United States is in the middle of its first existential crisis since the Civil War. And because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this crisis has already begun killing people directly. Not with food shortages and natural disasters after decades of climate change. Not several years down the line through inequality, poverty, homelessness, inability to afford health care, suicides, and violent crime. Thousands of Americans are already dead and millions more will die this year because of Trump administration’s incompetence, vindictiveness, and corruption.
We can’t afford to let the immediate threat of the pandemic distract us from dealing with this larger crisis. Our adversary won’t. They call COVID-19 a “Chinese Virus” to deflect their blame for allowing it to spread and to turn people’s anxiety into xenophobia. They put unchecked theft of trillions of dollars of public money into relief bills. They hold back urgent federal aid from the blue states to later blame them for infecting the rest of the country. As the pandemic unfolds, this will only get worse.
So yeah, we have to talk about politics right now. US response to COVID-19 has become one of the worst in the world because of the mistakes we made in 2016 — the mistakes we carried with us into 2018 and 2020. We can’t afford to keep making them, not when failure to restore democracy means that US, EU, and the rest of the world all fall to fascism, religious totalitarianism, and economics of slavery and serfdom.
And don’t tell me that I’m exaggerating. I’ve had enough of “he’s only joking,” “they won’t let him,” and “how much damage can he do in four years.” Hundreds killed by white supremacist terrorists, thousands of children ripped away from parents and traumatized for life, even hundreds of thousands killed by the virus that could have been stopped the way it was stopped in countries with less dysfunctional governments — even that is not the worst Trump can do. There is no bottom, the worse scenarios go all the way down to ending all multicellular life on Earth in a global thermonuclear war.
Tell me, where on this bottomless spectrum of disaster is your acceptable cost of “burn it down because the candidate I wanted didn’t win the primary?”
In 2016, that candidate was Bernie Sanders. In 2020, it is Bernie Sanders once again. He will lose the 2020 Democratic primaries, and there is nothing I can do about that. Best I can do is a Hail Mary attempt to reach the 20% of Bernie supporters who, just as in 2016, are telling pollsters they are not going to vote for Joe Biden in November, and convince at least some of you to stop trying to kill us all.
Look, this isn’t a conspiracy. Bernie is losing because he is a weak candidate, because many people who are even a little bit engaged in US politics don’t trust him and really don’t like him. It took me two years of catching up to American political history to understand why. And that, combined with what I already knew of the history of socialism and the current state of affairs in Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe, made me realize that y’all know nothing about Bernie Sanders.
There’s been whole shelves worth of books written about Trump and his shady relationships with organized crime and Russia. And nobody — not Rachel Maddow, not Craig Unger, not David Corn, not even Seth Abramson — none of them dared to ask, “wait a minute, what about Bernie?”
Of all the factors that contributed to Hillary Clinton losing in 2016, Bernie was the biggest.
Here’s a short refresher. Clinton received 3 million more votes than Trump, and lost the electoral college by 10,704 votes (0.23%) in Michigan, 22,748 (0.77%) in Wisconsin, and 44,292 (0.72%) in Pennsylvania. Jill Stein pulled away more votes than that in each of these three states. The Comey letter has cost Clinton around 1% in the polls, that by itself was enough to flip all three of these states to Trump, too. The exact impact of voter suppression and the Russian troll farms is impossible to prove, but ballpark estimates are on the same order of magnitude, tens of thousands of votes per state. Take any one of these four factors away and Clinton likely would have won.
Of Bernie Sanders supporters, 20% refused to vote for Clinton in 2016, 12% voted for Trump. That’s a 3% loss by Clinton and a 2% gain by Trump: a 5% swing, more than everything above combined!
I understand the reluctance of progressive journalists to investigate Bernie Sanders while he still had the chance to become the Democratic nominee. As of St. Patrick’s Day, he doesn’t. Now he is just a lose cannon committed to wreaking as much damage on the Democratic Party as he can get away with. It’s time we stopped letting him get away with it.
