An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders Supporters from Solidarity, a socialist, feminist, anti-racist organization

from Solidarity

September 10, 2015

To meet human need, a political revolution must take back the billions diverted to the U.S. war machine and the military-industrial complex. So where does Bernie stand?

Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination has taken off like a rocket, with huge rallies and an outpouring of enthusiasm for his condemnation of corporate greed, inequality, and rampant social injustice in the United States. Bernie openly says he’s a socialist, and much of his program is flatly unacceptable to the ruling capitalist “one percent” and the Democratic Party leadership. What he’s saying about what’s wrong with our system is catching fire, especially among young people and workers hit by the economic crisis. And after a problematic start he’s taken important steps in reaching out to the Black Lives Matter movement and embracing the fight against racist police brutality, the militarization of “law enforcement,” and the prison-industrial complex.

But there’s a gaping hole in Sanders’ program for economic and social justice: his platform does not talk about what’s called “foreign policy”–war and peace, military spending, the vast global network of U.S. bases, the infamous Guantanamo detention center, Palestine and Israel, or the refugee crisis from the horrific wars in the Middle East. These are not abstractions, but life-and-death issues for millions of people–and absolutely fundamental for the hopes of a “political revolution” and mass “grassroots movement” that Bernie Sanders calls for.

A sign breaks down discretionary spending–the Pentagon accounts for over half.

Let’s be crystal clear: building an economy that meets human needs and halts capital’s forced death march toward environmental catastrophe cannot be done without massive cuts in spending on the worldwide military machinery, around half of which the United States makes up all by itself. Some 54% of all U.S. government discretionary spending goes to the Pentagon’s war machine.

U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW), a coalition of some 165 trade union organizations launched in 2003 to oppose intervention in Iraq, is circulating the petition below. We urge everyone to add their signature.

“To Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and all other Progressives:

“We call upon all those who seek our political support to speak out forcefully, with clarity and passion, for a new definition of national security that puts the welfare of our people and the planet ahead of the interests of the Pentagon brass, military contractors, multinational corporations and the military-industrial complex.” – U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)

Solidarity, a socialist organization that’s committed to independent political action, does not endorse any Democrats or Republicans. We believe both parties serve the interests of big business and the profit system–period. We believe that we, the 99%, need our own political party and our own independent movements to speak for the majority. That doesn’t blind us to the way Sanders’ campaign and his supporters are shaking up the political establishment and raising vital issues for our political future.

In fact, for a long time we have admired Bernie Sanders’ record as an independent and a socialist campaigning and ultimately winning election as mayor of Burlington, congressperson, and then Senator from Vermont. We applaud his efforts in the Senate on behalf of the needs of veterans. As Senator Bernie Sanders’ website shows, during his time in the Senate Sanders has not been silent on critical issues of war and militarism–far from it.

So why the total silence on these issues on Sanders’ presidential campaign website? There is no reason to imagine that he has personally changed his views. Rather, we have to assume that the issues of the permanent war machine and U.S. military interventions are not what he wants to fight around in his campaign. Somehow, perhaps they are “divisive” and would divert attention from his calls for economic justice within the Democratic Party primary.

By choosing to run as a Democratic and not an independent, Sanders is now trapped in the framework of this capitalist party, which is heavily influenced by the military-industrial complex and a belief in the destiny of the US as the world’s number one imperialist power. Bernie’s silence forces us to assume that his policy, with a few variations, is fundamentally a continuation of that of Barack Obama and his Secretaries of State Hillary Clinton and John Kerry. What few statements he has made, for example about “carefully” continuing drone warfare, don’t contradict this assumption.

Sanders’ silence is a betrayal of humanitarian principle, and is in total contradiction with the objective of building an economy that meets human needs. Bernie Sanders’ supporters should not accept this silence. Let Bernie know that opposition to the deadly excesses of the U.S. war machine is an integral part of the political revolution we all want.

We in Solidarity share your aspirations and commitment to the fight for radical change against the inhumanity of the 1%. But our side will never win if we continue to support the two political parties that have no intention of representing our interests because they are owned and controlled, bought and paid for by the 1%. What we need is a new, independent party that working people run in the interests of the 99%.

As supporters of independent politics, we urge you to check out the Green Party presidential campaign of Jill Stein. When Bernie Sanders’ campaign is over and done, Jill Stein and the Greens will still be there, running on a program for a Green New Deal that puts people and our planet ahead of profit. In the meantime, let’s keep talking–both among ourselves, and to those tens of millions of Americans who are looking for a way out of the mess that capitalism has made.


