totalitarianism.

And don’t think Sanders’ ascendance from relative political obscurity to viable presidential candidate came “out of the blue.” He just made explicit the end toward which America has been marching since the so-called “progressive era” of 100 years ago. As Garvin observes:

"Does anyone here think I'm a strong adherent of the North Korean form of government? That I want all of you to be wearing similar-colored pajamas?" [Sanders] asked some New Hampshire school kids last fall. After they finished laughing—the inevitable response—he explained that "democratic socialism" is just a kind of friendly neighborhood clubhouse where everybody's welcome: "a government which represents all people, rather than just the wealthiest people, which is most often the case right now in this country. And it is making sure that all of our people have health care as a right, education as a right, decent housing as a right, child care as a right."

If that's the definition of socialism, it includes just about every Democrat who's run for president in the past 30 years, and a lot of the Republicans, too.

I would say, for at least the last 80 years, ever since FDR first crafted his “second bill of rights,” which reads like a rehash of the economic elements of the Nazi Party platform of 1920. And that’s the problem. "A government which represents all people, rather than just the wealthiest people,” is called laissez-faire capitalism. Capitalism feature true individual rights; rights understood as guarantees to freedom of action in pursuit of personal flourishing, not an automatic claim on material benefits that others must be forced to provide. A government that can guarantee “health care as a right, education as a right, decent housing as a right, child care as a right," or any other kind of “right” to material benefits that others must be forced to provide like a job, paid sick leave, paid family leave, a minimum wage, or profits guaranteed by government subsidies is a government that must trample actual rights (life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness) by controlling the means of production through nationalization or regulation and taxes. Sanders’s “rights” ultimately require a totalitarian socialist state.

Yes, Bernie Sanders is a socialist. He is also a fascist. That is to say, Bernie Sanders is a national democratic socialist.

The election is over. Sanders lost his bid for president. Donald Trump is president. But the long-simmering debate between socialism and capitalism he brought to the public forefront is still to be decided. The result will determine the ultimate fate of America as a socialist slave state or a free capitalist society.

Related Reading:

We Need a Deeper Understanding of Socialism

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