World Politics

The US Elections and the Sanders Campaign

The US Elections and the Sanders Campaign


Introduction


Something unusual is happening in the United States of America. Bernie Sanders, a US Senator, who calls himself a Socialist, is campaigning to be nominated as the Democratic Party candidate for the next US Presidential election. The Democratic Party is one of the two parties of the US imperialist bourgeoisie. In the 19th century, it had a big pro-slavery wing, so that the Republicans under Lincoln appeared as the more progressive party. In the twentieth century, especially since Franklin Roosevelt and the “New Deal”, the Democrats have presented themselves as the party of the left, usually getting some kind of support from the CPUSA, even though this party has been an equal partner in all the imperialist wars and internal reactionary policies. 

From the 1980s, there have been movements that have argued that it is possible to “recapture’ the Democratic Party from the “plutocrats” or the “right”, and give it back to the people. Reverend Jesse Jackson organised his “Rainbow Coalition”. And there was even a great elation when Obama was elected president. But the Sanders campaign goes beyond that, while remaining wedded to that strategy. Sanders, after all, calls himself a socialist. In the USA, this was unheard of. And he has some support among the union bureaucracy, not so much that he could become a real force, but enough to give his campaigners delusions of grandeur. 


In reality, the politics of Sanders is not very radical. But the campaign clearly aims to mobilize and at the same time take out the fangs of the revived popular movements of the last few years, by getting people lined up behind the Democratic Party instead of for independent political action, not just electoral action, but also militant mass movements. Yet, even in India, there have appeared comments hailing Sanders. Sanders has been equated with Jeremy Corbyn and his challenge to the Blairite labour leaders in UK. We do not wish to bring in the British issue, but only to remark that in one case there is an actual labour party, which of course, ever since Neil Kinnock, has been moving against workers, where a challenge has been mounted to take it back to a leftward stance; while in the other case, Sanders is committed to remaining in the imperialist bourgeois party, and even, in advance, to supporting Clinton (or another Democrat) if (really, when) he loses in the primaries. Indeed, Jill Stein, declaring she will run again on the Green Party ticket, is seeking to tap into the left vote that she hopes will be disgusted when Sanders will endorse the mainstream Democratic candidate. Nor is it just a matter of some formal adherence to Democratic Party structures. In the ongoing mass movements, Sanders has a track record that is much questioned. Notably, in the anti-racist campaign Black Lives Matter, Sanders has a poor record. Asked about his views on Baltimore, where White racists used great violence, Sanders responded by saying that “It's primarily a local and state issue”, and went on to talk about job creation. It would be like a supposed communist in India, being asked about increasing violence on Dalits, including regular murders, was to respond by talking about further steps to implement the reservation of jobs, ignoring the killings because that is a state not a centre issue. 


We publish below, four articles of four US organisations – Solidarity, International Socialist Organisation, Socialist Alternative, and Socialist Action, with different views on how to respond to the Sanders campaign and the popular enthusiasm it has been generating. 


Radical Socialist


 

Connecting Sanders’ Audience’s Aspirations to Clear Working Class Political Alternatives

Sunday 2 August 2015, by Traven and Joanna (from Against the Current)


The following document was discussed at Solidarity’s 2015 Convention last weekend and approved by a majority vote, with the addendum that our organization also has many members engaged in the Green Party and that we support their work and the Jill Stein campaign. This resolution is intended to outline an approach to the Sanders campaign and his supporters, and not as an evaluation as Sanders himself or his political views.


Solidarity understands the strategic imperative of organizing a mass base for independent working class political action that unites working people, the independent social movements, and organizations of the oppressed in a battle for their common interests against capitalism and its political representatives. Unlike those on the left who continue to see the Democratic Party as a lesser evil that can be influenced from within, we regard the Democratic Party as unreformable, committed to imposing capital’s neoliberal project. History has shown all too many times that the Democratic Party remains the graveyard of social movements. We reject being drawn into the slippery slope of Democratic Party politics.


