Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn

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Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn
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A friend wrote to me: 


"Have you noticed that UK & US politics oddly mirror one another?  Well I see weird similarities in the winds that blow. 

In the US Bernie Sanders is a leftist democrat/independent that is an outsider  challenging Hillary's privileged ownership of nominee status.  And now one hears of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK rising in the Labour Party as a challenger to powers that be.

Do you know Jeremy? Is he the death of Labour or maybe it's re-vitaliser?"

I replied. "The likes of Jeremy  Corbyn aren't new in the UK. In the 70's there was Michael Foot who many said was a commie. He was labour leader. But all he went on about was Nationalisation, which as Engels  had pointed out years ago when Bismarck undertook various Nationalisations  in Germany, hardly made him a communist. Prior to M. Foot there was Wedgewood Benn who gave up a peerage to become a labour minister under Harold  Wilson in the 60's.  Benn was also crazy about Nationalisation and equated it with socialism about which he spouted nonstop.    Both he and Wilson were regarded by  the Tories  as being crypto-commies but were of course just left wing bourgeois. Guys like these - and your Bernie Sanders I guess - serve a vital function for the bourgeoisie, specially in difficult economic and social times, by presenting, or appearing to present, a radical alternative to the traditional bourgeois menu which is meant to haul in the working class behind bourgeois democracy. Does it work? What might be good about comrade Sanders is that he would hardly exist if there wasn't somewhere in the states feelings of working class radicalism beginning to make itself felt."  


rumbles of rebellion


I recall that the ICC once had a theory about "the left in opposition" which held that the bourgeois left only ever felt the necessity to present itself as radical and socialist in response to - and as a way to mislead - the working class in angry and fighting mood. 

This being the case, and the idea continues to make a lot of political sense, then maybe there really is something of significance in the sudden emergence of a couple of oddball lefties like Jeremy Corbyn  and Bernie Saunders.   Not of course that the class is noticeably on strike anywhere in the UK or the States (unless the media keep it quiet?) but various politicians somehow manage to convey impressions of unease about the austere social situations they are compelled to persist with and impose on workers, and seem strangely defensive of it as if expecting working class trouble any  minute now. It's as if there are rumbles of rebellion irritating the very nerve ends of our ever stalwart bourgeois political leaders though no disturbing outward and visible signs of rebellion at all.  Not yet!  

There must doubtless however, be more than just rumblings of it  in China for instance, where dangerously over-industrialised killer cities can now be expected to detonate without notice and thus constitute a permanent threat to working class life. Not to mention the on-going tide of migrants and displaced person in general fleeing persecutions in the Middle East and Africa, creating new Dunkirk-type emergencies in Northern France and threatening Greek holiday isles with refugee immersion.

So is it in response to the general mayhem and economic fallings-apart that the bourgeoisie should suddenly cough up a couple of un-photogenic lefties to represent theoretically their awareness of the world's poor and needy, or have they really got the jitters about on-going working class quiescence and fear the worse? 

My friend referred to in #1

My friend referred to in #1 above has replied and added the following. 


friend wrote:
I think there are working-class radical stirrings in the US but will they spread? And if they do, the bourgeois Republicans might take action. John F Kennedy and his brother Robert and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr- were not working-class radicals but were able to motivate the kind of changes that the bourgeoisie cannot allow.

JFK was a hawk but he still had to be gunned down because he worked against social injustice and racism? 
Bernie thinks poverty can be alleviated and the income gap reduced. He believes the government could support tuition-free undergraduate education. If he gets more popular, his number will be up.


Do we see in the U.S. some kind of a rekindling of a serious interest in politics? And even in the UK too? 

I'm in good company!

Corbyn isn't a push in the right (left) direction. As has been said there is only apparent radicalism, subterfuge and misdirection. His efforts shore up bourgeois democracy and rally workers behind electoralism and voting against their own interests. His ultimate defeat whether electorally or as PM with bankrupt ideas will breed disillusion and cynicism. 

