tv American Socialism CSPAN July 6, 2017 11:02am-12:10pm EDT
war would have been lost. so in many ways it's an emblem for the entire museum. how do you take these small objects, they didn't have tampgz a tanks and battleships in the revolution, they had guns and canteens and uniforms, how do you tell the incredible life and death decision, the horrors, the courage, the excitement of the revolutions? 'a turning point in history, and that's what we strive to do throughout this museum, and it's a very exciting place. these objects they really do speak when you visit. more exhibits from the museum of the american revolution in philadelphia and your phone calls about the museum, and the revolutionary war on american history tv, starting tonight at 7:00 eastern. bhaskar sunkara, the editor and publisher of "jakobin"
magazine discusses the left under president trump. "jacobin" offers socialist perspectives for the future. >> welcome to the center speaking series. my name is nico mele, director of the center, and our guest today is bhaskar sunkara, founding editor and publishing editor of "jacobin" magazine a left wing quarterly magazine based in new york, it describes itself "leading voice of the american left, offering socialist perspective on politics, economics and culture." he is the editor of the abc's of socialism and coed for of "the future we want: radical ideas for the new century." you can also i encourage you to pick up and subscribe to "jacobin." i came across "jaco"jacobin" be i was looking for new ideas, new
ways of thinking about where the country is going. i think it's kind of clear this is a moment of significant transition for our politics and our media and i was looking for fresh voices in that. and i just want to read to you, i printed out the headlines from the "jacobin" website today. "lipstick fascism, women of the alt right and the feminization of fascism, your boss's little secret, you have a right to know how much your co-workers are played, ignoring elite, how not to think about politics in the age of trump, work to death, the american pension crisis, capitalism versus privacy." a number of interesting and compelling arguments and ideas. i'm looking forward to a vigorous discussion. bhaskar, welcome to harvard. >> thank you for having me.
>> so i want to start and ask you for your diagnosis of the politics in this country right now. >> wow, you're starting big. >> yes. >> i was a little disappointed i got the invitation to harvard i was expecting oak and mahogany, this, you know, it's all right but next time. >> there's cubicles even. >> i'm looking for the cigar afterwards. i think the present situation is this. you have a lot of people who are alienated and disgruntled with politics as usual, and we're in danger of having the only anti-establishment voice be one coming from the populist right. the swaition igsituation is me depressing one. trump doesn't have a huge mandate yet. he quind of squeaked by in the election. i'm afraid if democrats continue on their current course he could
develop one over time. it doesn't take much. it doesn't even take trump and the populist right convincing people they have a much better alternative. all it takes is a little bit of deficit financing and them being smart enough and paul ryan allowing a big infrastructure and jobs program and something to slightly ameliorate the feeling a lot of people are having. what gives me some hope is that b bernie sanders showed there is a potential for maoritarian politics around a democratic program, not 10, 20 years down the road but immediately. the kind of rhetoric of the sanders campaign basically saying you work hard. you sacrifice a lot. you're trying to do right. and you deserve more, and not only that, but we know the people responsible for you not having enough, and it's a millionaire and billionaire class. i think broadly that's the only fighting alternative to the rhetoric we're having from the
populist right. we're in this situation now what seems to be a pretty, you know, dire one, with the rise of the right, and this is with them having trump at the helm. obviously trump has certain things to his credit, as aboppositional figure, embodies some of this at least in rhetoric anti-establishment pose. he feeds his base with red meat but also is pretty bungling and made a lot of crucial errors like around trumpcare and other things and the way in which some of his concrete proposals have been laid out. imagine how dangerous the situation would be if the populist right had someone with more acumen and vision. i'm afraid not just now but after we defeat trump, and i also thought he didn't have a chance in the 2016, so who am i to say but it seems like he can easily be defeated electorally in 2020, but what about trumpism? could we be in a situation where u.s. politics starts to resemble french politics where you have, you know, a populist right
that's constant fixture in politics, pushing every measure and every idea to the right, and even if they can't win in the french case in the second round of the presidential election they're still there as a major force. i really think the only alternative is, i'm not saying it's socialism or bar barism, but better thanner sanders welfareism or capitalist trumpism. the pragmatism of the democratic center is just, you know, i think in extremely unpragmatic way just allowing this rightward drift in american politics. >> talk a little bit about how you view the democratic party today? you mentioned bernie sanders, but you know, he's approaching 80, and in fact many of the leaders of the democratic party are approaching 80, if not older. >> yes, i mean, i think the democratic party, and this is not the fault of this generation of democratic leaders.
