Transcript: Socialism for the 21st Century | Nov 25, 2019

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and purple tie.

A caption on screen reads "Socialism for the 21st century. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says IN THE UNITED STATES,
SOCIALISM HAS FOR DECADES BEEN A
TERM THROWN AROUND TO DISPARAGE
AND DISMISS IDEAS AND OPPONENTS
ON THE LEFT OF THE POLITICAL
SPECTRUM.
UNTIL RECENTLY.
WITNESS BERNIE SANDERS'
INCREDIBLE RUN IN THE 2016
DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY, AND AGAIN
RIGHT NOW.
BUT THAT DIDN'T COME OUT OF
NOWHERE AND IT ISN'T JUST ABOUT
FEELING THE BERN.
BHASKAR SUNKARA IS THE FOUNDING
EDITOR OF JACOBIN MAGAZINE.
HIS NEW BOOK EXPLAINS HOW THE
ONCE-RIDICULED SET OF IDEAS HAS
BEEN RESUSCITATED IN THE U.S.
THE BOOK IS CALLED "THE
SOCIALIST MANIFESTO: THE CASE
FOR RADICAL POLITICS IN AN ERA
OF EXTREME INEQUALITY," AND HE
JOINS US NOW ON THE LINE FROM
NEW YORK, NEW YORK.

Bhaskar is in his thirties, with short black hair and a boxed beard. He's wearing a gray shirt.
A picture of the book appears briefly on screen. The cover is dark gray, with an image of a red rose.

Steve continues BHASKAR, IT'S GOOD TO HAVE YOU
ON OUR PROGRAM AGAIN.
HOW ARE YOU DOING?

Bhaskar says THANKS FOR
HAVING ME AGAIN.
I REALLY APPRECIATE THE
OPPORTUNITY.

Steve says NOT AT ALL.
HOW OLD WERE YOU... BEFORE WE
TALK ABOUT THE BOOK, A BIT ABOUT
YOU.
HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU FIRST
DISCOVERED THE IDEA OF
SOCIALISM?

The caption changes to "Bhaskar Sunkara. Author, 'The socialist manifesto.'"
Then, it changes again to "The budding radical."

Bhaskar says I WAS AROUND 14 YEARS OLD
THEN.
I JUST TURNED 30.
SO I'VE BEEN A SOCIALIST FOR NOT
ONLY THE MAJORITY OF MY ADULT
LIFE, BUT THE MAJORITY OF MY
LIFE LIFE.

Steve says DON'T TAKE THIS THE
WRONG WAY, BUT WHAT KIND OF
FAMILY PRODUCES A 14-YEAR-OLD
SOCIALIST?

The caption changes to "Bhaskar Sunkara. Jacobin Magazine."

Bhaskar says MY PARENTS WERE IMMIGRANTS.
WE CAME TO THE U.S., I WAS THE
YOUNGEST OF FIVE, SO I SAW IN MY
LIFE HOW MUCH OF LIFE IS AN
ACCIDENT OF BIRTH, HOW MUCH
PUBLIC GOODS AND OTHER THINGS I
HAD ACCESS TO, LIVING IN A NICE
SUBURB IN NEW YORK COMPARED TO
MY SIBLINGS WHO WERE BORN IN
IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO, COMPARED
TO MY PARENTS WHO WERE BORN
ABROAD, AND HOW MUCH OF LIFE IS
DEPENDENT ON NOT HAVING THESE
SOCIAL GOODS.
A LOT OF PEOPLE FROM THE
CARIBBEAN END UP IN ONTARIO, AND
I IMAGINE THAT YOU'D BE BETTER
OFF ENDING UP IN ONTARIO THAN
ENDING UP IN NEW JERSEY OR NEW
YORK, LIKE A LOT OF THE REST OF
US DO IN... YOU KNOW, FROM THE
CARIBBEAN.
I THINK THE BASELINE SOCIALIST
ASPIRATION IS A WORLD IN WHICH
LIFE IS NOT AN ACCIDENT OF
BIRTH, IN WHICH WE ALL HAVE THE
OPPORTUNITY TO REACH OUR
CREATIVE POTENTIAL.

Steve says I'VE SEEN YOU QUOTED
IN THE PAST THAT AS SAYING THAT
THERE WAS A RANDOMNESS OF MY
HAVING ENDED UP A SOCIALIST.
I WONDER WHAT IF YOU STUMBLED ON
MILTON FRIEDMAN FIRST?
DO YOU THINK I'D BE TALKING TO A
VERY DIFFERENT PERSON HERE?

The caption changes to "Bhaskar Sunkara, @sunraysunray."

Bhaskar says I THINK THE BASELINE FROM MY
LIFE WAS THIS SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC
SENSIBILITY. SEEING THE VALUE OF
GOODS, BEING AN IMMIGRANT,
ALL THAT ENTAILS IN THE U.S.
WHEN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY IS
QUITE RIGHT WING AND
INCREASINGLY XENOPHOBIC, KIND OF
LEADS YOU TO THE CENTRE OR THE
CENTRE LIFE AT THE BARE MINIMUM.
BUT I DO THINK BECOMING A
MARXIST, BECOMING A MORE RADICAL
SOCIALIST, NOW, THAT WAS THE
PRODUCT OF READING AND THAT WAS
RANDOM AND I'M LUCKY I DIDN'T
STUMBLE UPON AYN RAND OR ANYONE
ELSE, BUT AN EGALITARIAN WORLD
VIEW.

