Continuing the Political Revolution

by Larry Cohen

Bernie Sanders has announced his support for Hillary Clinton for Democratic presidential nominee. It’s a moment both to take stock of our gains and to think ahead. Sanders’ insurgent campaign has made a remarkable impact, but the political revolution it started is far from over.

This past weekend, the 187-member Democratic Platform Committee cleaned up some sections of the draft platform, but there is no mistaking the results for the political revolution.

The clean-up was significant, improving language on climate change, trade policy and healthcare reform. Most significantly, the demands now include Sanders’ calls for a public option, a $15 minimum wage, and free tuition at public universities for families with incomes under $125,000 a year.

Not that the initial version, produced by the 15-member Platform Drafting Committee on June 25, lacked good points. It included planks on ensuring voting rights and getting money out of politics, expanding the post office to check cashing and other financial services, and passing a modern Glass-Steagall Act to separate investment and commercial banking. The drafters also called for significant investment in infrastructure and renewable energy, the abolition of the death penalty, and expanding rather than cutting Social Security benefits (though they were vague on how to pay for that).

After a year on the road with Bernie’s campaign, I am proud of all of this, but yearn for what may have been: not just a better platform but the political revolution writ large as Sanders vs. Trump, a working-class candidate versus a billionaire.

While the platform is likely the most progressive ever, with enormous thanks to Bernie and his supporters, it will likely stop short of satisfying the tens of thousands who campaigned for him and the 12 million who voted for him.  There is no proposal to end fracking; Medicare for all was voted down; and the platform does not support an end to new Israeli settlements in Gaza or the West Bank.

The section on trade is in many ways the most disappointing. Unlike the other platform goals, which require a progressive Congress—at best years away—trade is initiated by the president. Right now, that president is a Democrat who is counting on the Republicans to provide most of the votes for his Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, which will cost millions of American jobs and accelerate the global race to the bottom.

Increasingly it seems that President Obama, determined to pass TPP as part of his legacy despite overwhelming opposition from Democrats and skepticism from the American public, sees the post-election lame duck session of Congress as his best chance. Fast-track for the TPP, passed a year ago by the Republican Congress, allows President Obama discretion to send it to Congress and then requires an up or down vote in the Senate and the House within 90 days. That gives Obama two options: If he sends the TPP to Congress in early September, Congress will be required to vote before adjournment at the end of the year. If he waits until November, it will be up to the Republican leaders to bring it to a vote in lame duck or let the clock run out.

At this critical time, Bernie Sanders and his platform committee appointees, were determined that the Democratic Party platform explicitly express opposition to the TPP. As it turned out, the Clinton campaign honored the demands of the White House and vigorously pressured its platform committee appointees to support the president and avoid outright opposition to the TPP.  Public employee union leaders led that effort despite universal labor opposition to the TPP including that of their own unions.

While the trade language adopted on Saturday is far better than that in the initial platform draft, including general opposition to corporate-oriented trade, the failure to explicitly oppose the TPP means the president will be able to lobby Democrats to vote for the TPP without violating his own party’s platform. Since some Republicans oppose the TPP, those Democratic votes could be decisive in securing lame duck passage. Meanwhile Donald Trump can claim that his opposition to the TPP is clear and that Hillary Clinton is only talking about opposing the deal and not acting when it counts.

The Sanders delegation will now pivot from the platform to the Democratic Party rules—issues like eliminating the nominating power of “super” delegates.  The Rules Committee meets next week, and once again the debate will be about change vs. continuity and the populist moment vs. the party establishment.

The future of the political revolution, however, goes far beyond the platform, rules, convention or even the 2016 election.  In the next two weeks, Bernie Sanders will begin to describe how his massive organization of millions can function beyond this moment and help build a movement for social and economic change.  Bernie’s revolution has brought us much further than anyone expected. Who would have ever believed the stated objectives of the Democratic Party would include a public option or free tuition? The question for millions of Bernie supporters is how to keep this going both inside and outside of the party, in the Congress and state legislatures, but also in the streets.