i think this is often framed in a way, fdr and lbj were of a certain character and disposition and hillary clinton is of another, in a personalized way which i don't think makes sense. i would say the democratic party has always been a party of capital, and i don't mean that pejoratively. it's always represented certain business interests within its tent. big oil, we now associate with george w. bush and the republicans, but in fact big oil was a major part, lots of historical reasons for this, the democratic coalition from the 1930s up until the '80s. if you're the party that represents popular labor interests and the interests of capital at the same time it means that when times are going well, and there's a boom, you could actually say that the pie is growing because of this business-led growth, and we're going to make sure that some of the share of this growing pie is going to workers. now when the pie is at best
staying the same size or if anything is shrinking, the best of the democratic party can say from the 1970s onwards the same workers is that we're going to give you more of the pie, more of this pie than the republicans could, and also to historically oppress and marginalize groups. we'll make sure this pie is more equitably split up, so in other words they could promise social inclusion, but they now promise social inclusion without any of the economic kind of gains that went with it. even up to the great society they could offer both. could you obviously see the way in which not just white workers but whole segments of the population it feels like things have been going wrong for them. now correlate the fact that the pie is growing and there has been social gains for oppressed groups together as being one is responsible for the other, and i think the approach of this
populist left that emerged around sanders, also represented by keith ellison, to some degree elizabeth warren to fight against the idea the house is full or the pie is going to. to strengthen in this direction. my view of the party because of the structural factors that emerged since the 1970s, there needs to be a strong affirmative program of redistribution, and alternative modeled growth. they've been unable to provide it. i think often on the left, we personalize this inability, but you know the fact is, unless you actually have the will and the capability to actually mobilize a different source of power than the traditional democratic base, and i don't mean people voting for the democratic party, i mean the business interest attached to it today. lot of it is in the finance industry, silicon valley and whatnot, unless you're able to conceive of politics in a different more popular way i think we're doomed to have the
democrats continue along this path. >> in that framework, why did you start this magazine? >> i have lots of reasons why i could see. two or three years or in this case five or six years after the fact come by with this narrative and vision. i started the magazine because i had some extra spare time, and it was between my sophomore and junior year as an undergrad, so i didn't have a lot of social obligations. the world wasn't asking much of me at the time. and i thought that i had developed a network on the socialist left, and i knew plenty of smart people, and i had a bit of business acumen, so i figured why not take these smart people and facilitate a project so we're not just talking amongst ourselves. i think it was based on this idea that socialist ideas -- i've been a member of the democratic socialist of america for ten years, since i was like
17 years old, and for me, these ideas, the moral and ethical ideas at the core of the socialist project, the idea we should live in a world without exploitation, without oppression, these are ideas that should have appeal beyond the 5,000 or 6,000 then in discussion with the ideas. so i think "jacobin" what set it apart from the rest of the socialist left, at a time of historic defeat, we were trying to kind of evangelicalize among this broader public, and try to win over people unpoliticized and liberals to this moral and ethical vision. also, the one hand combine this earnest purpose with some degrees of humor and levity and whatnot, and i think that's where it started. it was an easy project at first. at first it was an online magazine. it was an utter failure. my first day we had 636 visitors on the site, and the reason why i went to print is i figured --
>> how many of them were your mother? >> yes, my mother, my aunt, and they were probably refreshing throughout the day a little bit. so my thinking was, though, that i needed an actual revenue mechanism and a mechanism to make "jacobin" perceived as more serious and that meant going to print. i doubled down on something that was failing and it continued to fail for a while, and then it stopped failing but no one was really watching. that's the thing, when you're doing a project in private, or in semiprivate, i mean 636 people is basically private, you have time to learn and develop and grow skills and whatnot, whereas right now i am far more conservative, hopefully not in my politics but the way i approach "jacobin" just because the failure would be even more humiliating in public. >> so what do you make of hillbilly-ology and strangers in their own land, this kind of narrative that we have to more
deeply understand the trump voter and the democratic party? >> so i actually have only read about half of "hillbilly-ology" and it seemed to me from that half, that's basically more than most books i read, i do the grad student read, read the introduction, skim to the end, see if there's interesting footnotes and i say i read the book, but, you know, if you're an editor, all i need is general knowledge to get to two to three minutes of a conversation. this is going to be tough for me. this is a whole hour. but "hillbilly-ology" is almost like the cultural poverty arguments throughout the '80s and '90s that we're obviously very racist and prop fwagated b the new republic, but poor white people and here is a potential native informant whoi thi i this
in his community in the summer and whatnot, like now pushing this narrative of there's something wrong with the roots of the culture of these communities that reinforce poverty and all these other things. so i mean, sure, i think there should be a level of understanding the situation, the people live in, but if, the thing you're diagnosing people should be more flexible and able to adapt to the economy and willing to move to the cities and everything else i think that's a wrong conclusion. when i see poverty i see something very simple. people who need money, and i see people who need goods and services and when i think of the state, i think of the state as the only vehicle large enough to efficiently deliver these goods and services. if we have an epidemic of heroin addiction in huge parts of the country, i see people in need of high quality services to get over these addictions, counseling, medical services and whatnot. i also see people who probably
need jobs, i think as a last resort the state should be a provider of those jobs and whatnot. i see the problems i think more simply than a lot of people. what i'm even proposing isn't a leap into the unknown. what i'm proposing in the short term is nothing more than a scandinavian welfare state, which in a country as wealthy as the u.s. should be common sense. and i think that's part of our immediate project and part of the project that bernie sanders contributed so much to, to try to get people to expect more of the state. we're not asking for the state to alleviate heartbreak and suffering and angst or whatever. even communism wouldn't do that, right? certain things are parts of the human condition. but we are asking for the states to provide a basic level of human dignity to allow people to reach their potential and so on, and i think often there's this kind of voyeuristic view of poverty. whether in the african-american
community or among poor whites would people make it seem like these are impossible to decipher solutions. i see 60,000 homeless people in new york and i think hey, maybe we should build more high quality public housing instead of letting the public housing that we have deteriorate. i see poor people i think we should build homes. obviously at the level of policy, this becomes more complicated and nuanced, but at the level of politics, i think it's common sense what direction our policies should be driven and that's in a lot of ways is immoral and unethical vision. >> what role do you see technology playing in that and kind of the direction of our economy? >> so on technology, this is one place where i can't really even feign through two or three minutes. i think like a lot of people i'm convinced by the last thing i read. something will say like driverless cars and mass automation of existing jobs is coming in like ten years, another article says 20 years and i just agree with the last thing i read generally.