Steve says I WANT TO ASK YOU
ABOUT YOUR MAGAZINE, THOUGH.
IT IS A PRETTY AMAZING SUCCESS
STORY, GIVEN THAT YOU WERE I
GATHER A 21-YEAR-OLD UNDERGRAD
STREET WHEN YOU LAUNCHED JACOBIN
MAGAZINE.
THERE IS THE CURIOSITY OF YOUR
NAMING IT AFTER A GROUP THAT IS
REMEMBERED FOR A REIGN OF TERROR
DURING THE FRENCH REVOLUTION, SO
WHY THAT NAME?

A picture shows an edition of the Jacobin magazine, with a cover featuring a colourful drawing of plants and creatures in tones of yellow, blue and pink.

Bhaskar says ACTUALLY THE INITIAL
INSPIRATION OF THE NAME CAME
FROM THE BLACK... THE GREAT
TRINIDADIAN JOURNALIST AND
SCHOLAR WHO WROTE A BOOK ABOUT
THE HAITIAN UPRISING.
WHAT REALLY STUCK TO US ABOUT
THAT NAME WAS THE BLACK
JACOBINS, THAT SORT OF JACOBIN
TRADITION, THESE ENLIGHTENMENT
IDEAS, EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE
BORN IN EUROPE THROUGH AN
ACCIDENT OF HISTORY, BELONGED TO
THE WHOLE WORLD.
WE WANT TO SEE A WORLD WITH
LIBERTY, WITH EQUALITY, WITH
FRATERNITY, WITH THESE
ENLIGHTENMENT IDEALS ACTUALLY
REALIZED.
OF COURSE, WE'RE DEMOCRATIC
SOCIALISTS.
WE DON'T, YOU KNOW, JUSTIFY OR
SUPPORT ANY ACT OF POLITICAL
VIOLENCE, SMALL OR LARGE OR THE
REIGN OF TERROR OF THE FRENCH
JACOBINS, BUT I WOULD SAY WE
TALK OFTEN ABOUT THE REIGN OF
TERROR BY THE FRENCH JACOBINS
BUT WE DON'T TALK ABOUT THE
CENTURIES OF CENTURIES OF
FEUDALISM AND THE ROLE OF THE
CLERGY AND SO ON.
WE'RE LIVING IN A PROFOUNDLY
BETTER WORLD AS A RESULT OF THE
FRENCH AND THE AMERICAN
REVOLUTIONS.

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Steve says WE SHOULD SAY TO OUR
VIEWERS HERE IN CANADA THAT YOUR
NUMBERS, AND I'LL SHARE THEM
NOW, 40,000 PRINT SUBSCRIBERS, A
MILLION MONTHLY ONLINE READERS,
MORE THAN A MILLION DOLLARS A
YEAR IN REVENUE.
FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW THE
MAGAZINE BUSINESS, THOSE ARE
VERY, VERY STRONG NUMBERS, AND I WONDER...

Bhaskar says OUR NUMBERS ARE EVEN BETTER
THAN THAT.
SO WE ACTUALLY HAVE 50,000 NOW
IN PRINT CIRCULATION.
YOU KNOW, I WOULD EXPLAIN THE
SUCCESS THROUGH... FOR TWO
REASONS: ONE IS WE WERE
ARTICULATING A SET OF IDEAS TO
THE LEFT OF MAINSTREAM
LIBERALISM, AND IN THE U.S. OUR
POLITICS JUST ENDED AT, YOU
KNOW, AMERICAN LIBERALISM, WHICH
ISN'T EVEN SOCIAL DEMOCRACY.
IT ENDED THERE AND WE WERE TOLD,
ALL RIGHT, BARACK OBAMA IS FAR
LEFT BECAUSE HE IS PROPOSING
SOME MINOR EXPANSIONS TO THE
WELFARE STATE AND, YOU KNOW,
THIS IS THE ROAD TO SERFDOM AND
AMERICANS HATE THIS, THEY'RE
INDIVIDUALIST, THEY LOVE WARS
AND GUNS AND SO ON.
THIS WAS THE MENTALITY WHEN
JACOBIN MAGAZINE WAS STARTING.
WE CREATED TOGETHER THIS
CRITIQUE OF LIBERALISM AND THIS
CRITIQUE OF THE RIGHT AND WE PUT
IT UNDER THIS DEMOCRATIC
SOCIALIST UMBRELLA.
WE REVIVED TRADITIONS WERE ALIVE
AND WELL IN THE U.S. FOR MANY
DECADES BUT HAD DISAPPEARED IN
THE YEARS FOLLOWING THE DECLINE
OF THE NEW LEFT IN THE '60s
AND '70s, AND I THINK THIS WAS
IT.
I THINK WE HAD A SENSE THAT
PEOPLE WERE UNHAPPY, THAT PEOPLE
WANTED SOMETHING BETTER FOR
THEMSELVES, AND THAT PEOPLE WERE
STARTING TO BLAME NOT JUST
THEMSELVES IN A VERY
INDIVIDUALISTIC WAY BUT THEY
WERE STARTING TO BLAME THE
CORPORATE AND POLITICAL ELITE
THAT RUNS THIS COUNTRY FOR SOME
OF THE PROBLEMS FACING THEM.
WE LIVE IN A COUNTRY WITH INFANT
MORTALITY, WITH PEOPLE WHO CAN'T
AFFORD INSULIN PILLS, WHO HAVE
TO GO ACROSS THE BORDER, IF
YOU'RE LIVING IN DETROIT, GO
ACROSS THE BORDER TO WINDSOR TO
GET INSULIN PILLS.
PEOPLE ARE GETTING FED UP WITH
IT.

