Towards an anarchist perspective of the 2016 primaries

Bernie Sanders addresses a crowd in Portland, Oregon

While the Republicans undergo an identity crisis, Bernie Sanders has revealed that a shockingly large number of Americans think another world is possible.

The 2016 election has highlighted deep ideological divides across the country and presented some very encouraging signs for communists. The media script for the 2016 primaries featured Hillary Clinton as a lock for the Democrats while Republican voters chose between party hacks with identical positions on policy. While the Republicans have unmasked themselves as unashamed xenophobic hate mongers, what is occurring overall in the election cycle is not only surprising, but is in many ways encouraging. In this article I will try to look at the state of US politics right now and what it means for us as libertarian communists.

First off, let me start with the Republicans. The Republican base has revolted against the Party elite over what they see as an unwillingness by establishment politicians to stand firm to Republican values. Additionally, Republican voters harbor an increasingly volatile resentment of both the government and society itself. To this end the base has aligned themselves with the campaigns of Texas senator Ted Cruz and businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump.

Both candidates are despised by the Party elite who regard them as unelectable, insulting, and damaging to the Republican party brand. In 2013, the government shut down for weeks after Cruz spearheaded a refusal by the Republican congress to ratify President Obama’s budget. The shutdown was a national embarrassment to the Republican party establishment, and Cruz was held responsible. At a time when Republican politicians are voting with uniformity, Cruz also became an unlikely opponent of free trade agreements and subsidies for ethanol production. While a senator, Cruz further angered Republican politicians through unprofessional conduct in Congress, reportedly embarrassing his colleagues with long rants about their unwillingness to push for more right wing policies.

Cruz has run afoul of the Republican Party establishment for other reasons as well. Cruz has surrounded himself with conspiracy theorists such as Frank Gaffney who Cruz recently appointed as one of his top national security advisers. Gaffney recently warned in an interview about, "a coming together of... Islamists — Islamic supremacists if you will, the Muslim Brotherhood — and Black Lives Matter and Occupy movements and sort of anarchists and other assorted radicals on the left" who are "joining forces" to create a "very violent prospect, in fact a revolutionary one." Following the Brussels attacks Cruz stated that he thinks police should "patrol and secure" "Muslim neighborhoods" across the country. Cruz has racked up an impressive array of extreme right wing elements who most mainstream Republicans try to distance themselves from. For instance Cruz has been enjoying the support of pundit Glenn Beck who famously accused Barack Obama of being a "racist" with a “deep-seated hatred of white people.” Beck, a Mormon, has recently spoken at several Cruz rallies passionately telling the audience that God wants them to vote for Cruz in order to fulfill a prophecy that is written in the Book of Mormon. Cruz has also received the support of right wing pastor Kevin Swanson, who recently said the leaders of the Girl Scouts should be executed for their support of LGBT rights.

Despite his support from the radical religious right Cruz will certainly lose to the obvious Republican front runner, Donald Trump. Trump began his campaign by doing what he always does, drawing attention to himself with crude jokes and political incorrectness. By doing so, he appealed to Republicans and Independents who hate the political establishment and politicians in general. His crass remarks during the debates were like a breath of fresh air to voters whose lives are not reflected by the wholesome charms of traditional Republican candidates such as Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. By transporting his crude witticisms from reality TV to the comparatively restrained tone of the presidential race, Trump was able to sell himself as a genuine political outsider who would refuse to cow to the pressures of the liberal interest groups that control Washington.