i would say that if you think about places in which, like why does in europe why are they more capital intensive and why are they slightly on the more innovative edge than american companies and factories? the answer is simple. like they have more wage pressure. so when i look at the low wage workforce in the u.s., i kind of think why would capital even want to automate some of these jobs, being paid almost nothing and there's risk in introducing new technologies and so on. so to some degree i'm a skeptic about how fast some of these automation will be pushed through. i also think that generally -- >> you're a skeptic because you think there's the potential that automation will increase pressure on the -- >> no i'm skeptic just because i think as far as -- these things are going to be introduced but as far as the pace of introduction, if we had even a
social democracy in the u.s. i think we'd have a quicker pace of job displacement through automation because there'd be more wage pressure and more incentive for companies to invest in capital, this capital intensive technology. as it is, i think it's more important than ever to actually develop a mode of politics that foregrounds the interests of workers. that doesn't necessarily mean this society will be less on the cutting edge of technology or whatnot. it might again create wage pressures that will increase the pace of technological innovation, but then at the same time be able to protect these workers through active labor market policies and jobs retraining and welfare state in case they're displaced and put them in a different sector of the economy and whatnot. i think we have to start from the premise the most important thing isn't the bottom line. the most important thing is social welfare, so when we think for example about 1970s sweden,
i hate to point to it. it's not my model, the just society falls short of it but the closest we've gotten in the human endiscover. this is a society that had free trade, right? this is a society that had lots of firm failure and things like that. so i think in other words what's key is that we develop the politics that foreground working class interests, then from there we could, you know, see technology is a thing that helps rather than hurt. certain jobs should, in fact, be automated, right? the people in those sectors might want to do something else, but if it's on the present course, or the working class has less and less power, but also they're more and more at the whims of globalization, and technological change i think that's dangerous. the best way i've heard this described was by a british member of parliament, the labor party, john trickett and he was
trying to explain why in his district, almost 90%-plus of the population voted leave. he said that you're on a runaway train and you don't know what direction the train is going, and it's going faster and faster. so he said people in his district did what was pretty logical, especially if they didn't know there was a conductor or not. they looked around, the people in their car, and they decided to link hands with the people in their car. obviously there's a different alternative, right? there's a socialist vision of maybe trying to communicate with people in other cars and joining together and trying to take control of the train, but in the present environment, i think for a lot of people they're not against technology for the sake of being against technology. they're against, you know, a train that they don't know where the direction is and they don't know what their fate will be in the future, but to contrast discussion bringing politics
into this sphere of technology, i think we could have both. we could have technological advance. we could embrace actually the positive aspect of automation, so i'm 27 years old. i am not planning to have kid any time soon. i would hope the driverless cars i wouldn't have the worries my parents had when i was 17 and 18 and trying to learn how to drive and so on, of you know, maybe in fact it will be nice living in a society where human beings aren't in the control of vehicles. maybe there will be certain social goods we could think about it. but i am more apt to envision that future once we're at that stage than i am now, when i know how many truckers and cab drivers and whoever else will be displaced and just go from being precariously employed in the working class to being just poor. so that's kind of my stance on technology. i want a foreground in politics without being anti-technology.