10 responses to “An Open Letter to Bernie Sanders Supporters from Solidarity, a socialist, feminist, anti-racist organization”

  1. Roy Rollin Avatar
    Roy Rollin

    Lets cut the crap and get down to the brass tacks. Bernie Sanders is not an “independent.” He is not a “socialist,” certainly not a socialist like Debs, who went to jail opposing a Democrat war rather than voting in congress to support and/or fund them. Even a racist and reformist like Debs’ contemporary Victor Berger had a better record in Congress on that than Sanders. He is a one-time former “radical” who long ago made his peace with American capitalism and the Democratic Party and has since functioned, first and foremost as a loyal Democrat…as many grateful Democrats have testified. He supported Clinton, he supported Obama and that included all their wars. He opposed Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney and swears in advance that he won’t take the primrose path that those two did, i.e., out of and away from the Democrat dead-end. So if you are a Democrat or rad-lib “progressive” who regularly supports “lesser-evil” capitalist candidates than Sanders is about as good as good is gonna’ get.

    True his record on “economic” issues is way to the left of any other Democrat these days, but that makes him little more than a classic cold war liberal (or right wing social democrat) especially when you take his record on foreign policy and the military into question. As many critics on the left have already pointed out, there’s no way that one can seriously implement the kind of policies he claims to stand for domestically while maintaining the bloated budget for imperialism’s wars and its allies abroad like Israel and Saudi Arabia. And lets not forget the big bucks that “Bernie” voted for the fascists in the Ukraine either. And drones cost money too. Unless Bernie and his backers think that this is still the 1950s when American workers (some of the lighter skinned ones anyway) could have both guns and butter.

    All of this assumes that this drone “socialist” actually gets the nomination and gets elected to begin with. Considering what happened to his buddy Howard Dean in 2004 (or Jesse Jackson who got further in 1988) this seems highly unlikely. What’s more far more likely is that he will do the Jesse Jackson/Dennis Kucinich number and string out his sheepdog act up until the convention, when he delivers his “mass movement” over to Hillary or Joe Biden. Which is just what he says he intends to do.

    Of course, those “leftists,” “radicals,” “progressives” and even “socialists” supporting him already know this. Only they’re so damned desperate for something, anything, out there that moves, that it just doesn’t matter any more who or what it is. For most of them , it never did and never will. They all ran after Barak Obama’s internet “mass movement” (“Brand Obama”) as well and fawned over Alexis Tsipras in Greece up until the bitter end. The bottom line on Sanders is that he’s not going to win whether he runs as a Democrat or an independent. Only as the latter he could play a part in the solution; as the former he remains part of the problem. And what’s more, he knows it as much as we do!

  2. Roy Rollin Avatar
    Roy Rollin

    We already had Bill Clinton for eight years and Barack Obama for another eight after that.

    Boy, they sure changed thing for workers and the poor a lot…for the worse, that is.

    Although it must be said in Clinton’s defense that since he was so right wing, he helped to bring about the anti-globalization movement and the Nader campaign.

  3. Alex Avatar

    I would argue somewhat the opposite–that the approach of progressive/left forces broadly in always supporting the lesser evil plays right into the rightward march of politics under neoliberalism, and that the only way to combat that trend is to be firm in taking positions to the left of where the Democrats are. This doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about who to vote for on election day, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that supporting third party candidates is going to get you anywhere, but it does mean that, for example, it was a huge mistake for progressive forces to mainly fight for a “public option” during the healthcare debate instead of standing strong for single payer. If we’d done the latter, maybe we would’ve won something like the public option…or similarly, supporting whichever shitty immigration reform bill Congress debates at a given moment instead of demanding actually just immigration reform allows those bills to continually become worse and worse, instead of pressuring them to better.

    I’d say the same line of thinking applies to electoral politics: if you demand only the little bit you think you can win in a terrible political situation, you won’t win even that much and you’ll watch “what you can win” become less and less, and more and more in line with neoliberalism. We have to fight for something better than we expect to win if we want to win anything at all. Otherwise we give a free pass to the candidates of neoliberalism (and this is the chosen candidates of both parties) to continue their anti-people project.

  4. Scott Avatar

    Agree with Anonymous’ comments (9/11 @ 9:23 am)

    Bernie us the first step, we need the “mole behind the firewall”
    before we can start another party. Let’s get Bernie in for
    eight years and another Progressive like Elizabeth Warren
    for another eight years.

    Between the two of them, they will change a lot!!!

  5. Mallthus Avatar

    ^^^^ This!!!

  6. Mallthus Avatar

    We on the far left have, for too long, behaved in ways not wholly unlike our far right opposition and we continue to pay the price for it, with political center in the United States that continues to move right.

    It’s not enough for us that a candidate shares some of our views. They need to be in lockstep with dogmatic ideology on all issues, or they’ll not get our support.

    Clearly, this is a position that’s served us well in the past. One need only look back to the 2000 election cycle to see that. Certainly, we were all better served with support for Nader turning into 8 years of Bush, than we would have been with the less than ideologically pure Gore.

    Given the existential threat the American right poses to basic liberties, human rights and economic justice, we need to support any and all that are willing and able to fight them. We cannot abandon people like Bernie Sanders because they’re not sending a ideologically pure message. Heck, we can’t abandon them because we disagree on a handful of issues.

