Socialists, the Democrats, and Bernie Sanders


The struggle to transform the USA’s climate-destroying, poverty-perpetuating economy into one that contributes to emancipating our world will take decades, but one thing that struggle does need is a radical party that is truly dedicated the struggle of the people, not capitalist interests. The Democratic Party is not such a party, nor is it likely to become one.

I am fundamentally skeptical about the Democratic Party ever becoming an effective vehicle for socialism. We need a party of our own, and we once did have one when Eugene Debs led the Socialist Party of America. I am now a member of one of the organizational descendants of that party, the Socialist Party USA, and working to build my local party and am an alternate to our National Committee. At this date, the SPUSA is far from being that radical party I dream of, but it is the place where I can best be involved in that work.

I rejected the Democrats in 1992 when Bill Clinton was nominated. I was only 29 years old, but the 80s pushed me to the left. I was moving towards a Socialist politics, but not quite there. I simply didn’t vote for a couple of cycles until Ralph Nader came along with the Greens. When Obama came along, I still voted Green, but I watched carefully.

Obama had one of the biggest liberal mandates in history. But, my rejection of the DP was confirmed when he couldn’t even pass the “public option” or “Employee Free Choice Act.” These are LIBERAL reforms that don’t replace capitalism with socialism, but even those are off the table. I am very loathe to go back to voting for Democrats who have failed to stop Reagan, Bush, and the Congressional Republicans from chipping away at every social program. In 2012, I finally joined the Socialist Party USA.

I see the value of an electoral campaign that has “Democratic Socialism” as a topic of debate and Bernie Sanders has generated a lot of discussion about socialism. Much of it is flawed, in my biased opinion, but it is happening at a level I haven’t seen in my lifetime.

Bernie has even less of a mass following than Obama. Yes, I hope he wins versus Hillary or the Republican nominee, but I will continue trying to build a socialist party that can take power by election if possible, or other means if necessary.

Granted Sanders is electable. Obama was electable, but was unable to carry out his *non-socialist* agenda. We need more than an isolated “socialist” president in office. We need a socialist movement/party that is united and able to fight against the reactionaries effectively.

If Bernie winsthe nomination – a very unlikely possibility – then socialists will have to take his campaign seriously and figure out how to work with our working-class allies within the DP. I still will stand by socialist principles, but recognize that many working-class comrades have reached different conclusions.

One of those principles is the need for a working-class socialist party that is independent of the corporations and their two party-system. Go ahead and vote and campaign for Sanders, I might even join you in some limited measure. However, the longer term struggle can’t be won by winning a single election, but by the working-class taking power in its own interests and more radically yet, planetary emancipatory interests.


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