Lindsey German on Sanders, women’s liberation and the Assange case
The Nevada win is a pretty spectacular one for Bernie Sanders, whose campaign to obtain the Democratic Party nomination in the US is now clearly ahead of his rivals. He is appealing to a range of voters – lots of the young and now winning the support of Hispanic voters in Nevada. He also looks to me as though he is picking up low paid working-class women and men, who are suffering both the effects of low paid and insecure work, and of the lack of a health system and welfare state in the richest country in the world.
The advance of Bernie’s left-wing candidacy is a nightmare not just for the other candidates, but for the Democratic Party establishment and for the US ruling class. They fear that the contest in November can end up between two, as they would describe it, ‘populists’ – one on the left and one on the right in the form of Donald Trump.
Populism is to them the enemy of sensible centre politics. So the electorate should be choosing someone much more in the mainstream than Sanders – Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, or even the more liberal Elizabeth Warren. Unfortunately, the electorate isn’t playing along here and keeps giving its votes to by far the most left-wing candidate who proclaims himself a socialist and who is inspiring a mass grassroots campaign.
This is despite Corbyn-style levels of negative press and media, constant attacks by Democrat politicians, and a repeated mantra that Sanders can’t win against Donald Trump. In fact, polls seem to show very similar votes regardless of the politics of the Democrat candidates.
What this shows us is that Sanders is the most spectacular example of what has been a trend in a number of countries, for voters to turn towards left leaders and parties in the face of relentless attacks on their living standards and worsening social conditions. It is why Jeremy Corbyn was elected in 2015, and why he gained votes and seats on 2017 (which is why such efforts went into defeating him in 2019). It is why Sinn Fein topped the poll in the recent Irish election, and why other left parties there like PBP did so well.
Many of those who are repulsed by Trump and all he stands for also see Sanders as capable of presenting a real alternative who can win over some former Trump voters, unlike mainstream Democrats. They see in the latter people who talk in soundbites, are there for an election and then don’t deliver. The newest candidate, media billionaire Michael Bloomberg, demonstrated last week that all the perfumes of Arabia – or all the money you can pour into a campaign – can’t bring you the ability to make a half decent speech.
Nowhere, however, have the centre politicians learnt the lessons of their defeats. Tony Blair still carps on about alliances with the Lib Dems, the two old parties in Ireland refuse to go into coalition with Sinn Fein, and in the US the political establishment regards Sanders and his supporters as beyond the pale, just as Hillary Clinton did with Trump.
They hoped they would have stopped Sanders by now, but they haven’t and he is likely to remain the frontrunner after Super Tuesday in a week’s time. So what to do? Firstly they will continue attacks on him, especially his ‘electability’.
Secondly, they will use the party convention in the summer to try to nominate another candidate, although this may be difficult to do politically if he keeps gaining momentum. Thirdly they will keep up attacks right up to the election, and the media will use every dirty trick in the book.
Many in the political establishment really don’t like Trump, but they will fear Sanders, who is not a billionaire and a businessman and who is promising radical left policies, even more.
The last thing any of these people want is someone who challenges their world view and their system which has destroyed so much for working people over the past decades. A lesson for Sanders supporters from the Corbyn campaign here is that the movement has to look outwards at the real struggles taking place, and that it cannot rely on these mainstream politicians, but only on their own organisation and power.
Women’s oppression: the longest revolution?
It’s 50 years since the first Women’s Liberation conference in Britain, held in Oxford and marking a new movement which challenged so much. It is hard to imagine now that women’s liberation – which began in the US a couple of years earlier – enabled women to discuss and organise around issues which had previously been considered marginal or not even political at all. Then suddenly people began to talk about sexual stereotyping, vaginal orgasms, the double burden, women’s history, male dominated medicine and science, nurseries, harassment, period pains and contraception.
As is always said, much has been achieved since then – but a hell of a lot hasn’t, including free childcare, equal pay, and freedom for women to live as they choose without fear or prejudice. Women’s oppression is fundamental to class society and is the oldest oppression and the one that it will take longest to eradicate. Its roots lie in women’s role in reproduction and this remains a major aspect of our oppression. Its central role and the existence of the family also affects all sexual oppression. So we should never forget that this oppression is about half of humanity and that to end it we will need to end the production for profit which is key to our class society.
Assange: the tide is turning
I will be in Belmarsh today protesting outside the hearing of Julian Assange, who faces extradition to the US for exposing their war crimes. Already Chelsea Manning languishes in prison for telling the truth. Everyone who opposed the Iraq or Afghanistan wars should fight his extradition. I fully support the family of Harry Dunne, who are opposing his extradition until Anne Sacoolas is extradited here to face charges about his death in a road accident. Sacoolas, a ‘former’ CIA operative, is protected by the US while it demands Assange’s extradition.
Boris Johnson should be told in no uncertain terms not to go along with this, and several thousand gathered outside parliament on Saturday to do just that. The tide is turning in this case, and by the time of the next part of the trial in May, we need a mass movement around it
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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