File spoon-archives/marxism.archive/marxism_1995/95-03-31.000, message 45

Date: Sat, 4 Mar 1995 13:52:53 +0800
Subject: Bernie Sanders debate: Original poster replies

As the person who made the original request for Information about Bernie
Sanders, I'd like to make a few comments about the proceedings so far.



(1) MORE INFO WANTED!!! Only a few people have filled in any background
information about BS or given me some useful refernece. To those people, I
thank you profusely. I know that there is no way (nor should there be!) of
limiting discussion to the wishes of the original poster, but for those who
obliged, you have my gratitude. If anyone has any more info about
good/dodgy voting patterns etc, please forward it.

(2) The ensuing discussion has been interesting, and I have especially
enjoyed the contributons from Yasko, Doug Henwood, XTROT666 and Ron Press.

I'd like to advance some hypotheses:

 SOCIAL DEMOCRACY It is futile to try and resurrect some kind of social
democratic project. To try and make people believe in the impossible,
namely that nationalist welfarist strategies are desirable and/or
achievable, is to delude them. To quote a friend of mine, Ben Ross, we seem
stuck in the idea that the burst balloon of the Keynesian welfare state can
be reinflated just by pumping that bit harder.

No doubt some people will mount the 'transitional politics' defence, namely
taht we must speak to where people supposedly 'are', and that this involves
social democratic slogans like 'more jobs' etc. First, agreeing with the
importance of working where people 'are' does _not_ imply social democratic
slogans. Trotsky never said anything like this, but transitional politcis
often devolves into something indistinguishable from the genuine beliefs of
left reformists. Secondly, do people really want a more powerful welfare
state? I'll always fight cuts to the welfare state, but will not for a
second defend it as a good mode of social organisation. Increased
surveillance of the working class, the forced movement of people in and out
of the labour force, the perpetual maintenance of a reserve army of labour
... Hardly things that 'socialists' should defend.

(3) COVERT RED BAITING ON THESE LISTS I was appalled at the number of
people who declared themselves proudly to be non-/anti-Spartacist. I am
continually dismayed at the number of people who dismiss their position on
the basis of its dogmatism or 'ultra-leftism'. This last one really galls
me: ultra-leftism as a term has no political contet, but is simply used by
one group to denigrate another left group's position. IN THE SAME WAY THAT

(4) POLITICAL ACTION AND ALLIANCE POLITICS We ought, I believe, to look at
the format of alliance politics. Alliance politics, as an organisational
form, means a group of both people and groups working together to intervene
in certain sectors to achaieve some common goals, while recognising the
(perhaps irreducable) differences of the members of the organisation. Thus
I am a member of Left Alliance, the national organistaion of feminist,
socialist and progressive students, in Australia. We intervene into student
organiations and campiagns, with our 'line' determined not by any (textual)
theoretical tradition, but by the process of continual debate amongst the
membership, the highest decision making body in the organisation. We are
democratic centralists, in that we are all bound by the decision of the
group and our co-ordinating committees are then bound to carry this out. We
have different tendencise in the organisation, as the name suggests,
ranging from communists to radical feminists to anarchistst to social

Such a method of organisation relies on a willingness to work in a
non-sectarian manner to acheive certain goals, and is borne out of the
material reality of the small and fractured nature of the left in many
parts of the world today. We can't afford sectarianism, but we need debate
now more than ever.

(5) ELECTORAL INVOLVEMENT The parliamentary road to socialism is
non-existent. Electoral Politics, however, can be a useful vehicle for
furthering campaigns and resourcing activism. As someone who is involved in
the student sector in Australia, and with a Federal Election coming
sometime this year, these issues have been at the forefront of my mind. We
have a Labor Governemnt which is almost as right-wing as the US Democrats.
Recently, they have been cracking down on immigration, by refusing to
consider repeat applications from people who have tried for asylum/refugee
status in Australia but have already been refused. Under the Guise of
'protecting the country's interests', UN requirements have been suspended
and the White Australia Policy, a creature of the same government 70-odd
years ago, is reemerging. And this is supposedly the 'left' party in
Australia (ie Labor is to Liberal what the Democrats are to the
Republicans). Amidst all this, the Greens and the Democrats (a wishy-washy
small 'l' liberal party) hold the balance of power in the Federal Senate
(upper house). This has meant that some regressive legislation has been
blocked. They may lose their seats at the upcoming election.

Supporting the Greens would perhaps be the most effective strategy at the
next election. The Greens are in many ways bourgeois, but they have been
able to exert influence over the Government's agenda. They are all we have
at the moment, as unlike Bernie Sanders, they havn't voted for racism or
more cops. Let's ditch this 'third party' stuff: communists can't fetishise
alternative political parties, but should always make some kind of
materially based assesment about the effectiveness of any given strategy
come election time. Abstaining is irresponsible; supporting social
democratic parties is unjustifiable; building a 'new' party simply to get
votes can be absurd; supporting progressives who then send people to jail
is twisted.

I'd be interested in getting some responses.

Towards an anti-capitalist, anti-social democratic, internationalist movement,
Adam Bandt

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