What is the Bernie Sanders campaign really after? Socialists, including this blog site, have said his main thrust is to draw the workers’ movement away from independence, away from building its own party. But we have to ask, “what workers’ movement?” We must admit that, despite the massive discontent that exists, the US working class is in disarray. It is not exactly even threatening to disrupt society, never mind build its own party.
So, what is Sanders really after?
His victory speech on winning the New Hampshire primary gives some idea. He commented: “Tonight, with what appears to be a record breaking voter turnout, because of a huge voter turnout — and I say huge, we won. Because we harnessed the energy, and the excitement that the Democratic party will need to succeed in November… What happened here in New Hampshire in terms of an enthusiastic, and aroused electorate, people who came out in large numbers. That is what will happen all over this country. Let us never forget, Democrats and progressives win when voter turnout is high. Republicans win when people are demoralized, and voter turnout is low…. We will need to come together in a few months and unite this party, and this nation because the right-wing Republicans we oppose must not be allowed to gain the presidency.”
In other words, Sanders understands the lack of appeal of the mainstream Democrats like Clinton and, like Wall St., he sees the threat of the far right Republicans, including Donald Trump. His campaign is aimed at mobilizing a base of support to defeat the far right.
Valid Reason for Support?
That sounds like a valid enough aim, almost good enough to support him. But we have to take world events into account.
As we write this, there are reports that both the Saudi and the Turkish regimes are mobilizing to send troops into Syria. If they follow through, this will lead to a massive increase in death and destruction, especially of the Kurdish people. It threatens a far wider war, possibly including a direct conflict between US and Russian forces. It is also exactly the step that Sanders has called for.
The United States has been at war for over 25 years. Whenever a country enters into war, there is always a wave of jingoistic fervor to start with. It is only when the dead start returning home that the fervor subsides. But in the case of the US, the body bags never did return home in large numbers. That has allowed a low grade war mentality to persist, one that has been stirred up by all the corporate politicians as well as the media, TV, etc. And Bernie Sanders contributes to that. In that very same victory speech, for example, he commented:
“In the Middle East, the United States must remain part of an international coalition sustained by nations in the region that have the means to protect themselves. Together we must, and will, destroy ISIS.” It’s true that he opposed entering a “perpetual warfare quagmire of the Middle East” – which Wall St. opposes too. But this is still the same low grade militarism that has generated so much jingoism in US society up until now.
Sanders position is clear. As far back as October of 2014, he has been making statements like the following: “The war against ISIS, a dangerous and brutal organization, cannot be won by the United States alone. It must be won primarily by nations in the region – Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Iran – which must be prepared to send ground troops into action to defeat Islamic extremists.” He has repeated this on several occasions since then, including in his November, 2015 debate with Clinton.
Far from keeping the US out of a war, this will bring the war in Syria to a new and more dangerous state, one which will increase the war fever – and therefore right wing jingoism – here in the US.
Even from the point of view of stopping the far right, Sanders provides no solution whatsoever.