We almost saw history remade in 2016. Back in 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President in the midst of the Great Depression where capitalism had come very, very close to destroying itself through blatant greed and excess. As a result, two movements began growing in numbers and relevance: socialism on the left and fascism on the right. This political tension birthed the New Deal – the iconic program that took ideas promoted by socialists, watered them down, and then implemented them in order to placate the masses. FDR saved capitalism from itself.
Similarly, that could have been Bernie Sanders in 2016. Long ago leaving his socialist heritage behind (a topic I began writing on but put on hold for this series), Bernie was out to save capitalism from itself – though it was Clinton to choose those exact words while having no intention of actually implementing the programs needed to do so. Bernie is in support of capitalism and his platform was highly reminiscent of the New Deal program – designed not to implement socialism, but to make capitalism behave for another 50 years or so. I would not doubt for a moment that Bernie believes solidly in the program he designed, but it is designed to save, not replace, capitalism.
As far as a candidate to carry the Democrats to victory, Bernie was ideal. He polled significantly and consistently better than Clinton in the general election, and beating any potential Republican challenger. His strength was in pulling people who traditionally stayed home, or who voted third party, into his base of supporters because he spoke about policies and issues which mainstream politics had moved far past them to the right; Bernie captured voters that Democrats traditionally ignored to fight the battle in the center. These voters could have been key in bringing voters to the polls who could have made great gains in the legislative races, winning the House and Senate despite gerrymandering. In addition, he was scandal-free and had a reputation for honesty and generally taking the right side on issues in his long career.
However, what Democrats wanted was certainly not someone who could effectively advance the agenda they claim to have. If they had wanted such a thing then the DNC would not have sought to smear Sanders to take him out of the running. The debates were scheduled to minimize exposure to Bernie Sanders and keep Clinton as the leader. Then they committed outright voter fraud – some claims of which may have been overblown, but many were not. Doug Johnson Hatlem of did a very detailed six part series on this matter for Counterpunch. Just in case you want to give the DNC the benefit of the doubt, a lawsuit was filed against them by some Bernie supporters requesting a return of funds donated to the DNC after Bernie’s announcement of candidacy as well as donations made to his campaign on the basis that the primary was fixed and accepting donations on such a false premise construed fraud. The defense given was not any claim of neutrality, but rather that the donors knew the process was rigged and so they weren’t defrauded. That’s right: the DNC admits that they conspired to keep Bernie out of the general election.
I, myself, was never a supporter of Bernie. I find the idea of saving capitalism from itself counterproductive and repugnant; the result is just setting the clock back a few decades before it becomes rampantly abusive once again. However, Bernie’s candidacy still stands as a firm testament to the Democratic Party’s unwillingness to change and its ability to prevent that change at all costs. The Democratic Party cannot be reformed.
Entering a party or other group with the intention of taking over is called entryism and it has been the mainstay of several groups , particularly Trotskyist groups. In fact, the Democrats were introduced to neoconservatism through an act of entryism by a Trotskyist group which started in the Socialist Workers’ Party, then after being expelled they entered the Socialist Party of America and moved it right and eventually entered the Democratic Party.
An attitude against entryism was very prominent in the reaction of New Democrats against the Bernie Sanders supporters, many of whom were from outside the Democratic Party traditionally. Particularly, they were from the large swath of the electorate that the Democrats had left behind in their transition from New Deal democrats – which, realistically, is what Sanders was representing – to the New Democrats of the Clintons. In April, Vox had published a bit of insight on why closed primaries are often preferred to keep these sort of outside views out of the process. Arizona’s The State Press also published a one-sided argument against nonparty members being in the primary in March.
While Bernie supporters were clamoring about how the primaries were being rigged, Hillary supporters were not only talking about how Bernie should drop out for unity, but there was significant talk in more private conversations about how Bernie shouldn’t have run in the party and his independent supporters shouldn’t meddle in the process. There is nothing innately wrong with closed primaries, however, there is when these same people claim that you must vote Democrat or Republican almost in the same breath, which some have.
