Big shocks are in store for US and world capitalism, which will lead to even 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, low wages, sexism, 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. With a historically weakened left, without a clear lead by the labor leaders, and in the absence of an existing labor party, the political vacuum on the left is inevitably filled in a distorted way by liberals and both left and right populists.
Until Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy, the 2016 election looked like it was going to be merely “more of the same”—quite possibly another Clinton vs. another Bush—and tens of thousands of Americans have responded enthusiastically. His call for “Scandinavian-style socialism,” his speeches against the “billionaire class,” and his call for a “political revolution” resonate with millions of people. He is putting forward ideas and words that have not been part of mainstream politics for decades. This raises important questions for everyone who believes that a better world is possible.
First off, we should be clear: the Democratic Party is neither democratic, nor is it a party, like the Republicans, it is controlled by “the billionaire class.” 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, many Bush-era tax cuts for the rich remain in place, and far from universal healthcare, we have a massive government handout to the insurance giants who are making more money than ever.
Some argue that Sanders’ run as a Democrat is positive, as it will force Hillary Clinton to the left to outflank him. However, pushing capitalist politicians and parties marginally to the left should not be our aim. Our aim should be to actually win political power for the working class majority. Hillary Clinton and the entire Democratic Party establishment have been carefully cultivated by the capitalist class to represent their interests. Capitalist politicians are not accountable to the voters, but to the big corporations. Under capitalism, “money talks and politicians listen.”
Just imagine the effect if Sanders had instead run as an independent, calling on the labor leaders to break with the Democrats and to build a mass political party based on the unions, armed with a clear socialist program. Such a campaign could establish roots throughout the country, laying the groundwork for a new party and future electoral campaigns, as well as helping to organize trade union and social struggles. It could begin the process of creating a new leadership for workers and youth. Unfortunately, this is not the path Sanders chose.
As for his program, Bernie seems to think that if we could just regulate capitalism a little more and get the ultra-rich to pay a little more in taxes, we could fund more social programs and provide free healthcare and education. However, the rich are not going to stand idly by and watch their system be legislated out of existence by executive decree. To win genuine socialism will require more than a vote for an individual on election day. It will require years of hard-fought collective struggles by millions of workers and youth. It will require organization, enormous financial and social resources, and lots of determination and patience.
Socialism is not capitalism plus a few reforms. It is a fundamentally different system that builds on the technological and productive advances humanity has collectively developed. Under capitalism, a handful of private owners get to keep the surplus wealth which the working class produces. Under socialism, the workers would collectively manage this surplus wealth, and use it to satisfy human needs, not to enrich the 1%. To take humanity to the next level, to unleash the enormous economic and human potential that capitalism wastes, we must bring the key levers of the economy—the top 500 companies—into public ownership, to be democratically administered in the interests of the whole of society.
Despite these limitations in Sanders’ strategy and program, we welcome the fact that many people will draw increasingly advanced conclusions as their attempts to reform capitalism and the Democrats from within are revealed as dead ends. Life and experience are the best teachers, and many bitter experiences are ahead, no matter how well or badly Sanders ends up doing.
Ultimately, we believe that a worldwide revolution is necessary. A revolution is when the masses of ordinary people begin to take their destinies into their own hands, no longer content to allow the rich and powerful to control politics and the economy. In a true democracy, the majority should rule in all aspects of life! But in order to succeed, we need a revolutionary party with deep roots in the working class and a clear program that can fundamentally transform the way society is structured: a revolutionary socialist program.
The International Marxist Tendency fights for socialism in the US and around the world. We invite all those interested in learning more to contact us to discuss how we can work together to build a better future.
Fight for a labor party! Fight for revolution! Fight for socialism!