 

The Primary Route: Review of a Political Pamphlet

by Paul Garver

In December 2015 Tom Gallagher self published a pamphlet entitled The Primary Route: How the 99% Take On the Military Industrial Complex (Coast to Coast Publications).

Drawing on his own experiences as a Massachusetts legislator and as an elected delegate for a number of  progressive Democratic challengers in presidential primaries, long-time democratic socialist Tom Gallagher argued in considerable historical detail and humor that the American Left had to engage in Democratic primary races at the national level to be taken seriously as a political force.

Bernie Sanders had recently announced his Presidential candidacy, but his campaign had not yet demonstrated its capacity to rally millions of voters behind his progressive ideas.   The successes of Sanders’ campaign strongly supports the thrust of Gallagher’s argument, while simultaneously making his thesis  seem somewhat outdated and obvious.

As Gallagher recently stated with his characteristic humor, there was either going to be a good book or a good campaign, and would not be both.

As I read Gallagher’s pamphlet today, its relevance to 2016 feels limited.  Gallagher himself, as a Sanders delegate from the 12th Congressional District of California, will be using his persuasive skills at the DNC in Philadelphia.

Yet I strongly suspect that when 2019 rolls around, the pamphlet should be reissued.  Already the spin doctors of several sectarian socialist groups are making use of the “failure” of Sanders to become the Democratic presidential candidate as an argument for retreating back to the safe and sheltered sanctuary of the Green Party.  In 2019 much of the U.S. Left may be spinning its wheels once again as it did in this electoral cycle, rehashing the same old arguments about the inevitable doom the Left faces if we engage in Democratic primaries.

The Primary Route will be useful reading then.

Tom Gallagher is a member of the United Educators in San Francisco.  You can view his other writings and buy this pamphlet at https://tomgallagherwrites.com/

Sanders delegates and supporters meet in Boston to make plans for Democratic convention and beyond

by Rand Wilson

Rand and zakiyyah

Sanders delegates from MA CD 7 Zakiyyah Sutton and Rand Wilson
photo by Sandy Eaton

Over 100 Bernie Sanders’ supporters attended a meeting on June 28 at the Ironworkers Local 7 union hall in South Boston to make plans for activities at the national Democratic convention and begin a discussion about continuing the political revolution in Massachusetts.  A few photos from the meeting are posted here and many others are on Facebook.

The meeting was attended by 23 of the 45 Congressional District and At-Large delegates from Massachusetts who were elected this year to support Bernie Sanders at the 2016 National Democratic Convention in Philadelphia from July 25 to 28.  Nearly everyone in attendance had door knocked, phone banked and rallied for Bernie over the last year.

Jared Hicks, a delegate from Congressional District 7 who lives in Dorchester said that he hoped to win a Democratic platform that reflected Bernie’s values and change the party’s rules so that participation in the primaries is easier for voters.

“We need a progressive platform that includes Medicare for All, $15 minimum wage, expanded Social Security and a tax on Wall Street,” said Hicks. “And if Democrats want to defeat Trump, we must have strong language in opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.”

A number of participants expressed concern over the failure of the Sanders campaign to capture significant support in communities of color. They challenged the group to make overcoming racism a top priority if it seeks to build a broader movement.

Michael Gilbreath, a District 5 delegate from Wayland, highlighted some of the many activities that groups like Progressive Democrats of America, Democratic Socialists of America and many others were planning in support of the Sanders’ platform outside of the convention.

More than half of the meeting’s attendees indicated they planned to travel to Philadelphia during the convention to participate in activities there.

The most passionate part of the evening’s discussion regarded continuing the political revolution in Massachusetts and support for several down ballot “Bernie-crat” candidates.  Jed Hresko, who coordinated many successful volunteer phone banks for Bernie in Boston, suggested that similar efforts could be mobilized for local candidates.

