How socialist is Bernie Sanders?

Young Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders has de-demonized the word “socialism” in American politics.  But what does his socialism consist of?

For him, it means being on the side of working people and poor people and opposed to big business and rich people, and not being worried if somebody calls what he does “socialism.”

He is no Jeremy Corbyn.  He does not plan the overthrow of capitalism.  There is nothing Sanders proposes to which an old-time New Deal Democrat of the 1930s and 1940s would object.  The New Deal’s purpose was to reform and tame capitalism, not replace it.

This is meant as an observation, not a criticism.  Sanders deserves credit for pushing the limit of acceptable radicalism.

Below is a link to an old article by Murray Bookchin, the anarchist thinker, questioning Sanders’ socialist credentials.

Bookchin lived in Vermont when Sanders was mayor of Burlington.  A friend of mine who knew both of them said they didn’t get along.  This isn’t surprising.  Anarchists have disliked socialists since the days of Karl Marx, Mikhail Bukharin and the First International.


The Bernie Sanders Paradox: When Socialism Grows Old by Murray Bookchin for Monthly Review (1886)

Tags: , , ,

7 Responses to “How socialist is Bernie Sanders?”

  1. Benjamin David Steele Says:

    Sanders is a socialist in the way that Chomsky is. That is to say not particularly socialist at all, in the historical sense of the radical left-wing.

    Both are social democrats who more or less are in line with the Democratic Party. For all Sander’s use of radical language on occasion, his ‘socialism’ (or in Chomsky’s case, anarcho-syndicalism) simply comes down to old school liberalism and rather mild-mannered progressivism.

    FDR is far to the left of these kinds of people. Not that I’m saying this entirely with criticism. Compared to the public opinion of most Americans, Sanders is a moderate centrist and I’d love for his ‘socialism’ to reclaim mainstream thought and push the Overton window back toward the left. That would give breathing space for actual leftists to be heard.

    This is the reason I supported Sanders in his 2016 campaign, in the hope he could open up public debate and broaden the political narrative, and indeed that is what he helped accomplish.


  2. philebersole Says:

    You’ve got Chomsky wrong.
    I invite readers to read his writings and decide whether his thinking is “mild-mannered progressivism.”

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fred Says:

    Personally, I think that reforming and taming capitalism is the way to go. You can start a revolution but most of the revolutions I have studied ended up taken over by ideologies and power seekers antithetical to the original ideals.


  4. Craig Says:

    America will warm to social democracy, but not until the oldest two generations die off.



    U.S. imperialism is the primary contradiction. Any movement toward socialism must prioritize anti-imperialist struggle. Period.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: