the circus is in town

“Socialist convergence”: A gathering of political bankrupts in Philadelphia
Joseph Kishore, WSWS, Jul 26 2016

The Democrat Party National Convention in Philadelphia began yesterday and will conclude later this week with the formal nomination of Hillary Clinton to be the party’s presidential candidate. This will set up a contest between Clinton, who will run a right-wing pro-war campaign, and Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman nominated by the Republicans last week. The conclusion of the nominating process for the two main parties of Pindosi capitalism will not resolve the deep political crisis in Pindostan. The widespread support for the campaign of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who called for a “political revolution” against the “billionaire class,” was the initial expression of a political radicalization of workers and youth throughout the country. Sanders is now attempting to convince his supporters to back Clinton, for which he was booed even by his own delegates in a speech on Monday morning. The Vermont senator, who even as an “Independent” worked closely with the Democrats, understood from the beginning that his task was to exploit the political naïveté of his supporters to direct opposition back into the Democrat Party, a party of war and social reaction. In carrying out this task, Sanders has had the assistance of a network of organizations and groups that operate around and within the gigantic gaseous planet exotic gaseous envelope that is the Democrat Party.

Many of these same organizations are now gathered in Philadelphia this week for their own “Socialist Convergence” meeting held simultaneously with the DNC. The main sponsors of the event include the Democratic Socialists of Pindostan; the Green Party; the International Socialist Organization; Socialist Alternative; Solidarity; the Party for Socialism and Liberation; and others. Speakers at the event will include Jill Stein, the likely unlikely Green Party candidate for POTUS; Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of Jacobin magazine; Kshama Sawant, Socialist Alternative’s representative in the Seattle City Council; and various members of the sponsoring organizations. Adopting the phraseology of the Sanders campaign, the conference is organized under the headline:

Carrying forward the political revolution: What’s next for the movement?

If the organizers were honest, they would instead have adopted the slogan:

Now that Sanders has endorsed Clinton, how do we forge a new political trap for the working class?

Much of the discussion within and between these organizations is over whether or not to endorse Jill Stein and the Green Party. One of the organizations that has openly backed Sanders over the past year is Solidarity. In a statement posted on the International Viewpoint web site, published by the Pabloite International Secretariat, Solidarity now calls “For Jill Stein and Independent Politics.” The statement begins by gushing:

(Sanders’) campaign for a ‘political revolution’ lit up the 2016 primary election season like a meteor across the sky.

It notes that many of its members “participated in the Labor for Bernie project,” an initiative by a section of the union bureaucracy to support Sanders during the primaries. Yet it goes on to assert that Sanders campaigned “within the parameters of a rigged two-party system” and that “there was never any doubt” about the outcome: Sanders backing Clinton. If in fact the entire process was rigged and known from the beginning, why did Solidarity so vigorously promote Sanders’ campaign, and why does it continue to hail his ‘political revolution’? Groups like Solidarity never give an accounting for their previous positions. For decades, they have backed one “revolutionary” capitalist party or organization after the next. When these organizations inevitably betray whatever promises they made, it is treated as an unexpected and unfortunate turn of events. They are absolutely opposed to defining the class character of forces they are backing. While they make references to Marx at various times, their method bears no relationship to Marxism, which evaluates political tendencies not by what they call themselves but by the class content of their program and the historical experiences of the working class movement. In 2008, they hailed the election of Obama as a “transformative” and “historic” event on the basis of the fact that he is African-American Black. One writer for Solidarity declared:

Obama’s election is first and foremost an unprecedented victory, a blow against 400 years of Black slavery, legal segregation and institutional racism.

The actual outcome of eight years of the Obama administration did not lead Solidarity, or any of its co-thinkers, to consider why they got it so wrong. Instead, with the campaign of Bernie Sanders, they saw a new opportunity to inflate illusions in the Democrat Party and bourgeois politics as a whole. With Sanders’ endorsement of Clinton, it is on to the next political maneuver: support for Jill Stein. According to Solidarity, the “political revolution” will now be continued by the Green Party. They write:

If you want a ‘political revolution’ that goes beyond empty promises, the time to break with the capitalist parties is now.

They propose to do this by supporting the Green Party campaign. There is in fact nothing anti-capitalist about the Green Party. It is a capitalist party with a capitalist program. Where the Greens have come to power, particularly in Germany, they have quickly abandoned their pacifist and reformist slogans to support war and the assault on the working class. As for the “independence” of the Green Party campaign, this was clearly exposed when Stein offered to cede her position as the likely head of the party’s ticket to Sanders, a Democrat who just finished campaigning in the Democrat Party primaries. Stein responded to Sanders’ appeals for all his supporters to vote for Clinton by urging him to join forces with the Green Party instead. In a statement released late last week, she urged:

Bernie … sit down with me to explore potential collaboration with the Green Party to ensure that the political revolution will prevail.

The International Socialist Organization, the Pindosi representative of the state capitalist tendency, takes essentially the same line as Solidarity. For most of the primary process, the ISO has called for a Green Party vote, criticizing groups like Socialist Alternative and Solidarity for campaigning for Sanders. This was not out of any principled differences with the promotion of the Democratic Party. Rather, the ISO has been concerned that by campaigning for Sanders, the rotten politics that all these groups share would be exposed once Sanders endorsed Clinton. Along with the rest of the participants in the “Socialist Convergence,” the ISO now hopes that these tactical differences can be laid to rest. In “Why you should converge on Philadelphia,” the ISO’s Todd Chretien (a one-time Green Party candidate for Pindosi Senate) writes:

Now that Socialist Alternative and Solidarity have come out squarely for Stein, organizers from groups supporting her campaign can compare notes and, hopefully, come out of the Convergence all pulling in the same direction.

In fact, the ISO is perfectly willing to “pull in the same direction” with groups that are now calling for supporting Clinton. It cites favorably a statement by the Young Democratic Socialists (the youth movement of the Democratic Socialists of Pindostan, a faction of the Democratic Party), which states:

Regardless of our agreements and disagreements with the Sanders endorsement, or continuing to debate the presidential candidate to vote for, now is the time to consider what we as a movement will do to make real change happen. … Convergence organizers want to welcome participation from any activists, whether they support Stein or believe that voting ‘against Trump’ and therefore for Hillary Clinton is a necessary evil at this stage.

Beyond support for Stein in the election, the pseudo-left outfits gathered in Philadelphia are discussing the possibility of forming a new political organization, in part modelled on the “Coalition of the Radical Left” (Syriza) in Greece. In “A Socialist Convergence in Philadelphia,” Solidarity writes, for example:

(We hope that all) non-sectarian socialists (can talk about the) prospects for a ‘Next Left’ from below, as the latest experiment of a long-standing orientation to left regroupment/ refoundation and the need for a ‘big tent’ multi-tendency pole of attraction.

“Non-sectarian socialists” means, in general, anyone except those with political principles, and in particular, the Socialist Equality Party (WSWS – RB). Similarly, in its recently adopted perspectives document, Socialist Alternative, which during the primaries set up the Movement4Bernie organization to support the Democratic Party candidate, calls for the formation of a “party of the 99%” that will have a “populist multi-class character” rather than “a clearly pronounced working class character.” Again, no conclusions are drawn from previous political experiences. Socialist Alternative states vaguely:

Syriza, Podemos, the already forgotten NPA in France or the SSP in Scotland had only a short time of ascending hopes.

This is presumably a reference to the fact that after coming to power in 2015 on the basis of mass opposition to austerity, Syriza implemented measures that go further in attacking the jobs and living conditions of Greek workers than any of its predecessors. This nevertheless remains the model for Socialist Alternative and countless similar organizations. The operations of the groups gathered in Philadelphia are not simply the product of stupidity and short-sightedness, though of this there is plenty. All of these organizations are part of the structure of bourgeois politics, representing more privileged sections of the upper middle class. Whether it is through the Sanders campaign, the Green Party campaign or the creation of some new political outfit, the aim is the same. On the one hand, these organizations hope to create more favorable conditions for upper middle class within the state, the trade unions and academia, generally through the promotion of identity politics (sic – RB). On the other hand, they are working desperately to prevent the working class from organizing as an independent political force in opposition to the capitalist system. The exposure of Sanders and the perspective of reforming the Democrat Party is at the same time an exposure of the political bankrupts gathered this week at the “Socialist Convergence” and reveals the vast gulf between the politics of the pseudo-left and of genuine socialism.

Sanders caps off a day of deceit and demagogy
Barry Grey, WSWS, Jul 26 2016

Bernie Sanders concluded his assigned task of seeking to corral mass anger and opposition in the working class behind the Democrat Party in the 2016 presidential election with a speech Monday night that capped off a day of political fraud and demagogy. Earlier in the day, Sanders was booed down when he told a meeting of his delegates and supporters outside the Philadelphia convention hall that they had to take forward his “political revolution” by voting for Hillary Clinton. In response to the eruption of anger and disgust from his own periphery, Sanders declared cynically:

This is a real world we live in.

