Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

February 24, 2020

How should Marxists react to Bernie Sanders becoming the front-runner?

Filed under: Bernie Sanders,third parties — louisproyect @ 8:28 pm

As one might have expected, Jacobin/DSA has been jubilant over Bernie Sanders’s primary victory in Nevada. Throwing caution to the wind, Dustin Guastella and Connor Kilpatrick proclaim “After the Nevada Blowout, It’s Bernie’s Party Now”. They see this as something culminating in “a new party, thoroughly working-class and committed to egalitarian politics, quickly blooming up into the husk of the old one.” It’s not exactly clear what definition they are using of a “husk”. Merriam-Webster says is it can be either the shell of a fruit or nut or the empty shell itself. For example, a bullet is usually referred to as a shell but it too can be thought of as a husk. When you fire a gun, it operates on a husk filled with gun powder and in the case of a shotgun, a husk filled also with pellets such as the kind that killed Malcolm X. When you pick up the empty husk discharged by a shotgun, it is completely harmless.

So what kind of husk is Bernie Sanders filling?

Perhaps the best way to approach this question is to accept the “dirty break” theory on its own terms. There’s nothing to prevent leftists, even socialists, from running as Democrats. As Eric Blanc points out in the article that made this term so controversial (at least to people like me), the Working People’s Nonpartisan League (WPNPL) made a habit out of running in Republican and Democratic Party primaries in the 1920s. Since the two capitalist parties don’t require anybody to actually join in the way you join the Labour Party in England or (god forbid) the Socialist Workers Party in the USA, it is virtually laissez-faire. I am not even sure if you need to register as a Democrat in order to run as one.

Bernie Sanders registered as a Democrat to run for president but plans to re-register as an Independent in 2024 to run for the Senate if he is not elected this year. This, of course, begs the question of what it means to be an “Independent”. This is not a party as such but an indication that you are not a Democrat or a Republican. I was a registered Independent for the past fifty-two years but re-registered as a Green in order to participate fully in the Green Party. I should add that many Green Party leaders are opposed to it becoming a membership party since they share the electoralist illusions of most Americans.

Getting back to the question posed above, it is pretty obvious that the Democratic Party is not an empty shell. Even if most people continue to vote for Bernie Sanders up until the convention, they have no other relationship to him except as an endorser. There’s a vast difference between a Las Vegas waitress voting for Bernie Sanders and the vast institutional plaque that fills the DP like pellets in a shotgun shell. This includes the following:

The clubs in many cities that serve as a kind of membership organization. They often have a liberal character like those in NYC’s Greenwich Village and the Upper West Side and might even be okay with Bernie. But they generally have little enthusiasm for socialism even if Sanders’s democratic socialism and their left-liberalism overlap.

The trade union bureaucracy. Even if the rank-and-file were likely to ignore the Culinary Workers Union brass’s endorsement of Joe Biden (they ended up taking no position), the bureaucrats would have an easier time backing conventional Democrats in local races. With their ample funding and their communications capability, they can easily overpower a Sandernista candidate.

The think-tanks and foundations. Ranging from those funded by George Soros to those even more nefarious like the Center for American Progress (CAP), New America, the Brookings Institution, Demos, and the Roosevelt Institute, they have an ability to shape public opinion through their PR campaigns that are filtered through the bourgeois media.

The bourgeois media. All you need to do is turn on MSNBC or open up the Washington Post and you’ll realize that the liberal wing of the ruling class might prefer Trump’s re-election than a President Sanders. The shrewder elements within this class might realize that he is a paper tiger but they would prefer to keep him out of the executive branch of the government. Inside the Senate, Sanders is easily bypassed.

The universities and the clergy. Through the liberal bureaucracy that runs elite institutions like Columbia University and the Episcopalian church, you will always find lip-service paid to ending inequality, blah-blah. However, there’s little patience with someone who might cut into the profits of the big corporations that keep their endowments filled to the brim. For example, George Soros, who has pumped millions into my alma mater Bard College, made a $343,000 contribution into the Hillary Victory Fund in 2016 but has announced that he is sitting out the 2020 race. Maybe just one too many Bernie Sanders references to the billionaire class has the old boy miffed.