>> there's this kind of media narrative about the young people in america being very far left, and arguably the farthest left generation the country's ever seen, you know, kind of a new generation of socialists, and how do you -- is that narrative true? is there a generational kind of shift happening? play that out for us. >> i think it's true in this instance, in the united states today, but it's often ascribed to like youth or these other cultural transhistorical cultural factors. if you look at france for example, not to turn back to france, but the national front, le pen might win a polarity of young people, millenials, right? these are people exposed to similar mass culture that american young people are exposed to and whatnot. there's all sorts of reasons for this but the point being that yes, young people are moving to
the left, but a lot of that has to do with politics, right? it has to do with the success of organizers. it has to do, yes, with a certain degree of cultural traits that makes america better than certain european countries, right? it's hard to build a xenophobic ethnonationalism in a state that can see itself at least as a nation of immigrants. i think steve bannon's project building a social majority, is in fact harder than if not my project which is pretty damned hard than bernie sanders building a majoritarian democratic kind of consensus. i think could you find it just in the fact that a lot of these people are well-educated. they're the sons and daughters of the professional middle class. they're finding out that the promises told to them, that if they work hard and put their head down, they'll be able to get a stable job and be able to at least maintain their living
standards is a lie, and i think that's leading people to look for solutions, and if you're young, you might like actually find a coherent world view. agree with it or disagree with it, in a place like "jacobin" or other places on the socialist left than you would in the venues of the center, that actually don't have anything else to offer, but i don't want to just lay back and assume that demographics are going to take care of everything. i think that's part of the problem that got us in this mess to begin with, trump's election. >> i have one more question and then i'll open it up to the audience, so please, get your questions ready. but, so i didn't want to ask you about you know, race and class in america, and to what extent -- i mean both race and class were seems like very high relief in this last election,
and how you, how do you understand that in america right now? >> well, yeah, it seems to me that if you look at actually this situation in america, you have -- first of all this question is often broadly the pocs versus white and this very kind of broad kind of language, but i think in particular in the united states, we have to grapple with the hyperexploitation of black workers and the fact that in particular, black workers have been always locked at the bottom of the u.s. labor market, and they're locked at the bottom of the labor market that's also very hard to move out of. even for white workers it's very hard. we have very little social mobility in this country and they're on the worst end of it. but then i think almost comes a broader discussion about diversity and representation, and that's been the dominant rhetoric of the democratic party, this rhetoric of social
inclusion. it's not that i'm against these things. i just think it only goes to the surface level. if you really want to talk about the conditions of minorities in this country, you have to deal with the question of redistribution, and if you're dealing with a question of redistribution, you have to deal with the question of class, and we have to acknowledge that the number one, number two, number three concerns of the white workers, latino workers and black workers is probably exactly the same. it's probably jobs, security, all these other issues, and often again, this is kind of made to be this like complex difficult thing, like can this politician, can bernie sanders get in the head of black workers and what they're thinking? can he relate to these experiences or whatnot? maybe? maybe not at a cultural level but the kind of program that he pushed for, medicare for all, massive jobs program, free higher education, these are things that would disproportionately help black workers, and i think it's an argument that he could win in
the black community and other communities through organizing. so often these things are seen as divergent. i think they go hand in hand, but to me, there can be no anti-racism with teeth unless you're dealing with a question of redistribution, and if we're dealing with a question of redistribution, dealing with a question of class. if you're dealing with a class of taking something from someone and giving to other people. you're not talking about taking something from a diminishing share of returns going to white workers and go i have been it to other people. you're talking about really taking on interests, and i think that's what the rhetoric that people are uncomfortable with. they're fine with diversity f diversity just means representation. they're not fine with diverse fit it means provides goods and services to communities who don't have it now. not because they're ideologically opposed to it, not because the ruling class is ideolocally racist. it's because it's a cost they're not willing to bear for anyone, be they white, black or latino
workers. >> do we have some questions from the audience? anybody, question? we got a question right here, and then over here. >> hi, shorenstein center fellow. i'm wondering how you -- you have a very robust circulation, and a great magazine, but so many people are completely shut off from most political discourse, even within their ideological silos. they just maybe get a little surface information, don't want to hear more because they feel completely disempowered and don't want to know anything more. how can we break through the disengagement around politics, economics, and just this feeling that -- i mean i spent years as a field reporter and so many people just unplug from these debates because they feel they have nothing to gain and will only be angry. >> yes, i mean i think a lot of
this stems from the fact people don't have a lot of time and don't feel like politics is working for them. it's like the same discussion often happens with like voter participation. it's often framed in apolitical terms, just apathy, people don't care, as opposed to people weighing different needs that they have, and a limited amount of time and deciding not to vote because politicians haven't been serving them. i think a publication like "jacobin" is fundamentally always going to be somewhat niche. i think we're more meant as a spark to start something broader that could actually be like -- i appeal to reason. we had a socialist publication a little bit over 100 years ago that was number three or number four in circulation in the entire country and adjustment for population bigger than "time" magazine or "the economist" today. that was "appeal to reason." they had a life in working class communities, it had a base. "jacobin" obviously has more of a base than your average
