"Democratic socialism:" When racism masquerades as "class consciousness"


Recently, Politico published a report claiming that President Barack Obama had privately revealed that if necessary, he would speak out to stop Bernie Sanders from getting the Democratic nomination.

Sanders backers found themselves outraged, but sensitive to charges of being a personality cult, they couched their rage in class consciousness and democratic socialism.

One emblematic reaction came from Walker Bragman, an “independent” writer for Left-wing publications like Salon and Huffington Post, and for pro-Russia publications like The Intercept. Bragman, who once claimed that progressives should vote for Donald Trump, said on Twitter, “It’s high time this country put Obama’s legacy on trial.”

It’s time we put the socialist Left - and their racism masquerading as class consciousness - on trial.

The socialist Left have never seen President Obama as the transformative figure that he was. 20 million additional people with health insurance - disproportionately black and Latinx Americans? Outlawing annual and lifetime coverage limits and the worst abuses of the insurance industry? Feh. The most significant re-regulation of the financial industry since Franklin Roosevelt and a financial system rescue that actually made the taxpayers money? A dedicated consumer protection agency to protect against the targeting of vulnerable populations, especially the poor and people of color? Not ‘revolutionary' enough. Historical investments in clean energy and fuel efficient vehicles? They’d rather pass a meaningless, symbolic, do-nothing resolution. Single-handedly preventing the obliteration of the American auto industry, saving 1.3 million jobs? That’s not what fantasy-socialist trust fund babies live for.

For the socialist Left, the critics of Obama have always been based on a claim of ideological supremacy, much more than policy disagreements. “Woke” social media is often busy pronouncing smart-sounding critics of “establishment” Democrats as being the “managers” of what they consider to be the inevitable - and intended - result of capitalism: the decline and eventual elimination of the middle class, leaving in place only the wealthy and the indigent. Therefore, the only reforms acceptable to them are ones that do away with capitalism.

This belief is, as usual for the far Left, an article of faith rather than facts.

Part of the lure of socialism - democratic or otherwise - has always been to address class inequities with the pretension that it is class, not any other social construct, that is the ultimate cause for human suffering. Because socialism, theoretically speaking, does not make distinctions between races or ethnic identities, it has often gotten away with an “antiracist” moniker. Further, its supporters have often held that capitalism is the root cause of racism, and so, uprooting capitalism will end racism, too.

It’s a lie.

To understand why, we need to understand the most critical institutions built to deny wealth, all of which predates industrial and modern capitalism. Class is the most benign of those institutions. Throughout history, much more odious constructs have been built, preserved, and perpetuated based on the central theme of racism - slavery and segregation, colonialism, caste systems, and ethnocentrism - to systematically deny wealth and power to entire groups of people.

America may have been founded by a group of white men in a convention, but it was built by the labor of slaves who weren’t even fortunate enough to have been counted as a full person in our founding Constitution. Low wage immigrant labor built the railroads, and to this day, we unashamedly shop at grocery stores for inexpensive, nicely packaged fresh foods picked by the backbreaking work of mostly-immigrant, mostly-Latino farmworkers paid next to nothing. In certain fields like tobacco, farmworker pay accounts for less than a half a percent of industry income.

Industrial capitalism, the precursor to modern capitalism, post-dates the beginning of slave trades in America by almost 100 years. The genocide of the native peoples of the western hemisphere at the hands of European colonizers, almost in its entirety, pre-dated the industrial revolution and capitalism. If one is to follow human history, it is pretty difficult to make a case that capitalism is responsible for racism based on timeline alone.

But this is about so much more than a timeline. History is proof that racism, not capitalism, is the predominant factor in wealth inequality in America today.

40 acres of land per freedman, the original - and unfulfilled - from of reparation for slavery, with simple inflation alone would have doubled present day wealth held by African Americans. And if that wealth, valued today at $2 trillion and at about $30 billion in the reconstruction era, were to earn the historical S&P 500 return rates between that time and now, African Americans would hold an astonishing $21 trillion of additional wealth today, nearly 10 times the present-day wealth held by black Americans and more than a fifth of all US wealth. That is the magnitude of the wealth theft of racism, and it wasn’t induced by capitalism.

This vast theft of wealth should be compounded with the genocide and wealth theft of native Americans and the exploitation of immigrant labor throughout our history. It should be compounded with the theft through a century of post-slavery segregation, discrimination, and the systematic terrorization of the black and brown existence in America.

The United States is not a unique example of generational wealth theft, though it’s a unique instance. Before British rule, pre-industrial India accounted for 27% of global GDP, and after 200 years of British Raj, 90% of Indians lived in poverty by the time they left. History is replete with European theft of wealth from other races through colonialism, slavery, and genocide. That is the real truth about wealth inequality.

Wealth inequality is not about class. It is, in truth, about race.

It is not something the so-called democratic socialists are keen on discussing, however. Indeed, their candidate of choice often sneers at the very idea of reparations.

The very refusal of white Leftists - and others sucked in by the allure of “class consciousness” - to recognize race as the predominant issue of the “wealth gap” they wax poetic about is, in and of itself, racist.

Free college, for example, proposes to make state schools free for everyone, including the children of millionaires and billionaires (and trust fund babies like Bragman) - the majority of whom are white. There is little discussion on the campaign trail, however, about the toll present-day primary and secondary education takes on people of color. No democratic socialist is animated by the injustice of papering over the history of slavery and the complete erasure of the genocide of the native peoples in even the best public school history classes. There is no debate about the dastardly fact that public schools are dependent primary on property taxes - an actual form of wealth tax - and thus build in an inherent advantage for white and wealthy families over poor and working ones.

For all the talk of ‘free college’, there is little to no discussion on the campaign trail about the tremendous barriers imposed by a eurocentric curricula in K-12 education as well as the aghast cost borne by mostly black and brown working families of subpar public schools that are ostensibly “free”.

Take health care, for a similar example. While Medicare for All is all the rage among the socialist Left, the fact that pregnant black women are at 4 times the risk of dying than pregnant white women gets relatively little attention. There is no discussion of the fact that medical professionals and more importantly, the medical structure systematically devalues and dehumanizes black patients and other patients of color. There is no talk about the fact that the native peoples of this land have a lower life expectancy than whites, despite the fact that the vast majority of native American health care is federally funded and free at the point of service.

But if you just focus on free, government-paid health care for everybody as some form of revolutionary panacea, somehow you are then exempted from having to think about the racism that underpins the very system. If you drink enough of the revolution kool-aid, you do not have to worry about what a health care system that works for everybody truly means.

Class consciousness, the way present-day socialist Left uses it, is nothing more than the erasure of race consciousness, something this segment often dismisses as “identity politics.” Class consciousness, as practiced by the Sanders-Left, avoids the uncomfortable, ugly truths about Anglo racism and its economic legacy.

It’s time that got put on trial.