by Jay Monaco

It’s not always fun to be right.

It was Monday, the big explosive opening night for the week-long televised self-congratulatory festival of tepid liberalness – the Rave for Real Realistic Realism – that is the DNC. Bernie Sanders, self-described independent democratic socialist senator from Vermont and erstwhile candidate for President slash commandante for some kind of thing he referred to as “political revolution,” endorsed his rival, Hillary Clinton. He told his delegates in the convention hall and his supporters watching at home that it was time for them to support the perpetually presumptive nominee, despite having told that same audience for the last year that Clinton is a conservative certain to kill any hope of progressive advances in the years to come.

Perhaps even more cringe-worthy, though certainly less consequential, he had spent the hours prior to this sending frantic text messages and emails to his delegates to try to get them to shut up and stop being so enthusiastic about the things they believe in, the things he spent the last year encouraging them to believe in. And then after that, he got on stage and took one for the team. Which team? Not Team Political Revolution, heavens, no. We’ve got to be realistic now, guys. No, Sanders took it in the chin for the Democratic Party, just like he always said he would.

To the best of his ability, with as much persuasion as he could muster, he made a solid effort toward ushering his young, idealistic, enthusiastic voters into the welcoming arms and wolfish grin of the democrats. It is too early to say whether he will receive any kind of worthwhile reward for being such a good sport and playing his role, or precisely what sort of reward could possibly benefit an old politician whose zenith just blew past him, leaving him little else to do now but walk quietly off into the Shadow. But rewards and payoffs and motivations hardly seem to matter now. The deed is done – and the fact that he’d always unwaveringly promised to do so in the end likely limited his ability to make demands. The progressive liberals have been given their instructions – vote for Hillary or else – and all indications suggest they are going to do exactly that.

Yes, again: 90% of progressive liberals are all coming back to vote D one last time, thanks to the good will of Vermont’s charming favorite son from Brooklyn. Now – and it gives me no pleasure to have to come out and say it – isn’t that exactly what some might call…sheepdogging? Hasn’t the act not only been committed but successfully so?

Some of us, a year ago, warned that this was exactly what was going to happen, that it was inevitable, a certainty. That the DP is a dead end capitalist party that will only ever coopt radicalism and will never be influenced by it. Here we are, July 2016, twelve-plus exhausting terrible political months later: Sanders meeting the most ignominious possible fate, the Bernie or Bust crowd in both disarray and despair, and cheesier front “campaigns” like Movement4Bernie are just as dead as the day they were first stillborn. Hillary Clinton, after tossing a few crumbs Sanders’ way in the meaningless, nonbinding party platform, chose a conservative-ass white dude as her running mate, cementing her general election pivot to the right. The predictable pivot, the inevitable pivot. She plans to win the election with centrist “independents” and “sensible republicans,” while the progressive “base” of the party can either vote for her or go to hell – she doesn’t really care either way. She doesn’t need them and isn’t going to act like she does.

 

If this doesn’t really look to you like the Sanders campaign has pulled her to the left, that’s because it hasn’t, because it was never going to do that. Just like we said. A year ago. And I don’t mean to be a prick about that, especially because the whole affair has left me exhausted and deflated, because this is one of those times I was always secretly hoping I wasn’t right. I really wish some kind of political revolution was possible through the DP system, I wish it were true that young progressives could remake the party as one of social democracy, that the ballot box could lead the way to some measure of justice, some greater condition of equality.

But for better or worse, wishes make for bad revolutions. It’s a bummer, guys. And secretly, I’m not just exhausted, but really disappointed, a tiny sliver of my heart quietly sharing the optimism of the Sandernistas. I mean, I started paying attention to this Bernie guy way back in ’04, when the exhausting heartbreaks inherent to that presidential election led to my very first Marxism-curious stage. And I hear about this crazy congressman, the lone congressman from wild yoga hippie Vermont, who calls himself a socialist and nobody minds. By the time he ran for Senate the next time around, I was living in Keene, and I could hop the border into Brattleboro and see his campaign signs: they just read “Bernie” and they were red. This socialist dude was so unashamed he even printed red campaign signs. And nobody cared, and he won easily. Wow, hope for America, amirite?

bernie-sanders-screen-shot-2

Course my political journey didn’t stop there, and by the time this cool old man came to run for President, I was unable to experience the excitement I undoubtedly would have had anyone told me in ’04 that he would be the runner-up in a democratic primary. I would have flipped my shit. I couldn’t do that last year upon his announcement, because I don’t like lying to myself, but even if he is a sheepdog, and even if I’ve believed that to be the case from the beginning of this whole shebang, I’ve always felt Sanders is somehow a decent fellow, that he’s in some way honorable, or at least well-intentioned. He didn’t do this just to sheepdog, not as his goal. Right? I don’t know, maybe that makes me a sap. I won’t rule it out. I just say this to point to the fact that I still feel a certain sadness, largely against my will, that this is how this guy meets his end. What a bummer.

