So much of what socialists write seems to be about “negatives”; we’re against this injustice, we’re against that outrage; and it’s true that we do tend to focus on the major crises facing the human race in the world today. By any measure, the capitalist world is a world that continually brings about conflict between nation-states over resources and for political control of strategically important economic assets. Our revolutionary socialist websites and newspapers seem reduced to a highly-condensed and intense account of everything that is wrong in the world today! From the perspective of a worker who just happens to come across a socialist selling their party’s newspaper, it appears that everything we have to say is negative. What is wrong with us?
Socialist newspapers, thanks to the fact that so few workers support them financially, must be small; and there are in fact so many serious injustices in the capitalist world that it would be irresponsible for us to fill the few pages we have in our newspapers (which come out only two to four times a month) that it is very rare that we can devote the limited space to the little truly “good news” that’s out there. We end up highlighting the many evil workings of the capitalists and their crisis-ridden system all over the planet; we spend perhaps too little time on explaining the “positive” side of things – how socialism has the very real potential to make life much easier and more enjoyable for the vast majority of people on this planet. “What will socialism do to make *my* life better?” people wonder.
Whether or not socialism will make your life better depends on what social class you were born into. If you were born into the working class, a socialist revolution would create a far more democratic political system than the one we know now; and you would no longer have to fear the loss of your job and the resulting poverty and homelessness that would likely ensue. That’s because, under socialism, housing, food, clothing and access to health care would be guaranteed rights, not privileges granted you (or not) by the landlord/capitalist class.
There is indeed a group of people who will not benefit at all, and whose standard of living would decline precipitously under socialism: the wealthy capitalist class; this is why their media and politicians never tire of telling you that socialism is “worse than slavery” and more evil than Hitler times ten. At the very pinnacle of the world’s economy sits the wealthy – and proportionately tiny – capitalist class. These people, who live lives more luxurious than those of the Biblical kings and queens, are the ones who really run the world economy – in their selfish, helter-skelter capitalist way. Systematically exploiting billions of workers and peasants, they amass a hugely disproportionate percentage of the planet’s wealth. In the United States, the wealthiest 10% seize for themselves 75% of the national income annually, while the “bottom 90%” are forced to fight among themselves for the remaining 25%. As if to make the whole disgusting state of affairs, they cap it all off by calling their political system “democracy”. What kind of a democratic system is it that allows the systematic plundering of the vast majority of the citizenry by so few people? To call this capitalist world “democratic” is to slander the very idea of democracy.
People like the fake-socialist Bernie Sanders propose to make an adjustment to this hideously unequal distribution of wealth by merely raising the taxes on the wealthy by a few percentage points. Anyone who can do basic math can see that such a “redistribution of wealth” would not make much of a difference in the lives of the vast majority of the workers in this country, who make up approximately 75% of the population. Raising the taxes on the wealthy by 2, 3 or 5% is not a solution to this problem; it is just a phony scheme to make workers THINK that something is being done to tip the scales in the favor of the majority. Sanders’ phony-socialist plan to raise the percentage of national wealth distributed to the “bottom 90%” from the current 25% to 27% is not a program of wealth redistribution of any serious kind. It maintains the economic status quo, leaving the capitalist class in power and merely requires that the capitalists spend a bit more money to bribe a few more politicians to rescind the tax increases as soon as Sanders is no longer sitting in the Oval Office.
Of course, the bankruptcy of the Sanders electoral program goes far deeper than this: Bernie Sanders has almost NO support for his fake-socialist programs in Congress – even among his fellow Democrats. Never mind the fact that the Republicans will never support the changes he proposes; if Bernie Sanders was elected President, he’d be a lame-duck president from day 1. Having absolutely no support even among the members of his own party in the national or state legislatures, he would reveal to the world the fact that the US Presidency is largely a symbolic office, which can only effectively wield power if it is backed by the support of the US Congress.
This is why we have founded the Independent Workers Party of Chicago – to bring home to the US working class the realization that, until the working class has its own political party, owned and operated by worker-revolutionaries and dedicated solely to fighting for the rights of the working class, it will remain impossible for the workers to exercise their tremendous power to obtain any control over the nation’s political system. In 2016, the US working class does not have ONE representative dedicated to fighting for its own political and economic interests at the state or national level! The US’ phony democracy is laid bare by this simple statement of fact. Only when the working class – roughly 75% of the US population – has its proper proportion of representatives in government at the state and national levels can we even BEGIN to call the United States a “democracy”. This is an irrefutable fact.
