My Friend Bert Garskoff feels the Bern

Each presidential campaign raises the same questions. Do we ignore? Burn our ballots? Join in the hope of being for once politically relevant? Support Ralph? Sit on our hands?

I think that if we think of ourselves as organizers rather than activists we can see a way for us to approach the issue of 2015, to Bern or anti-Bern.

I know of course that the US is not a true democracy. Even within the limits on true democracy built into its framework, it is not a democracy. I know it was never intended to be. I know political parties, campaigns, voting are all shams designed well to keep people from thinking about real democracy.

And again, of course, the Sanders campaign has all of the above limitations and illusions.

I know that a realer, if not perfect democracy is theorized and practiced in innumerable anarchist and other local community organizations and projects. But, I also know that we (anarchists) need to talk to people other than ourselves if we are to grow, if we are to become a significant movement.

Sanders promulgates democratic socialist (not socialist, I think) ideas and programs. It is a good thing that these progressive ideas are injected by Sanders as inoculation for  the otherwise neoliberal dogma of Hilary’s campaign

. Certainly among the Sanders supporters there are many who will flock like liberal sheep to Hilary once the Bern burns out. However, I believe that among the Sanders supporters there are thousands who are dissatisfied, who are disgruntled, but who do not have a coherent left analysis, who therefore are open to our ideas as they weren’t before they got involved in the Sanders surge. These seekers will be open (certainly many of them) to ideas from the Left of Sanders

We must think as organizers. Yes, demonstrate, fight in the streets but spend some time and energy going to places where the Sanders campaign has gathered a crowd or a meeting but go not to disrupt, disrupting there would show how true we are to our knowledge, to our anger, to our need to show “them” us. But, what does this do? Doesn’t it drive away people, many of them young people who don’t (yet) have our understandings?

So I think that we should jump in the water. After all, the anti-war multitudes of the 60s and 70s were only disgruntled, dissatisfied people and without a coherent left analysis, yet we jumped in. Why? Because a movement can only be built on motion. Motion is people open, people leaving their normal placid acceptance if only a little, if only briefly. So, things swirled. Liberal anti-war marches. My collective would go, stand alongside the marchers with paper Viet Cong flags and pins, encouraging people to wear the flags. We gave maybe a thousand away. A good left action. We also had leaflets with our analysis of the war on Vietnam. Many people took those. Good. Better than if we had stayed home.

So, why don’t  we joined a Sanders local campaign or go to a mass rally? If it seems right, we could have leaflets about participatory democracy compared to the top down structure of the campaign. We could have lists of places and projects where anarchists and others are working with people in projects that are using anarchist and community participatory ideas and vision. Places where Bernie supporters might get involved once they knew about them.

We might talk after the meeting with anyone who will sit down with us.

We can’t only act on our own readiness. (Burn the Ballot for example)  We have to be organizers, which means we have to work with where people are at both geographically and intellectually/emotionally. To play this role, that of an organizer, we have to be honest about where we are at personally. We have to be ready to explain why we are there. And we especially have to be the first there to do the necessary work and among the last to leave. That is we have to be a real part of the campaign. I for one can do that honestly, even as I might talk with people about something better because I am truly happy that the Sanders campaign exists to open up the social democratic program. People should expect these things to be there for them and they are not. Hearing Sanders say they should expect these programs as their right can only make at least some of not many open to other strategies we can provide our ideas only if we are there.

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