RNC kickin’ it up a notch

Last week, I tried to at least half-watch the first night of the RNC. Explicitly right-wing political conventions are always a special kind of bad, but I think we can all agree that whatever that was, it was some real next-level shit. I was not frightened so much as profoundly weirded out.

Never mind Trump’s batshit entrance to introduce his wife, and never mind his wife’s hilarious subsequent plagiarism (which I’m still convinced was sabotage, all claims to the contrary aside) – what struck me most was Rudy Giuliani, who still somehow gets invited places and even asked to talk, screaming about, like, something. I don’t know! I never could really figure it out, he was just screaming like a completely unhinged Italian old guy from New York, which I guess is what he is.

Then, even worse, was some psychotic spook general who managed to say all kinds of weird shit without ever really yelling. My takeaway (and I’m paraphrasing heavily here) was something like “We sure crushed communism, and it’s time we started crushing shit around the world again.” I mean, where to begin with all that? I feel like even most psychotic spook generals in 2016 have the wherewithal to recognize that pining for the Cold War isn’t particularly hip or resonant these days. And, please tell me, when did we actually stop crushing shit around the world? GAHH!

So that was enough for me. No more RNC for the rest of the week, no sir. And chances are, even if my experience hadn’t been so…full…I was probably never going to indulge in Trump’s hour-long fuhrer-LARP, and I didn’t. Nor was I tempted afterwards by the hysterical shrieking of the social media masses. No, I was already hunkered down as best I could in a trench, hoping the worst of it would blow by me. This would be the worst moment of all, the moment in which we all freak the hell out, the moment when even the sensible among us un-self-consciously embrace Godwin’s Law, the moment when it becomes clear to all Serious People Out There that we have got to stop the right wing menace at all costs.

Here we are, and I utterly failed to keep my head down long enough; but then, how could I ever be expected to hunker down until November? That’s a long time, and that’s how long we’re going to have to endure the incessant drum-beat. Thing is, watching the first night of the DNC was obviously a very different experience from that the prior week, but the effect on me was comparable. If anything, the main difference would be that the DNC speakers filled me with a rage I hadn’t experienced during my voyeuristic peek through the windows of the right.

Once again, it wasn’t the supposed main events that caught my attention – Bernie mumbled a bunch of predictable smarm into the mic and began his slow slide into the night. Elizabeth Warren gave a standard stump, or at least as standard as can be when you’re the Anti-Wall-Street Senator who just gleefully endorsed THE Wall Street Candidate of 2016. I enjoyed the booing and the chanting, that was cool. But what I began to find disturbing was less what was happening on the television and more what was happening on my phone. The sheer blast from the shaming of unruly Bernie delegates by even many “progressives” in my feed was something I wasn’t prepared for. And then the fawning over Michelle Obama’s speech….I wanted to scream. I did scream. I thought my head might explode. It was a bunch of strung-together platitudes about how in Greatest Motherland Country Amerika, with gumption and determination and a positive attitude, we will be GREAT and just naturally overcome all injustices, because we are, after all, Good People.

WHAT. What. Come on, seriously, this is what is getting people off? In 2016? Horatio fucking Alger mixed with ’04-’08 Barack Obama? We aren’t past this yet? This trick still works?

And that’s what scares me more than Donald Trump does. Right on cue, the whole of the media, even outfits like Gawker and the Guardian, basically everybody except The Intercept, TeleSUR, and RT, adopted the line. Et tu, Shaun King? We must defeat Trump. We must defeat Trump. We must defeat Trump. Fascism fascism fascism.

In a misguided attempt to avoid having to fight an insurgent right here at home, we must sacrifice the lives of children abroad. We must sacrifice the fight for black lives and accountable police, for health care for everybody, fair wages, unionization. We must sacrifice the whole of the fight against capitalism. Those dead children abroad will understand. We had to defeat Trump.

What’s next? Organizing! (What else?)

If it were not for the election-agnostic radical organizing I’m involved with, along with so many comrades, and the parallel organizing of cousin comrades, I would totally toss in the towel. No mas politics. No, thank you. This is just not fun.

But it is the duty of radical organizers to organize. Organize we must and organize we will, regardless of how fun or depressing it may be at various times. We’ve got treacherous waters to navigate going forward. The rushing tide to fall in line is headed directly for even that 10% of Sanders supporters we might reasonably consider among The Left. It has always been incumbent upon the socialists to find those people and give them a place to go.

