Who really supports socialism?

An interesting discussion about . . . Who really supports socialism:


It’s almost comical how the left talks about leading a working class movement while actual members of the salt-of-the-earth white working class vote for Reagan, Bush, and Trump. The Bernie Sanders campaign was a classic example.

The socialist left is supported by college students, counterculturalist youth, academics, public-sector employees, middle-class people in the semi-professions (teaching, tech, healthcare), public interest lawyers. These are people who have a sense of agency. They’re educated, assertive, and active.

Working class people have had less opportunity, more oppression, less development of a sense of agency. Socialists want them to want to run their enterprises and run the economy. But they’re not inclined to think that way. People with a sense of agency are inclined to think that way.

Some workers who identify with the Democratic Party voted for Bernie in the primaries in 2016. Why? Because they disliked Hillary Clinton who, in their eyes, represented the cosmopolitan elites. Many of them wound up voting for Trump for the same reason.

Leftists tend to be middle-class or upper-middle-class social engineering types who have a heroic self-image of leading a working class revolution, or, at least, cultivating liberatory movements among “the masses” or “the people.” Leftists have a sense of agency, but the masses don’t, the people don’t, workers don’t. In a certain sense the latter know better. In my student Marxist days I used to go to factory gates at six in the morning and hand out my organization’s socialist newspaper. It was not well received. Later it occurred to me that the thought process probably went something like: “Good luck with your ideas about running the system democratically, no less socializing it. A bit of hubris on your part, there, bud” (for activists, hubris may not count among the Deadly Sins, but delusion surely does). Along the same lines, most workers really couldn’t take Bernie’s “revolution” too seriously.

Bernie Sanders has a BA in Political Science from the University of Chicago. His hero, Eugene Debs, came from a prosperous family (his father owned a textile mill and a meat market). Marx had a Ph.D. in philosophy. Lenin was a lawyer.

Howie Hawkins went to an Ivy League university (Dartmouth). He likes to wear a Teamsters shirt, but he didn’t seem to have much success trying to bring socialism to his union comrades. The delusion among leftists about who the workers are and what the workers want is . . . almost comical.

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So the question has been posed: “If you disparage leftists . . . what do you call yourself? a rightist?” No, of course not. Unfortunately, Greens seem to have forgotten their original innovative slogan: “We’re neither left nor right, but out in front.”

If we think the modern nation-states are too large, the big governments are beyond human scale, and we therefore call for decentralization and re-localization (which we should) . . . does that sound like leftism? socialism? conservatism? None of the above. It sounds like something else: communitarianism comes to mind; bioregionalism.

After two hundred years of knocking their heads against a wall and not making much progress, leftists ought to come to terms with the fact that the Leviathan of the modern industrial state is too big and too complex to be democratized or socialized. Yes, it can be reformed . . . and every reform is worth fighting for. But the thoroughgoing Green transformation that’s so badly needed will only come about through piece-by-piece, place-by-place, building the new society within the shell of the old. So: elect Greens to office to (a) win the reforms we advocate in our party platform, and (b) foster the creation of cooperatives, alternative currencies, CSA’s, Transition Towns, ecovillages, and alternative institutions in general.

The idea of “the greening of society” suffers from being identified too closely with old-style, retrograde leftism.

A co-editor of Green Horizon Magazine, Steve has been a Green movement activist for almost thirty years.