Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Sanders. More on SA's position.

Sean O'Torain. 

The response to US president Barak Obama’s State of the Union Address 2016 from Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative (SA) member and twice elected member of the Seattle City Council, is a refreshing alternative to the propaganda of all political representatives of the two Wall Street parties, the Democrats and Republicans.  

Sawant says in her speech that neither party of Wall Street can be supported. The position of SA as she puts it is to build and strengthen the movement around Democrat Party member Bernie Sanders as part of an effort to build an alternative left party as the process unfolds. She says that SA would not support Sanders if he wins the Democratic Party nomination and suggests he runs as an independent perhaps with Jill Stein of the Green Party. It should be noted that Jill Stein is to the left of Sanders as is shown by her recent call for the nationalization of the oil and gas industry.

Sawant, a leading spokesperson for Socialist Alternative says that under no circumstances will her organization support Bernie Sanders if he wins the Democratic nomination and runs for president on the Democratic Party ticket. But as we pointed out in a previous post, at a recent meeting in Chicago another leading member of SA, Steve Edwards, in answer to what SA would do if Bernie wins the Democratic Party nomination responded emphatically: 

"We are working and campaigning for Sanders to win the nomination and if he does win it we will be working and campaigning for him to win the election."*

SA needs to clarify which of these positions is the position of its organization.

SA sees itself as a revolutionary socialist organization. That is sees itself as building a mass revolutionary socialist organization that can end capitalism. Such an organization in the US would have to number in the tens of millions.  There are tens of thousands of workers and youth involved in one way or another around Sanders. SA is correct in interacting with these tens of thousands. However it is how it interacts with them that is what matters. It can interact and discuss and intervene in this movement around Sanders without supporting Sanders.  The supporters of this Blog do not support Sanders but we interact with and discuss with many in the movement that is around him both directly at meetings, rallies etc and also on social media. It is the opinion of those of us who are around this Blog that it is entirely unjustifiable for SA and those who see themselves as revolutionary socialists to support Sanders.  Look at where it is leading SA.  

In Comrade Sawant's speech there was no mention at all of the Zioinist regime in Israel. Only a condemnation of the corrupt Arab regimes in Saudia Arabia and Jordan. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that to criticize the Zionist regime in Israel would complicate SA's relationship with Sanders who is a committed Zionist. This is opportunism.  

Sanders is not a socialist and does not oppose capitalism. A revolutionary socialist organization such as SA has the responsibility to point this out. It is not justifiable to refrain from doing so because it would complicate its relationship with Sanders and some of his supporters.  It is undoubtedly true that pointing out Sander's Zionism or his lack of any program to end capitalism would complicate SA's relationship with Sanders.  But this is where principle and telling the truth to the working class and building a revolutionary organization comes it. 

There are times when revolutionary socialists have to stand against the tide, have to tell the truth to the working class. Sometimes the tide we have to stand against is the tide of right wing reaction. But sometimes the tide we have to stand against are illusions in left demagogues. This latter is one of these times. To interact with and discuss with the the tens of thousands around Sanders is correct. But this interaction must be a principled interaction, a principled dialogue. It must not shy away from pointing out Sanders left demagogy and his Zionism and his lack of any program or strategy to end capitalism. It must of course do so in a non sectarian manner but it must do so. Yes such an honest and principled interaction and exchange of views will make things difficult with some of Sander's supporters in the immediate term. But this is how revolutionary socialist organizations are built, this is how revolutionary socialist organizations are formed and hardened and and educated and steeled. By standing against the stream and fighting for their position.  And the other thing, there are many around the Sander's campaign who have doubts about Sanders and his campaign and who are open to hearing a principled revolutionary alternative. 

It is correct to interact with and discuss with the movement that is around Sanders. But it is not correct to support Sanders or to keep quiet about his Zionist and pro capitalist and pro imperialist policies. These have to be pointed out. His demagogy against the billionaire class should be exposed as just that. It has nothing to say about ending the rule of what he calls the billionaire class. No he would leave them in power,  just tax them a bit more. Sanders is a left demagogue as far as US economic policies at home are concerned. 

Sanders is a supporter of Zionism and US imperialism as far as US foreign policy is  concerned. He votes again and again for the military budgets and the funding of the wars and invasions abroad. Yes interact with, yes discuss with the movement around Sanders, but do not support Sanders and his run for the nomination of the capitalist Democratic Party. 

The alternative instead is to explain that the only way to solve the problems facing society and working people is by ending capitalism and the rule of the US capitalist class. This means taking over the dominant sectors of the economy, the giant corporations and finance houses, it means dismantling the state apparatus which is controlled by and supports  and defends this capitalist class. It means replacing the dictatorship of the capitalist class with a democratic socialist society where the working class collectively own and manage and control through a democratic socialist plan the US economy and US society. And where it would spread this democratic socialist society internationally. 

 Another important omission in Comrade Sawant's speech was any reference or criticism  whatsoever of the trade union bureaucracy that supports capitalism and holds down its membership and the working class as a whole. Like as was the case with there being no mention of Zionism this also is no accident. In the campaign around the $15 an hour minimum wage Socialist Alternative made unprincipled concessions to the labor bureaucracy which saw themselves as agents of the employers especially the employers who paid low wages. SA's silence in relation to the pro capitalist role of the trade union leaders is common among many lefts and other socialists working within the trade union movement. 

SA has had success in its work in the minimum wage campaigns and in electing Comrade Sawant. But the Committee for a Workers' International of which SA is part have had successes before, The election of members of parliament in Britain and Ireland, the leadership of the anti Poll tax movement in Britain, a membership of 14,000 at one time. But these successes were always followed by crises, splits, expulsion. One reason for this is the undemocratic internal life of the CWI and the SA. The more successes the more members and inevitably and correctly so the more different opinions.

The CWI and SA cannot tolerate different opinions so the leadership cracks down and from this comes the splits, the resignations and the expulsions. The past history of the CWI is being hidden from the new members of the SA. I was a full time organizer and 25 year member of the CWI. I and others were expelled. We have since drawn conclusions about the false method of work and internal life of the self styled revolutionary left. We would be very pleased to meet with and discuss with the members of the SA and the CWI and share our experiences.  Without changing the way 
SA has functioned in the past and still functions, without opening up the organization to debate and discussion from the bottom up, it is inevitable that mistakes that could be avoided will be made again, it is inevitable that new splits, expulsions and crises will develop.  

SA should have completely open and also public discussion on its different views on the Sander's campaign. This would set an example for the left movement in general. It would help the left movement develop a new democratic internal culture.

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