It’s also important that those, especially those who still call themselves progressives, committed to radical change despite the primary results to not be swayed by false optimism yet again. I keep seeing promotion for some campaign called like Rock the Down Ballot or something. I understand it’s to get lefty liberals to run for local, municipal, and state office – but as democrats still, to transform the party from within. Still. Guys, learn from this. I beg you. Learn from the Sanders campaign. The DP is a dead end, and that’s just as true at the local level. We aren’t going to take over the party like some Progressive Tea Party from below. It’s not the same thing. Those Tea Party people got a foothold in the GOP because they had substantial financial and material backing from a certain section of the working class. We called it astroturf, as opposed to grassroots, remember? We can’t replicate that. That thing that happened to Sanders, that will happen at the local level, too. All that DNC corrupt machinery and all that, that exists on a more microcosmic scale everywhere in the party. And anyone who makes it through will be welcomed to the club, coopted, spit out.

Don’t do that.

As we go forward to lead some of these voters into third-party candidacies, we on the socialist Left must ourselves take care to keep focused on the goal. We will disagree on which candidate to pump, and that’s okay. I am personally quite disposed toward the idea of La Riva or Soltysik, explicit radical socialists, making clear where we stand and what we are all about. But I’m also actually engaged, without reservation, in support for Jill Stein’s Green candidacy. The GP is very flawed, and they’re only tepidly anti-capitalist. But this work puts us in direct contact with the crowd for whom sheepdogging didn’t work, and it would be malpractice for us to fail to speak with this section, to offer them a place to crash, so to speak, maybe stick around long term.

What we can certainly agree upon, however, is that we radicals never put all our efforts into elections – or even our primary efforts. We must organize in our communities and for our causes and solidarity, just as we always do. And while we can and should scoff at the ahistoric hyperbole about rising fascism in the US of A, we mustn’t discount the actual rise of the real Far Right, such as it is today. Hell, we encountered it just the past couple weekends in Manchester. This odious force can never be defeated at the ballot box, whether Trump wins or loses – and certainly not by electing a warmongering conservative like Clinton – and while the fearful shriek about falling in line to defeat it, we will be the only ones actually doing the work to make that happen. It’s time we come together, all of us, and talk about how we defend ourselves and the already oppressed, in real life, in the street every day. Not reckless Antifa adventurism, either. We need to plan, to cooperate, to gather information, and map out a strategy for the next several years.

Happy election season, everyone.  

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9 thoughts on “Being right about Bernie doesn’t make it any better

  1. Sheepdogs don’t tell sheep in advance where they are being herded or explain to the sheep why they are being herded to a given destination which is why what Sanders was doing wasn’t sheepdogging. I really wish some kind of political revolution was possible through the Green Party, I wish it were true that young progressives could remake the party as a mass-based workers’ party because then we could dispense with an inside-outside approach to the Democratic Party, but sadly that just isn’t the case. The Green Party is a miserable failure — Jill Stein is barely cracking 5% in the polls even though the two major parties have nominated candidates that are absolutely despised by the vast majority of the electorate, her donation numbers show that she is neither the heir nor the continuer of the political revolution.

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    1. As I stated, I don’t really believe Sanders set out with nefarious plans or that the raison d’etre was cooption of progressives. But what makes a sheepdog lies in the *effects* of one’s actions and not in the *intent* behind them. If 90% of the supporters of “the political revolution” are voting for Clinton, what do you call that? From where I’m sitting, it looks like they are marching lock-step into the arms of the DP.

      I’m not sure where in the piece you are reading any suggestion that the Green Party is The Answer. I don’t believe Jill Stein is leading a revolution any more than I believe Bernie was. It’s not a matter of being an heir or continuer when I don’t really believe a thing existed in the first place. Perhaps this is a major point of divergence for you and I, but I am not seeking, planning, or advocating the implementation of a socialist society through winning elections. The fact that Stein is “barely cracking 5%” has no bearing whatsoever on my calculus. I’m not working to assist Green Party efforts locally because I think I’m going to get Stein elected, I’m doing it because it’s a viable available vehicle for real organization, radical independent organization. It is – nominally – an explicitly anti-capitalist campaign, and it’s a campaign that explicitly renounces futile work within an *inherently* capitalist party. It’s precisely with those who are now attracted to that kind of campaign – that ~10% of Sanders supporters who won’t get on board – that I seek to organize. I’m not pining for that other 90% of liberals because what I’m fighting for isn’t liberal.

      Your proselytizing of the inside-outside model is unconvincing if only for the fact that it’s never accomplished anything. I don’t understand why it’s interesting to you that the VPP had the “power and clout” to extract a fake promise from Shumlin. They got played – easily. That’s the opposite of power and clout. And remind me what consequences Shumlin has faced for his betrayal? Zero. VPP has no juice, and that’s *exactly* what I’m talking about. Your own example proves my point. Play an inside-outside game and the democrats play YOU. Every. Single. Time. WFP? Give me a break. What happened when they tried to put an actual labor organizer (Zephyr Teachout) on their ballot line instead of the union-busting conservative Cuomo? Dems clapped twice and the WFP sat down like an obedient dog. And citing their close ties to De Blasio might have meant something a couple years ago, before he revealed himself to be just as much a neoliberal as everyone else.

