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California's Feminist Socialist Political Party

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Symposium on the Sanders Campaign

The Sanders Campaign: A Symposium

Posted on September 26, 2015 by the Communications Committee

The Presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders has drawn record crowds and electrified many left/progressives, but we need to ask some hard questions. Is it enough to "feel the Bern?" Or do we need to build a movement that will last beyond 2016 and transform America and the world?

In this symposium, writers from different political perspectives join writers from the Peace and Freedom Party to discuss these and other questions raised by the Sanders campaign. All contributions are signed articles that reflect the opinions of their authors and not necessarily the positions of the Peace and Freedom Party.

The articles posted so far are (or click here for all of the articles together on one page):

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 August 2016 16:02

Bernie Bird Comes Home to Roost

By Roger D. Harris

Posted on August 4, 2016 by the Communications Committee

This article is the eighth to appear in The Sanders Campaign: A Symposium. It first appeared at Dissident Voice on July 13.

With Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Hillary Clinton two weeks before the Democratic National Convention, his pledge to “take the fight to the convention floor” is passé.

Berning Man

The Sanders campaign was hatched in talk show host Bill Press’ living room based on two premises: raise issues and do no harm to the Democratic Party. Press, a former chair of the California Democratic Party and author of Buyer's Remorse: How Obama Let Progressives Down, recalls (pers. com.) they had no idea how popular the campaign would be and no illusions of winning.

How successful has Sanders been in raising the critical class issue of accelerating inequality in the US now that the formerGoldwater Girl made-over to be an ersatz progressive is the Democratic nominee? During the bait phase of the bait-and-switch primary campaign, Sanders electrified whole stadiums with "the economy is rigged, the system is rigged, the Democratic Party is rigged." These were fighting words that mobilized new constituencies of mostly young people.


We Can't Tail After The Democrats

By Bernie Sanders

Posted on September 2, 2015 by the Communications Committee

This article is the first to appear in The Sanders Campaign: A Symposium. To download in Adobe Acrobat format for printing and distribution, click here.

Introduction by the PFP Communications Committee

We find much of what presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is currently saying about wealth inequality and by implication about the failures of a capitalist economy in the U.S. to be consistent with our platform.

But we think that Bernie Sanders should be running outside the two-party system. Instead, he is running as a Democrat and will likely support the winner of the Democratic primary (he did with Obama), which almost without a doubt will be the "corporate liberal" Hillary Clinton.

While raising important issues for the electorate to consider, the Sanders candidacy also has the function of giving an undeserved left-liberal legitimacy to the Democratic Party. His campaign, which does not directly criticize the record of the Democratic Party or of Ms. Clinton, serves to draw back into the fold otherwise disaffected voters who had been disappointed when the progressive hopes generated by candidate Obama turned out to be largely hopes without substance.

The Peace and Freedom Party considers that one of the first steps toward progressive change in the U.S. is to have an organized left party that is independent of the two corporate parties, the Democrats and the Republicans. Ironically, this argument is masterfully made by Bernie Sanders himself in the following article that is reproduced from The Guardian of September 27, 1989 (we have added the subtitles). Written 26 years ago, Sanders' prescient analysis applies to his current campaign.

Bernie Sanders says the following ...


Evaluating the Sanders Candidacy

By Wayne Nealis

Posted on September 26, 2015 by the Communications Committee

This article is the second to appear in The Sanders Campaign: A Symposium.

Introduction by the PFP Communications Committee

The rallying cry of the neoliberal capitalist project to roll back gains made by workers is "there is no alternative to capitalism" -- abbreviated TINA. According to the neoliberals, working people have no choice except to accept capitalism and forget about resistance. The Peace and Freedom Party with its presidential ballot line along with other left alternative party efforts are proof that there is an alternative to capitalism in the electoral arena of class struggle.

Even if left third party efforts tally only a small percentage of the total vote now, they are a foot in the door against the lock of capitalism. The independent alternative parties are an articulation of the groundswell of popular dissatisfaction with the neoliberal capitalist order at home and abroad.

The Bernie Sanders campaign has been riding on as well as building this anti-capitalist wave. Wayne Nealis, in the article reprinted below, provides a sympathetic and nuanced evaluation of the Sanders campaign within the Democratic Party, while the author upholds the need for independent socialist alternatives such as the Peace and Freedom Party.

This article was originally published at Marxism-Leninism Today on Jun 21, 2015 and is reproduced by permission of the editors.

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Sanders' anti-One Percent message is welcome. Nonetheless, "political independence inside the Democratic Party" is a dead end. Progressives should take independent political action, break dependency on the Democratic Party and defeat the right wing.

The yearning among millions of Americans for a change in politics as usual is evident in the enthusiasm for Senator Bernie Sanders' anti-One Percent campaign. In late June, on ABC's This Week, Sanders said he would win because Americans are "...sick and tired of working longer hours for low wages while at the same time 99 percent of all new income generated is going to the top 1 percent and the top one-tenth-of-one-percent now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent." [1]

Those are fightin' words that have found traction among millions of voters. His message echoes Occupy Wall Street's scrappy call to fight back against the greed and usury of the 1 percent. Those who see the need to build a political movement to challenge the two major parties should closely follow voters' response to his campaign program, as it is a barometer of independent electoral opportunities.


Bernie and Beyond: A Socialist Perspective on the Sanders Campaign

By Eugene E. Ruyle

Posted on October 17, 2015 by the Communications Committee

This article is the third to appear in The Sanders Campaign: A Symposium.


