Bernie Sanders, Liberal Democrats and the Quest for Systemic and Fundamental Change
I must say at the outset that I don’t believe and won’t claim that there are no differences between any two given candidates. Ronald Reagan whose election in 1980 paved the way for empire to consolidate and expand its power and reach and take a much more aggressive posture versus both domestic and international working class was obviously different from Jimmy Carter. The ruling class saw an opportunity to get more aggressive and it grabbed and made the most of it. Keep in mind that Reagan ran for the office twice before and won only when the subjective and objective conditions were ripe for such a shift or rather a decision by ruling class for such a shift.
Elections in capitalist societies aren’t exactly meaningless, fake or inconsequential shows that have no bearing on the policies and priorities of the ruling class, but are rather an opportunity for the class to pick its best representative and servant for given conditions and balance of forces on the ground. They actually do evaluate their options, opportunities and risks and choose the candidate they believe will best defend, protect and advance their interests for the next four years.
So, elections are real and do have consequences, but they’re only by and for the ruling class. The masses are not accounted for or considered. And, how could it be otherwise? The class in power is the one running the show and would only be interested in maintaining its power and privilege, so naturally, they’ll use their vast money and power to have someone elected who will protect their interests, which are diametrically opposed to those of the millions.
But, does this mean that bourgeois elections make no difference on the lives of the millions? Of course not. How could they not? Reagan’s presidency marked the beginning of a much more unbridled capitalism and profiteering at home and abroad and more militarism and military intervention for empire, as well as union busting and cutting of social programs and stagnation of wages, which continued to this day. So, someone who is anti-union and for less regulations and less taxes for corporations and for less spending on the poor, on education and on healthcare and is for more wars and more policing will obviously be worse for people than someone with opposite political views. But, here is the thing: the ruling 1%, due to their power and influence, will not let someone with political views totally opposite theirs win the elections, and even if that were to happen, they and their lobbies and governmental organs and institutions that remain and don’t change after elections, such as the military, the National Security Agency, the CIA, the Supreme Court, the Congress and others, as well as the political establishment in the two corporate parties, will push him or her to do what they want and will render him ineffective, that is if they don’t manage to kill his chances before that.
The history of elections in capitalist countries such as this shows that regardless of who wins the elections, the power remains in the hands of the wealthy elite and the policies continue uninterrupted. So, yes, we should take whatever small victories we can get, whenever we can get them, but we should not forget who’s ultimately in charge and what they seek with the vast power and influence they have accumulated. We should not forget that while we may seek to change the rules of the game, they own the casino, the table, the cameras over the table and are the ones paying the salary of the dealer, the pitman and the security guards and are the ones sitting at the offices watching our every move. Even if we were to succeed in changing those rules within the system, they’ll change them back the first opportunity they get, if they’re not removed from power. Again history is full of such examples.
Though we should welcome them, what we need to strive for is not those small concessions that we may or may not be given by those who in the best of their intentions have to work within the current system and against the current power structure to give them to us. What we need to work for is to have our own true representative government that’s set up to meet our needs and answer to us, rather than the current 1% who is currently in power and holds all levers of power, from the media to courts to law enforcement to the military to the legislative bodies, etc. What we need is not a simple change in president within the current power structure, the current economic system and the current set of values and priorities, which places corporate profits over people’s needs, but a complete overhaul of the system and set of values and priorities it operates in. What that entails is literally taking the power out of the hands of the corporations and giving it to the people. That means dismantling all government organs and firing all its functionaries, advisers, lobbyists, judges, representatives and agents and replacing them with people with the new set of values, principles and priorities.
But, winning concessions are one thing and taking the state power quite another. That’s why the latter would take nothing short of a revolution, which is nothing but an act of war on the ruling class and naturally they’re not going to sit by and give up their power without a fight. That understanding is what distinguishes the revolutionary left from the liberal left.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: we’re not anywhere near making or even building for a revolution. And you’re absolutely right about that. But, here is the difference: true, we’re not anywhere close to building a revolutionary movement, but we must understand and educate ourselves that that’s what it will ultimately take and secondly educate others who time and again vote for the lesser of two evils and see that once again nothing has changed. We must educate as to the reasons why things don’t change. If we don’t do that, during one of these severe recessions and high unemployment periods, the rightwing will win the masses over to an anti-immigrant, anti-minoritirs, anti-working class platform and bring in fascism.