      You claim to eschew a true third party approach from a pragmatic perspective and yet you have no tangible results to put forward.

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  2. The second point worth making goes back to what my favorite dead Russian said about what is obsolete for us as revolutionaries is not necessarily obsolete for the masses. The Sanders campaign involved millions of people and yet why is it that so few of them have come to the conclusion that the Democratic Party is a dead end and obsolete even after it was revealed the DNC was in the tank for Clinton all along, even after hundreds of superdelegates came out for Clinton before the first primary or caucus was held, even after Sanders was limited to a handful of debates? Why isn’t Jill Stein or one of the many socialists running for president a la Debs polling at 5% or more? My answer is that they haven’t drawn the conclusions you want them to draw from their own lived experience precisely because the forces to the left of the Democrats (Greens, Socialist Alternative, ISO, SPUSA, PSL, WWP, RCP, PFP) are even more of a dead end and even more obsolete at this particular juncture in history than the detestable Democrats and that if these forces were a credible and viable alternative, then we would have seen mass defections from the Democratic Party to left-of-Democrat forces. What’s your answer to those two questions?

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    1. First of all, Lenin’s statements on bourgeois parliaments should under no circumstances be interpreted as a green light to organize within the DP, and frankly I don’t know how anyone who has actually read it can come to that conclusion. I’m not super familiar with the WWP, RCP, or PFP, but I can certainly speak to the fact that the Greens, SA, ISO, SPUSA, and PSL do not eschew participation in elections. These parties all stand candidates for office, and it would be a grave error indeed to surmise Lenin would have referred to any of these groups as “ultra-left.”

      With that out of the way, you know, sure, I think the left is in some limited ways culpable for failing to convince the masses – despite all available evidence, and with that evidence mounting rapidly day by day – that the DP is a dead end. I am not the slightest bit happy or smug about that. That’s a real problem, and I don’t personally have any kind of immediate slam-dunk solution. But while I do think the Left evidently has what a capitalist might refer to as a marketing problem vis a vis conveying these facts convincingly and in the proper context, there’s much more at play than messaging. I mean, you are comparing Stein with Debs? Debs operated in an era in which there was a real, active communist movement numbering in the low millions in the US. And we’re talking communist communist, not some sort of watered-down social democracy. They comprised a plurality of labor’s rank and file and in some cases controlled union leadership. Our times are…quite different, to say the least.

      Now, yeah! It’s on us to work to get ourselves back there. But there’s no shortcuts to that – and that’s one of my criticisms of the notion of some so-called “political revolution” powered by a candidate for president – or even, as I am certain you will counter, a host of downballot candidates with “progressive values” and a winning smile. Those are shortcuts. That’s not organization, that’s not mass mobilization. My answer is that the left is at its weakest point in a century. That may be in the process of changing, but a towering anti-capitalist wave doesn’t just materialize.

      The organization and building required to get there starts small, very small – dare I say as small as the partisan radical Left? That organizing doesn’t succeed by doing whatever seems easiest or most opportune, and certainly not by swaying to the current mood of the masses. After all, just because 90% of the Sanders crowd is not going to walk away from the DP doesn’t mean they’re correct! Even if all those millions still cling to the belief that change can only come from seizing a capitalist party and turning it into its opposite, that doesn’t mean they will succeed in doing so. The very evidence you yourself cite screams to the contrary.

      I’m not delusional. I don’t harbor any belief that *any one* of today’s socialist parties is itself the future mass-based worker’s party. And most of the members of those parties will tell you the same exact thing. But we *are* the only ones taking the necessary action to actually get to a place where that party is a reality. Maybe you consider that futile. Some days I do, myself. But both history and the present material conditions strongly indicate that, even if the chances for radical leftist success are slim, the chances of remaking the DP as some popular front labor party are much, much lower still.

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  3. “As I stated, I don’t really believe Sanders set out with nefarious plans or that the raison d’etre was cooption of progressives. But what makes a sheepdog lies in the *effects* of one’s actions and not in the *intent* behind them. If 90% of the supporters of “the political revolution” are voting for Clinton, what do you call that?”

    It’s called political maturity. That 90% doesn’t want a repeat of the 2000 election except this time with a wild and unpredictable maniac like Trump running the FBI, NSA, CIA, IRS, and the rest of the federal government because most of them lived through the 2000 Nader campaign and the nightmarish Bush years that followed. This lived experience is a much stronger factor in their decision to support Clinton than any marching orders from Sanders or appeals from Stein.

    “I’m not working to assist Green Party efforts locally because I think I’m going to get Stein elected, I’m doing it because it’s a viable available vehicle for real organization, radical independent organization. It is – nominally – an explicitly anti-capitalist campaign, and it’s a campaign that explicitly renounces futile work within an *inherently* capitalist party. It’s precisely with those who are now attracted to that kind of campaign – that ~10% of Sanders supporters who won’t get on board – that I seek to organize. I’m not pining for that other 90% of liberals because what I’m fighting for isn’t liberal.”

