Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Party candidate for president of the United States, has attracted huge crowds and generated enormous enthusiasm at campaign stops around the country. He calls himself a socialist and urges a “political revolution against the billionaire class.” We publish here an analysis by Socialist Appeal, USA, who provide answers to the questions of: What does Sanders’ campaign reflect and represent? And how should revolutionary Marxists approach it?
Bernie Sanders’ decision to contend for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president has shaken up the status quo. Until his announcement, the 2016 election looked like it was going to be merely “more of the same”—quite possibly another Clinton vs. another Bush. Long accustomed to voting “none of the above,” many Americans have responded enthusiastically to Bernie’s campaign.
Americans are given precious few opportunities to express themselves politically. This is why, even though they represent little more than a stage-managed circus and are virtually devoid of any real politics, people’s interest in politics rises when election season rolls around, especially when the presidency is at stake. With a historically weakened left, without a clear lead by the labor leaders, and in the absence of a labor party, the political vacuum on the left is inevitably filled in a distorted way by liberals, populists, and even libertarians.
The emergence of Bernie Sanders as a presidential candidate is a symptomatic confirmation of this perspective. In the desert that is contemporary American politics, his call for “Scandinavian-style socialism,” his railing against the “billionaire class,” and his call for a “political revolution” naturally resonate with millions of people. He is boldly raising ideas and words that have not been part of the mainstream political discourse for decades. This raises serious questions for all those fighting for a better world.
In order to understand what Sanders represents, we must examine his program and strategy as well as answer the following questions: What is socialism? Will Bernie Sanders running as a Democrat strengthen the movement for workers’ political and economic power and socialism? If Bernie Sanders is elected president and is able to implement his program, would this make life better and solve the crisis of American capitalism? The aim of this article is to take a serious look at these and related questions, as a contribution to the discussion taking place in and around the Bernie Sanders campaign.
A lower standard of living and income inequality
The crisis of American capitalism continues to unfold, leading to greater hardship for the workers and youth. Cuts and austerity for the majority and unimaginable wealth for the minority is the “new normality.” Anger is building in response to the shocking inequality, constantly deteriorating standard of living, low wages, misogyny, homophobia, racism, and police brutality. People are sick and tired of the status quo, and the general population is shifting to the left. However, there is no mass political party of, by, and for the working class through which to express this radicalization. Here’s where Bernie Sanders steps in.
He understands and has been able to connect with the rising discontent. As he put it on Face the Nation, “There is, in my view, massive dissatisfaction in this country today with the corporate establishment and the greed of corporate America and the incredible unequal distribution of wealth and income which currently exists . . . when you have 99% of all new income generated today going to the top one percent, when you have the top one-tenth of one percent owning almost as much income as the bottom ninety percent, people working longer hours for low wages, and all of the money is going to people on the top—you know what, people don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Growing numbers of Americans agree that that’s not a good idea. 67% of Americans are dissatisfied with income and wealth distribution according to a Gallup Poll. Last year, an NBC NewsWall Street Journal poll/ revealed that 57% of Americans believe we’re still in a recession, nearly seven years into the “recovery,” undoubtedly as a result of the deteriorating quality of life affecting millions.
The issue of income inequality is so important for the 2016 race that even right-wing Republican Marco Rubio has recognized and addressed it: “So much of the recovery over the last couple of years has gone to such a small segment of the population that now middle-class and upward-mobility stagnation has become more apparent . . . I think it’s good that there’s a consensus that’s what we need to focus on.”
Bernie Sanders raised $4 million for his campaign from around 90,000 contributors in little over a week. By the June 17 financial reporting deadline he had raised $8.3 million. Over 200,000 people have written to volunteer for his campaign. The fact that the language of “class” and “revolution” has resonated among a wide layer is significant in and of itself.
