Monday, October 24, 2016

American Pertinax

The Deceit and Betrayal of Bernie Sanders

In April 2015, after much prodding and hesitation, Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States. Although he claimed he was "running to win," it was more likely he was running to put issues on the table.  No one, not even his early supporters, expected the reserve of popular discontent that turned his campaign into a spontaneous democratic tsunami.   For all of their paid-for media events and contrived angle-shots, none of the corporocracy's candidates could draw such crowds as Bernie did. 

As much as Bernie's campaign revealed the scope and depth of popular discontent, it also revealed the scope and sordid depths of the aparatchik network that operates the political machinery, the press, and the sceptic tanks of policy. Taken aback, the Democratic National Committee's operatives and presstitutes desperately tried to snuff out the dangerous democratic enthusiasm.   At first they tried the censorship of news blackouts. Then they resorted to belittlement, contempt and ridicule.  But the crowds kept swelling.

Forced to confront the unpopularity of their appointed nominee, the D.N.C. contrived Hillary do-overs, stone-walling and passive-aggressive attacks. Hillary was painted as a pragmatic progressive, a victim of discrimination and a lover of the common man, whose career in a corporate law firm was a a "public service" and whose  private, paid-for speeches to banks and fracking companies were no business of the public's whose demand for release of the texts reflected (it was indignantly said) "Hillary hate" and misogyny.   The gambits fooled no one.

Panicked at the thought that democracy might work despite political mechanisms designed to insure that it would not work, High Pooh Bahs of Opinion were enlisted to instruct upper middle class readers on how intelligent, informed, considered people ought to think about important non-issues while lesser niebelungen flooded social media, chat channels and the internet with false narratives, excuses, spins and fevered accusations that Berniecrats we're actually sabotaging progressive change by aiding and abetting the country's right wing.   

When none of the smearing and manipulation worked, the D.N.C. resorted to electoral skullduggery and outright fraud, news of which was duly suppressed by the establishment press.   When the desired and contrived result was achieved, all heads of the hydra announced that democracy had been done and that it was now time for Bernie's supporters to join forces with Hillary the Progressive to defeat the Total Evil of Donald Trump.

Angered Berniecrats were not fooled.  They demanded that Bernie sabotage the system that had sabotaged him, by endorsing --- or better yet joining -- the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein who actually offered to let Bernie assume the number one slot on her ticket.   Bernie declined, urging instead his followers to work within the Party System to further the "significant concessions" that had been wrested from the D.N.C. in the party's toothless platform.   In so declining, Bernie Sanders betrayed  the democratic movement he had claimed to represent.

This (regrettably long) article seeks to explain why Bernie's betrayal flows from the underlying deceit of his campaign. 


Viewed from the left, Sanders was not very.  Like many Sixties liberals he liked to don the mantle of radicalism (Viva Che!) but he was no sub-comandante Marcos.  In fact, he was hardly a Lassalle.

Ferdinand Lasalle
Who?  Ferdinand Lassale was one of the co-founders of what is today the German Social Democratic party. The SDAP (as it was initially called) diverged from the Socialist International in that it espoused a program of incremental amelioration of working class conditions, as distinct from overthrow of the capitalist political-economy. 

The party’s Gotha Program began with a salvo of heroic proletarianism,

Labour is the source of all wealth and all culture, and since universal productive labour is possible only through society, therefore to society, that is to all its members, belongs the collective product of labour.” (art I.)

But it quickly descended into pure mousiness,

"Proceeding from this principle the Socialist Worker Party of Germany seeks through all legal means ...the destruction of the iron law of wages, the overthrow of exploitation in all forms and the abolition of all social and political inequality." (art II)
It then proceeded, to list its present demands, including universal suffrage, the “common right to bear arms,” an uncensored press, “universal and equal popular education,” a “progressive income tax,” “shortening of the working day,” abolition of child labour, work injurious to women and  “protective laws for the life and health of the worker.”

Lassale was more important than his colleagues because it was he who got Bismarck to co-opt his program.  In fact, in some respects, Bismarck went further, instituting unemployment insurance, health insurance and pensions.  Marx was disdainful and Lenin was furious.

Marx immediately critiqued the fallacy of trying to fundamentally alter society “through all legal means.”   This palaver made as much sense as taking over the reins of a horse and buggy, promising to turn it into a motor car.  (Chip’s metaphor; not Marx’s.) The law is not neutral.  It exists to support and protect the fundamental political and economic tenets of a society.

Lenin lambasted the Social Democrats as “social chauvinists,” saying that when push came to shove they would march to Kaiser’s orders to slaughter their class comrades on the other side of the national divide.

Bismarck put it somewhat differently.  Speaking of Lassale, the Chancellor said (1878), “He was very much a nationalist and a monarchist. His ideal was the German Empire, and here was our point of contact.”  When Bismarck and Lenin agree on a point it is more infallibly true than word from Rome.

