What might Sanders have done if he were leading a real movement? St. Clair writes:
What might a real movement have done? If Sanders could turn 30,000 people out for a pep rally in Washington Square Park, why couldn’t he have had a flash mob demonstration mustering half that many fervent supporters to shut down Goldman Sachs for a day? If he could lure 20,000 Hipsters to the Rose Garden in Portland, why couldn’t he turn out 10,000 Sandernistas to bolster the picket lines of striking Verizon workers? If Sanders could draw 15,000 people in Austin, Texas, why couldn’t his movement bring 5,000 people to Huntsville to protest executions at the Texas death house? If Sanders could draw 18,000 people to a rally in Las Vegas, why couldn’t he just as easily have lead them in a protest at nearby Creech Air Force Base, the center of operations for US predator drones?. . . Instead of being used as stage props, why hasn’t Sanders put his teaming crowds of eager Sandernistas to work doing the things that real movements do: blocking the sale of a foreclosed house in Baltimore, disrupting a fracking site in rural Pennsylvania, shutting down the entrance to the police torture chamber at Homan Square in Chicago for a day, intervening between San Diego cops and the homeless camp they seek to evict? Why? Because that’s not who Bernie Sanders is and that’s not what his movement is about. He’s willing to rock the neoliberal boat, but not sink it.
If we were to study the revolutions of the twentieth century and today, we would see that revolutions did indeed organize protests with respect to specific issues, and the protests sometimes obtained concessions from the ruling political class. But fundamental change occurs not by pressuring elites to make concessions to popular demands, but by displacing the elite from power and replacing it with representatives of the people’s interests. Triumphant revolutions over the past 100 years formed organizations and political parties that had the conscious intention of taking political power, and they astutely analyzed their political contexts in order to figure out how to do so.
If Bernie Sanders were a revolutionary socialist, he would have formed an alternative political party that would have dedicated itself for years to forming the consciousness of the people, educating them concerning the necessity of the popular taking of power and the characteristics of the alternative society that the empowered people would seek to construct. The alternative political party would seek the election of candidates to Congress as well as the presidency, so that the alternative political party would control two of the five principal structures of power in the United States (the other three being the judiciary, the military and the mass media).
But Bernie Sanders is not a revolutionary socialist. He never has been. And in this respect, St. Clair is right.
For further reflection on this theme, see “Presidential primaries in USA” 8/25/2015 in the category of Revolution and also in the category On the Vanguard.
Key words: Bernie Sanders, socialism, revolution, reform