The Progressive “Left’s” Dilemma: Support Bernie Sanders or Not?

Bernie-Sanders-prezAnn-1024x576

For a recent debate over Sanders’ candidacy, I present three articles which ran recently in Counterpunch.  Patrick Walker presented a reply to the Editors. Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank, who argued against his candidacy.  Walker’s is in two parts and I present the closing article with reference to the first.  One of the primary arguments against Sander’s candidacy is that he is running on a Democratic Party ticket with the assumption he can “change” the party’s emphasis.  Few political observers believe than can happen even if he overcomes the obstacle of the fact that the Democratic Party will only select a Corporate candidate and money will insure that.  Hillary Clinton has already lined up her huge Wall Street support and she will outraise Sanders’ campaign coffers by orders of magnitude.

I  begin with a very interesting video from CSPAN with an interview with Bernie when he was Mayor of Burlington, VT.  In those times he was an avowed Socialist and stated that the two party Duopoly was corrupted by corporations’ influence!!  By golly, the more things change the more they remain the same.  Bernie’s evolution since going to Washington is from Socialist to Independent to Democrat.  The latter was confirmed with his overwhelming voting record with the Democratic Party (98%) and his decision to run for President on the Democratic ticket. He has also stated that he would support the Democratic nominee, anticipating that may well be Hillary Clinton.

A variety of Counterpunch articles are included but there are many more and one only needs to search “Bernie Sanders” at their site.  The concluding articles on Chris Hedges and David Swanson best represent my views which are to focus on movements and not politics until it is clear that a mass movement promoting radical change is formed and ready to act.

But be sure to watch this video and learn about his history!—Thomas Baldwin

FEBRUARY 3, 1989

Third Political Parties in America

The socialist mayor discusses the failure of the two-party system to address the needs of working-class, elderly, and poor people. Bernie Sanders in 1989 (26 years ago!)

CLICK ON LINK TO VIEW CSPAN VIDEO (Slow to start–be patient)

http://www.c-span.org/video/standalone/?6046-1/third-political-parties-america

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How To Win Sanders’ Supporters To Independent Politics

FROM POPULAR RESISTANCE

Bernie speaking to crowd

Above photo: Christopher Dilts/Bloomberg/Getty Images.

By Bryan Koulouris, www.socialistalternative.org
August 9th, 2015

Note: While this article was originally published as a response to Howie Hawkins article on the Sanders campaign, which we published here, we see this as a continuation of the conversation. We agree with Hawkins and Koulouris. They both make very common points about the dead end of the Democratic Party and how the Sanders campaign cannot win the nomination in a Wall Street dominated party like the Democrats. The articles were written at different times and for different purposes. Hawkins wrote early in the campaign in order to let people who have become disenchanted with the Dems, people who saw their long history of working against the interests of workers and putting the interests of big business first, know that Sanders was making a mistake and supporting his campaign was counterproductive.

Koulouris’ article is written further into the campaign and is about how to prevent Sanders supporters from falling into the trap of the Democratic Party when the Sanders campaign reaches its inevitable conclusion — defeat for the nomination. Koulouris makes lots of solid points, as did Hawkins, and we recomment people read both articles. Koulouris’s view on how people should reach out to Sanders supporters, how the Green Party and Socialist Alternative should do so are right on point as well as how the movement for social, economic, racial and environmental justice should do so are all solid advice.

If the response to the Sanders campaign by those who favor an independent mass movement is done right we will have the benefit of Sanders educating tens of millions about populist economic issues as well as the benefit of educating people on how the Demcoratic Party will never support those issues. KZ and MF.

Constructive Engagement With the Sanders Campaign and Its Supporters is Essential for Building an Independent Movement

CONTINUES AT LINK ABOVE (TITLE)

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ARTICLES PRO  BERNIE SANDERS CANDIDACY IN COUNTERPUNCH

Patrick Walker has written two good articles very recently to describe his view of supporting Sanders.  Further information supporting Sanders can be found at the Revolt Against Plutocracy Facebook page. (Discussion).

