This thesis is the story of Bernie Sanders, the socialist mayor of Burlington and his campaign for governor of Vermont in 1986. The campaign is used as a prism to explore his version of socialist politics and policies within a capitalist state. The policies which Sanders developed in this campaign for lowering property taxes for middle and lower income people, increasing social spending, increasing citizen participation, and raising the taxes for wealthy people and corporations are examined in detail. Sanders claims that city governments can work for poor and working class people; however, this thesis demonstrates the difficulties leftists have in getting elected and in implementing policies whenever they do win. In conclusion, I examine the questions about left participation in the electoral process, the autonomy of the state, and what socialist municipal and state policies should be.
The debate between Jason Schulman of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and Barry Finger of New Politics about how to build a party to the left of the Democratic ‘Party’ in the 21st century has largely ignored actually existing third-party efforts and focused instead on whether it is possible to use the Democratic Party for progressive ends in light of the astounding success of the 2016 presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders. Schulman along with DSA argue that yes, it is possible — in certain situations under certain conditions — while Finger says no, it is not possible in any situation or under any conditions. For Schulman and DSA, working within the Democratic Party could help lead to the formation of a left-of-Democratic Party wheras Finger contends that all roads within the Democratic Party framework lead inevitably to dead ends.
The best way to settle this debate is to look at the three organizing models provided by America’s actually existing third-party efforts. Continue reading →
“Bernie the Bomber’s Bad Week” by the late Will Miller is perhaps the most quoted and most-cited piece of ‘left’ criticism of Bernie Sanders and therefore deserves serious scrutiny. At first glance “Bernie the Bomber’s Bad Week” appears to be a muckracking exposé but a closer inspection reveals that it is riddled with embarrassing contradictions and is written with as much respect for the facts as the average Fox News story on President Barack Obama.
This is Appendixes D and B of Building Progressive Politics: The Vermont Story, a 1993 pamphlet by Marxist Terry Bouricius that chronicles how the only successful left third party in the U.S. today was built over the course of three decades.
Vermont is currently beset by a crisis of public confidence in its leadership. Neither the Democratic nor Republican parties seem capable of solving the many problems confronting average Vermonters; jobs that earn too little, demand more time away from home and family to make ends meet, yet increasingly require more concentration, education, and fatigue. Housing costs, including property taxes, rents and utilities, devour meager paychecks; doctors, hospitals and insurance companies charge far beyond what most people can afford. Our schools badly need funding and creative new ideas and structures to better prepare both children and adults for the challenges of the future. Continue reading →
This is Chapter 6 of Building Progressive Politics: The Vermont Story, a 1993 pamphlet by Marxist Terry Bouricius, that chronicles how the only successful left third party in the U.S. today was built over the course of three decades. The remaining chapters will be published on this blog in the coming days.
Laws governing how elections are conducted and how parties are organized limit prospects for alternative parties. It is important to remember that the existing rules of the game are subject to change. Of course we must recognize that the people with the direct power to change how government officials are selected were themselves selected by the existing rules and won. Change occurs only when it is forced upon the decision makers or when they see it in their own interest. To gain some perspective I will first give an overview of how election and party laws have evolved in Vermont.1Continue reading →