Bernie Sanders obscures the facts of US militarism, and urges Americans to fixate on axis of evil oligarch-ruled countries that does not include the home of the richest oligarchs of all: the United States.
“The U.S. is an oligarchy in which business interests almost always get their way.”
Back in 2017 I called Bernie Sanders an imperialist pig -- twice, first in “Why Bernie Sanders is an Imperialist Pig,” (June 15, 2017), and again, three months later, in “Bernie Sanders Can’t Shake His Imperial Piggishness” (September 28, 2017). Like most self-described “democratic” socialists in the U.S., Sanders conflates and confuses the bourgeois electoral franchise with actual democracy -- the people’s ability to guide the political economy in ways that serve the common good -- in order to create a “moral” rationale for siding with U.S. imperialism. But the United States is a “democracy” only in the narrow sense that citizens have the theoretical right to vote for a range of officeholders -- a franchise that almost half of Americans find effectively meaningless, which is why only 56 percentturned out for the presidential contest in 2016 (congressional elections draw less than 40 percent, on average). As professors Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page showed in their 2014 study, the U.S. is an oligarchy in which business interests almost always get their way “while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence” -- a dictatorship of the moneyed classes.
“Sanders conflates and confuses the bourgeois electoral franchise with actual democracy in order to create a ‘moral’ rationale for siding with U.S. imperialism.”
This oligarch-ruled superpower is also, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. declared in 1967, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” having slaughtered millions in its quest for supremacy over the entire planet. Washington’s closest allies in this global mission are the western European former colonial powers and Britain’s (other) former white settler colonies, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Thus, the foreign policy of the U.S. superpower, ruled by white billionaires, is aimed at preserving the white supremacist global order that held most of the world in its exterminationist, enslaving grip for 500 years.
No wonder Bernie Sanders and so many other purported “progressives” in the U.S. try to avoid articulating any foreign policy position, whatsoever. As Bruce Dixon reported in last week’s issue of BAR, “Two Thirds of ‘Progressive’ Democratic Congressional Candidates [are] Completely Silent on Foreign Policy.” Sanders supporters on Bronx congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign team thought it best to (briefly) ditch her “Peace Economy” plank, which denounced U.S. military interventions in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. U.S. war policy, says Ocasio-Cortez
“damages America’s legitimacy as a force for good, creates new generations of potential terrorists, and erodes American prosperity. In times when we’re told that there’s not enough money, Republicans and corporate Democrats seem to find the cash to fund a $1.1 trillion fighter jet program or a $1.7 trillion-dollar nuclear weapon ‘modernization’ program. The costs are extreme: the Pentagon’s budget for 2018 is $700 billion dollars, all to continue fighting an endless War on Terror and re-fighting the Cold War with a new arms race that nobody can win.”
Although not a Communist Manifesto, words like that put Papa Bernie, a supporter of the F-35 fighter jet boondoggle, to shame. Sanders gathered a large quantity (1,369) of high-sounding words and arranged them in essay form for a September 14 piece in The Guardian, titled “A New Authoritarian Axis Demands an International Progressive Front.”
“The foreign policy of the U.S. superpower, ruled by white billionaires, is aimed at preserving the white supremacist global order.”
A true-blue American foreign policy requires an enemies list. Sanders has found his nemeses: the “authoritarian axis,” whose members “share key attributes: hostility toward democratic norms, antagonism toward a free press, intolerance toward ethnic and religious minorities, and a belief that government should benefit their own selfish financial interests. These leaders are also deeply connected to a network of multi-billionaire oligarchs who see the world as their economic plaything.”
The United States government, as the plaything of 12 of the 15 richest men in the world, should be at the top of Bernie Sanders' list. But no, only Donald Trump qualifies as a world-class villain, in league with similar baddies, according to Sanders’ worldview. Although Trump is only a very minor oligarch, himself, “in Europe, in Russia, in the Middle East, in Asia and elsewhere we are seeing movements led by demagogues who exploit people's fears, prejudices and grievances to achieve and hold on to power.”
