Is A Socialist Future Possible? Sarah Leonard & Bhaskar Sunkara


(pensive rhythmic music) – This week on The Laura Flanders Show, is a socialist future possible in America? We’ll talk to two authors
who think it just might be and speak to activists at the
Democratic National Convention whom you might not have seen on TV. Stay tuned. (pensive rhythmic music) Are we headed for a socialist future? Our next guests think it’s possible, but what would that mean? And what difference
would a tinge of red make to a green agenda, say,
or a business plan? Sarah Leonard is a senior
editor at The Nation magazine, as well as editor at Dissent. Bhaskar Sunkara is the founder of Jacobin, a political quarterly offering
socialist perspectives on politics, economics, culture,
and just about everything. Their new book, co-edited,
is The Future We Want: Radical Ideas for the New Century. I’m very glad I can
welcome back to the program Bhaskar and Sarah, glad to have you. – Thank you. – Let’s start, I just
want to take a second, on your new issue of Jacobin,
Bhaskar, came out this spring. It’s dedicated to the Irish
rising of 100 years ago, the Easter Rising, so-called, of 1916. Why a special issue on 1916 and Ireland? – Right, well, the Easter
Rising was a failed revolt against British rule in Ireland and it had many different elements to it. There was a strong socialist component. The main overall commander
was James Connolly, who’s Ireland’s foremost Marxist and who is later executed
for his role in the rising. But in many ways, we thought that rather than just thinking
of this as an Ireland issue, we actually thought this
had broader resonance. This is something that
prefigured the third world revolt against colonialism that
happened later in the century. And in many ways, the
failure of the Irish state that did emerge resembles in many ways the failure of the United States, of us, to also build a strong welfare state and a strong social democratic movement. And without a strong welfare state and without strong
social democratic forces, it’s very hard to create a
far left to the left of that when your spectrum is just
dominated by centrists and center-right forces,
which you have in Ireland and you also have here
in the United States. – Yeah, I mean, it’s fascinating to go back to 1916, 100 years
ago, and see how many people and how many parts of the
British Empire and beyond were watching what was
happening in Ireland and learning from it, from Gandhi to Lenin to W.E.B. Du Bois, I discovered recently. The lessons that you draw
of the current period are fascinating though too in that Ireland went through
a whole economic boom followed by a real bust
that is stirring things up in an interesting way. – Right, absolutely. And just like you could say that today is probably the best
time to be a socialist or any sorta radical in the United States since maybe the early 1970s, probably you could say
the same about Ireland. Because a lotta the growth
that was being pushed and this whole idea of the boom in Ireland in the ’80s and ’90s, it turned out to be just a mirage or is based on
lots of fictitious capital and Ireland being a tax haven, and that’s all kinda coming home to roost. And, obviously, Irish
elites are doing just fine. They’re putting their money elsewhere, they’re investing in Europe, but average Irish workers
and public workers and so on are finally beginning to
fight back against austerity, and it’s actually very inspiring to see. And it’s kinda paralleling,
to some degree, the developments that we’re seeing in the United States today. – And are people watching internationally as much as they were 100 years ago what’s going on in Ireland? – I think we need to rebuild kind of a strong international left that does have this perspective. I think, for sure, people
in southern Europe, in Portugal, in Greece and Spain, definitely regard the Irish
struggle as part of their own and as a common kinda
adversary in the eurozone, and a lotta these policies
have been pushed continentally. – Well, let’s move on to the
US and your other product, the co-edited book, The Future
We Want, with the two of you. Sarah, it’s true, this is a great time for these conversations, and they’re the kind of
conversations that people, I don’t know, even 20, 30 years ago, would’ve said would be
unlikely to occur on US soil because of the history of red-baiting. What’s changed? – Absolutely. Well, a few things have changed. First, material conditions are such that people have not
recovered from the recession. We’re told we’ve been in recovery but it’s been a largely jobless recovery, and so people are still suffering. There’s a large amount of
student debt in the country, as we all know, a large
amount of medical debt, and people really feel pressed and people feel like their politicians or elected representatives
are not listening to them, which turns out to be true. (Laura laughs) People are not wrong about that. And so, what you have is
an enormous amount of need confronting a totally
immovable political system, which is a very combustible combination. And at the same time,
you have young people who came to political
consciousness after 1989, so they’re not really
thinking about socialism in a sort of scary, Cold War kind of way, but did come to political consciousness around the time of the recession. So, very likely, a parent,
a relative lost a job. Maybe their house was foreclosed on. Graduating college,
they probably had debt. They very likely had
trouble finding a job. And so, people are not so afraid of socialists taking their stuff, right? They’re afraid of Wall
Street taking their stuff. And so, there’s a real opening
for a new sort of politics that will actually meet the extreme need that we’re seeing only
growing in the US right now. – I mean, we’ve talked about this around your founding of Jacobin, Bhaskar, the shift, the generational
shift that you’re talking about, in terms of the willingness to even consider socialist
options or communist. What’s the mission of this book? Maybe, is it the first of many? And how did you reach out to, Bhaskar? – Well, we reached out to
a bunch of contributors from both Jacobin, The
Nation, people we thought obviously had a breadth of
knowledge and experience, but were particular experts in one field. And we thought that we
would take them together and put them in a book that offered kind of actual solutions. So, the idea that we’re
actually getting at, we’re not intending this to
be used as a policy memo, we don’t wanna send
this book to Washington and have the Congressional
Progressive Caucus– – Do this.
– Yeah, try to enact, yeah, do this. – Although, we’re fine