Patrick Walker

August 7 at 11:30am · Edited

WHY AND HOW BERNIE COULD BE REVOLUTIONARY DYNAMITE

“The second part of my CounterPunch rebuttal (to skeptical articles about Bernie by its chief editor and managing editor) has just been published. What I find especially important about this one is that it makes the best analysis I’ve seen for why Bernie could be truly revolutionary, a potential world-historical figure in the same way Mikhail Gorbachev was. But that’s PROVIDED his followers aren’t “sheep” willing to drop Bernie and his sweeping reform program should he lose to Hillary Clinton. Making Bernie our standard of acceptable performance for Democrats is the ONLY path to revolution.

By the way, though CounterPunch is hardly pro-Bernie in its editorial viewpoint, it’s being extremely fair in hosting an honest, open debate on the significance of Bernie’s candidacy—actually, the best one I know of. I’d encourage Bernie supporters—especially his more radical ones—to check out and comment on that debate.”

Here’s my own (I think important) contribution to it.  (Patrick’s first article can be read here.)

Telling Facts and Naming Names
Since 1993

AUGUST 7, 2015

“Exploiting” Bernie to Dynamite Democrats’ Fault Lines

by PATRICK WALKER

To a properly prepared mind, Bernie Sanders is political dynamite. And that’s a good thing, because our political system suffers enough internal rot, enough dangerously sagging beams and rafters, that it could use—at minimum—some serious controlled detonations. I seeRevolt Against Plutocracy, the revolutionary movement I represent here, as having gathered and organized exactly the right sort of prepared minds—but hardly yet enough of them—to set off the needed explosions. And frankly, I see our best hope of recruiting our next set of demolition engineers, the most nearly prepared minds for our style of pyrotechnics, among denizens of the skeptical left. Which makes me grateful Jeffrey St. Clair was open- and fair-minded enough to let me rebut his own views at CounterPunch, in defense of our Revolt Against Plutocracy strategy.

I intend in this article, the follow-up to my “We’re Not Sandernistas”piece, to explain in detail the strategy I could only sketch in that “spadework” article. But before detailing our strategy as promised, I’ll perform one last bit of essential spadework, aimed at making harder leftist minds more receptive soil for our Revolt Against Plutocracy strategy. Namely, I’ll briefly sketch what I consider the chief dividing difference between typical CounterPunch and Revolt Against Plutocracy mindsets.

CLICK ON TITLE TO SEE ENTIRE ARTICLE

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COUNTERPUNCH ARTICLES OPPOSING BERNIE’S CANDIDACY

JULY 31, 2015

Bernie and the Sandernistas: Into the Void

by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR

I’m going to be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
To the heart and the soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
Though true love could have been a contender
Are you there?
Say a prayer for the Pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender

–Jackson Browne, The Pretender

I admit it. I had finally begun to warm to Bernie Sanders. With each new Berniefest, the old animosities melted a little. After years of unmitigated loathing for Sanders, I was beginning to feel a little pride in the homespun campaign waged by the Faux Comrade from Vermont.

Much of this had to do with the creeping anxiety that Sanders and his growing band of adherents, who I’ve taken to calling the Sandernistas, are inflicting on Hillary Clinton. Every time Hillary is forced to pop some political Prozac, a part of me cheers. Thank you, Bernie.

No doubt, it’s a curious appeal. I’ve never thought of Bernie Sanders as a spellbinding speaker. He doesn’t have the polished allure of Obama or the seductive flair of Jesse Jackson in his prime. His Brooklyn accent is thick, his style more stentorian than passionate. The key to Bernie’s charisma is his charming lack of charisma. But his stump speeches, offering a plodding pastiche of the same liberal economic platitudes that have been common currency since Hubert Humphrey, are packing them in, from Denver to Madison. There is a seething desperation on the economic margins of the country that is luring people toward Sanders as the only antidote for their anguish.

CLICK TITLE TO CONTINUE READING ARTICLE

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JULY 29, 2015

The Wheels Fell Off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon

by JOSHUA FRANK

A few weeks back I wrote a piece that was pretty hard on Bernie Sanders. I admit it. I pulled him through the mud by his loafers and smeared his good name. I had the audacity to point out his rubber-stamping of various wars, his silent support for Israel’s assault on Palestine, and his crude vote during Bill Clinton’s presidency thatpeeled away the rights granted by habeas corpus. I even called his campaign a dead end. I mean, I was rough on the old comrade.

