I just got a text from a friend asking for advice. He wants to know whether or not to spend more than he can afford to go to the Democratic Party national convention. He’s a big Bernie fan and Bernie says they should reform the Democratic Party. “Is that even possible?” I ask.
Until the Bernie campaign made history this year, I had never even seriously considered any hope for the Democratic party. But Bernie has changed a lot of opinions this year, some of them dramatically. Even some of mine.
I am not going to question, in the immediate sense, that Bernie is right in his efforts. Every inch of democracy that we can squeeze out of this capitalist system is worth fighting for. If he can get the Democrats to change some of their rules in a positive direction, I’m all for it.
But, before we go all-out in trying to turn an existing political party into an instrument for fundamental change in America, we need to examine some of our words, including “political party” and “fundamental change.”
The working people will never make permanent improvements as long as the bosses are in power. That’s my guideline. “Fundamental change,” then, requires that the bosses not remain in power. Everything else may be worth fighting for, but it’s still temporary and will eventually have to be fought for again and again.
A “political party” is a committee that organizes, leads, and promotes the interests of a given class. Both the Republican and the Democratic Party promote the interests of the boss class. When they talk about reforming one or the other of them, they are only talking about various rules, not their basic commitment to continuing capitalism. Even Bernie might talk about “reining in” capitalism, but he doesn’t talk about overcoming it.
So, no. I don’t believe it’s worth major time and effort to try to reform the Democratic Party to achieve fundamental progress. What we actually need is a political party based on workers. We need a workers party like those in several other countries. Usually, they aren’t revolutionary organizations, but they are workers’ organizations. A workers party in the United States would be a great historical step forward.
It’s my opinion, expressed previously, that the Bernie Sanders movement could result in a workers party in America. I think we’re very close to it, but not if all our energies are turned into a hopeless effort to reform the Democratic Party.
I don’t want to leave the impression that I’m against the Democrats or even the Republicans. Workers have every interest in working with whoever will help us advance. We need to work with whatever situation we have. Anything less than that shows either a lack of commitment to the workers’ movement or ignorance of strategy and tactics.