With the strong possibility of a Clinton candidacy, some participants voiced support for the Green Party, while others cautioned that the priority should be on defeating the presumptive Republican nominee. There is clearly no consensus among Sanders’ supporters about whom to support for President!

All too often, incipient “political revolutions” fall prey to self-appointed leaders who lack either a following and/or the necessary skills to hold a group together.  Looking to the future, the diverse, statewide group of 45 elected representatives tested in the campaign and committed to the Sanders’ platform could provide a powerful foundation dedicated to continuing our revolution in Massachusetts.

Rand Wilson is an elected Sanders delegate from the 7th Congressional District.  He works for SEIU Local 888 and has volunteered with the Labor for Bernie network.

The Democratic Party’s Draft Platform Doesn’t Oppose the TPP—That’s Bad Policy and Bad Politics

By Larry Cohen

Sorcher TPP sinking ship

Working-class Americans have had enough of trade policies that accelerate the race to the bottom.

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Worse Is Not Better

by Gene Grabiner

Member, FFECC, (NYSUT, AFL-CIO)

Delegate, WNY Area Labor Federation

genegrabiner

To all My “Bernie or Bust” Friends:

I support Bernie, and would, by far, prefer to see him as the Democratic Party nominee to run against Donald Trump. I collected signatures for Bernie on nominating petitions. I made phone calls and distributed literature for him. And I have contributed money to Bernie’s campaign.

More discussion about Bernie follows. But first, let’s look back in history at another decisive presidential campaign and election.

In 1932 in Germany, the Social Democrats and the Communist Party would not unite. We know the result.

Together, the Social Democrats and Communists won 37.29% of the popular vote. The Nazis won 33.09%. Had the Social Democrats and Communists united, things might have turned out very differently.

Our situation today is not identical in terms of the players or conditions. But in terms of ideology and outlook in the current political scene, things seem significantly similar.

This 2016 election is a decisive one. It may determine whether or not democratic forms even continue to exist within the United States.

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, is the crystalized  expression of the American fascist movement. And I think, or at least hope, we all understand what that means.

But just in case, here are some elements of fascism: union busting and the destruction of the independent union movement, a right-to-work agenda, the crushing of progressive political organizations and parties, suppression of the media, misogyny, scapegoating, racism and demonization of the LGBTQ community as social policy, attacks on the poor, the weak, and the disabled. And there may be worse, including an intensified culture of militarism, and the push toward war.

Fascism does not always appear as it was in Italy, Germany, and Japan. But it always cloaks itself in a distorted version of the culture and history of whatever society in which it emerges. Sinclair Lewis was said to have remarked that “ if fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”

Fascism tries to split the memberships of our unions, attempting to weaken our overall solidarity. Sadly, a number of our union brothers and sisters find themselves supporting Trump. In this, they are actually breaking labor solidarity. They should reject Trump because it is imperative that we stop fascism cold and protect our independent union movement.

Now what about Bernie, and what about Hillary?

Bernie Sanders is a social democrat. And Hillary Clinton is a centrist who has become more progressive only due to Bernie’s campaign. And she has done this by accepting elements of his program.

Due to Bernie, she now opposes the TPP.  And due to Bernie, she came out in favor of offering a Medicare buy-in for folks, ages 50-55. This “Medicare for Some“ goes beyond the Affordable Care Act, though it falls short of Bernie’s proposal of “Medicare for All.”

If Bernie is not nominated, he still will strongly shape the Democratic Party program. And Hillary has said as much. Hillary and Bernie together have been effective enough to ensure that the Democratic Party Platform Committee will have a progressive majority.

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Bernie Sanders, Labor, Ideology, and the Future of U.S. Politics

  • by Bob Master
    Legislative and Political Director for CWA District One of the Communications Workers of America and a co-chair of the New York State Working Families Party.
    sanders_cwa
    The Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, contrary to all expectation, has become the most important left insurgency in the United States in nearly half a century. A year ago, even his most optimistic supporters might have hoped that Sanders would enliven the presidential debates by challenging Hillary Clinton on issues of Wall Street power and big money corruption, and perhaps garner a quarter to a third of the primary vote.