The handing off of the reins of the Democratic Party from the interests of unions, the working poor, and other presumed Democratic supporters to corporate interests did not happen overnight, but it certainly did happen. The neoliberal revolution began in the 1970s and did not fully take hold until 1992 when Bill Clinton was elected and the New Democrats became the establishment in the Democratic Party.
A neoliberal agenda meant distancing the party from the struggle of the working middle classes – as commonly perceived based on income – completely, rather than trying to appease them to keep them compliant. Instead, they serve as a more humane face of a corporate agenda, making the move to the right over the past 36 years appear to be merely pragmatic. These corporate interests will not let this vehicle simply revert back to its previous form, nor something even more radical; as we’ve seen, outright fraud is not out of the question.
More to the point: why should they? In these past few decades, the political spectrum has shifted so much on the issues that matter to corporations that Hillary Clinton ran to the right of Ronald Reagan, and arguably to the right of even George W Bush who was first elected only 16 years ago.
Would even Bernie Sanders echo the words of Republican Dwight D Eisenhower, elected President after gaining fame as a general in World War II: “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed?”
In fact, and more on target to the issues of neoliberalism rather than neoconservativism, we live in an era where both major parties can be said to have disproven Eisenhower’s words: “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history.”
This became possible through a synthesis of two processes.
In the first process, they moved to the right, seeking the middle position between Republicans and Democrats, officially in attempt to win elections by being moderate. That, in effect, changes what the Democratic Party’s stance is, so political discourse in the media and in workplaces, private residences, and other places moves to the right, driving those same moderates back to the middle between the two. While the Democrats move to the right, the Republicans try to get out the vote by playing to their base, moving them further to the right, also moving that midpoint.
The second process has been to spread fear amongst the groups which would presumably support the Democrats over the Republicans. It is of note that fear is normally a more effective upon more “conservative” minds, rather than the “liberal” minds that would be expected to be in the coaxed group. The fear is summed up in the term “lesser of two evils.” The Democratic candidate may be less than ideal, but the Republican candidate would be so much worse, so you vote Democratic anyway. The effect of this has been to not only keep a majority of their alleged base, but also to immobilize them from seeking, or forming, political parties that do actually support their interests.
This is not a claim that there is a detailed conspiracy here, but rather the focus is upon the tangible results. It is clear that the corporate ties are explicitly consciously planned, but the rest may be either consciously or unconsciously followed. To fall back upon to seek out and blame particular conspirators has long been used as a way of scapegoating problems, such as with the fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Furthermore, the scapegoating distracts from the natural laws in place. As with the laws of thermodynamics and evolution, a natural law that has been thoroughly tested through many different attempts, testing many different variables of how you do it, is that this is the natural result of capitalism once technology has advanced sufficiently and dispersing economic power becomes impossible under the system.
What is clear is that this vicious cycle has failed anyone who fell for the lesser of two evils ploy. Rather than providing for the ideological goals of anyone to the left of the neoliberals – which fails utterly when the lesser evil of today is less preferable to the greater evils of yesteryear – but rather only provides employment for the tribe.
Moving Forward with Gained Perspective
There are a variety of parties which exist to the left of the Democratic Party, and more could yet be created from the massive 45% of voters who didn’t vote in this past election. There’s enough that you could carve a party that could win in a landslide across the nation from these voters and still have several parties carved from that nonvoting section of the populace. In fact, voter turnout was so low that the last time we saw such a small percentage of the populace voting we had a Clinton running for office – Bill Clinton running for reelection.
In fact, one of the major reasons for people staying home is that they don’t feel represented by the two major parties and just don’t believe that a third party can win.
Take a look at the various parties out there and see if you might find a home in one of them: the Green Party, the Socialist Party USA, even democratic centralist parties such as the Socialist Worker’s Party or the Party for Socialism and Liberation. This is just the tip of the iceberg for third parties which already exist in the United States . If none of the existing parties seem to work for you, start organizing to form your own party – find like-minded individuals and organize.