Steve says LET US JUST CLARIFY
SOMETHING, THOUGH, BECAUSE YOU
REFERENCED IT IN YOUR LAST
ANSWER.
YOU ARE NOT, IF I CAN PUT IT
THIS WAY, A KIND OF
RUN-OF-THE-MILL PROGRESSIVE OR
CENTRE-LEFTISH KIND OF A GUY.
YOU ARE A SOCIALIST.
AND I WONDER IF YOU WOULD HELP
US UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU SEE AS
THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THOSE TWO.

The caption changes to "Back to the future."

Bhaskar says WELL, I THINK SOCIALISTS
BELIEVE IN TWO THINGS: ONE THING
IS WE BELIEVE IN THE CORE
NECESSITIES OF LIFE SHOULDN'T BE
DETERMINED ON YOUR ABILITY TO
PAY.
SO WE SHOULD TAKE AWAY THESE
CORE NECESSITIES OF LIFE FROM
THE MARKET, LIKE HEALTH
INSURANCE, FOR INSTANCE, TAKE
THEM AWAY FROM THE MARKET AND
GUARANTEE THEM AS A SOCIAL
RIGHT.
IN OTHER WORDS, DECOMMODIFY
THESE SOCIALIST GOODS.
BUT VERY GOOD, YOU KNOW, OLD
SCHOOL SOCIAL DEMOCRAT WOULD SAY
THE SAME TOO.
WHAT MAKES ME A MORE RADICAL
SOCIALIST, TO THE LEFT OF
SOCIALIST DEMOCRACY?
I THINK THAT'S THE ASPIRATION TO
TAKE DEMOCRACY AND EXTEND IT
JUST FROM THE SOCIALIST REALM
INTO THE POLITICAL REALM.
IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT ONCE EVERY
COUPLE OF YEARS WHEN YOU'RE
VOTING, YOU SHOULD THINK
DEMOCRACY IS A GOOD THING AT OUR
WORKPLACE, WHERE WE SPEND MOST
OF OUR WAKING HOURS.
WHY CAN'T A WORKER HAVE A SAY IN
ELECTED MANAGEMENT?
WHY CAN'T WE COLLECTIVELY RUN
THESE INDUSTRIES BECAUSE AT ALL
LEVELS WORKERS OF ALL TYPES, BE
IT WHITE COLLAR, BLUE COLLAR
WORKERS, WE ACTUALLY KNOW HOW TO
DESIGN, COORDINATE, AND
IMPLEMENT PRODUCTION.
EVEN IF WE NEED A MARKET TO
CONTINUE IN THE SPHERE OF
CONSUMER GOODS, WHY NOT HAVE
DEMOCRATIC WORK PLACES, AND I
THINK ASKING THAT RADICAL
QUESTION ABOUT OWNERSHIP, ASKING
THAT RADICAL QUESTION ABOUT DO
WE NEED CAPITALISTS?
I THINK THAT'S WHAT MAKES YOU A
RADICAL AND THAT'S WHAT MAKES
YOU A SOCIALIST.

Steve says FAIR TO CALL YOU A
MARXIST AS WELL?

Bhaskar says YEAH.
I'M A MARXIST.
I'M A SOCIALIST BECAUSE OF MY
ETHICAL VALUES.
I'M A MARXIST BECAUSE I THINK
IT'S A FRAMEWORK THAT EXPLAINS
MUCH THAT IS PERTINENT IN THE
WORLD.
I'M WILLING TO TOMORROW NOT BE A
MARXIST.
IF I FIND THERE'S A FRAMEWORK
THAT'S NOT EXPLAINING THINGS IN
THE WORLD, I'LL BE NO LONGER A
MARXIST.
BUT I'LL BE A SOCIALIST FOREVER.

Steve says WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO
BE A MARXIST THIS MANY YEARS,
171 YEARS AFTER THE PUBLICATION
OF THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO?

Bhaskar says WELL, I THINK TO BE A MARXIST
IS TO SIMPLY SAY THAT, WELL, I
HAVE A MATERIAL UNDERSTANDING OF
WHAT'S GOING ON IN SOCIETY, THIS
CLEAVAGE BETWEEN THE PEOPLE WHO
OWN THE PLACES IN WHICH GOODS
AND SERVICES ARE PRODUCED AND
THE VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE WHO
HAVE TO WORK FOR THEM, WHO HAVE
NOTHING ELSE BUT TO SELL OUR
ABILITY TO WORK TO THOSE PEOPLE.
THAT EXPLAINS A LOT OF THE
INEQUITIES IN OUR SOCIETY TODAY.
FROM THIS FLOWS A LOT OF OTHER
INEQUITIES.
AND I THINK BEING A MARXIST JUST
MEANS YOU'RE USING THE FRAMEWORK
OF MARX TO UNDERSTAND SOME
THINGS ABOUT THE PACE AND
DEVELOPMENT OF PRODUCTION, TO
UNDERSTAND A FEW THINGS ABOUT
HOW SOCIETY FUNCTIONS AND
STRUCTURES AND SO ON, BUT IT
CAN'T EXPLAIN EVERYTHING.
MARXISM CAN'T EXPLAIN THE SEX
APPEAL OF BLUE JEANS, IT CAN'T
EXPLAIN FACTS ABOUT MORAL
QUANDARIES OF LIFE AND SO ON.
SO IT'S NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING
SCIENCE LIKE IN THE OLD EASTERN
BLOC.

Steve says HOW WOULD YOU SAY
THAT DIFFERS FROM, AGAIN,
ANOTHER MOVEMENT WE HEAR ABOUT
THESE DAYS, THE INTERSECTIONAL
LEFT?

