Only the demise of the Democratic Party can free up the potential of the people to resolve the many problems created by capitalism and imperialism.
“Bernie’s millions of supporters remain inside of an entity that is completely hostile to their demands.”
Bernie Sanders supporters have received a sharp dose of reality in recent weeks. After an inspiring win in Nevada, the DNC coalesced around Joe Biden to ensure that Bernie Sanders’ momentum would be a temporary phenomenon. Black misleaders from across the American South were quickly mobilized by the DNC to give Biden a boost of “electability” with Black Americans. Voter suppression tactics employed across states such as Texas, California, and Michigan had voters waiting for hours to choose their candidate if they were able to vote at all. Endorsements for Biden kept on coming from ruling class servants such as Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. The DNC deployed the entirety of its resources to stop Bernie Sanders and clear the path for Joe Biden.
Of course, Bernie Sanders and his advisers are not without fault for the downward trajectory of his campaign. A historical materialist analysis presupposes that all developments are shaped by a struggle between subjective and objective forces. Objectively, Sanders and his legion of supporters were always going to be derailed by the Democratic Party’s capitalist donors. Subjectively, Sanders’ expression of loyalty to his “friend Joe (Biden)” and the politics of civility indicates that the insurgent movement behind Sanders still has a long way to go before breaking from the suffocating grip of the Democratic Party. Whether subjective or objective conditions have played more of a role in the sharp downward turn of Sanders’ “electability” in the 2020 primary is not the question. The most critical question of the moment is whether a massive break from the Democratic Party is more likely now than it was after the 2016 election exposed massive fissures between the party elite and its youthful, working-class base.
“Sanders and his legion of supporters were always going to be derailed by the Democratic Party’s capitalist donors.”
It isn’t as if anti-Democratic Party sentiment doesn’t exist in the Sanders camp. The morning after Sanders’ defeat in Michigan, a significant number of his followers tweeted #DemExit to express their anger toward the Democratic Party establishment. There is a very real possibility that Biden’s candidacy will manifest even more disaffection from the younger generation than Hillary Clinton for the simple fact that Sanders’ policy agenda is now favored by majorities in both parties. However, the current forces behind Sanders and much of the left generally struggle with the issue of power. The likelihood that millions of Sanders supporters will continue to try and organize their way into the Democratic Party machine is just as high, if not higher, than the possibility that they leave the Democratic Party for good and focus instead on other strategies to win power behind their demands.
Much of what occurs politically in the United States is dependent on the political activity and organization of Black America. Black Americans have been the most radical and revolutionary force in the U.S.’ destructive history. However, Black America is not a monolithic people. The last forty-plus years has seen the state-ordered destruction of the Black liberation movement be seized by the ruling class to create a misleadership class that holds great influence over Black voters. Class contradictions in the realm of political ideas have sharpened between increasingly impoverished Black youth and those older Black voters who believe that a proximity to power and status is more important than the class interests of a formerly enslaved people. That means warding off the Republican boogeyman, especially Donald Trump, whose very presence in the White House is an existential threat to the Civil Rights brand that the misleadership class has built over the course of two generations.
“The misleadership class holds great influence over Black voters.”
The political conditions that exist in Black America shape the entire political landscape, but they have been suppressed by the popular mainstream adage that Sanders alone could have won the Black vote if he had tried harder. Sanders could indeed have done more to appeal to the most progressive sentiments of Black America by speaking directly to the needs of the community. However, to do so would go against Sanders’ class-first social democratic political tradition. A major ideological weakness of social democracy is its inability to challenge power beyond the realm of bourgeois elections. Another critical weakness of social democracy in imperialist contexts is the failure of the ideology to respect the right of self-determination of all oppressed nations.
By running in the Democratic Party and espousing the worldview of “democratic socialism,” Sanders was in a double bind from the beginning. Sanders had little incentive to shed his anti-Venezuelan views or appeal to the interests of Black Americans without facing a gauntlet of establishment wrath for embracing “dictators” or assuming he knows what Black Americans should think and do about their problems. The Black political establishment was never going to favor Bernie Sanders. And Sanders himself was in no political position to take a leap outside of the bounds of the Democratic Party.
