Why they want to stop Bernie

Revolutionary socialists in Baltimore helped lead mass protests after the racist police murder of Freddie Grey in 2015. SLL photo

The capitalist media have crowned Joe Biden as the likely candidate to win the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. This isn’t just because the former vice president is leading in the early public opinion polls.

Biden was brought into the race to stop Bernie Sanders. The billionaire class can’t tolerate someone calling themselves a socialist going to the White House. The wealthy and powerful consider it a threat to their system that millions of people in the U.S., including fifty percent of youth, have a favorable opinion of socialism.

Leading the charge against Sanders are so-called liberal publications like the Washington Post, which on May 3 attacked Sanders for taking a 1988 honeymoon trip to what was then the Soviet Union. Fox News gleefully used the Post’s article to condemn the Vermont senator’s “infamous honeymoon.”

On Feb. 20, Slate claimed that “Sanders has a soft spot for Latin American strongmen” because he praised Cuban health care and didn’t immediately condemn Venezuela’s elected president, Nicolás Maduro.   

Four years before, CNN’s Anderson Cooper had also red baited Bernie Sanders about his honeymoon.

It isn’t just about jobs

Underhanded support from the Democratic National Committee ― as exposed by WikiLeaks ― and a massive bankroll paved the way for Hillary Clinton to win the presidential nomination in 2016. But that wasn’t the whole story.

How did Hillary Clinton get to Flint, Mich., before Bernie Sanders did?

To Sanders, progressive politics, even “socialist politics,” consists of raising economic issues like jobs, health care and free education. These are all good things, and who needs them more than the over 110 million Black, Latinx, Indigenous and Asian/Pacific Islander people in the U.S.?

But the lead poisoning of Black and some white children in Flint didn’t seem like a burning political issue to Sanders, at least at first. Otherwise, he would have showed up in Flint well before Clinton did.

Sanders toured the Sandtown neighborhood in Baltimore where Freddie Grey Jr. was arrested by police and given a “rough ride,” resulting in Grey’s death. At the Dec. 8, 2015, news conference that followed, Sanders said that it “makes a lot more sense to me to be getting kids jobs than hanging out on street corners and seeing them end up in jail.”

Young people need jobs and Sanders did call for an end to mass incarceration and federal investigations of all police killings. But Freddie Grey wasn’t killed because he was jobless. He was killed because he was a Black youth.

Sean Bell had a job when police fired 50 shots on Nov. 25, 2006, killing him on what was supposed to be his wedding day. Teamsters union member Philando Castile was killed inside his car on July 6, 2016, after being stopped by police.

What Sanders needed to do was to denounce police terrorism.

Socialists must fight racism

In 2016, Sanders called reparations for the African Holocaust “devisive.” This wasn’t just repulsive; it cost Sanders the votes of many African Americans.

This is an old story in the U.S. socialist movement: If we can just avoid “divisive issues” like reparations, we can unite Black (and other oppressed) voters with white voters on economic issues.

But these “divisive issues” can’t be avoided. Socialists have to fight for justice.

It’s hopeful that Sanders is now supporting a bill to create a reparations study commission.

Bernie Sanders supports many good things, like Medicare For All. But he isn’t calling for a revolution. Revolutionary socialists know that to stop capitalism from cooking the earth we need to overthrow this rotten system. Wall Street and its military machine have to be smashed.

In order to organize this revolution, socialists need to appeal to Sanders’ supporters to stop any U.S. war against Venezuela and Iran. And to join the struggle to free U.S. political prisoners like Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal and Chelsea Manning.