Is Bernie Sanders a Communist?
Bernie Sanders is now the front-runner in the D primary. Amazing. Given that, it makes sense to seriously look at what he is proposing.
During the last D debate in Las Vegas, Bloomberg implied that Sanders' positions were in effect communism on the grounds that Sanders was trying to throw out capitalism. Was he correct? It seems that a number of people think that the mere fact that Sanders (inexplicably by the way) self-labels as ' socialist ' means that he is ipso facto a card-carrying member of the Communist party of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. They will even ' prove ' this by noting he honeymooned in Russia.
Well. Okay. Let's think about this and address the topical question:
Communism per the former USSR
The former USSR's defining characteristics were:
- Single-party, authoritarian rule
- Party class vs. all others; riches or rags
- Brutal regime eliminating enemies and forcing compliance by government forces (death, torture, etc.)
- Centrally planned command economy controlling virtually all relevant means of production and distribution
- No liberty, individual life controlled by government
- No democracy
Now map Sanders' positions ↓ to the above ↑ characteristics of the former USSR:
- Income inequality need to be addressed (e.g. higher minimum wage, …)
- Higher taxes on corporations
- Stricter regulations on corporations (designed to keep the money in the USA)
- Higher taxes on high-income individuals
- Investment in USA infrastructure (in part to create jobs)
- Protectionist trade policy
- Big government providing extensive social programs
- More government jobs and more jobs via government investments
- Worker-owned cooperatives
- Aggressively pro-union
- Renewable energy in particular to respond to global warming
- Suppression of unclean energy in response to global warming
Does not work. Sanders is not calling for any of that which defined the former USSR (the worldwide historical exemplar for 'communism'). The former USSR in effect was a regime of oppression (and brutality). Sanders seeks empowering and enriching the people (especially at the lower income levels). Although one can have very serious questions about the practicality of his proposed method, his objectives are polar opposite of the former USSR.
Social Democracy per Europe and the Nordic nations
So now let's map his positions to social democracy.
The defining characteristics of social democracy are:
- An economic system of capitalism
- Heavy regulation / taxation of capitalism
- Tax-based funding of large-scale public programs controlled by a large 'benevolent' government
- Aggressive taxation on prosperity; but higher taxes on everyone nonetheless
- Democratic system (typically indirect / representative democracy such as in the USA)
See the Nordic nations since they are Sanders' prime examples of what he is talking about.
Capitalism remains in place but is highly taxed and regulated.
Democracy (even more so with emphasis on workplace democracy)
Public programs run by a government for the benefit of the people
Higher taxes (even though Sanders claims these are mostly on the rich)
Sanders aligns well with social democracy. And, indeed, he routinely refers to the Nordic nations as his exemplar. He never refers to the former USSR as a good model for anything.
Seems to me, the answer to the operative question is that none of Sanders' policies align well with those of the former USSR but rather they align with social democracy.
By the way, I am NOT (in any way) a Sanders supporter. Although I think he genuinely has good intentions, I find his specific plan (as a whole) to be irrational and it would fail (assuming it ever got off the ground).