Some Socialists Are More Equal Than Others
Let’s start with Bernie’s politics. He calls himself democratic socialist. The term is a misnomer. He praises the Nordic model, which makes some describe him as a social democrat, but he’s not that, either: Scandinavian countries are robust democracies, and Sanders is not a democrat. He’s an authoritarian populist who wants to build state capitalism: the political and economic system of Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and Venezuela.
Socialism has been the big bad of the American politics for so long, most Americans don’t see any sunshine between its many varieties. The mirror version of this kind of ignorance about capitalism has ended badly for Russia, and the eager and rebellious acceptance of “whatever socialism” by Americans ignorant of true pitfalls of various kinds of socialism could be as disastrous. The worst option — the totalitarian version of Marxism the tankies are going for — is as bad as The Handmaid’s Tale world order pursued by the Dominionists. Orwell’s and Solzhenitsyn’s depictions of it are not exaggerations, they are accurate first hand accounts.
The most important distinction begins with the socialism’s first schism, the split of the First International in 1872 between Marx and Bakunin. Bakunin criticized Marx for trying to take control of state and warned that it would only lead to a new kind of tyranny instead of liberation. Marx embraced authoritarianism and kicked Bakunin and his supporters out.
This fundamental conflict between authoritarianism and democracy shaped the course of Russian Revolution in 1917. The February revolution that overthrew the monarchy was led primarily by anti-authoritarian Socialist-Revolutionaries and Anarchists. Representatives of both movements won elections in most local self-governance councils (“Soviets”), and in March a member of SRP became the leader of the Provisional Government.
The authoritarian faction of Russian socialists — Bolsheviks — set out to embrace, co-opt, and hijack this fledging democracy before people got used to it. In April Theses, Lenin declared support for the decentralized Soviets, denounced the centralized Provisional Government, and made populist promises of peace, bread, and land for all.
By October Bolsheviks gained enough support in Petrograd — most importantly, among soldiers deserting from the war en masse — to stage a successful coup against the Provisional Government and take over the country’s capital.
It only took them a couple of months to go back on all of their promises.
When they only got 25% of the seats in the Constituent Assembly in November, they disbanded it. When in early 1918 they failed to get majority in any Soviets outside Petrograd and Moscow, they barred non-Bolsheviks from membership. Even before they made peace with Germany, they started a civil war against the rest of the country that soon morphed into a colonial war to reconquer Finland, Moldova, Poland, Ukraine, et al. To give bread to their supporters in the cities, they sent armed squads to take bread from peasants by force. Then they took land away from peasants and designated those of them who had more than one cow enemies of the state and sent their entire families to work camps in Siberia.
And all that even before Stalin succeeded Lenin and completed the conversion of the Russian Empire into the first totalitarian state in modern history.
Trotsky was never an opponent of this authoritarian kind of socialism — not before he lost the power struggle to Stalin and was exiled from Russia, and not after. Trotskyists may call themselves “democratic socialists,” but their form of government is built on nationalized private property, forced labor, and suppression of dissent, it is most accurately described as authoritarian state capitalism.
The most distinguishing feature of Trotskyism compared to other -isms named after communist personalities is its practice of entryism: parasitic infiltration of other political movements and parties.
If it sounds similar to what Bernie Sanders is doing to the Democratic Party, that’s because it is. Sanders is a Trotskyist. He was first imprinted with this ideology when he joined Young People’s Socialist League, and all other parties he worked with for the next 20 years of his life — Socialist Party of America, Liberty Union, People’s Party, Socialist Worker’s Party — were either openly Trotskyist or infiltrated and heavily influenced by Trotskyists. His subsequent adoption of less radical policies isn’t an evolution of his beliefs, it is entryism.
