Bernie Sanders is no Eugene Debs

From the Socialist Worker, May 26

by Howie Hawkins

Howie Hawkins is a veteran activist, working Teamster and leader of the Green Party nationally and in his home state of New York. Last November, his campaign for governor against incumbent Democrat Andrew Cuomo won 200,000 votes, nearly 5 percent of the total–the most successful left-wing independent campaign in New York in more than 50 years.

Here, Hawkins contributes to the discussion on the left about the Bernie Sanders campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

Bernie Sanders is no Eugene V. Debs

BERNIE SANDERS’ entry into the Democratic presidential primaries should be seen as his final decisive step away from the democratic socialism he professes to support. He will raise some progressive demands in the primaries and then endorse the corporate Democrat, Hillary Clinton. Nothing changes.

Sanders is violating the first principle of socialist politics: class independence. The socialist movement learned that principle long ago when the business classes sold out the workers in the democratic revolutions of 1848 that swept across Europe and parts of Latin America.

Drawing out the lesson from these failed revolutions that the middle-class proprietors and professionals could not be trusted as allies of the workers in the battle for democracy and workers rights, Karl Marx told exiled German revolutionaries in London in 1850 that the workers needed to form their own party to look out for their own interests:

Even where there is no prospect whatsoever of them being elected, the workers must put up their own candidates in order to preserve their independence, to count their forces and to bring before the public their own revolutionary attitude and party standpoint. In this connection, they must not allow themselves to be seduced by such arguments as, for example, that by so doing they are splitting the Democratic Party and making it possible for the reactionaries to win. The ultimate intention of all such phrases is to dupe the proletariat. The advance which the proletarian party is bound to make by such independent action is infinitely more important than the disadvantages that might be incurred by the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body.

The Democratic Party that Marx was referring to in his 1850 speech was the most pro-democracy of the German parties based in the business and professional classes, which were fighting for universal suffrage against the ruling feudal landed aristocracy, but stopped fighting for workers’ rights once propertied men had the vote. But the argument applies just as well to the Democratic Party in the U.S. today–a party that poses as the champion of working people, but serves business interests.

Sanders has now gone into coalition with the billionaire class he professes to oppose and that finances the Democratic party. Sanders won’t see the billionaire’s money. But he has made it crystal clear that he will support their candidates by promising to support the winner of the Democratic presidential nomination.

Continue reading at: Bernie Sanders is No Eugene Debs

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