No illusions one way or the other about Bernie Sanders
December 2, 2015
Regardless of one's opinion, there's no denying that the Bernie Sanders campaign has been a chief component in shifting the public political discourse in America sharply into a new direction. All this talk of "democratic socialism" and the "billionaire class", while certainly nothing new, is making previously taboo ideas fashionable (at least on the surface) as liberal centrists paint themselves a pale, albeit cute, shade of pink, generating mixed responses in the socialist left.
On the whole, there have been two distinct trends of response by the political left to this development: cautious embrace and open hostility. The dividing line seems to put all the usual suspects on their respective sides, with Communists using the campaign as another opportunity for anti-monopoly coalition-building with soft-socialist groups like the DSA (Sanders's most closely associated 'socialist' organization) tagging along, while ultra-left microparties stand on the sidelines denouncing the CPUSA for its revisionism and liberalism in staining its hands with the filth of bourgeois politics. All of this was very predictable.
Let's be clear: Communists have no illusions about Bernie Sanders, the campaign to elect him, or the fellow organizations participating in its development. No, Bernie Sanders is not a theoretician of scientific socialism and his ideas of what he is branding as 'democratic socialism' does not come nearly close enough to the basic criteria which characterize a genuinely socialist society. Government regulation of privately run economic institutions isn't socialism. While it is possible that Bernie Sanders may have more authentically socialist views which come closer to the real criteria that he won't publicly indulge for the sake of the election, what he is publicly expressing doesn't make the mark for what Communists recognize as real socialism. The campaign to elect Sanders, the self-styled 'political revolution' which seeks to raise political consciousness of the masses and generate momentum for its ambitious reforms, is certainly not the revolution which will overthrow the monopoly capitalists and usher in the dictatorship of the proletariat. No, while there's no pleasure in saying it, realistically we are still a long ways away from this victory.
Vladimir Lenin taught that bourgeois politics is a pig sty. Genius as he was, he knew that the victory of the working class could not be possible without engaging in the established political system to destabilize the hegemony of the capitalists and fan the flames of the workers' democratic aspirations. Although the small but vocal minority of the ultra-left fringe claims to uphold Lenin's teachings, they fail utterly to comprehend his message and instead act as caricatures of the ultra-leftists he ruthlessly critiqued for their childish disorder so long ago. As mature and ideologically consistent students and practitioners of scientific socialism, Communists must at all times be willing to submerge themselves into the masses and lead from within towards liberation, regardless of how putrid the smell of the arena in which they find themselves. Standing from the sidelines shouting bombastic and contextually foreign rhetoric doesn't work, it never has and never will.
In short, "not good enough" isn't good enough. The Communist Manifesto says clearly that Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things. To refuse to participate in a movement to end the rule of neoliberal monopoly capital and instead take a hostile position against it is to betray the working class. It is for this reason that the liberal ignorance is retaining its strength in guiding the ideological compass of the campaign, redefining 'socialism' as being government involvement in and of itself. Seeing their ignorance for what it is, to respond with hostility and ridicule is counterproductive. Instead we must insert ourselves within their ranks as friends and correct them respectfully but unyieldingly.
The one point of misunderstanding that arises all too often is the focus on Bernie Sanders as an individual. Communists will play a role in the campaign, alongside side several other progressive organizations and parties, not because of any notion that Sanders shares our disposition on the current political situation, but because this is where the forces necessary in coalition building are currently intersecting on a massive scale in unity with a surging working class movement advancing (slowly but surely) towards pursuing its own logical interests. Bernie Sanders has been placed into his position by history and his ability to lead the 'political revolution' he advocates will be tested in the process. His leadership as an individual, however, is not nearly as important to the success of the campaign and its goals as is the grassroots network of on-the-ground activists and organizers building working class unity around a progressive (albiet not progressive as we Communists may desire) agenda and platform.
In the words of Karl Marx, "the Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions." This holds true within the context of the Bernie Sanders campaign. While Communists will play a role in building the coalition of progressive forces, at no time will we deny our intentions in doing so. We openly and unashamedly let it be known that we intend to free the working class from the exploitation of the 'billionaire class' and the structural conflicts of interests manifested in the capitalist mode of production. We will dispell the lies and slander disseminated by the imperialist pig sty regime, giving all alies the 200% dedication in our efforts, what Gus Hall referred to as the 'Communist plus'. Of course we hope Bernie Sanders will win the Democratic nomination and become President as he is undeniably the lesser evil of all viable candidates, but that's not the point. The point is that Americans are comming out in masses to rally behind a movement calling for socialism and revolution; and if people who believe in really pursuing those aims refuse to show up and take charge, then there is no hope of it ever happening.