Nevertheless, any significant advance in independent working class politics requires a fracturing away of the Democratic Party’s mass base. As an austerity-first party, Democratic lesser-evilism has lost much of its allure. We strongly disagree with Bernie Sanders’ approach of running in the Democratic primary and his pledge to support the Party nominee. However, it would be a mistake for the left not to recognize the enormous significance and potential inherent in the millions of people rallying around his campaign looking to fight against corporate America and what they perceive as the highjacking of the democratic process. Despite Sanders running as a Democrat, we appreciate the significance of the mass support he is receiving for his basic message. It is the message of Occupy—the 99% versus the 1%—proving that eight years into the devastating recession and deepened neoliberal austerity presided over by the Obama administration it is very much alive and embedded in the consciousness of big layers of the US population. This is particularly true of young people who are just entering national electoral politics inspired by Sanders’ message.


We should welcome this outpouring of fight back spirit, and seek to work together on the issues they raise while emphasizing that a Democratic Party orientation is a dead end; and instead win them over to the need for independent politics and building movements that can change society. We urge Solidarity members, those we can influence, as well as other revolutionary socialists to find ways to connect with the millions of people who are being drawn to the Sanders campaign, most of whom will have no patience for the Democratic Party establishment, much less see themselves in an ongoing fight to take the leadership of the Party. This is a key audience to connect with and make inroads into if we are to accomplish any sort of breakthrough for independent left politics. Many Sanders supporters are already involved in, or can be won to, organizing ongoing independent anti-austerity and other social movements, to local independent electoral campaigns, and to the Green Party’s fledgling effort to build a national independent party/movement.


We are supportive of the rank and file rebellions within labor, such as the independent, grassroots Labor for Bernie formation, that are developing around this election. They provide an opportunity to discuss what program and objectives should drive labor’s political choices. The rebellion and disgust with bureaucrat driven, transactional, business as usual politics poses the need, and possibility, to build rank and file networks within labor that demand a real democratic process of endorsements, and that fight to hold the bureaucrats accountable to supporting only candidates that actually support union policies. Political endorsements will not "save" our unions or the working class. But a struggle over internal democracy inside our unions such as the one that has erupted in the AFT can build rank and file power.


Our job as socialists in the labor movement includes a strategy of fostering cracks in labor’s slavish alignment with the Democratic Party establishment. A fissure in terms of a Sanders endorsement is a good thing. We are not indifferent to this fight. A mass, independent working class party will not be created in this country without the activity of the labor militants who are supporting the Sanders campaign. This is also the milieu of labor activists that grasp the necessary task of building the political capacities of workers—something far beyond the scope of any electoral insurgency.


We should embrace movements and mobilizing efforts around specific demands that grow out of the Sanders campaign. There is now a call by young people activated by the campaign for a million student march on Washington this fall, building on Sanders’ call to make public universities and colleges tuition free.


We have yet to see the emergence of a large-scale challenge to austerity and a clear working class political alternative at the national level. An effective left politics, one that can win and implement a left program, requires an organizational infrastructure and political culture that does not exist right now. With a lack of ongoing, successful independent left politics, we have to contend with the reality that anger at the corporate control of politics reflects itself in vague populism and often within the Democratic Party.


We recognize that electoral initiatives like those of Kshama Sawant in Seattle, the late Chokwe Lumumba in Mississippi, the Vermont Progressive Party, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, United Working Families in Chicago, Howie Hawkins Green Party campaign, and others, while they have their limitations and problems, represent a challenge to the hold of the Democratic Party establishment. We support efforts to run pro-worker and labor candidates as independents or on the ballot line of non-corporate parties.


We are interested in working with people who are attracted to a campaign that warns that, “The best president in the history of the world …will not be able to address the major crises that we face unless there is a mass political movement, unless there’s a political revolution in this country.” We should emphasize Sanders’ call for building an ongoing movement beyond this election cycle. Yes, we do not expect the Sanders campaign itself to build lasting grassroots organization. The ball is in our, broadly defined, court. We should seize this potential organizing opportunity, reaching out to people excited by the Sanders campaign with the message, “Let’s not waste this moment where folks are coming together around an anti-corporate, anti-austerity program by ending with the whimper of voting for Hillary and calling it a day. Let’s build up our power.” The tragedy would not be so much people pulling the lever for Clinton, but dissipating and disbanding this mass outcry, having nothing to show for our bottom up efforts.


Jesse Jackson, despite winning 8 million votes in 1988, chose to demobilize the ostensibly independent Rainbow Coalition organization after losing the Democratic nomination so no ongoing coalition went on to continue working around issues of economic and racial justice after the campaign ended. This time, the left should urge Sanders supporters to keep the fight going through joining anti-austerity struggles, social movements or building local, multi-racial coalitions, including independent electoral infrastructures, that live on well after the presidential campaign.


We agree with Howie Hawkins when he says: “We should talk about why independent politics is the best way to build progressive power, about the Democratic Party as the historic graveyard of progressive movements, and about the need in 2016 for a progressive alternative when Sanders folds and endorses Clinton. I don’t expect many will be persuaded to quit the Sanders campaign before the primaries. But I do expect that many of them will want a Plan B, a progressive alternative to Clinton, after the primaries.”

July 29, 2015


What should the left say about Sanders?

May 20, 2015 (From Socialist Worker – online edition)


Promising a "political revolution" against the "billionaires and oligarchs" who have hijacked the political system, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has launched a campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. The announcement generated a lot of enthusiasm--and a lot of debate about the character of the Sanders campaign and how the left should relate to it.

SocialistWorker.org's publisher, the International Socialist Organization, agreed to an exchange of views on the Sanders campaign. Below, we present commentaries by Todd Chretien, writing for the ISO, and Philip Locker, writing for Socialist Alternative. For expanded articles from the two groups, see "The problem with Bernie Sanders" by Ashley Smith for the ISO and "Bernie Sanders calls for political revolution against billionaires" by Philip Locker.


Todd Chretien

For the International Socialist Organization


BERNIE SANDERS' campaign will stand out from the status quo of U.S. politics. He has promised to support a trillion-dollar green jobs program for renewable energy. He defends Social Security and advocates for a single-payer health system. Faced with an intramural battle between the Clinton and Bush wings of the 1 Percent, he calls for a "political revolution." On top of that, he identifies himself as a socialist and says his hero is Eugene V. Debs. It's no wonder many people on the left are excited.


But there's one way that Sanders' campaign doesn't stand out, and it's decisive for socialists. He is running for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, and he has ruled out in advance an independent campaign in 2016. "No matter what I do," he said earlier this year, "I will not be a spoiler. I will not play that role in helping to elect some right-wing Republican as president of the United States."


There is no reason socialists shouldn't take Sanders at his word. He promises to confine his "political revolution" to the role of loyal opposition within the Democratic Party, and to support Hillary Clinton if she rides her billion-dollar campaign to the nomination.


As Bruce Dixon, former Black Panther and Georgia Green Party chair, put it, Sanders will serve as the sheepdog for the Democratic Party--his bark may cause a stir, but his job is to bring discontented voters back into the Democratic flock.

This was the result of Dennis Kucinich's primary campaigns in the 2000s and Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition runs in the 1980s. The hopes of some on the left that, for example, the Rainbow Coalition would break with the Democrats were dashed when Jackson did exactly what Sanders is promising to do in 2016--endorse the mainstream Democrat who gets the nomination.


As a U.S. senator, Sanders calls himself an independent, not a Democrat--but his record should lead socialists to question that label. He caucuses with the Senate Democrats, and left-wing activists in Sanders' home state of Vermont are critical of his support for Democrats like budget-cutting Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin.


And like the increasingly neoliberal social democratic and labor parties in Europe on which Sanders models his socialism, he takes positions on critical questions that aren't radical at all. He voted in favor of the U.S. war on Afghanistan and the USA PATRIOT Act in 2001, and, more recently, a Senate resolution supporting Israel's 2014 massacre in Gaza. Asked about the mass protests in Baltimore after the police murder of Freddie Gray, Sanders said that "being a cop is a hard job," before backing tame policy proposals that were no more radical than Hillary Clinton's.