I am not sure the ruling class fear the working class currently but some may fear the system itself and where it is leading. And that some of them are looking for a different strategy to the current orthodoxy. I posed a couple of questions to Hillel Ticktin regarding his interpretations of this double act in the current issue of the Weekly Worker.

Rational face

A couple of questions for comrade Hillel Ticktin. As an avid listener of Hillel (podcasts and videos), I wondered if he thought Jeremy Corbyn in the UK and Bernie Sanders in the US were the rational face of the bourgeoisie.

Despite Corbyn not talking in the works programme style of Sanders, is he a credible representative of capitalist growth, as opposed to the tendency of muddling on, somewhat incoherently, or the impossible dream of a Somalia style set-up? And how much support does he think this anti-austerity combo have with a section of the capitalist class?

agree about the direction

I absolutely agree with radicalchains. Corbyn, like Sanders, like Syriza, like Podemos, represents a political response of the enemy class, not a step in our direction - any more than Noske and Scheidemann were more favourable to the workers than the Junkers or the Freikorps in 1918-19, in the German revolution. 

Fred however is on the right track when he reminds us that the left is always there to absorb and contain the danger of the working class, whether they do this in opposition or in power, although their key role is more often played in opposition. It's true that the working class is in a much more difficult situation than it was in the late 70s and 80s when the classic 'left in opposition' scenario was set in place. The ruling class does not have to deal with open class struggle on the same scale as in the 70s and 80s and the working class itself is much more confused about its identity, which is reflected in the strength of populism, 'thepeoplism', which is being embraced by the left as much as by the right.  But still there remains this fear that the increasingly brutal attacks on working class living conditions, the growing arrogance and corruption of the powerful, the sharpening of inequality to unprecedented levels will produce a social explosion of some kind. They have not forgotten what happened in 2011, for example.  Podemos and Syriza in particular arose as a means of channelling social revolts which tended to go outside the official channels towards parliamentary 'possibility'. Whether the majority of the ruling class know it or not, the left remains a crucial pillar of the capitalist state,   

Apparently Bernie Sanders

Apparently Bernie Sanders isn't left enough for the Black Lives Matter movement. But you know, as one activist said at this year's Left Forum: "The right and the left both get us wrong."

i do agree with alf, and feel

i do agree with alf, and feel that his post is convincingly stated.

i do sometimes feel though that the idea that the left is just a ciphen, could be usefully elaborated - not just with historical examples, but with more ideas on just why the left is so bourgeois.

it's a similar thing when people say that identity based leftism is "divisive".

perhaps i think that there are and can only be two camps, capitalist and revolutionary.

the issue with degnerate "communism" like that of stalinism should be obvious to anyone IMHO. trotskyism needs more nuance in order to see its errors. both are revolutionary groups in some sense, but neither can establish a succesful revolution, for reasons which include substitutionism (of different sorts) - right?

to sum: i'm not sure why i think sanders etc. are dangerous. i think the left of capitall does encourage passivity, but can't get beyond a psychological explanation in analysing that. what is a better way of thinking?

"it almost seems like a conspiracy..."

I think that it is a conspiracy of sorts Oliver. Not the sort of conspiracy where things are plotted and schemed in a room sometime before the event  but one where all the leading actors know their place and what the rules of the game are.

The "move to the right" is correct in one sense that a division of labour within the bourgeoisie - and particularly its last election in the UK - has opened up the working class to greater and more deliberate attacks but also one where these "right wing" elements have been involved in increasing the power of the state (there's an article on this in WR 368, February this year) and, both in the UK and the US, the bourgeoisie has ationalised the banking system.

Those invovled in the right/left game, particularly in the more expreienced capitalist countries, play off one another and this happens within and between political parties. It's similar with the constant fabricated arguments of both labour and conservatives over the BBC and its "rightist" or "leftist" slants. It's all part of the game.

