By Florence Oppen
Let’s Break With the Democratic Party to Change Our Political Priorities and Develop an Uplifting Working Class Campaign
When Sanders began his campaign to win the Democratic Party nomination, he only had 3% support in the polls. Today he is openly challenging Clinton, who, like Obama was in 2008 and 2012, is clearly the preferred candidate of the 1%. Yet, Clinton has so far won 1,243 elected delegates plus 469 superdelegates, while Sanders has won a surprising 975 delegates, but only has gathered the support of 29 superdelegates.
Why is Sanders’ campaign galvanizing so many young people, gaining wide support, and at least seeming to challenge- from a progressive standpoint- the established corporate politics of the DP? The truth is that the Sanders campaign has grown and gathered popular support because it has raised an important debate: what are our national priorities?
There is a mass number of people getting excited about Sanders’s campaign because he is spelling out some important truths for the first time in decades: there is a clear crisis of national priorities, where the government serves the 1% and not working people, and where there is a clear collusion between the major corporations and lobbies, and the established elite of the two-party system. As Sanders himself declared in the debate in Michigan on March 6th:
“How does it happen in the wealthiest country in the history of the world? What are our priorities when among others Republicans today are fighting for hundreds of billions of dollars in tax break for the wealthiest people? How do we have so much money available to go to war in Iraq and spent trillions of dollars? But somehow not have enough money for Flint, not just for Flint .. there are communities all over this country, and it is not just infrastructure, it is education, the Detroit public school is collapsing!. .. The bottom line and what my campaign is changing our national priorities: we need a government that works for all of us, not just wealthy campaign contributors!”
The truth is that Sanders is proposing some reforms that are common sense for capitalist “democracies” like France, Germany and Canada, but that have been ruled “impossible” in the U. S. since the 1930’s:
- Free universal single-payer healthcare and expansion of the social security programs
- Tuition free college and university
- $15 minimum wage, universal paid vacation, and medical and family leaves
- Enforced equal pay between men and women
- Renewal of the country’s infrastructure and creation of 13 million new jobs
- Raise taxes to the millionaires and billionaires to finance public works and public services
Beneath the Success of the Sanders Campaign: The Failure of Capitalism
In fact, the Sanders campaign is occurring in the midst of a non-existing economic recovery for working people, all while major corporations are again making their super-profits. Working people in America are frustrated and unhappy of how the economic crisis has been handled by the government who keeps celebrating the “good health” of the economy. An article of The Guardian noted that the government figures of employment are hiding the dire reality: “Over the entire year of , wages have risen, by a modest 2.4%, but this is still well below pre-recession rates. So too is the employment-to-population ratio. Job growth is concentrated in the service sector – health care, retail, and restaurants – and especially in part-time employment, which grew by 489,000 compared to 65,000 new full time jobs. Manufacturing jobs, much touted by the White House as a hallmark of the recovery, are down.”
In this context, Sanders has managed to connect with these frustrations and to point out the lies and true essence of the Obama administration: a government for the 1%. Even though, contradictory, he avoids attacking him directly and defends his mandate “globally”.
But Sanders is managing to do something more than to “represent” or “give a voice” to this discontent, he is also channeling all of the frustrations and renewed hopes into a rigged electoral process: the Presidential election. He is proposing a true program of radical economic reform – he is not a socialist by no means, but he is an “original” social-democrat.
The Bernie Campaign is Exposing the Blind Points of American “Democracy”
Yet, at the same time, if he has galvanized tens of thousands, the political campaign of Sanders has also openly exposed the blind points of American middle class progressives Though he is supported by white working class sectors, he still expresses middle class values in its uncritical adherence to an ideal of “American Democracy”. Sanders thought he could run for elections on a so-called “socialist” platform without taking a clear stand against US imperialism and its military interventions, the struggle for Black Liberation and immigrant rights.
On these 3 issues, which are the essence and foundation of American capitalism, Sanders has shown that he lacks a real “socialist” soul, and shares the core project of corporate America: he has voted in favor of numerous US interventions abroad (sanctions to Iraq in 1991, war on Afghanistan in 2001), he is a strong defender of Israel, he is opposed to any policies of reparations towards Black people, & he rejects the basics demands of ending the demilitarization of the border and giving full citizenship to all immigrant workers and families. Sanders believes corporate, imperialist, military boarders are necessary for a renewed “American” democracy.
These are some of the main reasons why a majority of Latin@s, Arab and Black youth (which has been very active in #BLM), antiwar activists, and the immigrants rights movements and actions are not excited by the Sanders campaign. This young generation of working class youth of color which has already done an “experience” with the Democratic Party has been tremendously disappointed by Obama. And Sanders looks too much as a new Obama, with a more radical economic program of reform, but with still a commitment to be the “leader of the free world” and maintain a world system of exploitation, immiseration and wars. This is even if it is a more unbearable form for a growing portion of Americans who cannot take for granted what their government is imposing all over the world.
