You Say You Want a (Political) Revolution?

Is there political life outside of electoral politics?

Is it possible to be “political” in the United States and not get involved in electoral politics? For most of human history there have been “high politics” of kings and aristocrats and “low politics” of peasants, artisans and proletarians. Yet before roughly the 20th century, staging elections was not part of the political process. The root meaning of politics is “policy” which means setting a course or direction. A deeper meaning of politics is to “steer” the way a ship is navigated through dangerous currents and weather conditions. With this in mind I want to suggest that there can be radical politics in the United States, but in order to have a “political revolution”, as Bernie Sanders says he wants, we need to move outside of electoral politics. What might this look like? The following is an imaginary process for what Bernie Sanders would do if he really were serious about a political revolution.

1) Desert the Democratic Party

Right in the middle of the primaries, while the question of who will be nominated is still up for grabs, Bernie Sanders could leave the Democratic Party flat. He has been an independent all his life, why not end this way? He used the Democratic Party to get into the debates. Now people know him and he has their mailing lists. Why not go directly to the people who support him and dump the party?

Would it be immoral to dump the Democratic Party? The Democratic Party, like the Republican Party, is the Party of Capital. It has demonstrated for almost a century that it has less and less in common with the working class. The biggest wars the Democratic Party has made in a number of election cycles have been on the Green Party, not on the Republicans. Why should Bernie Sanders maintain a loyalty to a party he spent most of his career wanting to have no part in? This tactic would produce great disruption of the party, which would further reveal the bankruptcy of centrist politics.

My guess is that most people in Sanders’ camp are voting for Sanders and could care less about which party he is in. Just as right-wingers would probably follow Trump out of the Republican Party if he were forced to leave, so followers of Sanders would do the same.

2) Join the Green Party

If Sanders were in the Green Party, there would need to be no consideration of taking care not to offend capitalists and their lobbyists. The Green party is already on the ballot so there wouldn’t be any technical problems. Further, since Bernie says he wants a political revolution he would have to let himself be influenced by the program the Greens have already established, thus moving him further to the left. This would move him in a direction of becoming an authentic Democratic Socialist, which is what he now professes to be and not the New Deal Liberal that he truly is.

3) This “Sandersized” Green Party is used to centralize all the decentralized movements that are not fragmented into a unified, single umbrella

These groups include but are not limited to:

  • Black Lives Matter
  • The movement for democratic unionization as tracked by Labor Notes
  • The embers of the Occupy Movement which once flourished in 150 cities
  • The movement for public banking
  • The land trust movements which Gar Alperovitz discusses
  • The hundreds of worker-cooperatives that exist around the United States

4) Hold political conferences every three months in different cities in which each group would build relationships through common goals and commitments to each other via workshops and plenary sessions. We will build relationships in a systematic and centralized manner so that all groups know what every other group is committed to doing.

5) Have a revolutionary vision of politics that is decoupled from any electoral process

The purpose of revolutionary politics is for exerting power in preparation for the collapse of the stock market and ecological disasters as the result of global warming.

6) Develop a list of programs, which are unreformable within capitalism but are likely to appeal to the general public

These include:

  • Full employment (capitalists could never tolerate it because their profit system is based on unemployed workers driving down the cost of labor).
  • A guaranteed living wage which is above the poverty level ($20,000)
  • Paid housework. As it is, capitalists do not have to pay any costs for maintaining their workers’ lives (especially women’s lives) from the time they leave their jobs to the time they return.
  • Recall a large portion of the military and pay them to fix roads, build bridges, repair sewers and build low cost housing instead of murdering or subjugating populations around the world. At last count the neglected infrastructure cost is in the trillions of dollars.

7) Set aside funds for building worker cooperatives and provide funds and resources for them by taking over firms that have gone bankrupt.

8) Institute participatory budgeting assemblies and councils in every major city so that workers build confidence in their ability to politically plan the future economy.

9) Prepare the above and other strategies and practice them while waiting for the economic-ecological collapse to occur.

These include:

  • Withholding work while working towards a general strike
  • Collectively withholding taxes to the state
  • Collectively coordinating attacks on the banks, including making runs on the banks

What all these strategies have in common is cutting off the blood supply of capitalist vampires. They are necessary for destroying capitalism.

10) Hire independent filmmakers as well as big name people like Oliver Stone to make a movie of this political revolution so we can better visualize it and use them as a medium of agitation for spreading the political revolution.

11) Hire economists and anthropologists like Richard Wolff, David Harvey, Michael Hudson and David Graeber as consultants for:

  • Tracking the movements of capital as it’s declining to better predict its fall
  • Developing a theoretical plan for implementing 21st century socialism

Stop wasting time with Hillary. Let her win the election and preside over the economic and ecological collapse The ruling classes will never let an upstart like Trump win the presidency, so the argument of the lesser of two evils will not be a stumbling block.

Bruce Lerro has taught for 25 years as an adjunct college professor of psychology at Golden Gate University, Dominican University and Diablo Valley College in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has applied a Vygotskian socio-historical perspective to his three books found on Amazon. He is a co-founder, organizer and writer for Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism. Read other articles by Bruce, or visit Bruce's website.