In case you haven't heard, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has called for political revolution. That's gargantuan news, which poses an equally gargantuan paradox to wrap our heads around. Now, it's not as if some civic-minded voice in the wilderness like, say, Chris Hedges or Ralph Nader, has called for political revolution. Instead, an incumbent U.S. Senator, running for the world's most powerful office in one of our two electable, establishment parties (the same ones corporate donors lavish billions of dollars on), has called for political revolution.
That's literally jaw-dropping political news. So why don't you hear about it? Because nearly everyone--skeptical leftists like Hedges and Nader , the entire Democratic party establishment (including the Warren wing), mainstream and even most left-wing media, even Sanders' most ardent supporters--apparently believes Bernie Sanders' call for political revolution is "just BS."
Besides wondering (playfully) whether Bernie was frequently ragged about his initials in school, we should be wondering (seriously) whether he means what he says. And, above all, whether his decision to run for president in today's ultra-establishment Democratic Party necessarily reduces his call for political revolution--whatever his naive sincerity--to a big, stinking pile of BS.
Viewing Bernie Sanders as neither naïve nor insincere, the budding revolutionaries of Revolt Against Plutocracy categorically deny that Bernie's decision to run as a Democrat must reduce his call for political revolution to bullshit. We find such thinking lazy, unimaginative, and, ultimately, irresponsible-- especially since he's already hinted where the responsibility for political revolution must lie. It doesn't depend on him; it depends on US.
Bernie Sanders has a campaign to run--a thing he does extraordinarily well--and we should all be deeply grateful to him for running it. We at Revolt Against Plutocracy feel we best express that gratitude by doing the one thing his campaign shackles him from doing--and which only grassroots activists can do anyway--organize his revolution. "Grassroots revolution isn't just BS" is one slogan we pray becomes a meme, and as ardent believers that our disintegrating political system screams for Bernie's revolution, we're writing to announce it. And to recruit for it.
But to do so effectively, we must demolish the crippling misconception that his revolution's the same thing as his campaign. It's not; as just noted, the revolution's not really his at all. It's ours, and dangerously overdue. His campaign simply provides our ideal springboard for launching it.
Revolutions Breaks Eggs; Bernie's Campaign Must Walk on Them
You've probably heard the familiar revolutionary slogan "To make an omelet, you've got to break some eggs." In the vivid contrast between "breaking eggs" and "walking on eggs"--the latter expression implying a tortuous, torturous effort to avoid cracking the shells one is forced to tiptoe among--we glimpse the most compelling reason Sanders' called-for revolution can't be the same thing as his campaign.
In a political system that's now a hollow shell of representative government, our eggshell metaphor couldn't be better chosen. Where virtually the sole real purpose of government is to shove the will of plutocrats--whether Wall Street, fossil fuel, Big Ag, Big Pharma, or military-industrial-surveillance complex plutocrats--down the sane majority's throats (to the planet-threatening detriment of the common good), the chief purpose of most political campaigns is to maintain the trompe-l'oeil solid appearance of representation's hollow shell. In other words, most campaigns amount to propaganda touting the lie that our existing political system is still serving us. It's clearly not-- to the extent that even such a sold-out tool as today's Democratic Party must allow more radical voices bent on serving the common good, like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, within its ranks to maintain the faintest illusion of legitimacy.
Given the extreme betrayals of faux-progressive presidents like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, political leftists have earned an incontestable right to distrust: above all, to distrust of soaring campaign rhetoric high on promise and devoid of detail. Considering the global catastrophe for economy, democracy, and peace that was George W. Bush's presidency, Obama's betrayal of urgently needed progressive reform is especially unfortunate. But amidst its well-earned distrust, the left makes a serious mistake by tarring the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren with the same incriminating brush as Obama and the Clintons, punishing them for their mere association with Democrats. As regards the treachery of Democrats' party leadership and its favored minions like Clinton, the left is incontestably right, as the analysis of honest veteran operative Bill Curry or a little research into the sleazy trickery of its corporatist leadership should make clear.
But by two powerful litmus tests--speaking in detail and speaking in season--politicians like Sanders and Warren prove they shouldn't be tarred with the same accusatory brush as Hillary and the DNC. Just contrast the detail of Sanders' economic platform and the timeliness of his TPP opposition with Clinton's detail-allergic vagueness and cowardly equivocation on the same two matters. Besides, as the Democratic leadership well knows, Democrats' legitimacy among progressives is so near-moribund that only the strong medicine of real sincerity, and not the placebo of fake, can restore its vigor. That the party is tolerating a lifelong independent and self-professed socialist (one calling for political revolution, to boot) as contender for the top spot on its ticket underlines the sheer desperation of Democrats' quest for lost legitimacy.
So, leftists should regard Democrats' desperate need for legitimacy as vouchsafe of Bernie's sincerity. But his personal sincerity provides no evidence whatsoever we should trust the substantially bought-off party he's running in. Nor does it free him from the delicate, eggshell-walking task of ardently fighting plutocracy while maintaining the illusion of legitimacy for a party whose leadership has made plutocrats' wettest wet dreams their own. (Again, witness TPP .) Clearly, Democrats' acute crisis of legitimacy opens a vulnerable flank for attack by Sanders' revolution. And it makes our battle plan equally clear: to hammer the message that all legitimacy lies with Bernie and his sympathizers, and none with Hillary and the party leadership. Responding to the facts on the ground, Bernie's revolution must treat his candidacy as a hostile coup against Hillary and the corporatist party leadership. Clearly a job for Bernie's revolution and not his campaign, since his campaign must--at peril of shutdown by the DNC--diplomatically avoid cracking the same eggshell of legitimacy his revolution needs to smash.
Lesser-Evilism: The Con Game of Misplaced Guilt
Revolutions don't walk on eggs; they smash the eggshell of phony legitimacy. But phony legitimacy is exactly what today's Democratic leadership and Hillary Clinton seek: legitimacy without fundamental reform. As fundamental reform is what Bernie's political revolution seeks--why the hell else start a revolution?--the Democratic Party leadership, Hillary Clinton, and her political allies, who clearly intend to go on forever feeding like pigs at the plutocrat trough, must remain squarely in our crosshairs as our revolution's determined enemies.
But the illegitimacy of today's Democrats hardly implies today's Republicans are legit. In fact, the urgency of political revolution in a nation saddled with a malfunctioning two-party system strongly implies that both parties suck. And it's hardly going on a limb to say that today's know-nothing, science-denying, vote-repressing, proto-fascist Republicans suck more. In fact, today's Republicans are a blasphemy on everything that's sane, civilized, and (ironically, given their religious bent) even Christian--strong candidates for the title "prostitute of Babylon" if not that of "Antichrist." But their utterly perverse badness--for which, as we'll see, Democrats bear substantial responsibility--hardly implies that Democrats are acceptable. Nothing in the notion of a two-party system logically implies that both parties can't be unspeakably bad. Indeed, given a two-party system, that's precisely what one would expect in circumstances demanding political revolution.