Sanders' announcement comes amid widespread political discontent and the spread of young movements such as Black Lives Matter, Fight for 15, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in solidarity with Palestine, and more. Socialists have a responsibility to discuss the real record of the Democrats, including their liberal wing, with these new movements. We can't shy away from the hard lessons of past attempts to reform the Democratic Party.


Does that mean we are stuck on the sidelines? Not at all. The Sanders' campaign gives us an opportunity to debate socialist politics. If Sanders wants to bring movement and union activists into the Democratic Party through its left entrance, we should try to get them back out that door and into the streets. We can engage on political issues with People for Bernie groups and encourage them to take part in activism outside the electoral arena. And since Sanders' version of "revolution" doesn't challenge the boundaries of one of the richest capitalist parties in the world, we can introduce Debs' socialism to a new generation.


What socialists should not do is follow Sanders into the Democratic Party and organize for his primary campaign, even on a temporary basis. History teaches us that this will make it harder, not easier, to build an independent left-wing alternative to the two-party system.


As Kshama Sawant in Seattle and Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones in New York demonstrated with their independent campaigns, we don't have to wait to begin building that alternative. We can begin our discussion with Sanders supporters by stressing our common aims for radical change--but we have to tell it to them straight: To win that change, the left can't follow Sanders into a corporate party, but must help organize the new movements, while building an independent political challenge outside the Democratic Party.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Philip Locker

For Socialist Alternative


Bernie Sanders' campaign has a fundamental built-in contradiction. On the one side, it stands out as a credible national presidential campaign, giving voice to the seething anger against inequality and the war on working people. Despite significant shortcomings--for example, his failure to speak out clearly in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and his support for key aspects of U.S. foreign policy--his platform has the potential to mobilize hundreds of thousands against corporate politics.

On the other side, Sanders has decided not to run independently, as we have consistently argued he should. Limiting his campaign to the corporate-dominated Democratic Party primaries--that he will not win--is a dead end for building the kind of powerful grassroots movement that is needed. Calling on people to mobilize against Wall Street and at the same time saying you will support the eventual corporate-endorsed Democratic nominee, is like trying to start a fire and announcing your intention to pour water on it as soon as it really heats up.


But Sanders' inspiration to hundreds of thousands could lay the basis--and provide the experience--for many people to leave the orbit of the Democratic Party. Socialists can play a key role in this process by intervening in a skillful but determined way.

For those moving into action around Sanders' campaign, we can provide the link to building mass movements and structures independent of the Democratic Party. We can make the case for a real challenge, arguing that Sanders should run all the way to November 2016 as an independent and, if he doesn't, striving to involve those attracted by Sanders' policies to support the strongest independent left campaign in the 2016 presidential election.


Some of Sanders' supporters have a conscious strategy of working within the Democratic party. But the majority are looking for a political alternative to big business politics.


If Sanders endorses the pro-business Democratic nominee, as is most likely, there will be a section of his supporters who will want to continue fighting and will split off to support the strongest independent left candidate for president. In 2004, when Dennis Kucinich and Howard Dean endorsed the Democratic nominee, John Kerry, an important minority of their supporters ended up joining Ralph Nader's independent campaign.


Given the weakness of the forces for independent politics, Sanders' campaign is most likely to be the largest arena over the next year for discussion on fighting corporate politics, and will provide the largest audience for proponents of independent politics to build support.


By boldly intervening in the Sanders campaign--supporting its call for a determined fight against big business while arguing for independent politics--we can most effectively advance the project of independent politics under the current circumstances.

Socialist Alternative will at each stage politically explain the role of the Democratic party as a big business party and argue for building a movement that can create a real alternative for working class people. We will not help to sign people up for the Democratic Party. Instead, we will work with those drawn to Sanders' campaign to fight for $15, single-payer health care, and to take on the billionaire class.


