Bernie Sanders has given an early, pre-convention endorsement of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party nominee. Thus, the battle that he promised, of fighting all the way to the convention, is largely over.
Sanders officially got 12 million votes. He probably received at least 1 to 2 million more in California, which have not yet been counted. Several million more Sanders supporters could not vote for him because of closed primaries and restrictive registration rules in major states.
From the very outset, the Sanders campaign was wrapped in a severe contradiction. Sanders was advocating a rebellion against Wall Street, against income inequality and for basic economic rights. Yet he fought from within the Democratic Party, which is the party of Wall Street, big business and the Pentagon, as it has been for the last century. Now he has chosen to remain in the Democratic Party, whose leadership is profoundly opposed to Sanders’ goals.
To be sure, Sanders would never have been able to have the national impact he did had he not run in the Democratic Party presidential primaries. This is a reflection of the undemocratic nature of the U.S. electoral system. The winner-take-all elections, the absence of proportional representation, the enormous petitioning obstacles to getting on the ballot, and the control of electoral publicity by the media monopolies are guaranteed to keep the working class and the left on the margins of electoral politics.
Despite that, the Sanders campaign has shown the great potential for a real grass-roots rebellion against the political establishment. But it has also led to his present contradiction of backing Hillary Clinton, the very establishment candidate he fought against.
But that is his contradiction. The movement that supported him must not be locked into that contradiction.
Independent road to fight big business
The question for millions of followers of Sanders is, what to do now? Should they hold their noses and run to the Clinton camp on the grounds that Trump must be defeated, or should they chart an independent course?
The answer at the moment is that the most important thing to do for the future of the movement in the U.S. is to chart an independent course. The answer for what to do about Trump right now is to fight him with demonstrations and disruptions wherever he and his racist, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-women forces appear.
The electoral question should not become a reason to give up the freedom to wage an independent struggle against the big-business establishment, as represented by the two capitalist parties — the Democratic Party leadership as well as the Republicans.
The elections must not tie the hands of Sanders’ supporters who want to continue and deepen a progressive and revolutionary struggle. The Sanders movement must chart a course that at least includes what they were fighting for when they voted for Sanders in the first place.
It must escalate the fight against the rich and their obscene salaries and profits, the fight against the giant banks, for universal health care, for free college tuition, for an end to student debt, to stop the polluters and climate change, for the right to a union, for a woman’s right to choose, an end to deportations and so forth. These were the premises of the Sanders campaign. This program must not be abandoned or left in the hands of Hillary Clinton and the big-business dominated Democratic Party.
And because Sanders’ program was limited, the movement has a chance to go far beyond it. A truly comprehensive, independent course must be a working-class course. It must be based on solidarity with oppressed people at home and abroad. It must support the Black Lives Matter movement against police terror, the movements against Pentagon aggression, deportations of immigrants, and the persecution and exploitation of undocumented workers.
A course of struggle
The other vital question is: Should an independent course take an exclusively electoral form, or should it be broadened and sharpened and taken to the streets, the workplaces, the communities and the campuses?
Given the momentum of the Sanders campaign, many want to pursue an independent electoral course. And there is nothing at all wrong with a truly left, independent electoral campaign. But it must be accompanied by a campaign of struggle.
What the establishment really responds to is mass resistance, protest, demonstrations, occupations, sit-downs, strikes and everything that interferes with business as usual. History shows that legislative victories that improve the life of the people in a significant way are the result of mass struggle.
The right to organize mass unions was won by hundreds of plant occupations and sit-down strikes in the 1930s. Civil rights were won by African Americans and their allies in the 1950s and 1960s all over the South, confronting the police and racist forces, at great sacrifice. Poverty programs and affirmative action were won after hundreds of urban rebellions in the North. The right to abortion was won by mass marches and countless demonstrations by women all over the country. Gay and lesbian rights began with the Stonewall Rebellion in 1969 and countless mass demonstrations after that.
Such examples could be multiplied endlessly.
Democratic Party trap
Now Sanders and many of his top supporters in the Democratic Party are claiming that the victory of his campaign is represented by “the most progressive program” in party history.
