Friday, January 08, 2016

On Bernie Sanders, the fall of the wall, and Russian words not used here.

Rewinding to November, 1989, we see Bernie Sanders between gigs -- loser of a congressional election, and no longer mayor of Burlington. Sanders sought brief refuge at Harvard, teaching briefly while "plotting his next move."

When the Berlin Wall Fell, Bernie Sanders Didn’t Respond Like Other Politicians, by Richard Kreitner (The Nation)

Instead of heralding “the end of history,” Sanders called on Americans to take the revolutions of 1989 as a model.

... In an op-ed he wrote for The Harvard Crimson that month, Sanders wrote that watching the dramatic events unfolding abroad—“glasnost; perestroika; free speech; open parliamentary debate televised before millions of viewers; the beginning of organized political opposition to the Communist Party; mass strikes and demonstrations by workers and ethnic minorities; serious publications dealing honestly with the nation’s sordid history which had been covered up for decades by officials lies”—prompted him to consider the need for something similar to happen at home.

A quarter-century later, I still use these Russian words quite often. I may actually have campaigned for office on their basis, although few people seem to remember what they mean.

... Without glasnost, (Mikhail) Gorbachev believed, there could be no perestroika; without a popular outpouring of anger and dissent, the powerful and the privileged, those who profited from the status quo, would continue to block the thoroughgoing systemic reforms he had proposed.

Similarly, Sanders acknowledges that the sweeping political changes necessary for making the United States a more just and equal nation are impossible—he is, indeed, that much-abused word, “unelectable”—without a groundswell of support among the marginalized and the disillusioned.

Soul searching as impetus for structural reform? It makes sense to me, although you simply cannot TIF it and declare victory. At this precise moment, I'm not optimistic. Then again, relative sobriety has been known to induce horrifying realities.

Perhaps tomorrow will be different.

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