There’s the F-word — feminism. And there’s the M-word — Marxism.
I’m a feminist with Marxist leanings, or as some say, a socialist feminist. Despite the massive unpopularity of my politics, I don’t hide them. I simply refuse to do so. I’d also like to dispel the myths surrounding feminism and Marxism. However, what I find more unfortunate than the widespread ignorance towards these theories, politics, and the policies — proposed or enacted — rooted in them, is Bernie Sanders’ inaction regarding sexism and racism as well as his (bring on the trolls?) peddling of falsehoods.
Sanders claims to be a Democratic Socialist.
According to the party, Michael Harrington was influential, even integral to its birth. He wanted “feminists, trade unionists and black, Latino and socialist activists in the same room talking politics.” This desire is, on the face of it, reflected in Sanders’ campaign. He, along with his followers, purport a desire to level the playing field — the rich are too rich, and the poor are too poor. As someone that constantly juggles medical bills, feels as though there’s no light at the end of her student loan debt tunnel, empathizes with those that have more medical and student loan debt than she, and shares a host of other challenges with many citizens, I see Sanders’ appeal.
But I also see far too many contradictions.
Sanders is not a Marxist (at least not publicly). But his politics has roots in Marxism. This cannot be denied. In Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, Engels states, “In the industrial world, the specific character of the economic oppression burdening the proletariat is visible in all its sharpness only when all special legal privileges of the capitalist class have been abolished and complete legal equality of both classes established.” Sanders has numerous proposals on his campaign website that reflect this, including passing “legislation to end super PACs, political spending by 501c4s and other organizations who accept unlimited contributions or do not disclose donors.”
Our Revolution was founded by Sanders. Although he no longer runs it, the above photo greets you when you visit their website… and Our Revolution is a 501c4. So why did Sanders found a 501c4 despite claims to want to get money out of politics, including the exact type of organization he founded?
I don’t know the answer and likely never will. But it’s one of many contradictions present.
Furthermore, it’s not just Sanders’ almost cult-like knack for scrounging up supporters in ways that are deceptive at best — most politicians are at least somewhat disingenuous. I even take issue with Warren’s — my candidate of choice — claim that an accountable capitalism can exist. Capitalism isn’t moral. It leaves a trail of poor, sick, and dead in its wake. But at least she’s more honest about it. She calls herself a capitalist rather than acting, like Sanders, as a prophet of a revolution that won’t happen, at least not in my lifetime, all while profiting off the backs of people like me, the very people this revolution is supposed to help.
And I do want a revolution. But the sort of political revolution Sanders describes is not led by one person. Without taking into consideration the flaws found in the class revolutions described by Marx and Engels, Sanders doesn’t understand (or refuses to let it be known that he does in fact know this) he cannot champion such a movement. The sort of revolution he speaks about is led by the proletariat, as a group. Sanders is Not a proletariat. He could aid in a class revolution, but he cannot lead it. He does not know our needs.
And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. I don’t refer to myself as a Marxist or a socialist because its fatal flaw is everyone it leaves behind: any one that isn’t a white, heterosexual man. Thus, I consider myself a feminist with Marxist leanings. Various feminists have spoken and written about this in depth (see Alison Jaggar or Heidi Hartmann … just to name two off the top of my head at this moment). Sanders doesn’t know the needs of women and minorities because he doesn’t share any of their lived experiences, the people most affected by capitalism’s classism.
Hartmann: “First, a struggle to establish socialism must be a struggle in which groups with different interests form an alliance. Women should not trust men to ‘liberate’ them ‘after the revolution’, in part because there is no reason to think they would know how; in part because there is no necessity for them to do so; in fact their immediate self interest lies in our continued oppression.”
I believe Sanders could help us. But I don’t trust him to, I don’t think he will, at least not to the extent he claims he will help. His past campaign and current campaign have far too many slip ups and issues with the treatment of people of color and women. He doesn’t even make solid attempts to reign in his most vicious supporters that at best troll the hell out of anyone that points out a flaw or dares back another candidate. At their worst, at least as far I as I know, they tweet death threats.
I realize this is not entirely on the shoulders of Sanders, and no one appears to have a perfect campaign in these regards. But Sanders has more of said problems as well as a history of it. And it simply doesn’t square with his so-called Democratic Socialism. Why should I trust a wealthy white heterosexual man that fails to live up to the foundation of his own chosen party to work to implement policies aimed at aiding those of us in the 99%?