A slew of emails soon flooded my inbox from Bernie-fanatics. They chastised me for claiming Bernie wasn’t worth the effort (“How dare you, you fucking ass-wipe!”). They openly proclaimed their admiration for Sanders (“It’s like Noam Chomsky is running for the White House!”) and begged me to abandon my criticisms and jump on the latest freight train to change (“You’ll be forced to come around, he’s going to cream Clinton in the primaries, you watch!”). Fact is, I’m not sorry in the least that I wrote the truth about his misdirected campaign. In fact, the Bernie-bots are exactly the reason Democrats don’t give a shit about progressive politics. Let me explain.

CLICK ON TITLE TO READ REST OF ARTICLE

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The Great Bernie Debate

In the last several days, CounterPunch has served as a debate forum on the presidential candidacy of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed socialist and, for some inexplicable reason, the apparent darling of the left. CounterPunch chief editor Jeffrey St. Clair and managing editor Joshua Frank began the discussion with their articles, Bernie and the Sandernistas, and The Wheels Fell off the Bernie Sanders Bandwagon, respectively. Then Patrick Walker followed up with We’re Not Sandernistas: Reinventing the Wheels of Bernie’s Bandwagon. Mr. Walker states that “a certain criticism of Sanders is implied” in his strategy, and that Mr. Sanders is worthy of ‘critical support’.

It seems to this writer that such a strategy is akin to the usual ‘lesser-of-two-evils’ choice with which the United States voter is faced every four years. And it is increasingly difficult to find that ‘lesser’ evil, as the two major parties blur the lines that once, however slightly, separated them. Mr. Walker appears to perpetuate that limited choice. Said he: “So the trick is to find an electable candidate who’s satisfactory on one or two of the most crucial issues and to support that candidate’s election, reserving the right to otherwise disagree openly with that candidate and to pressure him or her to adopt more of your views.” With all due respect to Mr. Walker, this seems very pie-in-the-sky. It is hard enough (impossible, actually) to hold an elected official responsible for what he or she promised to do as a candidate, let alone sway their position on something else.

Let’s look for a moment at the objections initially raised by Mr. St. Clair and Mr. Frank, and see how easy it might be to overlook some of Mr. Sanders’ more odious positions. First, some comments by Mr. St. Clair.

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MAY 22, 2015

The Not-So Nordic Bernie Sanders

by PAUL STREET

Speaking to George Stephanopoulus on ABC News’ “This Week” three weeks ago, the recently declared Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders identified himself with the “the democratic socialism” of Scandinavia. In Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, Sanders told Stephanopoulos, politics and society are “very democratic…health care is the right of all people…college education, graduate school is free…retirement benefits, childcare are stronger than in the United States of America. And in those countries, by and large, government works for ordinary people and the middle class, rather than, as is the case right now in our country, for the billionaire class.”

“I can hear the Republican attack ad right now,” Stephanopolous said, “He wants American to look more like Scandinavia.” Sanders shot back: “And what’s wrong with that? What’s wrong when you have more income and wealth equality? What’s wrong when they have a … higher minimum wage than we do, and they are stronger on the environment…? Look…we can learn from other countries. We have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth, at the same time as we are seeing a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires. Frankly, I don’t think that is sustainable. I don’t think that’s what America is about.”

CLICK ON TITLE TO READ ENTIRE ARTICLE

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MAY 1, 2015

Invest in Activism, Not Bernie Sanders

by DAVID SWANSON

Yes, Bernie Sanders would be a far superior president to Hillary Clinton.

That requires a bit of elaboration. Something I just scraped off my shoe would be a far superior president to Hillary Clinton, but Sanders would actually be good in a whole lot of ways. He has numerous imperfections, but the contrast with Clinton is like day to night.

I’d rather have him running than not.

But please do not give him or Hillary or the wonderful Jill Stein or any other candidate a dime or a moment of your life. Instead, join the movement that’s in the streets of Baltimore opposing police murder, that’s in the halls of the United Nations pushing to abolish nukes, that’s blocking mountaintop removal, divesting from Israel, advancing renewable energy, and struggling to create fair elections through steps like automatic registration in Oregon, and pushing legislation to provide free media, match small donors, give each voter a tax credit to contribute, or take the power to establish plutocracy away from the Supreme Court.

