The Third International after Lenin

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A Bernie Sanders Primer

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It would be great fun to take the time to prepare a "Bernie Sanders primer."  Until I have the time for that, I have been doing some basic background reading on the Senator.

This is my personal compilation of excerpts from the online archives of The Militant newspaper. The Militant represents the views of the Socialist Workers Party, of which I am an active supporter.

Excerpts from articles

[November 29, 1999] ....explaining his new alliances, Buchanan said that Vermont Congressman "Bernie Sanders is a Socialist, just like Lenora is. And Bernie and I worked together in harness, as did [Minnesota senator] Paul Wellstone, to stop that miserable NAFTA deal, which was going to sell out the industrial independence of the country and the sovereignty, as well as the jobs of American workers."

Appearing together on Fox News Sunday, Buchanan let Fulani make the anti-Semitic statements while he posed as an opponent of bigotry. Asked about well-known remarks by Fulani mentor Fred Newman that "Jews are the storm troopers of decadent capitalism," Fulani finished the quote, "…and participated in oppressing groupings of people of color." She then declared, "What is anti-Semitic about that?"


[May 22, 2000] Teamsters union officials organized an American nationalist demonstration against China here April 12. The speakers platform featured rightist politician Patrick Buchanan, social democratic Congressman Bernard Sanders, and Teamsters president James Hoffa....

....Congressman Sanders from Vermont was introduced as an independent member of Congress. "This rally is about who controls the United States of America," he said. With anti–big-business rhetoric, Sanders said that for too long the "millionaires and the big corporate interests have been telling Capitol Hill what to do. Today we're going to begin the process to change that. The CEOs of the large corporations, who today make 400 times what their workers make, are in favor of free trade with China. They are flooding Capitol Hill with money telling them to sell out American workers."

Patrick Buchanan, who is seeking to build a fascist movement and is currently running for the Reform Party nomination for president, spoke following Sanders. Wearing a Teamsters union jacket, Buchanan easily picked up on Sanders's themes to advance his ultrarightist political views. "We've got Republicans and Democrats and Reform Party members [here], and you just heard from an American socialist, Bernie Sanders," Buchanan said.

Anticapitalist speeches and national socialism have marked many fascist movements, such as that of Adolf Hitler in Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s. Many liberals and union officials, as well as "socialists" who operate in an "American" framework, can get drawn into Buchanan's reactionary trap.


[The remaining excerpts are from articles printed in 2015]

.... The need for workers to organize independent working-class political action relying on our own power, as capitalist politicians — Democrats, Republicans and so-called independents and socialists such as Bernie Sanders — launch campaigns for president and other public offices....


....Bosses and workers have opposed interests. Rather than relying on the Democrats, the Republicans or so-called independents and socialists like Bernie Sanders who trail after them — all beholden to the bosses — we must forge a labor party based on fighting unions, a political tool workers can use to better act in our interests, not in the interests of the capitalist exploiters.


....Today the Bernie Sanders campaign for president is a sign we are going to see “more socialists and so-called independents, all reinforcing capitalism, not advancing an independent course for the working class that relies on our own power,” Sandler said.


....“Going door to door, some workers asked us about Democratic Party presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a socialist,” Staggs said. “We explain that Sanders is running, and getting a hearing, because of the big changes in the attitudes of working people.

Break with bourgeois parties

“Workers today face attacks from the bosses and their government, whose only way out of the capitalist crisis is to deepen the exploitation of the working class,” he said. “Workers are interested in how we can defend ourselves and how we can find a new perspective forward, including politically. Sanders presents a radical image with the intention of corralling us back into bourgeois politics.

“The Socialist Workers Party runs to point the road to workers breaking with the capitalist political parties,” Staggs said, “the road of independent working-class politics, forming a labor party based on the unions. This opens the door to the fight for working-class political power, like the Cuban workers and farmers did when they overthrew U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista and transformed themselves in the process. They have continued along this road for more than 55 years, an example for working people everywhere.”

The Socialist Workers Party candidates plan to hold a press conference and turn in their petitions Aug. 3 at City Hall....


....Fifteen months before the 2016 elections, the campaign of the capitalist parties is heating up, with 17 Republicans vying for the nomination, front-running Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign sputtering and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist, running second in the polls for the Democratic nomination and drawing big crowds....

Crowds for Sanders growing

Sanders has been attracting crowds — some 28,000 in Portland, Oregon, Aug. 9, and a similar number the next day in Los Angeles. His favorability rating doubled from 12 percent in March to 24 percent in late July, while Clinton’s dropped from 48 to 43 percent.
“As the crisis of the capitalist system grinds on, and attacks on workers deepen, many are looking for something different in 2016,” Staggs said.

“The interest in the Sanders campaign opens up a discussion,” he said. “People ask, ‘Are you a socialist like Bernie Sanders?’ We explain that Sanders proposes radical reforms to save capitalism.

“Sanders, in his ‘Reforming Wall Street’ plank, proposes breaking up the six biggest banks and taxing financial transactions. We think workers must end the dictatorship of capital and reorganize society based on relations of human solidarity. And we don’t have an American nationalist framework,” said Staggs. “We start with the world and what strengthens the working class worldwide on the road to taking power.

“We point to the example of Fidel Castro and the July 26 Movement that led workers and farmers to power in Cuba,” he said. “Like Lenin and the Bolsheviks, who led workers and farmers to power in Russia.”

Sanders took some criticism from supporters of immigrant rights after his comments during a July 28 Vox interview when journalist Ezra Klein implied he supports “open borders.”

“Open borders?” Sanders exclaimed. “No, that’s a Koch brothers proposal,” referring to Charles and David Koch, billionaire manufacturers who contribute heavily to Republican campaigns and who favor less restrictive immigration laws.

“You’re doing away with the concept of a nation state,” he continued. “What right-wing people in this country would love is an open-border policy. Bring in all kinds of people, work for $2 or $3 an hour, that would be great for them.”

However, at the Los Angeles rally, Sanders had an immigrant rights supporter speak and said, “Eleven million people cannot continue to live in fear.”

Immigration policy has been prominent in the primary debate. In June Donald Trump slandered Mexican immigrants, saying, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, another Republican contender, defended Trump June 30, saying, “The American people are fed up” with illegal immigration.

Republican candidate Jeb Bush called Trump’s comments “vulgar” during a July 27 interview in Spanish on Telemundo. Bush promotes an “immigration reform” that includes a path to legal status, but not citizenship, for some immigrants.

Clinton — following the San Francisco arrest of an undocumented worker in a July 1 killing — denounced the city’s “sanctuary city” policy of not turning people who lack immigration papers over to immigration authorities.

“The SWP says no to deportations, no to E-Verify,” Staggs said. “The labor movement must reject the rulers’ divide-and-conquer tactics and stand with immigrants who insist, ‘We’re workers, not criminals.’”


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