Still Searching for Redress: Millions Seek New Vision
The participation of broad sections of the new class in the 2016 Sanders Democratic Party primary election campaign created an important opportunity for the development of its consciousness. The class achieves its political independence in a series of partial and necessary stages. Its motion in and around the Sanders campaign expressed an undeniable impulse to break with the Democratic Party. The Sanders message drew in a wide range of political forces. In addition to dispossessed workers fighting for their immediate demands, union leaders, workers, business owners, bourgeois political operatives, leftists, and “left wing populists” of various stripes and tendencies were drawn to his message.
Revolutionaries always unite with these kinds of impulses and use propaganda to raise consciousness and influence political direction. Revolutionaries enter this motion the same way they enter any motion, on the basis of a fight for unity around the concrete demands of the class for jobs, housing, health care, and education.
Nationalization in Whose Interests?
In the current economy there is no way to ensure the basic needs of the people without a government takeover of the corporations and their transformation into public property. The demand for nationalization is nothing new in America. Populism has always included calls for nationalization, especially the movement around the People’s Party of the 1890s. The People’s Party explicitly called for nationalization of public necessities such as banks, transportation, and communications systems and an end to monopolization of land and natural resources for speculative purposes.
The populist movement of 120 years ago was essentially led by small farmers, who were doomed to elimination as a class. As a result, its demands for nationalization had no possibility of success. Capitalism as a system at that time still had the whole world to win. The situation today is different. With the introduction of electronic production, capitalism is approaching its demise. The new class of workers is growing by leaps and bounds. The battle over nationalizing under these conditions will be an especially heated front in the developing class struggle, not over whether to nationalize, but over in whose interest to nationalize.
On the one hand workers need nationalization of the socially necessary means of production in order to make and distribute the necessities of life. On the other hand, corporations need nationalization to guarantee increased profit in the face of declining demand, when workers are laid off as they are replaced by robots.
“Corporate nationalization” takes the form of government intervention like that of 2008-09, when it rescued the banking and auto industries before delivering them back into the hands of their investors and corporate owners. It also takes the form of Obamacare, where it guarantees the private insurance market, by requiring people to buy from it. Counter-intuitively, “privatization” is also a form of nationalization. When government functions are turned over to private corporations, they become organized around demands of maximum profit instead of human needs. The government is reduced to the purchaser and becomes a guaranteed consumer.
Education, prisons, police, and even the military become part of a State apparatus controlled entirely by private companies. The Trans-Pacific Partnership would go even further, by not only handing over of public services to private monopolies, but also subjecting sovereign governments to private corporate tribunals empowered by the TPP.
Significance of Sanders’ Campaign
While not diminishing the enormous significance of his primary campaign, it is important to note that in spite of Sanders’s self-description as a socialist, his program contained little of socialism at all. Real socialism would mean all socially necessary means of production and distribution are made into public property by the government.
Sanders’s platform was generally one of incrementally increased government regulation and government programs, rather than an actual socialist transition. His calls to break up the banks, to eliminate “conflicts of interest” in the Fed and to expand government housing funds all fell short of real nationalization in the interests of the people. Sanders’s health care plan — the single payer Medicare-for-All proposal, was the closest to nationalization, since it would replace private insurers with a single government agency.
But the significance of the Sanders campaign was not his platform, but his message and above all the response to that message. His stirring call for a political revolution mobilized millions of people. They are still searching for redress from their deteriorating economic and social situation. Whether they turned their backs on the Democratic Party or sought third party alternatives, they are furthering the polarization that is opening the way for the political independence of the class.
The significance of the Sanders campaign was that it opened up a schism in the Democratic Party that Clinton and the party cannot repair. Combined with the Republican polarization around Trump, the result is a destabilization of the two-party system, not seen since the nineteenth century.
Demands of the New Class Shape the Future
There is no question that the driving force behind the Sanders campaign was the existence and growth of the new class of workers, even though its demands were not well reflected in his platform. A recent Gallup poll found that among workers aged 20 to 36 (the so-called Millennials), some 55% had a favorable opinion of Sanders, compared to 38% for Clinton and 22% for Trump. For many of these workers, their gravitation to Sanders stemmed to a significant extent, from their class position. These workers make up only 25% of the population, yet hold 40% of student debt, make up 40% of the unemployed, and 60% of workers earning minimum wage.
Thousands of people involved in this motion call themselves revolutionaries. Their demands are for food, housing, health care and education. They are without the means to pay for any of these things, which makes these revolutionary demands. If production is carried out without wages, then the means of life has to be distributed without money. These demands strike at the very heart of the capitalist system.
The impulse towards unity among these workers reflects the impulse toward class unity that arises out of the common interests rooted in the fight for the basic necessities. The ruling class is intent on breaking this up. Revolutionaries have to be equally intent on consolidating it through introducing consciousness of class interests, a vision of a cooperative communist society that can truly redress their grievances, a strategy to get there.
The new battles are being carried on by a new type of revolutionary, who is practical, not ideological. There is an objective foundation for people to unite. This is undermining all the old ideologies that have been used to divide the class. These new forces are very solid in what they understand and what they are doing. They lack a strategy that reflects the new situation and they fall prey to simply fighting the tactics of the enemy. They lack an ideology that reflects the new situation. Therefore they are in constant danger of falling victim to the ideology of the very people they are fighting. Revolutionaries must throw everything we can into this fight for the unity of the class.
The lesson is that the role of the revolutionaries is to participate in these processes, no matter what or where they turn out to be, and through every stage, keep in mind that the goal is the political formation of the new class. This means fighting everywhere for the next step in the practical battles for basic necessities and the political formations that will advance those battles at every stage.
The Political Report of the Central Body of the LRA, August 2016. Edited for publication November, 2016.
The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011