socialist journal, but you know, we just like the left as a whole, at the moment isn't deeply rooted in this working class community. so it's like a silo. there's the socialist left, social movements, and the working class broadly conceived, right? whereas when the socialist movement was always at its strongest you would have the workers movement, out of this workers movement would arise socialist leaders and obviously that would have kind of a life of its own, this interaction, and out of the struggles of the working class would arise the things we are broadly considering the, you know, like social movements, right? and the fact that we kind of conceive of these things as separate things, i think is just a reflection of where we're at politically, but i think that's the goal. the goal is to obviously reach and connection with people, not just people reading and receiving information but actively participating in political processes that are
generating these ideas to begin with. "jacobin" is more of an effort from kind of afar to try to spark this kind of thing, but that's something i'm very wary of, the fact that left and the media generally is in almost like a subculture. it's either like the "new york times" circulation is spiking but i bet if you did a demographic profile of the "new york times" subscriber base you'd still find it disto portionately higher income and whatnot, which is completely opposed to the way you would imagine mass circulation newspapers used to be or could be when they had strength and relevance. i think it's a problem that you can't solve by media alone. you have to solve it by political organizing, and there's a limited amount we could do. i think the best we could do is make sure that someone could pick up on article, read an article without any prerequisite knowledge be able to get something from it, the way that i could pick up an issue of "the economist" and read an article
and not have to ever read adam smith to understand it, right? but the idea that i think especially on the socialist left we expect people to be just jumping in at the very tail end of a conversation, instead of just even assuming that people share our ethical and moral values, like you know, i'm opposed like i said, a socialist opposed to hierarchy and exploitation, but what is exploitation and what is hierarchy and why is it bad? these are normative arguments. one could disagree or one could actually say i'm opposed to extreme versions of exploitation like slavery or indenture but i think capital exploitation is justified so let's have that discussion. i think every venue is assuming a lot of common ground that actually needs to be forged. >> and so in terms of your energy and the energy of the magazine, are you putting that into the democratic party, or how do you think of -- if you have a magazine of ideas, and of kind of socialist argument, where does that transition into
politics and power for you? >> i think a lot of that will be up to organizers and people taking these ideas. i would say that in general, this new socialist left that's emerging has an uneasy relationship with the democratic party, similar to the relationship let's say libertarian current state in the '60s and '70s to the republican party, and obviously they in their project eventually more or less fused with national review type conservatives and develop a current within the republican party, i think for the sake of our project, socialist politics will only be developed in a party rooted eventually in the working class, rooted with different prerogatives and interests in the democratic party, but it's easy to say that. it's hard to say how we get from here to there. there so there's a lot of different arguments. an interesting one by seth ackerman in a previous issue of "jacobin" that basically argued what constitutes independent
political action? socialists keep talking about it. if you have your own base of funding, you have your own ideology, if you're connected with your own organizations that discipline electoral efforts and eventually candidates when they're elected, if you're running on the democratic primaries and open socialists with all the prerequisites, isn't that political action? if i decided to run against needle lowey and decided to do so with my politics with a base of support and funding independent as a republican in my home district in new york, would that constitute me trying to be a republican and transforming the republican party? would that constitute independent political action? so i think there's a way that to understand the particularities and the conditions of the u.s. electoral system, without going the old michael harrington route, which actually made a lot of sense at the time in the '60s and '70s, are trying to transform and realign the democratic party. if it didn't work then with all the fissures in the democratic
party and with all the mobilized social forces, i can't see it working now but at the same time i know that the last successful third party effort, now he, eventually got us donald trump. so but in fact, you know, i'm open to different ideas. in other words, i think in the short term it's very hard for me to say socialists should be spending our time trying to get status access when we could have easier access to primaries, but again it depends on the location. we shouldn't forget that almost 70% i believe of elections in the u.s. local elections including almost everything west of the mississippi is nonpartisan, are nonpartisan races, so this shouldn't be a crippling or paralyzing debate. i think we can immediately run candidates kind of skirting the question in these nonpartisan rac races. >> over here. >> hi, ian samuel, lecturer at harvard law school, and magazine.
as we get ready to possibly have the confirmation of a new supreme court justice, i'm curious on your thoughts of the role of the courts and judges and legal strategy on the left. it's obviously the case that over the back half of the 20th century, the court played an important role in a lot of victories on the left. it's also true that over the broad sweep of american history, courts have often been an incredibly reactionary force and they still often are. so i guess i'm curious if you think that the courts have a big role to play in leftist political strategy. is it just something we need to give up on and hope they're not too much of a drag on the effort, is there some third thing there, what are your thoughts on that? >> yes, i'm a -- rob hunter has written a lot for "jacobin" on this particular idea, the role of the court system and whatnot. i would say overall i find i think the courts play a role dampening our ability to reshape america in a more democratic direction. obviously i think there's a role for a court system, but i would just conceive of this role