Sanders' campaign will be an arena for debate on the role of the Democratic Party. Sanders believes his platform is compatible with working within the Democrats. We disagree. Many energized by Sanders have not yet thought this through fully, but are instead pragmatically looking to find a way to fight back. But the experience of Sanders' campaign could be part of the process of clarifying for tens of thousands the necessity of building a completely new political force for working people, especially if socialists are actively involved.


The real mistake for those who want to build an alternative to corporate politics is to abstain, or simply criticize from the sidelines. If we are absent from the Sanders campaign, the concrete effect will be to help to facilitate the corralling of Sanders' left-wing supporters behind the eventual Democratic nominee.


We need a correct political understanding and critique of Bernie Sanders politics. But we also need to actively engage with the genuine workers and youth being drawn to Sanders' campaign by his fierce denunciations of the political establishment. Socialists need to go through this experience with them, helping to speed up the process of drawing the conclusion that an independent political alternative to the Democrats is needed.



Bernie Sanders & oppositional criticism

Published June 21, 2015 | By Socialist Action

By JOE AUCIELLO


“… the oppositional criticism is nothing more than a safety valve for mass dissatisfaction, a condition of the stability of the social structure.” — Leon Trotsky in his preface to “The History of the Russian Revolution.”


In early June, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told a conference organized by Service Employees International Union members that she backed the $15-an-hour national minimum wage campaign. She praised the union activists and supporters “for marching in the streets to get a living wage” and added, “I want to be your champion. I want to fight with you every day.”


She didn’t really mean it, of course. Within 24 hours her campaign issued a clarification explaining that in general Clinton favors higher wages for low-income workers, but she does not specifically endorse the demand for a $15 hourly minimum. So, union members and activists heard their hoped-for message; big business and Democratic Party officials heard the more honest message.


Clinton’s cautious centrism permits her only a flirtation with leftist causes, thereby yielding the left-of-center space to another candidate. Thus, the stage is set for the entrance of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, whose campaign website boldly asks: “Ready to Start a Political Revolution?”


Sanders certainly intends to become the voice of “oppositional criticism” in the 2016 election. Thus far, the efforts of this sometime “socialist,” the independent in the Senate who typically votes with the Democrats, have been more successful than those of former Democratic governors Martin O’Malley of Maryland and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

Sanders has been drawing increasingly large crowds in the primary states for his campaign events, and in those states his poll levels are sharply rising. Clearly, Sanders is saying something different—which energizes Democratic and independent voters. The promise of radical change resonates with many whose lives have seen little benefit during the tepid years of the Obama administration.


At this stage in the primaries, the Sanders platform gives a public hearing to many progressive ideas. Most notably, the Sanders campaign directs a spotlight on the obscene levels of income inequality in America. Sanders speaks out for a national, single-payer health care system and pledges to pursue efforts to create sustainable energy to reduce global warming.

He would remove tuition fees from state colleges and universities. He supports the $15 minimum wage, argues for breaking up the mega-banks, and promotes a jobs package that would put people to work by rebuilding the highways and bridges that are deteriorating throughout America. These are reforms that, if enacted, would benefit the lives of millions. No wonder Sanders’ poll numbers have risen dramatically.


Still, Bernie Sanders is hardly an unknown. Given his “socialist-light” political history and voting record, which is virtually indistinguishable from that of a typical liberal Democrat and includes support to funding Israel and the war in Afghanistan, it is fair to ask: Is Sanders really the voice of dissent? Is he really the figure who can galvanize the poor, the working class, women, racial minorities, and youth to lead the political fightback that is so sorely needed?


Though audiences at rallies may be stirred by soaring speeches, high-flown words accomplish little. What’s more, a geyser of popular rhetoric tends to erupt every four years around election time.


A socialist writer has noted that while the Democrats proclaim themselves “as champions of the poor, their ‘soak the rich’ rhetoric is largely a misrepresentation. They and their Republican counterparts use such rhetoric only to appeal to voters. Both parties, over the last decade in particular, have rushed to find tax breaks for the rich and lower the real income of working people. Today even two-income families are having a difficult time paying for basic necessities.”


