Earlier this week, after a recount, Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant was declared the victor in a Seattle City Council election over Democratic incumbent Richard Conlin, by less than 2000 votes out of over 170,000 cast. Why do I call this a Social Democratic victory, not a Socialist victory? Why am I not jumping for joy?
Simple. Never once, as far as I can tell, did Sawant actually call for the dismantling of the capitalist system itself. Her campaign’s main thrust was a call for a $15.00 per hour minimum wage, a tax on millionaires to provide more public transportation, and rent control. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in favor of all of those things, but I don’t think this victory is truly Socialist in nature. It is definitely a sign of growing discontent with the two major parties, and with growing sympathy and even identification with the now nebulous idea of “socialism” which is spreading in this country, particularly among young people and wage-earners who haven’t seen a raise in years if they’re lucky enough to still have a job, as well as the jobless. Sawant’s win is a Good Thing, IMHO, and absolutely a step in a positive direction, but it’s really not a slap in the face to the top 1% as described in this Counterpunch article.
It IS a triumph for European-style Social Democracy, as described in this Trotskyite Communist article on the World Socialist Web Site. Social Democrats believe that capitalism is OK so long as it is very carefully regulated and there are mechanisms in place to redistribute wealth from the richest capitalists to the not-so-lucky, thereby giving the latter more money to spend in the predominantly capitalist economy the Social Democrats would oversee and keeping the working classes mollified enough that they don’t, you know, actually DO something that would give the ignorant sods more power than they are capable of wielding. If you read the article at the link, you’ll see that the Trots state Bernie Sanders is no threat to capitalism itself, and they’re right. He DID vote for Obamacare in the end, did he not? That damned him as far as I’m concerned.
The problem with the Social Democratic approach is that it just doesn’t do away with the capitalist cancer of insatiable greed on the body of the species of homo sapiens, and, for that matter, upon most of the other species(except for things like rats and cockroaches), not to mention the biosphere itself. We’ve tried this before. The New Deal, the Great Society, Social Democracy in Europe, all of which resulted in perceptible material gains for nearly everybody, but none of which eliminated the fundamental problem.
Which is quite simple. Capitalism has one goal and one goal only: the accrual of more capital, or profit, the sooner the better, by any means possible. When it’s reined in, it always pushes back. It gets knocked down, it gets back up. It chips away at any restraints until they are gone and then runs rampant until its own illogical and unsustainable greed brings it to its knees yet again. 1873, 1893, 1929, 2008, 20??. When will we ever learn?
I don’t claim to have all of the answers. I don’t believe the Trotskyite Commies over at the WSWS have all of the answers, either, but at least I think they are playing the right game. I have no truck with Stalinists. But capitalism itself desperately needs to be questioned, publicly criticized, condemned, pilloried, and ultimately destroyed before it destroys my species, which I, perhaps very selfishly, would like to see continue to survive and to evolve. Once upon a time, even the Puritans, with all of their ridiculous hangups, thought that profit was equivalent to the sin of stealing, since the profiteer got more out of the transaction than he had put into it.
Surely we can do better than the Puritans. Oh. Wait. Black Friday is coming up. Hell, Black friggin’ Thanksgiving Evening is coming up! Maybe not.
So what can we do now? Acknowledge Sawant’s victory as a step in the right direction. Learn that the Democrats CAN successfully be challenged from their Left. And, for Jesus’ or your or the Odd Gods’ sake, don’t shop on Thanksgiving Day. I’ve got an up-close, personal story on THAT one. The Holiday Shopping Season In Order to Show How Much You Love Your Loved Ones is nothing more than a marketing ploy to increase profits, anyway. Tell THAT to your friends and relatives. MAKE them uncomfortable. Make them THINK.
Then buy them a drink to make them feel better. For now, that’s the best I’ve got.
And have a nice day.