Bernie Sanders announces plans for a new left party

by Louis Proyect on May 21, 2016


Sanders being arrested at a 1963 anti-segregation protest in Chicago. He was later found guilty of resisting arrest and charged $25. (From Wikipedia)

(This is a thought experiment based on some of the discussion taking place around the need for the Sanders campaign to “continue the struggle” after Clinton becomes the Democratic Party candidate for president. It is of course highly unlikely that Sanders would ever follow such a path so in terms of the real world I will be voting for Jill Stein in November and urge everybody else to do so as well, even in “swing states”. )

My fellow Americans, it is always difficult to admit you are wrong especially when you are a Senator. But the refusal of the convention to approve or even consider reforms that will make the Democratic Party more attractive to voters leaves me with no alternative but to begin the difficult but necessary task of building a new party that not only embraces such reforms but fights for them in municipal, state and national elections. It was my hope that the Democrats could return to the values of the New Deal and the New Society but in the final analysis they insisted on defending the values of Wall Street banks. If they refuse to stand up for the middle class, we have no alternative except to make a stand for the overwhelming majority of Americans who survive from paycheck to paycheck.

The fact that over 4 out of 10 voters agreed with me on the need for a $15 minimum wage, single-payer health insurance, breaking up the largest banks and an end to fracking shows that a basis for a new party exists, one that is not afraid to take on the special interests on Wall Street and that is willing to fight for the right of middle class Americans to enjoy job security, good health and a better future for their children. These were rights that were once at the core of the Democratic Party, the ones that FDR named as the Four Freedoms. If the party has abandoned its core beliefs, then it is up to us to reclaim them in the name of fairness and decency.

After meeting with my closest advisers, we have decided to launch the new party at a national founding convention in Chicago on May 1, 2017. At this point what we call the party is far less important than what it stands for. We are confident that we can win a majority of Americans to a program based on the goals I identified in my campaign for President, especially that of ending income inequality. As long as the superrich use their wealth to game the system, especially the electoral system, it will be difficult to achieve any other basic reforms.

The reality is that since the mid-1980s there has been an enormous transfer of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the wealthiest people in this country. That is the Robin Hood principle in reverse. That is unacceptable and that has got to change.  There is something profoundly wrong when the top one-tenth of one percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

There is something profoundly wrong when 58 percent of all new income since the Wall Street crash has gone to the top one percent.

Despite huge advancements in technology and productivity, millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages. The real median income of male workers is $783 less than it was 42 years ago; while the real median income of female workers is over $1,300 less than it was in 2007. That is unacceptable and that has got to change.

For those who think that third parties are doomed to fail, I can only say that the two-party system has been failing people for the past 100 years except for that brief period from FDR to LBJ when it took the side of the middle class. At the risk of being called a socialist, let me quote one of my heroes—Eugene V. Debs: “It is better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don’t want and get it.” We have reached a point, however, when we have a realistic possibility of finally voting for what we want and getting it. Despite an organized campaign by the media owned by the one percent, especially the Washington Post owned by the billionaire tax-cheat and slave-driver Jeff Bezos, to demonize my campaign, voters chose me over the status quo in important states such as Wisconsin and Colorado. Not only did I have to contend with Republican Party supporters like Bezos, I was also undermined by the Democratic Party establishment that continues to back the closed primaries and superdelegates that favor business as usual.

As an independent third party, we will obviously have to deal with attempts by the one percent to marginalize us but at least we will be able to rely on our own resources and not be beholden to the kind of corporate influences that have made the Democratic Party willing to throw the middle class under the bus. Concretely, our new party will benefit from the ten million dollars that remain in my 2016 campaign’s treasury that will be used as seed money. The priority will not be on glitzy television commercials but in creating the infrastructure that can help us get rooted in all fifty states and begin the process of funding the campaigns of party members running for municipal and state office. To that end, I have asked Jeff Weaver to staff an office in Chicago that will organize our founding convention and begin the process of carrying out our agenda of creating a new political party that has a nationwide reach.

To help Jeff out, I have asked leaders of Greenpeace, Black Lives Matter, National Nurses United and other unions that backed my campaign, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, the National LGBTQ Task Force, and veterans of Occupy Wall Street to meet with me, Jeff Weaver and other members of my 2016 campaign staff to help us recruit experienced organizers to make sure that our party is not simply a vote-gathering apparatus that disappears after election day. Whether one of our candidates wins or loses is almost secondary to the overriding need of an organization that can stand up for those needing help in the struggles for justice and equal rights. As an example of what is needed, a call could have gone out from our new party to back Verizon strikers in NY. If only one out of one hundred people in our database living in the area had responded to a call for a protest march on Verizon corporate offices, that would have been a thousand people—enough to put real pressure on the men trying to destroy a trade union.

