By Nitya Chakraborty
America’s most talked about self proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders stepped to 80 years on Wednesday, September 8. He is senator for 14 years since 2007 and is currently chairman of the budget committee of the senate. He was earlier member of the house of representatives for 17 years since 1991. Sanders has been an activist propagating his socialist ideals since his student days and it is acknowledged now that this Vermont senator has brought about a sea change in the thinking of the Democratic Party supporters in the last decade.
During his election campaigns both presidential position in both 2016 and 2020, Sanders pit forth his pro-people programmes and the response it evoked among the Democratic Party suopporters was phenomenal. This changing mood of the U.S. voters compelled the leading Presidential candidate Joseph Biden to finetune his programme and impart it pro- workers and orientation.Sanders could not be the final nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2020 presidential elections, but the elected Joe Biden incorporated lot of programmes of Sanders in his action programme after taking over the presidency on January 21 this year.
The American Left led by Bernie Sanders won a big victory last month as the U.S. House of Representatives approved the $3.5 trillion reconciliation budget plan opening the way of bringing about radical changes in the living standards of the common masses. In terms of the spread of the programmes, many experts have termed the Plan more ambitious than Roosevelt’s New Deal of 1930s.
It was a tough battle between the Democrats and the Republicans and the voting was on party line – a tense 220 for 212 against. The Republicans prodded by their corporate backers fought hard to delay the passing of this historic budget but budget committee chairman Bernie Sanders and the senior leader of the Democratic Party Nancy Pelosi took it as a big challenge and facilitated the approval with great skill. It was a personal triumph of Sanders also because many of the left wing commentators said earlier that centrist Joe Biden would somehow ensure that it was diluted. But Sanders and his left followers did not allow that.
The reconciliation bill puts the U.S. “one step closer to providing major new funding for good jobs and our care infrastructure—including the first-ever federal paid family and medical leave benefit, affordable health care, education and enhanced enforcement of our labour laws…With discriminatory voting laws also proliferating across the country, the passage” of the John Lewis Act “could not come at a more critical time,” new AFL-CIO president said.
The $3.5 trillion fund opens the way for far more: The PRO Act, much of the Green New Deal though not by that name, higher spending for child care centres and on child care workers’ salaries, Medicare coverage of dental, hearing and eyesight costs and permanent paid family and medical leave. Much to the chagrin of the Wall street backers of the Democratic Party, the package intends to raise money by increasing taxes on the corporations and the rich neutralising the concessions given by the outgoing president Donald Trump to his corporate cronies. So that way, it was not just a concessions to the workers and the marginalised in US society but it was also a path breaking move to mobilise funds from the rich to fund the poor. This was a fundamental shift in policy making which the Biden Government had to pursue as a result of pressure from the Sanders group.
As the U.S election experts pointed out the trend of voting by the immigrant workers in the 2020 presidential elections, had some similarity with the situation before Roosevelt came to power. The New Deal was made possible with a new electorate. The first and second generation of eastern European immigrants brought Roosevelt to power and now, in a similar fashion, the immigrants of first and second generation Latinos solidly stood behind Biden and this was made possible because of Sanders unstinted support to Biden and his appeal to his supporters to defeat Trump by forgetting all differences during the campaign for primaries.
Sanders’ organization “Our Revolution” is organizing people at the grass roots level in favour of his programme and he is expected to coordinate his efforts with other sections of the American people who need succour.. Our Revolution candidates are contesting in elections at base level in counties, states and at all level different forums of the American administration where the Republican supporters are ruling. The idea is to transform the administration in favour of the people from base level.
In fact, the US labour movement which has been basically dominated by the conservatives, has undergone a radical change in the course of the latest Presidential election campaign. The Labour for Bernie movement has imparted a left orientation to the thinking in the US trade union movement and many veteran centrist and left leaning trade union leaders have got themselves mobilized in favour of Bernie feeling that a progressive change is still possible. Bernie’s campaign has been able to unite the Labour left and many of them have become part of the Our Revolution platform.
What is significant about the American polity today is that the talk of inequality and socialism as also the crony capitalism have become the discussion points in the middle America drawing rooms which was not the situation before Bernie started the campaign. From Jessie Jackson to Dennis Kuci-nich to Howard Dean, many progressives made a splash in the Democratic Presidential elections but none could make anti-capitalist agenda so popular as Sanders has done. His no nonsense class based politics is a measure of how there is big disillusionment in America with the ideology of free market. Bernie has been successful in channelizing the anger of the younger Americans who are fed up with neo liberal policies at home.
In US, the Left as a political force has been always miniscule though in the area of ideas, the Left leaning intellectuals commanded wide respect. Untill now, the critical moments of left advance in America, the Seattle WTO protests, the anti-war movement, Occupy Wall Street as also the campaigns for gay rights and Black Lives Matter- have taken place outside electoral politics. Whatever might be the level of participation, its impact on electoral politics has been insignificant. For the first time, that is changing and this is not a one shot affair because there is a big urge among the younger followers of Sanders to take it forward to its logical conclusion.
In American also, there are many fringe left groups and many of them do not like Sanders policy of radicalising the Democratic Party from within. But the Communist Party of USA has taken a positive attitude to the role of Bernie Sanders in US politics and its leaders and the daily People’s World are mostly supportive of Sanders Group’s moves in the U.S. Congress.The only area where there has been no advance is in respect of foreign policy. But Bernie supporters say that their main emphasis till now was domestic sector and Biden has taken care of that to a great extent in the last seven months, but the focus can be shifted to some of the pressing foreign policy issues like Cuba and the other Latin American countries.
The path for the American left, may not be bed of roses. More successes in the domestic sector might antagonise the Wall Street and the donors to the Democratic Party. So far President Biden has acted as per his promises to the people, but change is foreign policy involves the change in stance of CIA and Pentagon which has been operating in a straightjacket since the end of World War 11. It will depend on the ingenuity of Sanders and his friends in the US Congress whether the next course of change desited by them, will be a success. (IPA Service)