Political writer Bhaskar Sunkara: The case for socialism

Political writer Bhaskar Sunkara: The case for socialism

in a second bid for the Oval Office Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has tried to redefine and fully explain the term socialism last month Sanders passionately called himself a quote democratic socialist aligning himself with FDR and describing his campaign as a continuation of President Roosevelt's legacy so crystal and I were actually at that speech was mess with some mixed reviews but what really is socialism in his book the socialist manifesto the case for radical politics an era of extreme inequality bus cars some Cara explains the history of socialism going back to the 1800s he also prints a vision of where it can stand in the future bus car joins us now via Skype to discuss his book and his thoughts on socialism he's the founder and editor of the digital magazine Jacobin welcome sir thank you for joining us thanks for having me so tell us tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book at this time it's obviously a very timely in terms of democratic politics and and how you see the impact of the socialist movement in our politics today well I just turned 30 a couple weeks ago but I've been as socialists since I was 14 years old kind of way too young to be making these kind of lifelong decisions and I must say my initial response that I used to get when I would tell people I was a socialist was just confusion and whatever else but it's only the last two three years that people have been really curious and really engaged and now there's polls showing that a majority of young people have more favorable opinions of socialism in capitalism I thought it was important time to actually define and lay out what it means to be a democratic socialists in the United States and I think the core of that is just simply believing that there are certain assess ease of life that people's access to health care childcare a housing nutrition that these things belong to people by virtue of just being boring and shouldn't be bought and sold on the market like regular commodities how does that compare to the version of democratic socialism that Bernie Sanders espouses well I think Bernie Sanders would agree with that core principle I think there there's a little bit of a difference in emphasis where Democratic socialists also talk about worker control of the production so in other words if you're working at a company with 2030 employees there's no doubt there's gonna be some division of labor there's gonna be managers it's gonna be foremen there's gonna be people who are regular employees a Democratic Socialist think though that we could restructure workplaces to be more democratic so that we can elect management so that instead of getting a regular wage we could get shares so we believe in a different structure in the workplace and Sanders places less emphasis on that so you might say that a lot of what he's saying is more in tune with European social democracy the systems that have really worked very well in places like Norway or or historically in Sweden but but in general our immediate sets of demands are for things like Medicare for all its were things like affordable high quality college it's poor things like actually funding our public schools and all these things Sanders has actually been the forefront of the fight so I see no real difference Lee in the short term about what Sanders wants and what the democratic socialist vision is so one thing about Skaar I've seen is a big interesting debates between aunt Elizabeth Warren and with Bernie Sanders and the theory of how you you actually accomplish some of these things Elizabeth Warren is branded at economic patriotism something is essentially the same thing as what Bernie Sanders is proposing but devoid of the word socialism what I find interesting about you is you've embraced the label so has Bernie Sanders and you say if people are gonna call us socialists then we're gonna embrace it anyway in your case that's actually what you are how do you see that though playing and fitting into the American story in 2020 well Bernie Sanders first identified a socialist in the early 1960s you know he was a socialist recruiting the young people socialist League he was active in the civil rights movement and trading the struggles in the 1960s in the 1970s when he was running for office in Vermont and in the 1960s when he was the mayor of Burlington Vermont he was a Democratic Socialist that's what he called himself so that's his record that's a done did the designs had it be very strange if he was running for president and he ran away from his identity it also regardless if you're talking about redistribution if we're talking about the change that I think America really needs so we could all reach our potentials so we live in a more just country you know they're gonna call your socialist anyway so I can do a lot Merritt's are just embracing the label and explaining it be mystifying it and making it less scary for most Americans Warren doesn't have the same background she's fighting for many valuable and important causes but you know this is someone who was a registered Republican you know up until the late 1990s I think so you know obviously her background is different she's gonna approach these things in different different measures I think the key difference between the candidates though is that Sanders has a vision of change that actually involves working people getting together and protesting and being kind of agents of their own change and Warren talks in this populist rhetoric but her campaign has placed a relatively less emphasis on the need for activism and involvement and revitalizing our trade unions and actually creating the kind of social movements pushing for things like Medicare for all whereas she's placed more of an emphasis on maybe getting the policy details right then kind of hammering things out from there so if I'm hearing you correctly the essential difference that you see between senator Sanders and Senator Warren is essentially the theory of political change a lot of the goals are similar but the way that you activate the population in order to achieve those goals is what's really different yeah and I think that's really important especially since we're gonna maybe have a divided Congress but the very least our system is really a gridlocked system the US political system isn't working and you I think need a presidential candidate and a president who could really harness the bully pulpit for change and you're seeing little bits of it even I think at the wrong direction I think a lot of the things he's advocating for it quite odious but Donald Trump has been able to galvanize his supporters he's been able to get a few things passed like these Republican tax cuts for the for millionaires he's been able to do kind of change that the nation's discourse on immigration and other things using the bold culprit of the the presidency now what would it be like if we could use that bully pulpit but to encourage people to start expecting more of