However, with anything that is done it is paramount to take all political action independently of the Democratic Party. This does not simply mean not voting for the Democrats, not campaigning for them and organizing for them, it means specifically exclude Democratic Party groups and elected officials from any protest, demonstration, or mass action. Treat the Democratic Party as a hostile combatant because in the political battlefield that is exactly what it is. Normally people of different political leanings and ideologies will work together and cooperate toward common goals, but you cannot do that with the Democratic Party because they will co-opt anything you do if you let them. Co-option is a term that many readers may be unfamiliar with: it is the act of taking political movements and events, especially of the grassroots variety and taking control over them to make them into books for your electoral purposes.
Probably the best possible example of this is the Occupy movement. In 2011, there was a growing disgruntling of Americans across the political spectrum over the fact that the banks and financial firms which caused the crash of the US economy were given a massive bailout while average citizens and residents lost their homes and jobs. The Democratic President, Barack Obama, did not prosecute a single person responsible for this crash. Meanwhile, for the rest of us, we got a great taste of a hallmark of neoliberalism: austerity. Furthermore, awareness was growing that the economy was becoming more and more unequal, serving as the antithesis of the American Dream.
Amongst those, primarily upon the political left, protests began breaking out across the country. One particular protest on September 17 in New York City’s Zuccotti Park called Occupy Wall Street, named such because the park is one which Wall Street workers would pass by on a daily basis. Later protests across the country took up the name Occupy: Occupy Los Angeles, Occupy Detroit, Occupy Memphis, etc. The protests were not simply protests against a few “bad apples,” but rather it rallied against the economic system, the political system which enabled it, and ultimately even President Obama.
None the less, there were calls for the Democrats to turn the independent Occupy movement into their Tea Party. Articles, such as a Mother Jones article written by Josh Harkinson, called for co-opting the movement, though he called it having the movement co-opt the Democratic Party showing a fundamental misunderstanding of what would be involved. Labor activist Steve Rosenthal was proposing that the movement could be used to energize a Democratic base back in 2011.
On the ground, it was clear that the movement was not a Democratic Party movement. According to Kristin Lee, an Occupy activist arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge: “I think the decentralized nature of Occupy was both its beauty and its downfall. There were a lot of groups all kind of doing their own thing and at its height, that worked just fine, but I think it ultimately prevented longer term structures from being created.”
However, with the myriad of groups active in the protest, “I didn’t see much involvement by the Democrats at all,” said Lee.
The state response to the protests was horrific. Peaceful protesters at UC Davis were lined up on the ground and then pepper sprayed as a form of intimidation and torture rather than a form of necessary crowd control to prevent violence. Officer Anthony Bologna, commonly known as Tony Boloney, similarly pepper sprayed barricaded and frightened protesters in New York. Officers had led protesters onto the Brooklyn Bridge and then arrested them for following those directions – for compliance with officers. Less well-documented claims include police sending known criminals into the camps to force protesters to leave out of fear of violence or rape.
However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Naomi Wolf had an article published in the Guardian which detailed how the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Homeland Security collaborated with local police departments and Wall Street in order to destabilize the Occupy movement. Despite acknowledging that the movement was peaceful, it was simultaneously constantly branded a terrorist and criminal threat.
Methods discussed for dealing with the peaceful protesters included outright assassinations of leaders, which perhaps only failed to materialize because it was a leaderless movement. Even the DailyKos, almost a Democratic Party propaganda machine, admitted the role of the Obama Administration in coordinating these events from the White House.
Yet, when thinking of what came out of Occupy, the only remaining group seems to be Occupy Democrats, a group that seems to have been mostly absent from the protests. In fact, the group’s name itself seems an oxymoron as the Democrats were a major target of the Occupy protests. Their “About Us “ page shows how incredibly disconnected they are from the actual Occupy movement when it states, as bolded as possible: “WE ADVOCATE WORKING WITH DEMOCRATS, NOT THIRD PARTIES, TO FIGHT SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC INEQUALITY, AND WE LOVE, SUPPORT, RESPECT, AND ADMIRE PRESIDENT OBAMA.”
Though the group seemed to have favored the more progressive Bernie Sanders during the primaries, they shamelessly promoted the pro-corporate and neoliberal Hillary Clinton in the general election. Much to the presumed delight of those calling for the co-option of Occupy, the organization describes itself as “provid[ing] a new counterbalance to the Republican Tea Party.”