    Real organization? How many card-carrying or dues-paying members of the Green Party are there in the whole country? 1,000? How do you define ‘real’ organization (as opposed to ‘fake’ organization)?

    The Green Party is anti-capitalist? Wonderful. What does that rhetorical, ideological opposition to capitalism due to advance the struggle of the working class in this country in concrete, real-world terms? From what I can see, not much. But maybe you know something I don’t. Please share.

    Again, you mention that you seek to ‘organize’ the 10% of Sanders supporters (myself among them) who will not vote for Clinton. Organize them/us/me in what way? Organize us into what organization? The Green Party? Socialist Alternative?

    “Your proselytizing of the inside-outside model is unconvincing if only for the fact that it’s never accomplished anything. I don’t understand why it’s interesting to you that the VPP had the ‘power and clout’ to extract a fake promise from Shumlin. They got played – easily. That’s the opposite of power and clout. And remind me what consequences Shumlin has faced for his betrayal? Zero. VPP has no juice, and that’s *exactly* what I’m talking about. Your own example proves my point.”

    Vermont is the only state in the country that doesn’t have charter schools; Burlington (VPP’s stronghold) has had affordable housing through community land trusts for decades; here’s a whole list of progressive achievements in Burlington; the state has by far the fewest Wal Marts in the country (it took 20 years of struggle just to get a single store opened there); Vermont led the way on civil unions before gay marriage became all the rage; the VPP has helped advance marijuana legalization through the legislature and is part of a broad pro-legalization coalition (unlike the Dems); heck, the VPP even has a low-interest rate credit card in which some of the interest goes to fund the partyand which the party uses to promote the idea of a state credit card (a public option for credit cards, if you will).

    All of those things the Vermont Progressive Party played a role in advancing, directly or indirectly. One of the side effects of having a successful third party is that the Dems have to tack leftward to protect their flank and so progressive stuff often gets passed and the Dems hog the credit even though the driving force that moved things forward were the Progressives.

    And all of these achievements (which I found through a 10-minute Google search) rather irrefutably goes against your point that the VPP has “never accomplished anything.”

    Can you come up with a similar list of things that the Green Party has actually got done?

    “Play an inside-outside game and the democrats play YOU. Every. Single. Time. WFP? Give me a break. What happened when they tried to put an actual labor organizer (Zephyr Teachout) on their ballot line instead of the union-busting conservative Cuomo?”

    Uh… Teachout won her Congressional primary with the help of the political revolution. We are playing for the long haul, not just one election cycle.

    “Dems clapped twice and the WFP sat down like an obedient dog. And citing their close ties to De Blasio might have meant something a couple years ago, before he revealed himself to be just as much a neoliberal as everyone else.”

    And? The onus for WFP’s treachery is on the WFP, not on the inside-outside strategy. You might as well conclude that unions are trash because they occasionally screw over their members, or immigrants, or are pro-imperialist, etc.

    “You claim to eschew a true third party approach from a pragmatic perspective and yet you have no tangible results to put forward.”

    Refuted above.

    “First of all, Lenin’s statements on bourgeois parliaments should under no circumstances be interpreted as a green light to organize within the DP, and frankly I don’t know how anyone who has actually read it can come to that conclusion.”

    Huh? Re-read what I wrote again: what is obsolete for us is not necessarily obsolete for the masses. For Lenin, he was discussing bourgeois parliaments; in our context, we are talking about the Democratic Party. Yes, some of the fringe left groups run candidates for office. How often do they win? How often do they even come close to winning? Or even crack 10%? Socialist Alternative has won 2 elections for 1 seat, came close in Ty Moore’s campaign, and lost badly in Boston (or withdrew, I can’t remember). The Greens have a couple dozen people on school boards and such in California. And that’s it. Which explains why the masses energized by the Sanders campaign — even the ones who are 110% against Clinton — aren’t flocking to forces to the left the Democrats. Sanders won 13 million votes (which doesn’t count caucuses); 10% of that would be 1.3 million people, roughly. Jill stein is not even getting 10% of that 1.3 million in donations or in polls. She got literally zero bump out of Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton.

    “But there’s no shortcuts to that – and that’s one of my criticisms of the notion of some so-called ‘political revolution’ powered by a candidate for president – or even, as I am certain you will counter, a host of downballot candidates with ‘progressive values’ and a winning smile. Those are shortcuts. That’s not organization, that’s not mass mobilization.”

    Again, see my remarks above. You think electing Kshama Sawant was a ‘shortcut’? That getting her elected didn’t involve mass mobilization? Or organization building? Really? Ditto with getting Sanders elected first as mayor, then as Congressman, then as Senator. Those elections played a critical role in creating the only serious, viable left-of-Democrat party in this country, the Vermont Progressive Party. That took 30 years. You think a three-decade long struggle with modest results is a short-cut? Wow. Ok… So what is the successful model you advocate instead?

