Bernie Sanders Info Wanted

Andy Daitsman adaitsma at
Thu Mar 2 23:22:46 MST 1995

I'm going to insist on the argument I presented obliquely the other day.

Given the particularity of hegemony in the United States, left discourse can
be ridiculed and marginalized until we prove that our project has meaning to
a significant sector of the population.  And the only way to prove that is
to win elections.  And the only way to win elections is to have an
established and credible institutional presence.  That is, a party.

Does this mean we join the Democratic party and attempt to change their
discourse?  If you feel like plowing the sea, go right ahead.

Does this mean we wait for lefty labor leaders, fuzzy populists, and sexy
Hollywood actors (read Winpisinger, Jackson and Asner) to organize a
national labor party?  If you feel like waiting for the millenium, go right

Should we put our stock in charismatic leaders?  One, two, many Bernie Sanders?

Or do we retreat into our study groups, re-analyze the Marxist texts (with
appropriately "modern" eyes), and develop the "correct" line which will
miraculously strike home with the mass numbers of disaffected and
disenchanted workers in America's burgeoning service sector?  Yeah, and
Christ will be back any day now.

Right now, in the United States, people are engaged in the dirty work of
day-to-day organizing, establishing an electoral base on which they can
build, and developing their agenda as they go along.  Progressive Milwaukee
(as the example I know best) is forging an organic relationship with a mass
base--not giving people whole cloth an ideology they have to agree with, but
proposing ideas, testing their reception, and *listening* to what the base
has to say.

They are informed by theory, and by Marxism.  Their executive board includes
a member of Solidarity and several folks who came out of seventies pre-party
formations.  And their political work is by no means limited to simply
winning elections.  Their social projects reach out to Milwaukee's
communities in many ways, addressing labor (especially plant closings, a big
issue in Milwaukee), housing, mass transit, and broader questions of
regional economic development.
As far as I know, they don't have an explicit socialist agenda, but I'm not
convinced that we can actually approach Americans at this specific
historical moment with a socialist agenda.  But I'll tell you this: if we
don't develop a left institutional presence, *now*, a lot of us could find
ouselves incarcerated in the not too distant future.  Don't underestimate
the fascist potential of the U.S. right-wing.

The point is that only the kind of on the ground organizing practiced by PM
can create the national left party we need.  It's not nearly enough to do it
in just one city.  The model is working in Milwaukee, they are challenging
bourgeois hegemony, and progressives elsewhere can learn from it.

Ok, I'll get off the high horse now.


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