A notable exception is Cornel West, an African-American professor who campaigned for Sanders and was appointed as one of his representatives on the Democratic Party platform committee. West has announced that he will be supporting Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president, in the general election. West wrote: “We are tied in a choice between Trump, who would be a neofascist catastrophe, and Clinton, a neoliberal disaster.” (The Guardian, July 14)
The Democratic Program Committee accepted some of Sanders’ program, but rejected major portions of it. However, that is not the fundamental problem. The real problem is that the first thing to go into the waste basket if the Clinton machine gains the White House is the program. That has been true of all previous Democratic Party programs.
The Democratic Party is a capitalist party. As such, no bourgeois leadership is bound in any way to carry out the party program. This is unlike a working-class party, in which the leadership and the rank and file alike are bound to support and fight for the party program. In working-class parties, the program is decisive. In bourgeois parties, the program is just window dressing.
Sanders is trying to persuade his followers that progress in the Democratic Party program is a step on the road to a political revolution in the U.S. Should Hillary Clinton get into the White House, however, she will be at home surrounded by Pentagon generals, the CIA, the FBI, bankers, the entire upper echelons of the capitalist state, not to mention business lobbyists, influence peddlers of all types. It will be her job to defend U.S. capitalism and U.S. imperialism.
Generations of progressive activists and even revolutionaries have tried time and again to gain a foothold in the Democratic Party in order to “transform” it and push it to the left. This has always been a trap. They have always had to sacrifice their principles and their struggle while the imperialist Democratic Party leadership attacks the masses and carries out one war and intervention after another — from World Wars I and II to Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and on and on.
And let’s not forget that Hillary Clinton, as President Obama’s secretary of state, was the leading force advocating regime change in Libya; was a strong supporter of the overthrow of the Assad government in Syria; and defended the coup in Honduras. She also denounced “superpredators,” referring to Black youth, in support of Bill Clinton’s crime bill of 1996, which greatly increased mass incarceration.
Let’s not forget how the Clinton machine destroyed welfare, known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children, throwing millions of single mothers and their children into poverty. Nor should we forget the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which severely limited habeas corpus appeals by death row prisoners. All this gives the lie to her attempts to paint herself as “progressive” in the current presidential campaign.
Let’s remember how the Clinton machine launched the Yugoslav War and the bombing of civilians in Serbia, continued the Iraq sanctions started under George H.W. Bush, which killed half a million children, and repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, which had been enacted during the Great Depression to put some regulations on Wall Street. This is just a selection of some of the reactionary policies of the Clintons, as well as previous Democratic administrations.
A political revolution needs a social revolution
While the Sanders campaign represented a sweeping electoral rebellion against the Democratic Party establishment, his program was a relatively mild one. But U.S. politics are so reactionary, including Democratic Party politics, and the crisis of the people is so deep on so many fronts, that the Sanders program caught on and understandably generated enormous enthusiasm.
Big business is so dominant in U.S. politics that even demands for basic reforms like breaking up the big banks, Medicare for all, free college tuition, eliminating student debt, strengthening the right to organize, opposing anti-worker so-called “free trade deals” and so forth were like a breath of fresh air and captured the imagination of millions.
Sanders talked about carrying out a “political revolution” in the U.S. By political revolution he meant his reformist program. While he called himself a socialist, he never attacked capitalism as a system. He never called for socialist measures to end the people’s suffering.
A real political revolution means that the workers, the oppressed communities, women, LGBTQ people, immigrants — all must be in charge of their fate. They must not have to rely on capitalist politicians who serve the rich to determine what happens to them, while year after year they try to survive and can gain only the most meager concessions.
For there to be a political revolution in the United States, there has to be a social revolution. The capitalist class, its state, its property, its machine will have to be broken up. The vast resources in wealth that the working class has created will have to be put to use in a planned way, not for profit but for human benefit and well-being. When the workers and the oppressed are in charge, that will be a genuine political revolution.
A party that advocates and fights precisely for a socialist form of revolution is Workers World Party. It is running an election campaign, but one that is aimed at keeping the movement in the streets, not diverting it to the ballot box. To struggle for revolutionary socialism, solidarity with the workers and oppressed at home and abroad, become part of the Moorehead-Lilly campaign: #socialists4blacklives on Twitter and Monica Moorehead & Lamont Lilly 2016 on Facebook.