Sanders declares Nordic social democracies as his model, but the countries he consistently votes and makes policy statements in favor of aren’t democracies, it’s places like Cuba, Venezuela, and Russia. Nordic countries — and the rest of Europe — depend on NATO for protection, primarily from Russia. Sanders wants to stop NATO from accepting new members and ultimately to replace it with a military alliance with Russia.
Sanders claims to be concerned about climate change and opposed to fossil fuels, but makes an exception for the biggest oil producer in the world. Every time there was a vote on sanctions that would limit Russia’s ability to drill new wells and expands its oil and natural gas market, Sanders was either absent or voted “no.”
Bernie’s choice of staff and allies is even more telling. Remember Tad Devine? The one who, before helping Putin install his man Yanukovich in Ukraine, helped Putin install Russia-friendly presidents in world’s top three cocaine producing countries? Yanukovich’s wasn’t the only campaign Devine joined in 2006, that was also the year he helped Sanders get promoted to US Senate.
Sanders knew exactly who Devine was. Their working relationship goes all the way back to 1996, when Devine helped Sanders keep his House seat after he got primaried out of the Democratic primary by an actual Democrat Jack Long.
And it’s not like Devine was an exception. David Sirota pretended he’s still a journalist and tweeted slander about Kamala Harris and other Democratic candidates for months before the Sanders campaign retroactively announced hiring him. To maintain the illusion of “engaging respectfully with opponents,” Sirota spent the next day deleting 20,000 of his tweets. And once again, Sanders knew who Sirota was, he worked with him since 1999.
Nina Turner endorsed Jill Stein. Briahna Joy Gray said “Trump was right about the Russia narrative.” Campaign volunteer and a Jacobin writer Meagan Day called Buttigieg’s military service a “photo op.” Cenk Uyghur actually did a photo op as a protester to get himself arrested, then busted a workers union at TYT, and tried to spoil an open primary in CA-25 — a district taken from Republicans in 2018 by Katie Hill, and before then held by GOP since 1992.
The downballot activities of Bernie’s shadow PACs (there’s actually more than nine of them, I’m not going to give them air by enumerating them) are textbook entryism. They primary Democrats with Sanders loyalists, often turning safely blue districts into toss-ups and toss-ups into losses. In 2018, Justice Democrats alone won 26 House primaries and lost 19 of them to Republicans in the general election: a failure rate that easily would have cost Democrats the House if applied at a larger scale. Still, they clearly consider this a success, because they have doubled down on this tactic in 2020.
And the ones that got through are often as toxic as Sanders campaign hires. Ilhan Omar keeps trying to drive a wedge between Democrats and the Jewish American community. Rashida Tlaib led a boo chant against Hillary Clinton at a Sanders rally.
This kind of hostility and divisiveness is what drove John Lennon away from the New Left in 1968 and made him write this:
But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain’t going to make it with anyone anyhow
Remember what happened next? Democrats lost. Nixon won. Pay parity with productivity growth has ended and never came back again. Lennon was right, they didn’t make it.
Authoritarianism never leads to an improvement in human condition. Economic equality cannot stand on its own: without equal rights, people can’t protect their prosperity from being plundered by the privileged elites. Whether the privilege comes from race, gender, ethnicity, or government bureaucracy, the outcome is always poverty and misery for everyone else.
To be continued.
20% of Bernie supporters won’t vote for Biden against Trump:
20% of Bernie supporters didn’t vote for Clinton in 2016:
The Comey letter probably cost Clinton the 2016 election:
The history of socialism that Marxists don’t want you to know:
Bernie’s affiliation with Young People’s Socialist League:
Bernie’s affiliation with SWP:
Liberty Union’s affiliation with SWP:
Bernie’s foreign policy:
Bernie’s former campaign manager Tad Devine:
The first time Devine worked on a Sanders campaign:
David Sirota’s 20,000 tweets:
Nina Turner endorsed Jill Stein:
Cenk Uyghur cosplayed at a protest, busted a workers union:
Justice Democrats lose dozens of elections to Republicans to install a few Sanders loyalists: