Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Crunchtime for Sanders nears. What then?

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

That section of the capitalist class represented by the Democratic Party is getting a little edgy as the party nomination process nears completion. Their candidate, the war criminal Hillary Clinton, has the nomination wrapped up through the undemocratic way the process functions but Clinton’s main challenger, Bernie Sanders, will not yet throw in the towel. Sanders himself is no peacenik. He voted to send the Zionists more ammunition after supplies dwindled during the savage assault this regime waged against the Palestinians of Gaza. His recent concession to the people of Gaza claiming the assault was a little excessive arises out of necessity as so many of his young supporters support the Palestinian cause.  He supported the F 35, and while he has attacked defense spending at rallies, according to Jeffrey St Clair of Counterpunch, “Since he always “supports the troops,” Sanders never opposes any defense spending bill.  He stands behind all military contractors who bring much-needed jobs to Vermont.”

He now finds himself in the uncomfortable position of having stirred up a hornet’s nest that is dividing the party along class lines and he can’t put the genie back in the bottle quite so easily.

In the last analysis, liberals like Sanders, what we might call an FDR Democrat although while there are similarities there are differences as well, are no real threat to the system. They support capitalism and the free market; they simply want a friendlier, more humane capitalism. For the liberals, it was FDR’s policies of the new Deal that saved capitalism, that “put people back to work”. The reality is different of course; the slump of 1937 was an even deeper one than 1929. It was US war production that led to the destruction of the productive forces of whole nations and the death of more than 50 million people that saved capitalism from the history books.

Sanders, along with other political representatives of the liberal wing of US capitalism like Elizabeth Warren and Robert Reich, have voiced the concerns of millions of Americans who have seen their living standards decline drastically over the past 40 years. They have tapped in to the anger that lurks beneath the surface of US society and above all, want to give it expression through the Democratic Party.

This doesn’t mean that many of their issues shouldn’t be supported. Why would they not be, they are in response to a mood that they clearly know exists. Their greatest fear is that both the public’s desires and anger could lead to social unrest and worse, an independent political party based on workers, our organizations and our communities. The Democratic Party is the 1%’s political safety valve. It is, as the saying goes, the graveyard of social movements.

Apart from his support for a murderous anti-worker US foreign policy which should prevent any class conscious worker from supporting his candidacy, even if he ran as an independent, it is Sanders’ misguided view that capitalism can protect workers’ rights, build an egalitarian society and avoid environmental catastrophe that should be a warning to us all. For Sanders, the vehicle for this magical transformation is the other party of the billionaires, the Democrats.

It’s not that class conscious workers or socialists shouldn’t work with liberals on issues, as the struggle for reforms is important.  It’s whether or not these struggles are to save capitalism or replace it. The liberals have no alternative but the market and capitalism with a friendlier face as it doesn’t occur to them that the working class can actually govern society in its own interests. They just want things to be fair. They want Warren Buffet and other friendly billionaires to help us and they’ll convince them it’s the right thing to do. But we’ve been here before.

Dan Arel,
quoting from Danny Katch’s book, Socialism…Seriously gives an example of the difference between how liberals and socialists see the struggle for reforms under capitalism, Katch writes:

“Liberalism can agree with socialism that some things about capitalism should be reformed, and socialists often work alongside liberals to win those changes. Where we differ is that liberalism views reforms as ways to preserve capitalism while socialism sees them as steps toward replacing it.”

Liberalism/reformism has a history of failure. Even during the post World War 2 boom when US capitalism as early as 1950 had some 52% of world trade and a global market open to its goods, in the west at least, it could not provide the basic necessities of life to millions of its citizens as a brutal Apartheid system flourished in the South and as it imposed Armageddon on former French colonial subjects in South East Asia--- a brutal war that ended in its defeat.

The Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency in the Carter years and during the first two years of the Clinton Administration. Carter used the Taft Hartley against the miners in 1978 and began the deregulation of industry taken up by Reagan. Clinton brought us NAFTA and threw working class women off welfare. Clinton and Gore savaged the public sector and Clinton promised to “make a lot of millionaires” as he lavished praise on Wall Street. Sanders also supported Clinton’s bombing of Kosovo and the breaking up of a sovereign nation.

Sanders I am sure has been shocked at the support he has given expression to. This week, he won some organizational concessions from the power in the Rich man’s party as some of his supporters will get a seat on committees, most notably Cornell West on the platform committee. The party power will ensure even these organizational concessions will mean minority posts and the bankers rule will not be undermined.  As a friend wrote to me today, “The platform, as they say, is what's left behind when the train leaves the station.”

Even if concessions of a more political nature are offered, some aspect of his program for example, the usual road blocks will be erected to that.  Every tax reform introduced by legislators to halt the loopholes used by the rich have accomplished nothing.
I wrote about this some time back.

Numerous Democratic Party bigwigs and supporters have been pressuring Sanders to back off. But he’s got pressure coming at him from both sides. Some notable liberals are saying he’s damaging their ability to beat Trump.  Markos Moulitsas of the liberal news outlet,
Daily Kos attacked him for not coming out strongly enough against his supporters’ behavior in the Nevada delegate convention, as did the Senate Minority leader Harry Reid.

Coupled with the criticism, Reid also urged Democrats to back off Sanders and points out that Sanders has supported Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold’s Senate run telling the media that he, "I'm very happy that Sen. Sanders is supporting him bigtime."   The idea that Sanders would run as an independent is practically ruled out in my opinion and as the
Philadelphia Enquirer reported today “Backing Feingold could reassure other Democrats about his intentions and party loyalty.”, strengthens this view I believe.

The end of the road is near and the question of what will happen to his supporters arises. When will the supporters fracture? It seems inevitable to me that much of his base will end up supporting Hillary Clinton. She is qualified, ruthless and is the safest choice for the few unelected people that manage USA Inc. There are others, including women who will not vote for her under any circumstances and some of those will drop out of politics, some will turn to the Greens as myself and others on this blog have pointed out before. There are many Greens who are involved in the Sanders campaign who will return to the fold for the presidential election. They are basically Democrats and do not stake the Green Party seriously or even attempt to build it as a possible alternative.

Were the thousands of people who have involved themselves in the campaign of the Democrat Sanders to have joined the Greens from the beginning and campaigned within this party for a socialist platform and also for a more general orientation to workers, our communities and our organizations, there would be much more of a panic among the Democratic power brokers; a genuine alternative could have been on the table early on.  The Green Party is not, in my opinion, a capitalist or a workers party but its platform is more representative of workers’ interests and its likely candidate, Jill Stein, has a better platform than Sanders including calling for the nationalization of certain sectors of the economy and an end to the present US foreign policy. Its environmental record is far superior.

Instead, following Sanders, they have led the march down the Democratic Party road that has proven time and time again that there is nothing at the end of it but quicksand. This former party of the slaveowners, the only party to have dropped nuclear weapons on civilian populations, is a party of the US ruling class and cannot solve the crisis of capitalism.

*I have not read this book so I can’t give an overall opinion of it. It also matters how revolutionary socialists approach workers with the view that reforms under capitalism either cannot be realized in general or are at best very temporary in nature. In the present epoch, the former is more likely. Revolutionary socialist have not the best record when it comes to explaining these issues outside of an academic setting.

No comments: