America got a taste of a “wild-eyed Radical” in the person of Bernie Sanders during the 2016 Democratic Presidential primary race. However “outlandish” his ideas and proposals regarding health care, higher education, corporate regulation, the environment and taxation might have seemed, he attracted a very substantial following and might well have been nominated had his path not been obstructed by the Democratic Party leadership. Ordinarily, “Socialists” like Bernie don’t receive much air time from the mainstream media, and as a result, the public, while it is exposed to Liberal viewpoints, has little sense of what other far left radical spokespersons have to say about the past and about contemporary America. Let us, therefore, present some portion of their analysis of our society and consider how their views differ from standard narratives.
• Radicals believe that conventional accounts of American History (as is the case with most all other nations) are sugar-coated and gloss over or omit many of the unsavory episodes of our past. They are especially mindful of patterns of exploitation, subordination and violence, along with the exercise of power and control over vulnerable populations, especially women, Native Americans and non-white people, ethnic and religious minorities, as well as the poor and the working classes. Radicals consider themselves as the champions of society‘s underdogs.
• Radicals declare that despite the nation’s unprecedented commitment to the equality of all its people reality has fallen far short of such declarations. Significant disparities in resources, income, influence and standing have persisted throughout our past, while those in power never have had to relinquish their positions of privilege or their elevated status. Radicals view America as divided into “Victims” and Victors.”
• Radicals insist that violence has been and is pervasive in our society. They pronounce it genocide when referring to the devastation and death visited upon Native Americans from the beginning. The enslavement of millions of Africans constantly involved violence from the time they were captured in Africa through their endless labors in the rice, tobacco, sugar and cotton fields of the U.S. Violent reprisals against striking workers was not uncommon in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Mob violence against Catholics and the Chinese once occurred regularly.
• Radicals point to the ongoing love affair with guns and firearms as representing a dark and disturbing corner of the American psyche.
• Radicals focus on the plight of African Americans as the most glaring betrayal of the American promise of equality. After emancipation, the attempt at Radical Reconstruction by Northern Republicans – an effort to support and elevate the Freedmen in southern society – fizzled in the face of fierce southern resentment (by the KKK and other vigilante groups). In time, Jim Crow segregation, either by law or custom, spread throughout the U. S. That, plus racial prejudice, has meant that the advancement of African-Americans has become a long and painful process. ln view of this Radicals would likely favor a program of reparations to compensate blacks for their suffering and exploitation.
• Radicals rejoice when ordinary people organize effectively and exert pressure to challenge the status quo and to improve their lives. They applaud the efforts of women to remove the impositions of a patriarchal society and assume their rightful and equal position alongside men. They welcomed the organized efforts of farmers and others during the Populist Movement of the late 19th Century to rein in the excesses of the railroads, banks and monopolistic enterprises. They will generally support workers of all sorts in their ongoing efforts to improve conditions in the workplace and increase their share of corporate profits. Beyond that they will advocate for a greater presence of workers within corporate governing structures.
• Radicals assert that an elite has dominated the nation from the beginning. For well over a century, from a corporate power base they have controlled most major decisions in Society, ultimately extending their influence around the world. This elite bends both major political parties to its will and successfully wards off serious challenges from the government. They and their associates have enriched themselves greatly and lead privileged lives quite apart from the rest of us. They have no interest in changing the rules of the game.
• Radicals today are angry and largely pessimistic about the state of affairs in America. Most disturbing to them are the following:
A growing income and wealth inequality.
Deterioration, distress and despair is evidenced by opioid and drug addiction, increased suicides, upsurge in gambling, crumbling families, gun violence, swollen prison population, personal indebtedness (notably students), de-industrialized declining cities and the rapid rise of hate groups.A relentless environmental degradation that threatens severe disruptions and dramatic alterations of life on earth in the near future.
Democracy under assault due to both public anger and indifference, low voter turnout, voter suppression, attacks on the press, corporate influence and super wealthy campaign donors, along with social media clutter and distortion.
An on-going exclusion of Radical voices by the established media while Liberals are given a platform because they prescribe bandages, not cures, for what ails us, while also decrying radical prescriptions.
While Radicals still hope for a renewal of progressive insurgencies (such as Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter) they appear less than confident about such a possibility. Whereas they once called confidently for Revolution as the solution, they may be obliged at present to settle for periodic Marches on Washington.