The popularity of Trump and Cruz can be traced to the most serious issues affecting the Republican Party voter base today. The Republican base is made up mostly of middle aged whites. As a recent groundbreaking study has shown, “The mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.” The decline in life expectancy seems to be due to an increase in suicides, alcoholism, and substance abuse. This group of voters sees their lives getting worse each year, and they feel, correctly, as though the media and the political establishment are not addressing the issues that are important to them. In desperation they are seeking out candidates to “make America great again,” or, in other words, start making their life expectancy go up again, instead of down. It should be no wonder then, that one-time Republican front runner Ben Carson opened up the February 25th Republican debates by proclaiming, “our nation is heading off the abyss of destruction.” Noam Chomsky presciently commented that Trump’s rise represented the, “breakdown of society.” Indeed, the Party elite is aghast at how well their efforts at politicizing religion and racism have succeeded. Much of the blame for this current situation may not lie with the Party elite itself, but rather with the Koch brothers who have tried for decades to foment insurgency within the Party in an effort to create a militant grassroots movement. The current situation bears many similarities to the sudden rise of the Tea Party 7 years ago.

Whatever the case, it has now gotten to a point where the elite can no longer control the base and the veneer of respectability that the Republican Party tries to command can longer be maintained. This election cycle almost certainly signals a major turning point for the party. The Party will have to decide whether or not to embrace its new identity as an openly racist populist party, or to try, by means of a figurative coup at the convention, to sabotage the campaigns of Trump and Cruz in favor of the more respectable John Kasich.

Against all odds, Sanders makes it far into the primary

Perhaps of more interest to communists is the revolt taking place on the other end of the political spectrum amongst the Democratic Party base. The Democratic Party primary was supposed to be an easy win for centrist Hillary Clinton. Her politics of quietly pushing the Democratic Party to the right has been key in shaping the current identity of the party as a representative of fiscally conservative and socially liberal Wall Street. As I’ve written about before, Hillary Clinton supported NAFTA, she supported the escalation of the war on drugs, she supported the dismantling of the welfare system, she voted for the Iraq war and was the leading US figure in the 2011 Libyan intervention. Her entire professional career, from her time as a lawyer representing Tysons Foods and Wal-Mart, to her support of the military coup in Honduras has been characterized by a series of right wing policies that have pushed back against all forms of government protection for the world’s poor.

Sanders, for his part, is about as far as you can get to the left while still being an American politician. He describes himself as a democratic socialist. He openly supports expanding Medicare to not only all US citizens, but undocumented citizens as well. He supports raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour. He wants to kick start the economy with massive investments into renewable energy. He is opposed to the war on drugs and wants to curb the powers of the police. He opposed NAFTA, he opposed the Iraq war, and he has supported treatment and prevention rather than policing as a more appropriate reaction to drug abuse.

Given the fact that Sanders regularly points out that the media is owned by large corporations and/or billionaires such as Jeff Bezos (Washington Post) and Rupert Murdoch (NewsCorp), the corporate media’s reaction to his campaign has been predictably over the top negative. At first the goal was to try and simply ignore his candidacy. However, after tying Clinton in Iowa and receiving increasingly high poll numbers, the media went into attack mode. Two well-known incidents in particular highlighted the media’s frenzied panic over Sanders’ continued success. One well-known incident came in a single 16-hour period between March 6th and March 7th, when the Jeff Bezos owned Washington Post ran 16 negative Bernie Sanders articles while publishing 0 positive ones. Another well-known incident of the media trying to sabotage Sanders came from the New York Times in a March 15th article about Sanders’ record of pushing for progressive policies in the Senate. The article originally was somewhat favorable to Sanders, and although it described him as the “liberal mirror image of the Tea-Party”, it also made note of how as a senator he, “secured money for dairy farmers and community health centers, blocked banks from hiring foreign workers and reined in the Federal Reserve.” The Sanders campaign even linked to the article on their website. However, after the Sanders campaign linked to the article, a number of mysterious edits to the article were made. First of all, the title had been changed from Bernie Sanders Scored Victories for Years Through Legislative Side Doors to Via Legislative Doors, Bernie Sanders Won Modest Victories. Next, a quote from a Sanders adviser saying, “it has been a very successful strategy” was deleted and replaced with the following two paragraphs

Quote:
But in his presidential campaign Mr. Sanders is trying to scale up those kinds of proposals as a national agenda, and there is little to draw from his small-ball legislative approach to suggest that he could succeed.
Mr. Sanders is suddenly promising not just a few stars here and there, but the moon and a good part of the sun, from free college tuition paid for with giant tax hikes to a huge increase in government health care, which has made even liberal Democrats skeptical.

As Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone,

Quote:
There were other changes...The salutary line about Sanders being an ‘effective, albeit modest legislator’ – a key passage that in the original article directly contradicted the Clinton-camp contention that Sanders can't ‘get things done’ – is now followed by a sort of disclaimer:
‘He has enacted his agenda piece by piece, in politically digestible chunks with few sweeping legislative achievements in a quarter-century in Congress’…Worse, the line about ‘tacking on amendments to larger bills that scratch his particular policy itches’ has now, absurdly, been rewritten to read:‘…tacking on amendments to larger bills to succeed at the margins.’

The list of media efforts to sabotage the Sanders campaign are legion, and too numerous to document here, but these are the two most well-known incidents.
Despite all of the odds stacked against him, Sanders is surviving in the race far longer than anyone expected. A recent Bloomberg poll of democrats show that he Clinton are tied for support nationally. It is still conceivable for him to win a majority of the delegates in the nomination process, but he will have to rack up major upsets in upcoming states in order to do this. His victory in the race is not inconceivable, however it is unlikely.

What does the Sanders phenomenon mean for communists?

The Democratic Party nomination process has highlighted the fact that a very substantial portion of the population has views about how society should be run that are far to the left of both political parties. The question is what does this mean for libertarian communists and how do we relate to this progressive movement? Our major talking point on the Sanders election campaign should be; why do we need politics? For example, why should someone who is working two full time jobs in order to survive wait for the majority of Americans to vote for a politician who will address this issue? Direct action outside of the political parties solves this issue without needing to enter into the corporate media dominated circus of the election process. We do not need to wait for the government to protect us or give us rights, we should take them through organizing and direct action.

It should also be pointed out that Sanders simply does not go far enough. I agree that Sanders’ policies would improve the world. However, were we put on this earth to spend each day working in a cubicle, at a checkout counter, in a warehouse, just so various companies can out compete each other on the marketplace? What kind of life is that? Can’t we envision something better?

For now, the Sanders campaign has shown that people are open to the idea of another world. Let’s organize and take it.

Posted By

Soapy
Mar 25 2016 21:03

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  • “Our nation is heading off the abyss of destruction”

    Ben Carson

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Comments

kingzog
Apr 19 2016 05:25

But if you really can't be bothered:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3247831/Rape-child-abuse-rife-ov...

http://www.news.com.au/finance/economy/world-economy/cologne-is-every-da...
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_in_Sweden

We also know, for a fact, that most rapes go unreported for obvious reasons. It's likely much worse than reported.

And we know western countries like to cover up this sort of thing:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotherham_child_sexual_exploitation_scan...

The fact is, this is undeniable and it is a major problem. The fact is, these men come from brutal societies where sexual abuse and misogyny are way above the western norm. This is why they have intensive integration classes about women's rights for these immigrants. To point this out isn't racist, but to deny it is to excuse rape culture at its worst.

kingzog
Apr 19 2016 06:12

I know you guys think you're on the right side and have the good, moral/ethical high ground, however, I think you can't really see what's actually happening here. I know most of you don't have kids -don't have daughters. For most childless people, not all, but a lot, they have this myopia; they don't have "skin in the game", they don't have to really,

Quote:
honestly

think about the future, about consequences. That sounds condescending, I know, but if you really thought in those terms, you'd understand why lots of people are very concerned about the violence, rape, assaults and so on

Quote:
some

of the migrants have brought with them. If you had a daughter, you'd look at this very differently, especially a young daughter who will grow up amidst all this...

Imagine what the father and mother of this 10 year old victim think:

http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2015/10/07/charges-mpls-man-accused-of-rap...

