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Hoping Bernie is Kerensky
April 2, 2020
by William P. Meyers

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A Guide to Jacobin Doublethink

The government of Kerensky fell before the Bolshevik insurgents because it had no supporters in the country. The bourgeois parties and the generals and the staff disliked it because it could not establish a military dictatorship. The Revolutionary Democracy lost faith in it because after eight months it had neither given land to the peasants, not established State control of industries, nor advanced the cause of the Russian peace program.
Manchester Guardian (England), November 1917

I used to hang around the revolutionary left in the late seventies through the late 1980s, so allow me to explain what might seem inexplicable to Americans who are interested in politics but not the details of the Russian Revolution. Plus how that relates to the many leftist factions and political parties that are (or were) supporting Bernie Sanders for President. Specifically, those that support him despite the fact that they think he is not a true socialist, and is pretty much a snake in the grass. While most Bernie supporters do not fall in that category, many of the most important organizers of the extreme left do. I will refer to them here as Jacobins, after Jacobin magazine. Again, not everyone writing for, much less subscribing to, Jacobin magazine falls into this category.

Someone said history does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Leftist leaders are hoping for a rhyme with the Russian Revolution of 1917. Most people think that was a simple process in which Communists lead by Lenin overthrew monarchists led by the old Tsar. But in fact there were steps involved, so the would-be Lenins need a Kerensky. They were hoping that Bernie Sanders would be their Alexander Kerensky. Unless something dramatic happens, their hopes will be dashed, which makes their behavior unpredictable.

Kerensky was very much like Bernie Sanders. When Russia established a congress, the Duma, in 1905 he became a member of the Progressive block. He was a member of a socialist party, the Socialist Revolutionary party, but was in a larger group that included the Mensheviks. The Mensheviks were democratic socialists who split from Lenin's Bolsheviks, who were dictatorial or authoritarian socialists. Kerensky is usually referred to as a Menshevik, as a general term for Russian democratic socialist (there were even more parties in the group). When the Tsar was overthrown in February 1917, Kerensky became one of the leaders of both the Duma and the new Soviets. For simplicity he is often referred to as the leader of the Russian government from the February Revolution until the coup staged by the Bolsheviks in the October Revolution.

The Bolsheviks made themselves popular by: making fantastic promises, making doable promises like ending the war with Germany, and killing everyone who opposed them, so that they were the only political party in a position to take advantage of the chaos in Russia following the defeat of the Russian Army. They did indeed make peace with Germany.

So back to the American Jacobins, who take their name from the Jacobin Club of the French Revolution. Their principles are mainly forgotten in the United States, their name invoking the shadow of the guillotine and the Reign of Terror. Although they were pre-Marxist, they are often viewed as the template on which Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin built their temple of blood.

The Jacobins want to put not just the Donald Trumps and Fox and Friends to death, but also the Nancy Pelosis and eventually everyone who disagrees with them, including eventually Bernie Sanders if he lives long enough. They won't say that to outsiders, but that is the plan. Their vision of political power can only be built and maintained by a 1984 Big Brother type state and society.

So why are they working so hard to promote Sanders? For one thing, almost nobody like them or their politics. They are a nasty lot of social misfits who can only gain popularity when people are angry and they act as a channel for that anger. To some extent, Bernie Sanders, like Donald Trump, is their kind of guy: obviously angry, always blaming others, never taking social responsibility. But they need a Kerensky. The radical American left has been begging for a Kerensky since 1918. They found that mere economic trouble is not enough, as was shown during the Great Depression and Great Recession.

Promises are not enough either. The radical left can't promise any more free things than Bernie can. But if Bernie could come to power, that would change the entire equation. They might not be able to establish a dictatorship in less than a year, as happened in Russia, but they would finally have a path forward. They might win seats in Congress, but more important: something is bound to go wrong with the economy. And they will shout from the roof tops that only by the people of the United States giving power to the Jacobins (or whatever they call themselves by that time) can ordinary citizens survive.

It is a highly unlikely scenario, to be sure. I am not actively worried about it. The Trumpist right wing dictatorship scenario worries me more. Still, I do think ordinary Sanders voters are owed an explanation of the behavior of the Jacobin fringe. I do believe a transition to a socialist democracy is possible in America. I think the transition will go better if it is gradual, with no hidden agendas. And it looks like it will not happen in this election cycle. Perhaps some individual state would show the way. How socialist is Vermont these days, after 30 years of Sanders being one of the rulers?

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