Wednesday, February 20th, 2019

The Millennials Conscience: What am I if Sanders is a Socialist?

Nathan Baril

Posted on April 26, 2016 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

By Bryer C. Sousa, Free Press Staff

As a student of applied mathematics at USM, and formerly a student of chemistry and physics at the University of Maine, who has co-authored peer-reviewed academic journal articles, I approach problem-solving and critical thinking by way of data-driven theory and reproducibility. That is to say, I utilize the scientific method, algorithmic thinking, and methods employed by analytic philosophers to arrive at empirically supported conclusions, rather than turning to fundamentalism and ideology to understand the world. Of course, as Slavoj Žižek – the Slovenian philosopher of psychoanalysis and Hegelian Marxism – points out, we are all inherently objects of what Jacques Marie Émile Lacan called the “big Other,” that is, we are all subjected to an order which structures each of our perceived realities, thus illustrating that we are creatures of ideology. However, by coupling Cartesian logic – as presented by French philosopher René Descartes – epistemological reasoning and natural philosophy (what we now call science), we are able to overcome the uncertainties of the world, which follow from being intellectually trapped as an ideologue, and make rational progress in solidarity with each other.

With consideration to my thoughts on perception and unity already put forth herein, one may quickly surmise that I do not feel comfortable boxing myself into ideological frameworks. However, after immersing myself into the depths of social and political philosophy, I attempted to diligently pour over the ontological underpinning of a vast array of economic schools of thought, as well as threads of politics, as a means of trying to identify a just and egalitarian structure that we can build from, or learn from, as we collectively struggle to advance human rights. Consequently, the values of a form of socialism (libertarian socialism) seemed to not only epitomize the classical understanding of the human condition, but also extended the notions of freedom and justice, that follow from The Enlightenment period, to the industrialized and modern age. Yet, I do not stand alone with respect to this assessment. If anything, I must regard myself as a student of those who explored the frontiers of this form of political and social order, such as Rudolf Rocker, Emma Goldman, Mikhail Bakunin, and Noam Chomsky, who has been, for me, the most influential public scholar.

After I achieved this level of awareness and appreciation for what seems to be a logically consistent form of libertarian socialism, which is also referred to as anarcho-syndicalism in particular contexts, I prepared a conference presentation titled “An Exploration of Anarcho-syndicalism as an Environmentally Sustainable Solution to the Current Anthropogenic Ecological Crisis.” Within the domain of an academic conference presentation, I was pleased to reintroduce the labor centered school of politics to those in attendance at the 2015 Maine Sustainability and Water Conference. However, all of this transpired prior to Bernie Sanders joining the race for the White House by way of running as a member of the Democratic Party. Even though I joined the party of neoliberal ideology to caucus for Bernie Sanders in Maine and resigned from the party the next day, I became deeply concerned for two reasons.

My first concern was that Mr. Sanders abandoned his self proclaimed principles by seeking the Democratic nomination for president, rather than running as a third party candidate. Moreover, my first concern is shared with students studying at USM as well. For example, Pete Franzen of USM Socialists stated that “We support strong social movements and alternative politics outside of the corporate-controlled Democratic and Republican parties. As a branch of the International Socialist Organization, we voted to endorse Jill Stein and the Green Party along with other efforts at independent political organizations… We do not endorse Bernie Sanders because of his decision to run in the Democratic Party, a party which actively works against many of the causes that he himself advocates for. We like a lot of Bernie Sanders’ positions, and we are optimistic that his popularity is evidence that Americans are increasingly open to leftist ideas and to the idea of socialism. However, we don’t believe the Democratic party can be changed from within.”

Secondly, my worry extends to the now common use of the word socialism by the progressive branch of American liberals. Prior to Sanders, the word also suffered misrepresentations and abuses such that it lost most of its semantic value. The little linguistic value it held before Bernie emerged was sustained by Z Magazine, Jacobin, writers such as Chris Hedges, and economists such as Richard Wolff of UMass Amherst. Nevertheless, the central defining tenant must not be forgotten: that is, socialism, as a social philosophy and an economic system, is defined, primarily, as collective and democratic ownership of the means of production.

Having written various columns for The Free Press under the banner of “The Millennials Conscience,” I felt compelled to attempt to provide readers with a social, economic and political context for future readings of my opinion pieces. This hopefully serves as an attempt to provide further insight into this millennials’ conscience.

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