their government when it comes to things like health care child care and other necessities that other countries just take for granted you know we don't even have any maternal leave in this this country so so I I think that you know if the actual legislation is gonna be a product of compromise you why does well start without a pre-emptive compromise and I think that is a key difference between Sanders approach and Warren's approach sohbats got one of the knocks always against this is that socialism polls very badly there's Axios poll there's some controversy over this poll about whether you know majority of Americans particularly in swing states look very unfavorably upon the late on the label so what how do you reconcile it and it goes back to my earlier question with the American story the American context that many of the voters in these primaries are not people who like the label of socialism even if they might agree with the policies that you're proposing but if you look at these states these same red states these same states where people said don't really like socialists and self-identified more as moderates these are states where Bernie Sanders held a huge advantage over Hillary Clinton where Bernie Sanders still polling relatively well so I think that we don't need to get hung up in these terminological debates people do believe that they're getting a raw deal and our message to people is simple you work hard and you're not getting enough and the reason why you're not getting enough isn't because of minorities it's not because of immigrants it's because millionaires and billionaires are taking more than their fair share and keeping you in this situation that you're in and we need a political revolution to take power away from them and to build the sort of just society that that we all deserve and I think that resonate even if some of these debates about labels do not do not resonate so I think people are actually for a lot of socialistic policies even if they don't like the label they're for drops guarantees they're for Medicare oh and and they're moving along so that that's where our focus needs to be well I mean you don't have to imagine what people think you can you can look at the polls that we have and you see that Bernie Sanders does very well among the multiracial working-class the real working-class much better in fact than Elizabeth Warren does among the you know among the white working-class that's gotten so much focus in the Trump era so we don't have to sort of imagine what people feel we can see it in the polling but I also wanted to ask you why do you think it is that as of today we see at least more electoral success from the the sort of right-wing populist movement than from a leftist populist movement around the world well I think I mean it the situation is different every country's it's hard to draw a broad extrapolations I would say in the United States despite the success of Donald Trump despite him sneaking his way into the White House by means of her terrible electoral college we're still seeing Americans have more progressive views on issues like immigration than they've had in the past we're still seeing Americans shift toward supporting things like a jobs guaranteed toward supporting Medicare for all which I believe in the next ten years will become a majority position among registered Republicans much less just just Democrats yeah so I think you're actually shifting feeling a shift in this nation of this course towards a left even at the same time when you know the presidency was obviously one by fire Trump administration that's maintained a solid block of you know what forty to forty three percent you know if looking at looking at polling um it was enough the factory and how unpopular Hillary Clinton was it was enough factoring how many people who probably vaguely supported Hillary Clinton over Trump just decide to stay at home they didn't like any candidate it was enough to win the White House but I don't think it's enough to create a lasting coalition you know I hope her mark maybe I'm not sure but I think there has been a lot of success from progressives and not just in these say blue seats bhaskar senator sanders draws a line between FDR's we mentioned and his Four Freedoms in his view that we have to be radical for a generation and himself do you do you sort of agree with that line being drawn was FDR fundamentally a socialist no FDR was not a socialist a socialist at the time thought that FDR was a well-intentioned figure who was fighting for many of the right causes but was sometimes swayed by the laughs sometimes swayed by people to his right and that had to be pressured and challenged into creating a program in the in favor of working people and in the end the New Deal was last time when there was mass movements of trade unions and people on the streets demanding a better future but also really people in the government also advocating for social change it was a very positive period in American history what Sanders points to though is the radical unfulfilled promise of FDR so when FDR talks about the need for a new Bill of Rights a bill of rights to guarantee the core necessities of life to every American by virtue of being born you know that that's not part of the actual Nabeel that was some proposals of that they are put forward about a year before his death so I think that's really useful to bring up as far as our unfulfilled promise I think certainly FDR was was our best president of the twentieth century but you know I think that we need to think about the New Deal's what it actually accomplished and also what was unfulfilled and we need an unfulfilled that you know we need to actually accomplish what was unfulfilled with a new new deal for the 21st century one last cue for you Bhaskar and control-room wants us to let you go but I don't want to let you go you know what Trump and others would say is basically like okay you say socialism we say Venezuela or we say USSR none of which worked out well explain why that is the wrong way to look at things well democratic socialists in this country have been on the right side of every single battle could make us more just in equal society the original left you could say was a major part of the first abolitionist movement and the creation of the Republican Party in the ending slavery in the United States we fought for the eight-hour day we fought to extend suffrage to all Americans regardless of their race for others of their gender we fought to create unions we fought to create the types of policies that actually allowed for upward mobility for working people in the United States so I'm very proud of our record in the United States I think it's important that we oppose authoritarianism in all forms but just like we don't associate American libertarians with Pinochet and Chile you know I think it's kind of ridiculous to associate democratic socialism with the Soviet Union that's that's a fair point we appreciate you joining us Bosco thanks thanks Baskar Congrats on the book thank you thank you for every will have more rising for you this