being, you know, as small as possible, protecting certain freedoms and rights and so on, but fundamentally, our task and the way i can see the vote on the left is to extend freedom. we are going to extend freedom by intruding on the freedom of some, in certain ways. it won't be their freedom to organize or speak or whatnot, but it will be their freedom to a dogmatic to put it, freedom to exploit but put it a different way. if you're running a corporation, you obviously are under a lot of pressure. you're under pressure to maintain profitability and whatnot. so you might want your workers in a down month to work an extra two hours, and of course you're paying them for these two hours. now, if the government says, no, in fact, you can't work workers over 40 hours a week, if you need extra help you have to hire for people or whatnot, we're obviously intruding on the scope of the freedom of private property or whatnot, but we think this freedom obviously
extends more freedom for more people. they have extra spare time, they can spend time with their family, they could pursue hobbies, they could, you know, watch tv, whatever else. so i think in other words libke the court system in the u.s. will dampen these things. more interesting question is what would jurisprudence look like in a socialist society, because i think there is a need for it, and if the examples of the 20th century is, you know, is to be remembered, i think that we should think about the way in which socialist societies will need an independent judiciary that will play some role defending freedoms and preventing certain tyrannies, but i'm sure if we have this current system i would love to have more left wingers appointed to the supreme court and some of the people we're getting appointed, but we shouldn't think of our model of politics through that. if we can't imagine a robust
court system ushering in certain things i think this will often be gains from above that are then less sustainable than gains from below. >> jane, back here. >> hi, i'm jane mansford, i teach at the kennedy school. couple of times you've mentioned the word "redistribution." leaving aside the fact that marx thought that was a bourgeoisie approach to the problem, it's not a very popular concept in the united states either, and when i think of bernie sanders, i think of him supporting work, and workers, and what do you think about redistribution? >> i'm for redistribution of power and i'm for building social goods, and in the process of building the money necessary to get the social goods, we're going to have to redistribute wealth. debris the redistribution of wealth is a by-product of the
policies i want. it's not necessarily the main goal, and the project of building up the power of workers is workers will be able to press demands, which will redistribute welt wealth. i think of it as the secondary effect, not the main effect. so i would agree with marx as far as the concept. i would also say this is the reason why i think the idea of a federal jobs guarantee is a much more powerful and dangerous idea, and also more politically palatable than ideas that are now envogue of a universal base income. my ideal is a federal jobs guarantee plus a basic income for those engaging in care work or other work or other work traditionally not valued by society, or unable to work but fundamentally i think that we're concerned about power. that's why if more people are employed, labor markets are tighter and workers have more power at the point of production, and that's when 20,
30 people can make decisions that will impact thousands of people and that's the reason why socialists always talk about workers and the working class. it isn't a moral category. it's not say these people are more holy or more deserving than others. it's just saying this is still the most powerful agent in society. if you win over a majority of the working class, this is a force that can lift up all others, poor and oppressed people. >> how do you think about the decline of unions in the united states? >> i am of two minds. when i'm at my most optimistic i say the labor movement has some sort of objective basis. it's rooted in conditions that aren't going to go away. it will always kind of rebuild itself, right? so as long as there's capitalism in these prevailing conditions, worker also realize they need to collectively bargain in order to push back against their bosses. they can't do it as individuals, and some labor movement will
always arise from the ashes. when i think more critically, i think capital is always at its strongest when they can divide workers into as small a unit as upon. even having union density at around 10%, whatever, is quite an accomplishment, and it took years and years and decades of struggle, and the idea that now the soon to come rulings against, you know, public sector unionism and whatnot, that this strength that we have in the public sector, one of the last bastians of the labor movement further eroded, it scares me and it makes me think that it's, you know, the project of creating social democracy is only going to be that much more distant in the u.s. and obviously the project of creating a kind of socialism after capitalism that i want is even further and further away. i would say some of this is self-inflicted. unions have not done a good
enough job engaging their membership, and convincing people that there's actually a reason to be a part of a union, and it's been very a transact n transactional thing, people doing the calculation in their head getting x, y, z benefits, i'm paying this much in dues, i have no connection to decision-making process in my union and i think that's very worrying and i think to some degree this is almost deserved, some of the downfall of american unions, so to my hope is through these rank and file struggles to democratize unions will in fact convince people they have something to gain, they have a vested interest in defending unions. even something like the fact that you might be a member of a union today, because of a vote that happened three or four decades ago. there is some truth in right wing arguments about unionization says that he fundamentally undemocratic having once and something undemocratic as a condition of your employment having to be a
union member than having to have your dues deducted every month without you having any say in the matter and so on. in europe, unions don't have to rely on those mechanisms. so i think fundamentally we need a more democratic labor movement. for now this labor movement we have, and it's still the most organized and consistently progressive force in american politics. so i can't just put on a very ideological hat and say let it burn, we'll rebuild it, because i don't think we will be able to. at least in the next generation or two. >> so i want to follow uhm on the previous question about work versus goods and handouts, whatever. the trump in the stump speech he gave in those rust belt states that gave him the election, part of his stump speech was actually to say, we need to rebuild the means of making a living. he actually used the phrase "means of making a living" which is of course a means of
