ELECTIONS 2016
US Left weighs in on Bernie Sanders
Adrienne Weller
volume:  
volume 37
issue 3
June 2016
imagestuff

The Bernie Sanders phenomenon has sparked intense debate among socialist parties and the Left about whom to back in the 2016 elections. The professed goal is generally the same — to build a party and movement that can give voice to the working class. But the way to get there varies widely among socialist groups.

Is the refusal to support Sanders a sectarian position, as Socialist Alternative believes? Or is aiding his campaign for the Democratic Party ticket crossing class lines, as Freedom Socialist Party asserts? What about leftist support for the Green Party or Hillary Clinton? What is the best way to counteract Donald Trump, Republican front runner?

What follows in thumbnail form are the Freedom Socialist Party’s perspective on Sanders and our take on the position of other socialist parties without a candidate in the race.

Freedom Socialist Party

In a recent flyer distributed at rallies for Sanders, the FSP quoted famed socialist Eugene V. Debs: “The Republican and Democratic Parties ... are the political wings of the capitalist system and such differences as arise between them relate to spoils and not principle.” The FSP urges voters to reject Sanders’ presidential bid for the Democratic Party nomination — a party with a leadership and platform that is capitalist to the core. While Sanders has, at times, called himself socialist and independent, his decision to run as a Democrat puts him squarely in the camp of the one percent. No politician can serve two masters when it comes to the struggle between the bosses and labor.

Sanders’ record confirms he is comfortable with the Democrats and not moving away. He has urged support for Hillary if he doesn’t win the party’s nomination. His cozy relationship with the Democrats was traced to 1990 in a Black Agenda Report article. Sanders cut a deal — in return for running free of competition from big Democrats in Vermont, he agreed to thwart any third-party movement. This deal highlights the biggest problem with Sanders’ candidacy: it serves to keep rebels and potential rebels in the suffocating embrace of the Democratic Party.

While Sanders calls for many good things, such as free higher education, his ongoing support for Democratic Party military policies contradicts this pledge. The bloated U.S. military ties up tax dollars, while spreading devastation abroad. Sanders backing of U.S. wars includes: voting twice in 1998 for military intervention and sanctions in Iraq; the 1999 US-NATO bombing of Yugoslavia; and 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

Sanders also takes a nationalist approach in criticizing NAFTA, the TPP and other trade agreements. He protests their damage to U.S. workers, but is silent on the need for international working class unity to confront the corporations. Instead of supporting Sanders, the Freedom Socialist Party urges a protest against the bankrupt political and economic system by voting socialist.

International Socialist Organization (ISO)

ISO is openly critical of socialists who support Sanders’ bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. It seeks to reach his supporters, many of whom genuinely want to build a socialist movement. ISO also urges discussion among socialists, and criticizes Socialist Alternative for obscuring the Democratic Party’s role as bulwark to the capitalist class. The group advocates working in united fronts and building mass social movements for social and class power.

In quoting Rosa Luxemburg, a German revolutionary, ISO notes: “People who pronounce themselves in favor of legislative reform in place and in contradistinction to the conquest of political power and social revolution do not ... choose a ... calmer and slower road to the same goal but a different goal.” Despite this analysis, the International Socialist Organization considers Green Party (GP) candidate Jill Stein a “genuine left wing candidate.” Unfortunately, the Green Party declares that its “platform is not binding for candidates on any level.” This policy has allowed European GP officials to support capitalist wars. The FSP believes the Green Party is unfit to represent the working class because, like Sanders, it doesn’t see any need to replace capitalism.

Socialist Alternative

This party is in full swing behind Sanders, even as it correctly criticizes the corporate-controlled Democratic Party he embraced. It believes it is sectarian for other socialists to not endorse Sanders, because he is attracting so much support. The idea is that Sanders can be wrested away from the Democrats, and his supporters can form the basis of a new mass party of the 99 percent under his leadership. To that end Socialist Alternative (SA) has organized a petition urging Sanders to run as an independent if he loses the Democratic nomination. However, Bernie’s plan is to have his hopeful fans follow him when he sticks with the Democrats.

Sadly, SA is helping Sanders give the Democrats a pseudo-radical facelift which it does not deserve. Especially disappointing is the squandering of opportunity to help build a united anti-capitalist electoral front after the election of SA candidate Kshama Sawant as an open socialist to Seattle City Council. That victory was won, in part, with socialist unity and help. Instead, Socialist Alternative is pursuing popularity and votes by supporting Sanders. Its professed goal may be to build a mass working-class party, but it has trod this well-worn shortcut before, endorsing liberals Ralph Nader and Jill Stein. This is leading SA deeper into the swamp of opportunist capitalist electoral politics.

Communist Party USA

The Communist Party USA fully supports the Democratic Party’s darling Hillary Clinton, and calls for a “multi-class alliance.” This simply means that the working class should subordinate its interests under the leadership of the corporate establishment that runs the Democratic Party.

The CPUSA views Sanders as a threat to Clinton’s chance at the White House, and worries he may split the liberal vote. They see the main enemy as Trump and the GOP. FSP believes voting for Clinton will not avert Trump’s racist menace. The hatreds and xenophobia he stirs up are rooted in capitalism. Endless wars abroad and on workers at home are ruling class policy, carried out by whichever party is in power.

Vote socialist! Likewise, voting for Bernie won’t stop the threat that Trump represents. After him, there will be another “Trump” as was the case with the “apocalypse is coming” candidacies of Goldwater, Nixon, Reagan etc. Neither Trump nor Bernie are “accidents.” They are representations of capitalism’s ongoing crisis, and the deepening polarization it is creating. Voting for any candidate of the two capitalist parties just perpetuates the shell game and economic system.

Voters will have the opportunity to cast a ballot of opposition to the rigged system in 2016. The Freedom Socialist Party will review socialist candidates in the next issue and on socialism.com. Stay tuned.

This article in Spanish / Este artículo en español

To listen to this and other articles from this issue, click here.