Even the word “socialism” is used more frequently in mainstream media, and instead of shying away from it, Sanders boldly defends his version of “socialism.” A 2011 Pew poll found that 49% of those aged 18 to 29 had a positive view of socialism, versus only 47% with a positive view of capitalism. An even more recent poll, from June 2014, found that 47% of Americans would vote for a socialist, with 69% of those under 30 in favor. Bernie has successfully tapped into this mood and legitimized the idea of “socialism” in a way not seen in decades—if ever.
The question of Scandinavia
When speaking of socialism, Sanders often refers to the Social-Democratic governments of Scandinavia throughout the post–World War II period and the many reforms that the working class won there. Certainly, paid parental leave, universal health care, universal education, strong unions, and other conquests of the Scandinavian labor movement are enviable. But are these countries truly socialist? Or if they are essentially capitalist countries like the US, how did their workers win so many reforms?
During the postwar boom, from the late 1940s until 1974, world capitalism was expanding, including in the Scandinavian countries. They were able to export to the growing European economies, especially Germany. These countries also benefited from the Marshall Plan, which introduced modern technology and financial support to rebuild industry after the war. On this basis, the Scandinavian capitalist class could afford reforms, but they only gave them as a result of certain factors.
After the war, the Scandinavian capitalists, who had collaborated with the Nazis, were on the retreat and faced with massive and militant workers’ movements. The workforce was highly unionized (even today Sweden has a unionization rate of 90%) and the working class had their own mass political parties: Labor Party of Norway, Social Democratic Party and Left Party (previously Communist Party) of Sweden, and the Social Democrats and to a lesser degree the Communist Party of Denmark. In addition, the proximity of the USSR was seen as a serious threat by the capitalists throughout Europe. Even though the USSR was not a truly socialist country, and had a hideous police state, the existence of a nationalized planned economy with full employment, universal health care and education, and no inflation put pressure on capitalists everywhere to give some reforms.
However, while the workers of Scandinavia were able to wrest some reforms from the capitalists, the vast majority of the economy in these countries remained in private hands, and therefore operated in order to produce profits. Today, private ownership of the means of production in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway means these countries aren’t immune to the capitalist crisis now gripping the entire world. In response to the crisis, the capitalists of Scandinavia have launched vicious attacks on the hard-won reforms that remain. Economic inequality, budget cuts, layoffs, and racism are the reality in these countries, as any worker or young person living there can attest to.
These factors, including the restoration of capitalism in the USSR, Eastern Europe, and China, make the bourgeois far less inclined to give even the smallest crumbs in the form of reforms to the working class, let alone to leave the previous reforms intact. Unfortunately, despite the best of intentions, to speak of moving in the direction of “Scandinavian-style Social-Democracy” is to speak of keeping American-style capitalism, which is what they now have in those countries. As Marxists, we believe that all these reforms and much more are possible—but not on the basis of capitalism. There is no such thing as “kinder, gentler” capitalism—only genuine socialism can guarantee all of this, as we will explain in detail below.
Bernie Sanders’ Program
Some of Bernie Sanders’ ideas of what American socialism would look like echo slogans that emerged during the Occupy movement. Undoubtedly, issues such as income inequality and the anarchy of the capitalist market require a solution, but exactly how should we address them? Sanders has called for breaking up the big banks, taxing the rich, for universal healthcare, raising the minimum wage, free college tuition.
However, in a period of capitalist crisis, can these reforms be fully achieved within the limits of the system? The postwar capitalist upswing allowed for an unprecedented period of social stability in the US and Western Europe, as the capitalist class was willing to give crumbs from their ever-growing pie. But the postwar boom is long gone, and only cuts and austerity are on the menu. This leaves the formerly reformist parties trapped in a position of managing the crisis of capitalism.
One only need look at the French Socialist Party, the Spanish PSOE, the British Labour Party, PASOK, and more recently SYRIZA in Greece. All of these parties, which rose from the struggles of the working class, are under immense pressure from the world’s capitalist class, despite the organic links many of these parties have to the working class through the trade unions. Those leaders who are unprepared to break with the capitalist system are doomed to be the ones carrying out the very same austerity the workers elected them to fight against.
