by Jeff Mackler, Published on Socialist Action, March 24, 2020
Bernie Sanders, face to face on March 16 with his often-proclaimed “friend” Joe Biden, could only assert that “Joe,” voted for the 2003 Iraq War. True! Sanders scored a debater’s point that a well-scripted and lying Biden brushed off in a few words. Sanders left it at that. Television debates are rarely meant for historical clarification of events long past, even if the subject is genocidal war.
Following Biden’s “mistaken” vote, the U.S. imperialist war machine and its deadly sanctions murdered 1.5 million Iraqis. That, too, Sanders left unmentioned. Nor did he note that Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein never had “weapons of mass destruction” that he was supposedly planning to unleash against the U.S. This demonizing and manufactured pretext, deployed with the entire corporate media in tow, was employed to launch the most intensive bombing in world history.
That the U.S. continues to occupy Iraq today also went unmentioned. Biden, and indeed all the Democrats’ primary contest contenders, supported that war which they now proclaim was a “mistake!”
Forgive me, readers, but if I, or any serious antiwar activist had the opportunity to stand on the world stage at that moment, I/we would have thoroughly shed Biden’s political blood and pilloried both of capitalism’s parties of war, death and destruction.
And the Vietnam War that Sanders’ Democratic Party “friends” now admit was also a “mistake?” Sanders declined to comment, not even to make a debater’s point. The nature of this “mistake” has never been seriously examined. Silence largely prevails! In truth, it was the now undeniable fact that after ten years of genocidal slaughter – replete with napalm carpet bombing, poison gas, agent orange defoliation and indiscriminate terror bombing of civilian populations – the U.S. government lost! That was the mistake! After murdering four million Vietnamese and countless tens of thousands of Cambodians, Laotians and Thais, the imperialist war machine failed to impose U.S. rule. “We” were forced to withdraw! No apologies for the genocide! The U.S. lost in Vietnam because the courageous Vietnamese would not cease their national liberation struggle, because the vast majority – 75 percent of the American people – mobilized for a decade in unprecedented numbers to demand “U.S. Out Now!” and because a demoralized U.S. military felt a greater kinship with the Vietnamese people than they did with the racist warmakers at home.
Sanders’ list of items to score points against Biden included the latter’s support for the infamous and racist mass-incarceration-oriented 1994 crime bill the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. The well-coached Biden blithely dodged that debaters point as well while Sanders declined to drive his point home with an accounting of the literal millions of poor and oppressed people who have been herded into the nation’s racist, increasingly for-profit and privatized prison-industrial complex.
Sanders stands mute on Cuba and Nicaragua
But Sanders silence was not matched by his repeated reference to his “longtime friend Joe,” to whom he repeatedly pledged his support should Biden win the Democratic Party nomination, an increasing certainty at that point in the primaries.
The March 16 televised debate spectacle included Bernie Sanders failure to counter Joseph Biden’s accusations that Sanders supported the “authoritarian governments” of Cuba and the Sandinistas of Nicaragua. That the U.S. armed and financed the universally hated, corrupt, Mafia-connected Fulgencio Batista dictatorship was not mentioned. That revolutionary Cuba, under Fidel Castro, defeated and removed that government and proceeded to conduct the largest land reform in the modern era, nationalized capitalist property and used it for the common good, that Cuba’s literacy campaign and free healthcare for all system are the envy of the world’s people, were not mentioned by the “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders. Biden emerged unscathed because Sanders accepted his “authoritarian” red-baiting without question. He stood mute on national television while the imperialist warmaker and Vice Presidential accomplice in Obama’s seven wars pilloried him for refusing to denounce Cuba and Nicaragua. Sanders was lost for words when Biden demanded that he renounce the revolutions that removed these previous U.S. neo-colonies from imperialist domination.
That Nicaragua’s U.S.-backed Anastasio Somoza dictatorship murdered 80,000 Nicaraguans in its final months in 1979 went unmentioned by Sanders. That the U.S. invaded Cuba in 1961, introduced dengue hemorrhagic fever in 1981, and then swine flu that devastated Cuba’s pig population, and then a plague that devastated Cuba’s banana crop, went unmentioned.
