Bernie Sanders has emboldened millions to challenge the wealth and power of what he calls the 1% or “the billionaire class.” For significant segments of the U.S. working class, his campaign is the first mainstream movement to give legitimacy and vocabulary to very deep, long-held frustrations about how the world works.
And now, Bernie Sanders has lost the Democratic primary.
And so this message is for everyone who has been emboldened to work against the power of the wealthy who is now asking, “Now that Sanders has lost, what is the way forward?”
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As you step back and try to answer that question, there is just one fact that is crucial to grasp. It is not a controversial fact. Anyone who was rooting for Sanders noticed it:
The media denied Bernie Sanders a platform and distorted his message.
You know why they did it, too. You know why they helped Clinton take the nomination while doing their best to destroy Sanders and the movement around him.
They did it because he was going to hurt their profits, and she was not.
That is the fact that you must grasp hold of and not let go of. Holding on to that fact will lead you to the truth.
Because if you acknowledge that they did it to Sanders—even though they had to show their hand and be very obvious about doing it—then you must acknowledge that they are doing it all the time, about everything. The media relentlessly covers all issues in a way that protects the ability of the super-rich (who own and run the media) to make a profit.
It’s not just the news media, though—and you already know this, too.
In the countrywide discussion about Confederate history that followed the massacre of nine people in a Charleston, SC, church last year, it became obvious that many millions of people are under severe illusions about the real history of the U.S. civil war and slavery. Why? Because the textbooks they were taught from in the public education system contained the heaviest distortions of the truth imaginable. The textbooks claimed that slavery was not a major cause of the U.S. civil war.
You know it happens in other subjects, too. You probably know that virtually all Intro to Macroeconomics textbooks are written to glorify unregulated markets, even though virtually all mainstream economists will be the first to tell you that fully unregulated markets would cause crisis almost immediately.
You know why this happens, too. Textbooks are published by private corporations. What appears in textbooks is ultimately not based on what best reflects the truth, but according to profitability.
So grasp hold of that, and never let go: the message we hear in all major news, and which we grow up learning even in our public education system, is distorted in order to protect the profits of the super-rich—and the bigger the threat to profits, the more the truth is distorted.
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To carry this struggle against the power of the wealthy forward, Sanders supporters must consider a claim that not even Sanders himself dared to make:
The root of the problem is the continued existence of capitalism itself.
And no, not just “casino capitalism,” as Sanders sometimes put it—which implies that there has ever been a capitalism without absurd speculation and wasteful spending. No, not just “crony” capitalism—which implies that there was ever a time that the super-rich did not control the government.
This is how capitalism always behaves, and it cannot behave otherwise. It cannot be reformed. Capitalism must go.
This is blasphemy. But please ask yourself who taught you that this was blasphemy.
If capitalism were to vanish, there would be no profit for the super-rich.
In fact, there wouldn’t be any super-rich at all.
These people, who control the media *and* write all the textbooks, are infinitely threatened by the claim that capitalism itself is the problem. But you trust them to tell you the truth about it?
Here is the truth:
Under capitalism, there is democracy. But it is democracy only within a small club of capitalists, to settle their disputes with a minimum of disruption to business as usual. And it is a dictatorship of that small club over the rest of society.
These people have always controlled the media. They have always written the textbooks. They have not only been lying to you for your whole life, but they have been lying to your parents, and your grandparents, and everyone else on back for the entire 400 years of capitalism’s existence.
If you think this is some kind of exaggeration, please, before you commit to another year-long campaign, take some time to check your underlying assumptions. Please search through the history of capitalism and try to find even one year when this small club of capitalists didn’t rule like a king over the rest of society, distorting and blotting out any truths that threatened their ability to profit.
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Also, please know that you are right about one thing: there will never be another candidate as good as Sanders.
He represents the very outer limit of the poor excuse for democracy that is the current political system. He reveals its sharp limits and contradictions:
* He had to run within the Democratic Party to have a chance at all, but it is the Democratic Party that helped to destroy him.
