Why Socialism? With Bhaskar Sunkara



it's the real news I'm darn in order I can't imagine that even ten years ago or five years ago the Wall Street Journal would have run an op-ed imploring people to take socialism seriously or that polls would show that young people apparently prefer socialism to capitalism or that those polls would get coverage in Fast Co in the New York Times or that representatives like Alexandra Castillo Cortez who self-identify as socialist would get elected and star in Netflix documentaries but here we are and that's the context in which our next guest wrote his new book the socialist manifesto the case for radical politics in an era of extreme inequality joining me in the studio today is Bhaskar Sankara Bhaskar is the founding editor of Jack of new magazine and the author of the new book the socialist manifesto thanks for being here thanks for having me so before we get into the book you started Jacobin what nine years ago now an explicitly public are a socialist publication White has changed since then to sort of show this political shift in attitudes toward socialism yeah I think that the left was in a really deep period of defeat and retreat when Jacqueline was founded it was found in like September 20 2010 and back then it seemed like that furthest left we could go let's say in the media sphere was like Think Progress and then you know politically our main traditions and parts of the left both social democracy and the the old kind of state social traditions had had seemed like they imploded and did really have a have a future and when Jacqueline was founded I was founded on the idea that the ideas were still was still relevant because the injustice is still there so I think as long as there's capitalism there's gonna be a resistance to it there's gonna be people opposing that there's a better way than building your society around false scarcity and exploitation and hierarchy and oppression but just because there's a small resistance doesn't mean it can it's actually gonna translate into into mass movements and I think what we're seeing now is really inspiring it's a return of a politics the return of of left-wing egalitarian movements in the u.s. sure and you and you start with this case for socialism in the book you write that a lot of books about socialism or that make a case for socialism are really starting with a case against capitalism they're showing what's wrong but you instead begin with a sort of a story of what could happened to a subject who works in a curry pasta sauce Factory in New Jersey and what that subjects life would look like under social democracy and then democratic socialism why do you start there instead of by making a case for what's wrong well I think that for a lot of people capitalism is not a good system they don't like it but they just struggling shoulders and say well it's like the way things are and they figure out a way to get by and to survive within the constraints of the system so in other words it's not just that socialism is politically impossible many people really do believe that it's technically you know not possible so I wanted to lay out in a engaging way what a feasible socialism could look like and in fact there is an alternative to having society run by big corporations run by bosses run by the power of capital and the power of the market so yeah I want to turn other words make the case for socialism not the case against capitalism because many of the outrages of capitalism are really evident to most people they feel it their their lives you know maybe we have to convince like Bloomberg analysts that that the system isn't good but most people would be like yeah the system is unjust but that's life and we need to cut through that that defeatism and really say that there is an alternative we need to fight for it but you in the introduction at least you lay out two sort of different alternatives and you're calling one social democracy and the other one democratic socialism what's the difference between those two things and where did that sort of splay it come from yes in the book basically I I open by trying to explain the Marxist theory of exploitation in an engaging way and then talk about how unions for example can diminish exploitation and give more rights and power to workers in the workplace and how social democracy can do the same in a wider setting and in a country as a whole the society as a whole but that ultimately they're within certain there's constraints to these things and they they fall short both practically and at a normative level of our goal of adjusting Galit aryan society i then i try to lay out what a the life of a you know socialist citizen could could look like what what a feasible socialism could could could look like so for me it's important to remember that social democracy and socialism have a common ancestors you know these movements were together as one and the big worker movements of the 19th century and these big parties of the the second international so Karl Marx and angles both call themselves Social Democrats over time the movements evolved revolutionary left of social democracy the ones that resisted world war one that pursued paths of insurrection particularly in countries that didn't have a history of democracy like overcoming Tsarist autocracy and and Russia and so on I call themselves communist and then the center and right of the existing social democratic movement eventually dropped many of them dropped the horizon of socialist and the gold socialism instead of what they saw as a functional socialism in other words they were gonna try to achieve many of the goals and socialists have long wanted but within the constraints of capitalism so they would provide housing rights and education and create this really robust welfare states we didn't even think or even imagined the capitalism could accommodate they would do that but they would also respect in a way management's right to manage they would respect that ultimately society is still driven by private capitalist ownership so what I want to pose is so these were kind of the routes and what we described is like socialism in social democracy and there was other forms of socialism that were so revolutionary but also anti-stalinist like Trotsky is more or even more more radical variants of democratic socialism now what I try to get it in the book is the idea that the left wing of social democracy in fact also had had anti-capitalist strains that have persisted into well into the 70s and 80s and it was through some of these strains that they were starting to question capital ownership and control so the welfare state in other