CLICK ON TITLE TO CONTINUE READING

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JULY 15, 2015

Chris Hedges on Bernie Sanders and the Corporate Democrats

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER

Bernie Sanders is the only major party candidate for President who favors a single payer national health insurance system.

What’s not to like?

That was the question Ralph Nader asked Chris Hedges on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour.

“Bernie Sanders wants to break up the New York banks, he wants to impose a Wall Street transaction tax, he wants to regulate drug prices, he’s for full Medicare for all — everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital — he wants to get rid of these corporate tax havens, he’s pushing for a $15 dollar an hour minimum wage, he wants to stronger labor unions. What’s not to like?” Nader asked Hedges.

“Because he did it within the Democratic establishment,” Hedges said. “He’s lending credibility to a party that is completely corporatized. He has agreed that he will endorse the candidate, which, unless there is some miracle, will probably be Hillary Clinton.”

“So what he does is he takes all of that energy, he raises all of these legitimate issues and he funnels it back into a dead political system so that by April it’s over.”

“That was the role of Van Jones in the last election,” Hedges said. “He was running around, using the language of Occupy — Occupy the Vote — and that is what Bernie has done. I don’t understand. He fought the Democratic establishment in Vermont his entire career. Now he has sold out to it.”

“Bernie has also not confronted the military industrial complex at all,” Hedges said. “On a personal level, having spent seven years in the Middle East, I’m just not willing to forgive him for abandoning the Palestinians and giving carte blanche to Israel. He was one of 100 Senators who stood up like AIPAC wind up dolls and approved Israel’s 51-day slaughter last summer of Palestinians in Gaza — the Palestinians who have no army, no navy, artillery, mechanized units, command and control.”

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NEWSLETTER: MOVEMENTS AND ELECTIONS  

Newsletter: Movements And Elections

Movement and electoral politics

Popular Resistance was created to help build a broad-based movement that is informed and acts strategically to challenge the status quo. There are so many crises today and we have been focused on trying to stop those crises from worsening (“stop the machine”) while using the fights and partial victories to build capacity for the movement.

We have avoided putting emphasis on elections in part because it is important not to get caught up in the electoral cycle which has been nothing more than a periodic horse race between corporate candidates chosen through a rigged system. Instead, we hoped that more people would step out of the electoral cycle and take a longer-term view of the work that must be done to build a movement with real power.

This doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t vote or support candidates who run outside the Democratic and Republic (corporate duopoly) parties. We believe that both of those actions are important. It means that we must face the reality that voting is a very minor part of civic engagement and that the system is rigged against candidates who challenge the duopoly.

At the same time, there is a need to create a system of governance that replaces the plutocracy currently in power. Movements cannot act in isolation and politicians, no matter how populist they are, will not represent the movement unless they are accountable to it. So, what is the proper relationship between movements and electoral politics and how do we create it?


Experiences in other countries

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Why Presidential Elections are Detrimental to Movement Building

Many reasons have been put forward for why the left should be involved in Bernie Sanders’ bid for the Democratic Party presidential nomination: he can win, his candidacy can pull the party or at least the political debate to the left, it’s a chance to talk socialism with millions of Americans, it can build left organization and capacity.

Supporters of Sanders on the left (which I define as explicit anti-capitalists) think there is no real downside to his campaign. Now, many find Sanders’ positions generally refreshing, myself included, but that’s not enough. The real issue for the left is what role does his campaign play in organizing, and it’s indisputable that Sanders will herd movements into a Democratic Party beholden to Wall Street interests. Sanders makes no bones about this, saying he will support the eventual nominee, which will almost certainly be Hillary Clinton. Even if leftists who back Sanders sit out the general election that is of no consequence as they will have served their purpose of building a base of support that will be put to work for Clinton.

But there is another danger from Sanders’ campaign as a Democrat. Far from building movements, it can fracture them.

CLICK ON TITLE TO CONTINUE READING

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