That leap cannot be made within the electoral arena at all. It must be made in the streets and in the struggle to galvanize a mass Black political conversation, led by Black America. The conversation will inevitably take a class struggle orientation if not for the simple fact that the vast majority of Black Americans do not hold positions of power or status. Most Black Americans are workers, and very poor workers at that. If the Democratic Party is going to die, it will have to be Black Americans who kill it. Everyone else in the struggle must organize their own communities to oppose racist state terror, endless war, and capitalist plunder and use any means necessary to unite workers and poor people around a set of specific demands.
“If the Democratic Party is going to die, it will have to be Black Americans who kill it.”
The Democratic Party continues to be the most formidable impediment to the development of a mass movement in the United States. Bernie Sanders’ campaign has millions of devoted supporters who are committed to Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, and a wide array of universal programs that would improve the lives of the eighty percent of people suffering under late stage capitalism. However, those millions remain inside of an entity that is completely hostile to their demands. Tens of millions of dollars have been donated and invested in a Democratic Party candidate. It is clear from the ruling class’ reaction to Sanders that neither he nor anyone like him will be allowed to hold the most coveted position in the U.S. imperial state. The Democratic Party is thus where social movements are sent to die. Social democratic movements such as the one led by Sanders will be crushed again and again should future attempts to wrestle control of the Democratic Party be mobilized after the 2020 election debacle.
The outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States and across the world poses both dangers and opportunities in terms of facilitating a mass exit from the Democratic Party. U.S. imperialism is inherently structured to impose the utmost of exploitation upon workers and oppressed people. Black workers who disproportionately make up the low-wage capitalist service economy will be hurt the most by both interruptions in work and an increased exposure to the virus from the inability to take off from work. At least thirty-three million workers do not have access to any sick time at all. The United States has no public health system capable of testing and treating people on a nation-wide scale. Even worse, U.S. imperial sanctions have left nations such as Iran vulnerable to the spread of the disease and Americans of all classes are blockaded from access to Cuban-made anti-viral medications that have helped over a thousand people recover from the virus in Italy and China.
“The Democratic Party is where social movements are sent to die.”
The putrid response to the coronavirus is compounded by the fact that the U.S. lacks a single-payer healthcare system and is ruled by a capitalist dictatorship that prioritizes profits over the needs of the masses. In contrast, China’s policy of containment has nearly eradicated the virus from Wuhan. Chinas central government built two hospitals, mobilized tens of thousands of health workers, and employed its massive high-tech industry to track and treat those who contracted COVID-19. Countries like Cuba, Vietnam, and South Korea have taken similar measures with great success. As the virus spreads around the world, an opportunity exists for experiments with international solidarity and socialist political organization in the United States.
The Democratic Party, however, is more interested in bailing out capitalist enterprises at a clip of 1.5 trillion dollars than with mobilizing an effective response to the virus. Bernie Sanders’ New Deal-like speech was ignored by the Democrats and the corporate media. Only the demise of the Democratic Party can free up the potential of the people to resolve the many problems created by capitalism and imperialism. The repression of Sanders creates more favorable conditions for the Democrats’ demise to occur, but only if the people are ready to seize the time. And as of this moment, fear is in command of politics in the U.S.— a fear of China, of Donald Trump, and of socialism. Fear must be replaced with a desire for control over the commanding heights of the political and economic system that dictates our lives. Organizing our way out of the Democratic Party is a critical first step in this process.
Danny Haiphong is an activist and journalist in the New York City area. He and Roberto Sirvent are co-authors of the book entitled American Exceptionalism and American Innocence: A People’s History of Fake News--From the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror (Skyhorse Publishing). He can be reached at [email protected], on Twitter @spiritofho, and on Youtube at The Left Lens with Danny Haiphong.
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