production. folks might not believe this but if you going tell and go watch the speech it's amazing. "the elites dismantled our means of making a living and i'm going to rebuild it." of course he's not, he's handing everything over to goldman sachs again, but where is -- i was kind of expecting that that would trigger a some socialist voices to pick up on how that kind of worked for him, and because that actually is, you know, a more socialist idea than jobs guarantee, you know, rebuilding the means of production, and if as a socialist, if you're willing to work with corporations, which it sounds like you are, you're not saying let's smash the corporations, you're willing to do some tactical negotiations here over the coming decades, and so if you are, then why wouldn't you and other socialists that you're working with raise that same message and say hey, let's get together and rebuild our economy, rebuild our
means of making a living? >> introduce yourself, please. >> zach ecksley, shorenstein fellow. >> in regard to corporations -- >> willing to let them exist. >> this is not something you will or not will. obviously i advocate for a visual of socialism say after capitalism. in the power to consens consensus i'll settle for doses of socialism within capitalism but in a broader political movement that has the end goal of eroding the power of capitalists, capitalism and transforming capitalism, because fundamentally, i don't think social democracy is sustainable, because capitalists if they have the power investment, solely in their hands, they could always when times get rough, their profitability is challenged erode the gains we have, so the
marxist tradition has often been kind of the comparison often to cisifists, rolling the ball up the hill only to see it fall down, and i would say that. in the meantime, so i was working with corporations, they exist in society and if you're building a workers movement you're making demands on them. if that counts with working with them then maybe. like a hostage crisis is like you're working with the people you have a gun pointed to. now as far as this broader question of work and rhetoric, i think it is telling that bannon used the rhetoric of the american -- i think this is more bannon than whatever trump's thinking at this moment. i've reared "art of the deal." it was not talking much about the american worker then. but the republicans are trying to be in a kind of identiarian
way, a worker class, resurrecting this policy that are nakedly opposed to the interests of the american worker. worker, they're not even trying to dupe people. if you look at trump care and the other proposals, this is just like attacks on the very people who voted for trump, with no particular reason to go about it this way. now as far as the rhetoric, i actually think there's lots of ways of the american standards. it did rely somewhat on a makers and takers discount, trump did ta -- sanders said -- the taker was broadly the millionaires and billionaires and this class antagonism is actually firmly rooted in the socialist tradition. who are trump's takers?
it was felons, it was undeserving illegals, it was all these other things that -- i don't like this comparison, i don't like the fascist comparis comparison, but we invented the march, the right has always appropriateds appropriated aesthetics and language from the left. as far as why the democratic party isn't concerned with the rhetoric, they're concerned with maintaining the governing party. it's often been put that the democratic party is a party of american capital, therefore for electoral reasons has to pretend that it's not. that's a difficult balance and i think it constrainins the rhetoc of the democrats. i think for the foreseeable
future, business will boom and markets will be there. >> thank you so much for being here and organizing this. i'm christine jacobson and i work in the library now, and we now subscribe. i was wondering if you could respond to a criticism that is historically made of the socialist party in america and that in fact, the quotes made of bernie sanders a few weeks ago when he was here, and that is that the socialist party doesn't offer anything special to the black worker. and it seemed in your articulation of what the socialist party is offering the black worker kind of stops that, expanded medicaid and addressing pover poverty. that was sort of bernie sanders policy. and it stops short of
reparations. if you could make talk a little bit about that. >> the socialist party unfortunately split into three in the early 1970s, i'm the vice chairman of the democratic socialists of america, so we're up to about 20,000 members, so it's one of the biggest things. often this particular language, this nothing special language is often misquoted or a misrepresentation of something said by eugene debbs. and this is sort of a branch, more so democratic right wing of the party based in the upper midwest normally. but that's kind of -- there's an article about that and i want to rehash that. now on the question on reparations, to me it's an argument that exists purely in the political imaginary.
so how would this look in practice? what kind of proof would we be asking for, would it apply to people who were, let's say, second or third or fourth immigrants from jamaica, right? and obviously, like, southward in slavery and the effects of slavery, but connected to the british empire. it's all these sorts of questions that makes a purely rhetorical device. so what do we want something like reparationists to do, we want reparations to uplift an historic disproportion. a full employment program actually has something special to offer to the black community that it doesn't have to offer to white workers who have higher levels of employment. so it does have something special to offer, but a lot of it is rooted in these kind of class demands.
now that's not to say that there shouldn't be particular organization done by black workers, not to say that black workers shouldn't at moments or times organize their own battle. often when they do, they do so among -- the percentage of demand is largely economic in formation. if you look at the party of black nationalism that moved to the left, they all embrace socialist ideas. to them this wasn't a concern, to them their enemies were capitalists and a political elite in the united states and broader systems of imperialism and oppression connected to capitalism. so for them they don't have any of these concerns. so i don't actually think it's kind as long standing of a comparison. so the idea that socialism doesn't have anything particular to offer or special to offer to oppressed people would be a total surprise to the legacy of like even third world post
colonial movements and all of the organizing of the socialist banner. at any point from the 20th century and onward, there's been more black and brown socialists than there have been white socialists in europe. i find that argument not very compelling. i do think there is a variety of anti-racism that is leveled purely at the symbolic and representational atmosphere and doesn't go deeper into issues of class. now if you're asking me, should the elite in the united states be changed in that it's 50% women and at least 10% black and so on. m actually yes, i'm not against those struggles. i don't think they go deep enough to actually fundamentally change things. >> i'm going to just ask you a couple of closing questions. what are you most worried about right now?