“China and Russia are the most dangerous malefactors, says Sanders”
The geopolitical center of this “axis” of oligarchic evil isn’t Wall Street or the City of London -- it’s Russia and China, with lesser annexes in Saudi Arabia and “far-right authoritarian leader” Viktor Orbán’s Hungary. But, China and Russia are the most dangerous malefactors. “In Russia,” writes Sanders, “it is impossible to tell where the decisions of government end and the interests of Vladimir Putin and his circle of oligarchs begin. They operate as one unit.” China is similarly satanic. “Xi Jinping has steadily consolidated power, clamping down on domestic political freedom while it aggressively promotes a version of authoritarian capitalism abroad.”
One good thing: Sanders throws Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into the mix of Trumpian bad actors, for passing the racist "nation state law.”
Sanders wants the U.S. to mend relations with “our longtime democratic allies,” the western Europeans. Having established the enemy axis, Sanders then returns to his usual, “progressive populist” spiel, full of worthy words like:
“Our job is to fight for a future in which new technology and innovation works to benefit all people, not just a few. It is not acceptable that the top 1% of the world's population owns half the planet's wealth, while the bottom 70% of the working age population accounts for just 2.7% of global wealth.
“Sanders is deliberately attempting to obscure the central fact that the U.S. and its allies account for most of the world’s military spending.”
But, doesn’t the U.S. host the richest concentration of super-oligarchs on the planet? And, didn’t the World Bankcredit China with lifting 800 million people out of poverty since 1990? And, isn’t it widely acknowledged that Vladimir Putin has at least tamed and restrained the oligarch class that was nurtured by U.S bankers under President Bill Clinton?
Sanders says it is “not acceptable that, with the cold war long behind us, countries around the world spend over $1trillion a year on weapons of destruction, while millions of children die of easily treatable diseases.”
Wait a minute! Sanders blames “countries around the world” for spending “over $1 trillion a year" on weapons of destruction. In fact, the US and its NATO partners, all by themselves, spend about $1 trillion a yearon the military, representing about 70 percent of all military expenditures, worldwide. Sanders is deliberately attempting to obscure the central fact that the U.S. and its allies account for most of the world’s military spending. Instead, he blames it on the global collective, and then cries crocodile tears for “the children.” What a coward.
Does Sanders advocate, as does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, that the U.S. “end the ‘forever war’ by bringing our troops home, and ending the air strikes that perpetuate the cycle of terrorism throughout the world?” No, he obfuscates the facts of U.S. militarism, and urges Americans to fixate on an axis of evil oligarch-ruled countries that does not include the home of the richest oligarchs of all: the United States.
“Sanders merely provides another, supposedly ‘progressive’ rationale for preserving U.S. empire.”
Bernie Sanders’ “New Authoritarian Axis” winds up demonizing the same main enemies -- Russia and China – that the warmongers at the Pentagon and the CIA want Americans to fear and hate. He does not oppose U.S. imperialism; he merely provides another, supposedly “progressive” rationale for preserving U.S. empire. Effectively, he is no different than Obama and Bush. His favored alliance is with the old colonial powers of western Europe and America’s fellow white settler states -- just like every other racist, imperialist U.S. politician.
Sanders shares the same dream of empire as the rest of the Democrats and Republicans -- except that he soils the language of social democracy by putting it at the service of imperialism. Is he a fraud? Who knows? But he is a fool if he thinks that “a genuinely progressive global order based on human solidarity, an order that recognizes that every person on this planet shares a common humanity, that we all want our children to grow up healthy, to have a good education, have decent jobs, drink clean water, breathe clean air and live in peace” can coexist with military budgets like the one supported by 70 percent of the Democrats. Sanders’ “New Authoritarian Axis” seeks to give “progressives” a reason to accept, and even love, U.S. militarism and imperialism.
“Social imperialist” is the proper term for so-called “democratic socialists” like Sanders. It’s another way of saying “imperialist pig.”
Nonetheless, I hope Sanders does fantastically in the 2020 primaries, trounces the corporate Democrats Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, and forces the Party’s overseers to once again sabotage his campaign. Sanders will never leave the Party, but perhaps a critical mass of his followers will exit that putrid capitalist pigsty in search of real socialist, and truly democratic, solutions to humanity’s multiple crises.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].