Bhaskar says WELL, I MEAN, I THINK THAT IF YOU... BY INTERSECTIONAL PEOPLE
MEAN THAT THERE ARE MANY
DIFFERENT FORMS OF OPPRESSION
AND WE NEED TO COMBAT THEM ALL
AND WE MIGHT EXPERIENCE
DIFFERENT FORMS OF OPPRESSION,
SO A BLACK WOMAN IN THE UNITED
STATES MIGHT EXPERIENCE
OPPRESSION ON THE BASIS OF BEING
A WOMAN, BEING BLACK, AND BEING
A WORKER, THEN OF COURSE IT'S
JUST COMMON SENSE, IT'S JUST
DESCRIPTIVE.
BUT I WOULD SAY THAT ME ON THE
SOCIALIST LEFT TEND TO PLACE A
BIGGER EMPHASIS ON THIS PERSON'S
ACTIVITY AS A WORKER BECAUSE FUR
WORKING FOR A LIVING, YOU'RE NOT
ONLY BEING OPPRESSED, YOU
ACTUALLY HAVE A POINT OF
LEVERAGE RIGHT THERE, WHERE YOU
AND YOUR CO-WORKERS CAN BAND
TOGETHER, YOU CAN WITHHOLD YOUR
LABOUR, IF YOU GO ON STRIKE, YOU
CAN SET FORWARD DEMANDS, AND YOU
CAN ACTUALLY FIGHT AGAINST NOT
ONLY... YOU KNOW, FOR BETTER
WAGES AND BENEFITS BUT ALSO
FIGHT AGAINST OTHER FORMS OF
OPPRESSION.
I GUESS IT'S A MATTER OF
EMPHASIS BUT I CERTAINLY AM
OPPOSED TO ALL FORMS OF
OPPRESSION.

Steve says I GET THAT.
AS I WAS READING THE BOOK IT
SEEMED TO ME THAT YOU CARED MORE
ABOUT... OR YOU WERE MORE
FOCUSED, LET ME PUT IT THAT WAY,
ON CLASS AS AN AREA OF CONCERN
AS OPPOSED TO, SAY, GENDER OR
SEXUAL ORIENTATION, AND I WONDER
HOW COME.

Bhaskar says WELL, ONE WAY TO PUT IT IS
THIS: IF YOU ACTUALLY WANT TO
FIGHT AGAINST RACISM AND YOU
ACTUALLY WANT ANTI-RACISM THAT
GOES DEEPER THAN JUST SYMBOL I
CAN ISSUES OF REPRESENTATION AND
SO ON, THEN YOU HAVE TO BE
TALKING ABOUT THE REDISTRIBUTION
OF POWER AND RESOURCES TO THE
MOST MARGINALIZED AND EXPLOITED
GROUPS.
BUT IF YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT A
REDISTRIBUTION OF POWER AND
RESOURCES, YOU HAVE TO BE
TALKING ABOUT CLASS.
SO I THINK IT'S NOT JUST AN
ABSTRACT THING WHERE I JUST
HAPPEN TO PICK TEAM CLASS AND
OTHER PEOPLE PICK TEAM RACE AND
SO ON, I ACTUALLY THINK THAT BY
ORGANIZING ON THE BASIS OF OUR
COMMONALITY OF CLASS OPPRESSION,
WE CAN BUILD THE TYPES OF
COALITIONS THAT CAN ACTUALLY
MORE ADEQUATELY FIGHT AGAINST
RACISM AND SEXISM.
SO TO GIVE YOU AN EXAMPLE ON
SEXISM.
IN A COUNTRY LIKE THE UNITED
STATES WHERE WE DON'T EVEN HAVE
UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE, WHAT DOES
IT MEAN IF YOU'RE A WOMAN AND
YOU'RE IN A BAD RELATIONSHIP AND
IT'S HARD ENOUGH TO LEAVE THIS
BAD RELATIONSHIP FOR ALL SORTS
OF OTHER REASONS BUT YOU'RE ALSO
TIED TO YOUR SPOUSE'S
EMPLOYER-BASED HEALTH INSURANCE
POLICY.
IF YOU LEAVE YOUR SPOUSE, YOU
ALSO HAVE TO DEAL WITH NOT
HAVING HEALTH INSURANCE.
IF WE WIN MEDICARE FOR ALL, YOU
COULD TALK ABOUT WINNING
MEDICARE FOR ALL AS AN
ANTISEXIST VICTORY, EVEN THOUGH
IT'S NOT FRAMED IN THOSE
EXPLICIT TERMS OFTEN.
AND I THINK OFTEN IF YOU'RE
TALKING ABOUT THE FIGHTS OVER
POWER AND WEALTH AND
REDISTRIBUTING POWER AND
RESOURCES, YOU OFTEN ARE GOING
TO BE ABLE TO ACHIEVE A GREAT
NUMBER OF OUTCOMES THAT WILL
DIMINISH THE AMOUNT OF SEXISM
AND RACISM AND OTHER FORMS OF
OPPRESSION IN THE WORLD TODAY.

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Steve says UNDERSTOOD.
YOU JUST TALKED ABOUT MEDICARE
FOR ALL, WHICH ESSENTIALLY WE
HAVE IN CANADA AND HAVE HAD FOR
50-PLUS YEARS.
LET ME GET A BETTER
UNDERSTANDING BEYOND THAT WHAT
YOU AS A DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST
WOULD WANT TO SEE HAPPEN.
FOR EXAMPLE, DO YOU WANT TO BE
NATIONALIZING ALL THE BANKS?
DO YOU WANT TO BE NATIONALIZING
ALL THE STEEL COMPANIES?
DO YOU WANT TO BE NATIONALIZING
ALL THE MINING COMPANIES?
HELP US ON THAT?