    “The organization and building required to get there starts small, very small – dare I say as small as the partisan radical Left? That organizing doesn’t succeed by doing whatever seems easiest or most opportune, and certainly not by swaying to the current mood of the masses. After all, just because 90% of the Sanders crowd is not going to walk away from the DP doesn’t mean they’re correct! Even if all those millions still cling to the belief that change can only come from seizing a capitalist party and turning it into its opposite, that doesn’t mean they will succeed in doing so. The very evidence you yourself cite screams to the contrary.”

    Right, but again, what is the small radical left’s strategy for struggle that will help these allegedly deluded, misguided masses shed their erroneous views? How do you all plan on engaging in common struggle with these people when you’ve already drawn a line between yourselves and them over the issue of their support for/participation in the Democratic Party and separated yourselves irrevocably from them so long as they continue to fight within that party?

    Now, I don’t fault the small radical left for being small. The problem with the fringe left isn’t that it’s small — every radical or socialist movement has begun small — it’s that there’s no strategy to gain mass support. Why do you think Sanders managed to mobilize millions and millions of working people and students? Because he basically mastered what Maoists jargonistically termed “the mass line.” That was his strategy — champion and fight like hell for totally un-radical (i.e. popular) demands. You called this capturing the energy of liberalism (or something to that effect) — in reality, this was a means of setting the masses into motion. Millions of people are talking about and taking an active, activist interest in politics in struggle now in a way that they weren’t before. They are talking about capitalism and socialism. This never would’ve happened without Sanders. This process of setting ‘yooj’ numbers of people was a bit like Occupy but on an infinitely greater scale, and also a hell of a lot more organized and sustained. Sanders has a strategy to set comparatively large numbers of people into motion using the Democratic Party, or at least partially using it since he has publicly said Our Revolution will back independents and not just Democrats. Why aren’t the Greens, Socialist Alternative, and the rest of the alphabet soup left jumping at the chance he is creating for them to promote their candidates, organizations, and initiatives?

    Again, I don’t fault them for being small, I fault them for not jumping on opportunities that are literally falling on their heads from the skies above. To me, that failure is inexcusable.

    Last point I’ll make about the original post is that the self-congratulatory told-ya-so I-was-right-all-along message completely glosses over serious errors on your part such as: “Sanders has a (very long) shot at Iowa, but he will lose New Hampshire, and probably every other state. The Clinton machine will see to it, as well, that he is not able – as Obama was in ’08 – to capture large numbers of delegates from a 2nd-place position. “ To quote my favorite dead Russian again (and the same essay, no less!):

    “A political party’s attitude towards its own mistakes is one of the most important and surest ways of judging how earnest the party is and how it fulfils in practice its obligations towards its class and the working people. Frankly acknowledging a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, analysing the conditions that have led up to it, and thrashing out the means of its rectification—that is the hallmark of a serious party; that is how it should perform its duties, and how it should educate and train its class, and then the masses.”

    A left that doesn’t honestly and openly address its mistakes is going nowhere fast. Not a single organization or person in the anti-Sanders campaign was right about how far the campaign would go, how successful it would be, or how much mass appeal and enthusiasm it would have because they didn’t want it to be so since that would fly in the face of their supposedly superior alternative strategies. And to date, not one has acknowledged this blindingly obvious error of severe understimation which is why I think there is zero hope for these comrades. People can’t learn from or grow out of mistakes they refuse to acknowledge or pretend never happened.

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    1. Oh good holy Jesus with the strawmen. Why don’t you take a breath? When you’re not completely misrepresenting my statements or ignoring what I’ve said, you’re just flat out wrong.

      LOL no. Political maturity? Political maturity is recognizing the Obama years weren’t one single iota better than the Bush years. Do you think I’m some kid? I was in the streets marching against the antichrist Bush (the word “fascist” was bandied about inappropriately then, too), before working to get Barack Obama elected because this was going to represent a turning point for the nation and world, a return to sanity, an economy for the people, rule of law, and internationalism. And then…he continued all his predecessor’s worst and most barbaric policies, including the ones he had unilateral authority as President to end.

      You wanna have a serious conversation? Don’t come on here and warn me about a “return” to the supposed barbarism of the Bush years, and don’t give me that old tired bullshit about Ralph Nader. I have no love for Nader, he’s a bootlicker to the oligarchs. But Al Gore turned out to be perfectly capable of losing his own battles, like his home state and New Hampshire (blue every election since).You want to blame the 24,000 Floridian Greens who voted for Nader instead of the *300,000* Florida democrats who pulled the lever for Bush? And I mean, like…Gore still WON the election, and then capitulated when they stole it from him. You come on here and give me this amateur hour boilerplate and talk about maturity? No, no.