Youth Regiment at Langemarck
One needn’t have waited for the word.  Come 1914, the Social Democrats in parliament threw their weight behind the national war effort. Nor did they stop at voting for war credits.  They gave up on internationalist rhetoric altogether. Instead of the class struggle they proclaimed the struggle of a people. In doing so they developed key rhetorical themes later used by Nazi propaganda (e.g. “Volksgemeinschaft” and Arbeit Macht Frei.)  To all intents, the SDAP had become a national SDAP, although by then they had rather tellingly dropped the “Arbeiter” or “worker” part.

During the post-war period, the SDP built on and improved the Bismarckian welfare state pushing through a wide range of social welfare programs which the Nazis themselves built upon and which remain today part of the German social compact.

It is fair to say that neither the Communists, the Social Democrats nor the Nazis disagreed much about “benefits packages.”  None would have dissented from Bismarck’s famous remark, “Why should not the Labour Soldier have a pension as much as the Veteran?

But then as now (or at least until Maastricht), Europe’s social democratic parties were national in basis and orientation.  In fact, after the World War, even the Communist parties in Europe became de facto nationalist.   Just as significantly, they tacitly accepted the capitalist system.   They confused the distribution of wealth with how wealth is created in the first place.   As a result they became abettors of a system which international socialists insisted was not only unjust but unworkable. 

Thus when Bernie called himself a “socialist” the statement was about as ridiculous as watching a seven year marching about with stick in hand calling himself “Napoleon.”  The whole point of socialism is to vest control of resources and the means of production with the working class.  It goes beyond and deeper than "demanding benefits."

It didn’t take long before Bernie back-pedalled from his Viva Che! posturing and declared himself a democratic know, like the kinda stuff they do in (the Kingdom of) Denmark.  It was too pathetic for words.

Bernie was a warmed over New Dealer, which is to say he was a pseudo-social democrat, which is to say a pseudo, pseudo socialist.

Well...that is perhaps a tad unfair.  In some respects, Bernie’s program bullet points approached those of the pseudo-socialist SDP in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  He even included a socialistic sounding program “to provide assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses by establishing worker-owned cooperatives.”   Taken at face value, such a program inched toward the cooperativist policies of the 1920’s SDP, the Italian Fascists or the Syndicalist Falange (del JONS) all of which (in one form or another) called for “cross-class” co-management of communal/municipal  units of production.
Project of the PNC (Mexican National Cooperativist Party)1923

The difficulty with such supposedly “retro-red” (or retro-black) policies today is that the corporate-capitalist class is now impermeable to nationalist demands. Up through even the 1980’s corporate “citizens” could be reined in and held to account by nationally promulgated policies, presumably flowing from the will of the electorate.  But the entire point of “globalism” was to put the corporation beyond the reach of popular demands.  A series of articles in Le Monde Diplomatique in 1994 — I repeat 1994 — made the point that, to all intents and purposes, the nation state had had become irrelevant as a determinant of policy.  Of course it remained very relevant as an agency of the players beyond reach, which is to say that after NAFTA and Maastricht political economy was directed from an invisible top down.  Government was merely the “user interface” of a corporate operating system.

To the extent that Bernie’s program approached pseudo-socialism it was too late. In the United States, the chance at worker-co-management of enterprises on any scale greater than that of a milk farm, passed with the collapse of the Flynt Michigan strike in 1946 when Walter Reuther allowed his union to be bought of with a basket of benefits.


The U.A.W. was probably the closest the U.S. came to having a true, pseudo-socialist party.   In 1936, after a very hard (and violent) battle, Walter Reuther led the U.A.W to victory; the U.S. auto-industry became a union shop.   Reuther was a member of the Socialist Party and until 1939 paid dues to the Communist Party.   In the early 1930's he worked at a Ford plant in the Soviet Union, where he was inspired by "the atmosphere of freedom and security, shop meetings with their proletarian industrial democracy."  He returned, he said, "reeducated."

But his "re-education" in proletarian industrial democracy did not prevent him from enlisting the union in the national war effort, squelching wild-cat strikes, rooting out communists and collaborating with the War Production Board.   In the end, Reuther too, became a social chauvinist.  After the war, he made a passing feint toward a proletarian industrial democracy before settling for a basket of capitalist largess.

So much for handshakes

The nationalist cant is always the same: "This time it's serious! The enemy is too horrible for words! help us fight them now and then we can talk about benefit-baskets."  A real socialist would have replied: "No! First give us an industrial democracy worth fighting for then we'll fight your enemy if indeed he still needs fighting."   As always the social chauvinist gets it backward and sells out. 
In the end, Bernie’s program was an empty basket hoping to be filled.  His message was hardly different from the Falange’s,

Las riquezas tienen como primer destino -y así lo afirmará el nuevo Estado- mejorar las condiciones de vida de cuantos integran el pueblo. No es tolerable que masas enormes vivan miserablemente mientras unos cuantos disfrutan de todos los lujos."

