Friday, June 10, 2016

Bernie Burned

The UnWelcome Guest

Bernie Sanders has been like an unwanted guest at a private party, crashing the domain of glitzy champagne swillers with his shabby appearance and unkempt ideas.  The Democratic Party (‘DP’) and the media had crowned Clinton queen a year or more ago and have done it repeatedly since then.  Now they have finally gotten resolution in their eyes.  Obama has anointed his successor and even Elizabeth Warren is endorsing Wall Street’s candidate.  Though there has been no convention vote yet, so this is the last installment of prematurity.  Clinton did win the most votes in the DP primaries which is the key thing here, by hook or by crook.

Sanders Electoral Rally
Sanders will not sway the super-delegates, but his continued high-lighting of these power brokers is useful in exposing the DP as a highly Undemocratic Party. (“UP”)  The super-delegates were designed to prevent another take-over of the nominating process by the unwashed grassroots, as happened in 1972 around McGovern.  They are a sort of star chamber of conservancy. 

UP debates were scheduled so people wouldn’t watch.  The UP chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz showed unalloyed favoritism to Clinton. The UP held closed primaries to keep ‘independent’ voters from voting, washing away 3 million voters in New York and many in California.  Ultimately independents have no place in the nominating process in these and some other states.  They reduced polling places, as in Puerto Rico.  They struck young people off the ballots, as in Brooklyn.  The lied about violence in Nevada at the UP convention.  They allocated more delegate votes to Clinton than she got in actual votes in several states.  The UP held caucuses in which they were totally unprepared for the volume, as in Minnesota.  Even polling machines became suspicious.   I could go on, but you get the point.  International organizations have ranked the U.S. very low in actual democratic processes, and this is further proof, even from the ‘good’ guys.

The ‘Sheepherder’

Nevertheless, Bernie will kiss the ring and urge his voters to vote for consigliore Hillary Clinton at the convention.  This after getting a few concessions on the platform – a platform that no one, least of all Clinton, will take seriously. Maybe DW Schultz will even get demoted, but don’t bet on it.  Clinton herself publicly said that none of Sanders’ ideas interested her.  She will instead move to appeal to Republican moderates and even conservatives – being a Republican moderate herself.  A section of neo-con Republicans has already endorsed her over Trump. Her political positions?  “I’m a woman and I’m not Trump.”  That is it. 

Is it good that a capitalist party has finally, in 2016, nominated a women for president?  Of course.  Could they have picked a better women?  Of course.  Feminists and socialist parties ran women for president since 1872.  Many other capitalist countries have already had female leaders.  Now the U.S. capitalists have caught up!  Warren, whose narrow issue is economic regulation, will be captured and tamed if she becomes VP, unless some kind of rebellion breaks out that even Clinton and the UP can’t control.  But for Warren to accept a VP spot in this context is clueless.
The Pyromaniac

So what are the millions of voters who backed Sanders to do, in an immediate sense?  This is something the miniscule left hasn’t ever had to consider.  The ultra-left will not vote.  The disgusted will not vote.  The right-wing socialists – DSA, CP, Committees of Correspondence – will dutifully vote for Clinton.  The UP represents a wing of capital, and voting for it is the essence of any ‘popular front’ between the ‘people’ and the ‘good’ businessmen against the ever-present ‘right.’  Since the right will never go away, this is a permanent strategy by these forces.  The majority of the rest of the left will vote for Jill Stein, candidate of the progressive middle-class Green Party, or some other 3rd Party, perhaps socialist, candidate. 

Some leftists called Sanders a ‘sheep-herder” and, barring the insult to regular people contained in this comment, that is exactly what he is.  He has led new voters into the blissful, clutching arms of the UP.  But he was, as I noted on January 31 in these pages, a ‘pyromaniac’ too.  He took Occupy Wall Street’s line and moved it into electoral politics. He exposed the domestic UP for what it was – neo-liberal, full of nice words and vicious policies, funded by corporations and the rich, basing itself on identity politics as the fount of their capitalist wisdom.  This is how the UP gets the population to line up with the ‘nice’ rich.  He showed that Clinton will say anything to get elected. (Cue TPP, Keystone pipeline, fracking, etc.) In other words, he has exposed the UP more than any other major candidate. Being a ‘domestic’ guy and a social-democrat, he couldn’t crush Clinton where she is also vulnerable, in her incessant war-mongering, as he is a nationalist too.  Let’s take bets on Clinton's first intervention … Ukraine!  After all, the U.S., NATO and other ‘allies’ are conducting massive war games right now on the Russian border.  Obama, with his ‘peace prize’ dangling from his neck, just smiles.

The ‘Bernie or Bust” movement is a symptom of the ‘pyromaniac’ side.  While some Sanders supporters will dutifully ‘fight the right’ and vote for Clinton, many others will stay home or vote Stein.  The Green Party vote will be bigger this year, and not for anything they have done… but only because of the Sanders movement.