      As for the Greens? Again, deep breaths, dude. I’m not a Green, I’m not signing people up to be Green, I’m not organizing to build the Green Party. I feel bad even having to say this, but it’s not the first time it’s come to this in our interactions this has come up, and it’s kinda sad. Every time you talk about organizing, you only always make it clearer that you’ve never been anywhere near it. You don’t even seem to understand what I mean when I say the word, which is why you start randomly talking about how many dues-paying members the Greens have, as if that has something to do with me. As far as I’m concerned, I have no need to get out my tape measure or type out my Radical Activities CV, but I don’t do what I do so some eager earnest Don Quixote off tilting at the reform of the Democratic Party can call me a fool.

      I’m a member of Socialist Alternative, along with a couple of non-partisan radical activist groups. In that capacity, in Lowell, Massachusetts and all across the length of southern New Hampshire, we directly engage with the communities, hosting everything from free educational events to public meetings on law enforcement reform to vigils for collective mourning and solidarity in the wake of tragedies affecting oppressed communities. We walk picket lines with strikers, demonstrate at courthouses and city halls, bring attention and people to issues and events that would otherwise be ignored – and, once in a while, despite our small numbers – numbers definitely too insignificant for your attention – achieve a desired result. But even when we don’t “win”, we build strong relationships to communities and with the workers who comprise them, who appreciate our presence, contribution, and support and often share our values and sometimes ideology. That’s organizing. We put on our own events and marches and rallies, but equally as often we participate in action led by others – not as presumptuous coopters but there by invitation and solicitation. Our assistance and support is valuable and conducted in good faith, and many other groups and unaffiliated activists cooperate with us toward shared issue-based goals on a regular basis. We work closely with faith-based groups, labor councils, unions, other socialist parties, organizations like BLM and 350.org, the ANSWER Coalition and Mass Action Against Police Brutality. That’s organizing. We don’t spend a ton of time on elections, because we don’t believe elections are how change is made, but we don’t scoff at them, either. When possible, we attempt to run candidates ourselves, and at times we support outside candidates with whom we share a sufficient amount of ideology. Among all the other organizations I work with, I am willing to work with the Green Party, and we promote Stein’s candidacy for the same reasons we choose to run our own – not to win, but to use the candidacy as a platform for radical politics with an unusual amount of reach. Not to win – although winning is great – but to build a broader base for our real organizing, all that other stuff we spend all our time doing.

      That’s organizing. And I’m wholly certain you want to dismiss this in favor of your regular tunnel vision fantasy of DP entryism, but that guy Eugene Debs you were talking about? There was a Eugene Debs because people spent decades doing the thankless shit we’re doing without ever seeing a payoff, without needing to see a payoff. You know your favorite dead Russian? The one you call your favorite despite the fact that he stood with every breath he ever took in direct and total opposition to the strategy and orientation you advocate? Same thing. Decades. Handfuls of people putting their heads down and doing the work. No shortcuts. Organizing. You should try it.

      And still you talk about “results”. Your list of alleged VPP achievements is a bunch of superficial bougie reforms easily passable in that state without whatever pressure you imagine the VPP to have asserted on someone sometime. Yeah, WalMart sucks, but I also don’t ascribe any more virtue or nobility to small businesses. That’s just NIMBY liberalism. Maybe pay Vermont a visit. It’s a sparsely populated state controlled by a large number of upper middle class descendants of self-exiled upper middle class New York hippies. And that’s great, those people can be very enjoyable, and they are always social liberals. I mean, great. If that’s your project, then keep doing what you’re doing – congratulations, you’re a democrat. That’s not radical politics. That’s no socialism. That’s not my project.

      And…regarding Teachout…wrong race. Maybe spend a little more time doing the Google – ten minutes is impressive, but the results were sub-par. As for what you seem to be attempting to say represents something like success for the WFP, I can’t make heads or tails of it, but whatever it is doesn’t seem to be anything I’m fighting for.

      Why do you keep talking about votes? And with Lenin, you’re just embarrassing yourself. Lenin was talking about standing slates of bolsheviks to run against social democrats as one tactic of many – not because he thought they could win Parliament and make Communism, and not because the social democrats were a party of the capitalist class or in any way anything remotely comparable to the US Democratic Party. I mean what the hell, you get to invent your own Lenin, too!

      And yeah, I got my election predictions wrong – and had a lot of public laughs about it. I’m not sure what gives you the idea I hid from that? What I wasn’t wrong about was the net effect of his campaign, what is always the net effect of left-liberal campaigns – not much.

      Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but Sanders failed. My advice for you? Either embrace the fact that you’re a liberal democrat (this will be easier option for you, because you are a liberal democrat) or get the hell out in the streets.

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  4. Name-calling, strawmen, whining, and defensive huffing and puffing about your tremendous activist CV… Seems my arguments that left-of-Democratic forces in this country lack a viable strategy to win mass support and any real-world results touched a nerve.