By June 28, 2016.posted on
The Brexit referendum in Britain is the result of a reactionary, racist campaign by the right wing of the British ruling class, which pushed through the Leave victory and took Britain out of the 28-member European Union.
The working class and the middle class of Britain were confronted with a referendum, called for by Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, in which they were given an onerous choice: remain in an imperialist economic bloc that has imposed austerity and anti-working-class policies on hundreds of millions, or choose the Leave option led by a racist, demagogic campaign to leave the EU on the basis of anti-immigrant rhetoric.
The initiator of the Leave political position was Nigel Farage, head of the racist, anti-immigrant United Kingdom Independence Party. The Leave forces turned the campaign into a referendum on immigration.
UKIP has become the third-largest party in Britain, getting 4 million votes in the last election. It has done this by stirring fears about immigrants, especially since the refugee crisis with Syrians and others fleeing war in the Middle East.
UKIP leader Farage publicly stated in March 2015, “There is an especial problem with some of the people who’ve come here and are of the Muslim religion and don’t want to become part of us. People do see a fifth column living within our country, who hate us and want to kill us.” (The Guardian, March 12, 2015)
Farage and UKIP also target Eastern European workers, such as Poles and Romanians, who are exploited as cheap labor in Britain. He warned of a “Romanian crime wave” in 2014. He proposes to institutionalize job discrimination by legalizing “British jobs for British workers.”
Rampant immigrant bashing
The campaign for Leave was filled with slogans and graffiti denouncing Poles and Muslims and calling to “make Britain great.” It spread the word, falsely, that Turkey is to become a member of the EU and then Britain will be flooded with Muslims.
One of the adherents of this camp assassinated Jo Cox, a Labour Member of Parliament known for supporting the rights of immigrants. She was killed the day she was scheduled to address Parliament with a pro-immigration speech.
Boris Johnson, of the Conservative Party and the former mayor of London, is head of the Leave campaign. Around the time of Cox’s assassination, the campaign put up a billboard/poster with a picture of thousands of Syrian refugees and the caption “The Breaking Point.” The photo was actually taken at the Slovenian border. The poster was denounced as false all over Britain by the Remain forces and had to be taken down.
The vote to Remain among whites was 46 percent. Among the oppressed the vote was as follows: Asians 67 percent, Muslims 70 percent, Chinese 70 percent, Hindus 70 percent, Blacks 73 percent. This speaks volumes about the racist character of the Leave vote. (Independent, June 25)
The largest Muslim organization, the Muslim Association of Britain, voted to Remain because, among other things, a vote to Leave would “increase the levels of hate crimes against British Muslims.” (Sunday Express, June 26)
Sayeeda Warsi, a former minister of the ruling Conservative Party, quit and switched to the Remain camp because of “spreading lies, hate and xenophobia.” She added, “I don’t want the Leave campaign to be running this country.” (Express Tribune, June 27)
Showing solidarity the paramount issue
The Remain forces in the Conservative Party, led by Cameron, based their arguments exclusively upon the threat to the economy. Of course, this was important for the workers because leaving is a threat to the economy and jobs. But Cameron and his forces never mentioned the danger of Islamophobia, the attacks on Poles and Romanians, nor did he admit that racism was a fundamental issue in the campaign.
Jeremy Corbyn, head of the Labour Party, did come out against hate and Islamophobia and visited a mosque to show solidarity with the Muslim community. This was in spite of the fact that Corbyn has a history of progressive opposition to the EU.
From the anecdotes and statistics above it would seem clear that it was better to vote Remain while giving an anti-imperialist, anti-EU explanation that showed solidarity with the oppressed than to remain silent and abstain, leaving your position unknown. Also, whatever anti-imperialist arguments are made, it is clear that the Leave movement is a right-wing movement with a flagrantly racist agenda.
Showing solidarity with the oppressed is particularly urgent in light of the widespread refugee crisis and the crisis of immigrant workers — from the Middle East to the southern borders of the United States. Working-class opposition to Leave would be a good answer to Donald Trump, who wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out and stop Muslims from coming to the U.S. Trump flew to his golf course in Scotland and announced that he thought the Leave vote was a good thing, despite the fact that Scotland voted to remain.