Bhaskar says MM-HMM.
WELL, I THINK THERE ARE CERTAIN
SPHERES OF SOCIETY IN WHICH YOU
WOULD ACTUALLY WANT THE STATE TO
RUN THINGS, AND A IN A PLANNED,
COORDINATED WAY WITH SOME
DEMOCRATIC INPUTS FROM THE
POPULATION AT LARGE.
SO I THINK THE HEALTH INSURANCE
INDUSTRY IS DEFINITELY ONE.
THE RAILWAYS AND CERTAIN FORMS
OF MASS COMMUNICATION.
DEFINITELY.
SO THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS THAT
THE STATE DOES WELL.
I THINK HEALTH CARE AND MASS
ADMINISTRATING OF VACCINES, IN
CUBA, ALL MY COMPLAINTS ABOUT
THE CUBAN STATE, IT DOES SOME
THINGS WELL COMPARED TO HAITI
AND JAMAICA AND OTHER
SURROUNDING ISLAND NATIONS.
BUT WHEN IT COMES TO THE
PRODUCTION OF BOOKS OR
TELEPHONES OR THINGS LIKE THAT,
IT SEEMS RIDICULOUS TO EXPECT US
TO DO THIS IN A PLANNED WAY AND
TO EXPECT THAT THE STATE WILL BE
ABLE TO OVERCOME BOTH INCENTIVE
PROBLEMS AND JUST THE OLD PRICE
CALCULATION PROBLEM.
YOU KNOW, HOW DO YOU RESPOND TO
CONSUMER FEEDBACK?
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO PRODUCE
AND HOW MUCH TO PRODUCE?
HOW DO YOU WEED OUT WEAK,
INEFFICIENT PRODUCTS THAT PEOPLE
DON'T LIKE AND SO ON?
I THINK THERE NEEDS TO BE A ROLE
FOR THE MARKET, BUT I DO WONDER
WHETHER THESE FIRMS HAVE TO BE
RUN BY PRIVATE CAPITALISTS?
SO I THINK SOCIALIZING OUR
FINANCE... AND IT DOESN'T HAVE
TO BE ONE BIG STATE BANK, IT CAN
BE SMALLER LOCAL REGIONAL BANKS
TOO... COULD BE ONE WAY IN WHICH
WE COULD PROVIDE FINANCING FOR
FIRMS THAT ARE OPERATED ON A
COOPERATIVE BASIS, THAT ARE
OPTED AND OWNED BY THEIR
EMPLOYEES.
SO INSTEAD OF JUST HAVING
WORKERS, WE'LL HAVE
WORKER-OWNERS.
I THINK IF YOU ARE REALLY
COMMITTED TO SOCIETY IN WHICH WE
ALL CAN PLANT OUR FLAG AND WE
ALL HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF STAKE,
A LITTLE BIT OF EQUITY IN
SOCIETY AND WE'RE NOT DIVIDED
BETWEEN RULERS, YOU SHOULD HAVE
THIS EVOLUTION AS WELL.

Steve says THIS IS NO DOUBT WHAT
YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT BUT I CAN
SEE THE ARGUMENT COMING FORWARD
THAT, WELL, WE TRIED IT IN THE
SOVIET UNION AND IT WAS A
MASSIVE DISASTER.
THEY TRIED IT IN CHINA AND WE
WOULDN'T WANT TO LIVE IN THAT
KIND OF SOCIETY.
YOU MENTIONED SOME OF THE
POSITIVE THINGS FROM CUBA.
MY HUNCH IS ON BALANCE MOST
PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN THE PROVINCE
OF ONTARIO OR IN THE STATE OF
NEW YORK WOULD RATHER LIVE IN
ONE OF THOSE PROVINCES OR STATES
THAN IN CUBA.
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK AMERICAN
SOCIALISM WOULD HAVE TO DO
DIFFERENTLY IN ORDER THAT IT NOT
TURN OUT AS BADLY AS SOME OF
THOSE OTHER EXAMPLES I JUST
GAVE?

The caption changes to "The legacy of communism."

Bhaskar says WELL, WE'RE LIVING IN NOT THE
WORST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS.
WE'RE LIVING IN GREAT COUNTRIES
THAT HAVE HUGE DEGREES OF CIVIL
LIBERTIES AND FREEDOMS AND SO
ON.
BUT I THINK ONE THING WE HAVE TO
KEEP IN MIND IS THAT A LOT OF
THE REASONS WHY WE LIVE IN
DECENT PLACES... AND I WOULD
VENTURE TO SAY THAT AT LEAST AT
THE STANDARD OF TREATING WORKERS
AND CITIZENS AT A BETTER LEVEL,
THAT CANADA IS BETTER OFF THAN
THE U.S. ON A WHOLE... IS
BECAUSE OF THE STRUGGLES OF
RADICALS AND SOCIALISTS AND THE
LABOUR MOVEMENT AND SO ON.
IN CANADA, SOCIAL DEMOCRATS AND
NDPers WERE A BIG PART OF
WINNING AND EXPANDING YOUR
UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE SYSTEM.
IN THE UNITED STATES, WE STILL
HAVE A HOST OF REFORMS AND
REGULATIONS.
WE HAVE BASIC RIGHTS TO LITERACY
AND SO ON.
SO IN OTHER WORDS, THESE AREN'T
NATURAL OUTCOMES OF CAPITALISM.
THESE WERE VICTORIES WON BY THE
WORKERS MOVEMENT.
I WOULD IMAGINE THAT MOST
CAPITALISTS WOULD RATHER WE LIVE
IN A KIND OF BENIGN DICTATORSHIP
LIKE SINGAPORE OR SOMETHING LIKE
THAT OR SOME AUTHORITARIAN FORM
OF CAPITALISM WHERE THERE'S NOT
MUCH DISSENT, THERE'S NOT PESKY
UNIONS AND SO ON BUT THERE'S
STILL A BASE LEVEL OF FREEDOM.
I THINK WE COULD SAY THAT.
THAT THE SOCIETIES WE LIVE IN
TODAY ARE IN FACT BETTER AND
MORE FREE THAN THE SOCIETIES OF
THE EASTERN BLOC, FOR INSTANCE,
BUT THESE ARE VICTORIES LARGELY
OF THE BROAD WOKERS' MOVEMENT
AND MANY SOCIALISTS WERE
INVOLVED IN CREATING THESE
SOCIETIES.