words doesn't really buy off workers it often makes them more bold and more willing to fight for for more radical demands and so why is it important to them to stress that it's democratic socialism that you're advocating before I mean we've seen I think so often when you try to talk to people about socialism they say well in actually existing forms of socialism we got you know and you address this as well things like Stalinism which was I think we can all agree not a democratic form of rule so so how do we ensure that we actually foster more democracy in this in this process we change yeah well I think that I mean I use democratic socialism socialism pretty interchangeably I think we need to obviously be serious about the things that went wrong and passed socialist experiment so we should avoid in other words be no true Scotsman approach that basically says oh that wasn't real socialism you know real socialism be good why because it'll be socialism therefore it'll be democratic otherwise we won't be socialism you know it's like it's like this constant thing and libertarians do it all the time when it comes to you could be talking to a libertarian about injustice other than they're like oh well I agree with you about that but that's not real capitals and that's crony capitalism or whatever so we need to avoid avoid that but but the key is maintaining a respect for democracy for civil society for the rights of minorities for certain bedrock of civil rights it can't be alienated of people's rights to to free expression expression and speech and so on you know there shouldn't be a dichotomy between counter revolutionary and revolutionary thought you know it should just you have to allow I think that that freedom but in the West we're in societies were a very long tradition of stable democratic societies where these rights and norms are in stride it seems to be really like impractical to just say oh well there's something at the core of socialism that will always lead to repression when that repression happened in societies were devastated by war by civil war were largely peasant you know society is trying to quickly develop themselves and in advance again in Russia and China these other other societies they're just very different places in the US and they're their road to socialism the type of socialism developed we'll be different than what happened in the US but we just need to be clear to people that we are not authoritarians we don't believe that the state has dominion over over every aspect of our lives but we do believe there are certain rights and there are certain guarantees that belong to – – people need to be guaranteed by the state and more importantly we believe that society today is run by an undemocratic unaccountable bureaucracy of you know big corporations and CEOs and these people have have tremendous power we don't think of it as I thought Aaron has somebody but it completely is on the other side of that though I guess and you you contend with this as well there have been so many instances of you know sort of fostered social democracy that have never led to democratic socialism instead in many cases we've seen after we get to a more sort of a social democratic state the welfare state will start to a road and compromises will start to be made how do we on the flip side then avoid that happening in a in a place like the US I think there's an inherent contradiction in social democracy which is that it empowers workers and workers start demanding more they have more rights and guarantees they demand higher wages they have more bargaining position in the workplace but also at the same time it empowers capital it really doesn't question capitalist ownership or control or more importantly its power to withhold investment so eventually workers will start making demands a capital can't stomach and capitalist say listen we just won't invest we won't we don't accept this compromise anymore they're not playing along with the terms of the deal they're there making demands about industrial democracy now that I'm respecting our right to manage they're making excessive wage demands are cutting into our profits and they're gonna just say you need to resolve this this this dilemma and even a social democratic state or state run by a social democratic party will then say well the only reason why we can afford to sustain our social welfare programs is because there's profitable private firms and it's the structural dilemma the leads parties of the center left to retreat on their their promises and to push austerity and neoliberalism and things like this it isn't like personal corruption or or a lack of fortitude or whatnot so we need to figure where to take that power to withhold investment away from capitalist and to me that has to be done through figuring out a way to socialize firms to socialize finance we could fund new enterprises to foster cooperative sectors to do other things to to really challenge the power of of capital but what does it mean to undertake a project like that in like the heart of the empire in the US where we have you know the most money and power and like the biggest military in the world like how does that impact what what it would look like to undertake a socialist project here well we certainly have more powerful elites we will have to contend with all sorts of resistance but there's also a huge population of working-class people that would benefit from our reforms in our program so you know we could think about how ugly the resistance of the 20% that stand to lose a lot you know in a different sort of society or their wealth and power but we have to also remember the latent power and potential that that 80% you know us workers are not bound up in the exploitation of other people they don't benefit in fact they're the ones suffering also when the US is bombing and invading other countries when they're pursuing unjust trade regimes that hurt both developing countries and you know workers workers here so I think we need a push against the idea of obscure City and push against also the idea that you know we're all complicit in in imperialism because we're not imperialism as a ruling class project and it's our rulers that are working with the force of these other countries and they're all you know benefiting from it and and I think that's the form of working-class internationalism that we that we need all right bossman Sankara is the author of the new book the socialist manifesto and the founding editor of Jacobin magazine we're gonna pick this up in part two but thanks for being here thanks appreciate it and thank you for joining us on the real news network




