Bernie Sanders campaign should be seen as an initial step in a process leading to the establishment of a Labor Party
21Centurymanifesto readers will be interested in this posting form Labor Fightback in the USA, a newish trade union activists network that has its finger on the pulse of the new working class and social movements in that country.
The Sanders campaign has won the support of tens of millions of people — especially college age men and women — behind the progressive domestic program he expounds to a national audience. His campaign brings to the forefront a combination of demands not presented to the general public in modern times: tuition-free education at public colleges and universities; Medicare for All/Single Payer; the imperative to boldly fight climate change; a $15an hour minimum wage; opposition to trade deals such as the anti-worker/anti-democratic TPP and TTIP; the erosion of democracy due to corporate money’s stranglehold on policy and the effects of Citizens United; a strong emphasis on labor’s rights; breaking up the big banks; condemning the scandalously highly inflated prices for prescription drugs, and a host of other demands and arguments pointing out the decades’ growth of economic inequality.
Sanders unabashedly and squarely places the blame on Wall Street and the millionaire and billionaire class for the multiple crises they fostered, the policies that adversely affect the vast majority of working people and the poor. Sanders has revitalized the tarnished image of a social agenda, and even of the word socialism itself. And he has done all this against the backdrop of others who, at best, favor incremental changes only.
Throughout the singular and unexpected momentum Sanders has generated, he repeatedly emphasizes that electing a president alone will not bring about the sweeping changes he advocates. He calls for a revolution fostered by the engagement of millions of people to fight for the changes needed, economically and politically. We of the Labor Fightback Network emphatically agree.
That is why we believe that the Sanders campaign presents an opportunity not seen for decades, and this moment should be seized and utilized as a potential step forward in the struggle to establish an independent mass workers’ party based and built on labor and its community allies.
Of course, we realize that this would be foundation-building in order to create a national party with enough representatives in Congress to get legislation passed. Absent this, and with control of Congress remaining in the hands of the two corporate parties, the result would be continued gridlock and more dysfunctional government.
More voters now call themselves independents due to many years’ disenchantment with, and disenfranchisement from, the policies of the “oligarchic” two-party system. They are disgusted with a system that no longer even pretends to hear their needs or their voice. Therefore, now is the moment to seriously build the sentiment for a third party — a mass Labor Party — answering the needs of the 99%.
Assume that Hillary Clinton locks down the nomination. In that case, Sanders will no doubt continue to campaign for his program leading up to the Democratic convention and at the convention itself. Since the Party will need the energy — and money — of those Sanders has won over and invigorated, he will, no doubt, be given a prominent role at the convention. He will then dutifully campaign for the Democratic Party’s candidates while urging his supporters to do the same. Many will follow his lead and vote for the “lesser evil” Clinton candidacy rather than risk a victory for the ultra-reactionary Republicans.
But what about the hundreds of trade union bodies and the huge numbers of trade union and community activists who will have had it with “establishment politics,” to quote Sanders’ term? Many will reject giving support to hawk Hillary Clinton as the head of the Democratic Party. And they will be fully justified in refusing to support this “lesser-evil.”
Clinton is one of the main candidates, if not the main candidate, of Wall Street in the coming elections; her multi-million dollar corporate funding attests to this. She is also one of the main pro-war candidates on either ticket. But that’s not all: She is opposed to the Sanders’ domestic agenda on key points: She is in favor of pursuing the corporate-led assault on public education pursued by Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. She claims to oppose TPP but then tells the Chamber of Commerce not to worry because once elected she will implement TPP (Truthout.org, Jan. 31, 2016). She strongly opposes Medicare For All/Single Payer. And the list goes on.
Adrift and unwilling to compromise their convictions, where will Sanders’ supporters go? With no clear alternative for a place to land, widespread demoralization and apathy will inevitably ensue, as it did with Obama’s policies. The simple truth is that the interests and aspirations of the millions of Sanders’ supporters cannot be attained through the Democratic Party — a party of, by and for the ruling 1%.
What About the Third Parties Currently on the Scene?
There will no doubt be other third party choices on the November ballot with progressive programs. Unfortunately, they will all have the same limitation: their appeal to a limited sliver of the population and an absence of a mass base. None can or will substitute for a mass party based upon the working class – upon its trade unions and its community allies. The pressing challenge will be to take immediate concrete steps to advance toward that objective that will find them a home, one that truly has their interests at heart.
What We Advocate
In the event that Sanders does not succeed in winning the Democratic Party’s nomination for the presidency, we urge those unions that have endorsed him to stick together and establish a network geared to advancing the cause of independent labor politics with serious outreach to community-based organizations on the forefront of struggle, to the goal of establishing a Labor Party in the future.
Plans should be made for a national meeting, with invitations to the broad forces in the struggle for economic justice, centered around the issues of race, class and peace, and built upon truly democratic principles. Simultaneously, such a network could enhance its visibility with periodic demonstrations in the streets, including against all attempts that are coming down the pike to attack collective bargaining rights of public employees, such as the Friedrichs case.
The network could start off with a number of planks from the Sanders’ program and add others, especially a foreign policy that opposes occupations, interventions and unjust wars that serve the corporate class. Instead of spending trillions for “defense,” use the money saved for education and human service programs plus infrastructure here at home. It could begin running independent labor-community candidates for public office at a local and state level, as a bridge to a Labor Party.
Such a network would need to reach out to the youth and recruit them to play a leading role; and involve from day one communities of color — African Americans, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Muslims and other oppressed nationalities — on a program that reflects their needs.
Moreover, a network could promote discussion and dialogue on these issues, while at the same time encouraging joint and coordinated organizing campaigns.
We hope that you agree with this perspective and will seize the moment to help make real dynamic and systemic change.