“The wealth of a country has as its first aim the betterment of the quality of life of the many who comprise the country.  It is not tolerable that enormous masses should live miserably while but a few enjoy all manner of luxuries.”
But, so long as society has owners and non-owners, whether the basket gets filled depends on the both the ability and the willingness of the Owner Class to fill it.

This was particularly true in the United States where Roosevelt and Truman’s national capitalism shifted the burden of providing social benefits onto the corporation which (instead of government) became the entity responsible for pensions and health care.


The plain historical facts are beyond dispute. Data from the U.S. Department of Commerce showed that “U.S. multinational corporations, the big brand-name companies that employ a fifth of all American workers… cut their work forces in the U.S. by 2.9 million during the 2000s while increasing employment overseas by 2.4 million.”

Manufacturing employment collapsed from a high of 19.5 million workers in June 1979 to 11.5 workers in December 2009, a drop of 8 million workers over 30 years. Between August 2000 and February 2004, manufacturing jobs were lost for a stunning 43 consecutive months—the longest such stretch since the Great Depression.” Manufacturing plants have also declined sharply in the last decade, shrinking by more than 51,000 plants, or 12.5 percent, between 1998 and 2008. These stable, middle-class jobs have been the driving force of the U.S. economy for decades and theses losses have done considerable damage to communities across the country


In responding to these symptoms, none of the social democrats or democratic socialists squarely confront the fundamentals of how goods are produced in a capitalist system, whether viewed nationally or globally. Their “benefits packages” end up being forms of displacement which run upstream to the system from which they are demanding more trickle-down.  They are eventually overridden by the greater current they depend upon.

At bottom, Marxist analysis is straightforward.  In order to get from something more than you put into it (i.e. in order to make a “profit”), the extra has to come from somewhere.  Justifying your profit as the “fair compensation of one’s own labour neither explains nor alters where that compensation comes from.  Justified or not, no one pays himself -- no one gets from himself more than he put in.

This Marxist premise is not disputed by anyone in actual practice.  The primary purpose of NAFTA — and of its precursor, the maquiladora program — was to shift production to Mexico where the cost of labor was lower.   Why?  Because U.S. corporations could not extract a profit from domestic production if they had to pay out a whole basket of benefits to the worker.  And by 1970, the “compensation packages” were rather hefty, including pensions and health care.

Obviously if production were shifted to other countries that would necessitate “trade” to bring the finished goods back.  But the purpose of “enhancing trade” was simply a consequential concomitant of lowering production costs.  Lowering costs is what corporations mean when they complain about “regulations”.

It was telling that for all his bitching about NAFTA, Sanders never once mentioned the Mexican worker.  The mantra everyone north of the Rio Bravo accepts was that NAFTA shifted jobs to Mexico. Eduardo Porter — the token Latino on the New York Slime’s editorial board — even went so far as to say that NAFTA “benefited the Mexican farmer.”  If NAFTA benefited the Mexican campesino and if it shifted all those good paying American jobs to Mexico, how come illegal immigration into the U.S. doubled (4.3 to 9.8 millions) almost immediately upon NAFTA’s ratification?  “They got our jobs, ergo they are coming here to take our jobs” is a logic that could only succeed in the depraved vaudeville of American politics.

What Porter did not tell his readers was that by “Mexican farmer” he meant Tyson de Mexico Inc. S.A. de C.V.  What the New York Slimes never mentions is that NAFTA forbade the Mexican government from providing price supports to its own agricultural sector.   As a result the true Mexican agricultural sector of campesinos collapsed. 

The so called Four Freedoms underlying the European Union and corporate globalist polices are: free movement of capital, goods, services and persons.  It all sounds so free-floaty and “liberal.”  What it means in practice is that investors get to buy up what they want while workers get to scramble for work wherever they can find it.   That is exactly what happened under NAFTA, which is why that treaty was the paradigm and cornerstone of the global corporate world order.

Costs of Scrambling
A true socialist would have pointed out that the real us-and-them was workers everywhere (including Mexico) versus capital everywhere (including the U.S.). In contrast Bernie’s pseudo socialism demanded an end to the “ill-effects” of capitalism (in the U.S.) without demanding removal of the cause of those effects.  Instead it attributed the ill-effects to pseudo causes (mis-management, greed, or just plain “bad policies”) while acquiescing in the underlying disease.

Tyson Chicken Workers
As bad as pseudo causes are phony justifications.  The canard of “Clintonomics” was that by shifting the cost of producing goods “over there” to some-out-of-sight slave economy, the U.S. worker could be “retooled” into “good paying” paper pushing and byte-compiling jobs over here.