I agree with Fred and Alf above that a strong element of this charade remains the mystification of the working class in order to get it to support one side or the other of parliamentary democracy and not to step outside of the framework provided by bourgeois ideology. And this ideology constantly needs livening up with some sort of "controversy" in order to make it appear real.

the issue with the various

the issue with the various groupings that represent "the left of capital", for me, is just that there simply must be something (practically) morally wrong with their efforts, in the same way as stalinism. yet the trotskyite parties have never had enough traction to enslave and murder millions.

of course you can fall back on the bizarre internal structure of groups like the SWP: but perhaps another way of looking at it is in terms of failure - the SWP will (goes the idea) fail at everything they have any relevance in.

contrast with someone like luxemburg: her failures were identical to her irrelevance.

that's just a sketch of an idea; but a liberal social democrat like corbyn is at best irrelevant (for communists) independent of his success or failure... so perhaps bourgeois and communist alike can see that as a weakness; moral or practical.

Corbyn and Co.

The problem with the 'anti-conspiracy theory' standpoint of the dominant liberal consensus, which includes the majority of 'libertarian communists', is that they tend to see the ruling bourgeosie as not really having any consciousness of its class intererests which goes beyond the immediate needs of the private entrepreneur.  In fact, they dont really accept that there is such a thing as the ruling bourgeosie. In reality,  this class, in ways often unclear to itself, is capable of uniting beyond its immediate enterprises for the good of the nation; and, when faced with a real threat from the exploited, they can even tend to unite across the nations (as in 1871 and 1918) .

Proper conspiracy theorists, such as those who talk about the Illuminati or freemasonry, also don't see the bourgeosie as a class, since for them the true rulers are alway a tiny secret fraction, which is true up to a point, but not the way they see it. 

Regarding those caught up in the Corbyn campaign, or the Syriza and Podemos one, or before that the Obama one, we understand that they want to keep hope in the future alive. And that's precisely why Labour and the leftists are there: to turn such semi-dreams into false hopes and non-solutions. 

I agree with you Lem that there is also a moral dimension to the way the latter serve capital, having distant ancestry in the working class. But I am not sure what you mean by this:

"contrast with someone like luxemburg: her failures were identical to her irrelevance". Do you mean relevance?

not this time. i'm pretty

not this time. i'm pretty sure i meant what i actually did say.

IMHO what is frustrating about rosa is that she failed to achieve her (revolutionary) goals despite seemingly being able to; history conspired.

i.e. she (and her attempts) failed due to irrelevance, rather than failing despite relevance or opportunity.

i'm not sure if this sort of quasi moral analysis has any currency in existentialism etc., or not? i mean something like: it's better to have the right principles - than compromise these for a failied opportunity.

i think that's something very close to "moral".


on the subject of conspiracy

on the subject of conspiracy theories: this is a tiresome anecdote - but my psychosis had some elements that appear in them. despite never engaging with them at all; and on top of more profound delusions.

mostly religious gumpf, who is the beast etc. as well as of course sharing in the illogic of it. it's very important to me personally that i retain logical etc. thinking.

i think that members of the ruling class having self consciousness would only make themselves stronger: i would not like to guess how common it is though. anyway, IMHO there is more separating conspiracy theories and reality than mere class consciousness- it is not just thematic but a style of thinking; one which is difficult to pin down entirely.

perhaps a "conspiracy" in the true (as in mad) way is always a reactive ratther than merely intransigent (like communists are). if the mental health services are "conspiring" against you, then the nurse who seems like a decent person is deliberately trying to trick you - unlike the rest who are all so blase.

i'm not claiming that it's (logically) important for communists to be think that false consciousness is structural, and not deliberately created and recreated by individual memebers of the ruling class, like e.g. corbyn. 

but i do think corbyn creates a false consciosness without needing to deliberately machinate it (tho of course there may arrive a time when he becomes truly conspirational).

the relevance of Rosa Luxemburg

Nothing is more relevant to the working class, its revolutionary task and its consciousness, than Rosa Luxembourg and others who took significant leadership roles during the first revolutionary wave 1917-23.  