* In order to speak a critical word about capitalism, he had to be careful to not speak bad about it as a whole.
* In order to criticize U.S. foreign policy even slightly, he had to refuse to mention the fact that the United States uses its military to maintain a super-modern empire over the rest of the planet, sucking the blood of the Third World through NATO, the World Bank, and the IMF.
* And finally, in order to begin to talk about spreading the wealth from the super-rich downward, he had to minimize mention of the working class (who produce all wealth). And he had to deny any intention to spread the wealth from the First World back to the Third World that it was largely stolen from. And he had to deny any intention to give reparations to the black population for the wealth that the white population stole from them and still holds to this day.
Sanders consistently waved his hand in the direction of a better world. And yet when it came time to point with his fingertip to the exact nature of the problem, he misled his supporters.
This criticism is not beating a dead horse. To the total contrary—to understand how to move forward, we have to connect two seemingly disconnected pieces of the puzzle that was the Sanders campaign.
On one hand, you have the seemingly unbreakable power of the wealthy, and all the concessions that were made to appease this power. In the face of this power, Sanders’ diehard activists claimed that they had to be “realistic”—they had to not demand too much. They limited themselves to hoping to slightly enlarge the predominantly white U.S. middle-income demographic (the so-called “middle class”).
On the other hand, you have the enormous number of people who were ultimately abandoned by Sanders’s campaign, like all the black people in the United States today who feel they have every right to demand full reparations for slavery. Like the Venezuelan, Syrian, Palestinian, and Yemeni working people whom Sanders supports U.S. imperialism toward. Like the 7 billion other people on this planet who would not receive the promised free health care or free college.
In fact, the one is the answer to the riddle of the other. To win, we must flip the script entirely.
To break the power of the U.S. capitalists—who grow strong by sucking the blood of a whole planet—we need a movement of and for the whole planet.
Sanders was right that we need people power. But he would not—and, really, could not—carry it far enough.
Your allies are the billions of other human beings on this planet. These are the people who will help you take down the super-rich who rule the United States. But you must not seek anything for yourself that you do not also seek for them. You must not disconnect the prosperity of Denmark and Sweden from the hellish civil war of Syria—because Sweden’s and Denmark’s economies depend on buying from and selling to the countries who have set the Middle East on fire. You must seek a way to strike at the oppressor you both share, in a way that strengthens you both. Instead of simply leveling the wealth among the citizens of the United States, you must seek an end to concentrated wealth across the whole planet.
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There is a reason so many people don’t vote in the United States, and so many so-called middle-class people do.
One major historic function of the so-called middle class is to help prop up our fake democracy, to help make it seem meaningful, to give the politicians enough supporters to be able to proclaim they represent the will of the people. But the working poor know that no matter who is in office and no matter which laws are passed, police and security guards and vigilantes will keep stalking, harassing, or murdering them; and their bosses will keep underpaying them and firing them without notice; and gentrification (more properly called urban removal) will keep ripping their homes and their entire communities out from under them.
The working poor find it hard to get abortions no matter what the laws are. The working poor see far less benefit to gay marriage, because they earn too little to care about tax breaks, and receive so little medical care that hospital visitation rights matter far less often. The working poor find it hard to care about free college tuition, because what is not free is the additional cost of travel, rent, books, and food—which working poor parents cannot pay for their children, nor is it easy for them to forgo the extra income their child could bring in by staying at home and adding their wages to the family’s. The poorest of the poor even find it hard to care about higher minimum wages—the lowest and deepest segments of the population face the highest unemployment. What good is it if all the jobs are better-paying, if most of the people you know still can’t get steady jobs, or can still only find under-the-table employment, because the system has left them uneducated, or marginalized by the color of their skin or their gender, or made them into felons, or left them undocumented?
This is not to say these gains are fully inconsequential, but only to point out how vastly more significant they are to the so-called middle class.