The following is an outgrowth of research and organizing for our forum, "Bernie and Beyond: Socialist Perspectives on the Sanders Campaign," held on Saturday, October 3, 2015 as part of our regular series, Suds, Snacks, and Socialism at the Starry Plough Pub in Berkeley. The forum was attended by about 50 people and included registered Democrats and Greens, as well as our own Peace and Freedom activists and registrants. The program featured both Sanders supporters and others critical of Sanders and of the Democratic party: Ellis Goldberg (Contra Costa for Bernie), Steve Early (Labor for Bernie), Marsha Feinland (Peace and Freedom Party), and Gerald Smith (Peace and Freedom Party).

This forum, and my paper, represents a good model for how socialists and independents might relate to the Sanders campaign, namely by considering all different perspectives as the campaign unfolds before making hard decisions and dogmatically defending these decisions to the end. In our forum, this was done by inviting speakers with different perspective and encouraging maximum audience participation.

I tried to follow this same approach in my paper, weighing the pros and cons, and the yes’es, no’s and maybe’s, to better understand the Sanders campaign. This may be confusing for some but I think the results of following this approach will be worth the effort.

Sanders might best be described as a “middle class” socialist, not a revolutionary socialist or a Marxist. His program may best be described as reformist, or “the left wing of the possible.” His foreign policy can most charitably be described as disappointing. In spite of all that, Sanders has transformed what otherwise would have been the most expensive, corrupt, and inane election in history into something real and exciting.

For those who don’t want to wade through my lengthy discussion (on the one hand, but on the other hand, but on still the other hand), you can go directly to my final sentence:

We might prefer that some other figure, such as Gloria La Riva of PSL or Jill Stein of the Green Party, were receiving the kind of mass support and media attention that Sanders has earned. But that is not a choice we get to make. In the real world, Sanders deserves socialist support in his campaign for the Democratic nomination and beyond. No one knows what a Sanders presidency would be like, but we all know what the usual suspects will give us.


Sanders, Clinton and Trump: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

By Roger D. Harris

Posted on February 23 by the Communications Committee

This article is the seventh to appear in The Sanders Campaign: A Symposium. A somewhat different version appeared at Counterpunch on February 19.

Feel the Bern! Sanders swept the 2016 Democrat New Hampshire presidential primary with a landslide 60% of the vote. He won without accepting corporate PAC money, with practically all the newspapers endorsing his opponent, and with almost every Democratic Party official in opposition.

Coupled with an insurgency win by Trump on the Republican side, the grassroots have spoken out, expressing their smoldering dissatisfaction and alienation with politics as usual. This popular upwelling is welcomed and embraced by the Peace and Freedom Party, pointing to opportunities for independent politics and even political realignments.


Socialist Tactics and the Bernie Sanders Campaign

By Brian Becker

Posted on October 25, 2015 by the Communications Committee

This article is the fourth to appear in The Sanders Campaign: A Symposium.

Introduction by the PFP Communications Committee

In this article, Brian Becker of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) describes the Sanders campaign in terms of the contradictions it embodies. Senator Sanders' use of the phrase "democratic socialist", coupled with his surge in the polls, are evidence of a new popular interest in socialism. At the same time, in the PSL's view, his campaign seriously misleads people about what socialism actually is. And it is stuck within the framework of the two party system in general and the Democratic Party in particular. The author describes at length how these contradictions are embedded in U.S. political life since World War II.

Becker argues that the most important task for socialists is not to attack Sanders for failing to build a new political party to the left of the Democrats, or for his wrong positions on specific issues. The most important task is to reach out to and engage with Sanders' supporters. He discusses both the "why" and -- at more length than most other commentators -- the "how" of reaching out. The is an important start. We hope to hear even more about the "how", both from PSL and other participants in the discussion, as the Sanders campaign develops.

Several PSL members in California serve on Peace and Freedom Party state and county central committees. PSL's own candidate for President, Gloria La Riva, has announced that she will be one of the candidates for our presidential nomination next spring and summer. As of this writing, we don't know who the other candidates will be.

This article was originally published at Liberation News on October 19, 2015 and is reproduced by permission of the PSL.


Feeling the Bern? Or getting burned?

By Mary McIlroy

Posted on January 6, 2016 by the Communications Committee

This article is the fifth to appear in The Sanders Campaign: A Symposium.

It is understandable that so many working class people are "Feeling the Bern." Self-described democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, the independent Senator from Vermont currently seeking the Democratic Party nomination for President, says a lot of things that resonate with us. He wants to raise taxes on the rich and regulate the banks. He is for free health care for all, and free college education for our children. These are things that are in the Peace and Freedom Party platform. So why aren’t all of us in the Peace and Freedom Party excited about the Sanders campaign?

Many of us are highly doubtful that Sanders will get the Democratic Party nomination, no matter how well he may do during primary season. Mainstream media outlets such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal won’t even recognize that Sanders may have won the first debate. They continue to marginalize Sanders and his campaign.


Popularity of Socialism Revealed as Sanders Moves Ahead in the Polls

By Roger D. Harris

Posted on January 28, 2016 by the Communications Committee

This article is the sixth to appear in The Sanders Campaign: A Symposium.

Lately the s-word has gotten ink in the corporate media – and not all pejorative – now that a candidate in the presidential primary of one the major corporate parties has had the temerity to run as some sort of socialist.

That socialism has legs in the world beyond the Beltway comes as no surprise to the Peace and Freedom Party, the only ballot qualified socialist party in California. Check out these statistics. In the Washington Post ("The Fix", January 17), Aaron Blake reports the following polling results:

  • 43% of likely participants in the Iowa caucus identify as “socialists” compared to only 38% as “capitalists” in a January Selzer poll.
  • 47% of all American voters are willing to vote socialist in a June Gallup poll; 59% among Democrats.
  • 56% of Democratic voters had a positive view of socialism in a November NYT/CBS poll; 49% considered themselves “anti-Wall Street.”
Blake concludes that "this number proves Bernie Sanders can win Iowa."


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