This blind point of middle class white progressivism is now out in the open: this is the idea that this “American democracy”, which was built on a genocide of indigenous peoples, on the slave labor of African Americans, on the deaths at the nation’s borders, and the over-exploitation of immigrant labor, & a “democracy” which has carried on so many wars, toppled democratic governments, carried summary executions… is something worth saving, regenerating or even something we can reform. We socialists argue that it has to be overthrown by working people in struggle! Therefore, elections should be a moment to raise these issues and advance our struggle!
The Democratic Party Cannot be Reformed: Bernie Should Break with it Now
Bernie Sanders is a politician who built his career over 30 years in establishment politics. He made numerous deals with the Democratic Party to advance his political career, voted mostly with them in the Senate. He says he did so with the hopes of transforming what has become the most corrupt and corporate party of the 1% (the DP), and the institutions that have allowed the rise and collusion of politics and corporate power. His long-term project is to transform the Democratic Party and the U.S. Congress and Senate so they can truly “serve the People”. In the Democratic Debate on March 6th he said: “We live in a democracy … and I will trust the people to create a government for them, rather than Wall Street or corporate America.” And he wants to do so by winning the 2016 Presidential election.
We do not think the Democratic Party is democratic at all. The fact that the leadership of the party has backed Clinton since the beginning and gets hundreds of extra votes to “balance” the votes of the people in the state primaries is already scandalous. But this should not be surprising- as this is the party that was founded and still rules on corporate money, PACs and SUPERPACs.
In January, Sanders stressed again that his goal is to reform the number 1 bourgeois party: “The Democratic Party needs major Reform”: “Instead of being dependent on Super PACs, what we need is to be dependent on small, individual campaign contributors. We need an agenda that speaks to the needs of working families and low-income people. Not wealthy campaign contributors.” But this is not the kind of reform that working people need.
We think it is impossible to reform the DP because of its history and entrenched class nature (it was and still is the party of a sector of the major capitalists and corporations). Moreover, that even if Sanders won the elections, he could not apply half of his economic reforms because of the tight control major corporations, lobbies and think tanks have established around Congress and Senate. A major wave of social struggles, mass actions and strikes will be necessary to make the pass and enforce the new labor laws he has proposed.
Sanders is raising economic demands that are so crucial for the survival and life improvement of the working class, and because these demands have not been raised since the 1930s, he should do everything so workers and youth do not feel betrayed once aga. He should use his electoral campaign to support and give visibility to the ongoing struggles, unite them and mobilize for their support, like the $15 campaign, the actions against deportations, the California Faculty Association Strike or the many actions planned for May Day.
But beyond action, in order to fight for a change of national priorities, as Sanders is proposing, we need a new political tool: a broad independent and democratic political front of Left organizations, unions, & community groups, with a clear working class perspective. And we need to start building it now, with all of the supporters of the Sanders campaign, and call on Sanders to make the logical choice of leaving the DP to really defend his platform. If Bernie really wants to honor his economic program, he should break with the DP now and include in his program the demands of the Black and Latin@ youth and a real commitment to end any US military or political involvement abroad, and start building this independent working class front of activists and organizations.
In the meantime, and regardless what Sanders does, what is clear is that all activists, even Sander´s supporters, need to take into their own hands the fight for the needs of the 99% and start uniting the struggles and escalating their actions. We need to build a strong base and political front to combat the growing racism of the Trump campaign and fight for our demands. This presidential campaign, if it is to be any different, will be because it will be marked by big struggles and a real disruption of electoral business as usual by grassroots struggles. May 1st- International Workers Day- is just a step forward in that direction!
Sanders: Break with the DP and openly support all of the struggles of working people and oppressed sectors!
We need to build an independent working class front of activists and organizations to fight for our demands!
ALL OUT for May Day! Full Immigrant Rights to ALL! Stop the Raids!
ANNEX: The Bernie Campaign is Exposing the Lack of Democracy in Labor Unions
A Collateral effect of the B.S. campaign is that for the first time in decades, workers are getting frustrated with the leaderships of their labor unions. While the major labor federations of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win coalitions have endorsed Clinton without consulting with the membership, the platform “Labor for Bernie” is growing and exposing the corrupt and bureaucratic management of unions.
Currently, 8 national federations have supported Sanders: the CNA (nurses), NUHW (healthcare workers), UE (electricians), CWA (communication workers), APWU (postal workers), ATU (transport workers) and ILWU (port workers/longshoremen). Also, more than 90 locals have endorsed in defiance with their national federation that has endorsed Clinton.
This situation has been particularly upsetting for workers ands union activists as Sanders has clearly a pro-labor platform & raises more radical demands then the union leaders themselves, while Clinton has a terrible record of respecting union rights (she has served on the board of Walmart!) and is even opposed to the $15 minimum wage! How can federations like AFSCME, SEIU, UNITE HERE and UFCW support Clinton when she clearly opposes the most basic demands that represent the needs of their own membership?
This is why it is important to demand a democratic and transparent process in all locals in order to discuss political endorsements. In this process, members will have a chance to share their opinions and discuss in a collective fashion on what should be the political stance of the union. No political endorsement is really meaningful of a positive political change if it is done in a bureaucratic, top-down way. Even an endorsement for Sanders! Democracy is the watermark of radical politics, so let’s learn from the 2016 campaign to make real changes in our unions!
 The candidates need 2,125 to win the nomination