Ever since Bernie Sanders suspended his 2020 campaign to endorse Joe Biden, millions of supporters have grappled with questions about the best way forward for the “political revolution” against the billionaires. The Democratic Party’s relentless hostility to this project and Biden’s severe weaknesses as a pro-corporate candidate have spurred debate amongst Sanders supporters over whether to support Biden in November—a debate that the Democratic Party is desperate to curtail. Unfortunately Sanders’ campaign has fallen in line, and is now urging supporters to fall behind a false show of unity with the same corporate establishment that has sought to demonize, disenfranchise, and demobilize our movement.
This week, Sanders’ campaign sent nondisclosure and non-disparagement agreements to convention delegates, including a delegate code of conduct and a social media policy. These agreements instruct delegates to reject all media interview requests, follow all campaign instructions “including any strategic changes,” and refrain from “attacks” or “negative statements” about other candidates, Democratic Party leaders, and news organizations. Delegates failing to comply would face disciplinary action and possible removal as a delegate.
The campaign framed these warnings by stating it “is about the issues and finding solutions to America’s problems. Our job is to differentiate [Sanders] from his opponents on the issues—not through personal attacks.” The irony is that these troubling policies allow corporate media publications like Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post to continue to malign and undermine confidence in a movement that continues to fight hard for such solutions, when Democrats have failed to produce any. They also point away from the necessary democratic discussions that should be held at all levels of the campaign to debate the movement’s strategies and priorities.
Bernie delegates and supporters won’t be silenced for the sake of handing Biden undeserved progressive cover. The DNC is discussing rule changes that would permit an abbreviated and online convention, meaning fewer opportunities for delegates to organize and speak out against the party’s corruption and inaction. We need bold leadership from every corner of our movement to turn up the volume against the billionaire class and its irredeemably rotten two-party system.
Democratic Party Leaders Aren’t Our “Friends”
Sanders has made defeating Trump in November the campaign’s top priority. This strikes a deep chord for many supporters: Trump’s administration has overseen an onslaught of attacks against immigrants, women, LGBTQ people, unions and working people more broadly, not to mention its disastrous mismanagement of the pandemic, which has put Wall Street’s profits before public health and safety.
Getting rid of Trump may be Bernie’s top priority; but the top priority of the Democratic establishment has been to get rid of Bernie and cut across his working class campaign. It bent the rules to welcome billionaire Mike Bloomberg into the race. It orchestrated the withdrawal of Buttigieg and Klobuchar ahead of Super Tuesday to consolidate moderate support behind Biden. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren did her part to support the corporate-controlled party leaders by staying in the race to split the “left” vote. Now, Warren is backing off of her demand of Medicare for All to appease Biden in hopes of being tapped as the VP pick.
Although Bernie and his delegates remain on the ballot, the undemocratic maneuvering of the Democratic Party, which only began with its sabotage of Iowa’s caucus results, continues today: the party recently attempted to cancel the presidential primary in New York, and in Pennsylvania, misleading sample ballots have been mailed out to voters with Sanders’ name crossed out.
We need a fighting alternative not just to Trump, but to the capitalist system that opened the door to his brand of rightwing populism, and which has magnified the effects of the pandemic and present economic crisis. For decades in the U.S., this system has been shaped by the very neoliberal policies that Biden has championed throughout his career, from cuts to social services to widespread privatization. The Obama-Biden administration presided over record deportations, trade deals that undercut domestic manufacturing and organized labor, and the post-2008 bailout of Wall Street while millions lost their homes in the last financial crisis. Biden is also known for hobnobbing with lobbyists, ramping up racist mass incarceration, and now faces serious sexual assault allegations from Tara Reade, which the Democratic Party has dismissed and covered up.
Corporate media, liberal Democrats, and even progressives who are genuinely fearful of another Trump term will disparage Bernie supporters for criticizing Biden’s reprehensible track record or refusing to vote for the “lesser evil.” Working and young people should reject the myth that our best or only avenue to fight back is by supporting another billionaire-backed candidate.
The Political Revolution Must Continue
Sanders rallied millions with the inspiring slogan “Not me. Us,” emphasizing that what would win his working class platform was an organized movement of working and young people from below. He was absolutely right then, and the same holds true now. As tens of millions face unsafe workplaces and unemployment, Trump’s premature re-opening of the economy promises a deadly second wave of the coronavirus. Those who stand to benefit are billionaires like Bezos, who’s on track to become the world’s first trillionaire as Amazon makes record profits during the pandemic. Now more than ever, we need a real political revolution to decisively take on the entire capitalist class.
Instead of covering for Biden and the Democratic party elite, we should devote every second before and beyond November to resisting every layoff, eviction, budget cut, safety hazard, and infringement of working people’s democratic rights.
Even in a period of social distancing, frontline workers are organizing and protesting across various industries for workplace safety measures and closures, PPE, sustained hazard pay, and sick leave. Tenants have begun to organize their buildings and neighborhoods under the Rent Strike 2020 banner to collectively fight for rent reductions and prevent evictions. The same campaign apparatus that mobilized supporters to join striking picket lines and stand against ICE raids can be used to root our movement in these immediate struggles, and make the connections necessary to build an ongoing, united working class fightback.
Such struggles will prepare us for imminent battles against further cuts and privatization. They also lay the basis to go on the offensive for everything that Sanders has called for and more: aggressive taxes on the rich to pay for the current crisis, like the Amazon Tax workers and renters are fighting for in Seattle; living wages and affordable housing; Medicare for All and nationalized healthcare; a massive green jobs program and unionization push; and democratic public ownership over major industries.
Instead of putting energy into reforming the non-binding platform of a party with zero accountability, we should continue to build an even stronger and determined movement to fight for these reforms, independent of the parties of big business with the real democratic structures necessary to build a permanently organized grassroots force. A new party by, for, and of working people and the youth can provide the massive organization it’ll take to defeat Trump’s dangerous rightwing populism and neoliberal austerity alike.
Instead of backing down from an all-out fight with the billionaire class and the Democratic establishment, we need to step up the struggle for a socialist world. Join Socialist Alternative and get involved today!
Alicia Salvadeo and Carolyn Pandolfo are both on the Pennsylvania ballot as delegates for Bernie Sanders and are members of Socialist Alternative.