Steve says I'M SORRY.
I'M JUST GOING TO JUMP IN.
WITH HAVING SAID THAT,
FREQUENTLY WHEN I HEAR THIS
DISCUSSED IN THE UNITED
STATES... AND, FOR EXAMPLE,
BERNIE SANDERS, HE'LL SAY THINGS
LIKE, THEY DO IT IN SWEDEN THIS
WAY OR FINLAND THIS WAY OR
DENMARK THIS WAY AND THE
OUTCOMES ARE BETTER AND IT'S
MORE EQUAL.
YOU'VE HEARD THAT ARGUMENT
NUMEROUS TIMES.
AND YET... AND YET WE ALSO HEAR
THAT THE SORT OF END OF THE ROAD
FOR SOCIALISM HAS COME TO MANY
OF THE SCANDINAVIAN COUNTRIES
WHICH ARE NOW EMBRACING MORE
POPULIST AND CONSERVATIVE
GOVERNMENTS.
SO HELP US UNDERSTAND THAT, IF
YOU WOULD?

The caption changes to "The vision."

Bhaskar says WELL, I THINK THAT IN THESE
COUNTRIES WHAT WE'RE SEEING IS
THE AFTER-EFFECTS OF AUSTERITY.
SINCE THE 1970s AND ONWARD,
THESE GREAT NORDIC MODEL
STATES... BY THE WAY, THESE ARE
STATES, IN THE CASE OF SWEDEN,
FOR INSTANCE, WERE ADMINISTERED
BY A SOCIALIST GOVERNMENT, BY A
DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST IN CHARGE
OF A PARTY THAT CREATED A NEW
REGIME OF ACCUMULATION BASED ON
SECTORIAL BARGAINING, BASED ON
HAVING A REALLY GENEROUS WELFARE
STATE, BUT HAVING A REAL DYNAMIC
ECONOMY AND BEING ABLE TO
HARNESS THAT TOWARDS SOCIAL
ENDS, WE'VE SEEN THAT SYSTEM
ROLLED BACK IN THE LAST 20, 30
YEARS.
AND I THINK SOME OF THE RISE OF
THE RIGHT, AND STILL A RELATIVE
RISE... THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS ARE
STILL IN CHARGE IN SWEDEN.
THERE'S A GRAND COALITION OF
SORTS IN FINLAND.
AND THE RIGHT, THE FAR RIGHT,
THE TRUE FINNS, AS THEY CALL
THEMSELVES, ARE LOCKED OUT.
IN DENMARK, THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS
IN ALLIANCE WITH THE LEFT, THE
FAR LEFT, ARE IN POWER.
IN NORWAY, THE WELFARE STATE IS
PRETTY MUCH INTACT AND PART OF
THAT IS BECAUSE THEY HAVE VAST
OIL RESERVES.
BUT I WOULD SAY THE NARRATIVE
RETRENCHMENT IS SOMETIMES
OVERSTATED.
YOU KNOW, THESE ARE STILL FAR
BETTER SOCIETIES TO LIVE IN THAN
THE ONES WE LIVE IN TODAY AS FAR
AS LIFE OUTCOMES.
IF YOU'RE BORN IN BUFFALO, NEW
YORK, YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE A
DIFFERENT LIFE OUTCOME THAN IF
YOU'RE BORN IN WESTCHESTER
COUNTY, NEW YORK.
THAT'S A FACT THAT WE LIVE WITH
AS NEW YORKERS AND AS AMERICANS.
BUT IT'S NOT THE SAME IN THESE
OTHER COUNTRIES.
SO I WOULD SAY THAT SOCIAL
DEMOCRACY IS STILL ALIVE, BUT IT
HAS BEEN ROLLED BACK, AND THAT'S
WHY WE NEED TO NOT JUST WIN
SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC REFORM, HOW TO
MAKE THESE REFORMS MORE DURABLE.
THAT'S WHY WE NOT ONLY NEED TO
BRING UP THE IDEAS OF
REDISTRIBUTION, WE HAVE TO GO TO
THE OLDER SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC
QUESTIONS OF REDISTRIBUTION OF
POWER AND OWNERSHIP.

Steve says ONE OF THE GUYS WHO
HAS BEEN TRYING TO DO THAT FOR A
VERY LONG TIME IS BERNIE SANDERS
AND HE DID EXTREMELY WELL WHEN
HE RAN AGAINST HILLARY CLINTON
FOR THE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL
NOMINATION.
HE'S TRYING AGAIN.
YOU KNOW, HOW'S HE DOING, IN
YOUR VIEW?

A picture of a different edition of Jacobin magazine appears on screen. The cover is light blue, with a drawing of Bernie Sanders and a model of a wind farm, that reads "I, president of the United States and how I ended poverty. A true story of the future."