with that (Laura laughs) if they want basic income, you know? – We’d be okay with it. But it was kinda meant as
pushing back against the idea that a lotta people have, that we don’t like the status quo, we don’t like the system as it is, but people don’t believe
there’s an alternative. And they believe, more importantly, that the barriers to any sort
of other system are technical. In fact, we have homeless people because society can’t be
constructed any other way. What we need to do, as socialists, as leftists, as progressives,
is push against that idea and tell people that the
barriers to social change are political barriers,
not technical ones, and I think this book is a
contribution in that direction. – Now, your chapter in the book, Sarah, is specifically around gender and class, you call it sex class, and that gets at some of these
questions very concretely. I mean, no class has been told more lies about the condition of their
lives, I think, than women, and the first thing we’re told
is our problems are personal. You take that on. – Yeah, absolutely. Well, one of the things I
tried to address was, first, what sorts of policies or what could we do on a society-wide scale that
would benefit all women? Not just a few women, not just these or those types of women, but women in general. And second, what would allow women to have enough political power that women’s concerns continue to be at the forefront of social movements that are trying to make positive changes? So, something I focus
a lot on is childcare, and the reason for that is twofold. First, it is a nexus of conflict
between women currently. You have well-off women who
are supposed to work a lot and middle-class women who
are supposed to work a lot, and they pay other women
to look after their kids, often immigrants, often
unprotected by labor unions, often at very low and exploitive wages. – And that’s what we call
having it all? (laughs) – Yeah, having it all. – There’s lots of people working for you. – Doesn’t it sound good?
– Yeah. – You work all the time and you make someone
else work all the time. It’s amazing. And so, I wanted to get
at what was going on here. And, of course, in order for all people to be able to live complete lives where there’s leisure
time, there’s work time, no one’s working for low wages, you need a large-scale childcare system, and this would do a few things. One, it would break that bad relationship between women that exists right now. Second, it would allow women
to move to the forefront of work that is not in the workplace. So, for example, the trade union movement has not always had women leaders, in part because the women went home to take care of the kids. – [Laura] Right, they were busy. – Yeah, they’re busy. They’re working that second
shift or maybe the third. And so, by creating a context
in which women are not tied to the home in the same way, you create stronger left movements. And finally, we should be
thinking about children as a social responsibility. To privatize this, as Thatcher would say, the only unit in society is the family, the only important institution. What that does is it
says we don’t need taxes to pay for childcare, to take
care of children as a society. We’re gonna throw that back on the family and you make due however you can. And so, resocializing
that is deeply important. – Yeah, ’cause it also
shares responsibility. It makes us as a society realize, “Wait, this is work that a
whole lotta people are doing, “namely parents, that the
state has a huge dependence on “but is giving no support to.” Are these sorts of
questions being integrated into left and socialist thinking outside of the circle
of feminist leftists? Sarah, Bhaskar? – Yeah, I think they
absolutely are of late, and I think the balance
is between two extremes. One is very kind of a
very old left approach that sees the only thing to care about is kind of class exploitation
and class organization conceived of in a very narrow way around a traditional working class. And the other extreme, I think, is to see them all as
completely separate categories. And someone would say, “I’m
an intersectional leftist. “I care about gender, I care about race, “and I care about class.” I think the approach in the book and how it tries to integrate things is to say that separate
oppressions are real and exist, and there are particular oppressions around racism and around sexism. But the common denominator in a lotta them is actually class. So, class runs through
them like a current. So, you have to actually
create particular programs to tackle things like sexism. But at the same time, if you try to create those
programs without class, you won’t get anywhere. – In the time allowed, I wanna
get back to what you said was kind of the mission
of sort of laying out some of the alternatives or possibilities that are out there. What difference does red make to, say, the green jobs agenda? Somebody writes about that topic. – Well, I think, for one thing, it acknowledges an actual agent, an agent of history, an agent of change. And for that, we think it’s workers. But our conception of working class isn’t, you don’t just have to be working a manufacturing job to be a worker, it just means you’re a member
of the broad mass of society that doesn’t own a workplace,
doesn’t own a factory, is dependent on other people
to earn a wage and get by, and that describes most people in the capitalist world today. So, we have not only a
vision of a better world, we kind of have this idea of
an agent that can carry it out and, more importantly, the
idea that fights for reforms day to day can build the
force of the working class to the point that they’d be able to win bigger and bigger gains. So, when it comes to the
environment in particular, I think you can have a
liberal approach that says, “We need a sustainable planet.” But because they don’t attach that dream to an actual set of people,
they end up with policy that ignore the very people
that they have to win over to actually achieve that change. So, for example, if you want
to decrease carbon emissions and do things like that,
you won’t do it by taxing and nickel-and-diming workers, ’cause that’ll just
anger them and tell them that a climate agenda is
against their interests. But if you actually think
about empowering workers and giving them the chance
to democratically control so much of production in
the world around them, then they’ll actually realize this is in the interest of the majority and, “Hey, we don’t own a factory “or we don’t own a coal power plant, “so maybe it’s in our long-term interest “to actual buy into this.” But I think there’s a
very different approach that a lot of mainstream
and liberal forces have that don’t think about how to win over the actual mass of people, and that opens the door up