This pretty much sums up the Democratic Party’s pellets inside the shotgun shell but it doesn’t exhaust the ruling class institutions in the USA that frequently, if not almost universally, determine how the country is ruled. When Bloomberg ran as a Republican to become Mayor of NYC, he was following the same policies he pursues today as a Democrat. He has a different idea of how to promote the interests of the class he belongs to as opposed to the bull in the china shop who is favored to win in 2020.

Turning once again to the Las Vegas waitress above, as an individual her only power is to pull a lever for Sanders and then go home. But what if all those people who voted for Sanders belonged to a political party that reflected their class interests? Right now the people who toil away in service jobs like hers or work for Walmart, hospitals, Amazon warehouses, public schools, and the post office have tremendous untapped social power. If instead of exercising it only on election day, what if they belonged to clubs that could defend their own class interests 365 days a year through picket lines, boycotts and mass meetings? Lenin alluded to something like this in his “What is to be Done?”:

Why is there not a single political event in Germany that does not add to the authority and prestige of the Social-Democracy? Because Social-Democracy is always found to be in advance of all the others in furnishing the most revolutionary appraisal of every given event and in championing every protest against tyranny…It intervenes in every sphere and in every question of social and political life; in the matter of Wilhelm’s refusal to endorse a bourgeois progressive as city mayor (our Economists have not managed to educate the Germans to the understanding that such an act is, in fact, a compromise with liberalism!); in the matter of the law against ‘obscene’ publications and pictures; in the matter of governmental influence on the election of professors, etc., etc.

I get email from Bernie Sanders every so often. Naturally it is soliciting a donation, which I naturally ignore. What if instead the Sanders apparatus used their database to invite people living in my neighborhood to attend a meeting to discuss how to protect undocumented workers on the Upper East Side from ICE?

Better yet, what if Sanders gets screwed by the DP bosses in a brokered convention and Joe Biden or some other piece of shit gets nominated? Wouldn’t it be about time for him to run as an independent and begin to use his money to create a staff in every major city in the USA that is committed to his democratic socialist principles? I would jump in with both feet even if I, like other leftists, have problems with his willingness to base F-35s in Vermont. As it happens, I also had big problems with Ralph Nader in 2000 but was glad to vote for him as a Green Party candidate since I believe that CLEAN BREAK with the Democratic Party is the key task facing the left.

Instead, it is likely that Sanders will endorse another Democrat if he is cheated out of the nomination. To some extent, this is just a function of an old man not having the psychological and physical reserves to face up to the brutal opposition from the liberal wing of the ruling class that Nader faced in 2004. Probably, the one thing that is not factored into the Jacobin/DSA thinking is the degree to which Sanders is an outlier. Shaped by the same political sea change that turned me into a revolutionary socialist, he decided instead to become an evolutionary socialist in the Eduard Bernstein mold.

I would even be happy to back a party based on Bernstein’s evolutionary socialism in 2020 as long as it had the same kind of class independence that the German social democracy had. Within that party, I would fight for a revolutionary perspective like Luxemburg and even Kautsky did. But within the Democratic Party, I would say “Abandon all hope ye who enter here”, the words Dante written on the walls of Hell before entering it.


  1. Regarding the question of whether Sanders can win the election, I don’t think so. The machinery of antisocialism has creaked into action and will claim its prize even at the cost of another four years of The Rump. In the end, the old frames will clamp down and people will stay away from the polls rather than pull the lever for the risky “S” word.

    Sanders has acnowledged that he cannot win without the support of huge numbers of the nearly half of all eligible voters who do not vote.

    The fuss will be such that these voters will be even more confirmed in their apathy and hostility to the anointed process than they are at present.

    I am delighted to see Louis anatomize the actual structure of the Demicrapic antiparty–this is a formidable obstacle to political revolution, whatever one means by that.

    In the near-inevitable circumstance of a Trump triumph–possibly carrying both houses of Congress, the question for socialists should be how to unite for self-defense and mutual aid in the teeth of the coming perfect storm. A membership party might be able to rise to that.

    But if some force does not arise to unify citizens in some frame other than that of elections, I don’t think any good can come of the inevitable debacle.