Or the parents of the10 year old boy in Vienna raped by an Iraqi migrant:

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/belgium-afghan-migrant-16-rapes-worker-asylum-c...

The issue is the societies the migrant

Quote:
men

come from. Pakistan, for instance, according to human rights watch has a gang rape every 1-2 hours and 70-90percent of women face some form of domestic abuse.

And you wonder why Trump or the Sweden Democrats or Marine Le Pen are increasingly popular? Its quite obvious. But the real question for us is, how does the radical left respond? Because so far I think the denial and downplaying isn't working.

bastarx
Apr 19 2016 06:16
kingzog wrote:
But if you really can't be bothered:

It is customary for someone making a claim to provide evidence for said claim so climb down off your high horse your deceased Albanian majesty.

The Pigeon
Apr 19 2016 06:22

PARENTS FOR REACTIONARY POLITICS 2016!

Spassmaschine
Apr 19 2016 08:25
kingzog wrote:
The issue is the societies the migrant
Quote:
men

come from. Pakistan, for instance, according to human rights watch has a gang rape every 1-2 hours and 70-90percent of women face some form of domestic abuse.

Well if crude statistics are your thing, in the country your profile says you come from, the gang rape rate is once every 30 mins. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gang_rape#United_States

So apply your bullshit arguments to yourself: Why are you ignoring the American rape crisis, why can't you really see what's happening here...denial...downplaying...etc.

Does it occur to you that if you fucked off all your racist nonsense you might realise rape is a abhorrently widespread, indeed global problem? Then maybe you could consider why rapes by migrants are getting such publicity when the general modus operandi of our society is to ignore rape culture entirely?

gram negative
Apr 19 2016 12:19

first, kingzog, i'd definitely agree that the middle east and north africa have huge (and complex and varied) issues with patriarchy and mosogyny; however, the west is also guilty of this as well.

everything that you have said about migrants, however, is completely garbage anti-immigrant nonsense, that also happens to not be true.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-19592372

that article states that sweden's high rape rate is due to a high level of reporting - an issue in many countries, including western ones, and the definition used for what constitutes sexual assault, which is very broad. i'm sure that you will dismiss this as just more propaganda hiding the truth. that claim doesn't even pass the smell test and would go against the foundational principles of hierarhical society, which are predicated on the repression of minority groups. have you been to the US? if there was an epidemic of sexual assualt tied solely to immigrants, it would be blasting from every media source.

http://scholar.googleusercontent.com/scholar?q=cache:H20EY7e_fu0J:scholar.google.com/+baldwin+edwards+crime&hl=en&as_sdt=0,9&as_vis=1

this paper describes myths surrounding migrants in greece, which has a much higher proportion of migrants than sweden. surprise! migrants are not any more likely to commit violent crimes or sexual assaults, but do commit crimes against property, commit forgeries, and beg more often - i wonder why that is????????? also, migrants are treated more repressively by the state. the paper concludes with the baffling idea that issue of crime with migrants is due to their marginalization and poverty.

also, i don't know how you can be a communist or anarchist and take part in this kind of cultural scapegoating - it is contradictory to any sort of prefigurative politics and condones the state's repression of minority groups. what would you like to be done in response to this issue? police repression? the enforcement of borders that support the power of individual national capital? deportation? my city in the US has a big problem with street harrassment and has many colleges, which i'm sure you know have high rates of sexual assault - should we deport all of those people to wherever they came from? what about the vast majority of rapes that are carried out by men who know the woman involved - send them back from whence they came? why aren't you saying that?

i also find the european concerns over immigration to be hilarious, because european immigration to my parents' places of origin led to the extermination of over 90% of the indigenous populations, rape as a tool of war and terror on a mass scale, the imposition of slavery and plantation economies and on an on an on... but i guess that was in the past so it is different?

finally, yr weird concern trolling about yr daughter almost smacks of parody - i mean, can you get any more patriarchical than worrying about the control of "your female's" sexual activity?