  • Tony Spadafino says:

    I don't know why seemly intelligent people keep calling out the word socialist a bad word . Miximg capitalism with a dash of solialist , like most of the top contries in the world way ahead of the US is the best thing for evrry one .

  • adamishaw says:

    I love The Hill, it’s a progressive outlet that LOOKS conservative and mainstream, but lends a voice to left wing policy.

  • Hulkenbreak says:

    That's perfectly succinct description of Bernie campaign. no pre-exemptive compromise, no middle ground, no apologies massive grass movement of real change. Bernie 2020

  • varun reddy Mothe says:

    Two Indian telugu guys.👍🏽

  • Florida Fly Fishing says:

    Great Book Bhaskar I ordered it a couple months ago because im not taking any summer classes awesome read!

  • Tyler Potts says:

    The hill out here radicalizing folks

  • terriej123 says:


  • * 9/11 DANCING ISRAEL'S* says:

    Great interview !!! 👍👍

  • teebone 21 says:

    Not even Bernie Sanders has called for the socialism of the entire United States. He has called for our tax dollars to be used for American citizens instead of war and corporations

  • TCB 101 says:

    Nice job on the interview – Feel the burn Bernie Sanders 2020 😉

  • Jérémie Marion says:

    Bernie is a social democrat at best. I think the united states of america needs some political science lectures to know what all these definition means.

  • r9000333m says:

    Excellent interview!

  • Brice Berranger says:

    Right wing populist movements are more successful because they align more with corporate ideology and therefore are more easily co-opted by the establishment and corporate elite

  • ElderM!llenn!al says:

    FDR and his ideas were called Socialist at every turn…but he was elected by Americans for 4 Terms

  • Keevan Crawford says:

    What side are you on:

    A (v) B

    Labor Class (v) Leisure Class

    Serfs (v) Feudal Lords

    Society (v) Capitalist & Capitol Hill

    Lateral Social-Power Dynamic (v) Pyramid Power Dynamic

    Sharing/Social Economy (v) Capitalist Economy

    Radical Revolution (v) Extreme Plutocracy

    Democratic Socialism (v) Corporate Socialism

    Corporate Co-ops (v) Corporate Oligarchy

    Less Government (v) More Government

    Inclusion (v) Exploitation

    Progress (v) Regress

    In a game of capitalism the officials will always rule in favor of capitalist — it's their home field.

    In order to win: change the field, change the game in.

    This is neo-feudalism.

  • ElderM!llenn!al says:

    On the world stage, Sander's policies are moderate…and I think most Americans 'feel' that because, despite how you label them, the policies seem common sense and practical to their day to day lives. It's only here in the states that they are "left"

  • Jon Pais says:

    So great you have real guests with real ideas on your show.

  • Nick Tea says:

    I gotta read this guys book. Bernie 2020!!! Socialism is the future.

  • Simon Sozzi says:

    I love this man!🙏💜

  • john roberts says:

    I am independent. Who see the importance of taking the best of any idea. That is what Bernie has done. I find it interesting that the top of the group of Canidates are leaning on that platform.

  • Mike Brendan says:

    BERNIE 2020!!!

  • airdi says:


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