Sanders and unraveling the ‘S’ Word
The nation of Twitter witnessed a minor storm recently and no it had nothing to do with Kanye’s antics or Justin bieber’s latest flame.Well apparently,Senator Bernie Sanders has purchased a new home.At first glance,this may not seem like an event that should raise too many eyeballs especially considering the fact that the senator had failed to secure a nomination for the Presidential election to be held later this year.So,the question one pauses to ask is why such drama was stirred in the first place.
It appears,that the trigger for such a reaction can attributed to the cost of his new home.Evidently,Mr Sanders had purchased a lake-front home comprising of 4 bedrooms all costing $575,000 .With some math,one would arrive at an amount of approximately 4 Crores which is meager in comparison to the blue-eyed Republican nominee Mr Donald Trump.But,that did not stop the complaints from rolling in as people were largely pointing to the fact that this had been Sanders’s third home.It all essentially came down to Sanders’s wife stepping in for some damage control as she claimed that they had essentially sold the family’s lake home in Maine which enabled the current purchase.If one was to take a step back to understand the cause for this public outcry,one would arrive at an answer consisting of a single word.So far,the selling point of Bernie Sanders has been a word beginning with an ‘S’.The senator’s identification of himself as a Democratic ‘Socialist’ has won him many a supporter from within the corners of the world.Now what is this mysterious expression that has seemingly posed as both a boon and a bane for the same individual?
Merriam-Webster defines Socialism as, ‘any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods”.The modern origins of this idea in the form of a political movement can be traced back to the days of the Industrial Revolution.However,its roots seem to grow as far back as antiquity playing an important part in the ideas of Greek Philosopher Plato.In the ‘Republic’,Plato depicts an austere society in which men and women of the “guardian” class share with each other not only their few material goods but also their spouses and children.This practice continued among Christian societies which shared goods and labour among themselves. A form of socialism subsequently followed in certain forms of monasticism where several monastic orders continue these practices today.The ideology is presented in its best known form among the work of German Philosopher Karl Marx and his collaborator friend Friedrich Engels . According to Engels, the basic elements of Marx’s theory are to be found in German philosophy, French socialism, and British economics.Like his predecessor Hegel,Marx understood history as the story of human labour and class struggle.In the ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’,he proclaims that scientific understanding of history shows that these struggles will culminate in the triumph of the working class and the establishment of socialism.Necessity is in fact,the mother of survival and survival is necessary for life itself.For Marx,freedom is essentially a matter of overcoming necessity.So, Necessity compels people to labour so that they may survive, and only those who are free from this compulsion will be free to develop their talents and potential.Throughout history, freedom has usually been restricted to members of the ruling class, who use their control of the land and other means of production to exploit the labour of the poor and subservient. The masters in slave-holding societies, the landowning aristocracy in feudal times, and the bourgeoisie who control the wealth in capitalist societies have all enjoyed various degrees of freedom, but they have done so at the expense of the proletariat comprising of slaves,serfs and Industrial workers who have served as fodder for the force of labour. For Marx, capitalism is both a progressive force in history and an exploitative system that alienates capitalists and workers alike from their true humanity. It is progressive because it has fueled the industrial transformation of the world, thereby uplifting one from mere creatures of necessity. Yet it is exploitative in that capitalism reduces the proletarians, who own nothing but their labour power, to lives of grinding labour while enabling the capitalists to reap the profits. This is a volatile situation that requires change and according to Marx, its inevitable result will be a revolution that will end all class divisions. Marx maintained that the revolution by which socialism would be achieved was ordained by the logic of capitalism itself,where the mounting greed of the Capitalist would eventually be their undoing.Marxist ideologue eventually served as coal for the Bolshevik steam engines that uprooted the feudalistic Czarist regime in the early parts of the 20th century.
Fast Forward to the present day,where Mr Sanders seems to have landed himself in a Catch-22 situation.Well clearly,Shakespeare seemed to have overreached when he said : ‘Whats in a name?’.One,needs just a short trip down memory lane to see that the United States has shared a love-hate relationship with the term.The ‘S’ word as it was then called was much dreaded during the Cold-War with those choosing to identify with the idea were shunned from public life.This trend continued during the subsequent clash with Cuba where all opposition was turned against the Communist Castro led regime.The tide however,began to shift as the public became increasingly frustrated with the rising invasions and interventions that plagued the policies of many an administration.The country witnessed a surge in groups that leaned to bit more to the left.The fall of the Soviet economy and then the institution itself punched glaring holes in the Socialist model thereby legitimizing the superiority of a Free-market system.Excessively centralized planning led to widening of the rich-poor divide among the residents of the Soviet regime.The relentless oppression under Stalin aggravated the problem with heavy restriction on individual freedoms supplemented by a rising rate of unemployment.
Coming back to the Sanders dilemma,criticism leveled against him seems to be largely arising from political commentators and analysts gripped by the ghosts of the Communist past.Even his supporters give the impression of being devoted to an idea rather than the individual.The recent outcry against Bernie Sanders is merely an illustration of this point.But could this just be Nietzsche’s moral hierarchy at play,where Bernie is being ostracized merely because he can afford certain things that a majority of his supporters cannot.A pertinent question on the ‘illusory nature of political life’ can also be raised.With the line separating private and public persona slowly dwindling,Sanders seems to be walking on a tight rope with respect to maintaining public perception in his favour. Now whether he would be able to beat the odds and succeed,this only time will tell.