Mexican Trucks headed to U.S.

The “by” insinuated a connection that does not exist.  The retooling of the work force did not require the export of jobs.  Buggy making was not exported to China in order for Ford to make Model T’s.  Buggy craftsmen in the United States were simply retooled and rehired as Ford assembly workers in the United States.    Clinton's retooling was a rapacious lie.

Reschooling in Ohio

Of course, “good paying” is only relative to the cheapened price of goods. The result of Clintonomics was a form of economic-genocide, in which an entire working class segment in the United States was simply “sacrificed out” of the system so that cheap slave-produced products could support lower paying “good paying jobs” for a smaller number of employed.

Nor did the export of jobs improve labour conditions or living standards in Mexico.  Since NAFTA unemployment in Mexico has remained at the same level despite an exodus of 11 million.   Global capitalism is not interested in raising living standards anywhere; it is interested in exploiting poverty and under-development wherever it can.

There is no question that Bernie understood the basic phenomenon,

“Since 2001 we have lost more than 60,000 factories in this country, and more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs. We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad.”
But his demand reflects a disconnect from the cause. To create decent paying jobs here means to raise the price of goods manufactured here which in turn demands even higher wages which in turn again raises the prices of goods.  Blaming "corporate greed" displaces the problem onto an irrelevant personal and moral level.  It is an inverted Calvinist Cant against the undeserving rich.  There is no doubt greed in the corporate world; plenty of it.  But the race to the bottom occurred for a structural reason; namely, the way things are produced -- and how "value" is generated -- in a capitalist economy.  The notion that capitalism can be permuted out of itself has been repeatedly disproved by history.

The problem with nationalist “socialists” is not that they don’t understand fundamentals; it is that they refuse to confront them.   To accept benefits from a system is to accept where the system gets its wealth from. If the engine of production is not extracting wealth from the national labour soldier, it must extract it from somebody else, either stealing their resources or turning them into  serfs on gigantic organic strawberry farms. But the paradigm it operates under remains the same.  Any displacement of the ill effects of the paradigm only shifts the burden —not onto the wealthy- but onto the back of some other exploited person or country.

THREE year old Peruvian Brick Labourer
Bernie’s approach seems to have been that his programs could be paid for by expropriating wealth from the bankers.  But although that expropriation ought to be done on principle, hedge fund profits are not the reason wages in the U.S. are low.  The financial sector is engaged in a different economic universe from the economies of trade and production. 

There are multiple reasons for the economic gutting of the United States, the most notorious being the leveraged buy out (LBO) where a company is acquired by loans collateralized by the company’s assets itself which are then “cut back” or sold off to pay off the loan. This form of economic pillage is driven by greed and nothing else.     Romney’s Baine capital was an example.

Next to LBO’s, corporate inversions are the next most anti-social economic practices.  Inversions are a hat-switching economic vaudeville in which an American company acquires or merges with a foreign company in order to shift its tax base abroad.  This does not necessarily result in a loss of jobs in the United States, but it does result in a loss of public revenues.  Apple Computer inverted itself out of 13 billion euros in taxes by pretending to be an Irish company.

Apple's (i-Avoidance) European Headquarters in Cork, Ir.
LBO’s and CI’s “escape” Marxist analysis because they are no more an economic activity than an armed robbery is an economic activity.  LBO’s and CI are simply legalized pillage and fraud. Thus, to the extent that Bernie (or Hillary or Elizabeth) cries out to “end loopholes” he is no more revolutionary than a person denouncing theft.

The true economic issue concerns the reason why corporations shift production overseas. They do so, for the straightforward purpose of cutting labor costs — not only high salaries, but health care and pensions which the FDR-Truman New Deal shifted onto their shoulders.  They cannot make a profit if they have to pay livable wages; lowering labour costs remains the prime mover behind the economic gutting of the United States.

The GOP’s liberal capitalist answer is (1) cut tax rates so that corporations will stop inverting out from paying taxes and (2) don’t require a decent, livable compensation package in the first place.

The pseudo-socialist answer is a determined spitting in the wind -- demanding that corporations do what they cannot sustainably do.  They cannot do it because their entire modus operandi is to make a profit; i.e. to get out more than put it.   Even if, by some fantastic turn of events, U.S. corporations were required to divert some of their overseas profits toward providing a guaranteed annual income for non working Americans, that benefit would still be derived from the sweat of exploited Third World labour.

A vote for Bernie was a cri de coeur — a vote for practical amelioration and relief.  He was worth voting for on that basis alone, but he did not confront the capitalist imperatives driving economic globalisation. 