Comments
  1. The explanation Bhaskar informs listeners well, for an intro. anyway, about the kind of socialism he's for and which is social democracy or democratic socialism is very good. Some hothead, unthinking users of YouTube have written enough times complaining that people shouldn't consider the US democratic or socialist, one of the two, if not both, anyway, so when it's about democracy vs republic I sometimes add a reply simply stating that a republic can certainly be officially democratic or not. Anyway, " A republic (Latin: res publica) is a form of government in which the country is considered a “public matter”, not the private concern or property of the rulers. The primary positions of power within a republic are not inherited, but are attained through democracy, oligarchy or autocracy. It is a form of government under which the head of state is not a hereditary monarch.[1][2][3] In the context of American constitutional law, the definition of republic refers specifically to a form of government in which elected individuals represent the citizen body[2][better source needed] and exercise power according to the rule of law under a constitution, including separation of powers with an elected head of state, referred to as a constitutional republic [4][5][6][7] or representative democracy.[8] … ", https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Republic. I don't see why this would be impossible to achieve in the USA; very difficult to achieve, surely, but also surely not literally impossible. It would surely be very helpful for all or by far most Americans.

  2. The problem with America is not capitalism but greed and politicians giving business superior power over labor. For one, business should being interest for the borrowed labor of its workers. Business would pay any lending institution interest if borrowed the value amount of labor. Employees deserve the respect as they are stakeholders in the business. IF interest is not paid then workers should be made part owners of the company .

  3. Great interview. However, there needs to be more of an explicit emphasis on one of the primary tenets of socialism: that is, worker-ownership and workplace democracy. There also needs to be a more detailed explanation on what a cooperative sector would look like using examples that currently exist in the US and abroad.

  4. Democratic Socialism would have never come about had it not been for the threat of the Bolshevik communist movement. The only reason western capitalists allowed the welfare state to be implemented was to stave off the threat of working-class revolution.

  5. Search Einstein's 8 page "Why Socialism". Not hard reading.

    To understand Stalinism, I recommend Trotsky's "The Revolution Betrayed".

    Also: Trotsky's "Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution".

  6. **All, "ism's" are faulty, due to always a few, who become corrupted. Pride, selfishness, lies, deceit, murder John 8:44; Luke 4:5,6 satan looks for those like himself. Jesus resisted by love for the God of heaven, and for humanity, even unto death. The point again, a few are ambitious, and the majority allow it. It is human nature to be led by another or others. Whether it is *capitalism where a few are enriched; *filthy-rich James 5:1-4…or *communism where a few are enriched; *filthy-rich James 5:1-4…or *socialism where a few are enriched; *filthy-rich. Why must there be a few who want to be sole domination over the majority??? Isaiah 14:12-14 it is Lucifer's mind-set/1Peter 5:8 even to violent aggression; lion-like or 2Cor. 11:13-15 as an phoney messenger of light along with his false apostles. 1John 2:17 this World is, passing away. Zephaniah 3:8 God is using the scheme of global commun-ity to eventually destroy their plans and purposes and existing system. Afterwards to have his Son Jesus come and Supervise this earth and its inhabitants to heal and restore after the grt.Tribulation. Christ died for everyone* 2Corinthians 5:15; to give all the dead that he will bring back to life; another opportunity to be free from sin and death and satan and bad leaders. If the Son make you free, ye shall be free indeed – John 14:6. Matthew 25:31-40 what a beautiful day that will be, no more "check to check" survival, drudgery, disgusting way *Not to live !! I know what that is. It has been planned this way, by leaders who lie to our faces – donot forget John 7:7,16 Jesus was peaceful, as all Christians should be!! But, he opened his mouth and declared the works of this World as evil, where they were. And he was hated by Rome power, and corrupt religious leaders. And they conspired to murder him; and God allowed them to do the crime. But, Jesus died for is there. For our freedom, from personal sin, and removal from satans and his power of darkness Acts 2:38,39/ and Col.1:12,13*. And eventually from this body 1Peter 5:6; 2Cor.5:1. Followed by the rest of humanity Mt.6:10/ Isaiah 35:4-7 God bless everyone 😊

  7. Socialism has really never worked.
    A better model to work towards is Benevolent Capitalism.
    Socialism kills Incentive. Everything and everyone sinks to the lowest common denominator.