    Obviously the Democrats don’t want to, can’t, and won’t. I can’t see where the Greens–focused as they are almost exclusively on elections–will do any better.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 24, 2020 @ 8:55 pm

  2. “But what if all those people who voted for Sanders belonged to a political party that reflected their class interests?” And how will that come about? Half a century of sect building by the 68ers hasn’t brought it any closer. Neither did any of the 68er’s post-sect experiments such as the North Star Network. You have nothing to say about any of the younger left-wing Democrat politicians such as Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, including the latter’s PAC funding campaigns by leftist candidates to unseat sitting Democrats. You make no acknowledgement of the differences between Bernie for President 2016 and Bernie for President 2020 — differences that reflect increased weight of grassroots movements. Could just be that Leftist “insurgent Democrats” and your Jacobin/DSA nemeses could be doing more to create a new working class party than all the Trotskyist, Maoist and other personality cults combined.

    Comment by Tony — February 25, 2020 @ 1:36 am

  3. Virgil didn’t say it to Dante. It’s written on the Gate of Hell. Here’s the Ciardi translation:








    Comment by davidberger6799 — February 25, 2020 @ 2:15 am

  4. You have nothing to say about any of the younger left-wing Democrat politicians such as Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, including the latter’s PAC funding campaigns by leftist candidates to unseat sitting Democrats.


    What is there to say? They are even more committed to the Democratic Party than Sanders, who at least has a background as an independent and a socialist activist. The “squad” consists of people who clearly have the intention of making a career as professional politicians. The notion that they could eventually take over the party defies logic. In any case, feel free to offer advice on American politics from 9,437 miles away. I don’t even attempt to offer advice on Mexican or Canadian politics even if they are our immediate neighbors.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 25, 2020 @ 3:23 am

  5. In Texas, republicans are getting out the vote for Bernie. Probably also in Alabama. I only know for sure Texas.

    Comment by Peggy Powell Dobbins — February 25, 2020 @ 3:59 am

  6. ” In any case, feel free to offer advice on American politics from 9,437 miles away. I don’t even attempt to offer advice on Mexican or Canadian politics even if they are our immediate neighbors.” but you’re never short of advice for the Syrian left. Or maybe not advice, just uniformed condemnation.

    Comment by Tony — February 25, 2020 @ 4:37 am

  7. No one even remotely familiar with firearms has ever referred to a bullet casing as a husk. LOL. Helpless unarmed New York liberal confirmed.

    Comment by Joe — February 25, 2020 @ 4:50 am

  8. ” undocumented workers on the Upper East Side ”


    Are they there to turn down your linens? They certainly aren’t in your fucking condo.

    Comment by Joe — February 25, 2020 @ 4:52 am

  9. Sanders represents a ‘clean break’ from corporate donors, which oughta be good enough. He is demonstrating that the Democrats can once again fight for social democratic measures. I don’t see how the ‘lesser of two evils’ frame would even make sense this election cycle with him as the nominee. A Sanders presidency would be monumentally favorable to winning gains, and at a crucial time given the climate crisis (I write this from snowless Philadelphia). It’ll take a few more election cycles before the old guard is tossed out and CAP et al. are made irrelevant. For the past few weeks, that is seeming like a very possible trajectory. The Nevada debate even had a whiff of Marxism at points.

    Comment by FM — February 25, 2020 @ 7:38 am

  10. “How should Marxists react to Bernie Sanders becoming the front-runner?” How about happily. It means that many more Americans today – potentially many millions – are thinking about their political selves in ways that are closer to what you have believed for a long time. There is obviously a socialist-populist movement for fundamental change underway, all prompted by Sanders. Why not welcome it for the potential it offers? It may surprise all of us with its power and success, we’ll just have to wait and see how the story turns out. Shouldn’t revolutionaries follow the will of the people rebelling against their oppression? How else can those revolutionaries gain any merit to later have influence? Don’t over-anticipate defeat and disappointment. Speaking strictly for myself, I favor pragmatism over ideology, and the Sanders campaign is the best shot for a decent change in American government leadership that has occurred in my lifetime (born in the Truman Administration). I’d like to see that for my kids (and everybody’s kids).

    Comment by manuelgarciajr — February 25, 2020 @ 8:29 am

  11. Are they there to turn down your linens?

    I don’t suppose that you have any notion that people living in my neighborhood can attend a rally downtown in front of ICE headquarters. They have this thing called a subway. (That’s what I’d expect from a drooling imbecile troll.)

    Comment by louisproyect — February 25, 2020 @ 12:35 pm

  12. No one even remotely familiar with firearms has ever referred to a bullet casing as a husk.


    My intentions should have been obvious to anybody reading what I wrote. I was using literary license. Don’t ask me to explain what that is. I am not in the habit of tutoring grade school dropouts.