Joseph Kay
Apr 19 2016 13:34

Fwiw on Rotherham, the obscured part of the scandal was that several cops were colluding with the gang - who were apparently local gangsters/drug dealers as well as kidnapping/grooming/abusing kids - including accessing the Police National Database to feed them intelligence, and tipping them off about investigations.

Somehow the cops managed to spin their collusion with organised crime and abuse as 'we'd have nicked 'em if it wasn't for political correctness making brown people untouchable', and the line's been parotted by everyone from the fash to Zizek (an ever-shrinking distance between those though tbf).

Unfortunately, institutionalised abuse and cover-ups are a British tradition up to the highest level. As for the left not talking about/responding to e.g. the Cologne assaults, this is another Breitbart talking point, and false. As usual, feminists are organising around sexual violence (e.g. #ausnahmslos/#noexcuses), and people are ignoring them to pen a hundred 'where are the feminists now??111' dogwhistle pieces.

arminius
Apr 19 2016 13:43

Without commenting on the substance of this very real debate, I just want to point out that this would seem to have fuckall to do with the u.s. primaries. Different thread highly recommended.

Cooked
Apr 19 2016 21:02

Kingzog this is really pissing me off. This shit should not stand on libcom. (sorry for the offtopic but can't remain unanwered)

You are arguing with anectodal evidence from anti-immigration sources and fantasizing about who you are talking to. I have a daughter and I live in a suburb of Stockholm (Stockholm is segregated so that most immigrants live in the suburbs) My building has about 30% foreign born adults.

I'm not fucking afraid for my daughters well being due to immigrants!

Gram I actually think sweden has considerably larger per capita immigrant population than Greece. Perhaps the recent horrors have completely turned the stats over but I doubt it.

gram negative
Apr 19 2016 23:48
Cooked wrote:
Gram I actually think sweden has considerably larger per capita immigrant population than Greece. Perhaps the recent horrors have completely turned the stats over but I doubt it.

you are right that sweden has a much higher number of migrants, but this graph:

http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/File:Share_of_non-nationals_in_the_resident_population,_1_January_2014_%28%25%29_YB15.png

says the proportion is similar, with greece having slightly more, and more who are not from other EU states. this is 2014, so this may be out of date with 2015

mods - do yall want to move these posts?

Juan Conatz
Apr 20 2016 00:59

Please move discussion of migrants and sexual violence to this thread.

Tyrion
Apr 20 2016 16:52

Fitting that a thread about the US elections has revealed that Donald Trump posts on libcom in his spare time.

autonomist
Jul 5 2016 18:06

To me the 2016 primaries indicate a strong anti-establishment sentiment on both sides of the political spectrum that points to U.S. citizens recognizing that the current system is no longer tenable to the majority of voters. As a U.S. radical, I can say from experience that some of our major social movements like OWS are much more diverse politically than what I have seen in Europe. We had many people from the Libertarian right involved in this movement as well as a range of people on the left spanning from progressive Democrats to Anarchists, Communists, Socialists, and their many mixtures. I think the possibility for something like Libertarian Socialism can therefore happen in movements like OWS that employ direct democratic methods to form ideology. A left/right coalition of libertarian and socialists utilizing direct democracy to form ideologies could very well lead to a libertarian socialist platform on the streets with large numbers. There are a lot more libertarians and socialists in the U.S. than people think and if they could meet halfway there would be huge numbers of people. One issue is that they are mostly right libertarians and social democrats typically. However, a mixture of their ideas through direct democracy could result in the birth of a libertarian socialist movement. We have anarchists, libertarian communists, and autonomists who are very active in movements, they just don't have large enough numbers overall. By bringing libertarians and social democrats (who have much larger numbers) into the fold; the political processes employed by these movements would likely result in a libertarian socialist ideal of some sort through consensus driven compromise and we would have enough numbers for meaningful revolution.

