It’s been a long time, but socialism is finally back on the American political scene. This turn of events is due in large part to Bernie Sanders openly espousing the word, whether he is one. It’s also due to those candidates who defend capitalism, Trump and Clinton, being the most disliked perhaps ever. And finally, it is because capitalism can’t seem to get the job done anymore. The 2008 recession continues like a bad cold. Millions can’t find work or afford a place to live if they do have jobs. Meanwhile, the top 1 percent continue to enrich themselves without any hindrance from the political establishment.
This election has no lesser evil, only evil. In this corner is Donald Trump, a racist, egotistical maniac who, as President, would try to roll back most of the hard-won gains made by the working class over the decades, including health care (lite), and civil and human rights protections for people of color, immigrants, women, LBGTQ, and the disabled.
In the other corner, seeking a third and, perhaps, forth term for the Clinton dynasty, is Hillary Clinton, an economic neo-liberal and a foreign-policy neo-conservative ideologue, who may well provoke war and/or pillage with Syria, Iran, North Korea – and oh, please no – not nuclear-armed Russia and China. While both Trump and Clinton seem determined to erase ISIS from the face of the Earth, the Republican candidate seems to have no designs on a wider war but this could change depending on who are his advisors.
In any case, the majority of American voters don’t trust either Trump or Clinton to keep their word. In fact, a Rasmussen Poll, released August 15, showed that 65 percent of independent voters did not trust Clinton, while 54 percent of them had the same feeling about Trump. These results are unprecedented.
Is The Left Asleep?
Meanwhile, much of the Left, particularly the small sects and cults, are going about their business of nominating their leading comrades or gurus to run for president. Other left groups, including the Communist Party, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, and the Democratic Socialists of America have either endorsed Clinton, either tacitly or openly, or are about to do it.
The largest socialist party in terms of voter affiliation, the Peace and Freedom Party (P&F), which has more than 70,000 registered members in California, did not run a candidate of its own this year. However, a small group of entryists gained control of its central committee, and not surprisingly elected their leader as P&F’s presidential candidate.
Calling All Socialists
In spite of the disappointing “business as usual” attitude of some narrow-minded leftists, and pseudo-socialists who hide out in the corporate-dominated Democratic Party, there is hope. That’s because there are even more leftists who don’t belong to any of these “parties,” than do.
When I was a union organizer, I found that about 30 percent of the workers, on average, in any given company were pro-union and held surprisingly progressive ideas. These workers ranged from those who had gained their leftist ideas either from the school of hard knocks at work, or had studied Marxism and understood the theoretical roots of their oppression. The percentages of progressive-minded Black and Latino workers were much higher, in general.
If these estimates holds true for Americans at large, then out of nearly 150 million registered voters in the country, as many as 44 million could be receptive to a message and/or candidate of the left. This implies that there is the basis for a mass socialist party in this country. This is a project that we could work on now.
How could we bring it about? First, by all of us being a little more socialistic, and a little less individualistic. That means working together more and being less critical of each other’s shortcomings. Second, by all of us being unrelenting in our criticism of Trump and Clinton. There are ample topics for this criticism that appear on the internet everyday. The criticism must be evenhanded if it is to create interest in third parties. Since the only leftist candidate who can have a national impact in this election is Jill Stein, who is on the ballot in at least 36 states, she should be the focus of positive comments and campaigning.
“Our Revolution,” is it?
Unfortunately, adding more confusion to the already current chaotic political landscape is none other than Senator Bernie Sanders. After his close encounter with the Democratic Party, one would think that Sanders would want nothing more to do with misleaders of this ilk. Yet, here he is trying to herd unsuspecting youth into voting, and even campaigning for, the she-wolf of Wall Street and the military, Hillary Clinton. By launching “Our Revolution,” Sanders is able to dispose of some unused large contributions to promote Hillary and various other candidates. We should all have gratitude for Bernie for cracking open the sacred precincts of the super-rich, that is, the presidential election process, but we cannot, nor should we, blindly follow Sanders, who in spite of claiming to be a democratic socialist, is actually in favor of preserving capitalism.
Instead, we should let nothing distract us from putting some meat on the socialist bones. If any of Bernie’s list of good fellas that he is supporting are actually socialists, and not afraid to say so, we should support them. Better yet, and with or without Bernie, let’s get one or more socialists on every government board in the country. This is how we can sink roots for the ongoing remodeling of the political scene as we make our way to a post-scarcity society.
Green is Good Enough in this Election
At this point, it doesn’t matter if one loves the Green Party, hates it, or could care less. The fact is Stein is saying all the right things on the issues at hand in this election.
A massive campaign should be conducted to make the Democrats and Republicans let her into the debates. This can be an even broader effort by also demanding that Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson also be allowed to debate. The self-serving rules for the debate are biased and need to be modified to include candidates like Stein and Johnson.
In addition, all the usual types of campaigning – rallies, phoning, door-to-door, leafleting, and more – should be utilized. The left should own the internet for this campaign, from Facebook and Twitter to YouTube and podcasts.
For the first time in decades, socialism is out of the closet. Now’s the time to go further than Bernie’s great stump speech rhetoric and show off what we socialists have in mind. We want free health care, a home for everyone, healthy food and water, free transportation, and end to racism and all forms of discrimination, a major reduction in maximum incomes and wealth complemented by a major increase in lower incomes, a decent basic income below which no one can fall, a healthy environment, an end to militarism and the Empire. Others will have their own lists.
In the weeks and months following the election, no matter who wins, the infrastructure of a new, mass socialist party should be built. It can be done!
Jim Smith is a former union leader and author of “If The Dead had Email,” a book of political poetry.