Is this a socialist moment, as some say? The short answer is no. Generally speaking, a political moment is determined by the particular alignment (or balance of power) between the working class and its allies on one side and its adversaries on the other and the political tasks that logically follow from that alignment.
So how does this apply to the present situation? Briefly, two powerful coalitions are at loggerheads. One is led by Trump and includes a motley collection of retrograde big, medium, and small sized capitalists, more than a sliver of white working people, white evangelicals, outright fascists, Fox and other right wing media outlets, and, not least, the entire Republican Party. The politics of this coalition are white nationalist, misogynist, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-working class, and relentlessly anti-democratic and authoritarian.
Vigorously opposing this toxic political bloc is a diverse people’s coalition. It includes sections of the working class and labor movement, people of color, a majority of women, most of the younger generation, and many others. Indeed, even some billionaires and millionaires from Wall Street and Main Street are in the mix.
The overarching task of this coalition is to defend our democracy from Trumpian onslaught in the midst of an exploding pandemic and an imploding economy. And there is no better terrain than this fall’s elections to do this. By denying Trump and his gang a second term to consolidate their power over the state, economy, and country and institutionalize one man dictatorial rule, space will be created to tackle climate disruption, systemic inequality, structural economic changes, pandemic diseases as well as save, expand, and deepen our democracy.
What then is the nature of the moment? It is, to the bone, a democratic one.
There is, for sure, a new, unprecedented interest in socialism. And no doubt, Bernie Sanders had a big hand in its popularization, particularly among young people. He broke the link in the public mind between socialism and its 20th century iteration and the repressive, authoritarian practices associated with it.
But, as significant as this is, it doesn’t make this moment a socialist one. It’s not the defining feature of the times in which we live. That designation belongs to the democratic struggle to break the steadily tightening and extraordinarily dangerous grip of right wing, authoritarian rule and breathe new life into our democracy and democratic institutions.
It behooves us not to confuse the two. When that happens, I can assure you, nothing good will come from it, as we are seeing in the negative, extreme, and sectarian reactions to the likely nomination of Joe Biden by many of Bernie’s supporters who believe, wrongly, that this is a “socialist moment.”
It’s never good to be rigid, but it isn’t helpful either to fail to understand the time of day. Such a failure, if embraced by too many people, will exact a steep price on Election Day.