The office of the President of the United States is an executive position as CEO of “Capitalism, USA”. It is not an office that any worker should aspire to. The President is the figurehead political representative of the US capitalist class; his job is to make sure that, domestically and internationally, the interests of the US capitalist class are solidly defended from all competitors. The office of President was created for this purpose and this purpose only; it can’t be transformed into something else simply by voting for a socialist president. Only if the US working class had the kind of proportional representation in Congress that reflected its actual vast predominance population-wise would it make sense that we should seriously run a candidate for President. Even the most revolutionary socialist in the US – like ourselves! – would be utterly useless as head of government without that President’s own party holding the majority of seats in the national legislature. It is far more important for the working class to capture control of the House of Representatives than it is to elect a lone socialist to the presidency.
In Bernie Sanders’ case, his political program is so completely out of touch with the ideology of the vast majority of Democrats holding Congressional office that even if he won the election – something that the US Constitution itself is rigged up via the Electoral College precisely to prevent – he would be as useless to the realization of a working class program for the USA as the election of a photograph of Lenin to the Presidency would be (although even the photo of Lenin would be far more revolutionary than is the flesh-and-blood pro-capitalist Democrat Sanders).
We receive so much criticism from Bernie Sanders supporters when we make this kind of plain statement of fact that it is amazing. The working class of the US – particularly the “politically active” youth – are in a state of such profound ignorance in 2016 that they refuse to see that the Sanders campaign is nothing but a pink herring being used to draw them in to a trap in which they will find themselves forced to vote for Hillary Clinton.* But who is spreading the pernicious lie that voting a “socialist” into the Oval Office will produce a “political revolution” in the USA, anyway?
Primarily, this lie is being spread by Democratic-Party organizations like MoveOn and the “left wing” of the pro-capitalist (and pro-Hillary) AFL-CIO. This is not something they are doing out of ignorance of how the US government works – they know full well that if Sanders, running as Democrat, won the presidential election it would produce a “lame duck” presidency; they know that none of the already bought-and-paid-for Democratic Congressmen or Senators (who owe their jobs to the capitalists who financed their campaigns) would support any program that their capitalist masters opposed – never mind a “socialist” program! MoveOn and the “leftists” in the AFL-CIO are spreading illusions in a Sanders presidency because they KNOW that Sanders is not going to be the nominee of the Democratic Party; and they also KNOW that trying to sell the hugely unpalatable Hillary Clinton to the youth of the US is an impossibility. Their backing of Sanders is a conscious, cynical ploy to raise illusions in the minds of the youth that the Democrats really do represent the “lesser evil” party; they intend to get you to vote for Hillary by first getting you to vote for Sanders.*
These organizations – especially the AFL-CIO – have played this game effectively many times before – most notably in the 1980s with the phony primary campaigns of Jesse Jackson, whose success at running the old Democratic Party “bait-and-switch” scam is the political template for the 2016 Bernie Sanders version. The Democrats have long known that their party program – designed by and paid for by the allegedly more “moderate” wing of the US capitalist class – is so repulsive to the majority of workers that it is necessary to slather copious amounts of political Vaseline all over their intended candidate in the form of a Jesse Jackson or Bernie Sanders campaign – in order to get the working class to accept the enormous, rigid, diseased capitalist phallus they intend to shove up our asses eventually in the form of a Walter Mondale or Hillary Clinton campaign.