In the end, Bernies’ cri was chauvinist.  Like Lasalle, like Bismarck, like TR and FDR, he demanded a better deal for the American worker without ever demanding an increase in the price of bananas to benefit the Honduran worker; for, to demand a better deal for the foreigner is to demand an end to the displacement of costs the system relies upon.  Bernie demanded mercy for some but not justice for all.


Bernie's betrayal flowed from his deceit, repeating on the level of political strategies the Faustian appeasement of his ideology.  By asking his supporters to support the very party-establishment he excoriated, his endorsement of Hillary Clinton and his calls to defeat Donald Trump at all costs represent a betrayal of his ostensibly revolutionary principles.   Bernie's call to "fall in line" is -- at the partisan level -- precisely the chauvinism that Lenin excoriated as both deceitful and inevitable at that national level.

The argument Bernie makes is that his tee-shirt movement had wrung "significant concessions" on the Demorat Party platform and the goal now is to nudge the party "further" left.  One could do more than quibble with the words "significant" and "further."   But granting the mirage of running in place, the error of this subsidiary strategy flows from the error of pseudo-socialism’s very premise.  The idea that you can work significant change from within the party is no more solid than the idea that you can work fundamental change from within the system.  Just as the social democrats ended up towing the national line; Berniecrats will end up towing the party line.

As a matter of accidents it might be observed that there is no nudging a blob.  Hillary has spent a life time hedging, fudging, dodging and blaming. What she says on any given occasion is so shapeless and inconsistent as to be nonexistent.  The sum of zeroes is always zeroes.  But what she does behind the zeroes has been entirely consistent.  She has always sided with and worked for the military-corporate complex.  That she might do some  pro bono work here and there (the Children!) is stock-in-trade window dressing that ought not fool anyone.  What can be said of Hillary personally can equally be said about the Demorat Party institutionally.

Beginning with Reagan’s election, the  Demorat Party cowered in defeatism.  Even before Clinton, the mice were running away from the “L” word which Reagan had turned into the political equivalent of “Faggot!”  In the mid 80’s the party big-wigs switched from being appeasers to becoming outright quislings.  They disavowed their pseudo-social democracy, turned their backs on unions and hopped into bed with Wall Street and Harvard, the Vatican of Neo Liberal economic policy.  Bill Clinton was their man.

Clinton got Democrats to accept Reaganite social policies just as Obama would later get them to accept Bush’s abrogation of civil rights and perpetual war.

In order to maintain the illusion of a democratic contest, the Demorat party created causes and differences out of silly cultural and identity issues.  Most of these causes are utterly contrived; but, assuming some merit to some of them, they are not meritorious in any fundamental way.  The fate of the planet and the welfare of millions are not implicated by and do not depend on gay marriage, abortion or renaming Columbus Day.  Clinton’s famed “triangulation” consisted in double-talking, scapegoating and politically correct rabble rousing.  Hillary has taken the latter to new (and Orwellian) levels of synchronized frothing.

N.Y. Times Readers Frothing

The triangulation works because most people are moved by issues of immediate importance to themselves.  Whether that issue is of some actual importance or merely the projection of psychological discontents, in the judgement scale of the individual mind that issue is a one pound weight among other ounce-weight issues.   Unfortunately, a socialist judgement requires consciousness of things which are not of immediate individual importance.  

Capitalism works by displacing values --  displacement of costs, of tax burdens, of issues.  Just as costs are shifted abroad, attention and concern are shifted onto issues which have no real bearing on corporate profits but which do entail costs to some industrial victim out of sight elsewhere.

"Why should not a Peruvian Orphan-Labourer deserve as much as an American Single Mother?"

A tremendous amount of the Hillary/Party platform is simply cotton candy.   But all cotton candy has a stick.  Along with Republicans, the Demorat party has long supported a neoliberal, pro-globalisation strategy notwithstanding the concerns of its trade union bases.  The Demorat party represents a privileged class and no party gives away the privileges it exists to protect.

That class is trans-national investors and corporations.  It is a mistake to think in terms of “American” corporations and investors because these latter are meta-national.  They operate everywhere and pay taxes nowhere.

Once again, so-called “trade” is the fundamental issue of political economy on which there has been no concession.  Bernie says that "80% of the platform is progressive" and  this constitutes a victory to build upon in the forthcoming Battle of the Nudge.   What Bernie omits to say, is that the corporate oligarchy which Hillary represents absolutely and adamantly refused to  make any "concessions" on the pending  trade treaties.   They did not do so because they understand that the issue is fundamental to the political-economy they want and which they have pursued for near half a century.

In Woodchip's view, the most pressing and desperate issue is the looming ecological catastrophe.  This is not simply a matter of loving elephants (which we do).    It is a very simple and incontestable observation that without air, water, food nothing else is possible.   This or that benefit, this or that right, this or that validation are not possible in a Soylent Green  dystopia.