    And, by the way, you piece of shit. I see you are back again using a Cambodia ISP, which though not being a proxy server technically speaking, is evidence to me that you are the same crazy person who has been stalking this blog since it began.

    Get a life, loser.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 25, 2020 @ 12:37 pm

  13. you’re never short of advice for the Syrian left.


    I am against romanticizing Sanders, just as I am against romanticizing the YPG. If you have a need to put politicians or guerrilla organizations on a pedestal, be my guest. I used to have that habit myself when I was in the SWP. I’ve learned to a lot more critical. As I said in the article, I had big problems with Nader but saw his break with the Democratic Party as a step forward. If you are okay with working inside the Democratic Party, be my guest. That’s like being for Obama in 2008, a well-understood illusion at the time. My only “advice” to you is to go reread Lenin on the Cadets. You’d find it most instructive, I’m sure.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 25, 2020 @ 12:47 pm

  14. How should Marxists view Bernie Sanders as a “Democratic” front runner? Exactly how Marxists viewed Philipp Scheidemann 100 years ago. Of course the ability to do harm is much less for old Bernie as the level of class consciousness among American workers is zilch and the voters of the United States don’t know the difference between socialism and rheumatism except both are problematic but one seems confined to Scandinavia.

    Comment by Michael Tormey — February 25, 2020 @ 12:51 pm

  15. You never respond to what people actually say, do you. I’ve never romanticised guerrillas. I do find the grassroots revolutionary democracy of the Democratic Self-Administration in NE Syria inspiring, and armed self-defence is an unfortunate necessity it faces. You, on the other hand, have always conflated the Syrian revolution with the gangsters and terrorists who stabbed the civilian uprising in the back. Likewise, I don’t put Sanders on a pedestal. My point was you had nothing to say about the movement coalescing around his campaign. Other US activists who have historically opposed the Democrats, and electoralism in general, see this as an important game changer. For example, Boots Rilry: “I have never voted for a candidate in my life … I have spoken out many times over the years about the dangers that electoral politics hold for mass movements — reducing involvement to this one moment, this one person, and making it unclear to masses of people that power under capitalism comes at the point of exploitation … I am not voting for Bernie because I don’t disagree with him on things (Venezuela, for instance). Nor do I believe that the reforms he proposes will be the socialist world that we need. What I am endorsing is the movement that has grown around him that involves millions of people who are willing to consciously and openly engage in class struggle to make these reforms happen. These struggles will radicalise millions of people and have the potential to organise the working class in the US to a point we haven’t seen before. We keep going from there.” https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/boots-riley-why-i-am-voting-bernie-sanders

    Comment by Tony — February 25, 2020 @ 2:37 pm

  16. Manuel Garcia, Jr has it exactly right: “Don’t over-anticipate defeat and disappointment”. That’s the DP approach (the Despair Party).

    The ENTIRE capitalist mediatic world, Republicans and Democrats alike, are on a united campaign to revile Sanders, to slander and vilify him. Now they’re spreading the Russia-gate notion that PUTIN is somehow also backing Sanders (while also, confusingly, backing Trump, too.) Still, there’s also a small room in the anti-Sanders train for the ultra-leftists who have NO ALTERNATIVE to propose in THIS campaign. They are a kind of Nancy Reagan Battalion whose banner proudly hails, JUST SAY NO. No. No. No!

    Take today’s Wall Street Journal editorial which contrasts COLOMBIA favorably against Cuba, of whom Sanders has some positive things to say:


    Comment by walterlx — February 25, 2020 @ 2:42 pm

  17. Of course you romanticize the Kurds, Tony. You people have written nearly 500 articles about them, with never a single critical word. As far as the Syrian rebels are concerned, I acknowledged their defeat four years ago:

    If the Free Syrian Army had been able to secure the weapons it needed to neutralize the Syrian air force, it is likely that the war would have come to an end long ago. Syria would have been forced to tackle a new set of problems but at least the wholesale murder of civilians in working-class neighborhoods would have come to an end.