Instead, Sanders won primaries and caucuses in 23 states, and amassed over 12 million votes and nearly 43% of the pledged delegates. And all this while unapologetically and unabashedly proclaiming himself a “democratic socialist,” re-legitimizing a systemic critique of US capitalism for the first time since the one-two punch of Cold War reaction and neoliberal triumphalism froze the left out of mainstream American discourse two generations ago. The power of Big Banks, job-killing trade deals, ending the corrosive influence of big money in elections, eliminating private insurance companies from the health care system, and the merits of a “political revolution” became staples of prime-time presidential debates. Once stunning poll numbers now seem commonplace: 43% of Iowa caucus goers, including roughly a third of Clinton supporters, describing themselves as “socialists”; a New York Times poll late last year which said that 56% of Democratic primary voters had a “positive view of socialism;” and Sanders’ overwhelming support among young voters, by margins as high as 84% in Iowa and New Hampshire, but even reaching the low 60s in states like South Carolina, where he was otherwise crushed. Indeed, Sanders’ remarkable popularity among “millennials” prompted John Della Volpe, the director of a long-running Harvard University poll of young people, to tell the Washington Post that Sanders is “not moving a party to the left. He’s moving…the largest generation in the history of America…to the left.”[1] Something significant is definitely going on….
Today’s labor movement has been largely shaped by its experiences of defeat, on multiple battlefronts over the last 30 years—at the bargaining table, in State Houses, in the courts. In recent years, this prolonged existential crisis has bred some innovation and success, most dramatically in SEIU’s four-year old “Fight for $15 and a Union,” which has sharpened and politicized the discourse about income inequality and stagnant wages that erupted in Occupy Wall Street (not to mention delivering billions of dollars in raises to tens of millions of low-wage workers across the country).
The broad acceptance of $15 an hour as the new standard for the minimum wage – a notion that was ridiculed by many of its current proponents just two years ago—illuminates the critical power of ideas in opening up space for organizing and political and legislative advancement. When fast food workers and their supporters won the ideological battle about what constitutes an adequate minimum subsistence level of compensation, change came with surprising suddenness.
Historian Nelson Lichtenstein has written that “trade unionism requires a compelling set of ideas and institutions, both self-made and governmental, to give labor’s cause power and legitimacy. It is a political project whose success enables the unions to transcend the ethnic and economic divisions always present in the working population.”[3] But labor’s ideological breakthrough in the “Fight for $15” is an exception that proves the rule. By the time the Corporate Right fashioned its relentless and well-planned ideological and practical attack on the labor movement, starting in the mid-70s, decades of complacency and anti-communism had stripped the labor movement of its capacity to respond on an ideological plane. In his famous letter in 1978 resigning from the “Labor—Management Group” after the Business Roundtable-sponsored filibuster buried “Labor Law Reform” in an overwhelmingly Democratic Congress, UAW President Doug Fraser lamented the outbreak of a “one-sided class war” waged by a politically resurgent corporate elite. The unspoken and probably unintended implication was that class war was an alien concept to a labor movement that had come to see itself as the junior, but accepted and well-established, partner in a long term “social compact.”

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Together at the National People’s Summit

Labor_for_Bernie_banner_2Dear Labor for Bernie supporters and activists,
Now that the primaries are nearly over, Labor for Bernie is supporting the People’s Summit in Chicago, June 17-19. This meeting is being convened by National Nurses United and other organizations supporting Sanders’ political revolution.
Participants at the summit will help develop an agenda to hold our elected officials more accountable to popular demands for justice, equality and freedom.

Labor for Bernie will have a caucus meeting at breakfast on Sunday morning, June 19. Please use this short form let us know if you plan to attend.

The Summit will be an opportunity to sum up the primary experiences, make plans for the upcoming convention and discuss what a movement dedicated to extending the political revolution would look like. Continue reading

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