Bernie Sanders’ call for a “political revolution against the billionaire class” is gaining an huge response with millions of working Americans fed up with rising rents, student debt, low-wage jobs, racism and environmental destruction. His campaign has given voice to the desire for an alternative to business-as-usual politicians who are bought off by the same big banks and corporations that are causing these problems.
Sanders’ campaign, like Occupy before it, can be an important step to getting organized for fundamental change. To win this election, much less fundamental change, the movement behind Sanders will need to rely on its own strength and build an independent political force to the corporate-controlled Democratic Party establishment.
The Democratic Primaries
To build movements that can win we need to understand what we’re up against. Budget cuts to education and services throughout the country have been severe under Republican politicians, but the establishment Democrats are also carrying out many of the attacks.
We should remember that Democratic President Bill Clinton dismantled welfare, pushed through free trade agreements and doubled the prison population. Hillary Clinton has the backing of the billionaires, was on the Board of Directors of union-busting Wal-Mart for many years, voted for George Bush’s disastrous invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and for the Patriot Act.
Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and the leaders of the Democratic Party won’t help us win the pro-worker demands that Bernie Sanders stands for. Over 30 Democratic Senators have endorsed Hillary Clinton, and not a single one has endorsed Sanders. Yet, ordinary people are electrified by the Sanders campaign in a way that no other presidential candidate could dream of.
Socialist Alternative fully agrees with Sanders that we need a political revolution against the billionaire class. But let’s have no illusions – the giant corporations will not just sit idly by and allow Sanders to win the Democratic nomination. Corporate America will fight every attempt by working people to win progressive change. We will only be able to counter and defeat their efforts by building our own movements and organizations that are independent of the super-rich.
If Bernie is unable to win the Democratic Party primary – which is a rigged system dominated by corporate cash – it would be a fundamental mistake to support Hillary Clinton or other corporate Democrats for President.
How can we build a movement against the billionaire class and endorse pro-corporate politicians who oppose single-payer healthcare while supporting the Trans Pacific Partnership? That is why Socialist Alternative argues that if corporate interests block Bernie in the primaries, he should run as an independent all the way to the general election in November 2016 and help to build an independent political voice for the 99%.
We Need a New Party
On the other hand, if Bernie Sanders actually wins the Democratic Party primaries, would the party establishment and its overseers on Wall Street ever allow their party to be used to elect a socialist president campaigning for single-payer health care, taxing the rich, to make education free from childcare to higher education? Sanders would face a revolt from the pro-business Democratic Party establishment.
The only chance Sanders would have to overcome this resistance would be by appealing to the millions of working people supporting him to get organized and giving them power and ownership over this campaign. And what would this be if not the beginnings of a new political party that is independent of corporate cash?
To build on this campaign and to stop the onslaught of the billionaire class, we need stronger unions, new fighting organizations and a party that genuinely stands for and is run by working people.
As socialists we recognize that the capitalist system inevitably breeds inequality and the concentration of power in the hands of a tiny ruling elite of billionaries. Alongside fighting for $15, rent control and other immediate improvements Socialist Alternative stands for fundamental systemic change, a democratic socialist society that puts the needs of working people, youth and the planet ahead of the current drive for super-profits. There has never been a better time to get involved with Socialist Alternative.