By Justin Akers
May 25, 2015
1. On Sanders’ Decision to Run as a Democrat
Sanders is running in the Democratic Party primaries for practical reasons. As a Democrat, he can easily get on the ballot in every state, and he will be in all the debates. He’s not fulfilling some lifelong goal of joining the Democratic Party. He’s still an independent socialist.
There is no need to focus excessively on the fact that he’s running as a Democrat. It’s unfortunate that he has to run as a Democrat in order to run an effective campaign, but there is no viable third party route to the Presidency at this time.
Similarly, we needn’t make too much of the fact that Bernie caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate. Karl Marx would caucus with the Democrats if he were in the Senate. It’s just practical politics.
2. On the Need for Left-Wing Alternatives to the Democratic Party
There is no doubt that the Democratic Party is a big-business party. There is no doubt that we need to do the painstaking work of building left-wing alternatives to the Democratic Party.
But, much as we might need to build left-wing alternative parties, we have to face reality. The President is an important figure. Faced with a presidential election, we can either sit it out, or vote. If we vote, we should vote for the candidate who shares our ideals. For me, Bernie Sanders is that candidate. It’s not particularly important to me whether he runs as an Independent or a Democratic or a Rent-Is-Too-Damn-High candidate.
There is no doubt in my mind, however, that if we had a strong, viable Democratic Socialist Party, Sanders would be a member.
3. On the Fact that He Can Win
Sanders could win the election. It is entirely possible. He will be an effective voice against inequality during the campaign, and should he become President, he will be the most powerful activist on the planet.
There have been plenty of supposedly long-shot candidates who went on to win the Presidency.
4. On the Evolving Nature of Political Parties and the Possibility of Transcending Party-Affiliation
Yes, the Democratic Party in 2015 is a corporate party.
First though, it bears repeating: Sanders is not really a Democrat. He is running as a Democrat for practical reasons.
But, let’s just imagine for a moment that he was a converted, born-again Democrat. So what? The Democratic Party’s sordid history does not necessarily mean that every individual within the Party is thereby rendered ineffective and worthless.
Presidents often end up transcending their party affiliation. Sometimes history forces a President to rise above the gritty mechanics of party politics.
Parties also dramatically change character over time - look at the Democratic and Republican parties in 1860, compared to the present day, for example.
Again, we need not be overly concerned about Sanders’ pragmatic party affiliation. The Democratic Party is not going to trap all of us activists in its sinister snares.
5. On Revolution from Within
We need to start thinking about a revolution from within. We can use the political processes that have been bequeathed to us to our advantage. Instead of spending decades doing the slow and painstaking work of building left-wing alternative parties, we could work toward achieving a political revolution in the near future. Revolutions are a much swifter way to effect radical change.
It may be a waste of activists’ time and energy to spend decades building tiny, left-wing alternative parties only to see a socialist city councilor get elected in a left-leaning city here and there. Instead, we need to start thinking like revolutionaries.
Patience is not the strongest virtue of revolutionaries. We the 99% may just want our political revolution now. Not decades from now.
6. On Spending Precious Activist Time and Energy Campaigning for Sanders
Why should activists spend their time and energy campaigning for Bernie Sanders? Is it because we are naive youngsters who don’t know any better? Is it because we are ignorant of the Democratic Party’s sordid history? Is it because we don’t know the tawdry tale of what happened to Jessie Jackson’s and Dennis Kucinich’s supporters? How can we spend the next year campaigning for Sanders, when we should be spending that year quietly doing the slower, more painstaking, more important, more politically correct work of movement-building outside of the two-party system?
Our answer: we are going to campaign for Sanders because we believe he is a revolutionary candidate. The Sanders campaign has the potential to help facilitate a political revolution in this country.
Whatever expedites a political revolution will be worthy of our time and energy.
We’re thinking like Thomas Paine now. We’re moving beyond niche movement building, we want more than a few socialists on city councils. What we desire is to take back the country from the billionaires immediately.
We want our country back now. Not in 30 years.
7. On Immediate Independence from the Billionaire Class
Tell the revolutionaries in 1776 that what they need is to do slow and painstaking work to achieve independence from Britain gradually. Tell the slaves, and the abolitionists that what they need is to do slow and painstaking work to gradually end slavery.
No. What the American colonists needed in 1776, what the slaves needed in 1860, and what we need now, is a revolution - an American revolution, achieved through democratic processes, that brings about political independence from the billionaire class immediately.
8. On Bernie in the Here and Now
Right now, there is a shortage of viable left-wing alternatives to the Democratic Party. When such alternative parties exist, I’ll be happy to join. In the meantime, Bernie Sanders exists in the here and now, and he is calling for a political revolution here and now, and I will campaign for him and vote for him in the here and now. We don’t have time to wait for alternatives.
9. On Thinking in Revolutionary Terms
The prospect of a Sanders victory is not far-fetched if you think like a revolutionary. If the people want revolution, if the masses rise up and vote against inequality, then revolution is possible and a Sanders victory is obvious.
These days, a revolution in America is an imminent possibility.
10. On Bastille Day
The current political situation, because of the unprecedented inequality that exists in this nation, is volatile. As such, it is impossible to predict what might happen in the 2016 election.
The situation calls for big ideas and big solutions. Now is not the time to talk about the nuts and bolts of movement building and the slow and painstaking work of building alternatives to the two-party system.
To call for slow-motion movement building right now is like standing outside of the Bastille on July 14,1789, and telling the revolutionaries in the crowd that what they really need to do is to slowly, painstakingly build a new political party that will represent their interests.
No. What they needed to do on July 14th, 1789 was storm the Bastille.
Likewise: what we need to do in 2016 is storm our Bastille.