This electoral method of getting the workers to vote for someone they intensely dislike is a form of psychological warfare used to break down the intense instinctive antipathy towards the capitalists’ program found in the hearts – if not yet consciously in the minds – of the working class of the USA. Using tried-and-true capitalist advertising gimmicks, the Democrats run a, frankly, not very sophisticated bait-and-switch using a more palatable group of candidates in the primaries to draw workers into actively campaigning for one or another pretend-candidate, all the while knowing that this person will never obtain the nomination no matter how popular he or she is. Psychologically, once people have invested themselves in support of a candidate, going among their friends stumping for Sanders, say, they have risked their credibility among their friends thereby and must defend their choice more and more strenuously as the primaries drag on. When the inevitable finally comes to pass and the fake-candidate concedes defeat – and even worse, urges his or her supporters to transfer their support to the hated “real” candidate… it has become psychologically very difficult for the fake-candidate’s supporters to refuse to do this. The Democrats know that many of the more intelligent among the fake-candidate’s supporters will refuse to go along – but they don’t need them anyway. The trick is to present a “fake candidate” who will lead the workers into making such a deep emotional committment to that pantomime candidate that a large MAJORITY of them will follow his advice when he inevitably urges them to support “the next best thing” – this is what matters. As the Jesse Jackson campaigns showed, this works like a charm on worker-consumers long inured to accepting the “bait-and-switch” in every aspect of their lives, from phony sales at the supermarket to jobs that turn out to be the opposite of what was advertised. Most of the Jackson supporters dutifully pulled the levers for the chosen nominee of what had now become “their” party candidate. Once a person has been emotionally drawn in to committing to a party via the “fake”, the psychological distance that must be traveled to switching one’s support to the previously hated “real” candidate is not that far at all. This is where the sharp hook of the “lesser evil” scheme actually is hidden.
Putting it another way: The Sanders campaign is like a bridge that is built by the Democratic Party machine to draw voters across the canyon separating them from the intended nominee of the Party – in this case, the undesirable Hillary Clinton. The Sanders campaign cleverly conceals the construction of this bridge during the primaries; all along as the bridge is being built under the feet of the workers, Sanders is luring these naive folks across the canyon, closer and closer to the goal of getting them to support the despised Hillary. Once the bridge is completed and Sanders has drawn his supporters, completely unknowing, step by step, month by month all the way across the gorge to the Hillary side; only once as many of the Bernie supporters as possible – except the few perceptive ones who see what’s happening – are across, the bridge is summarily burned behind the crowd. Now everyone can #FeeltheBern! Bernie sadly announces with deep regret and tears in his eyes that he realizes that there is no way for him to win the nomination. “We have fought the good fight; and our glorious ideals may someday in the far future come to pass; but now it is our duty as loyal Democrats to gracefully accept defeat and nobly give all our support and delegates to Hillary Clinton”. Horrified, many of Sanders’ supporters will head for the bridge they just crossed; but it will no longer be there for them; even if it was, there would be nowhere to go, psychologically. They must now stand up to their friends who are laughing at their folly, doubling-down in their support of the Democratic Party as being at least far better than the Republicans. They have been trapped in the Hillary camp and now they must give in to the Sanders-salesman who pulled this vicious scam upon them – and buy this broken-down Hillary-jalopy as “the best deal that we could get” in 2016.
The trick of course is to get as many Sanders supporters as possible to go for this ripoff. The Democratic Party machine has pulled this scam innumerable times and knows that not everyone is dumb enough to fall for it. They don’t care; they just need to get enough stupid people to sullenly accept the myth that “at least she’s better than ___________ (fill in the Republican nominee’s name here)” and go to the polls and dutifully vote for the person the Democrats intended to run in the first place. They need every vote they can get in these days when the electorate is split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats. This is why they are so terrified of the emergence of a third party – and why it is so very necessary. A viable working-class third-party candidate would only need to poll about 35% of the national vote to win in the typically bogus US “landslide” fashion!*
It is the vast and largely self-imposed ignorance and political backwardness of the US working class that results in their being caught by the same Democratic Party bait on the same capitalist hook over and over and over again. The 4-year passage of time between presidential elections helps to break down the deep voter’s remorse the working-class electorate feels immediately after EVERY election – when the victorious “lesser evil” candidate traditionally repudiates every promise made during the election campaign. Now, when they finally reveal the fact that the distance between their “lesser evil” program and that of the “bigger evil” party is so small as to not even admit the passage of light between the two, it’s too late for the workers to do anything about it. (Well, that’s not really true, but so long as the vast majority of US workers can be fooled over and over again by these cheap “three-card-monte” games played against them by the Democrats, they can hardly be expected to rise up in revolt against the fraud after it is accomplished).
