A group of black women stormed the stage, where Sen. Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential contender, was supposed to give a speech defending Medicare and Social Security against cutbacks. They grabbed the microphone, and claimed to represent the Black Lives Matter movement, which had been gaining traction since the murder of Michael Brown (gunned down by police), and the ensuing race riots in Ferguson, Missouri. It was possible to attack Sanders’ speech, because most other presidential contenders had much tighter security precautions, such that it would be harder to disrupt their speeches and embarrass them. The protesters believed that by interrupting the speech of a presidential contender, they would be able to receive significant publicity for their cause and speak truth to power.
Yes, Sanders is a sitting US senator, the more powerful body of Congress. Yes, he is running for the Democratic presidential primaries and is second in the polls behind Hillary Clinton. Yes, he needs to listen more to the needs and interests of black people that make up only a very small constituency in his home state of Vermont, where 94% of the electorate is white.
But that is about it. Sanders is the best ally that the black community can have. He has marched with the civil rights movement, opposed housing and school segregation in the 1960s, was arrested for that action, and endorsed every piece of legislation advancing civil and voting rights for African Americans. But that is not what went through the minds of the two women, who interrupted his campaign rally. That was also not in the minds of my very left-wing friends in various social media groups, who are venting their anger against the political system, such that they become cynical even of Bernie Sanders presidential run. Their reasoning is that because he is running within the mainstream party, the Democratic Party, which had sold out the American worker for the very longest time, that Sanders himself must also be a sell-out to the big corporations, despite all his flowery speeches in favor of the little guy.
But the reality is that Sanders has consistently advocated the same political positions, going back as far as the 1960s when he was arrested for his protest against housing segregation, and the 1970s, when he was a political gadfly in his home state of Vermont where he ran for governor and senator multiple times. Even back then, he was attacking the growing gap between the rich and the poor, the military-industrial complex and advocated other kinds of left-wing issues. So who is helped by undermining Sanders’ campaign if not the right-wingers, who are always united in their pernicious cause?
I had long ago pointed out that it is frustrating to be on the left even though it remains an inherent necessity. The left has the moral and philosophical strength to be advocating the cause of democracy, justice and equality, but when it comes to political action, they tend to stymie each other, because they can never agree with each other. Whereas right-wing reactionaries have been indoctrinated in the inherent goodness of a hierarchical society, left-wingers reject any kind of authority, and the same critical reasoning which they have applied against the injustice of our current economic and political system, are also used to attack other left-wing groups and opinions. Some members in the left set purity standards that are so high that only the proverbial savior (God?), who will let milk and honey flow across the whole world, can convince them of good leadership.
I have run into socialist groups, who either don’t know much about other left-wing groups, or have suspicions about their intentions. The lack of coalition building is excellent for the ego of those individuals involved, but it is devastating for the prospect of generating genuine social change that benefit the masses. Thinking about problems and criticizing political leaders is the strength of left intellectuals, but creating and supporting an organization which is bringing about real change is a much more difficult task. But if we are interested in abolishing poverty, reducing inequality, fighting climate change and supporting democracy, we have no other choice but to get into the struggle, support the best candidate, hold him/her accountable and make the best of the situation.