By NICK BAKER
We are seeing a renewed interest in socialism today. The campaign of Bernie Sanders, who claims to be a “democratic socialist” to mask his 98-percent Democratic Party-line voting record, has given much publicity to the word “socialist,” and many young Sanders supporters call themselves socialists. The Sanders candidacy is no accident. His “democratic socialist” and anti-establishment-sounding “political revolution” rhetoric is aimed at sheepherding the growing hatred of tens of millions back into the safe channels of capitalist elections and the rule of the one percent.
Due to this evidence of the possibilities available to socialists right now, Socialist Action has decided to run its own presidential candidate, Jeff Mackler, to build support for working-class, independent, socialist politics. I sat down with Jeff Mackler for an interview shortly after Socialist Action had announced his candidacy, to talk about the campaign, key issues in the election, and the increased interest in socialist ideas.
“The ruling elite and their think tanks often know well before we do,” Mackler began, “that their across-the-board austerity measures, their ingrained racist school-to-prison pipeline, their unprecedented mass incarceration of the oppressed, their for-profit, near-slave-labor prison-industrial complex, their wanton and judicially ‘justified’ police murders across the country have served to bring into question in the minds of millions the very legitimacy of capitalism itself.
“When poll after poll tell us, as with the recent New York Times result, that 56 percent of registered Democrats believe that ‘socialism is a more humane system than capitalism,’ we should take note that Sanders’ self-proclaimed socialism is no accident of a newcomer wandering onto center stage of U.S. politics. In days gone by, the socialist label was employed with impunity in the mass media to redbait and discredit. Today, it is a badge of honor with a 49 percent plurality of all youth under 30 and a 56 percent majority across the age spectrum of the Black community.
“The percentage of Democrats who prefer capitalism over socialism as a more humane system has shrunk to a low point of 23 percent. Today, registered Independents, at 43 percent, are the top voting bloc; registered Democrats stand at 32 percent and Republicans at 23 percent.
“This tells us more accurately why Bernie has been traveling the country for the past year campaigning for a ‘kinder and gentler’ capitalism, for a ‘kinder, gentler’ system of exploitation and minority rule, dressed, of course, in the garb of ‘democratic socialism.’ And now Sanders is preparing his long-anticipated shift to supporting the kind of cold-blooded racist, warmongering Hillary Clinton-style capitalism that his soon-to-be-bewildered supporters had hoped to flee from with his candidacy. As we anticipated, Sanders, along with Clinton, will now deploy the lesser evil ‘Trump’ card to once again frighten the unwary back into the Democratic Party, as the graveyard of social movements.”
Mackler added, “I was not at all surprised when Sanders announced: ‘The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated, and defeated badly. And I personally intend to begin my role in that process in a very short period of time.’”
I asked Mackler why he had entered the U.S. presidential race, despite having no chance of winning. “Elections in capitalist America are the billionaire’s game,” he responded. “Working people have no horse in this race. We have no billionaire candidates or corporate funders, or corporate media behind us. We don’t count the votes. We don’t control any aspect of the rigged electoral charade. But socialist election campaigns can win in another sense—in the end, a decisive sense. We can use the occasion when interest in politics is at a high point, to advance the struggles of the 99 percent, of the vast majority who today struggle against the inherent evils of capitalism.
“Socialist Action is a party of and for every struggle that aims to organize capitalist’s victims independently of and against the policies of the ruling rich. We are among the best builders of the freedom struggle on every front possible. We strive to be part of and help lead the independent, democratic, mass-action united-front mobilizations and all others that are aimed at increasing working-class self-organization, consciousness, confidence, cohesion, and unity.
“We aim to be an integral part of organizing the vast majority against the one percent—not only against the one percent in the abstract, but against all their institutions of power. Socialism, as opposed to its adulterated conception put forward by Sanders, is truly a revolutionary project as well as a necessity.
The real socialist revolution in the U.S., and everywhere else in the world, will usher in for the first time in human history a society in which the vast majority who create the nation’s and the world’s wealth will democratically rule in their own name, through their own institutions, and in their own interests, as opposed to the private profit corporate anti-human interests of the present ruling elite.”
I asked Mackler why he believed that the electoral system was rigged. “Again, capitalist elections are in the exclusive purview of the billionaire rich. Their twin parties—the Republicans and the Democrats—and their local, state, and national electoral and judicial institutions devise, interpret, and enforce their exclusionary election laws. Their corporate propaganda media effectively exclude coverage of all views but their own. At best, and at great cost, socialists are able to achieve ‘legal’ ballot status in but a handful of states—and even here, no matter the seriousness of our campaign efforts, we are consciously excluded from coverage.