The other group of political bandits spreading the lie of the political viability of the Sanders campaign are the various fake-socialist parties, most notably Socialist Alternative, who are selling the pro-capitalist Democratic Party candidacy of Sanders as a “political revolution” in the making. This bald-faced lie tells us far more about Socialist Alternative than it does about Sanders. Trotskyists called for “political revolution” in the USSR (as we do today in China, Vietnam, Cuba and North Korea). These are countries that are economically socialist but dominated politically by a repressive and reactionary fake-Marxist Stalinist, Maoist or Il-Sungist bureaucracy that has usurped political power from the working class. It is only in socialist countries like these that it is possible for the workers to launch a “political revolution” only, defending the socialized property forms while seeking to oust the bureaucrats and establish revolutionary socialist workers democracy.
To call for a “political revolution” in the United States is to say – in complete contradiction to basic Marxist ideology – that by simply electing a socialist to take over the Oval Office the capitalist political system can be made to work in behalf of the working class. This is absolutely not true! In capitalist countries, the workers must overthrow the capitalist class and their political AND economic systems in order to even begin to transform the class nature of the government. We can see how bankrupt a program it is to propose that socialists eschew leading an actual revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system and merely seize the reins of government instead by looking at the recent electoral collapse of the Chavista government in Venezuela. The Chavistas – who have tried to demonstrate to the ruling capitalist class their touching loyalty to bourgeois democratic norms by NOT overthrowing the capitalist system – recently lost the Venezuelan elections and who now must turn the reins of government back over to the capitalist parties – who intend to rescind every pro-working-class reform the Chavistas have enacted in the past decade! This “peaceful, legal” “path to socialism” never has worked even once in history; usually it ends with thousands or even hundreds of thousands of workers being rounded up and executed by the vengeance-seeking capitalist class and their military – as happened in Chile in 1973.
The Socialist Alternative fake-socialist hucksters also assert that if Sanders does not win the nomination as the presidential candidate of the Democratic party, he should then strike out on his own, abandon the Democratic Party and run as an “independent”. In an article in the SA newspaper shown above, Socialist Alternative’s Kshama Sawant, Seattle, WA City Council member writes: “If you are electrified by Bernie’s message, you should not support Hillary if Bernie loses the primary. Endorsing Hillary would be a sure-fire way to demoralize, demobilize, and wreck the movement building up behind Bernie. I would instead urge Sanders to continue running as an independent all the way to November, for
example on the Green Party ticket with Jill Stein.” This idea is even more politically bankrupt than the idea that Sanders could be an effective president over a hostile Congress, which we outlined above. Besides the fact that it is doubtful that the Green Party would accept having the Democrat Sanders foist upon them, effectively summarily kicking their own presidential candidate “to the curb”… If Sanders would undoubtedly be a “lame duck” president if he “won” the election running as a Democrat, with a Congress that did not support his program, what would he be if he ran and won as an “independent” – or Green Party candidate? He would be not just a “lame duck” but a “dead duck” president! it is doubtful that he would be able to even obtain a single vote for any legislation he would propose; any Democrat who voted for him against the dictates of the Democratic Party machine would essentially be committing political and professional suicide!
So how can we, as revolutionary socialists, drive the working class off the political Mobius strip they so stupidly tread year after year and decade after decade… and onto the straight road of socialist revolution? If exposure of the crimes of the capitalist class were all that was necessary, we’d have had a revolution long ago. The revolutionary socialist parties in the US – and in Europe, too – have proven incapable of breaking through the hard shell of the consumerist mindset that encases the minds of far too many workers in the advanced capitalist world. If just telling people the truth worked to win them to a revolutionary program… our party and the few other truly revolutionary socialist parties in the US and Europe would each have millions of members already! The capitalist world spreads so many lies that when naked truth shows up in a political debate is it howled down as being “utopian” and “extreme”! We’re not about to stop telling workers the truth as best as we can discern it. Telling the unvarnished truth to the working class, no matter how painful, is one of the greatest principles of Trotskyism. We must find a way to use the truth to smash through this psychological barrier set up in the minds of the working class – a barrier which, though often quite difficult to penetrate, is in fact a very brittle construct. We must find its weak points and hammer away at it until we can consistently break it down. As the capitalist world continues to careen towards World War III, we must realize that time is NOT on the side of the socialist movement; and we must redouble our efforts and welcome the subjection of our current efforts to merciless criticism, both internal and external, by those honest workers who deeply desire that the socialist revolution be successful. Only in this way can we turn the trajectory of world evolution from its current course towards global disaster and towards a long and glorious truly democratic, egalitarian and prosperous socialist future for the human race.
* Emphasis added July 26 2016 by IWPCHI