The caption changes to "Is it time to elect socialists?"

Bhaskar says WELL, IT'S A WIDE-OPEN RACE.
BERNIE SANDERS IS NOT AHEAD, BUT
HE'S IN THE TOP FLIGHT OF
CANDIDATES, AND THE RACE IS NOT
COHERING AROUND ONE CANDIDATE
AND HE'S LOOKING PRETTY STRONG
IN IOWA.
HE HAS A GREAT INFRASTRUCTURE IN
IOWA.
WE'LL SEE HOW THINGS ARE GOING
IN THE OTHER BATTLEGROUND
STATES.
BUT RIGHT NOW IT'S ANYONE'S
RACE.
BY "ANYONE," IT'S WARREN, BIDEN,
OR SANDERS' RACE.
I'LL TAKE A ONE IN THREE CHANCE
TO HAVE A DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE.
THAT'S NOT SOMETHING I IMAGINED
I'D SEE IN MY LIFETIME.

Steve says DO YOU THINK
ELIZABETH WARREN IS A DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST?

Bhaskar says SHE IS NOT.
SHE IS A PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL.
I THINK AS TERRIBLE AS I BELIEVE
THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS, AS
TERRIBLE AS A LOT OF THESE
RIGHT-WING ADMINISTRATIONS HAVE
BEEN IN RECENT U.S. HISTORY, I
THINK IT'S NICE TO HAVE A
PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL IN
CONTENTION.
BUT THERE'S A HUGE DIFFERENCE
BETWEEN WARREN AND SANDERS AS
FAR AS HOW... THEIR WORLD VIEW
AND ALSO I THINK THERE'S GOING
TO BE A QUESTION OF COMPROMISE.
SO I THINK YOU'LL SEE THIS
SOMETIMES IN CANADA TOO WHERE
OFTEN YOU'LL HAVE A MAJOR PARTY
MOVING TO THE LEFT AND ADOPTING
A CERTAIN PLATFORM, BUT THE
QUESTION IS: WILL THEY BE ABLE
TO CARRY IT OUT?
ARE THEY REALLY COMMITTED TO IT
COMPARED TO, YOU KNOW, THE GRASS
ROOTS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
PUSHING FOR THESE DEMANDS?
WITH WARREN I HAVE MORE
HESITATION ABOUT HER, HER
WILLINGNESS TO STICK IN THE
FIGHT ON CERTAIN ISSUES, BUT
THERE'S NO DOUBT THAT SHE IS A
FAR, FAR BETTER CANDIDATE THAN
WE'VE COME TO EXPECT FROM THE
DEMOCRATIC FIELD AS A WHOLE.

Steve says PRESIDENT OBAMA
WEIGHED IN LAST WEEK AND HE
DIDN'T EXACTLY GIVE YOUR SIDE OF
THE DEBATE SOME OXYGEN. HE SAID...

A quote appears on screen, under the title "Easy does it." The quote reads "Even as we push the envelope and we are bold in our vision, we also have to be rooted in reality. The average American doesn't think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it."
Quoted from Barack Obama, The Hill. November 15, 2019.

Steve says WHAT'S YOUR REACTION
TO THAT?

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Bhaskar says WELL, I THINK IT'S PERFECTLY
RIGHT IN THE AVERAGE AMERICAN
DOESN'T THINK WE NEED TO TEAR
DOWN THE SYSTEM.
WE WANT TO KEEP WHAT'S GOOD IN
OUR SOCIETY, WHAT'S GOOD IN OUR
COMMUNITIES, BUT WE ALSO WANT TO
RADICALLY REFORM A LOT OF WHAT'S
UNJUST.
SO I THINK HE'S PRETENDING LIKE
PEOPLE IN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY
ARE DEMANDING SOME SORT OF CRAZY
BREAK, WHICH IS NOT TRUE. PEOPLE
ARE DEMANDING HEALTH CARE.
PEOPLE ARE DEMANDING AN
ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAM THAT WILL
GIVE A WORLD FOR THEM TO
BEQUEATH TO THEIR CHILDREN AND
GRANDCHILDREN.
YOU KNOW, THESE ARE BASIC
DEMANDS.
A LOT OF EVEN THE ABSTRACT
THINGS I TALK ABOUT IN MY BOOK,
THESE QUESTIONS OF WORKER
OWNERSHIP AND SO ON, YOU KNOW,
THIS ISN'T ON THE TABLE IN THE
DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY.
WHAT IS ON THE TABLE IS A
COMMON-SENSE AGENDA ABOUT
STANDING TOGETHER AND FIGHTING
FOR OUR INTERESTS IN A GREATER
WELFARE STATE, GREATER SECURITY,
AND REALLY MAKING SURE THAT OUR
COMMUNITIES ARE NOT RAVAGED LIKE
THEY ARE RIGHT NOW BY
UNEMPLOYMENT, BY DRUGS, BY ALL
THESE OTHER ILLS, AND THESE ARE
COMMON-SENSE THINGS TO FIX, AND
I THINK A LOT OF THE DEMOCRATIC
CANDIDATES AT THE FOREFRONT
BERNIE SANDERS, ARE COMING UP
WITH SOLUTIONS TO THESE
PROBLEMS.
SO I THINK OBAMA IS REALLY
MISREADING THE SITUATION WITHIN
HIS OWN PARTY.
IT'S NOT AN EXTREMIST CURRENT AT ALL.

