A few months ago, I was in the audience at the prestigious Commonwealth Club in San Francisco when Senator Bernie Sanders presented the rationale for a political revolution in the United States. Sanders is the only independent Senator in the US Senate; all other Senators belong either to the Republican or Democratic political parties. Since he got elected, he has made a name for himself as a passionate advocate for social and economic justice.
Sanders’ presentation in San Francisco received a standing ovation. Many in the audience encouraged him to run for president and, in recent days, he did announce his candidacy. This means that the revolutionary political rhetoric in the US is no longer exclusively confined to the radical Left and the courageous followers of the philosophers Herbert Marcuse and Angela Davis, but has, in a certain very important sense, become a part of the political mainstream.
The reasons why are best explained by Sanders himself. While, on the one hand, enormous wealth is being consolidated in the hands of ever fewer people, on the other hand, the high levels of unemployment, poverty, and hopelessness have become the lot of the vast majority. The situation described by Karl Marx in his article “Wage Labor and Capital” has returned to haunt us in the 21st century. “The forest of outstretched arms, begging for work, grows ever thicker, while the arms themselves grow ever leaner”. Sanders disputed the official US statistics which place the unemployment rate at about 5 percent, and claimed that the unemployment is actually much higher at 11 percent, and that, for the young people, it climbs to 20 percent.
In recent years, the object of the widespread civic dissatisfaction and more and more frequent angry protests and demonstrations has been the fact that while the labor productivity has risen (due to technological and other improvements), this has not positively impacted the earnings. And so, the median US salary now is less than it was 25 years ago. Most of the profit from the digital innovations and the vast growth of service industries has gone into the pockets of a small class of entrepreneurs (capitalists). The gap between the rich and the poor in the US in the second decade of the 21st century is bigger than at any other time since WWII. For instance, Sanders gave a shocking example of the wealth of just one family, the family of the Walmart founder Sam Walton, which equals the wealth of the 40 percent of all other US citizens.
Such a dense concentration of capital, just like a violent tornado, destroys all in its path: all political institutions, all constitutional rights and freedoms, are emptied of content and appear like ancient ruins recalling some bygone days when capital was at least in part limited by the power of the law and the organized working class organizations. Is it then surprising that several years ago, the US Supreme Court made it possible for all that oligarchic money to enter the financing of political campaigns (the court decision in the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission)? It already appears certain that the richest people in the US, such as for instance the Koch brothers, will invest in the congressional campaigns of the ideologically close politicians more than the two major political parties, the Republicans and Democrats, combined.
The Kochs and other oligarchs have a clear political agenda: radical cuts in social services, further limitations on workers’ and human rights, including the elimination of minimum wage, increases in tax cuts for big business, and growth of the government investment in the military-industrial-security complex, which, like poison ivy, has covered the entire world in the network of military bases, rocket systems, surveillance, and spyware.
As has long been asserted by Sanders’ colleague, the former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the oligarchy-controlled mainstream media establishment has refracted the inevitable and strong opposition to these measures by US citizens toward the sustenance of the old and the production of the new “enemies”. In order to serve the role of the “usual suspects”, various political figures and organizations have been paraded before the public eye: Putin, the Iranian ayatollahs, Chavez’s successor Maduro, Kim Jong-un, Lukashenko, Chinese hackers, ISIS-ISIL-IS-Daesh, French Gaullists, German Eurosceptics, SYRIZA, alterglobalists, anarchists, “conspiracy theorists”, etc. All, except those who, behind the curtains, pull the strings of the puppet theater, exaggerating the dangers and creating the atmosphere of fear and constant tension: Wall Street, Pentagon, and Langley.
Still, there is hope that progressive changes could take place which, in the near future, may hold a revolutionary significance not only for the US, but also for the world as a whole. Sanders’ presidential campaign has the potential to generate the decisive incentive for local, regional, and national civic mobilization to revitalize all the processes and mechanisms of American democracy . It seems that Sanders found a way to overcome the apathy and political indifference typical for the majority of the US students by including in his political platform the pledge to make education at public universities free of charge and to eliminate interest on student loans. It is clear that the politician who has young people on his or her side does not have to worry about the political future of his or her ideas.
All in all, Sanders is an experienced and courageous politician who knows well what he is up against and how formidable the “other side” is. He knows that you can fight and win against the greedy oligarchs, corrupt political establishment, and propagandistic media empires only if you have a clearly articulated popular (general) will on your side. Millions of US citizens will have to link up and organize in order to make possible the changes that his political program calls for. Sanders’ mission is to inspire and motivate, but without the broad and dedicated civic engagement across generations, classes, and races, nothing will, nor can come out of it.
A version of this article was published in the Montenegrin daily newspaper Vijesti on April 7, 2015.Kovacevic on Geopolitics