    I think you might want to re-think your praise for Nader since he called Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton “brilliant.”

    As for Lenin, he advocated an inside-outside strategy for British communists and the Labour Party. Many of the special conditions he mentioned actually exist in the 21st century Democratic Party and refusing as a matter of principle to take advantage of them would be a dereliction of one’s revolutionary duty to exploit any and every opening to advance the struggle:

    “Sylvia Pankhurst also asked: ‘Is it possible for a Communist Party to join another political party which still belongs to the Second International?’ She replied that it was not. It should, however, be borne in mind that the British Labour Party is in a very special position: it is a highly original type of party, or rather, it is not at all a party in the ordinary sense of the word. It is made up of members of all trade unions, and has a membership of about four million, and allows sufficient freedom to all affiliated political parties. It thus includes a vast number of British workers who follow the lead of the worst bourgeois elements, the social-traitors, who are even worse than Scheidemann, Noske and similar people. At the same time, however, the Labour Party has let the British Socialist Party into its ranks, permitting it to have its own press organs, in which members of the selfsame Labour Party can freely and openly declare that the party leaders are social-traitors. Comrade McLaine has cited quotations from such statements by the British Socialist Party. I, too, can certify that I have seen in The Call, organ of the British Socialist Party, statements that the Labour Party leaders are social-patriots and social-traitors. This shows that a party affiliated to the Labour Party is able, not only to severely criticise but openly and specifically to mention the old leaders by name, and call them social-traitors. This is a very original situation: a party which unites enormous masses of workers, so that it might seem a political party, is nevertheless obliged to grant its members complete latitude. Comrade McLaine has told us here that, at the Labour Party Conference, the British Scheidemanns were obliged to openly raise the question of affiliation to the Third International, and that all party branches and sections were obliged to discuss the matter. In such circumstances, it would be a mistake not to join this party.”

    Far from being “one tactic of many” (diversity of tactics much?), Lenin argued that participation of communists in bourgeois parliaments — meaning they had to actually win seats, not just run and lose over and over as you advocate — was obligatory. That’s the word he used — obligatory.

    You may have read some Lenin but you clearly haven’t understood a word of it much less figured out how to apply what he was talking about to modern conditions.

    Why do I keep talking about votes? Because, as Lenin and the Communist International taught, contesting and winning elections is obligatory. In this, they were following Marx himself:

    “collective appropriation can arise only from the revolutionary action of the productive class – or proletariat – organized in a distinct political party;

    “That a such an organization must be pursued by all the means the proletariat has at its disposal including universal suffrage which will thus be transformed from the instrument of deception that it has been until now into an instrument of emancipation;

    “The French socialist workers, in adopting as the aim of their efforts the political and economic expropriation of the capitalist class and the return to community of all the means of production, have decided, as a means of organization and struggle, to enter the elections with the following immediate demands…”

    What you’re preaching here about action in the streets being the main or highest, most important arena of struggle is in fact anarchism, not Marxism. Marx never denigrated such action but, as the passage above indicates (and really all of his writings from 1850 onward), he argued that the formation of electorally viable political parties by working people was the highest form of struggle and their most important task in the fight for socialism. Engels was explicit on this point:

    “The first great step of importance for every country newly entering into the movement is always the organisation of the workers as an independent political party, no matter how, so long as it is a distinct workers’ party. And this step has been taken, far more rapidly than we had a right to hope, and that is the main thing. That the first programme of this party is still confused and highly deficient, that it has set up the banner of Henry George, these are inevitable evils but also only transitory ones. The masses must have time and opportunity to develop and they can only have the opportunity when they have their own movement–no matter in what form so long as it is only their own movement–in which they are driven further by their own mistakes and learn wisdom by hurting themselves. “

    As for the net effect of the Sanders campaign, if it was truly zero as you say, why have you, Stein, the Green Party, Socialist Alternative, and the rest of the left-of-Democrats spilled so much ink about it and talked so much about it over the past year?

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    1. And then you go and do it again. I never praised Nader – in fact, I did precisely the opposite. I was merely calling for you to recognize some semblance of reality even as you call out everyone on the Left for failing to understand your special perspective.

      Great job with the selective Lenin and Marx quotes. I believe in building a workers’ party. I’ve said that a thousand times. That’s the project. The project doesn’t come from reforming the democratic party. It comes from independent organizing of the working class. That’s not anarchism. There is no scenario discussed by Lenin or Marx in which anyone recommended a party of capital be infiltrated. The DP is not now and has never been a Labor Party. Furthermore, no one has ever infiltrated a party of capital and changed it into anything other than a party of capital. At any time. In history. Similarly, nobody has pulled the DP to the left and nobody is doing it now. Did you watch any five minute stretch of the DNC this week? Does that look like moving to the left for you?

      Keep on beating that dead horse, bruh. Good luck. But we’re not after the same thing.

      Like

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