More than anything else, it illustrates the clear necessity of any serious movement to stand explicitly against the Democratic Party. While having been practically uninvolved in the populist movement against the Democratic Party and the corporate entities they serve, the Democrats have managed to successfully co-opt the movement so that it is popularly remembered as being their movement and a sign that they’re serious about things they clearly are not serious about accomplishing.
Those the Democratic Party has left behind, from racial minorities, the working poor, the nonworking poor, the middle class, the labor movement, LBTQIAF people, and so on must organize independently and against the Democratic Party. Failure to do so shall only ensure further treatment as groups which may be taken for granted. Just as President Obama had pushed to keep American soldiers in Iraq past the deadline negotiated by George W Bush but then took credit for getting us out after he failed; just as he wanted to leave discrimination of same sex couples to the states but then took credit for a US Supreme Court decision that any discrimination is unconstitutional; Democrats will continue to work hard to make it seem as if they brought you positive change but they won’t be putting that hard work into making it actually happen.
Then There’s Dealing with Nazis
While the Democratic Party must be abandoned and separation from them must be trumpeted, that doesn’t mean we can forget about the immediate threat facing us in the wake of Trump’s election. Despite Trump officially denouncing the Neo-Nazis and other white supremacists, finally, after the election, they have been empowered by his campaign and ultimate victory.
Hate speech and hate crimes have been increasing considerably in the wake of the election. We have all heard of the classroom in Royal Oak, MI – generally seen as a liberal haven, along with bordering Ferndale, which chanted “build that wall.” A Muslim teacher in Georgia was told to hang herself with her headscarf. We should be expecting actual assaults to take place in the near future as history has shown to be the standard for rises of fascist movements.
In both Germany, with brown shirts, and Italy, with black shirts, the rise was marked with violence by fascists assaulting those they didn’t care for, primarily the socialists and anarchists who openly and loudly opposed them, in the streets. The culture of violence carried over throughout the era and culminated in the death camps in Nazi Germany. The Holocaust took the lives of 12 million victims: half of which were Jewish, but also included the Roma – who suffered losses as high on a per capita basis – socialists, communists, labor activists, Slavs, homosexuals, freemasons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the disabled, and whomever else the Nazis considered on the basis of appearance or belief to be genetically inferior.
The Presidency of Barack Obama should have also energized them, though less consciously so. Tea Party protesters were allowed to biologically assault Congresspeople of color; anarcho-capitalists were allowed to point assault rifles at law enforcement without serious response; and the group later was acquitted after violently taking a federal building. During his term, we allied ourselves with a Neo-Nazi government in Ukraine which established itself via coup.
Such a travesty cannot be allowed to be repeated anywhere, and so such an undemocratic movement must be stopped in its birth. In the face of fascists coming out in power and threatening the well-being of marginalized communities, a movement of organized, pro-tolerance militias must be formed. Those who can afford to do so should arm themselves and organize in their communities to form these militias which will open-carry in uniform when possible, rallying with a call of “make fascists afraid again.”
However, these groups must be very limited in purpose and scope of their actions. While white supremacists have indeed infiltrated police departments and may very well act as allies of white supremacist movements, the only valid target should be white supremacists in the act of hate crimes. While individual members might become parts of other groups with wider or differing scopes, their actions while in the uniforms of these groups should be strictly of these groups. Every member is putting themselves on the line and while some who join may want to police the police or take other more proactive actions, they should not be putting other members at risk – especially as it may deter recruitment. The sole purpose of these groups should be to stop hate crimes, not taking on any state actor – unless actively committing a hate crime – nor trying to silence any speech that isn’t a threat being made, nor simply beating fascists in the street because they’re fascists. It must be about stopping hate crimes from happening, nothing more. These must be defensive groups, not offensive ones.
It is likely that these groups will be under threat of infiltration by agents provocateurs, from both the groups being watched and the government itself, and so every group must meet regularly and fully investigate those attempting to join. Furthermore, a licensing of some sort should be developed by established anti-fascist activist groups to validate these groups as legitimate anti-fascist militias and not false groups out to discredit them.
We cannot pretend these times are normal nor that safety is guaranteed.
This is part 2 of a 3 part series. See here for Part 1: Who is to Blame for President Trump?