But immediately under the ecological crisis, are the so-called "trade treaties" because these seek to revise the political-economy within which all other issues are decided including the environmental gotterdamerung.   As we have explained, the misnomered "trade" treaties are 175 coup d'etats by global corporate capital.

While Hillary publicly backtracks and two-steps on the TPP, in private with corporate sponsors, she had no problem saying that she believes in an “hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, ... powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere."  (2013)  [WGC: Reading Hillary's Entrails. ]

Powering Opportunity in Mexico

In other words, despite tepid blather about NAFTA having been a “mistake” as implemented, Hillary supports an extended hemispheric NAFTA.  When it comes to the big notorious trade deals, Hillary abandons the even Demorat Party Platform and aligns herself with Obama.   The alignment is actually in black and white for anyone to see.

On trade, the party’s platform states: ”we will oppose trade agreements that (1) do not support good American jobs, raise wages, and improve our national security...(2) [that do not] include strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards, ... [or] (3) that prevent[] our government, or other governments, from putting in place rules that protect the environment, food safety, or ... health...”

In contrast, Clinton’s campaign platform states only that: “She will say no to trade deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that do not meet her high standard of (1) raising wages, creating good-paying jobs, and  (2) enhancing our national security.”

Powering Resource Development for Every Person in the Hemisphere
One has to laugh at the huge weasel of "her high standards" ... ? ? ? ...  which evidently do not  warrant mention of (2) "strong and enforceable labor and environmental standards."  But apart from "standards," the key word here is enforceable.    Clinton's own platform omits mention of the most fundamental objection to the treaties; namely, that they will create a supra-national corporate government of no resort, against which nothing is enforceable by mere nation states. 

Where, one might ask, did “national security” come from? It actually comes from Obama.  In an Atlantic interview, Bernie summed it up thus,

“He sees it as a geopolitical issue. He does not pretend, as previous presidents have, that this is going to create all kinds of jobs in America. His argument is that if you abandon the TPP, you’re gonna leave Asia open to Chinese influence.”
In other words, by Bernie’s own account, the palaver about good paying jobs is just bunk.  In private, Obama doesn’t embarrass himself with such bullshit.  (The bullshit is only part of his public tap dance.) The defining issue according to Obama and Hillary is really “improving our national security.”

Let's do the math:  item 1 (jobs and wages) is "bunk" = 0 + item 2 (nothing enforceable) = 0 + item 3 (national security) = 1, national security. 

How it might be asked does trade improve security?  Trade might improve national wealth but that is not the same as security.  “Security” refers to defense from armed attack and, by extension, proactive measures against de-stabilisation. The Spanish, British and now American navies always served the function of securing sea lanes for imperial trade; but since when did the Pentagon become an investment agent?

It didn't.   What exists is simply a global corporate policy with economic, diplomatic and military aspects in which extending corporate hegemony around the world is the commercial analog to the neocon doctrine of “securing and extending zones of democratic freedom. This is the real full spectrum doctrine.

Obama’s "argument" is simply a word-shift, a semantic juggle, another form of displacement, this time of meaning and focus.   As Bernie probably understands), the distinction between “domestic” and “foreign” policy is an anachronistic hold-over from the days of nationalism. It is no longer a 19th century question of promoting trade abroad of goods made in America by American workers earning good salaries correlative with increased trade.  If Obama no longer “pretends” such a thing it is because the corporations operate in a disconnect from any benefits accruing to the nation state whether in terms of tax revenues or jobs.  That doesn’t prevent Obama and Hillary or the Demorat Party from propagating the colossal oxymoron that the treaties will serve the national interest by promoting the bottom lines of supra-national corporations.  

What kind of progressive nudge is this so-called "platform concession"?  None.  

In his Atlantic interview, Bernie himself illustrated the paradigm that is at work, noting that as a consequence of Obama’s veto of Keystone, “the United States is now being sued for $15 billion by a TransCanada, the owner of the pipeline, because NAFTA bars governments from taking actions that limit the profits of a multinational corporation.”   Bernie himself called this “insanity”

Indeed it is insanity but an insanity Bernie necessarily supports when he supports the Demorat Party and its corporate nominee.   More than insanity, the Party's commitment to the trade treaties totally undercuts the premise of Bernie's movement, which was that "we" (Americans) can hold "them" (corporations) accountable.    Not if they can sue the People into impotence.   Not if economic regulation is transferred to some invisible court beyond public accountability.


The rest of the Demorat Party platform is like a bucket of buttered popcorn.  Each puff tastes good, the whole bucket is worthless calories.  At no point does the platform guarantee broad, universal rights to secure employment, housing, education, health or retirement.  In other words, at every point the platform utterly fails to be social democratic.

