Welcome to this week’s discussion of Bernie Sanders’s new book, “It’s Okay to be Angry About Capitalism.” You don’t have to have read the book to participate, as I’ll be pulling out themes and topics for us to discuss.
For this discussion, I’d like to hear your thoughts on Bernie Sanders’s strategy of attempting to get Socialist politics into the American mainstream without using the word “Socialism.”
Throughout the book, Bernie and his co-writer John Nichols employ this two-pronged strategy:
Identify a problem, such as the country’s expensive and inadequate health care, then describe the source of the problem as “Uber-Capitalism.”
Provide a Socialist (or Social Democratic) solution to the problem, such as Medicare-For-All or a National Health Service.
It is the authors’ choice to add the modifier “Uber” to the “Uber-Capitalism” which I find interesting. Like his politicking, Bernie doesn’t say “Capitalism is the problem,” as he doesn’t want to risk alienating potential supporters who have been ingrained by American culture that “Capitalism = Good, Socialism = Bad.” So, he adds the “Uber” to allow his messages to resonate with readers who might not be ready to accept that the underlying structure of our economy is the cause of our problems. (This is of course my thought on why he doesn’t directly blame Capitalism, but I know others think differently.)
My question for you is:
If you want to promote the same policies as Bernie, such as Medicare-For-All, robust social insurance, etc., etc., do you think the ‘Trojan Horse’ strategy of not explicitly blaming Capitalism is the right approach? Or, should we on the Left be clear that Capitalism is the problem and we need to change it? Why or why not?
Share your thoughts in the comments. I look forward to hearing what you think!
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I think that there is to some degree, but I also think that we have to start somewhere. Sort of easing into the word. I have a number of family members who identify as conservative, but when they express political ideas, some of their ideas are not at all conservative ones. I think that they find comfort in the label, but are not well educated in political ideas. I don't think that that's rare here in the US.
I think that addressing it head on his the better approach. I don't prefer the Trojan method as it reeks of reformism to me. I personally think Bernie is a reformist, because isn't that basically all social democracy is? But reformism is not socialism. You can also bring up anti capitalist talking points without mentioning Socialism. One Youtuber who I especially like is Matt Bruening. He has a recent video where he talks about corporate work structures. One thing that I think can really resonate with alot of people is by addressing the structure of the workplace. Why do we just openly accept that there needs to be dictator in the workplace for instance? Socialism as economic and workplace liberty, freedom or autonomy I think is something that really would really click with lots of people, they just have to be sold on it and deprogramed from capitalist brain rot.
I think it's super important to take the approach that Bernie has taken here. Unfortunately, there are so many people that hear the word socialism and immediately start thinking of communism. I don't believe that most people are aware of what that means either, it just sounds scary to them.
I am presently about 1/4 through the book and not certain who the audience is... I get that it's going to be a 'Bernie book' and there's going to be folksy and anecdotal sections, especially as a means to introduce & structure the content, but I'm disappointed that there is SO much biography vs more straight forward policy. Not certain if it will reach a new audience rather than preach to the converted but I'll reserve judgement until I finish.
I admire Bernie for a lifetime of work, often standing alone, to try to change our root causes of pain. He’s often used the term democratic socialist to describe himself and his policies but I agree in the new book - there is less of that. My thought is that he intended (hoped) for this book to be read by non- socialists and people who don’t already see things his way. The 20-something’s who can’t afford a home, can’t afford a family but maybe have not paid that much attention may find this book an eye opener. Capitalism is so deeply wired that they don’t fully realize there are other ways. I know that’s true for a couple of 25-year olds in my circle. My 2 cents
Address it head on. State what you believe and defend it.
https://birrion.substack.com/p/its-ok-to-be-angry-about-bernie-sanders I address this here, Bernie's reformist approach is not helpful. It's capitalism, not uber-capitalism, and it's socialism that we need to replace it. Bernie doesn't argue for replacing capitalism according to the CNN article he shared.