Sanders’ claimed longtime friend “Joe,” Obama’s anti-school-bussing, anti-abortion, warmongering VP, was let off the hook, except for Sanders’ staccato single-phrase recitation of Biden’s “voting record,” which the lying Biden denied and the corporate media dismissed as either irrelevant or long ago superseded by Biden’s more “progressive” views today. Why dwell in the past?
Democrats and corporate media close ranks
There was no Sanders rage against the iron-disciplined Democratic Party machine that united to defeat him in 19 of the past 24 primary contests. Gone in an instant were the likes of millionaire or billionaire racists and warmongers Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer and Elizabeth Warren. They had all been thrown into the orchestrated charade to dilute and undermine Sanders’ potential, only to pull the plug when the time was right to clear the way for a failing Biden to emerge unimpeded on center stage.
No rage against the kept corporate media that red-baited Sanders at will in virtually every media outlet across the country. Indeed, Biden, who repeatedly lied about his record with impunity at every opportunity – fully cognizant that he had Sanders beaten – extended the olive branch to his bewildered friend “Bernie,” so they could unite against Donald Trump.
Said Biden a few days after the debate,
“Let me say, especially to the young voters who have been inspired by Senator Sanders: I hear you. I know what’s at stake. I know what we have to do. Our goal as a campaign and my goal as a candidate for president is to unify this party and then to unify the nation.”
CNN and the New York Times, if not the entire “liberal” media cabal, similarly switched gears to congratulate “Bernie” for raising important issues while Sanders repeatedly consoled himself with remarks to the effect that the trend showed that he had “won the ideological debate” while “losing the debate over electability.”
Sanders imminent withdrawal
The 1,991 delegates Sanders needs to win the Democrat’s nomination at its summer convention are all but out of reach. Biden currently leads in pledged delegates 1,132 to 817. Sanders’ fundraising efforts have all but ceased. His aides daily proclaim that he is “assessing his options.”
Some Sanders’ advisers indicated that he intended to stay in the race to affect the Democratic Party platform at the national convention and to continue his “political revolution.” Sanders did this after losing to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary race. The Democratic Party’s platform, adopted during its convention proceedings, is worth less than the paper it is printed on. The real platform of the Democrats, and the Republicans, is decided behind closed doors by the direct representatives of the 0.1 percent, who daily hammer out ruling class multi-trillion dollar budgets, trade agreements, corporate and bank bailouts and imperialist war strategies. The hodgepodge of delegates who are sequestered in small rooms during the Democrats’ conventions decide nothing of substance.
Sanders’ chief campaign strategist, Faiz Shakir, stated that “Sanders is focused on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak and ensuring that we take care of working people and the most vulnerable.” Ever playing the election time game of one-upping your opponent’s proposals, Sanders is now calling for a $2,000 monthly payment to every American until the end of the COVID-19 pandemic. Needless to say, Biden’s advisers will not be far behind Sanders’ paper proposals, none of which will see the light of day.
Sanders is no socialist
Media red-baiting notwithstanding Bernie Sanders is not now and has never been a socialist. During the 2015 primary contests and ever since he has cast himself in the tradition of Democrat President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his “New Deal” politics that had the effect of saving a failing Depression-era U.S. capitalism rather than abolishing it. Roosevelt’s social reforms were aimed at countering the deepening radicalization of U.S. workers, half of whom were unemployed or barely employed part time. FDR’s limited social measures notwithstanding, he transformed U.S. industry into a war machine that had no rival on earth. With an estimated 60 million dead by the war’s end in 1945 and the infrastructure of U.S. allies and enemies alike in ruins, the intact U.S. industrial behemoth emerged as the sole world superpower. Three quarters of a century later, war production stands at the center of U.S. capitalism’s “stability.”
In a 2015 speech, Sanders stated that his politics “builds on what Franklin Delano Roosevelt said when he fought for guaranteed economic rights for all Americans.” In truth, the rights that workers won in the 1930s and beyond emerged from pitched battles with the boss class aimed at the unionization of capitalism’s major industries (See: “Labor’s Giant Step: The First Twenty Years of the CIO: 1936–55” by Art Preis, Pathfinder Press 1972).