The Democratic Party does not have an organic relationship to the US working class, as the workers’ parties have historically had in Europe, nor does it have a democratic party structure. The capitalists control the Democratic Party and wield it as an undemocratic electoral machine, and it serves their interests. Even if it plays the “good cop” to the Republicans’ “bad cop,” it is unrealistic to expect a candidate running within the Democratic Party apparatus, a party of big business with absolutely no structural links to the working class, to play a different a role. You cannot serve two masters!
Sanders’ call to break up the big banks into smaller banks may sound reasonable on paper, in order to solve the problems of inequality and financial anarchy. But in reality it is a confused demand, wishing to bring things back to an imaginary “small is beautiful” past. The experience of all past efforts to break up the banks and big monopolies should be enough to dispel any illusions in this demand. The monopolization of the banking system and big industries has eventually renewed itself on an even higher basis, with larger banks devouring the smaller banks, and bigger companies absorbing the smaller ones. This is the relentless logic of capitalism, and no amount of regulation can stop these economic laws from asserting themselves.
Furthermore, division of the banks into smaller, competing banks would cause immense economic instability, whether on a capitalist or socialist basis. Whenever there is an attempt to regulate, or to break up capitalist companies, they always find a way around the restrictions imposed on them. The present growth of private equity companies is a stark example of this. Technically speaking, they are not banks, but their financial power dwarfs that of many banks.
Therefore, in response to Sanders’ call to break up the banks, we would call instead for the nationalization of the entire banking system and their integration into a single bank, which the working class will administer democratically as a public utility. When the media say that certain companies that affect the lives of millions are “too big to fail,” we say they are “too big to leave in the hands of a handful of speculators”!
Bernie Sanders’ call for universal health care is absolutely correct, and understandably resonates with millions. But the only way to actually achieve this is to nationalize the insurance giants, hospitals, and pharmaceutical and medical technology monopolies, which we should integrate into a high-quality, unified health care system available to all. Likewise, to achieve universal free education we must bring into public ownership the private colleges, trade schools, and universities, and link them with existing public education networks to create a unified, world-class higher education system. Unfortunately, Sanders is not calling for any of this.
Other demands, such as taxing the rich and raising the minimum wage, we Marxists would support. However, we must also point out the limitations of such demands. Capitalism is a system of commodity production, for the purpose of exchange, in the pursuit of profit. If a capitalist can set up shop in a location with lower taxes and labor costs, they will. This is precisely what is behind the attacks on union rights throughout the US. This is also what explains the continued existence of the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act, which severely restricts the right of workers to strike. As far as we can tell, Sanders has not called for this law to be repealed.
Socialism is not capitalism plus a few reforms. It is a fundamentally different system that builds on what humanity has already achieved under capitalism: collective production of the wealth of society. But under capitalism, a handful of private owners appropriate the surplus wealth which the working class produces. Under socialism, the workers themselves would collectively manage this surplus wealth, and utilize it to satisfy human need, not private profit. To take humanity to the next level, and to unleash the enormous economic and human potential that capitalism squanders, we must make the main levers of the economy—the top 500 companies—publicly owned, democratically administered entities.
Sanders calls for a higher minimum wage, more public works, increases in Social Security, and more. The Marxists support any reforms that would increase the standard of living of the working class; however, history shows that reforms like these are only possible if we make serious inroads against capitalist private ownership of the means of production. Given the massive public debt, there is no other source to fund all the social and economic programs society requires. Without the nationalization of the major industries and their integration into a democratically planned economy, crisis-ridden capitalism, and everything that organically flows from it, will continue to drag humanity down.
And without a mass party of the working class, without an organic link to the labor unions, with no real organization behind him to keep him accountable and to fight the bosses in every workplace, campus, and working-class neighborhood, a Sanders government would find itself weak and in crisis from the beginning. He would find himself faced with an overwhelmingly hostile media, Congress, judiciary, and government bureaucracy—not to mention the outright sabotage of the capitalists. It would therefore be virtually impossible for him to even begin to implement the main elements of his “program.”
Sanders and imperialism
For Marxists, “imperialism” has a precise and scientific meaning. It is the stage when a capitalist economy is dominated by monopoly and finance capital, it exports capital to other countries in search of higher profits, and uses its close connections with the state apparatus—including the military—to defend its interests internationally. This is true of the US today, and has been since the late 1800s. Today there are 7,000,000 businesses in the US, but the top 500 corporations alone control 75% of the economy. There is massive investment overseas and the military-industrial complex has reached staggering proportions. There is a vast network of diplomats and military bases whose aim is to defend the US capitalists’ profit-making operations. The US capitalists —which Sanders refers to as the “billionaire class”—wage class war against the workers both at home and abroad.
Unfortunately, Bernie Sanders does not openly explain and oppose imperialism. While he has opposed some spending on wars, at other times he has voted to fund the military, and is an avid proponent of the new advanced F-35 fighter jet, which he hopes to manufacture in his home state of Vermont.
Likewise, he does not take a class position regarding Israel. The Zionist regime of Israel is one of the main allies of US imperialism in the Middle East, although the two do not always agree. The Zionist state came into being on the basis of war, occupation, racism, and discrimination against the Arab people of the region, and has used the policy of “divide and rule” to oppress and regularly slaughter the Palestinians. A correct approach would seek to unite the working class in Israel with the Arab masses under occupation, to jointly put an end to the exploitation and growing poverty of the Israeli workers and the Arab masses. In other words, the only solution is socialism, based on the united class struggle and cooperation of all workers, peasants, and the oppressed, against their common capitalist exploiters and their local thugs. This is the only way to begin establishing a genuine and lasting peace in the Middle East. Instead, Sanders clearly leans in the direction of supporting the Israeli regime, and offers no real solution.
Finally, the imperialists’ search for cheap labor and to more thoroughly exploit markets internationally was what was behind NAFTA, and is what is behind the latest Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement, which Obama and many in the Democratic Party support. Sanders correctly opposes the TPP, but does so with overtones of “America first!” nationalism—instead of calling for workers’ internationalism and a socialist federation of the Americas and the world, with mutual respect and solidarity as its guiding principles.
Although people can and often do change their positions on various issues, Bernie Sanders’ political history is worth reviewing to track his trajectory. It is interesting to note that when Bernie Sanders was in college, he was a member of CORE (Congress for Racial Equality) and YPSL (Young People’s Socialist League), which had links to the Socialist Party of America. He began his political career as a member of the antiwar Liberty Union Party in the early 1970s, in Vermont. Prior to that he had lived and worked on a Kibbutz commune in Israel, where Labor Zionism likely inspired him—which would also explain some of his pro-Israel positions today.
In 1981, he won the position of Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, as an independent, and subsequently won reelection three times, defeating both main political parties even when they teamed up to defeat him in elections. During his tenure as mayor,Burlington developed “sister city” relationships with Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua in 1984, during the Sandinista Revolution, and Yaroslavl, USSR in 1989, antagonizing Reagan’s policies at the time. Sanders also spoke alongside one of Britain’s Marxist members of parliament, Terry Fields, at the founding conference of the Campaign for a Labor Party in 1989.
In 1990, he went on to win election to the US House of Representatives for Vermont, once again running as an independent. However, this was the beginning of a long association with the Democratic Party, with which he has caucused consistently ever since. Although he stood against the initial invasion of Iraq, earlier in 2001, Sanders voted in favor of the authorization that led to the invasion of Afghanistan.
In 2006, riding a wave of anti-Bush sentiment in which the Democrats took control of both houses of Congress, he won a seat in the US Senate. While he again ran as an independent, this time he had the blessing of many Democratic Party bigwigs, including Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, and Howard Dean.
In 2010, Sanders gave an eight-and-a-half-hour-long filibuster speech against the extension of the George W. Bush tax cuts for the rich. In the aftermath of the Occupy movement, his reputation for his stand against the Bush tax cuts led tocalls for him to run in the 2012 election, which he rejected. Fast forward three years, when a group of ex-Occupy activists, who set up People for Bernie Sanders, encouraged Sanders to run. In addition, the Progressive Democrats of Americaencouraged him to run as a Democrat.