The bottom line is that we intend to build a party that is both activist and electoral. There are many different organizations fighting for social justice but they lack a common framework that can unite them into a powerful movement that can confront the rightwing that is threatening the rights of so many of us today. With billionaires like the Koch brothers willing to spend millions on the tea party and other astroturf movements, we need to fund and coordinate the living and authentic movements of ordinary Americans dealing with polluted water, home evictions, police brutality, intimidation of LGBT people, and all the other problems that continue to crop up in a country that should be a symbol of democracy and fair play for the entire world.

Now in my 74th year, I have decided to risk everything in an endeavor that might antagonize many of the people in the Democratic Party many of whom I have worked with closely and regarded as friends for many years. I understand that I risk being called a “spoiler” in the same way that Ralph Nader was regarded, especially after the 2000 election. This is a question I have wrestled with for the better part of a year. Despite my endorsement of Hillary Clinton, I have reached the point where it is no longer possible for me to straddle the fence between my socialist beliefs and the type of party the Democrats have become. In fact, I do not blame Ralph Nader so much for the election of George W. Bush in 2000 as I do Al Gore for running a campaign cut from the same cloth as Hillary Clinton’s this year. It was a mistake for him to tailor his campaign to compete with the Republicans over the uncommitted voter in the mythical ‘center”. As my campaign supporter Jim Hightower once put it, “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.”

If we are sure that our party’s goals are in the interest of the majority of Americans, we cannot be deterred from our chosen course of action. The issues facing the American people are the gravest since the Civil War when the nation was divided over slavery. Abraham Lincoln had the courage to face this evil head-on and uproot it totally. We need a party that has the same kind of resolve today. I might not be the standard-bearer but I will leave this earth content in knowing that I have set the wheels in motion that can finally not only make America a better place for Americans but that can be a force for good worldwide. With so much suffering today that can be blamed on financial speculators who could care less about the consequences of their action on poor people, we need Washington to be accountable to those in the 99 percent globally. This is probably the most effective step we can take in achieving world peace. When your belly is full and when you have a roof over your head, there is not much cause for engaging in terrorism or war.

The stakes are very high. Scientists believe that we are headed for a sixth extinction unless global warming and other corporate assaults on the environment in pursuit of profit come to an end. We are also living in a world where the insane decision to push a button can lead to a nuclear holocaust. There are presently over 15,000 nuclear weapons. An escalation of conventional warfare can always lead to unforeseen circumstances especially when you have a head of state like Adolph Hitler who was prepared to bring down all of Europe, and especially the Jews, in his drive for world domination. Our goal is to create a peaceful world where people can enjoy the fruits of the labor in the secure knowledge that they have nothing to fear from neighboring countries or their own government. Our goal in transforming the USA is ultimately linked to the goal of creating a better world for everybody. Secure in our knowledge that this is what every thinking person desires, we move ahead with our plans to launch a new party committed to the common good. See you in Chicago on May first.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Ben May 21, 2016 at 1:47 pm

Yes. Let’s pretend the Green Party doesn’t exist and is not worth including in any such discussions. Why would we want to involve radicals who have experience with rubbing independent campaigns?


Louis Proyect May 21, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Ben, you should be aware that this is only a thought experiment. In fact the Green Party is the only left alternative to the Democratic Party today. But if by some miracle Sanders decided to implement such a strategy, I would strongly advise the Greens to become part of it and constitute its left wing.


Ben May 21, 2016 at 4:22 pm

I understand that it’s just a proposal – but why put such a thing out without mentioning the Greens? That just reinforces some prevailing myths among some on the Left, and many liberals, about spontaneity, the relative unimportance of organization, leadership, experience, etc.. Maybe you could edit the piece?


Louis Proyect May 21, 2016 at 4:50 pm

I just did.


Barbara Poindexter May 21, 2016 at 2:03 pm

The American People have needed a third party since the 70’s


Ellen Siegel May 21, 2016 at 2:41 pm

I am there!!


Wayne Price May 21, 2016 at 2:46 pm

Bernie won’t say anything of the kind. You electoralist, state socialists are kidding yourselves.


Mike Meeropol May 22, 2016 at 7:21 am

I propose one tweak to the thought experiment.

That Bernie deliver this speech the day after the election is decided —

That he note that the reason he refrained from doing this between July and November is that he thought the danger of a Trump presidency was so high that he was willing to remain in the coalition between his supporters and the backward-looking “Democratic” Party. But now that Hillary Clinton is President (or now that Donald Trump is President) — it is time to declare independence from the Democratic Party —

If Bernie were to give that speech in mid-November 2016, he would avoid the so-called spoiler role and perhaps make a significant impact — Delivering that speech before the election guarantees President Trump.

I know many people don’t care if Trump is elected instead of Clinton — I am with those who care passionately — who really believe Trump is a fascist and his supporters are the new blackshirts (brownshirts?).


No More 2 Party System May 22, 2016 at 9:52 pm

Here’s hoping for an end to the failed 2 party system.


Peter Goddard May 23, 2016 at 6:28 am



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