Single-payer health care, free tuition at public universities, a $15 minimum wage, busting up the biggest Wall Street banks, taxing the financial speculation, expanding Social Security, imposing a tax on carbon, getting big money out of politics: this is the program of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. These are great ideas, ideas that shake the political and economic establishment to its very foundation and would greatly improve the lives of working and poor people.
When Black Lives Matter activists challenged the Sanders campaign, they won support for many of their demands, particularly to fight the terrible “road to prison” racist system that has trapped so many African-American and Latino/a young people.
And how would Sanders implement this program? “I do not believe that any president who’s standing up for the working class of this country can be successful without a mobilized, activist, grass-roots movement behind him or her.” His stance when it comes to insider vs. outsider politics is clear: “You make change not by sitting down with (Senate Republican leader) Mitch McConnell. You make change when millions of people in this country demand change.”
This clarion call for mass action to win major reforms struck a chord among tens of millions of people. Tens of thousands of people attended Sanders campaign rallies. Millions donated their hard earned money to the campaign. And millions voted for Sanders in caucuses and primaries across the country.
The success of the Sanders campaign sent a chill down Wall Street’s spine and caused big money to mobilize its minions in the Democratic Party establishment. They scheduled debates for “off hours,” withheld contact lists and funneled millions of dollars from the party to the Clinton campaign. They closed millions of independent voters out of the primaries.
The corporate media have certainly played their part, providing far more coverage to Clinton and the racist demagogue Donald Trump than to Sanders. Pundits have lined up to deride the Sanders campaign and candidate as “quixotic” and “unrealistic.” “He is getting in the way of the Clinton coronation,” is the constant refrain.
And just before the biggest primary, in California, the establishment and the media declared Hillary Clinton the “presumptive” winner. The corporate media’s idea of democracy is to do a phone survey of Democratic Party “superdelegates.”
And what if Clinton is indicted for the email violations? Then the Democratic Party establishment is prepared to “slip in” Joe Biden as the candidate over Sanders. In 1968, faced with a revolt from below, the Democratic heads inserted the pro-Vietnam War vice president, Hubert Humphrey, over the anti-war senator, Eugene McCarthy.
So now the Sanders campaign is at a crossroads. Should it meekly capitulate to Clinton and the party establishment? Should it give up its program in the hope that Clinton’s appeal to disgruntled Republicans will be enough to defeat Trump? Shall millions of young people continue to suffer trying to pay off mountains of student debt? And when the next recession hits — and it will! — shall we quietly submit to more foreclosures, more layoffs and more cutbacks as both parties collude to help Wall Street rake in trillions while we endure new austerity measures?
Or was Bernie Sanders right when he called for a “mobilized, activist, grass-roots movement” that fights to win the campaign’s program?
All true advances of the people have come not through elections but through struggle. Union rights, Social Security and welfare were won in the 1930s through marches, general strikes and sit-down strikes. Civil rights were won through the struggle of millions of African Americans and white progressives who sat in and faced the police.
Anti-poverty measures were won by rebellions in cities throughout the country. Women’s rights were gained by marches and protests. The fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights began with the Stonewall Rebellion. Harsh anti-immigrant legislation was defeated by the historic strike of millions of immigrants on May 1, 2006.
Reforms are always a reflection of prior struggle.
Workers World Party, a multinational, working-class, revolutionary party, calls on Bernie Sanders’ supporters to not give up, to fight for the campaign’s program. Where to begin? Let’s first go to Cleveland and then to Philadelphia to tell both political parties that we will not surrender to their rigged election machines. These demands are too vital to the lives of millions of working-class people to let go.
They may have kept Bernie Sanders off the ballot. But they cannot keep us out of the streets.