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Bernie Sanders’ Phantom Movement
Posted on Feb 14, 2016
By Chris Hedges
Sanders said that if he does not receive the nomination he will support the party nominee; he will not be a “spoiler.” If that happens, Sanders will become an obstacle to change. He will recite the mantra of the “least worst.” He will become part of the Democratic establishment’s campaign to neutralize the left.
Sanders is, in all but title, a Democrat. He is a member of the Democratic caucus. He votes 98 percent of the time with the Democrats. He routinely backs appropriations for imperial wars, the corporate scam of Obamacare, wholesale surveillance and bloated defense budgets. He campaigned for Bill Clinton in the 1992 presidential race and again in 1996—after Clinton had rammed through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), vastly expanded the system of mass incarceration and destroyed welfare—and for John Kerry in 2004. He called on Ralph Nader in 2004 to abandon his presidential campaign. The Democrats recognize his value. They have long rewarded Sanders for his role as a sheepherder.
Kshama Sawant and I privately asked Sanders at a New York City event where we appeared with him the night before the 2014 climate march why he would not run for president as an independent. “I don’t want to end up like Ralph Nader,” he told us.
Sanders had a point. The Democratic power structure made a quid pro quo arrangement with Sanders. It does not run a serious candidate against him in Vermont for his U.S. Senate seat. Sanders, as part of this Faustian deal, serves one of the main impediments to building a viable third party in Vermont. If Sanders defies the Democratic Party he will be stripped of his seniority in the Senate. He will lose his committee chairmanships. The party machine will turn him, as it did Nader, into a pariah. It will push him outside the political establishment. Sanders probably saw his answer as a practical response to political reality. But it was also an admission of cowardice. Nader paid a heavy price for his courage and his honesty, but he was not a failure.
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I spoke three years ago to the sparsely attended state gathering of the Green Party in New Jersey. I felt as if I was a character in Mario Vargas Llosa’s novel “The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta.” In the novel, Mayta, a naive idealist, endures the indignities of the tiny and irrelevant warring sects of the Peruvian left. He is reduced to meeting in a garage with seven self-described revolutionaries who make up the RWP(T)—the Revolutionary Workers’ Party (Trotskyist)—a splinter group of the marginal Revolutionary Worker’s Party. “Stacked against the walls,” Llosa writes, “were piles of Workers Voice and handbills, manifestos and statements favoring strikes or denouncing them which they had never got around to handing out.”
I am all for a revolution, a word Sanders likes to throw around, but one that is truly socialist and destroys the corporate establishment, including the Democratic Party. I am for a revolution that demands the return of the rule of law, and not just for Wall Street, but those who wage pre-emptive war, order the assassination of U.S. citizens, allow the military to carry out domestic policing and then indefinitely hold citizens without due process, who empower the wholesale surveillance of the citizenry by the government. I am for a revolution that brings under strict civilian control the military, the security and surveillance apparatus including the CIA, the FBI, Homeland Security and police and drastically reduces their budgets and power. I am for a revolution that abandons imperial expansion, especially in the Middle East, and makes it impossible to profit from war. I am for a revolution that nationalizes banks, the arms industry, energy companies and utilities, breaks up monopolies, destroys the fossil fuel industry, funds the arts and public broadcasting, provides full employment and free education including university education, forgives all student debt, blocks bank repossessions and foreclosures of homes, guarantees universal and free health care and provides a living wage to those unable to work, especially single parents, the disabled and the elderly. Half the country, after all, now lives in poverty. None of us live in freedom.
This will be a long and desperate struggle. It will require open confrontation. The billionaire class and corporate oligarchs cannot be tamed. They must be overthrown. They will be overthrown in the streets, not in a convention hall. Convention halls are where the left goes to die.
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