to a right-wing populism who correctly identifies
kinda contradictions in liberal thought and rallies
people around an agenda that doesn’t actually serve them, but at least it’s counter to this kind of status quo liberalism that they’ve seen the effects
of for the past few years. – So, where do we go next? This election will eventually
be over in the United States, your book is out, Jacobin continues. Where are you hoping these
conversation will take us, Sarah? – Well, people have been opened
up to the idea of socialism. What’s not clear is what
everybody thinks that that is. In many ways, it’s a response,
not an affirmative message, and so we want to do the work, and this book is certainly part of that, of doing the educational work, doing the journalistic or
even the research work, to sort of build a
comprehensive picture for people of this is what a socialist
society could look like, this is what it’s looked like in the past, this is the sort of world we wanna see, and to begin doing that
in some amount of detail. Beyond that, of course, organizing is the most fundamental thing, and I think that’s going to take a number of different routes. So, there are a number of social movements sort of already in play, whether it’s around Black
Lives Matter or Fight for $15, that have already created the opening that Bernie Sanders stepped into by suggesting the problems
that we’re facing right now, they’re not your fault. They’re not individual problems,
they’re social problems, and that is the room that
Bernie Sanders stepped into. And so, supporting those
movements in their development is going to be absolutely fundamental to creating the further terrain
for more socialist work. – Thanks, Bhaskar Sankara, Sarah Leonard. The book is The Future We Want: Radical Ideas for the New Century. Check it out. (pensive rhythmic music) So, from talking about
making systemic change to working for that change. At the Democratic National Convention, activists from all over
the country showed up with a much bigger agenda than just voting on a
presidential nominee. A lot of what they tried to say was not covered elsewhere in
the media, but we were there. Jonathan Klett and Anna Barsan reported on this side of the DNC for The Laura Flanders Show, thanks to your contributions
that made it possible. (Native American singing) – ‘Cause you all make
the world what it is! Pick your perspective
and that’s what it is. Choose love! – We need a media that covers the movements that create
static and make history. – The story that I love the most is the women’s rights movement, when they said to those women, “What are you marching in the street for? “What do you think, you’re
gonna do a revolution? “How are you gonna get the right to vote “when you can’t even vote?” But guess what? We, combined together with
people power, did the impossible. – People have said to
me as a woman, “Come on. “We need the first woman president.” And I say, “Yes, we do,
and that is Jill Stein!” (cheers and applause)
(upbeat pop music) – Forget the lesser evil,
fight for the greater good! (cheers and applause) – [Crowd] All these racist damn cops, we don’t need ’em, need ’em. Back up, back up, we want
our freedom, freedom. – When our people are under
attack, what do we do? – [Crowd] Stand up, fight back! – We have got to defeat Donald Trump and we have get to elect
Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. (audience jeering) – Brothers and sisters–
– We want Bernie! – Trump is a bully and a demagogue. Trump… Trump has made bigotry and hatred the cornerstone of his campaign. Election days come and go, but the fight for
social, economic, racial, and environmental justice continues! (uplifting pop music) – 19 votes for the
leader of our revolution, which shall continue– – For Bernie Sanders! (cheers and applause) – 22 votes for our
beloved Senator Sanders. – And I move that Hillary Clinton be selected as the nominee! (cheers and applause) (somber ambient music) (upbeat pop music) – [Man] Aren’t you afraid that you might even help Donald Trump? Of course, you don’t want to, but– – I believe the DNC helped Donald Trump. – While the fear of Trump is great, we are even more afraid of
disastrous climate change. – They’re not interested
in hearing our concerns; they pay lip service to it. And, unfortunately, that hurts our party. It divides us even further and it makes us in danger of proto-fascism taking over this country. – This is about all of us, not the 1%, and Hillary is the 1%. She will not represent our interests. She will represent hers
like she always has. – Hillary Clinton! – I’m not interested in
the American Dream anymore. I’m interested in all of humanity having access to a decent quality of life. – We need to remember that
we have more in common than we have in differences. A Trump presidency is the
absolute worst situation that could happen. – This is grassroots completely, so it’s nothing to do with Bernie. – Yielding to the billionaires
and receiving a Super PAC, her controlling mainstream media, she doesn’t know what it’s like to break through glass ceilings. She could probably just flick
through a crystal glass, and that’s about it. – This isn’t about Hillary Clinton, this isn’t about Wikileaks
or anything like that. This is about the corporate media. We are in the heart of the media, we’re at the media tent at the DNC, and this is still not being covered. What does it take in this country to have the values and the interests of the 99% of the people’s revolution reported by the mainstream media? – The heinous idea of using
the beginning of the Earth for warfare and its training,
to destroy a way of life, life itself, and to abrogate our treaties. Now, I need each and every one of you to consider how they feel. (bagpipes playing)
(crowd chanting) – [Crowd] Black lives matter! Jill not Hill! – Jill Stein is speaking. – We can have an America and a world that works for all of us. We are the ones we have been waiting for. The power to change this
world is not just our hopes, it’s not just our dreams. Right here and now in FDR Park,
that power is in our hands. Thank you so much to the Bernie delegates! (cheering) – [Crowd] Jill not Hill! Jill not Hill! Jill not Hill! Jill not Hill! (pounding electronic music) – I think the DNC and Hillary’s campaign are now reaching out, and I think they were
gonna do that anyway. But now they realize that
they kinda have to do it ’cause otherwise, we’re gonna
screw them over in November. ♫ You’re gonna rise up singing ♫ And you’ll spread your wings ♫ And you’ll take to the sky ♫ But ’til that morning ♫ There’s nothing can harm you ♫ With daddy and mommy standing by (pensive rhythmic music)