A Little Lenin Would Go A Long Way

So is Sanders a personality cult like Jesse Jackson or does he have an organizational plan beyond the convention?  What about his staffers or supporters?  Sanders himself has not formed an organization and that shows he doesn’t really understand mass politics.  To take a page from Lenin or Trotsky or any logical Marxist, you need an organization to carry anything through.  And that is the missing link which all the left-liberal intellectuals, commentators, authors, journalists, bloggers, entertainers, TV comics and professors never mention.  In their hundreds all the ‘big names’ never commit to or mention organizational issues or any changes in them.  They just bitch about the present capitalist reality.  By default everything drops back into the UP’s lap.  These are not leaders, much as they claim to be.  This is what we really have to talk about.

Socialists, Greens, Labor

Well, things are brewing.  There are several efforts on the socialist left attempting to form an electoral front.  One had a large 2015 meeting in Chicago and was attended by Socialist Alternative, the ISO, Black Agenda Report and others.  The other is from the socialist right around the Communist Party or their cast-offs in the Committees for Correspondence, as well as the official social-democrats in DSA.  They want ‘independent politics’ but include an alliance with the Democrats as part of their written program.  In effect, leading everyone right back to the popular front they both have championed since WWI / 1914 or Stalin / 1934.  The “Working Families Party” in NY is one of their templates.  In actuality they are all about promoting a ‘progressive’ Bernie wing in the Democrats, as was clear from a recent talk by a local supporter here at Mayday.

Then there is the Green Party, which has been a stagnant organization for years.  Oddly, nearly every candidate in Minneapolis/St. Paul that has run for the Greens is a small progressive businessman.  I’m not sure if this is true in other locations, but I found it indicative.  They do not have a labor component.  Stein, a doctor, is making appeals to Sanders to join the Green ticket, so the Greens are not unaware of what is going on.  As I noted, any enlarged vote for Stein will come from the “Bernie or Bust” contingent.  Now more than 50,000 people have signed a petition for Sanders to run as an independent.  And there are indications that Sanders’ staffers are looking at forming a “Progressive Party’ similar to the left-populist organization of the late 1880s-1890s.  Many Sanders supporters are saying the same thing.

Will the labor movement itself form anything?  In the U.S., the large Labor Party of the late 1990s failed to run candidates in the face of opposition from DSA’s Sweeney, at that time head of the AFL-CIO.  Occupy got some AFL-CIO groups to support them.  Other groups have attempted to form a labor-based organization since then, like the Mass Party of Labor. When the MPL failed to support other leftists running on similar platforms, that organization went into hibernation.  Candidates from Socialist Alternative in Seattle and Minneapolis got endorsements from some labor unions like SEIU.  Sanders got 4 labor internationals and many locals and regionals to support him.  What is clear from these recent historical examples is that, right now, the labor movement itself will not form an independent electoral organization until people OUTSIDE labor start the process.  You first!

Reds of the World, Unite!

Trotsky would have made Socialist Alternative, Socialist Action and Socialist Appeal – all U.S. Trotskyist organizations - form a joint working group in preparation for unity.  No such front exists to this day, probably because no one of Trotsky’s authority exists anymore.  (I might add that the DSA/CP/CoC should also block, just to make political sense!) An anti-capitalist mass movement in the U.S. – which is growing – will force ostensible Marxists to work together in a Left Front, in spite of their own highly prized theoretical positions, small group mentalities and personality conflicts.  This has already happened in Europe.  Most left workers and independent radicals in the U.S. constantly wonder why there is this plethora of tiny left sects.  Whether they be Maoists, Trotskyists, unrepentant Stalinists, China-supporters, Guevaraists, anarcho-syndicalists, DeLeonists, Euro-Communists, Socialists – perhaps even the occasional Social-Democrat – they all are anti-capitalist to various degrees.  The Bolsheviks and Mensheviks were in one organization for 12 years in a far more politicized context than the one the U.S. left finds itself in now, and that lasted until the situation in Russia advanced to a certain point - and WWI happened.  The present U.S. left pretends to be ‘past’ that, but it has never even got to that stage.

Activism Over-Acting

Then there is the ridiculous profusion of single-issue organizations – 1,000s probably – that have one concern a piece.  As if ‘holistic’ or ‘connected’ or ‘the matrix’ or ‘society as a whole’ is some fantasy and not the overwhelming reality.  Nearly every organization out there is focused on one aspect of capitalism, but like the blind man in the room, thinks the elephant trunk is the whole animal.  Time to turn the lights on and see the elephant.  Organizations should work together as part of an anti-capitalist front, but this might only happen if things get really rough. 
So what is to be done?  There is no doubt that this movement has energized and moved millions of people to the left. But if no left organization comes out of the Sanders movement, then this round of mass activism will again have come to naught.   Of course personal experience can be used to build on in the future, the next time around.  Until it is forgotten and, like Ground Hog Day, we have to start all over again.

P.S. - In 3 days June 17-19, 3,000 activists gathered in a 'People’s Summit' in Chicago to embrace a continuing resolution to building a 'broad, bigger progressive' movement. This event involved some social democrats, but it shows that there is an organizational residue from the Sanders campaign.  Frances Fox Piven, NNU, Naomi Klein and other activists addressed the conference. 

P.P.S. - Stein made the bourgeois news the week of July 7, indicating Sanders was welcome on the Green ticket. 

Red Frog
June 10, 2016

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