The human as an individual, as s/he exists today, in isolation and competition with fellow humans, is fully an artifact of Capitalism. Since at least the sixteen hundreds, people have considered themselves the center of the universe, of their reality. The new society that is slouching to be born puts the interests of the community above its individual members. Individualism doesn’t disappear. We will still have our adorable quirks and serendipities. They just won’t be primary. What will be primary is our connection to others, to our neighbors, to our community. This is the revolution Bernie is talking about.
We need to separate this revolution from him, and from this election horserace. It’s so exciting to have a horse in the race! But a bit of realism would be useful here. As Robert Reich has said, the ruling class is still the ruling class.
Like it or not, the ruling class will permit Bernie to win the election only in so far as he agrees not to threaten their position too much. How much is too much? We don’t know. They’re willing to give up a lot to stay in power, as they did in the Roosevelt years.
To the extent there is an “objectively,” the difference between Bernie and Hillary is that Bernie represents the working class and Hillary represents the ruling class.
But it isn’t 1968 again yet, a revolutionary year around the world. The Vietnam War was raging and the anti-war movement was raging against it. Johnson dropped out of the race in April 1968. So it was Robert Kennedy, Eugene McCarthy – the period’s Bernie Sanders – and Hubert Humphrey. Humphrey was pro-war and only entered in the caucuses. He didn’t run in a single primary. Of the other two anti-war candidates, Kennedy was of course shot in Los Angeles in June. His delegates were free to support whomever, and somehow Humphrey got the lion’s share. There were of course pitched battles outside the convention between thousands of anti-war demonstrators and the Chicago Police. The Chicago Eight – Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, David Dellinger, Rennie Davis, John Froines, Jerry Rubin, Lee Weiner, and Bobby Seale. were put on a “show trial” and convicted with sentences of up to 4 years. Bobby Seale, one of the founders of the Black Panther Party, was shackled and gagged during his trial. All were finally acquitted on appeal.
We need to understand that the battle we are in is not a new battle. It’s called the class struggle, and it’s as determinative of history as it was in Marx’s day. I love the enthusiasm of our Berniebots. I understand their anger. I even understand the tactic of Bernie or Bust, threatening to not vote for Hillary if she wins the nomination. But the art of revolution is the art of the united front. Struggle with, struggle against. The Democratic Party, whether we like or not, is currently a united front against the Republicans. The primary election process is the struggle-against time. After the nomination, it’s struggle-with time. Whoever wins the primary fair and square – we need to support them. Our concern ultimately has to be for people’s lives, and millions of people will suffer if the Republicans are allowed to win, no matter which one. In most seasons, it’s a good cop bad cop kind of deal, with the dems playing good cop and the reps playing rough – all in the name of oppressing the working class. But Bernie snuck in there. He found a rift in the ruling class’ control of democracy: if you can really organize people around a program that actually addresses their needs, they can’t stop you, at least not easily, at least not without dropping the fig leaf of democracy, at least not without them saying “We’re going to do what we want. Get out of our way or we will jail you or kill you.”
After the primaries, we negotiate our butts off with the losing candidate’s supporters. It’s not the cleanest politics that we like to imagine Bernie playing, it’s messy, but it’s necessary. Think of how the European socialists function. Europe has a parliamentary system so each shade of socialist can have its own party. Jeremy Corbyn isn’t Prime Minister yet, but he wields a shitload of power. Likewise Pablo Turrion and Podemos in Spain don’t have a majority, but they wield enormous influence. We’re stuck at this point with fighting for control of the Democratic Party for the future of our country and our world.
After 1968, the anti-war movement did take over the party, nominating George McGovern in 1972. He wasn’t a strong candidate, and Nixon squashed him in winning a second term. But times are different now. Nobody, and I mean nobody, knows what will happen.