It has been said that the attraction of Bernie Sanders was his principled position. However, Sanders can be criticized for having conceded the most basic of socialist tenets: that an independent working class must create its own revolutionary party and put an end to class collaboration. His support and endorsement of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and his support for Joe Biden in 2020 legitimizes those who feel a need to offer a “pragmatic” electoral policy of the “lesser evil”. Success in the class struggle demands working-class independence from all capitalist parties. Sanders instead simply increased the ability of the the Democrats to absorb and defuse discontent.
The task of convincing our fellow-workers of socialism is a daunting one. There is a cornucopia of radical-left parties in the United States but the almost-forgotten World Socialist Party of the United States may impress you if you have an appreciation of the history of America’s socialist movement.
The WSPUS maintains that it has been unique in the history of American socialist parties since its inception by unrelentingly putting forward the original conception of socialism, defined as a post-capitalist mode of production where the accumulation of capital is no longer the driving force governing production, but production is instead undertaken to produce goods and services directly for use.
The WSPUS defines socialism as a money-free society based on common ownership of the means of production and cooperative and democratic associations as opposed to bureaucratic hierarchies and companies. Additionally, the WSPUS considers being state-free, class-free and the abolition of wage labor as components of a socialist society—characteristics that are usually reserved to describe a fully developed communist society. Unlike anarchists the World Socialist Party advocates a political revolution because it argues that as the state is the "executive committee" of the capitalist class. It must be captured by the working class to keep the former from using it against the will of the latter.
Today when a “socialist” supports a Democratic Party candidate, it is like boarding a train that is headed in the opposite direction of one’s destination. The Democratic Party is a top-down political party, controlled by corporations, and indisputably pro-capitalist. Capitalism is above all an economic system that promotes diametrically opposed interests between workers and capitalists. Capitalists must compete against one another in order to survive, and to compete successfully they must maximize profits, which in turn requires keeping production costs, including labor costs, to a minimum. Joe Biden might say he is for ordinary working people or for the “middle class,” but he is also for corporations, because capitalism cannot operate smoothly without the smooth functioning of corporations, and hence, Biden’s loyalties are at best divided, sowing more confusion than clarity. His distinguishing attribute is that he favors a tighter leash on corporations and a stronger safety net for the working class, which is mere reformism. America badly needs a vigorous socialist party.
Many have been inspired by Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. Even the most cynical socialist acknowledges that he did much to bring back into the political discourse in the United States the ideas of socialism. He legitimized the concept of socialism in electoral politics. He gathered around him many supporters, some who now pledge that they will continue their activities to achieve a more just America, independent of the Democratic Party machine which was always biased against Sanders who is now fated to become a footnote in American history. He now becomes just another in a long line of reforming politicians who have failed to change the basic nature of America’s political party duopoly.
Sadly, the negatives out-weigh the positives now. Basing his argument on the lesser evil Sanders has endorsed Biden for president. Sanders had spent months of giving speeches where he denounced Biden as a tool of the corporate elite in Wall Street and exposing his hawkish foreign policies. He condemned the greed and corruption of bought and paid for political power by the nation’s ruling elite. By endorsing Biden he has gravely diminished what he accomplished.
America is a plutocracy, which means a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich where politicians are financed by a select group of oligarchs. Always, there are groups in protest against some aspect or other of this social system. The energy and ingenuity they display in campaigns they consider important provides further proof that once working men and women get on the right track capitalism's days are numbered. Enthusiasm is an excellent and valuable thing when rightly applied, but when it is wasted in fruitless directions it only leads to disheartenment and apathy. The WSPUS has resisted all attempts on the part of those on the Left to renounce its principles and in doing so has been accused dogmatism and sectarianism. This charge is seen by the WSPUS as badge of political honesty and sincerity; of persistence and perseverance. These are precious attributes. But the WSPUS needs more than that. It requires the understanding and cooperation of fellow workers and it is humble enough to admit that it has been lacking in this particular support. The World Socialist Party’s message has always been the same message – that the workers can just as easily run society for their own benefit. The focus of those in the socialist movement must now be to make it a more powerful factor in the years to come.