By Stansfield Smith
July 7, 2016
“We need a new, progressive political party in the U.S. because on almost every important issue the Democratic and Republican Parties, both controlled by Big Money, are indistinguishable.”
The “Reagan Revolution… was brought about with the active and strong support of the Democratic Party which controlled the U.S. House of Representatives for eight out of Reagan’s eight years and the U.S. Senate for two out of Reagan’s eight years….”
“We need a new, progressive political movement in this country because the Democrats and Republicans are not only incapable of solving any of the major problems facing this country, they are not even prepared to discuss them.”
“The mass media in this country is heavily censored by the corporate ownership and the companies that advertise…. Analysis of why things are the way they are–the unfair distribution of wealth and power, starvation and poverty, war, ecological destruction, racism, sexism, etc. – is not considered “news”….”
“The U.S. people, as almost never before, are rejecting the “two-party” system and are crying out for a political alternative….Everyone instinctively knows that the current system is failing, but the progressive movement is not getting out an alternative vision of society or an alternative program of immediate demands.”
“The boldness and clarity that we need to articulate can never be done through the compromised and corrupt Democratic Party – dominated by Big Money…. We must begin to have the courage to fight for power – not handouts. We are the majority of people and must act accordingly.”
“I understand the enormous difficulties that confront us when we take on the Democratic and Republican Parties and the economic oligarchy that controls this country. if we stop thinking about all the reasons as to why it can’t be done, and go out in the streets and do it, we can succeed. We can create a third party. We can raise the important issues which the Democrats and Republicans ignore. We can win.”
No need to point out that Sanders changed his tune.
Here we are, a quarter of a century after his words – hardly original even 70 years ago, still trapped in this two-party system. Breaking out of it is much more complicated than Sanders asserted. We have yet come to grips with what is demanded of us.
The problem is not lack of sentiment for a party that represents the 99%. The problem is not that people don’t want to break with the two corporate parties. That is obvious in the mass rejection of established party politicians in the voting for outsiders like Sanders and Trump.
The problem is that the corporate elite, the 1%, and their Democratic and Republican governing machines still have US society under lockdown. First, they define the boundaries of American “democracy”, with the US people brought up in that faux democratic system, and conditioned to accept and to operate only inside it – even radicals.
Democratic and also Republican voters agree that the corporate elite control the political system yet they still cling to the irrational belief we live in a democracy, not an actual dictatorship. This year again showed we still believe – the way children believe in Santa Claus – that fundamental change can be made to this system through the use of our vote.
We still believe we live in a basically free and democratic society, one that could be an example to the world. Even though we know people of color here live under a repackaged segregation system, even though we know the NSA has completely eliminated our right to privacy, even though we know the government does not prosecute anyone for implementing this blatant violation of the Constitution. The list goes on and on. Yet, we still believe we can end this dictatorship through our vote.
Second, the corporate rulers, through their Democratic and Republican Parties and their control of the state and monopoly of the media and wealth of the country, are easily able to shut down any viable alternative to their control. Recall how easily they shut down and co-opted recent mass movements: the anti-Iraq war movement, the mass protests in Madison, Wisconsin, the Occupy Movement. The rulers are ingenious at neutralizing and marginalizing any movements independent of their two parties, so much so that they have seen no need for mass imprisonment or death squads.
Third, the 1% knows we are a long way from creating a sustainable organized opposition movement. The Bernie Sanders campaign illustrates this. Hundreds of thousands have attended Sanders events around the country, millions have been organized to vote for him. Here’s a base needed for an organized mass opposition to oligarchic rule.
But who controls this mass movement? Not us. The Sanders election operation does, and behind it the Democratic Party establishment, the very enemy Sanders supporters want to defeat. An excellent example of the powerlessness of voter opposition: the Sanders campaign, the “political revolution” against the 1%, will not turn over this information to his supporters, to build an independent party, but to the campaign of Ms. Corporate America herself.
