In the light of the Sanders campaign and a small resurgence of leftish pressure from Democrats, having a straightforward position of never voting for or to even contemplate seeking the Democratic nomination would be counterproductive.
But Sanders is not building anything out of this presidential election. And at almost 80 years old, he is, unfortunately, unlikely to be the figurehead of a new movement for any length of time.
Since Biden won the nomination, Sanders, whether through being told to shut up or feeling burned, has not been at all vocal. His “Our Revolution”, the NGO that has come out of the campaign, is extremely limited. What have its local chapters done during this election? Where is their list of demands on Biden? In fact, they don’t make any!
Their list of four demands during the election ends with “build a movement”. But for what? The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), an organisation that has grown substantially since 2016, and no doubt at the expense of the revolutionary left, has some real potential but seems to be largely sitting this election out, while the vast majority of its membership reluctantly vote for Biden.
Unfortunately the US left is not united for a Hawkins vote. If it were, that might strengthen the campaign’s potential. I have no illusions that the Green Party as anything but an electoral vehicle. The potential of the Hawkins-Walker campaign is not about building the Greens but about the kind of campaigns that they can run during the election, albeit hampered by Covid.
Hawkins, who has been an activist for 50 years in the third camp tradition that we also inhabit, is the only candidate for President that has anything remotely like the kind of programme that can defeat Trumpism. That is, politically, if not at the ballot box.
Yes, the US Democratic Party is where the labour movement involves itself now. Does it follow that it would be sectarian to stand aside it, as it would be to stand aside from work in the Labour Party here despite the dangers that brings?
Any socialist movement in the US is going to be built by people who have looked to the Democrats at some time. But we should not get caught up in a re-imagined realignment strategy. That would be in danger of something closer to the Communist Party Popular Front vision of the 1930s than a serious attempt to split the Democrats.
The checks and balances, and the democracy, limited as they are, in the Labour Party, are still far stronger than they are in the Democrats. Consistent work in the Labour Party is about far more than getting good candidates on the ballot line. Work inside the Democrats is almost solely about that.
AOC and the rest of the “awkward squad” have built a successful brand around themselves, but that is all they have built. AOC shows little sign of being truly independent or fighting for real change within the Democrats. We should recognise the shift, but not get carried away with what it means.
The labour movement, i.e. the majority of unions, backs Biden. None of them backs Hawkins. Trump has mostly police unions on his side.
But then the Democrats have had the backing of the vast majority of unions in all recent elections. That is no new phenomenon.
The danger is that we become the ones marshalling people as foot soldiers for Biden, rather than using the opportunity of the election to build the independent working-class perspective that is so urgently needed.