All on his own in Washington, DC, without a clear political program, method, and party to keep him on track and hold him accountable in the face of the immense pressures that exist in capitalist society, it’s not surprising that Bernie Sanders has found himself moving closer and closer to the camp of the Democratic Party, through the alleged need to be “pragmatic,” i.e., to accept the narrow limits of bourgeois politics and the capitalist system. His direct involvement with the Democratic Party as a potential presidential candidate can only lead to more pressure being put on him to “fall in line.”
“Bait and switch” and the role of the Democrats
Bernie Sanders is not the first left-leaning politician to run in the Democratic primaries. Although conditions change and history never repeats itself exactly, it is nonetheless instructive to review similar campaigns from the past. It is not for nothing that many have referred to the Democratic Party as the “graveyard of social movements.”
Populist Democrat George McGovern ran for president in 1972. At that time, there was a huge movement against the Vietnam War, the civil rights and women’s movements were also large, and there was a wave of strikes, including unofficial “wildcat” strikes. In this context, McGovern won the Democratic nomination. His role was to ensure these movements did not move toward an alternative left-labor political party, to keep them in “safe” channels that did not threaten the rule of capitalism. As was also the case with the William Jennings Bryan campaigns in 1896 and 1900, when McGovern was nominated, key parts of the Democratic Party sabotaged the campaign, and Nixon won reelection in a landslide.
In 1984 and 1988, Jesse Jackson ran in the Democratic primaries, proposing to create a “Rainbow Coalition” comprised of civil rights activists from a variety of backgrounds, as well as a program similar to FDR’s New Deal. In both campaigns, Jackson served to play the role of bait, drawing many who otherwise would have been moving even further, and away from the parties of big business, right back into the “big tent” of the Democrats.
More recently, Dennis Kucinich played a similar role. In 2004 he ran in the Democratic primaries as an antiwar candidate, only to lose and endorse pro-war candidate John Kerry, the eventual nominee. In 2008, Kucinich ran again, this time on a program to repeal the Patriot Act, legalize same-sex marriage, end the “War on Drugs,” establish universal health care, and many other social reforms. After he failed to win the nomination in, he again went on to endorse the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama.
The Democratic Party, which historically was a party of the Southern slaveowners and the Northern capitalist political machines, gained its “worker friendly” reputation during the FDR presidency, when the New Deal Democrats became dominant within the party. Using the carrot of the various New Deal programs, they aimed to pacify and control an increasingly militant labor movement that was moving in the direction of forming a labor party. The Democrats cynically used the Works Progress Administration programs to win elections by hiring the unemployed during election season, only to lay off many workers once their electoral positions were secured.
The economic reality is that New Deal did not end the Great Depression—the massive state-directed buildup and participation in the slaughter of World War II is what finally revived the economy. What the New Deal did was take the edge off just enough in order to allow capitalism a political and economic breathing space, and, eventually, another lease on life after the war. While many people desperate for any relief have illusions in a “new New Deal,” genuine socialism will make the New Deal programs of the past seem like child’s play.
The writer Gore Vidal knew a thing or two about the American political system, having grown up in a family steeped in American politics. He once said that the United States has “one political party, the Property Party, and it has two right wings, the Democrats and Republicans.” This is an apt assessment of the US political system.
The Democrats and Republicans, while they are formally two separate parties, represent merely two different wings of the American ruling class. One wing, more arrogant, more brazen, and less farsighted, seeks to implement counterreforms, cuts, and austerity as quickly as possible. Another wing, a little more intelligent, more sensitive to the moods of society, and slightly more farsighted, seeks to implement counterreforms, cuts, and austerity in a more calculated way, so as to not provoke a backlash from the working class.
“Pushing Hillary to the Left,” or “Pushing the Left to Hillary”?