The majority of Sanders supporters will go to a rally, donate money, vote. That’s it. But the change Sanders says is needed – in spite of what he is doing now – requires much more than that. The 1% have no problem neutralizing any damage to their rule caused by hundreds of thousands attending Democratic primary campaign rallies calling for a vote for basic change. They do that without fail almost every 4 years.
Had an even small organized opposition to the two parties existed before election season, it could easily have mobilized to blanket Sanders rallies with information on their struggle against the corporate rulers. After Bernie moved on to the next state, we could have followed up and organized meetings for Sanders supporters to set up neighborhood committees, then city and state networks. Then called local, state and national congresses to further build an organized national opposition and inject it with the added strength of this mass of Bernie voters. None of this happened.
Ann Robertson and Bill Leumer wrote, “to create a movement people must belong to an on-going organization where they participate in the important decision-making of that organization. In this way they play a significant role in defining the direction of the organization, and thus it becomes a part of their own identity as well. Even more, they establish relations with one another where they discuss and debate issues of policy, allow themselves to be influenced by the arguments of others, and influence them in turn. Participants are transformed from isolated individuals into members of a collective will.”
All this is a long way from happening. Does there exist even a small national organization, anti-1%, anti-imperialist, anti-racist, that hard-working activists look to and feel they have confidence in its leadership? There are tiny groups like this, which have carved out little niches where they operate and feel comfortable. But none have the goal of uniting similar groups in an equal-say front to actually fight to take on the 1% even on a city-wide level.
That is what is actually necessary to break with the two parties, not just what amounts repeating our versions of empty Sanders 1989 talk about the need to do so. Corporate America’s “democracy” has no problem defending our constitutional right to engage in empty talk. They will not tolerate those who can inspire and activate hundreds of thousands and millions, who know how to lead, and who fight like Martin Luther King, who willingly sacrificed his life for the struggle.
People who think Sanders could become the president have been dreaming. Those who view themselves as class conscious, yet encourage this fantasy that the Democratic Party can be refashioned into an agent for social change are guilty of misleading others with foolish illusions in American “democracy.” This disservice to the people serves only the rulers.
The Sanders campaign –and the Trump campaign – have provided a wealth of opportunities to reveal how the electoral system is deliberately set up to obstruct popular will. It is shameful that people considering themselves class conscious have squandered this ruling class gift dropped in their laps where they could illustrate to people over and over how “the voters decide” is a sham.
The primaries showed the media often did not report on mass Sanders rallies. The primaries showed that millions of independent Sanders voters could not vote. Because of the appointed “super” delegates, even in states where Sanders won, Clinton was sometimes able to secure more delegates. Even if Sanders won the Democratic nomination, there is no reason to think the corporate media would not embark on a smear campaign against him in the fall, that the Democratic establishment would not defund him as they did to George McGovern.
And we have seen in 2000 how the Supreme Court interrupted the Florida vote count and gave the election to Bush, how in 1960 the Chicago Democrats fixed the vote so Kennedy would win. Even if Sanders did win in November, the Electoral College could still pick the loser as president, as it did with Rutherford Hayes in 1876.
Even if he became president, Congress could block all his progressive measures, or impeach him on baseless charges, as happened with Dilma Rousseff. Even if that didn’t happen, the whole federal, state and local government machinery and police forces remain firmly in the hands of the 1 %. Or he could die in some “accident” as happened to a number of foreign presidents the US corporate elite deemed a danger.
The Sanders and Trump campaigns show the widespread discontent with corporate dictatorial rule, this American democracy. At this stage in our struggle for liberation, the corporate elite still so controls the anger at the 1% that its present expressions remain locked inside the very two-party confines they have set up to ensure their rule over us. We have a long way to go and we need to get over these every-four-years Sanders shows and start focusing our attention on what it takes to build an organized, united mass movement that will bring down the 1%.
It’s time we open a discussion on what is required of us to meet our historic responsibility to build a movement that represents the 99%, a movement we own, and which we will fight for.