Left Voice - February 4, 2020

... When will the Left learn?

There is a long history of initiatives to “use” the Democratic Party for a progressive social transformation. From Upton Sinclair’s End Poverty in California campaign, to the CP’s support of FDR during the Popular Front period, to Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow coalition in the 1980s, the history of the left in the US is punctuated with failed attempts to transform the Democratic Party into a tool for working-class people. It has never happened, and it will never happen. The resurgent socialist left in the US today, hegemonized by the DSA, is nevertheless stubbornly fixated in the idea of working within the Democratic Party with the hope of getting Bernie Sanders elected into the White House.

There is little hope that, if faced with similar irregularities in Iowa and beyond, Bernie Sanders will come out to denounce the Democratic Party establishment. From 2016 on, Sanders has only become more integrated into the party, pushing reforms to the primary process, and this round again, pledging to support any candidate who ends up being the nominee. This pragmatic attitude of pushing the line towards more progressive politics, but compromising with establishment Democrats when he deems necessary has marked his political career in Vermont and in the Senate. It would be foolish to expect anything different. 

Even in the hypothetical case that Sanders ends up winning the nomination and later the general elections, he will face insurmountable opposition from his own party in Congress which, with or without the help of Republicans, would be able to block any major reform that goes beyond what big US capital is willing to concede. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of new socialists will be phone banking for the Democratic Party, canvassing for Democratic candidates, and immersed in the politics of lobbying, coalition building and pushing the line just a little bit left. Mired in the intricacies of a political system that stands out for its anti-democratic character and its bias towards the status quo, enrolled as foot soldiers on a year-round electoral battle field (fighting for the lesser evil), the explosive energy of a new generation of socialists would be unforgivably squandered. 

Start from the beginning

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle

The main source of conflict is, and has always been, the division of society in classes: the working class is exploited while capitalists reap the profits of our sweated labor. Nothing defines our life experiences, living conditions and interests as strongly as the social class we belong to. A party that is dominated by a powerful layer of capitalists who bankroll it and sit at their helm will always seek to guarantee capitalist profits. This is why workers need our own political tool to advance our interests.

So long as we hold to the most basic lessons of the socialist movement from Marx and Engels to these days, the first step to create a viable socialist project in the US is to recognize the Democratic Party as an enemy of the working class and invest all our energies in building a working-class independent political tool. The DSA’s insistence on working within the Democratic Party in order to later on, at some point in the future, break with it to form a new organization is the perfect recipe for a slow dissolution into the powerful party apparatus. The outsized efforts that the DSA has put into electing progressive Democrats into office only underscores a tendency toward closer and closer collaboration, instead of a path of break with the institution of the US regime. Such an orientation only weakens the DSA’s ability to fight the Democratic Party establishment in case the DNC tries to steal the primaries again, or if the majority of the party opposes Medicare for All–a safe scenario to expect. As I’ve argued elsewhere, a revolutionary break with the institutions of the capitalist regime will be inevitable if we want to build a new society, one without classes, that is no longer based on the exploitation of the majority by a wealthy few. The scandal of the Iowa caucuses is only the latest proof that the Democratic Party is bankrupt, dominated by capital, and will never be home for a socialist project. ...
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