Steve says I'M HOPING YOU CAN
EXPLAIN THIS TO ME AS WELL,
BECAUSE IF YOU LOOK AT THE
POLLING IN THE UNITED KINGDOM,
THE CONSERVATIVES HAVE NOW
ALMOST TWICE AS MANY WORKING
CLASS VOTERS AS LABOUR DOES, AND
IF YOU LOOK AT THE
JUST-COMPLETED ELECTION HERE IN
CANADA, THERE WERE MANY PEOPLE
WHO MIGHT DEFINE THEMSELVES AS
DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISTS WHO VOTED
FOR THE LIBERAL PARTY AS OPPOSED
TO THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY, YOU
KNOW, FOR OTHER REASONS AS WELL.
DOES IT SOMETIMES FEEL TO YOU
LIKE THE SOCIALIST MOVEMENT IS
MADE UP MOSTLY OF UNIVERSITY
GRADUATES AS OPPOSED TO THE
TRADITIONAL WORKING CLASS WHO
WERE SUPPOSED TO BE THE BACKBONE
OF THE MOVEMENT?

Bhaskar says WELL, I THINK IF YOU... I
WOULD ACTUALLY QUESTION THAT
DATA IN THE UNITED KINGDOM.
I THINK IF YOU LOOK AT PEOPLE
WHO ARE WAGE EARNERS, AND NOT
JUST THE OLD INDUSTRIAL WORKING
CLASS BUT MUSEUM IN THE SERVICE
INDUSTRIES, NURSES, TEACHERS,
AND WHATNOT, YOU'LL FIND THAT
LABOUR HAS THE POLARITY OF THOSE
VOTERS.
IT IS IMPORTANT THAT LABOUR NOT
ABANDON CONSTITUENCIES IN THE
NORTH OF ENGLAND, CONSTITUENCIES
WHO MIGHT HAVE VOTED FOR LEAVE
BUT ARE STILL BEHIND THE CORE
LABOUR AGENDA OF DEFENDING THE
NHS AND STAYING OUT OF WARS AND
REALLY JUST HAVE A CULTURAL
DISLIKE FOR THE TORIES IN
BRITAIN.
IN CANADA, I MEAN, A LOT OF THIS
CAN BE EXPLAINED BY JUST
TACTICAL VOTING IN A FIRST PAST
THE POST SYSTEM.
BUT I DO THINK THAT IT IS
IMPORTANT THAT WE EXPAND THE
BASE OF OUR APPEALS AND THAT WE
MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE SPEAKING IN
A WAY AND WE'RE SPEAKING TO
ISSUES THAT ARE ACTUALLY
IMPACTING ORDINARY WORKING
PEOPLE.
BUT WORKING PEOPLE DOESN'T JUST
MEAN A CERTAIN TYPE OF OLD
INDUSTRIAL WORKER, THOUGH
OBVIOUSLY, YOU KNOW, WE WANT TO
WIN THEM OVER TOO, IT MEANS
PEOPLE IN LOGISTICS, NURSES,
TEACHERS, PEOPLE IN THE SERVICE
INDUSTRY, AND SO ON.
WE NEED TO GET THESE PEOPLE TO
THINK OF THEMSELVES AS NOT JUST
ATOMIZED INDIVIDUALS BUT PEOPLE
WHO CAN ONLY GET AHEAD IF THEY
BAND TOGETHER WITH THEIR SISTERS
AND BROTHERS AROUND THEM, JOIN A
UNION, TAKE PART IN CAMPAIGNS
FOR A LIVING WAGE AND SO ON.

Steve says BHASKAR, I HAVE ONE
LAST QUESTION FOR YOU, AND I'M
REMINDED OF A FORMER PRIME
MINISTER OF CANADA NAMED BRIAN
MULRONEY WHO ALWAYS USED TO SAY,
DON'T COMPARE ME TO THE
ALMIGHTY, COMPARE ME TO THE
ALTERNATIVE.
TO THAT END, IF THE NEXT
ELECTION IS BETWEEN DONALD TRUMP
AND, SAY, JOE BIDEN OR MICHAEL
BLOOMBERG, WHO ARE YOU VOTING FOR?

Bhaskar says I WOULD VOTE FOR ANYONE
AGAINST DONALD TRUMP IN A SWING
STATE.
I'M NOT SURE I WOULD CAMPAIGN
FOR THEM.
BUT I WOULD DEFINITELY VOTE FOR
ANYONE AGAINST DONALD TRUMP
BECAUSE THE REAL QUESTION FOR US
AT THAT POINT BE: WHO WOULD YOU
RATHER BE IN OPPOSITION TO?
I'D RATHER BE IN OPPOSITION TO A
JOE BIDEN WHO HAS TO SIGN ON TO
A PRETTY CENTRE-LEFT DEMOCRATIC
PLATFORM THAN IN OPPOSITION TO
DONALD TRUMP AND THE REALLY
NASTY FORCES OF XENOPHOBIA AND
POPULISM THAT SURROUND HIM.

The caption changes to "Producer: Wodek Szemberg, @wodekszemberg."

Steve says SOUNDS LIKE YOU AGREE
WITH MR. MULRONEY THEN. I WILL
HAPPILY LET PEOPLE KNOW THE NAME
OF YOUR BOOK IS "THE SOCIALIST
MANIFESTO: THE CASE FOR RADICAL
POLITICS IN AN ERA OF EXTREME
INEQUALITY."
WE'RE SO GLAD, BHASKAR SUNKARA,
YOU COULD SPARE SOME TIME FOR US
HERE ON TVO TONIGHT.
THANKS VERY MUCH.

Bhaskar says IT WAS A PLEASURE.
THANK YOU.

Watch: Socialism for the 21st Century