But we have focused on the trade deal because it is fundamental in a political-economic sense.   By "political-economy" we do not mean "social benefits."   The term political economy (which is used commonly everywhere else but seldom in exceptionalist America) refers to the commensurability between economic and political structures and modalities.   You can't have a global economy and any kind of authoritative national politics.  A global economy only has national political agencies. The party’s position on the trade deals tells you that it is a willing steppinfechit of the global corporate super-state.  It serves the interests of international capital, not the American worker not the worker anywhere.

One has to read Lenin’s “chauvinism” in historical context.   At the time he was writing, there still was such a thing as “national capital.”  Corporations and investors were mostly British, German, American, French and so on.   To refer to "social democratic chauvinism" was a short hand way of saying that the SDAP tacitly supported the economic interests of that capitalist class which was co-terminous with the nation state, even while it was pretending not to.   Today, national capital no longer exists (or more accurately it exists in diminishing degrees).  The “chauvinism” of the Demorat Party today consists in supporting the economic interests of a global capitalist class, of global capital.

Bernie’s betrayal is the long shadow of the betrayal of the working class by  SDAP.  His non revolutionary revolution  of necessity entailed a betrayal of his revolution by urging electoral support of a candidate and party who stand immovably opposed to the working man.

As Green candidate Jill Stein trenchantly observed, “It’s hard to have a revolutionary campaign inside of a counterrevolutionary political party,”   One would think that is obvious.   But in case it wasn't we have tried to show   Bernie’s betrayal flows from his deceit and the deceit of social-democracy is its Faustian bargain.  

A Revolutionary Thorn

Bernie himself confesses his betrayal.  What started out in April 2015 as a "political revolution" has now become, in the last stretch, being a promised "thorn in the side" to the party's corporate apparatus and its likely victorious nominee.

In so saying, Bernie tacitly acquiesces in the argument  that the Demorat Party and its candidates are at least committed to incremental improvements.  This is "ideological" thrust of Hillary's putative "pragmatic progressivism."  (WCG: Chicken Feed & Hypocrisy.)

But these “improvements” are on an unavoidable race to the bottom.  If you have been starved any crumb is an occasion for gratitude but that doesn’t turn the crumb into a meatloaf or even a loaf.   One need only compare the pseudo-social democrat platform of 2016 with the pseudo socialist programme of the 1920’s SDP to see how long the slide down has been.  Bernie’s current notion that somehow the Demorat party can be nudged and inched back up the decline to a position approximating European social democracy of the 1950’s and 1960’s is simply ludicrous.   It will not happen.

The only chance for change (and a tenuous one at that) was a takeover of the party machinery by the Berniecrats; for, that apparatus (and its adjunct in the media) operates as the ground-level branch or agency of corporate rule.  It is pointless to take over a party’s machinery just to have it operate as before. Economic control expresses itself in political control; seizing political control is the first step in reversing the process. 

Failing that  -- that is, failing Bernie winning the nomination -- the "revolution" required was not cooperation but destruction -- that is, to destroy the political mechanism of the one percent, in order to gut it out in defeat and then rebuild it.  That would  have required looking ahead at least four years.  It would require refusing to be enticed by a bucket of popcorn for a mere four yours.

Bernie was correct to emphasize the non-violent and lawful nature of his “political revolution.” Neither the Bolsheviks in 1917 nor the National Socialists in 1933 acquired power illegally. (Violence occurred after power itself was acquired.) In the United States, where the enactment of any program is institutionally embarrassed, fundamental change is very difficult.  Nevertheless, we grant that the first step in turning around is to -stop- walking on the path one is on.

On its face, Bernie’s program called for a stop, a turn and a slow walk back, undoing the damage of neo-liberalism piece by piece.  That was not a sufficient step but in the present circumstances it was a necessary one.  It was a step that offered a prospect of fundamental change  provided that the guiding objective was not lost sight of and not slacked off.

It is here that the tactical betrayal of supporting Clinton returns to the fundamental deceit of twice pseudo socialism.  What is the "guiding objective?"  If the Gotha Program is to be taken at its word, 

the destruction of the iron law of wages, the overthrow of exploitation in all forms and the abolition of all social and political inequality.
To abolish exploitation in all its forms is to abolish capitalism itself.  But, as we perhaps have shown, that primary goal got displaced by a policy focus of gradually abolishing forms of social and political inequality.   Revolution became marching with benefits in hand toward overthrow.   (Under Clintonian triangulation, the march triomphale was debased even further by reading "social inequality" to mean progress in "validating" various sub-group identity issues.) 

True revolution does not necessitate forgoing incremental benefits in hand. But it does require  focus and discipline on what is really necessary.  Without seeking a fundamental restructuring of the political economy there is no point in taking over the Demorat party

In defeat, Bernie claims victory.  We've put issues on the agenda, he says, which weren't there before! We will be a thorn in Hillary's side! One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry at the success of raising issues that were put on the agenda by Bismarck in 1880.  What he means is that he has gotten Americans to think about resuming the country's snail-paced march toward social-democracy by running backwards to catch up where the country was in 1970.