To say that Rosa failed due to irrelevance is to try and plant the seeds of some new and crazy conspiracy theory.  The conspiracy being  that Rosa, the great militant who dared to challenge Kautsky who really was the great theorist, wasn't actually  a militant at all, just talked a lot, and was an inferior theorist herself who never understood what the Bolsheviks and the class in Russia had actually achieved for the first time in history by establishing a dictatorship of the proletariat. She was thus available to serve the interests of Social Democracy in derailing the German revolution and was then accidentally murdered during a coup attempt by Noske  and Scheidemann to confuse the working class but which went horribly wrong. 

So where does Rosa's true relevance lie? Surely it's in the trajectory of her whole life and death? She never gave up the struggle to understand the nature and essence of the working class and it's fight for emancipation. She was always fighting to properly understand what was going on and took little for granted.  True she never completely escaped the clutches of all the tenets underpinning Social Democracy, but she was well on the way to doing so by the time of her death. 

But look at Rosa's major achievement in being among the first to grasp and begin to elucidate theoretically the nature and development of proletarian class consciousness as revealed in the process of mass strikes. She realised that developments in class consciousness, which is a new and superior kind of intelligence far surpassing what the bourgeoisie understand by this word, didn't need clever teachers who didn't yet know themselves what it was  to explain to workers how to do it, and didn't in fact require any traditional educational transmission procedures at all to bring it about. For this new way of being and thinking was a product of solidarity. This is the unleashing among workers struggling for a common cause together and in intimate discussion and cooperation at a communal level, of a new understanding of what it means to be alive, to be human, and to be working together for the good of all. This is a break-through for human nature, allowing the human essence to emerge at last and be built on ethically, in which satisfying the needs of everyone take first place and renders competitive individuality futile and nonsensical. 

Nothing is of more significance for humanity than this insight of Rosa's into the nature and emergence of class consciousness. Nothing is of more significance for humanity,  as the decaying bourgeoisie in their death throes start to wage their terminally  destructive wars, than that the working class solidarity which Rosa was one of the first to identify and recognise should be unleashed again in the face of the bourgeoisie's mindless decomposition. 

"To say that Rosa failed due

"To say that Rosa failed due to irrelevance is to try and plant the seeds of some new and crazy conspiracy theory."

ah i dunno, maybe irrelevance is the wrong word. i would've said something like "opportunity" but that word has a long and important history, i think

EDIT i'm not sure if we disagree! 

i would prefer i suppose to not divorce militants from their militantism; but i'm in no shape to make total sense of it

and please don't worry about rosa: she has even the liberals looking out for her haha


I agree with Fred. We also have to add her contributions on the accumulation process, imperialism and decadence, on the moral character of the proletarian revolution, etc etc. I still dont understand what Lem's point is, however. And if the liberals are 'looking after her', we have to defend what she really stood for with even more determination.... 

lem writes in reply to me: "

lem writes in reply to me: " I'm not sure we disagree..." I can assure you however that when it comes to Rosa Luxemburg  we do!  If lem you are "in no shape to make total sense of it" then I am sorry to hear it.  But if you know you are in "no shape"  then perhaps you should refrain from posting till you are. Or at least read through what you write like I have to do all the time, and  try and make it better by removing contradictions, absurdities  and confusions wherever possible. After all there's no rush is there? None of us is compelled to post something everyday. 