    Instead the war dragged on and Islamic rivals to the FSA were able to usurp the leading military role largely because of their ready access to money and weapons from likeminded benefactors in the region. There was an inherent contradiction between the aspirations of the Syrian masses and the conditions brought on by militarization. Warfare is a costly business and the deep pockets of states like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey could be helpful in material terms but only with strings attached, namely adherence to a political program that was inimical to the goals of the Arab Spring. Turkey was determined to be rid of al-Assad but only as part of a broader campaign to deny the Kurds the right of self-determination. After the birth of grass roots democracy, the Turkish government felt threatened by it in the same way that al-Assad feared the democratically-minded opposition based in civil society. Basically, Erdogan and al-Assad had common class interests despite their geopolitical rivalries. Indeed, recent news that Turkey was ready to realign its relationship to Syria indicates that class trumps religion as the support of the Sunni bourgeoisie for al-Assad should have indicated all along.


    Comment by louisproyect — February 25, 2020 @ 3:08 pm

  18. Walter Lippmann all ga-ga over Sanders just as he was over Obama in 2008. That’s what happens when you absorb Stalinist politics from the Cuban solidarity milieu.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 25, 2020 @ 3:10 pm

  19. I’ve made plenty of criticisms of Kurds, in particular the KDP-dominated administration in Başȗr and the ENKS in Rojava. I don’t support “the Kurds”, I support the Democratic Self-Administration, which is both multi-ethnic and multi-party. Furthermore, it has a program for a socialist, democratic revolution in Syria. More on Syria: https://theregion.org/article/12757-whose-free-syrian-army-the-arab-opposition-resisting-turkey-039-s-afrin-attacks New interview with Joseph Daher (who you used to accept as a reliable source, but maybe no longer considering that the Syrian Revolutionary Left Current he is associated is now part of the Democratic Self-Administration): https://socialistresistance.org/syria-9-years-of-struggle-for-democracy/19210
    Now, on the US, do you have anything to say regarding Boots Riley’s points?

    Comment by Tony — February 25, 2020 @ 4:18 pm

  20. I’ve made plenty of criticisms of Kurds, in particular the KDP-dominated administration in Başȗr and the ENKS in Rojava.

    I should have been clearer. You are a propagandist for the YPG and obviously share their hostility to its Kurdish rivals. In any case, this post was about the Democratic Party and its neo-Kautskyite supporters. I understand that you are rather obsessed with Rojava but please try to rein it in.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 25, 2020 @ 4:26 pm

  21. well I asked if you had anything to say regarding Boots Riley’s points. Is your response that he’s a neo-Kautskyite?

    Comment by Tony — February 25, 2020 @ 4:49 pm

  22. Is Boots Riley saying something that would legitimize voting for Democrats? Is it because he is African-American that I am supposed to nod my head in agreement? I am opposed to voting for Democrats as a matter of principle. The same way that Lenin was opposed to the Cadets. In fact, the socialist movement was always opposed to voting for capitalist parties until the 1930s Popular Front turn. Plus, it doesn’t help that his movie sucked.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 25, 2020 @ 5:20 pm

  23. I rather liked his movie but I as referring to his remarks that I quoted in comment 15. The stuff about the movement coalescing around the Sanders campaign bringing working class people into political activity.

    Comment by Tony — February 25, 2020 @ 5:25 pm

  24. Sanders, even if nominated, will probably lose. The waters of the DNCP will close over him more definitively than the waters of Labour over Corbyn.

    What then?

    “I voted.”

    Big fucking deal.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 25, 2020 @ 5:35 pm

  25. DNCP –>DNC

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 25, 2020 @ 7:04 pm

  26. Louis I appreciate your perspective on all of this as I appreciate your writings in general.

    I especially sympathise with your refusal to vote for a Democrat—I have never done so myself and I agree with your view in the abstract. However, I can’t help but be fascinated and thrilled with Bernie’s victories so far, if for no other reason that a guy who calls himself a socialist (who cares if he actually is, it’s irrelevant) has the people that run the Democratic Party shitting their britches. Not a single person at the top of the party—you name one—supports Sanders or his politics, and absolutely not the suggestion that masses of ordinary Americans should be involved in politics in any substantive way. It actually doesn’t matter if Sanders is just doing New Deal politics; the fact is that the modern Democratic Party has moved on from those politics and wants them to never come back. When it comes down to it, the notion that Bernie might sweep the nomination—having won an unprecedented three-for-three pre-Super-Tuesday primaries—on a platform of multiracial social democracy that has the Democratic elites toying with flipping to Pinochet mode is remarkable and exciting.

