Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 10, 2019

Bernie and the Sandernistas

Filed under: Bernie Sanders,Counterpunch — louisproyect @ 2:45 pm


As I gird my loins for a renewed ideological struggle against Bernie Sanders’s bid to become the Democratic Party’s nominee to run against Donald Trump, I thought it advisable to get up to speed by reading Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Bernie & The Sandernistas: Field Notes From a Failed Revolution” that was published in 2016. Since Sanders will be running the same kind of campaign he ran in 2016, I hoped to find material that might change the minds of millennials about Democratic Party politics. Back in 1968, when I was a zealous young Trotskyite, I used to love selling the party’s “Truth Kits” about Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy. I may have changed my mind about the usefulness of Trotskyism but there will always be a need for holding Democratic Party politicians up for scrutiny even when it is someone like Bernie Sanders, who helped the SWP get on the ballot in Vermont in 1980 when he was about to become a third-party Mayor of Burlington. God knows that I would be a strong supporter if he ran as an independent next year. I even wrote a speech that he could have used if he had done so in 2016.

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  1. While Bernie has a half way decent domestic program of FDR-type reforms, his foreign policy stance has always made many radicals skeptical of the depth of his “socialist” politics. Nevertheless, (in the unlikely event) if he were to get the Democratic Party nomination, I’d probably vote for him in the General Election. So would many other American radicals who usually vote for left parties such as the GPUS or SP. Given the absence in America of a Jeremy Corbyn and a Labour Party many would see no real alternative.

    My guess is that the neoliberal Establishment will work overtime to derail Bernie’s candidacy. And sadly, Bernie has already indicated that if he does not get the nomination himself he will again “sheep dog” people into voting for the eventual candidate of the DP to “get rid of Trump.”

    But maybe this time many Bernie supporters will refuse to follow him into Democratic (or Republican) sheep pens. Maybe major portions of the Green Party US, progressive trade unions, radical collectives, etc. will resist “lesser evil” politics and actually begin the construction of an authentic opposition party to the capitalist duopoly we presently have. I refuse to give up hope for a better future…

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn, NY

    Comment by Kurt Hill — May 10, 2019 @ 4:29 pm

  2. Does anybody know if Howie Hawkins is running as Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2020?

    Comment by Reza — May 10, 2019 @ 4:47 pm

  3. Howie currently has a committee to explore his candidacy of the Green Party US for president in 2020. Since Bernie will probably be shunted aside again, I likely vote GPUS again in the next General Election…

    Kurt Hill
    Brooklyn, NY

    Comment by Kurt Hill — May 10, 2019 @ 5:04 pm

  4. Thank you, Kurt. I knew he had formed an exploratory committee; I was hoping he had decided already. Thank you again.

    Comment by Reza — May 10, 2019 @ 5:35 pm

  5. https://redfortyeight.com/2019/05/10/sanders-our-revolution-hidden-hand-signals/

    It is not clear if Sanders’ Our Revolution (and muddled use of the term ‘socialism”) is an FDR-ist social democratic finesse as a cooptation of revolutionary impulses. In that case Bernie may as well be a CIA plant,otherwise the New Deal rising from the dead on the path of revolution via hidden hand signals. We should take him literally.

    Comment by nemonemini — May 10, 2019 @ 5:43 pm

  6. One of Bernie’s most debilitating problems is that he doesn’t even recognize the working class as it currently exists. He speaks as if the working class remains overwhelmingly white, despite the fact that it is increasingly black and of color, as it is out here in California, where I’m convinced whites are a minority of it. His recent meandering condemnation of “open borders”, spoken in the same language as Trump, is a classic example. So was his dismissive response to reparations for slavery, one in which he failed to engage the social and cultural dimensions of the issue for African Americans. In this, he is similar to Biden. Both are prioritizing the “white working class” as essential to electoral success. He’s a Walter Benn Michael’s candidate.

    And then there’s foreign policy. One word is enough to convict him: Venezuela.

    Comment by Richard Estes — May 10, 2019 @ 8:14 pm

  7. @ Richard Estes, To your point about the focus of leading male Dems being the ‘white’ working class …

    A political talking head on NPR this morning actually put the picture of the Dems’ strategy in some perspective. He emphasized the fact that Dems lost the 2016 presidential elections by about 70,000 votes in three states (Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin). So, he concluded, all that Dems need to do is flip those seventy thousand votes plus keep what they got in 2016. That’s why they’re paying more rhetorical attention to the so-called ‘white working class’ issues.

    Dems have always taken the African-American voters for granted, and they think they can just as easily take Hispanic and Latino voters for granted, basically assuming that Trump’s hateful and racist immigration policy will do the campaigning for the Dem’s nominee.

    Comment by Reza — May 10, 2019 @ 8:50 pm

  8. Yes, I agree.

    It is frequently forgotten that while some white working class voters in Wisconsin and the Ohio River Valley states voted for Trump, there were black voters who abstained, as profiled in a New York Times article about a black neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin back in early 2017. But focusing upon these voters and voters of color doesn’t serve the ideological purpose of maintaining neoliberal, foreign interventionist control over the Democratic Party. The fact that Bernie is playing along with this strategy shows the narrow range of political choices available to us.

    Comment by Richard Estes — May 10, 2019 @ 10:15 pm

  9. “there were black voters who abstained [in 2016 elections], as profiled in a New York Times article about a black neighborhood in Milwaukee, Wisconsin back in early 2017. But focusing upon these voters and voters of color doesn’t serve the ideological purpose of maintaining neoliberal, foreign interventionist control over the Democratic Party”.

    Exactly. To address the needs of those communities of color, and their ruinous interventions overseas, they’d have to abandon their neoliberal/corporate ways. Impossible. At the very least, they’d have to acknowledge the necessity for *considering* changing their ways (not actually doing it, mind you). This, in turn, would be an opening for a serious investigation of their complicity in the ruination of so many millions of lives over the decades. ‘Not prudent’, as Bush-1 would put it.

    Comment by Reza — May 11, 2019 @ 12:54 am

  10. You were WAY to easy on Clinton and Kaine, see:


    Comment by billwolfe57 — May 11, 2019 @ 2:47 am

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