The Legacy of Michael Harrington, Hillary Clinton, and the Marxist Critique
Part V of V (find Part I here, Part II here, Part III here, Part IV here)
have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”—Karl
Marx, Theses on Feuerbach
Super Tuesday is not the end for
democratic socialism and for greater democratic governance. Whether Bernie
Sanders is the next president or not, does not matter, precisely because the
movement he has created intends to destroy the rigged political system of
corporate contributions and a nation controlled by the wealthiest 1% of
Americans. It is, nevertheless, a formidable task to subvert the dominant ideas.
It must continually be shown that these ideas do not conform to reality,
especially the reality for the working class and poor. For instance, the
promise of social mobility that capitalism holds out to the public is
continually challenged with economic crisis (boom-bust cycle). Downturns in the economy then result in
layoffs, underemployment, and financial crisis for individuals. As a result, in
the richest country in the world, 1 in 7 in the United States now relies on
food stamps to survive. Clearly evidence like this contradicts the theory
underlying capitalism and opens the door for the possibility of revolutionary
change. Addressing the structural nature
of capitalism itself is the precondition for remediating an economy that will
better serve the common good.
The eight-hundred pound gorilla in the
Nobody is addressing, at least
directly, the class warfare issue. Bernie Sanders hammers away on how the rich
are getting richer and the middle class poorer, and how the rich need to pay
their share of taxes. But the discussion shuts down when any serious analysis,
usually by politicians, academics and the media, starts to “following the money.”
They leave the discussion satisfied by the fact that business is business and that
corporate executives have fiduciary responsibility to create profits for their shareholders.
And this means attempting to obfuscate the systemic analysis of a market
economy designed to serve the 1%. What would an analysis look like if the
rights of workers were discussed in terms of the vast majority of profits they
create? Why couldn’t this discussion run parallel to the vast majority of
profits created by major league baseball players for the owners of major league
Revolution means bridging the distance
between labor and capital by paying workers the lion’s share of the surplus
value they create. And this is why Bernie is the best chance yet for the
average person in the United States who supplies their labor to a corporation
or business. For Marx, gaining a deeper insight into the contradictions of
capitalism was not a purely intellectual exercise. The point of developing
theory was to inform political practice—but this only comes about first and
foremost from the concrete existential experience of real live human beings. Moreover,
the point of learning about historical struggles is so the working class can
better understand what are the most effective levers for changing society. Ideas
alone are insufficient for altering capitalist relations.
Conservatives like Josef Schumpeter have
argued that the “success” of capitalism would indeed lead to socialism, while
liberals like Marx understood that the victory of socialism over capitalism was
not inevitable. Capitalism, despite being wracked by internal contradictions
and periodic economic crises, is not going to collapse of its own accord. What is needed is revolutionary social change
focused on class struggle to claim the wealth created by workers and the power
of elites illegitimately expropriated form the democratic majority. Indeed, to
achieve any progressive social change, it is imperative to understand that
“Power concedes nothing without a demand,” as the great abolitionist Frederick
Douglass once put it.
A cursory glance at history confirms
It is working class people who have had
to fight to win the 8-hour workday. It is working class people who have had to
fight for and continue to fight for just wages, equal pay for women, and civil
rights. None of these gains were handed to working class people by some
impersonal law of economic development. Nor were they handed down by some
benevolent politician. So who might best be the “change agent” for this
reconstruction of democratic society? Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton? For
sure Trump and the Republicans will never betray their class interests. What is
at stake here, on post Super Tuesday, is the much larger issue of democratic
governance in politics and economics. Democratic socialism is simply a means to
promote a more democratic society, and for all intents and purposes, it
transcends both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The goal in this process is
to end the oligarchy and plutocracy that has undermined the fundamentals of
And the Congressional Black Caucus is
not immune to being co-opted by big money and a rigged economy. Their
allegiance to Hilary Clinton is understandable but nevertheless reprehensible.
After all, Obama was a perfect example of this for eight years.
Edward Martin is Professor of Public Policy and Administration, Graduate Center for Public Policy and Administration at California State University, Long Beach, and co-author of Savage State: Welfare Capitalism and Inequality.
Mateo Pimentel is an Axis of Logic columnist, living on the US-Mexico border. Read the Biography and additional articles by Axis Columnist Mateo Pimentel.
© Copyright 2016 by AxisofLogic.com
This material is available for republication as long as reprints include verbatim copy of the article in its entirety, respecting its integrity. Reprints must cite the author and Axis of Logic as the original source including a "live link" to the article. Thank you!