The third in a ThisCantBeHappening! discussion of the 2020 Sanders campaign:

Sanders is No Socialist; He’s not even a Democratic Socialist

Sanders (who on Monday endorsed Joe Biden for president) voted against the iraq War in 2003, but later voted to continue funding it and the War against Afghanistan


By Ron Ridenour


Entering into the debate on the pages of TCHB, namely pieces by Laurie Dobson (April 9) and Dave Lindorff, let me start by defining what social democracy is and is not.

Social democracy is not socialism. It is various reforms for improving workers lives so that they will not overthrow capitalism. The Nordic Model grew out of this Great Compromise between social democratic-led trade unions and wealthy property owners a century ago. In exchange for staving off socialist revolutions capitalists granted improvements in working and living conditions for most workers in Scandinavia, eventually in Germany, England, Netherlands, and elsewhere. President Franklin D Roosevelt followed suit during the depression by using the English economist Keynes’ version of social democracy.

Dave often calls Bernie Sanders a democratic socialist. He is not. He is actually a Keynsian or social democrat. Sanders always speaks of his “socialism” in terms of what Denmark has. I have lived in Denmark for 30 years, and I can assure readers this is a very capitalist, and an effective capitalist, system. (See my series of seven Scandinavian pieces starting with Denmark, “Denmark SOS/Save our Sovereignty”–rr.htm)

“The term socialism took hold as a political ideal first in France, in the 1820s, when Henri de Saint-Simon envisioned the ideal society as one large factory. His followers chose the word socialism to represent a centrally-planned society run like a cooperative business by worker-owners, and/or in conjunction with the state. The term communism also comes from France, probably back to medieval monks who shared property, living in common and feeling a sense of togetherness. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ theory of communism entailed social organization based on sharing property, the highest state of socialism in which all lived well socially in a stateless society.

“Variations of Saint-Simon’s socialism have been formulated by many political theorists and writers: Thomas More, Louis Blanc, Eduard Bernstein, Robert Owen, Charles Fourier, Ferdinand Lassalle, Marx and Engels, Sydney Webb, George Bernard Shaw, V.I. Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Rosa Luxemburg, Emma Goldman…

“Socialists disagree on how to develop socialism and even how to define it exactly. They all agree, however, that socialism’s economy is not dominated by private ownership of the means of production. Public ownership—either by the state or by worker cooperatives, or a combination—is central to its philosophy. It is also generally agreed that it is just and necessary to create a permanent state of social welfare with greater say in political-economic matters by the producers and folk at large.” (“Roots to social democracy/capitalism, socialism,”–rr.htm)

Sanders is also a war maker, voting for all the wars except Iraq, but then he supported financing the war. He backed one of the most vicious of warmongers, Hillary Clinton, and will do the same with a less effective one, Joe Biden. John Grant, another TCBH colleague, wrote “Operation War President (April 2). He hit the nail Biden on the head. Support for Biden will only lead to more war and sanctions against countries where governments oppose US domination.

There is no “issue” more important than deciding to murder other human beings, and then acting to do so by warring for thievery and domination. That is what all US presidents of all parties have done since day one.

Sanders also did not support the most important whistle-blowers Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, as Laurie points out in her piece. That is as immoral as backing the wars that they wrote about and published, and that is why the capitalist system is torturing Assange to death, and nearly did so to Chelsea. 

Dave is right by pointing out that Sanders did us all a good deed by placing the idea of socialism on the agenda in the world’s greatest jingoist nation. Yet Sanders didn’t know what he was talking about.

I was never a supporter of Sanders or Obama, the US’s worst and most warmongering president. I did not want to deal out illusions to readers and activists.  (See “Obama: The Worst US President Ever”,–rr.htm).

Dave’s conclusion is right on:  “Now we need to continue that struggle [post Sanders] for a just, humane and peaceful socialist society. Let’s get to work on that now. Whoever wins control of the White House and Congress in November, we’ll need to spend the next four years building a movement that cannot just hold the line on what we’ve won, win some victories, and maybe even challenge them for power next national election…[we must begin] developing a new party that will supplant the Democrats as a true party of the left. ”

You can’t be for peace and vote for war.


RON RIDENOUR is one of two new members (the other is Laurie Dobson),  just unanimously invited last week to join the ThisCantBeHappening! news collective. See their bios here.