Throughout his campaign, Sanders would be the first to tell you that he could not begin to make even slight legislative changes without a mass movement behind him.
And yet, the electoral system is by its nature much like a TV show—simply too distant, emotionally and intellectually, for the broad masses of people to center their lives around. The Sanders movement offered, at core, only two types of activity: voting, and trying to convince others to vote. At its core, even the most radical electoral movement is reduplicating **the precise form of passivity and disengagement it is simultaneously working against**.
And for the reasons described above, the pool of potential recruits to such a campaign has sharp limits. It was never going to pull in the very people who are exploited most but who have the least voice—they know voting is a sham.
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How to tie all these pieces together? What sort of movement can engage the most oppressed and exploited, not just in the United States but everywhere? What sort of movement can pull people in where an electoral campaign will never be able to?
We have seen a different sort of mass movement, though not in a while. In the 60s and the 70s, two truly mass movements shook the United States: the black power movement, whose vanguard was the Black Panther Party (BPP), and the New Communist Movement, which had significant overlap with an anti-imperialist movement, specifically against the Vietnam War.
These movements were profoundly different from the elections-centered Sanders movement. Being a part of the BPP or the New Communist Movement meant no limits at all on the type of political actions possible: people involved were free to try anything and everything that seemed like it might work. It offered to those who got involved a glimpse of a society in which democracy is really, really real—democracy that is rooted in people’s everyday lives, and that gives them a way to communicate the *full complexity* of their desires and worldviews and *actually be heard*. This is the stuff mass movements are made of. *This* is what it looks like when the masses move and change society.
It is only *this* sort of organizing—and only a society based on *this* sort of democracy, and not the puppet show now in place—that can solve the monstrous problems that we all see, of white supremacy, of cis male supremacy, of endless war for resources, of the starvation of 7 million people each year and the poverty of billions, of a swiftly collapsing environment.
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If you believe it—if you are willing to draw these hard-won lessons from the ashes of the Sanders campaign—then this is the way forward:
1. Please study the system we are up against—please study capitalism-imperialism. That is the root of the problem, not simply wealth inequality, which is only a symptom. Read the first five chapters of “Zombie Capitalism.” Without an understanding of how capitalism-imperialism works, all attempts to solve these problems will be in vain.
2. Learn the history of the movement to solve the problem that is capitalism-imperialism:
(a) If you are not convinced of the necessity of revolution, please read a book like “Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II” or “Agents of Repression” to find out what we are up against. The powers that be have never, *never* failed to use massive violence against any movement, pacifist OR armed, that threatened their profits. Never. If we want to win, we have no choice but to use a strategy that has the power to resist this violence—we have no choice but to be armed and disciplined. An armed movement that intends to change the system from top to bottom is called a revolution.
(b) Electoral campaigns have only ever led the masses deeper into the belly of the beast: toward an illusory peace—really just a war we do not recognize and therefore cannot fight back in. The oppressor’s system was never ours and can never *be* ours.
Once we have drawn the conclusion that electoral campaigns are primarily intended to seduce and mislead, we cannot take a neutral position. We must call for a boycott on voting, not just for ourselves but for everyone. Every vote cast helps create the impression that the public still supports the system, so we say that the only way to cast a ballot for revolution is to not vote at all.
We must mentally break with their system altogether, or else we cannot effectively break with it materially. To believe we can straddle the line of endorsing a whatever-goes attitude toward voting while also advocating for revolution is to mislead the masses and ourselves.
(c) If you are down with revolution to end capitalism but are skeptical that building a worker’s state, like the USSR from 1921 to the 1950s, or the People’s Republic of China from 1953 to 1978, is the way forward, please read more about how far they made it in building new and decent societies. Please find out how successful they were in building from almost nothing societies without hunger or homelessness, where everyone had their basic needs met.