Some argue that Sanders’ run as a Democrat is positive, as it will force the “go to” nominee Hillary Clinton to the left in order to outflank him. She has already shifted her rhetoric somewhat to the left in recent weeks, likely not only as result of Sanders’ run, but also because her team has a calculated understanding of the issues that are looming large in the minds of millions.
But just imagine the effect if Bernie Sanders were running as an independent, calling on the labor leaders to break with the Democrats and to build a mass political party based on the unions. This could potentially generate even greater enthusiasm and pull many more people into political activity. If such a campaign gathered steam and were run on a bold socialist program, it would force the “two main parties” to scramble to the left to save their skins. Facing such a threat, it is possible that the two capitalist parties could merge together in their common fight against the workers. Or, perhaps the ruling class would decide to establish another political party of its own, to the left of the Democrats, as a desperate measure to prevent the labor party from winning.
However, pushing capitalist politicians and parties marginally to the left is not the point. Hillary Clinton and the entire Democratic Party establishment have been well cultivated by the capitalist class to represent their interests. The illusions that Barack Obama instilled in millions with his “hope for change” campaign rhetoric is a good example. Capitalist politicians are not accountable to the voters, but to the big corporations. Under capitalism, “money talks and politicians listen.”
The Democratic Party is neither democratic, nor is it a party. The millions of people who vote for it, for lack of an alternative, have zero say in its policies or direction. Despite Obama’s promises, US troops remain in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guantanamo prison is still open, the Employee Free Choice Act did not pass, the TPP is likely to pass, many Bush-era tax cuts for the rich remain in place, and instead of universal healthcare, we have a massive government handout to the insurance giants who are making more money than ever. We often hear that “there is no alternative” to the two-party system. No wonder “none of the above” gets the most “votes” in one election after another!
Despite instinctively understanding this, many Americans will still vote for the Democrats with the single purpose of avoiding the Republicans. This so-called “lesser evilism” isn’t uniquely American. Before Britain’s labor movement built the Labour Party, and before Canadian workers built the New Democratic Party, the “two parties” of those countries were the Liberals and the Conservatives, with the former presenting themselves as “friends of labor” against the “greater evil” —sound familiar? Eventually, the workers tired of this back-and-forth charade. A tipping point came and the dynamic transformed, with the formation of mass workers’ parties. It was the British Labour Party, which swept the elections in 1945, which created the National Health Service, carried through a series of nationalizations, and achieved dozens of other reforms that are today under attack. In Canada, it was the mere threat of the New Democratic Party that forced the Conservative Party to establish universal health care.
Socialist Party presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, who Sanders considers a hero, once said, “I’d rather vote for what I want and not get it, than vote for what I don’t want and get it.” This is sound advice today! Only on the basis of class independence can the workers defend their interests. Even if Sanders didn’t win the presidency this time around as an independent, he could have established the foundation for something lasting and serious for the future. Instead, his campaign, while inspiring to many, will also raise false hopes that the Democrats are a solution.
Should we support Sanders’ run as a Democrat?
Bernie Sanders has explicitly stated that if he loses the Democratic nomination, he will endorse Hillary Clinton or whoever else ends up as the party’s nominee. The perspective of him running independent is therefore unlikely, unless a mass movement erupts in the next few months and pushes him in that direction. In the volatile conditions of today, this is indeed a possibility. If Bernie Sanders were to shift gears and run an independent campaign with millions of supporters behind him, the Marxists would certainly consider giving critical support to his campaign as a step in the right direction, towards a labor party, and for genuine socialism.
However, there are some on the left who have advocated supporting Bernie Sanders as a Democrat in the primaries, with the aim of building a base among his supporters, in the hopes of convincing him to run independent if he fails to gain the Democratic nomination. The logic of this is that workers and youth should register as Democrats to participate in the Democratic Party’s primaries and caucuses. However, this approach adds confusion, not clarity.
