Real critique of the Sanders campaign as opposed to “sellout” criticism

Published online 1 March 2016.

You probably didn’t catch this — I caught it because I’ve been cultivating friends on Facebook.  At any rate:

Bernie Sanders’ “Political Revolution”

Michael D. Yates is, I hope, a fan of “Cassiodorus” here at — he did tell me at one earlier point that he liked a post of mine.  At any rate, his most constructive suggestion is well worth heeding:

If Sanders and his “Sandernistas” wanted a “political revolution,” they would use his campaign to begin the long, arduous process of radical education. There would be teach-ins and public meetings in towns large and small. No political event, no protest, no rally would be fail to have an educational component. Sanders’ talking points could be used to deepen understanding, by asking questions and pushing the discussions toward fundamental causes. And connections between inequality and a host of other problems, including the environmental catastrophes that are raining down upon us and threaten the viability of human life itself, could be made. The exploitative and murderous role of the United States in the world could be debated and analyzed. The connections between race and class, and the need to confront racism head-on could be critically examined. When the right questions are asked, it becomes difficult not to begin to grasp that it is capitalism that is the root cause of inequality, the power of the billionaire class, the lack of meaningful employment, the endless wars, the rise of police states, and the utter demise of democracy.

If we did these things, it wouldn’t matter if Bernie Sanders became the Democratic nominee, nor would it matter if he became president. But if they don’t happen, if we say, as we usually do, that now is not the time for them, we have to get out the vote, they will never take place.

So OK a question for Sanders people: is this sort of thing actually happening at Sanders events yet?  And, if not, then why not?  I can’t claim to be much of an authority on Sanders events at this point — the only one I saw in my neighborhood (as was listed on was apparently canceled.  And I suppose there’s a logistics situation, too: are people ready to conduct teach-ins?

And another piece of advice should be heeded — this one from an older book titled Capitalist Sorcery, by Philippe Pignarre and Isabelle Stengers, having to do with how radical education is conducted.  (Pignarre and Stengers wrote in the aftermath of the antiglobalization movement of the turn of the century.)  Here is the important quote:

If anticapitalists can learn to approach what the cry from Seattle was raised against in a pertinent manner – that is to say, in a way that creates the appetite for an effective type of hold, and not a taste for veracious denunciation – perhaps they will encounter interested partners, and not lost souls who need to be converted (p. 22).

If we’re out there conducting teach-ins in radical education, we cannot be out there with the attitude that we’re going to “convert lost souls.”  It has to be: you bring your opinion, I bring mine, and we attempt to deepen our understanding of how things are.

One thing is for sure: having told us that nothing would happen without a “political revolution,” Sanders won’t amount to anything — he won’t even win the nomination — without that political revolution.  And “electing more Democrats” isn’t going to make the political revolution all by itself either.  You need a popular uprising, and for a popular uprising your political revolution needs an educational component.

What’s the alternative?  Corey Robin:

The American ruling class has been trying to figure out for years, if not decades, how to manage decline, how to get Americans to get used to diminished expectations, how to adapt to the notion that life for the next generation will be worse than for the previous generation, and now, how to accept (as Alex Gourevitch reminded me tonight) low to zero growth rates as the new economic normal. Clinton’s campaign message isn’t just for Bernie voters; it’s for everyone. Expect little, deserve less, ask for nothing. When the leading candidate of the more left of the two parties is saying that — and getting the majority of its voters to embrace that message — the work of the American ruling class is done.

The alternative is, to put it bluntly, domestication.  Sanders packs up his campaign, endorses Clinton, goes home; capital plans for some nice “free trade” agreements.  And good luck with the food stamp applications!

Request for the comments: Please include in your discussion ideas of how an educational campaign could be attached to the Sanders campaign.  Can we keep it constructive?


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