Nicole Aschoff and Bhaskar Sunkara, ’Only socialism can defeat Trumpism’ The Nation, 07.11.16
…the past year has shown that millions of ordinary people are ready for an alternative, one pointed to by the success of Sanders and the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in Britain. These leaders have tried to articulate a humanist, social-democratic vision—a platform with concrete demands that, if met, would improve the lives of the poor, restore dignity and means to workers, and assure young people that their efforts are not in vain. This vision resonates with voters. This is the vision that must be built on—and expanded—by any party that wants to be relevant in these times.
Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party would do well to take the popular demand for an alternative seriously. Americans—especially young adults and minorities—don’t see Sanders as a dinosaur trading on nostalgia or harking back to an irredeemable past. Instead, they see capitalism as a key source of their troubles. A recent Harvard University poll of Americans between the age of 18 and 29 found that 51 percent did not support capitalism, compared to only 42 percent who said they did. This doesn’t mean a socialist majority is right around the corner—only 33 percent offered it up as an alternative—but the poll indicates a significant shift in attitudes from just a few years ago.
Results like these fit within a broader picture of discontent. A majority of young Americans, including college-educated millennials, saddled with debt and dealing with bad jobs or no jobs, identify as working class—60 percent, more than any other group of Americans, suggesting that a class-based politics is increasingly salient. Even before Sanders ran for president, 66 percent of Americans saw “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between rich and poor, and recent data show that the wealth gap between middle-class Americans and elites has reached a record high. The vast majority of Americans are unhappy with the status quo, and most are willing to pay higher taxes or tax the rich for programs to improve public education and fund Social Security and Medicare.
Most Democratic politicians appear unwilling to acknowledge the extent of these shifts. But in this post-2008 climate, replete with anger against the establishment, the Clintonist approach of winning over moderates and drawing in reluctant leftists presupposes the existence of an ideological center that increasingly cannot hold. It might not be apparent on the eve of their November 8 triumph, but it will soon be.
As with the collapsing social democrats in Europe, the Democratic Party’s best bet is to move left and embrace a platform that speaks to the real needs, fears, and aspirations of working people. This doesn’t mean looking back with rose-colored glasses on the New Deal; it means building a coalition of young people, working-class whites, and minority voters around a new politics.
Those of us to the left of Clinton and the Democrats don’t have all the answers. But we have a good idea of where to start.
First, call for single-payer healthcare and free, quality public education—including higher education—for people of all ages. Fight for robust maternal and paternal leave and universal pre-K to help young families. These policies, despite debates on how to pay for them, are easily grasped and popular. The widespread support for Bernie’s broadsides against the “millionaire and billionaire” class shows that Americans are tired of handouts to Wall Street and the elite, and are ready for a new, progressive tax scheme to foot the bill.
But gains like single-payer and free higher education wouldn’t just be about giving a handout to working people instead of the rich. They would be part of a social movement demanding a decent life for all Americans. This movement would have a broader vision, one that includes the demand for a national job guarantee. Giving everyone a decent job isn’t a pipe dream. It’s a logical way to address pressing social problems and it’s achievable, through a robust expansion of public employment with an eye toward addressing social needs like infrastructure, education, and scientific research and scholarship in the public interest.
Policies like these will not only help alleviate material suffering, they will eventually help unite a divided electorate. Programs that benefit all Americans will foster the sense of solidarity and political engagement necessary to building a lasting progressive coalition in this country.
The alternative is more anxiety and inequality, a further decline in the Democratic Party’s base, and the continued growth of a Trump-like far right that is actively positioning itself to pick up the pieces. For the Democrats, no less than their peers in Europe, where the neoliberalisation of social democracy has opened up space for a populist right, the choice on offer might well be either socialism or irrelevance.
My thought: Trotsky articulated ‘the choice on offer’ far more accurately – socialism or barbarism
I recommend the following for your consideration. That the Chinese Communist Party has learnt the lesson of the necessity of financial reward for individual initiative and has so far managed that very well within a socialist framework at the same time as the global crisis of capitalism which is so clearly reflected in the current US Presidential election gives even greater emphasis to Engels’ words :
‘The war in China has given the death-blow to the old China. Isolation has become impossible; the introduction of railways, steam-engines, electricity, and modern large-scale industry has become a necessity, if only for reasons of military defence. But with it the old economic system of small peasant agriculture, where the family also made its industrial products itself, falls to pieces too, and with it the whole old social system which made relatively dense population possible. Millions will be turned out and forced to emigrate; and these millions will find their way even to Europe, and en masse. But as soon as Chinese competition sets in on a mass scale, it will rapidly bring things to a head in your country and over here, and thus the conquest of China by capitalism will at the same time furnish the impulse for the overthrow of capitalism in Europe and America…’
Engels to Friedrich Adolf Sorge in Hoboken; London, November 10, 1894, Marx Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1982, 450-451