This observation was made 25 years ago. The article, written by Hayden Perry, was entitled: “Congress approves new budget: Higher taxes and fewer services,” which certainly has a present-day ring to it. Though it was published in the November 1990 issue of Socialist Action, it could be reprinted today with little change.


Bernie Sanders is this year’s model of the token “leftist” who will make oppositional criticism as a safety valve for mass dissatisfaction. His commitment to his causes appears real enough, but it goes no further than the margins of the Democratic Party. Those margins cannot and have never sustained a popular movement that would give real meaning to democracy.

Some fifteen years ago, Ralph Nader launched his bid as the Green Party candidate for the president of the United States. Although Socialist Action gave no support to the Green Party’s electoral campaigns, which only proposed reforms to capitalism, Nader at least argued with a boldness and insight thoroughly lacking in Bernie Sanders today. In his 2000 announcement speech, Nader said that the foundation of his efforts would be “to focus on active citizenship, to create fresh political movements that will displace the control of the Democratic and Republican parties, two apparently distinct political entities that feed at the same corporate trough. They are in fact simply the two heads of one political duopoly, the DemRep Party.”

How did Bernie Sanders, the socialist who asks if we are ready for revolution, respond to the Nader campaign? In his political memoir, Nader explains: “Bernie had told me that while he sympathized and agreed with our pro-democracy agenda, he could not come out officially for us. The reason was that his modus vivendi with the House Democrats would be ruptured and he would lose much of his influence, including a possible subcommittee chair” (“Crashing the Party,” pp. 125-126). Nader was discreet enough not to inquire about the actual results of Sanders’ supposed influence.


Little has changed. The fix is still in. The Democratic National Committee has essentially offered Sanders a simple deal in words approximately like these: “We’ll let you speak out and give you a place in the six Democratic primary debates if you affirm your place as a Democrat. You get to say whatever you want in the state primaries as long as you support whoever we want in the national election.”


It is not a very good deal, but it is the only one on offer, and though Sanders will haggle, pushing for more debates, he will accept what he is given. It’s what Bernie does. In fact, Sanders has built a career as the fighting socialist who takes a dive for the Democrats.


Sanders does not lead and does not intend to. He follows. His vision of the future is restricted to what has been made popular in the recent past. The ideas Sanders offers, the program of his campaign, go no further than the demands raised by the significant social struggles of the last several years: the Occupy movement and the environmental movement, especially.

The lesson for activists working for Sanders is quite clear: Do better work and be more effective by building social protest movements at the grassroots and national levels. The opportunities are many and varied. The Ferguson National Response Network is a good source of information for protest actions taking place in cities all across the United States. The approximately 100 organizations that attended the United National Antiwar Coalition conference would eagerly welcome new supporters.


Whether it is 15 Now, Black Lives Matter, local campaigns against nuclear power plants, struggles for environmental issues, women’s rights, and more, important causes need the time, energy, and money that is being poured into the Sanders for President Campaign.


The biggest flaw with Bernie Sanders is not his failure to condemn capitalism as a system and call for its overturn. It may even be asking too much to expect Sanders to fight for the structural reform of capitalism, to demand the nationalization of basic industries, as the British Labor Party did after World War II, in a platform that won a national election. The Sanders team will say the times are not right for such bold measures, that it is enough if Bernie only wants to soften some of the system’s worst excesses.


But the time has come—in fact, the time is long overdue—to show a new generation of activists just what the Democratic Party is and why it is necessary to move past it. Bernie Sanders fails to take that decisive step. His campaign by its very nature misleads activists by asserting that the Democratic Party is a fit instrument for the kind of social change that is needed to transform America.


A socialist who truly merits the term “independent” once said, “Capitalism rules and exploits the working people through its control of the government. … And capitalism controls the government through the medium of its class political parties. … The unconditional break away from capitalist politics and capitalist parties is the first act of socialist consciousness, and the first test of socialist seriousness and sincerity” (James P. Cannon, “Speeches for Socialism,” pp. 339-340, emphasis added).