As to "the liberals looking after her." Could that possibly be a reference to Rosa's elevation by the boogies  to the level of a German postage stamp? 

maybe easier to see the difference with the SWP

please don't just think i'm confused because i used the term "irrelevance" to refer to the failure of that revolution. i don't mean that the failure makes it irrelevant today; but that she is dead and cannot be involved in anything again... she became irrelevant in that way - for example, though it may look bleak to say it.

it might be easier to explain when the two (irrelevance and failure) are not the same. 

if you take the example of the SWP: of course i'm not saying that the SWP memberhship is better off dead; just that they will fail despite anything they could do


maybe that has helped explain, because i'm not sure what i've tried to say that is objectionable. do you find it absurd that i suggested there is any [non antagonsitic] overlap between bourgeois moralism and communist activity? i was really really trying to be sardonic about "liberalism": whatever i have felt about all liberals ever i don't have much love for the ones that run the show.

are things more complicated than they seem?

I agree with lem that the dead can't be involved in stuff except in films. I disagree though that the SWP must fail no matter what they do because, unless the proletarian revolution finally triumphs, the SWP and the rest of the bourgeoisie can claim victory and proceed to destroy humanity and the planet without blame through the endless war which will result from their determination to preserve capitalism. 

And with regard to destroying the planet   I notice that Obama, once democracy's  great white hope that was, is visiting sites in Alaska that were glaciers only a few years back. Now they look like gravel pits.  But have no fear, Obama nearing retirement has his hand on the environment's very pulse and will make speeches decrying climate change while drilling constantly for oil in the geographic location where it's dangers and advance are so noticeable.  (And some of us used to think Obama was intelligent!) 


On another thread lem said:

lem wrote:
 some friends who have an interest in corbyn and sanders. aside from an article from the icc which explicitly tackles this, i think these need to see that things are more complicated than they might seem, than have a solution offered to them.

I copy this onto here as this is the Corbyn- Sanders thread. 

It has to be agreed that things can appear to be more complicated than they really are.  Corbyn and Sanders can spout what may come across to the gullible as radical rhetoric. (Corbyn  came up with "separate carriages for ladies" on the railway networks.) Such advanced left wing thinking as theirs leaves one breathless.  To appreciate its radicalism you do though have to be pretty gullible and even naive. But then you'd have to be pretty gullible and naive too take anything Obama says seriously too wouldn't you? 

These days bourgeois politicians, right and left, seem generally to talk out of their arse holes without giving any consideration to the world as it is, or the state of the economy - which means they stand no chance of putting any of their fancy sounding ideas into practice because there's no funding. And the fact that their electorates generally speaking have heard all their repetitive crap countless times before going back to the sixties begins to mean that nobody  with an ounce of sense truly expects  any bourgeois politician anymore to actually do anything he says.   It's all hot air!  As the black  guys quoted by jk said: "the right and left both get us wrong" and they all sound the same as well.

In any case the political class bourgeois style are all so busy building barbed wire fences and walls to keep marauding intruders out of the particular hell holes these politicians regard as "my country" that they've little time for much else. Companies in the barbed wire trade in Europe must be making a bomb as Europe suffers its largest exodus of refugees since the Second World War.

And  isn't even the Great Trump, the loudest trump you'll ever hear, a trump equivalent to that which  blasted down the walls of Jericho,  going to build the biggest wall you've ever seen to keep out all those folk fleeing drug lords, terrorism  and bankrupt economies emanating from Mexico  to Argentina?  It'll be the Great Wall of China  or the Berlin and Hadrian's Wall all over again, such is the undeniable progress of class society. Yet if the first time round was a tragedy for all the deaths associated with the  building of  huge defensive walls as  in China, the second time round is a farce with migrants easily crawling under fences and over barricades,  hitching rides through channel tunnels and across borders with no respect for bourgeois order, bourgeois legality  and bourgeois rules. Though tragic incidents can arise from all this mayhem, witness all those who suffocated in a refrigerated lorry, or the many who die daily crossing the Mediterranean without bourgeois permission.

Despite all this there remain those who are blind to capitalism's decay.  