    We must support candidates on the left with a realistic chance of winning elections now, or, most assuredly, we and our children will suffer in both the near and long haul. First with attacks on our human and economic rights and then, when the inevitable armed struggle happens, a real battle with real costs, both in blood and treasure.

  7. Jerry Schaefer Avatar
    Jerry Schaefer

    By running as a democrat he may actually have a chance to win and make real substantial change. His voting record can stand the heat of scrunity relative to foreign policy and military spending. Be careful not to destroy your allies in your fervor for purity or you’ll become no more than the left wing tea party. Keep speaking truth to power. Truth. Peace.

  8. Anonymous Avatar

    Do you want real change? Do you know how real change occurs? Do you know how to actually take down a corrupt political system that has been growing for over 30 years? Since the Reagan Administration, the wealthy have systematically taken control of every aspect of our society. I get it, you want a true savior to rise up, a valiant hero from a third, independent party, who agrees with you on every single issue. You want the people of the U.S. to rally together to stop this grave injustice by getting him/her into the White House. Well, guess what? That’s not how it works, at all. The 99% is not a group. We are a statistic. You choose to ignore that most people are raised to think a certain way, influenced by family, religion, the media and our capitalism-tailored education system. They will never, ever, ever, vote for a third party. Ever. Scientifically speaking, you will not be able to convince them otherwise. They are conditioned to be part of this system. Sure, if we let the establishment continue on as it is, while slowly expanding our independent parties, then maybe in 50 years we’ll have enough people to break the cycle. The reality is, the establishment’s grip is far tighter than you want to admit. The only way to take it down right now is from the inside. That is exactly what Bernie Sanders is going to do. He does not want to be part of this corrupt two-party system, but he acknowledges its existence, its power, and its impact. He is putting his pride aside in order to make progress. If you won’t support Bernie simply because of his foreign policy (which you are vastly mistaken on), then you genuinely don’t care about making real change. You are voting out of pride instead of with your brain. Political pride is the same mentality of many Republican voters, and currently, you don’t sound much different. You clearly haven’t done your research before making such accusations about Bernie’s lack of transparency on foreign policy. He has said outright that war should be a last resort. He has said that he would cut military spending. He has said that he would pull troops out of Israel. He has said that he would push other countries to collaborate on any international conflicts. If you look at his voting record, he is very anti-war unless there is a very good reason to engage in one. Once a resolution for war is passed, he will then pass the funding for that war (often after getting an amendment in) even if he voted against that war. Why? Because he does not want to send our U.S. troops to their graves by under-funding them. He actually cares about people, which is why he is one of the strongest supporters of veterans’ rights. He is not an arrogant, stubborn politician. He knows that when things don’t go his way, he has to work with what he’s got. We have no idea what kind of country we would be living in if he didn’t get any of his amendments through on legislation for the past 25 years. You talk about Jill Stein and the New Deal. I’m sorry, but Jill Stein does not have the experience or the record to suggest she could ever make anywhere near the same kind of impact as Bernie. Furthermore, Bernie knows that a “New Deal” policy will not fly with the majority right now. You are living in a country where a lot of people don’t know or remember the Great Depression, or FDR, or the New Deal. You are a socialist which is why it is at the top of your list, and you want others to be the same, but that’s not how you make change. You make change by bringing people together and finding common ground. You need to manage your expectations and make a logical, informed choice. Bernie will have a profound impact because millions of people, people like myself who never though they would get involved in politics, will be voting and rallying and fighting for the betterment of our country. If you actually care about the future of this nation, and aren’t acting out of pride, you will look at the facts more carefully. I already have, and I decided that I am voting and campaigning for Bernie. You can endorse whoever you’d like, but don’t pretend for a second that your current attitude is going to bring about real, actual, tangible positive change for the majority of people in this country.

  9. Dianne Feeley Avatar
    Dianne Feeley

    I believe real change occurs when people demand it, and refuse to give up! That means we need to have organizations we control. I don’t believe change can occur from within a corrupt party that is controlled by corporate money–and that’s what the two parties are.

    An independent party doesn’t need to be led by “a true savior.” Rather it could be one where people work together to develop alternatives to the policies of the corporate elite. We could develop spokespeople with thoughtful solutions not just to neoliberal capitalism, but to the whole capitalist system.

    Ordinary people recognize that Bernie Sanders isn’t a corrupt politician. In a many cases he has walked the picket line when we were on strike, and supported our causes. So people trust him as they don’t trust others politicians.

    Because we have a very unfair “winner take all” electoral system, Bernie Sanders has chosen to run inside the Democratic Party. So he’s in a contradictory situation. In my opinion he can’t become the standard bearer for the Democratic Party because the corporate elite doesn’t trust him and they certainly won’t fund him. They will find a way of taking him down.

    Then what will his supporters do? Some will vote for whoever they think is the “lesser evil,” but others, after tasting the relative independence of the grassroots Sander campaign, may well realize the need for a different electoral vehicle.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    End the military industrial complex now! Fund schools, health care, and housing.