Jack Rasmus invites seasoned political activists, Steve Early and Alan Benjamin, to discuss the strategic significance, pro and con, of Bernie Sanders’ recent announcement of his candidacy for US President and run in the Democratic Party primaries against Hillary Clinton. Both Steve and Alan go back to working with Sanders on campaigns in the 1970s when Sanders entered politics, and then spent 40 years in union and local progressive politics in Richmond and San Francisco, Calif. Steve and Alan take slightly different positions in offering qualified support to Sanders’ just announced presidential run. Commentaries by Steve, Alan, and Jack range from applauding Sanders for raising desperately needed new ideas re. income inequality, taxing the rich, minimum wage, money in politics, free trade, college tuition and debt. In supporting Sanders more directly, Steve critiques the failed history of independent challenges from outside the Democratic party, from Jesse Jackson to Ralph Nader and the Green party. Alan provides a more qualified approval of Sanders’ ideas and issues he’s raising, but argues Sanders’ declared support for the eventual Democratic Party candidate (most likely Hillary) is a political dead end for working and middle classes, as recent history also shows. Jack argues independent candidacies—whether within the left wing of the Democratic Party or just outside it (Sanders strategy) have not changed anything for decades, as conditions have actually gotten worse as Democrats increasingly support Republican-Corporate positions on free trade, destruction of unions, attacks on public workers, money in politics, business tax cuts, etc. All agree change must come from below, in real independent grass roots movements. Jack raises the question, if ‘inside and outside’ Democratic Party strategies have both failed, why haven’t grass roots movements come together to discuss new strategies and form new ‘bottom up’ challenges to the status quo.’
Steve Early is a retired, long time CWA union organizer and staff rep, who has been active in local Richmond, Calif., political organizing and fights against Chevron oil. He is author of the recent book, ‘Save Our Unions’, by Monthly Review Press.
Alan Benjamin, is a delegate to the San Francisco Central Labor Council, a member of OPEIU, editor of The Organizer progressive socialist newspaper, and a member of the executive committee of the Labor Fightback Network in the US.