Sanders: “I don’t believe the government should own the means of production”
Sanders’ 2015 speech continued,
“So the next time you hear me attacked as a socialist, remember this. I don’t believe the government should own the means of production, but I do believe that the middle class and working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal. I believe in private companies that thrive and invest and grow in America instead of shipping jobs and profits overseas.” (For the full Sanders speech, see: https://www.vox.com/2015/11/19/9762028/bernie-sanders-democratic-socialism).
Simply put, Sanders, in his own words is no socialist! There is no socialism in the framework of a capitalist society where an elite handful of multi-billionaires own and control more wealth than the combined holding of the majority of the population. Sanders’ so-called democratic socialism consists in his campaign pledge to tax the wealth of the super-rich at the rate of one percent, and impose this tax only on their wealth that exceeds $32 million! Sanders proclaims that under his policy “a married couple with $32.5 million would pay a wealth tax of just $5,000.” Pocket change for billionaires!! “There will always be billionaires in this country,” Sanders promises the ruling class.
Sanders’ statement that “private companies that thrive and invest in America” are welcome as opposed to those that “ship jobs and profits overseas” is sheer demagoguery. Leaving aside that any self-respecting capitalist enterprise that “thrives and grows” in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world, does so at the expense of its always exploited workers, no serious socialist advocates pitting foreign workers against U.S. workers. We might add that even when U.S. corporations return their production to the U.S. it is a qualitatively new production based on state-of-the-art factories where robots replace human beings en masse and wages remain at near-poverty levels.
That’s the nature of the system that Sanders in incapable of addressing. The entire complex of today’s globalized capitalism, without exception, and in the context of ever-sharper and intensified competition, is compelled to operate with the cheapest labor force and raw materials obtainable, the least government restrictions and the resulting highest profit rates possible. Those capitalists that do otherwise are effectively, if not brutally driven from the marketplace. These irrefutable fundamentals of capitalist production everywhere are of no concern to Sanders, for whom the class struggle is to be subordinated to his dreamlike fantasies where he promises today’s trade unions that he personally – not a fighting working class in alliance with the oppressed! – will “double union membership.”
Sanders will tour nation for Biden
Sanders and his “political revolution” are now dead in the water. His multi-trillion-dollar paper proposals did have the effect of inspiring a radicalizing generation with bleak future prospects to question “the system” and to search for solutions that appear to challenge the status quo. His use of the term “socialism,” however much his politics have nothing to do with its liberating, humane and majoritarian class content, served to open the minds of millions to further investigation.
But like all “good Democrats,” Sanders will soon tour the nation on behalf of a man whose policies he has long repudiated and whose ingrained hatred of socialist revolution has been evidenced throughout his career. Sanders proposed “solutions” were based on herding the innocent, and the not so innocent groups on the left, into the graveyard of the Democratic Party where the “left/progressive” and right/centrist wings are indistinguishable regarding which class shall rule society. All are dedicated to the imperialist system and its wars against working people at home and abroad. It has never been otherwise.
Indeed, Sanders and his supporters, the AOC gang included, supported every Democratic Party candidate in the 2018 mid-term elections! They are pledged to do the same in 2020 when Biden will undoubtedly be presented as the latest of capitalism’s “lesser evils.”
For serious fighters today there is a serious alternative. It lies in a commitment to organize and mobilize working people independently and in opposition to the parties and polices of capitalism. It lies in breaking with the two-party duopoly and fighting to re-build and transform the present labor movement into fighting organs of struggle on behalf of the vast majority. Start today by joining a revolutionary socialist party that seeks to sink deep roots in all the struggles of the oppressed and exploited!
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*Featured Photo: Bernie Sanders, 2016 ~Michelle Prevost
Jeff Mackler is the national secretary of Socialist Action. He is also Socialist Action’s candidate for U.S. President in the 2020 elections and he was the Socialist Action candidate for President in 2016. Mackler founded Northern California Climate Mobilization, is a longtime teacher and union activist with the American Federation of Teachers in Hayward, California and is director of theMobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal.