Friday, 11 September 2015

Bernie Sanders is too right wing to be a socialist


It's a letter to the International Socialist Organization's Socialist Worker as part of a discussion on whether to support Bernie Sanders's campaign. This radical, Jay Moore, crossed paths politically with Sanders many times in Vermont.
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A booster for U.S. imperialism
I HAVE lived and been an activist in Vermont for the past 30 years, during which time I closely followed Bernie Sanders' political career that has led him from Burlington mayor to U.S. congressman to U.S. senator to presidential candidate.
Over those years, I have had a number of direct encounters with him. I can tell you from my experience that Bernie is (1) a very rude human being (which makes it hard to understand how he has been a successful politician) and (2) has never been part of the social-change movements here in Vermont, and has often been at odds with us, particularly when it concerned wars and other international issues--most recently, the savage Israeli attack on Gaza.
My first experience with Bernie came shortly after he was elected mayor, and I moved to Burlington partly on that basis. It came while I was participating in a Central American solidarity action at a General Electric Gatling Gun factory in the early 1980s in support of peasants in El Salvador and Nicaragua against whom the machine guns mounted on helicopters were being used.
One would have expected, and I certainly did at the time, that Bernie--back then, much more of an "avowed socialist" than he is today--would have supported our civil disobedience protests to rid the "Peoples Republic of Burlington" from this odious human rights blot. Burlington had a sister city in Nicaragua.
But Bernie did not. Instead, I vividly remember Bernie standing arms-folded alongside the right-wing union officials from the factory and the Burlington Police Department as we were being arrested. He falsely insinuated that we were "anti-worker," and he refused to have any serious political dialogue with us activists. Bernie next made cozy with the cops and their union, who endorsed him in his future mayoral elections.
To my knowledge, Bernie has never spoken out against U.S. imperialism, calling it for what it is--namely, the foundation of upper-class profits and middle-class privileges in the belly of the beast. Down through the years as a politician, he has waffled at best on opposing U.S. wars against the developing world and other people who are deviating from what our rulers want. To his credit, Bernie did vote against the Iraq wars (though this was not a particularly courageous stand to take given how many other members of Congress did the same), but he has not consistently voted against the military funding legislation that made these wars possible.
Moreover, back in 1999, he was an enthusiastic supporter of Bill Clinton's bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. At that time, I was a member of a group of angry and upset peace activists, including Dave Dellinger, who held a sit-in at Bernie's Burlington office and were arrested after Bernie refused to speak with us. At that same time, one of Bernie's Washington staff, the labor historian and activist Jeremy Brecher, wrote a stinging open letter explaining why he could not continue to work for and represent a politician who would take that kind of pro-war position.
In the last couple of years, a huge battle has taken place in Burlington and surrounding towns over the Pentagon's plan to station the new F-35 warplane boondoggle at the Burlington Airport. A large and diverse movement came together to oppose it, based on everything from the noise level for those who have to live under its takeoff to its contribution to militarism and global warming. Did Bernie stand with the people's movement? No, he has supported the F-35 to the hilt, standing instead with the area's military types.
Last fall, when members of Code Pink and Occupy confronted him about his failure to oppose Israel's attack on the Gaza civilian population, Bernie took an evasive liberal position, criticizing the Palestinians who were resisting as much or more than the Zionists. He then called the police on us.
Yes, I will freely admit that Bernie can talk a good talk about economic inequities and the need to redress them. He's definitely on the mark there. An Occupier can agree. While never much of an environmentalist, he has even added a bit about global warming to the end of his standard populist stump speech. (When I knew him as Burlington's mayor, he was all in favor of letting developers take over the public lands on Burlington waterfront--which fortunately was stopped due to actions by Green activists with whom he could never get along.) However, is that enough?
In my view, we need to be clear--especially if we are socialists--about the strong linkages between what capitalism does overseas and here at home, and we need to stand firmly in solidarity with all of those people who are opposing U.S. imperialism and call for no more military spending that is being used to kill and repress them. I will certainly not waste my vote on a politician who does not take that stand.
As importantly, we need to be building revolutionary movements to take power away from the ruling class, not campaigning for politicians who invariably let us down with their promises of reforms.
Jay Moore, Marshfield, Vermont

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