Comments
  1. Great editing. Please include tags for your videos so when I share them on other sites they're automatically generated. It makes others finding this content easier.

  2. If the choice to be made was between democracy and fascism that would be a problem.
    But that isn't the choice when choosing between Reps and Dems.
    The actual choice is between Fascism and Inverted Totalitarianism.

  3. thank you so much for this video. the book sounds fantastic and I truly appreciate your compilation at the end about all of us coming together against the corrupt DNC and media.

  4. Prophecy in action. Bernie knew Trump was way worse than Hillary. Good bye LGBTQ right, goodbye health care, goodbye, housing, goodbye civil rights, goodbye voting equity, goodbye gender equity, goodbye women's' right, goodbye native rights, Hello race persecution, gay persecution, hello a new war on women the poor, the sick, hello fascism, hello nightmare.

  5. Government and corporations depend on us yet don't support us. Time to turn the table on the puppet regime of capitalist crooks and gangster banksters now running the country and world into the abyss.

  6. There is no rational economic calculation under socialism.
    Never was.
    Never will be.
    There is no rational social calculations with Feminism.
    Never was.
    Never will be.

    Get over yourselves!

  7. just heard him say that caretakers and workers are not of value, ,,,eat shit and take care of your Gma,fool

  8. I've got news for you. You are not real socialists. You are dilettantes. Let me explain.
    In a socialists United States, what do you see yourself doing? Will you be the factory worker? Will you be the farmer? The bricklayer or the carpenter? No, you don't see yourselves doing any of that. Not one of you is willing to take the tough jobs, the dirty jobs. No, you see yourselves living a life of ivory tower leisure. Sure you may teach a class, or write a book which only others like you will bother to read. But work? Not for you.
    You also won't share. Consider this social experiment. Are you a socialists pulling down over 60K a year? Good for you. Now go to McDonald's and pick out a worker, like the guy who cleans tables. Tell him you would like to start a "collective" with him. All the money you earn and all the money he earns goes into a common fund. You add it up and divide by 2. Want to make it even more interesting? Add two workers from McDonald's. Or the guy who changes your oil. Keep adding to your collective and show everyone who doubts socialism how well it works.
    Or are you going to tell me that socialism can only work from the top down?

  9. I needed this show in my life. It’s the sort of thing I used to love watching on PBS back in the 80’s and 90’s, but more left-wing, which I really really like.

  10. Based on demographic trends, a socialist future is most probable. The good news is that history proves such a system to be unsustainable and doomed before it begins, so freedom will eventually triumph over any such tyranny. The bad news is that in most cases this inevitable socialist downfall brings with it innocent dead numbering in the millions.

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