    Whatever theory and history tell us, the Democratic Party is heading for an epochal break, far bigger than the McGovern fiasco. It is a capitalist party that is being put on the ropes—what emerges may be a capitalist party, a social democratic party, a loose melange, who knows? But significantly, the Democratic Party is hardly even a party in any way that Lenin could have conceived of. It is a professional alliance for pseudo-progressive cynics to maintain a pipeline to power. It has no membership structure, no real base between elections, no publications, barely any ideology or platform to speak of. Bernie and others like him make the mistake of appealing to the “real” purpose of the Party—some vague notion of labor unions and civil rights—but does this constitute a defense of the DNC or the party apparatus? That’s obviously an absurd claim.

    Ultimately I don’t think the arms-crossed stance, frowning and snorting at all of this is productive or even responsive to reality. The references to Lenin’s position on voting for Kadets is missing the point; where is our Lenin? Where are our organisations? I agree with your criticisms of DSA’s strategy, but what’s the big deal? That they call themselves “socialist”? That Bernie calls himself a “socialist”? That young people go to the polls thinking “I’m voting for a socialist” when in fact they are voting for a social democrat? Do you think that DSA would have 60,000 members if they were a revolutionary socialist organisation?

    What, ultimately, separates this particular campaign—getting Bernie elected on the basis of a big grassroots movement (for lack of a better term)—from any struggle for a reform? Luxemburg taught us that socialists fight alongside their class for reforms in order to make the case for revolution. They consciously engage in these struggles to demonstrate to the class its own power, and to help it avoid the pitfalls of the past. Winning reforms improves workers’ lives and whets their appetite for more.

    To his credit, Bernie grabbed the reins of history in the way he saw fit, in a system where third parties are locked out of the electoral process by design. He spoke forcefully for a vision of fundamental change in the country, not the usual political pabulum but real, concrete ideas. The conditions were such that this lit a spark that is distinctly left-wing and class-struggle-oriented in nature; this obviously is adorned with a multitude of shortcomings, but can you think of any other way that Medicare for All, free university education, free childcare etc would have realistically wound up on the national agenda in 2020? US presidential elections are downright stupid affairs, but the Bernie campaign has so far pulled off one of the greatest “hacks” in US history, turning it into a platform for the revitalisation of the left.

    Yes, Bernie might lose, and all of this will be for nought. Please see the post-Corbyn dismay in the UK. (What impact the coronavirus will have on the election is something no one’s talking about, but it could be major.) A Bernie victory might result in a damp squib of a lame duck presidency (a very undialectical criticism, I might add: note how many deficit hawks you can find nowadays). It might all get stolen. But since when has probable defeat kept revolutionaries at home?

    In solidarity,
    Armidale, NSW, Australia

    Comment by silicongeranium — February 26, 2020 @ 11:11 am

  27. Guess it was a bit much to expect you’d actually respond to what Boots Riley said. Or anything anyone says.

    Comment by Tony — February 26, 2020 @ 11:15 am

  28. “Tony” tends to address “you” when there’s a whole room full of people, including emcee Louis, and the subject isn’t Riley–who probably doesn’t know “Tony” from a turd on the sidewalk–but Sanders and the Marxist left and the Democratic party more generally.

    One Tony, one “you.” Tony and his Mama’s tit.

    When someone like this claims to speak for everyone and demands a response, reach for your pistol.

    In any case, what about the baby seals?

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 26, 2020 @ 12:30 pm

  29. Well, Farans, Louis’s responses to everyone other than his small coterie of admirers is apparent on this thread. Pick a few words and make a snide or abusive, but irrelevant, come back. You seem to be a good student of this methodology. But getting back to the subject at hand: does not the movement coalescing around the Sanders candidacy have the potential to create a new working class political force? Boots Riley is not the only long-time opponent of electoralism who seems to think so. And if not why not? A “principle” derived from what Lenin said about the Cadets more than a century ago is not a convincing reason (and, btw, such reasoning isn’t Marxism, it’s religion). And of course the DNC will continue to try and thwart his nomination and if he does get nominated they’ll do everything to sabotage his campaign against Trump. But some of what I’ve seen from 9,437 miles away suggests that the grassroots movement supporting the candidacy won’t necessarily take this lying down (regardless of how Sanders himself reacts). Maybe this could be where a new working class party comes from. Maybe not. But nothing is going to come from ageing ex-sect members shouting at clouds

    Comment by Tony — February 26, 2020 @ 1:00 pm

  30. For what it’s worth, the verbose Riley comment as quoted in 15 above is highly ambiguous, if not convoluted, and ought to be accompanied by a forthright declaration of the conclusion to be drawn from it, which AFAIK Tony never actually states. Riley then gets turned into a rubber truncheon that is wielded indiscriminately against one big “you” that has somehow failed to gratify Tony and his innumerable surrogate egos (Kurds, etc.).

