The Party for Socialism and Liberation, one of many communist groups in the U.S., argues that “the long period of reaction that began in the late 1970s and greatly accelerated under Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Ronald Reagan in the United States is drawing to a close.” Leaving aside the Marxist rhetoric about “reaction,” one has to say there may be some validity to what the communists are saying. After all, Bernie Sanders seems to be leading the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, Marxist Jeremy Corbyn has become head of the Labor Party in Britain, and the socialist New Democratic Party is poised to win national elections in Canada on October 19.
On the Republican side in the U.S., the leading candidate, Donald Trump, seems to have no ideology at all. While he has made illegal immigration into an issue, his statements on other issues demonstrate no coherent outlook on the nature or size of government. On foreign policy, his claim that he could negotiate with Russia’s Vladimir Putin seems to be a reflection of his “Art of the Deal” approach to business matters. But Putin means business, and the Russians can’t be trusted. It’s shocking that Trump thinks he can somehow negotiate a good deal with Putin, whose military position has been enhanced under the presidency of Barack Obama.
In order to understand the Sanders phenomenon, I covered the senator’s Monday night appearance in Manassas, Virginia, where he spoke to a mostly young white audience. The media exaggerated the number of people who turned out, with several reporters putting the size of the crowd at 10,000. But about 2,000 people did, in fact, show up, feeling the “Bern” as Sanders took it to the “billionaire class” and demanded freebies for the “kids,” as he called the students with college debt. He knows that free college has an appeal, like the general socialist notion that government can provide goods and services at little or no cost. It’s a fable that students who should be getting a good education are falling for in increasing numbers. They account for much of the Sanders movement.
Sanders made only one mention of Russia in his Manassas speech, saying that he hoped that the U.S. would join with Russia and other countries to tackle so-called climate change. He didn’t have one word of criticism for Putin over the invasion of Ukraine and threats against other nations, including the U.S.
Russia is a good place to start when analyzing both Sanders and Trump. It is a test of what they know and would do about foreign policy. Sanders, who honeymooned in the old USSR and worked with Communist Party fronts like the U.S. Peace Council, doesn’t want to talk about it. Let’s hope Trump gets pressed on this issue during Wednesday night’s debate on CNN.
On Tuesday, we received more ominous news about Russian military advances. Reuters reported that General Frank Gorenc, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, cited “alarming” moves by the Russian military since the invasion of Georgia in 2008 and its takeover of Crimea. He made the comments at the annual Air Force Association conference.
Air Force Times headlined his remarks, “USAFE commander: Russia catching up with Air Force.” This paper quoted Gorenc as saying, “The advantage that we had from the air, I can honestly say, is shrinking, not only with respect to the aircraft that they’re producing, but the more alarming thing is their ability to create anti-access area denied areas is a challenge that we’re all going to face up to and that we’re all going to have to train to.”
So how would Donald Trump negotiate with Putin over this? It seems the only response the Russians would understand would be for the U.S. to modernize its own military, in order to maintain an advantage.
It’s clear that Sanders and Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn would get along very well. Indeed, Sanders said he was delighted that Corbyn won the election as head of the British Labor Party. Corbyn is considered so far left that it is not unfair to call him a stooge of Putin and Russia.
The Sanders success and the Corbyn victory are two reasons why a communist outfit like the Party for Socialism and Liberation is so optimistic about the future, from the “progressive” perspective.
The Marxist group proclaims, using its familiar jargon, that “A new period of resistance to monopoly capitalism/imperialism is opening up, potentially leading to a revival of not only the trade unions but the revolutionary workers’ movement throughout the world. That this initial revival of anti-capitalism and socialism is being frequently, although not exclusively, expressed through the vehicle of electoral politics is to be expected in the first stage.”
It does indeed look like the socialists and their fellow-travelers are on the move. When you add to their forces a Marxist pope whose anti-capitalist rhetoric has been matched by dealings which enabled President Obama to recognize the communist government of Cuba, one has to acknowledge that the Thatcher and Reagan years are behind us and that their enemies have managed to come out on top.
Against this trend, here in America, we have the spectacle of a businessman leading the Republican race for the presidential nomination who has flip-flopped on every significant public policy issue, including his political party identification. Indeed, The Smoking Gun website cites documents indicating that Trump switched political party affiliations many different times. While Reagan left the Democratic Party and became a Republican, he did this for solid ideological reasons.
Reagan talked issues, while Trump talks about himself, especially his hair. Reagan had a good head of hair and an anti-communist brain to go along with it.