Not only is another world possible, but it has already leapt into existence for decades at a time in the twentieth century. Please remember the way the media have distorted and denied the truths even of someone like Sanders—and then ask yourself how much further you think they would go to bury the truth about people such as Mao and the Chinese Communist Party, who aimed to totally end their reign on this earth.
(d) And please read over the “Debunking Anti-Communism Master Post.” No one is arguing that some major mistakes weren’t made by these countries; instead, understand that (a) you have not yet begun to hear the full truth about what happened in these countries and (b) the mistakes that really were made have been learned from, and will be avoided in the future.
3. If you want to know how we can build a new worker’s state, please study Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM). A good place to start would be the “MLM Basic Course.” Then, continue with the “MLM Study Guide.”
4. (a) If you want to know whether MLM can really work in our day and age, please study the very successful Communist Party of India (Maoist)—you can watch the beautiful and inspirational film about them called “Red Ant Dream”—and Communist Party of the Philippines.
(b) If you are skeptical of whether trying this kind of work in the United States can really accomplish anything, please read the short essay “How We Can Actually Bring Socialism to the United States.”
(c) If you are wondering who is applying MLM in the United States successfully, please look at Red Guards – Los Angeles and Red Guards – Austin. What these two groups are doing could (and should) be duplicated in most cities in the United States.
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We can do it, and we will! There is a place for everyone in the struggle. If you would like to play a role and don’t know how you could help, please get in touch!
POLITICAL EDUCATION SHOULD BE A SOCIAL ACTIVITY! Please find people to read these things with you. If you want to discuss any of these things, please reach out to the communities of communists on the internet, such as the MLM Communism 101 group on Facebook, or /r/communism101 and /r/communism on reddit.
Build up the party! Build up the Red Guards!
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1. “Why do people believe myths about the Confederacy? Because our textbooks and monuments are wrong.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2015/07/01/why-do-people-believe-myths-about-the-confederacy-because-our-textbooks-and-monuments-are-wrong/
2. “Who Rules America?” http://bit.ly/_who_rules_america
3. “Zombie Capitalism: Global Crisis and the Relevance of Marx” http://bit.ly/zombie_capitalism
4. “Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II” http://anticapitalismfaq.com/kh/
“Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret Wars against the Black Panther Party & the American Indian Movement” http://bookzz.org/md5/c3c439b9493f13825e1d9b9aad5227b7 (click “Download PDF”)
5. “Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village” http://anticapitalismfaq.com/misc/Hinton_-_Fanshen.pdf
“Capitalist and Maoist Economic Development” http://anticapitalismfaq.com/misc/Gurley_-_Capitalist_and_Maoist_Economic_Development.html
“Evaluating the Cultural Revolution in China and Its Legacy for the Future” http://www.mlmrsg.com/attachments/article/72/CRpaper-Final.pdf
“Do Publicly Owned, Planned Economies Work?” https://gowans.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/do-publicly-owned-planned-economies-work/
Note: It should be noted that this resource (“Do Publicly Owned…”), like many works linked in resource 6 immediately below, does not agree with the MLM position on which countries were genuinely socialist and at what times—but nevertheless, they are very valuable resources in helping debunk many common myths about these countries.
6. “Debunking Anti-Communism Master Post” https://www.reddit.com/r/communism/wiki/debunk
7. “Marxism-Leninism-Maoism Basic Course” http://anticapitalismfaq.com/misc/MLM_Basic_Course/
“Marxism-Leninism-Maoism Study Guide” http://www.massline.org/MLM_Study/MLMstudy.htm
8. “Red Ant Dream” https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDiACgi7voYuTywWjZ2dHoxXwD697BhYV
9. “How We Can Actually Bring Socialism to the United States” https://jiminykrix.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/1431/
10. Red Guards – Los Angeles: https://www.facebook.com/RedGuardsLA/
Red Guards – Austin: https://www.facebook.com/redguardsaustin
11. Communism 101 (MLM): https://www.facebook.com/groups/communism.mlm/