    This isn’t helping, especially when most of the “socialist” left in this country is invested in a presidential campaign that is almost certain to fail–thus creating a political crisis that, in the absence of organized Plans B, C, and D could prove permanently fatal to the socialist cause, if not to the human race.

    It’s one thing to rail against defeatism, quite another to indulge, as I think many are doing, in preadolescent fantasies about changing the world through symbolic action (voting). Haven’t we seen enough of this in the whole Impeachment charade, when people convinced themselves that Doing the Right Thing would lead to Moral Triumph? They were so shocked by the result of the Senate “trial.”

    In so many ways–social, political, environmental–we are on a runaway bus that will explode if it ever slows down. In the immortal words of Keanu Reaves: “What do you do?”

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 26, 2020 @ 1:07 pm

  31. Well, Farans, Louis’s responses to everyone other than his small coterie of admirers is apparent on this thread. Pick a few words and make a snide or abusive, but irrelevant, come back.

    I speak to you the way I do differently than I speak to people who want to have a serious discussion. I don’t see you as interested in a serious discussion. You come here with the posture of a DA interrogating a defendant, always trying to catch me up in contradictions or demanding proof. The people who get the least amount of static from me don’t come here as prosecuting attorneys. They make their comments and go on their merry way. Nothing prevents you from making the case for Bernie Sanders. Why ask me to comment on Boot Riley’s comments? Because he is some kind of African-American, Marxist truth-teller? I never cared for his overhyped film but I lost all respect when he began tweeting the same kind of bullshit about Assad’s chemical attacks as Max Blumenthal or Ted Postol. Plus, I speak to people the way I do here because am an “aging” ex-sect member shouting at clouds. If I wanted to feel warm and fuzzy, I’d start writing for Jacobin like most of the morons under 30 who have fallen in love with Karl Kautsky, of all people. That ain’t me.

    Comment by louisproyect — February 26, 2020 @ 1:12 pm

  32. PS–T. claims that a “movement . . ,. is coalescing” around Sanders. Nonsense. A Democratic Party presidential campaign is coalescing around Sanders, and this is an instantiation of the shadowy forces that combine to constitute the Demicrap Party, which Louis has anatomized with admirable clarity in this piece. That party–properly speaking and by design–is not really a party at all but an antiparty designed to siphon off and neutralize any social forces that might create an actual party.

    The expectation is that this alleged “movement” will somehow spontaneously generate a “political revolution” if (as is most likely) Sanders loses. Something more than spontaneity is required, and this in turn demands a capacity for organized strategy and tactics that is nowhere evident IMO on the current Left scene.

    If Sanders runs in the fall, I personally might vote for him–although living as I do in the rockribbed Demicrap stronghold of Washington DC, that would probably be a wasted vote. I voted Green the last time, and what a relief that was after standing in line for hours with a bunch of scowling, i-Phone jabbing, chronically peeved, Clinton-loving yuppie assholes flexing their expensively toned buttocks.

    But we’ve had enough Gene McCarthys and George McGoverns over the years. Another failed leftish candidacy with only a “coalescing” movement behind it will never IMO morph into a true party capable of taking and wielding the kind of power that is necessary to create a genuine political revolution. And that is an immediate and practical problem.

    BTW–when it comes to “aging” cultists, where does that leave Sanders? I mean, we have to get rid of, like, Boom ar ar ars, right dude?

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 26, 2020 @ 1:47 pm

  33. The reason why I asked about Boots Riley’s comments is because he is saying what a lot of left voices from the US are saying, plus his history of anti-electoralism. Specifically: “Nor do I believe that the reforms he proposes will be the socialist world that we need. What I am endorsing is the movement that has grown around him” A lot of other left-wing voices from the US are also saying that this election campaign is growing movements. The fact that Sanders 2020 seems more left than Sanders 2016 could also suggest this. Quite different from the 1960s when there were already large movements outside the two party system for Democrats campaigns to co-opt and demobilise. If nothing else the “insurgent Democrats” have reintroduced the word socialism into the American vocabulary as something other than a pejorative. How is this this fatal the socialist cause? PS. I don’t give a fuck about whether people are polite, it’s just that routine deliberate misquoting and refusal to engage with actual points comes across as being full of shit, as we say in Australia. As does conflating the Sanders campaign with the Democrats establishment when the two seem quite antagonistic (or maybe that’s just a cunning ruse which the whole world has fallen for).