“Even Democrat Bernie Sanders learned, as in the New York and California primaries, that the vast number of registered Independent voters were excluded from casting their votes for him. His party’s handpicked ‘superdelegate’ process, in which a significant percentage of Democratic Party convention delegates were essentially assigned to Clinton before the primary process began, tells us that even within the confines of the Democratic Party, the system is rigged.
“Having said this, however—and with full knowledge that the elections are rigged—Socialist Action’s campaign does intend to win in a very real sense. That is, we are asking our campaign supporters to check out our Facebook page, website (https://votesocialistaction.org), and other social media outlets, meet us in the streets where people unite to fight back, and add their name (or pseudonym if necessary) as campaign endorsers. We want to list these thousands of our socialist campaign supporters—not to mention win them to joining our revolutionary socialist party.”
I asked what Socialist Action’s key campaign objectives are. Mackler responded, “First and foremost, we want to educate and help organize radicalizing people to definitively break from the twin parties of capitalism and all of its candidates.
We believe that all of the evils that millions, if not billions, across the globe are becoming keenly aware of are inherent in the capitalist system itself. These include endless predatory wars; government-promoted racism, sexism, and homophobia in all their horrific manifestations; mass deportations, terrorization, and demonization of immigrants; all-pervasive government surveillance in the name of ‘national security’; multi-trillion-dollar government bailouts of corporations; the imposition of massive across-the-board austerity measures against the broad spectrum of working people and youth; the permanent and irreversible consequences of fossil fuel-induced global warming; and the deadly assaults on all aspects of our environment.
This system today threatens all life on earth. Its madness daily poses the existential threats of literally burning the planet until it becomes uninhabitable or nuclear wars that murder billions in almost an instant and reduce the planet to a state of radioactive oblivion.”
Mackler continued, “Today capitalism and its very intelligent purveyors, that is all those who consciously understand its horrors and yet organize to sustain it, have gone to great lengths to camouflage and disorient its growing numbers of critics. The Democratic Party, ever fostering the illusion that the system can be effectively reformed, has always been capitalism’s first line of defense. It is complimented by a host of others that are consciously deployed to assist in heading off mass social and political dissent and anti-capitalist working-class-based organization. These safety valves, or better, firewalls, against the emergence of independent expressions of working-class organization include the present parasitic pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy and the countless tens of thousands of corporate-funded NGOs [Non-Governmental Organizations] that operate in virtually all social movements.
We must add to this vast array of civil society’s sheepherding devices the Democratic Party’s organized corporate funding of the hierarchy of Black and Latino churches, along with the longtime corporate-dependent ‘civil rights’ organizations like the NAACP. And we must add into this mix of mind and social control the corporate ownership and control over the media as well as the fundamental ‘public’ educational system itself. Indeed, the vast political, legislative, and judicial system operates to lend an air of democracy, if not credibility, to capitalism’s ever sought-after all-pervasive hold on social life.”
“Selecting the least offensive of the millionaire and billionaire candidates that the ruling rich periodically offer us during the election season,” Mackler insisted, “is both a utopian pipedream and a critical impediment to principled working-class politics.”
“Socialist Action’s campaign is aimed at today’s new fighters against injustice: at the youth who have learned from experience that their prospects are bleak in the capitalist framework, at the demeaned and exploited immigrant workers, at those who are inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement’s wide-ranging rejection of U.S. racism and its institutionalized system of police murder, at the millions who are rapidly coming to understand that the fossil-fuel corporate magnates, like all others, subordinate the future of humanity to their private profits.
“Our campaign is aimed at working people who want to revitalize and democratize the trade unions and expand union power to the 90 percent of workers who are without unions today. It is aimed at fostering the construction of a class-struggle left wing in the unions, a militant fightback current that seeks to organize the majority to fight in the political and economic arenas to challenge the bosses’ parties on all fronts.
In this context we are advocates of independent working-class political action based on a reinvigorated, fighting, and democratic trade-union movement in alliance with all the oppressed and exploited—that is, for a labor party that compliments and enhances labor’s power in the economic arena with its own instrument in the political arena.”
Mackler concluded, “To be sure, socialists fight for all progressive reforms. We actively participate in and support all who fight for a better world on every front. Whenever working people independently organize to advance their own interests—in mass mobilizations in the streets, in trade-union struggles at the point of production, on picket lines, and at public meetings and rallies—we are part of the struggle.
But we harbor no illusions in the nature of the beast. It must be replaced in all its fundamentals by the massive and concerted actions of the vast majority. That’s the real meaning of the social and political revolution that serious socialists fight for every day and seek to bring into being in a new world, where the horrors of the present social order are forever ended.”