He, of course, had done all in his power to ensure that this “real world” excluded the emergence of an independent movement of the working class against the increasingly hated capitalist system, and remained politically strangled by the domination of two right-wing, militaristic parties of the Pindosi corporate-financial aristocracy. Developments prior to the formal opening of the convention already underscored the reactionary character of the campaign Hillary Clinton plans to wage and of the government she will head if she wins the election in November. In response to the exposure, via leaked emails, of the plotting of her allies in the leadership of the DNC to subvert the primary challenge from Sanders, Clinton’s aides charged, without providing any evidence, that Russia had masterminded the leak in order to place its supposed stooge, Donald Trump, in the White House. This is part of an effort to outflank the fascistic Trump from the right by accusing him of being “soft” on Putin and unwilling to attack Russia in defense of NATO allies on Russia’s western border, as well as being insufficiently aggressive in preparing for war against China.

The day also featured a fawning speech by Clinton to the national convention of the right-wing, pro-war Veterans of Foreign Wars in which Clinton lavished praise on Republican war hawk John McCain. The day before, Obama had made clear the Democrats’ orientation to disaffected Republicans by praising a long list of past Republican office-holders in an interview on CBS Face the Nation. He topped this off by putting Ronald Reagan in the ranks of “Pindostan’s greatest presidents.” In the course of Monday’s proceedings inside Wells Fargo Center, one after another representative of the well-off middle class rose to praise Clinton as a tireless fighter in behalf of equality and justice. The various strands of identity politics were on full display, with Black, Hispanic, wommin, gay and disabled speakers taking turns in praising this widely-hated symbol of the political establishment, who is personally implicated in war crimes that have killed millions and notorious for her corrupt relations with Wall Street. But it was left to Sanders to complete the job of turning reality on its head and presenting Clinton and the Democratic Party as fighters for the interests of the common people. His speech was a display of unalloyed cynicism and dishonesty. To hear him speak, one would never know why he had opposed Clinton in the first place.

To attempt to enumerate all of the obvious falsehoods and contradictions in Sanders’ speech would consume dozens of pages. It is sufficient at this point to note that were his glowing statements about Clinton true, his own campaign would be incomprehensible, as would the broad support it received. The basis for the 13 million votes about which he boasted in his remarks was the passionate desire of masses of working people and youth for an alternative to the reactionary policies with which Clinton has been associated for more than three decades. Sanders’ exercise in political fraud seemed to be premised on the assumption that the Pindosi sheeple suffer from collective amnesia. But facts are facts. The last time the Clintons occupied the White House, they presided over a period of unprecedented financial corruption. The Clinton 42 administration was the period of “irrational exuberance,” when super-low interest rates underwrote a 400% rise in the stock market. All of the Clintons’ policies, the dismantling of Glass-Steagall and whatever else remained of banking regulations, the destruction of the federal welfare program, led to a vast enrichment of the corporate-financial elite. It was the period that produced Enron and the explosion in CEO pay. All of the processes that led to the financial collapse and depression of 2008 matured under the Clintons. For all of Sanders’ denunciations of Trump, the fact remains that the billionaire real estate mogul’s political rise was possible only because of mass disillusionment and frustration with the Democrat Party’s hypocrisy and right-wing policies.

One thing that was particularly striking about Sanders’ speech was the absence of a single reference to foreign policy. He said not a word about Clinton’s role as senator in backing the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq or her role as Sec State in championing the savage bombing of Libya and murder of its ruler Muammar Gaddafi, as well as the horrific bloodletting in Syria in pursuit of regime change, and the increasingly aggressive warmongering toward both China and Russia. Sanders had the gall to present his full-throated backing for Clinton as the continuation of his “political revolution” against the “billionaire class.” That so-called “revolution” turned out to consist of putting a Democrat back in the White House, accompanied by a Democrat House and Senate. Sanders was silent on the decision of the Clinton campaign to give the multibillionaire former Republican mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, a prime-time spot on Wednesday night to declare his own support for Clinton. Not only Sanders but all of the various middle-class organizations that promoted him, (including) the International Socialist Organization, Socialist Alternative, Solidarity and the Green Party, are now politically responsible for the consequences. The political lessons of the Sanders experience must be learned. As has happened so often before, the Democrat Party has become the graveyard of a movement of social protest, with Sanders serving as the undertaker. The warnings repeatedly issued by the Socialist Equality Party and the World Socialist Web Site, which insisted that Sanders was not the representative of a movement of social revolt, but rather the instrument for containing and dissipating that movement, have been fully borne out. The campaign of the Socialist Equality Party and its presidential and vice presidential candidates Jerry White and Niles Niemuth is the only campaign in this election that is genuinely independent of capitalist politics and advances a revolutionary socialist program.

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