By ANDY BARNS
Capitalism in many parts of the globe relies very heavily on repressive police forces and open government terrorism. Activists in countries like Sudan, Russia, UAE, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Brazil, China, etc, are routinely abducted and interrogated (tortured), while protest movements are treated with extreme, almost military responses.
While these aspects of ruling-class repression do occur in the United States, it is a much more sporadic process (notable examples of police terrorism do exist, such as the 1985 MOVE bombings). The U.S. ruling class never needed these things in excess in order to operate with impunity. It has a perfect means to maintain control of the domestic working class—the put-up job commonly referred to as “politics.” Put another way, the two-party system, along with the orbiting cloud of news media, is all that is needed to maintain control, so long as the domestic working class continues to believe in its sincerity.
Obviously, the drama of partisan politics has at least some real basis. There are real interests being fought over, even including issues that are in the interests of the working class and oppressed. But whenever the real interests of the workers are being haggled over (i.e. health-care needs), it’s kept within the confines of the needs of the political party championing it, usually the good-cop “Democratic” Party. Once the party’s needs are met electorally, these lofty aims are quickly pigeonholed. As for the rest of policy, its usually a fight between two sets of robber barons over the spoils of the ruling-class offensive against the workers, which has been ongoing for over 50 years.
The ruling-class propaganda war
The true power of the U.S. political system, for capitalism’s sake, is its duel psychological effect on the workers. First, the two-party system (and news based on topics of debate confined to the two-party system) tricks most Americans into thinking there are only two polar opinions in the U.S., “liberal” and “conservative.” But these categories are, truth be told, very similar in historical context. With the exception of culture wars surrounding human rights (anti-racism, gendered emancipation, democratic representation, immigrants rights, etc.), all of the mainstream political spectrums always agree on matters that are integral to capitalism, including the necessity of U.S. imperial dominance over much of the world through its military spending and bombing operations.
Nonetheless, the delimitation between “liberal and “conservative” forces all manner of social and political concerns into two neat, easy-to-control boxes. The message that the partisan media blasts out is loud and clear: “There are Americans who do not share your values or who don’t think what you think. They are clearly bad people. Or, they don’t have the intelligence that you do. They must be stopped at all costs.” All nuance, and thus all possibility to learn from another perspective and really grow, vanishes under the weight of many thousands of assumptions such as these.
This war drum is always beating loudly every election season. The options: a party for the rule of the capitalists who favor white supremacy and the rolling back of human rights for a large minority of American workers, or a party for the rule of the capitalists who tell you they care about democracy and equality but only when the other party is in power.
Regardless, the U.S. working class is still in the same place it was four years previously, trapped in a machine made for the profitability of capital, barreling towards ecological collapse, and with perhaps more, or less, respect for marginalized groups. But, so the electoral narrative goes, you must make a choice or your evildoer neighbors will make it for you.
A certain depoliticization of the workers has occurred, in which average working people often forget that they have interests or demands separate from the ruling rich who run in the elections (Bloomberg spent nearly a billion dollars to simply be admitted to “Democratic” Party “debates”!).
Proletarian depoliticization occurs because large numbers of working people are still trapped in the lie that this is the only kind of politics. “Liberal” and “conservative” may be useful terms, but in this context they are ruling-class tools of division. The political system will never tell you about the struggle of the toiler against the exploiter, of poor against rich, the worker against capitalist.
Continued interest in the next election does not aid the working class or augment their revolutionary potential. It’s just a ploy. Provided that the U.S. working class never unites around a broad program of social uplifting for its class, the rulers need never fear a revolution. Breaking completely with the political lie machine and building solidly proletarian politics is the only way the U.S. working class will ever gain political power and free itself from the madness of this system.
Bernie Sanders and the left
This brings us neatly to the U.S. socialist left—portions of which are doing the exact opposite of this! It is difficult to see how any party with revolutionary pretensions could make the mistake of asking workers to support a political candidate of the capitalist lie machine.
While still in the running for the Democratic Party ticket, Bernie Sanders gained a lot of popularity for his “democratic socialist” ideals. The popularity that Sanders gained is clear evidence that the U.S. working class is beginning to wake up, but it would be a mistake to assume that supporting Sanders was, or still is, a viable option for working people.
The reason? Bernie Sanders was not fighting for the political power of the working class verses the exploiting class. He was, and still is, a reformist—that is, an advocate of basic but limited reforms of the current system. He is running to attain the highest office of a machine built for profitable exploitation and which is barreling towards ecological collapse—the U.S. capitalist state. Essentially, this is not working-class power in action, but a concession to the workers while inducing them to remain idle and content in this illogical machine.
It is here that the notion of slowly graduating towards a socialist future comes up. And it’s not a new idea that people on the left should use the political lie machine to tactically attain some beneficial things. But why demonstrate to a working class growing more and more frustrated with political elites that you are on the side of the elites and that you are foolish enough to believe them?
Should socialists struggle for positive reforms? Absolutely! But there are ways to do this that are potentially revolutionary, and other ways that are limited, reformist, and apt to lead to a dead end. The revolutionary way is to pressure and force the politicians and employers by way of mass action, strikes, and civil disobedience to adopt the program we want—and if we don’t get it, raise more hell! Socialists, by taking part in ongoing struggles can help the working class to discover the power they have, right now, to take the offensive towards the elites! In other words, the proletariat can learn that they are revolutionary!
The dead-end way to achieve reforms, on the other hand, is to do exactly what too many would-be socialists in the U.S. do now: support candidates who are good with lefty buzz words on the Democratic ticket and hope they don’t forget their “radicalism” the instant they sit in office. Never mind the concrete resistance of anti-socialism in the political process, meant very purposefully to shut this kind of thing down. Never mind the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a darling of the liberal media, who passively supported the right-wing coup against the government in Bolivia ! Such “progressive” politicians, like their supporters in the ostensible “revolutionary” left, do not actually know what the word socialism means.
Socialism is international. Socialism is proletarian. Socialism demands justice for the whole of humanity. Socialism is not something the poor wait for the politicians to implement for them. Socialism does not work to bolster the parties of capitalism!
It has also been stated, although less frequently, that the U.S. ruling class is afraid of people like Sanders. The rich believe that, had Sanders won and implemented his reformist policies, their privileges would likely have been curtailed. (Thus, they use their media empires to try to trick the working class with lies about how socialism is opposed to freedom. Don’t forget America has the single largest mass incarceration system in the world, which uses forced labor.).
Bernie Sanders is like giving the ruling class “a bad day.” But that’s not good enough. People can recover from a bad day. They cannot recover from the apocalypse. As revolutionaries, we should want to bring the ruling class its apocalypse, which can only occur if the entire foundation of its rule is smashed! That would require the revolutionary action of the workers to overcome this domination and establish their own rule, focused on fulfilling their needs. The U.S. political machine is designed to filter this possibility away, like the security at a rich men’s club quietly escorting an unwanted wage worker off the premises so as not to bother the “esteemed guests”!
The cause of revolution in the United States demands action by working people and their allies who have broken with the U.S. political system so integral to the cause of capitalism, and who set about to build a workers’ party with a revolutionary program capable of bringing the working class to power. The mere notion of forging a democratic movement against the system will bring many of the 100 million non-voters in the United States to our side. The less time and effort that are spent on the political lie machine can be spent on realizing the revolutionary potential that exists all around us, and with it, a world of actualized freedom and mutual respect, and a democratic economy based on the needs of the human race, not stock portfolios.