Daniel Bessner joins us for a free-ranging chat about Bernie Sanders: the good, the bad, and the ugly. For better or worse, we all know that Bernie’s the man to beat on the left. He’s ignited the political passions of millions of people, especially young people, and is the only presidential candidate who actually challenges the entrenched power of capitalism in the American political system. But he also sucks on issues like race and foreign policy, and no one knows if he can really win a national election. In this episode we talk through Bernie’s record, our thoughts on his chances, and the significance of his campaign for the future of progressive politics.
The online culture of memes, shitposting, and irony found on Twitter and other places is deeply entwined with the rise of millennial socialism and the larger landscape of 21st century politics. On this episode we explore the twisted path of the extremely online, as guest @CapitlsmDislikr shows us a world of grad school dead ends, crushing student loan debt, thankless adjunct teaching, satanic institutional bureaucracies and, of course, relentless irony posting on Twitter. Looking back on a ghastly past and even ghastlier future, our conversation sees millennials inhabiting a kind of endless present, with capitalism trapping an entire generation in a state of suspended animation.
Kate Aronoff is a writer whose work appears in The Intercept, Dissent, In These Times, and a number of other fine left publications. In this conversation, we talk about the media’s framing of the recent IPCC report’s dire prognosis for the planet, the pitfalls of climate nihilism, and the politics of saving the world.
Malcolm Harris is a freelance writer and the author of Kids These Days: Human Capital and the Making of Millennials, a book that explores how the structure of American society is rigged against young people. Despite the stereotype of apathetic, entitled youth wasting away in their parents’ basements, Harris shows us a generation locked in by the horrific social, economic, and cultural realities of the 21st century—and offers a blueprint for how young folks can join the fight for a better world.
Nathan J. Robinson is the creator and editor-in-chief of Current Affairs, one of the left’s most consistently valuable and readable publications. Robinson talks about honing his skills at political argument in the high school debate club, explains how a British accent can be an asset in American media, and describes his vision for the future of Current Affairs and the larger left movement.
Matthew Stanley is a historian and professor whose latest book, The Loyal West: Civil War and Reunion in Middle America explores how the politics of the Civil War moved through the regions of the Lower Middle West. His work shows us how ideologies evolve through space and time, and how the Civil War in particular has served as a container for American social and political attitudes well into the 21st century. With Confederate monuments being toppled by activists and organizers around the country, to the shock and outrage of white supremacists and “traditional” (wink) Americans everywhere, Stanley points out some vital historical context:
“People talk about preserving history. But the best argument against keeping these monuments in public places IS the historical argument. Most of these were not erected by Confederate veterans, they weren’t erected during the Civil War or even Reconstruction. They were erected during the Jim Crow era, and many of them explicitly re-encode the racial order through monumentation. So they’re designed to be a political statement. You can’t depoliticize a monument. A monument is inherently political.”
Micah Uetricht is managing editor at Jacobin Magazine and the author of Strike for America: Chicago Teachers Against Austerity. Like many of us, he’s watching with a combination of delight and disbelief as left-of-liberal ideas enjoy a rare moment in the mainstream spotlight, from the 1950s-style red-baiting of Fox News to Stephen Colbert’s recent declaration that “God is a socialist.” Even the ladies of The View are getting in on it, sitting down with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for a friendly little chat about democratic socialism. To Uetricht, these moments are further evidence that the time is ripe for a return to the working class politics that defined the Democratic Party in past eras.
In this conversation, Uetricht tells how his early experiences as a union organizer influenced his ideas, what he sees as the future for labor in America, and why he thinks it’s so critical for the left to wrest power from the neoliberals who control the Democratic Party:
“It really is a kind of socialism or barbarism moment. We can either offer something to people, or someone like Trump can. This is why we do have this responsibility, because obviously what is on offer by the Democratic Party, by the tepid centrist liberalism, is just going to continue to play right into the hands of people like Trump. And so our responsibility is to create an alternative that can actually speak to these very understandable and real and rational feelings that a huge chunk, if not the majority, of the population are feeling right now.”
Alex Press is a writer and assistant editor at Jacobin Magazine whose work explores the contours and possibilities of American working class politics. In this conversation, she tells about being radicalized by the Occupy movement in 2011, her journey through anarchism and socialism in a basement full of radical literature, and her thoughts on the rising visibility of socialist politics in the U.S. mainstream. Surveying the current political landscape, Press sees many opportunities for the left to more effectively harness the anger and energy felt by millions of Americans. She argues that popular social movements, from Black Lives Matter to #MeToo, can and should be channeled into real working class power:
“We don’t have a very visible fighting feminist movement in the way that we’ve had in the past. You have this incredible energy around #MeToo, so many people wanted to change this thing, everyone agreed it was terrible that every woman they know seems to have experienced really awful things, whether in their work life or elsewhere, and yet there was nowhere really for people to go. And when you don’t have that infrastructure of an organized left that can really lead that energy, and develop it, and demand certain changes, it dissipates. It’s a real missed opportunity, and it’s why left organizations should be preparing themselves to actually figure out a way to fight back against incredibly anti-feminist policies in this country.”