  8. This is the problem with people like this guy! He writes a book on Democratic Socialism but apparently, "He must've not read the constitution!!!"
    Article 4 section 4 of the constitution clearly states – The United States shall "GUARANTEE" to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.
    This Nut obviously did not read this, or! "He is an employee of those who are trying to destroy the constitution and the Republic!"
    I'm a democracy, the community of people are considered to hold power over how they are governed. Kings and tyrants are seen as threats to the innate rights of the people. As such, all" eligible" citizens get equal say in decisions.
    A Republic – Are in opposition to rulership by a single person. All "eligible citizens" get equal say in decisions through elected representatives. Unalienable rights of individuals are protected by law to safeguard against a "majority" abusing the "minority."
    A Democracy – Free elections. Suffrage. Majority Rule.
    A Republic – Free elections. "Constitution" Suffrage. Individual rights.
    A Democracy – Generally, private property is permitted, although a majority faction may place "limits" on property rights.
    A Republic – Generally, private property is permitted, "especially insofar as there is a CONSTITUTIONAL prohibition on interfering with property rights.
    This country is a Republic and by "CONTRACT" with the United States by way of the birth certificate and "social security number" they have made us "corporations" under a Democracy that has no constitution to back it!
    So programs like "social security" is a problem under the "reserve clause" of the Constitution (the 10th Amendment) powers not specifically granted to the "federal government are reserved for the State or the people!"
    These people who are presenting all of these different factions of "governments" actually hurt this country and the constitution itself as America is a Republic and "Not a Democracy!"
    Wake up!!!

  9. Socialism is good, if it is implemented properly with equality for all, but the manifesto should be written by the people for the people and not a manifesto of a party. The wealth of a country like oil or gold or anything else Belongs to the people and not to cooperates, so they all have to go permanently.

  10. Capitalism either evolves into socialism or it devolves into fascism — it's the People's choice not the corporations' (who are not people, regardless of what any corrupt Supreme Court Justice says).

  11. Well come visit Europe and see social democratic countries. The former eastern block countries are newcomers, but other countries have had social democratic system about a century. On the surface you can't see much differences to the USA, except less homeless people. Under surface people are more equal and less fearful about their life. It's not so hugely different. Completely doable, every European country can do it. But we still suffer from the same bankers who create debt money.

  12. We need to focus on socialist principles and democracy, and apply them to the prevailing power structure. Principle: 1.wealth can only be created by human work; 2. Individualism and collectivism are indivisible, they are the 2 faces of the same coin and cannot be separated. Based on these 2 principles, wealth belongs to society, not to the individual, because the idea of the self made man is a myth. However, society needs to respect individual rights which also include compensation for his contribution to society. This does not mean that any particular individual should be compensated disproportionately so that he can unduly influence societies goals.

  13. We need to focus on socialist principles and democracy, and apply them to the prevailing power structure. Principle: 1.wealth can only be created by human work; 2. Individualism and collectivism are indivisible, they are the 2 faces of the same coin and cannot be separated. Based on these 2 principles, wealth belongs to society, not to the individual, because the idea of the self made man is a myth. However, society needs to respect individual rights which also include compensation for his contribution to society. This does not mean that any particular individual should be compensated disproportionately so that he can unduly influence societies goals.

  14. The Socialist Manifesto frankly doesn't really outline the alternative clearly. It's mostly a history book, not an actual battle plan. Paul Cockshott's Towards a New Socialism and Mike McNair's Revolutionary Strategy might be better for people looking for an actual plan.

  15. we had the new deal in america for 60 years, it insured that the rich payed their share and working class people got a decent share of the pie, since republicans under raygun starting dismantling it our country has gone done the toilet for working people , low wage jobs with no health care are not a future.

  16. No most people don't know Capitalism is "unjust". When you have a hybrid Central government Corporate Oligarchy that dominates world politics you do not have "Democracy", "Socialism" or "Captialism". There is no such thing as a free market under these Centralized structures. You have Crony fascists corporatism model where the elites win and everyone else loses.

  17. Is funny how to appear more and more "Conoseurs" in socialism when they NEVER lived under socialism… there is no Democratic socialism, there is No WAY to get back to something you didn't experiences . is gross to talk about something that a quarter of the world suffer for 100 years under that "F*** society!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *