No support for Clinton, the candidate of Wall St. and the military-industrial-complex
Since the April 26 primaries, Clinton has widened her delegate lead.
The remarkable campaign of Bernie Sanders has entered a new stage. It represents a profound shift, even though Sanders himself somewhat carefully and subtly introduced the shift by the alteration of a part of his political message.
On Tuesday night, after the results were in, he explained: “We are in this race until the last vote is cast. That is why this campaign is going to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia with as many delegates as possible to fight for a progressive party platform that calls for a $15 an hour minimum wage, an end to our disastrous trade policies, a Medicare-for-all health care system, breaking up Wall Street financial institutions, ending fracking in our country, making public colleges and universities tuition free and passing a carbon tax so we can effectively address the planetary crisis of climate change.”
The campaign, without officially giving up the hunt for the nomination, is changing its focus to the reform of the Democratic Party platform at the Convention. A few days earlier, the campaign had also recommended Clinton put together the “strongest progressive agenda” and, if she were to win, to choose a “vice president who is prepared to carry that mantle, prepared to engage in that fight.” (Washington Post, April 24, 2016).
The Democratic Party can adopt all sorts of leftist lingo into its platform at the Convention. It can formally adopt some sort of “progressive agenda.” But in bourgeois political parties, the individual holding the highest office gets to determine the real agenda once in office. This contrasts sharply with revolutionary socialist parties — in which elected party leaders have executive authority to act and make decisions but are bound to uphold and defend the existing Party program. In the White House, Hillary Clinton, like all previous Democratic presidents, would do whatever she wants based on her own whims, the needs of the capitalist class and the U.S. Empire — regardless of the Party platform.
And despite the new focus on the Party platform, Sanders is indeed preparing to support, and urge his supporters to vote for, Hillary Clinton. He has won the support of millions of people in his militant denunciations of Wall Street, but is preparing to support the very symbol of Wall Street capitalism. His supporters of course would much rather he run as an independent candidate — something he still could do — but he is carrying through his pledge to support the Democratic nominee, even if that nominee is part of the same establishment his whole campaign has denounced.
Champions of the bank bailout, Hillary and Bill Clinton received $153 million in speaking fees since 2000 — including $11 million in 2014 and the first quarter of 2015 for 51 speeches to banks and other groups and industries. (New York Times, February 25, 2016)
She refuses to release the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs, for which she received $675,000 for a few hours time. One Goldman Sachs attendee told Politico, “It was pretty glowing about us … It’s so far from what she sounds like as a candidate now. It was like a rah-rah speech. She sounded more like a Goldman Sachs managing director.” (Politico, February 9, 2016)
Also, as a U.S. Senator from the state of New York, she was an avid supporter of George W. Bush’s criminal war of aggression against Iraq. As Secretary of State, Clinton constituted the most militaristic wing of the Obama administration. It was she who demanded that NATO bomb Libya, and it was she who upon hearing of the street lynching of Libya’s 70-year-old head of state, Muammar Gaddafi, laughingly spoke before the cameras to say, “We came. We saw. He died.”
Hillary Clinton is not only the choice of Wall Street and the Military-Industrial Complex; unsurprisingly — except perhaps to the most naive among the liberal wing of the Democratic Party — she is the favored candidate of the right-wing, Republican Koch brothers.
The Koch brothers are routinely demonized in liberal and Democratic Party circles as the worst-of-the-worst financial backers of right-wing, Tea Party and Republican candidates. But the Koch brothers and Koch Industries are not merely right-wing ideologues. They are capitalists and constitute one wing of a highly class conscious economic and political class that dominates the United States.
In short, Sanders is preparing his supporters to objectively join hands with the very people — the very forces of the top .01 percent — that he has been building a movement against for the last year.
He has to introduce the concept gently so as not to create a full-scale uproar from his base of supporters: the millions of young people who have enthusiastically rallied to his demands against Wall Street and in support of free education and free health care.
The Sanders base is already outraged by the rampant voter suppression in Arizona and New York, the constant media bias in support of Hillary Clinton, and the online trolls that a Clinton Super PAC is employing to malign Sanders supporters. They rightfully feel that the establishment has robbed them of their voice and many, seeing Clinton and Trump as two faces of that same evil, are proclaiming that they are “Bernie or bust.” The recent news that Clinton and Trump’s companies share a Delaware address with a bunch of Fortune 500 companies to avoid taxes, has reinforced that view.
The Democratic Party is not reformable
By running as a democratic socialist and eliciting the support of millions of people, many of whom now feel comfortable openly identifying as socialists, the Sanders campaign has created a new political space for the U.S. left. That is the progressive side of the Sanders campaign. This is not simply Sanders’ doing of course. In fact, his identification as a democratic socialist made him even more popular, as tens of millions of people in the United States are disgusted with capitalism because it has ruined vast parts of the working class, from the very poor to those who had enjoyed what is called in public vernacular “a middle class lifestyle.”
In many ways the surprising momentum of the Sanders’ political campaign was in the electoral arena something similar to, and connected to, the spontaneous Occupy Wall Street movement that began in 2011 in New York City and spread like wildfire across the country before it was crushed by a concerted effort from law enforcement agencies.
The Democratic Party as an institution is not reformable. It is a ruling-class party. Sanders’ base of support was not fundamentally motivated by the idea that the Democratic Party could be an agency of change, and certainly not the agency for political revolution. On the contrary, millions of young people joined the Sanders campaign in complete defiance of the Democratic establishment, which used all its power to try and snuff out Sanders’ bid.
In European or other capitalist countries that have a parliamentary system Sanders would be able to run with an independent political party and generate somewhere between 20 and 40 percent of the popular vote. Thus, that party would be substantially represented in a parliament and in combination with other political parties, be able to form a ruling government.
This option does not exist in the United States. The duopoly of political control is complete here. Republican and Democratic Party politicians take turns in managing the affairs of the capitalist government. This is a winner-take-all system rather than a parliamentary system, designed so that the only winners can be Republican or Democratic Party candidates.
But the real government, the essential features of the capitalist state, is organized and maintained by a professional state apparatus. The military, intelligence agencies, law enforcement, and other institutions of repression and organized violence, are the dominant and sustaining features of the modern capitalist state apparatus.
That is why even in a parliamentary system, which is obviously more democratic than the U.S. system, bourgeois democracy “always remains, and under capitalism is bound to remain, restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical, a paradise for the rich and a snare and deception for the exploited, for the poor” — to quote Lenin.
Why the capitalist ruling class prefers Clinton over Trump and Cruz
Hillary Clinton is embarrassed by the Koch brothers’ near endorsement of her campaign. She is not embarrassed personally — she gladly took money from Donald Trump himself — but she is worried that the endorsement by right-wing Republicans is the last thing she needs as she attempts to woo the liberal wing of her party, following the full-scale offensive aimed to destroy the Sanders campaign.
But the comments of Charles Koch are highly illuminating. Speaking as a right-wing Republican, Koch said that the policies of the Bill Clinton White House were “better” than those of George W. Bush. Koch and almost the entire ruling class establishment are uniting against Donald Trump because they recognize that a Trump presidency would bring ridicule to U.S. imperialism globally, and just as important, would stimulate massive street struggles and protests across the country.
The function of capitalist elections is to have the oppressed classes consent to their own oppression by giving them a voice in the selection of who will oppress them every two or four years.
In contrast, a Trump presidency would be a catalyst for political and class struggles of the most militant type. That is the real reason that the U.S. ruling class rejects Donald Trump, not because he is a racist, sexist, xenophobic reactionary. They know that Trump is essentially a showman but that his message will undoubtedly ignite mass struggles and hatred against the chief executive office of the capitalist state.
There will now be immense pressure applied on Sanders supporters to back Hillary Clinton so as to prevent Donald Trump and the Republicans from winning the White House. This is customary and has led to liberal, progressive and leftist sectors of the population continuously providing support to their own enemies — neoliberal capitalists and imperialists from the Democratic Party, who have waged wars abroad and savagely attacked the living standards of working people at home. This pressure should be rejected.
While up until now Trump has followed an ultra-right and fascistic playbook to mobilize disgruntled and racist sections of the white population, the victory of Trump would not be the equivalent of the triumph of Adolph Hitler coming to power in 1933 or fascism in Italy. In those cases, Hitler and Mussolini’s ascension to the chief executive of the capitalist state led to the rapid destruction of all democratic rights and the organizations of the working class, including the use of genocidal tactics against Jewish people, ethnic minorities, sexual minorities and leftists. In contrast, the victory of Trump would not destroy the mass movement, but instead ignite mass struggles of the people throughout the country, and indeed the world. Again, this is the real reason the ruling class rejects his candidacy.
Socialist tactics versus radical punditry
The Bernie Sanders campaign created ample confusion among socialist and communist forces. It should never have been difficult to understand Bernie Sanders as a politician. He is a well-known political quantity. He has not functioned as a rebel or even a radical within the U.S. Senate. His political position is akin to that of an FDR New Deal Democrat, and also slightly akin to the politics of Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s.
Moreover, from the beginning of his campaign, Sanders has signaled that he would ultimately support whomever the Democratic candidate would be.
The confusion within the left over the Sanders campaign had to do with tactics. Suddenly, millions of people were engaged in a political and electoral campaign, supporting someone who called himself a socialist, and his popularity was based almost exclusively on his fiery agitation against Wall Street bankers, the vast inequality in society and the complete domination of politics by American plutocrats. Parts of the U.S. left decided that it was better to emphasize that Sanders was just a mainstream liberal politician and those who were joining his campaign were just big suckers.
The Party for Socialism and Liberation, however, which is running its own independent revolutionary socialist presidential campaign, argued that it was important to emphasize the new possibilities and the new space that were being created for the socialist movement by the sudden emergence of the Sanders campaign.
The PSL never hid its profound differences with Sanders, but sought to reach out to Sanders supporters, emphasizing that we too are fighting for free education and free health care, as well as other core demands like a guaranteed income and the seizure of the Wall Street banks as criminal enterprises. Instead of condemning Sanders and his campaign, we argued that it was better for the socialist movement to go through the process and experience alongside the Sanders supporters, without ever encouraging people to join the Democratic Party or suggesting that the Democratic Party could become a vehicle for change.
In the United States, anti-communism has been the unofficial religion of the country since the end of World War II. This had the effect of vanquishing socialist ideas and purging them from public discourse. Anti-communism and anti-socialism have functioned as a cushion for the capitalist establishment each and every time they experience a major crisis. Absent a socialist alternative, capitalism can always manage to find a way out of each crisis.
What has been new and reflected in the Sanders campaign is the opening provided to the entire left to begin to discuss once again the viability, credibility and necessity for socialism as the only true alternative to capitalism. Sanders’ definition of socialism was incomplete and inaccurate but that is not what is most important. What gives this election campaign historical significance is that socialism as a philosophy, political program and vision is back on the table.
As we enter the next stage of the campaign, we must concentrate on patiently and persistently explaining through agitation that supporting Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party political machine is a dead-end for the revival of mass progressive politics. We urge Sanders supporters to join with us to build the PSL’s socialist campaign of La Riva / Puryear, to fight alongside us for justice, equality, health care and education, and to march on the Democratic Party’s sham Convention-coronation in Philadelphia this summer.