>  there remain those who are

>  there remain those who are blind to capitalism's decay.  

without marxism it's not obvious that it's "capitalism" rather than human nature, or anything. and ofc the counter-revolution in russia was sickening too

> the SWP and the rest of the bourgeoisie can claim victory and proceed to destroy humanity and the planet without blame through the endless war which will result from their determination to preserve capitalism

like Alf said, at least some of the SWP's membership believe it is not capitalist. 

which is not to defend the SWP or the left of capital: i don't think it's one's idealist goals that make one proletarian anyway.

but then the really frightening question is how small scale groups like the icc - can re-establish either un-liberal militancy, or trust in marxism. of course i have no answer to that question.

how many will you take?

Thanks for your reply lem. I actually meant there are people on this site and on libcom too, who appear blind to capitalism's decay while being theoretical communists. 

Lovely film on TV of a child born four days ago in an underground section of Budapest  train station where hundreds of migrants are herded awaiting might decisions from the EU. A Hungarian politician said the government  wants to open camps for them.  (The thought of "camps" providing any  solution to this problem is disturbing.).  A TV interviewer asked the politician why they couldn't be released to go to Germany which says it'll take 50,000? But "camps" was reiterated as the answer. The TV person then told us that Sweden would also be taking 20,000, on top of Germany's generous offer, but that the UK would only take  200! (Shock-horror) We then cut to a fed-up looking David Cameron who said that taking in refugees in huge numbers wasn't the solution to the unnamed problem  but that the flow of the uprooted had to be stemmed in their own countries. I thought he was going on to say that the real and only solution to all this terrible mess, misery and unhappiness, was the proletarian revolution by which we would dispose of the fundamental problem facing not just migrants, the displaced, the unemployed, the sick and the weary, but the whole of humanity and so on, but he didn't! 

We then cut to Andy Burnham who wants a debate in Parliament about why the UK is so mean with regard to the number of refugee-immigrants being  offered comfort within its hallowed shores. And why are we Brits being upstaged and embarrassed by the generosity of  foreigners like Germany and Sweden, who'll take them by the thousands? (He didn't actually say that but it was open to inference.) But if Andy Burnham thinks that his display of human sympathy for the displaced foreigners invading the EU could win him votes and stab Corbyn in the back he might just  be kidding himself.  People interviewed in York think you can't just go on letting displaced personages flock from their own homelands  to other people's - which remain as yet, but for how much longer still stable as  countries - but that there has to be some other way.  Nobody knows what this "other way" is though, and nobody asks questions about it.  We're all just waiting. 

But everything's getting worse and worse. And what happens if the flow of the anguished to Europe continues long after Germany, Sweden and even Switzerland have had their quota of the displaced  and are full up? And how is failing capitalism going to provide jobs for them all? 

I don't  think that the ICC can re-establish trust in Marxism as suggested by lem. But perhaps when more people, and especially workers-as-a-class, start to see that it isn't human nature that is responsible for our current earthly disasters  but the very economic system within which we are all forced to live suffer and die;  and that this system has a name and a ruling class;  and that this class of murderers can be identified attacked and defeated;  then Marxism as the expression of proletarian consciousness can once again come into its own as it did so briefly in the years 1917-21.  

>  on this site and on libcom

>  on this site and on libcom too, who appear blind to capitalism's decay while being theoretical communists


i was just now wondering what was so awful about capitalism, if it keeps you clothed and well fed. if we were monarchists we'd be dead from the plague.

but yes i think that capitalism even factoring in its technological growth, is still alarmingly decayed. my point being that we are complicit in our own oppression, in a way that would perhaps have gone un-thought even 50 years ago.

i.e. whatever you think about economic growth, or the vivacity of social crisis: there is unprecedented complicity. which brings me back to the complaint in my last post: how can anyone do anything at all ?

a stunning victory... for

a stunning victory... for capitalism

STUNNING hahaha :-) but -

STUNNING hahaha :-)

but - what to do aout it eh ??


Thanks for any comments ;-)