As for thorns, it is telling how strongly the forces of global corporatism aligned to defeat Bernie’s candidacy by news blackouts, by distracting propaganda and by electoral skullduggery.  Having gone to such lengths to defeat his candidacy can it reasonably be thought that, having defeated him, the same forces will now seriously let him alter policy by keeping issues on the agenda?

I read the New York Times!
Part of America’s farceocracy is to turn elections into personality contests.  But political personalities are no more important than the constituencies they represent.  Hillary’s grating, self-serving, duplicitous, passive aggression may be insufferable as such but they are ultimately unimportant.  What is important is who is supporting her.  The neocon network, the military establishment, the neoliberal academic establishment, banks and corporations are not supporting her because of her sterling qualities (quoth) but because she is willing to serve those who support her.  This is the bottom line truth behind all political figures.  That constituency will not let Bernie Sanders change Hillary’s mind or alter their global corporate game plan.  His only hope was to steal the party machinery from their grasp and put it in the hands of the constituency that was backing him.

At bottom, Bernie's argument is the one made by Uncle Toms, ghetto elders and quislings.  The issue is not reasonableness but will.   Political movements are like waves; once broken on a rock of defeat they simply dissipate with the receding tide.   "Go home and work on issues," never made a revolution.

When the nomination was stolen from him, Bernie ought to have done was to harnessed the energy of anger to launch a punishing counter-attack on the party establishment, punishing the party withan  electoral defeat.    Only then could he pick up the pieces for his movement and prove to Hillary's constituency that he was a force to be reckoned with.   Instead, he announced that he could be bought off with promises and pledged allegiance to the very people that had worked and will continue to work against him.   That was even less than Lasalle had done.

American Pertinax

It is hard to be harsh on Bernie; for, in the excrescent state of American politics, he was the best thing to come along since perhpas Samuel Gompers.   Being as charitable as possible, his betrayal could be characterized as a colossal error in judgement.   His attempt to stem the avalanche of catastrophes that global capitalism represents made us think of Pertinax.

By the end of the Second Century, the Roman Empire had become a military democracy.  The erstwhile popular tumult of the Forum & the Assembly were transferred to the camp of the Praetorian Guard which came to realize that if it guarded emperors it could also make and unmake them.  

In A.D. 192, the Emperor Commodus was murdered in bed by a robust wrestler hired by his wife. His reign of debauchery, repression and official rapine came to an end.    The Praetorian Guards disgusted by the emperor's depravity,  rampaged through Rome looking for a successor until they came upon on Pertinax, an aged senator of rank, whose personal merit had overcome the obscurity of his birth.
Reluctantly, Perinax accepted their acclaim and the Senate's due and necessary confirmation.  He thereupon set about to reform the state. He resigned his personal fortune,  he recalled exiles and released prisoners, and restored them to the full possession of their honours and fortunes.  He obliged the worthless favourites of the tyrant to resign a part of their ill-gotten wealth. He removed the oppressive restrictions which had been laid upon commerce, and granted all the uncultivated lands in Italy and the provinces to those who would improve them.  He remitted all the oppressive taxes invented by Commodus, and cancelled all the unjust claims of the treasury; declaring, in a decree of the senate,

"that he was better satisfied to administer a poor republic with innocence, than to acquire riches by the ways of tyranny and dishonour."

Amidst the general joy, the sullen and angry countenance of the Praetorian guards betrayed their inward dissatisfaction.  They dreaded the strictness of the ancient discipline which Pertinax was preparing to restore and they now regretted the licence of the former reign.

Again the Guard broke into Pertinax's house and dispatched him with a multitude of wounds. As Edward Gibbon writes, "His head separated from his body, and placed on a lance, was carried in triumph to the Praetorian camp, in the sight of a mournful and indignant people, who lamented the unworthy fate of that excellent prince, and the transient blessings of a reign, the memory of which could serve only to aggravate their approaching misfortunes."

Like Bernie, Pertinax had no designs to "restore the republic."   He was old enough, and perhaps wise enough, to realize that such designs were beyond what circumstances would allow.   Instead, Pertinax sought to moderate and ameliorate a system which had become repressive and destructive to civil society. But although the Guard had been disgusted by Commodus' depravities they were not adverse to a system which belonged to them and from which they profited.   Not only would they have not tolerated a restoration of the Republic, they were intolerant of any change that imposed the slightest loss or inconvenience to themselves.

The paradox of Pertinax was that if restoration of the republic was impossible mitigations  of empire were futile.  At such junctures in history, little is left to a mournful and indignant people but to apprehend their approaching misfortunes.