Advocating actual support to Bernie Sanders while he is running as a Democrat, no matter how critical, is to bolster illusions in the Democratic Party and to go down the well-trodden path that the capitalist class and its political representatives have carefully carved out. It means to become responsible for the actions and policies of the Democratic party—a party representing class interests diametrically opposed to those of the working class. The working class does not need this kind of advice!
Undoubtedly, today there are many who describe themselves as socialists who still have illusions in the Democratic Party. Given the lack of alternatives in the US, many people pass through the “school of the Democrats” as part of their political evolution towards the ideas of socialism and Marxism. It is our responsibility to patiently, clearly, and firmly encourage the movement of these individuals away from the Democrats and towards Marxism. To encourage leftward moving individuals to support a Democratic candidate in the primaries is a shameful betrayal of the ABCs of the class struggle.
Furthermore, it is a waste of energy and potential that could instead be spent educating individuals who are newly awakened to political life in the ideas of Marxism, in preparation for the great events of the future. In 1924, some leaders of the young American Communist Party considered supporting the populist Republican Robert LaFollete, who described himself as a “progressive.” Trotsky had this to say: “Opportunism expresses itself not only in moods of gradualism but also in political impatience: it frequently seeks to reap where it has not sown, to realize successes which do not correspond to its influence.” In other words, schemes like this are a search for a nonexistent shortcut to wider layers of the population. History shows that all such “shortcuts” lead only over a cliff!
Our task is precisely to sow the seeds of Marxism and lay the basis for what can become a serious revolutionary force capable of playing a key role in the events of the future. In the coming period, capitalist politics will be shaken from top to bottom as a result of the system’s intractable contradictions. A small group, no matter how determined, cannot force history. But it can painstakingly prepare in advance to play a role as a “catalyst” once events and the masses are on the move.
Which way forward?
The world capitalist system finds itself mired in a deep crisis. Big shocks to American capitalism are also on the horizon—perhaps far sooner than anyone expects. It is on the basis of this perspective that we argue for the revolutionary transformation of society as the only way to put an end to the “horror without end” faced by billions of people around the planet.
A revolution is when the masses of ordinary people begin to take their destinies into their own hands. They are no longer content to allow the rich and powerful to control politics and the managing of society, and they begin a protracted struggle to manage society on their own. In order to succeed, the working class requires a revolutionary party with deep roots in the class and above all, a clear and correct program. It is one thing to understand this necessity; it is quite another to understand how it can be patiently built over a period of years and decades.
Capitalism is in a precarious position. It is rotten to the core, and the working class has more than enough potential power to push it over the edge. Unfortunately, the biggest road block on the path towards socialism is the current leadership of the working class, above all, the leaders of the main labor unions in the country. These people tell the workers that they must pin their hopes on the Democrats, and that, despite the vast wealth that surrounds us, they must “tighten their belts” and subordinate their interests to the interests of corporate America.
If Bernie Sanders had run a campaign calling on the labor leaders to break with the Democrats and build a labor party, if he had explained genuine socialism as the only answer to the crisis of capitalism, he would have made an enormous contribution to the workers’ struggle. Such a campaign could establish roots throughout the country, laying the groundwork for future battles, and helping to create a new leadership for workers and youth. Unfortunately, this is not the path he chose.
Nonetheless, in spite of Sanders’ mistaken strategy, many will draw increasingly advanced conclusions as reformism and the Democratic Party are revealed as a dead end. Life and experience are the best teachers, and many bitter experiences are ahead, no matter how well or badly he ends up doing.
While fomenting no illusions in Sanders’ running as a Democrat or in his limited reformist program, we welcome the renewed interest in socialist ideas his campaign has generated, and will energetically seek out and connect with those looking for a way out of the capitalist impasse. The coming months will provide the US Marxists with many opportunities to positively explain our program and perspectives for the world revolution and for socialism.
We invite all those interested in learning more to contact us to discuss how we can work together to build a better future. The International Marxist Tendency fights for socialism, not only in the US, but in Canada, Mexico, and in more than 30 other countries around the world. The working class is international. With the right leadership, our class can change the world and raise humanity to a higher level. Forward to socialism!