Sanders has been compared to a “sheep-dog” who herds people into the Democratic Party. A better analogy might be drawn from the world of sports. In the preparation for a championship bout, boxers hire sparring partners to help them train and get into shape for the real match. That opponent is there to fight but not fight too much. Though putting on a lively show before losing, the sparring partner should not cause the real boxer any serious injury, much less draw blood.

This type of dynamic is underway now in the Democratic Party primaries. Bernie Sanders is primarily a sparring partner for Hillary Clinton.

 

We are supportive of the rank and file rebellions within labor, such as the independent, grassroots Labor for Bernie formation, that are developing around this election. They provide an opportunity to discuss what program and objectives should drive labor’s political choices. The rebellion and disgust with bureaucrat driven, transactional, business as usual politics poses the need, and possibility, to build rank and file networks within labor that demand a real democratic process of endorsements, and that fight to hold the bureaucrats accountable to supporting only candidates that actually support union policies. Political endorsements will not "save" our unions or the working class. But a struggle over internal democracy inside our unions such as the one that has erupted in the AFT can build rank and file power.


Our job as socialists in the labor movement includes a strategy of fostering cracks in labor’s slavish alignment with the Democratic Party establishment. A fissure in terms of a Sanders endorsement is a good thing. We are not indifferent to this fight. A mass, independent working class party will not be created in this country without the activity of the labor militants who are supporting the Sanders campaign. This is also the milieu of labor activists that grasp the necessary task of building the political capacities of workers—something far beyond the scope of any electoral insurgency.


We should embrace movements and mobilizing efforts around specific demands that grow out of the Sanders campaign. There is now a call by young people activated by the campaign for a million student march on Washington this fall, building on Sanders’ call to make public universities and colleges tuition free.


We have yet to see the emergence of a large-scale challenge to austerity and a clear working class political alternative at the national level. An effective left politics, one that can win and implement a left program, requires an organizational infrastructure and political culture that does not exist right now. With a lack of ongoing, successful independent left politics, we have to contend with the reality that anger at the corporate control of politics reflects itself in vague populism and often within the Democratic Party.


We recognize that electoral initiatives like those of Kshama Sawant in Seattle, the late Chokwe Lumumba in Mississippi, the Vermont Progressive Party, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, United Working Families in Chicago, Howie Hawkins Green Party campaign, and others, while they have their limitations and problems, represent a challenge to the hold of the Democratic Party establishment. We support efforts to run pro-worker and labor candidates as independents or on the ballot line of non-corporate parties.


We are interested in working with people who are attracted to a campaign that warns that, “The best president in the history of the world …will not be able to address the major crises that we face unless there is a mass political movement, unless there’s a political revolution in this country.” We should emphasize Sanders’ call for building an ongoing movement beyond this election cycle. Yes, we do not expect the Sanders campaign itself to build lasting grassroots organization. The ball is in our, broadly defined, court. We should seize this potential organizing opportunity, reaching out to people excited by the Sanders campaign with the message, “Let’s not waste this moment where folks are coming together around an anti-corporate, anti-austerity program by ending with the whimper of voting for Hillary and calling it a day. Let’s build up our power.” The tragedy would not be so much people pulling the lever for Clinton, but dissipating and disbanding this mass outcry, having nothing to show for our bottom up efforts.


Jesse Jackson, despite winning 8 million votes in 1988, chose to demobilize the ostensibly independent Rainbow Coalition organization after losing the Democratic nomination so no ongoing coalition went on to continue working around issues of economic and racial justice after the campaign ended. This time, the left should urge Sanders supporters to keep the fight going through joining anti-austerity struggles, social movements or building local, multi-racial coalitions, including independent electoral infrastructures, that live on well after the presidential campaign.


We agree with Howie Hawkins when he says: “We should talk about why independent politics is the best way to build progressive power, about the Democratic Party as the historic graveyard of progressive movements, and about the need in 2016 for a progressive alternative when Sanders folds and endorses Clinton. I don’t expect many will be persuaded to quit the Sanders campaign before the primaries. But I do expect that many of them will want a Plan B, a progressive alternative to Clinton, after the primaries.”