    Comment by Tony — February 26, 2020 @ 3:55 pm

  34. “All you need to do is turn on MSNBC or open up the Washington Post and you’ll realize that the liberal wing of the ruling class might prefer Trump’s re-election than a President Sanders.”

    I think that it is rather obvious, and the exposure of liberals, Clintonistas and DNC careerists as people who used Trump to line their pockets will have significant consequences, although, in the short term, it is likely to empower the right. Just look as those former Clinton advisors who got paid for that terrible app used in Iowa. They could care less if it worked, they just wanted to use their connections to enrich themselves.

    One of the more important aspects of Bernie’s campaign is the fact that it shows that a person or a group of people can finance their political campaigns outside the system of corporate donors. Bernie may the only one to do it successfully for awhile, but there will be more in the future. This is the thing about Bernie that scares the Democratic Party establishment the most.

    This is not necessarily good for the left. Right wing politicians will take advantage of this, too. We are living through a time where the concentration of political power within corporations and the media is being challenged. Obama could have actually done this, he could have raised his money from the masses and not the corporations, but he would have never done it. So, we are heading for uncharted waters.

    Comment by Richard Estes — February 26, 2020 @ 4:10 pm

  35. How is this fatal [sic] the socialist cause …

    The Sanders “movement” will fail, as I’ve said repeatedly, because there is no coherent strategy and no tactics except with reference to elections and because there is no party organization capable of seizing and holding power.

    How many times is it necessary to repeat this?

    Either you get it or you don’t. Signing off.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 26, 2020 @ 4:23 pm

  36. Farans, maybe stop repeating it, Because prior to the Sanders movement socialism wasn’t a thing in the USA. Now it is. So even if the Sanders movement fails completely it can hardly be said to have been fatal to the socialist cause because prior to its existence there was no socialist cause.

    Comment by Tony — February 26, 2020 @ 6:11 pm

  37. What if Bernie wins the nomination? So what about the perennial organisational Q? As readers will be aware, one of the authors, Dustin Guastella, wrote with Jared Abbott two recent pieces: ‘A socialist party in our time?’, Catalyst, last summer, & ‘Blueprint for a political revolution’, the current Jacobin issue. Here’s their video, in Philly, M10Feb, on ‘A party of our own?’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A17zoVbMUXs . Yes, they look as expected.

    Comment by Jara Handala — February 28, 2020 @ 12:03 am

  38. Jara–I can’t see where Abbott and Guastella are any closer to telling us who’s on what base than they were in October. Theory is all very well but the practice of running a straight-up DP election campaign is the same for anybody, even an outlier like Bernie. The date when that will magically yield a workers’ party is now, as ever, conveniently lodged in the future.

    Basically this wing of the DSA, after disparaging “movementism,” seems to confine itself to self-serving shout-outs to selected “movementists” and working for (or just verbally advocating) Bernie for President.

    That’s no answer to “the perennial organizational Q.” What a strange, oblique phrase anyway.

    At this point, if all the theories were correct, an intelligent partisan like you ought to be able to give the party status in a brief list of bullet points with Further Reading references (including theory). The fact that you haven’t done so suggests to me that the whole thing, as an action plan, is as half-baked as it seems to be.

    Honestly, IMO, the effusions of A&G seem about as relevant to the current crisis as Harry Styles’s extra nipples, and a good deal less interesting. I’m not going to go through a profitmaking bourgeois paywall to get the skinny on this. Over and out.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — February 28, 2020 @ 2:40 pm

  39. […] How should Marxists react to Bernie Sanders becoming the front-runner? — Read on louisproyect.org/2020/02/24/how-should-marxists-react-to-bernie-sanders-becoming-the-front-runner/ […]

    Pingback by How should Marxists react to Bernie Sanders becoming the front-runner? | Tomás Ó Flatharta — March 2, 2020 @ 10:40 am

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