I’ll say it agin, lest I get misquoted: I’m not against winning concessions within the current economic system that’s designed and built to maximize profits for corporations at the expense of the working poor, even as it’s waging multiple wars, making the world a more dangerous place and moving towards a de facto police state and paves the way for fascism. Even under these conditions, we must fight for any small victories, including those Sanders’ supporters are wishing for. But, such concessions when won have been shallow and insufficient at best and mostly fake and elusive at worst. That’s because the power structure remains intact and corporations continue to set nation’s policies. To say otherwise is to distort the truth.
Now, I can’t argue with those who say Bernie Sanders is what we need. I can’t argue even with those who say Obama was a good president. I can’t because those who say that are looking at the world from their own point of view, which may not be the vantage point of poorest and most oppressed. After all, everything is relative. This is why we see a conflict between some Black Lives Matter activists and Bernie supporters. What’s important to liberals isn’t the most pressing for the most oppressed. Obama too did things that are considered positive. He pushed for and signed the Affordable Care Act, made a deal with Iran on its nuclear program and supported the marriage equality. So, if those are the kinds of concessions and victories that liberals tell us we should strive for, then they’re right: we should vote for Democrats and accept the police killings, thd mass incarceration, the domestic espionage program, the imprisonment of whistle blowers, the wars, the corporate greed and influence on policies, the ruining of the environment, the income inequality and so on as fact of life until we find a candidate within the system who will have the political will, intention and ability to change whatever he or she can, however small.
To give one small example, most would agree that you have to have no compassion or humanity to do what they do to prisoners in Guantanamo, but this is not an isolated case and it’s not just a matter of firing couple of commanders. For another example, consider the fact that even when the U.S. was about to leave Viet Nam, it went on a massive and relentless carpet bombing of Vietnamese villages wiping out entire villages and killing anything that moved. Or consider US support for brutal dictators throughout the world or its unconditional support for Israel that’s committing genocide. These inhuman war crimes and crimes against humanity are the result of the whole military industrial complex and its worldwide plans for world domination for the sake of multinational corporations, which elections do not change; therefore, the government you hope to give you your concessions will continue to be made of psychopathic criminals. The question is: do we want such an inhuman and criminal government to ask concessions from?
Vote for Sanders if you must, but understand too that as long as corporations remain intact and their owners in power, we can’t have fundamental change. Even with Sanders in the White House, the U.S. will still have the 800 military bases, it will still have the secret CIA prisons and probably even the Guantanamo prison. It will still spend an obscene amount of the national budget on the military and aid Israel in its genocide. It will still continue to surround Russia and encroach on China. Ir will still continue its wars and military interventions and regime changes. It will still continue to build its nuclear arsenal. It will still continue its vast domestic espionage program. The media will remain in private hands. Banks, chemical, pharmaceutical, weapons, insurance, oil and other companies will continue to make their billions of dollars of profit, while making life intolerable for millions around the world. They will continue to make the world a more dangerous place, while ruining the Earth and the police will continue to kill the poor and people of color on the streets.
Even Mr. Sanders himself will tell you that he’s not for changing the system or anything fundamental. So, at least, what we on the left can do is to get involved with grassroots progressive movements on the street, rather than spend our energy on another candidate within the system. Personally, I wouldn’t vote for any party, no matter how progressive, whose main focus is to run a candidate every four years, and ignores the task of movement building and organizing on the streets against racism. police brutality, wars and imperialism. I would shun any party or organization that doesn’t put its active effort and focus on combating racism, wars and the U.S. imperialism, not in the form of slogans prior to every presidential elections, but on an ongoing basis.
To be clear, I’m not suggesting we should never vote, but if we’re serious about change, we need to work towards and educate and agitate for building a movement that will take the state power from the ruling 1% and their corporations, rather than box ourselves within the electoral process that’s owned and controlled by those in power who pick the candidates for us and dictate or limit what he or she can do for us when in office. Yes, it’s true, believing in making fundamental change and changing the whole value system as Dr. King suggested is tantamount to being ahead of our time, but isn’t that the point or is the point to remain where we’re at?