>> well, i'm most worried, i think the democrats initially drew some lessons, it seems, from the election. and you can see this, like chuck schumer is a good bell weather, i think we had a socialist revolution, chuck schumer would join us, because he just wants the cameras and if we have the cameras pointed at us, he'll join. now everybody's talking about backtracking, the cia, the last bastion of defensive democracy, indisputable of course. i'm worried that they're drifting away from this initial idea that democrats would appeal to workers. i think the segment of the liberal left that does think this, perhaps even too narrowly working class is a you've
you'vism for black workers. it's not just a kwul churl thing, it's not just like we weren't out there like joe biden, walking around with our sleeves rolled up or whatever. it isn't just optics or messaging, it's actually your policies. actually to show people that you want something different, you want something that will help their lives and they're willing to take political costs in order to do it. and this is something that the democrats, main stream democrats i don't think will be able to do, i think a lot of the democratic base, though, wants it and i think there are politicians and segments of the party that want this bernie sanders agenda. so i'll just wrap up and say who's the most popular politician in the united states? bernie sanders. if you look at the response his speeches around the country get, and his town halls get, you can see it. the republicans know it.
everybody in american society seems to know it except for the democratic party. their quotes recently by leading democrats saying they're concerned that the economic populism of bernie sanders will hurt them in more conservative swing states that they adopted. have they actually been paying attention to the rhetoric that's been succeeding in these states? it's not just bernie sanders has won over liberals, no, bernie sanders pulling very well among moderates and other people. there are people fed up with politics, like in europe, social democracy, with this old decrep decrepit -- they speak at the very group, the gut of someone's, you know, political beliefs and more unethical sense of being. so i am worried about a democratic party that doesn't embrace this and i'm worried
about even if, let's say we have a cory booker-trump matchup in 2020, that even if trump loses, which i hope he would in that matchup, that trumpism would be alive and well and would be in fact the only anti-establishment oppositional force. and we're running out of time because we're very heavily de n dependent on better than any -- bernie sanders, who is getting older and might not be able to keep up with the pace. >> if that worries you, what givings you hope? >> what gives me hope is the fact that i think that we have a majority or a potential majority for at least a short-term that socialists have. it gives me hope that socialism now economists, at least in people's minds, that it isn't
just a dirty word connected to the crimes of stalinism and it's my hope that we can get an oppositional party in the long run. i think we can win in the long run, but we have climate change, there are also some things that demand short-term policies, solutions, before things even get on a worse course. even though i think we're now becoming better position to influence politics in the course of 20, 30, 40 years, we're very far away from building the kind of majorities we need as a party. >> mr. carson, thank you very much. and we hope to see you next week, sarah lewis, talking about art, image, politics and race.
today, at 7:00 p.m. eastern, join american history tv for a live tour of the museum of the american revolution in philadelphia. the museum's president and ceo michael quinn and collections and exhibitions vice president scott stevenson will introduce artifacts and exhibits throughout the museum, including george washington's war tent and a piece of the old bridge from the battle of concord, hear stories from the american revolution, and you can participate in the live program with your phone calls and
tweets. watch american history tv, live from the museum of the american revolution, today starting at 7:00 p.m. eastern on cspan 3. this weekend on american history tv on cspan 3, saturday, lectures in history, university of washington professor compares the 1950s beats and beatniks to the hippyings of the 1960s. >> the beats were disparring veterans of the great aggression and the holocaust and the -- the rising aflew wednesday of the post war consumer boom. >> 30 years ago, oliver north appeared before the house and senate committees investigating the iran contra affair. >> we did not intend to deceive
the american people, or had that intent to begin with. the effort to conduct these covert operations was done in such a way that our adversaries would not have knowledge of them. and that is not wrong. >> and sunday at noon, historians authors and former congressmen and presidential candidate ron paul explore the consequences of what they call america's post world war ii authoritarian state. >> they know it's illegal for an individual to go into your house and take what they want. fortunately that moral standard still exists, you can't personally take from people and hurt people, it happens, and most people recognize you can't do it. but it's not illegal for the government to do it. >> for our complete american history tv schedule, go to cspan.org.
>> now, live to a discussion about terrorism financing and efforts to disrupt or prevent those funding network operations. a former cia deputy director, and a former deputy national security advisor to president bush will participate in the forum. it's being hosted today by the arab gulf states institute and should be getting started in just a few moments, our live coverage here on cspan 3.
the event should get started in just a few moments. while we wait, some information on our programming tonight on cspan 3 this evening, it's american history tv, we'll be life from the new museum of the american revolution in philadelphia, which opened back in april, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. eastern tonight we'll be joined by top museum staff to learn about their artifacts and exhibits and also to answer viewer questions about the american revolution. again, that's tonight, american history tv live from the new museum of the american revolution here in philadelphia here on cspan 3. also on our companion network on cspan tonight, hillary clinton talks about women and diplomacy and international relations. on cspan 2 this evening, it's book tv in prime time, getting under way at 8:00 p.m. eastern time. experts talking about technology and the internet. again live here on cspan 3, an event hosted by the arab gulf