Battlescarred
Jul 5 2016 18:21

More confused bollox about cooperation with social democrats.

autonomist
Jul 5 2016 18:25
Quote:
Marx was a late-comer to communism. Babeuf 50 years earlier prefigured him. Somebody called Ludwig Gall supposedly advocated ideas that were very similar to Marx, a full decade or two before Chartism and Marx came onto the scene.

To be fair communism was being practiced in ancient Iran via Mazdak way before all of these western theorists. Also Lao Tzu in China.

autonomist
Jul 5 2016 18:43
Quote:
More confused bollox about cooperation with social democrats.

Judging by your use of the word bollox, you don't live in the States. Our movements are already filled with all sorts of people on the left and the libertarian right, so cooperation has ALWAYS existed. If you want to build a real direct democratic movement, anyone can show up and participate. This means in the States, particularly with OWS, that this includes all of the aforementioned. If you actually think revolution is going to happen without cooperation from large groups of people, and not just self satisfying insular groups of radicals, you are living in a fantasy world. When us anarchists, communists, and socialists organized OWS and setup the means to participate in general assemblies that ANYONE could participate in, lots of different types of people came and were exposed to new political processes and ideas. You can't build meaningful change hanging around like minded people and being exclusionary. If you want to actually have a society that works, you have to include the people within it and not just the one's you agree with. I'm not saying cooperate with social democrats in the election system, I'm saying creating general assemblies and working groups that are open to anyone interested in participating and the processes of consensus driven compromise will lean toward a libertarian socialist mixture based on the participants. This is EXACTLY what happened in Occupy. Do you think all those people were Anarchists and Communists? Fuck no. There were social democrats, socialists, libertarians, progressive democrats, and countless other anti-establishment groups and individuals. By having processes that were open to everyone we built a huge movement all over the country based on libertarian and socialist values while exposing huge numbers of people to the ideas and processes that encompass it. I'm tired of these fundamentalist radicals who take no account for context or effective strategy.

Battlescarred
Jul 5 2016 19:43

Yes, i'm a flippin' Brit, but what you say is exactly the same steaming pile of shit that we're getting over here with the Corbynistas and Momentum.This is just Col.. Sanders Refried Social Democracy, same as Syriza, same as Podemos, etc
This is not an effective strategy this is a way to demobilisation, cooption, recuperation and demoralisation. And OK,baloney!

Chilli Sauce
Jul 5 2016 20:56

Battlescarred was maybe a bit direct there but, as someone who's lived on both sides of the Atlantic, the sentiment is spot on.

We don't need to somehow find common ground within the left or within the generally politicized part of the population. We need to build class confidence and class power. That's done in our own workplaces and communities - not by attempting to create more activists or somehow (?????) stealing activists from the right and statist parties to create some sort of mass anarchist consensus.

jef costello
Jul 5 2016 22:08
autonomist wrote:
If you actually think revolution is going to happen without cooperation from large groups of people, and not just self satisfying insular groups of radicals, you are living in a fantasy world.

I think we can agree that this is not what anyone thinks.

What you are proposing is to try to build a mass movement by including people who have fundamental disagreements on pretty much everything. The reason why battlescarred's response was exasperated is because he's seen it happen a lot (he's given recent examples but he could have easily gone back further and mentioned dozens more) He is of the beliefe, as are most people here, that you cannot build a political movement when people do not agree on anything except a fairly nebulous common enemy, for example the repeated failure of the tea party to build a real movement, as an oppositional pressure movement they have forced a move to the right, but have consistently collapsed into infighting.

What you are suggesting will not work. A strike or other movement can politicise people and show them how communism can work to an extent, but that is showing communists ideals within a shared struggle, if you want to mount a shared, political struggle with people who disagree then you will fail because they disagree on what to do and how to do it.

Battlescarred
Jul 5 2016 23:27

Jef, you said it beautifully.