Right wing takes advantage of economic crisis
What happened in Britain is happening throughout the imperialist world. The long economic crisis — the inability of capitalism to come back from the shock it received in 2008-09 — is undermining employment, wages and working conditions everywhere. Austerity is a universal policy on Wall Street and in Frankfurt, Paris, London, Rome and Rotterdam.
To be sure, the Leave vote struck a blow at the EU. But that blow is hardly to the advantage of the working class, even if it brings havoc to imperialist commerce and finance capital. The British vote to Leave the EU is now being hailed by the National Front in France, by the Alternative for Germany, by the rightist Democratic Party of Sweden, by the right wing in the Netherlands, Austria and Hungary and by Donald Trump.
All these ultra-right, near-fascist and racist forces see the Leave vote as an opening and are bound to become more aggressive. It will not be to the advantage of the workers and the oppressed if the EU disintegrates into blocs of capitalist right-wing governments.
It is also worth pointing out that there has always been a right wing of the British ruling class that never got over the loss of the empire and has never reconciled itself to accommodating the continental powers, especially Germany and France, in any association. There has always been a so-called “Eurosceptic” wing of the British ruling class.
They don’t want the imperialists from the continent, who have had to make certain concessions to the working class over the years, to be telling them that they have to give four weeks’ vacation, or paid maternity leave, or comply with environmental regulations set in Berlin and Paris.
These are the forces that have triumphed in the Brexit referendum. They are fanatics who in their rabid chauvinism have injured their own export position with regard to the largest capitalist market in the world, with 500 million potential customers. They have jeopardized their position as the financial hub of Europe. They have courted an economic crisis that will have dire consequences for their profits and for the workers.
The EU had $741 billion worth of investments in Britain as of 2014. All these investments are now stranded outside the EU, damaging U.S. and British financial interests. The U.S. has 2,750 companies in Britain, with about 1.2 million workers and $558 billion invested there. These include the biggest banks — Morgan Stanley, Citibank, JPMorgan/Chase, Goldman Sachs, among others — who may have to apply to the EU now for licenses, etc. (Revolutionary Communist Group, May 26) Of course, all financial and commercial arrangements are subject to negotiations, but the immediate effect is a sharp blow.
International solidarity and class consciousness
The way to strike a blow from the left at the EU is to open up a working-class campaign against European capital — to resist the rule of the banks and the multinational corporations across international borders. The French workers are engaged in a fierce battle against the Hollande regime. It would be very timely for the labor movement and the radical movement in all of Europe to open up their own struggles of solidarity — and not just symbolic struggles.
This is easy to say but difficult to do on short notice. But if the workers’ movement of Europe could begin to turn itself around from being reactive and defensive and think in terms of fighting — not just the EU, but the capitalist system — on a continentwide basis, that would be a great step forward.
A struggle against the EU could be a struggle against the austerity being imposed on Greece. Such a struggle would have been timely when the Syriza government came to office in 2015 and became the first government in Europe to openly oppose austerity. It was, of course, a social democratic regime that could not carry such a struggle through by itself against German finance capital and all its cohorts, and it finally capitulated.
A class for itself
Karl Marx said that the working class must become a class “for itself.” That means it must be conscious of its class position in society and the position of all other classes, especially the ruling class. Above all, the working class must be conscious of special oppression. It must see how the attempt to divide on the basis of immigration status as well as race, color, gender and sexual orientation is a lethal instrument used against solidarity and meant to obscure the real enemies: the rich, the exploiters, the possessing classes.
Marx also said that the working class has no homeland. (This does not apply to the nationally oppressed.) What is common to all workers is that they are exploited by the bosses, that they are forced to sell their labor power on a daily basis. This is true of British workers, Greek workers, Irish workers, U.S. workers, South African workers or Venezuelan workers. Our class must resist seeking advantage over each other on a national basis.
British workers can only unite as a class when they unite with Muslim workers, Polish workers, Rumanian workers, Indian workers, Pakistani workers, African workers, Philippine workers, Irish workers and so on.
When that day comes, the days of the capitalist class will be numbered.