A Response to Chris Hedges Concerning Bernie Sanders

Published on ZNet, by Vincent Emanuele, Feb 18, 2016.

Chris Hedges latest article, Bernie Sanders’ Phantom Movement has caused quite a stir. Over the last couple of days, several friends have sent me the article and I’ve seen it posted on social media outlets by thousands of people … //

… To start, Bernie Sanders’ rhetoric is much different than Barack Obama’s or Jesse Jackson’s, although it should be mentioned that Jackson had much more radical views on American foreign policy, particularly with regard to Palestine. That being said, Sanders’ rhetoric on class issues and the role of the state is much more concrete and progressive than Obama’s superficial slogan of “Hope and Change” … //

… Speaking of political movements, it should also be noted that Sanders’ campaign is a direct result of previous progressive movements. In other words, without Ralph Nader, the Great Financial Collapse of 2008, the Wisconsin Uprising of 2011, and the Occupy Movement of 2012, I would argue that Sanders’ campaign wouldn’t exist.

Unfortunately, Hedges’ observations about the Green Party mirror my own experiences with the party. In some ways, Hedges is making my point for me: since the Left is largely disorganized, people will seek traditional outlets, such as the Democratic Party, even if those outlets are insufficiently progressive in nature.

Here’s the main question for Hedges and the broader Left: can leftists use the energy of the Sanders campaign to build independent political organizations? The Socialist Alternative (SA) and the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) are building their organizations via the Sanders campaign, but are there other possibilities?

Another striking contradiction is the fact that virtually every major labor union supports Clinton over Sanders. For instance, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has endorsed Clinton, but has also played a vital role in creating arguably the most important economic rights movement in the country – the Fight for $15. The ultimate irony is that if Sanders loses to Clinton, it will be because of organized labor and African American voters (as was the case in Chicago during the mayoral campaign between Rahm Emanuel and Chuy Garcia), which says much more about the state of the Left than Bernie’s policy positions.


Without doubt, a lot of smart and talented organizers are working on Sanders’ campaign. It would be useful to challenge these folks. The Left can do so, but only by approaching these activists and organizers with respect, not by mocking or dismissing their efforts.

If the Left consistently isolates itself during election cycles, or sits on the sidelines, making armchair critiques, while offering very limited alternatives like voting for the Green Party/Jill Stein, how can we expect people to become radicalized? Moreover, why should people even pay attention to us?

Leftists can formulate devastating critiques, but we can’t organize for shit. And that is the Left’s primary dilemma: the inability to provide alternatives to the dominant political parties and institutions of our time. When people are exposed to the Left, they are often turned-off by the experience. Until the Left can provide serious alternatives, we’ll be relegated to the sidelines.

In the end, the Left should spend more time looking in the mirror, and less time critiquing liberals.

To quote a friend, “It’s not that the Left can’t see the forest through the trees, it’s that the Left can’t even see the damn trees!”

(full text).

(Vincent Emanuele can be reached here).


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on en.wikipedia: Trans-Pacific Partnership TPP is a trade agreement among twelve Pacific Rim countries signed on 4 February 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand after 7 years of negotiations …; /External Links;
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… and this:

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