Since the initial publication of this statement on socialistworld.net on March 13th, 2020, Sanders has called an end to his campaign and endorsed Biden as the Democratic Party presidential nominee. The US political and economic situation has also been deeply rocked by the health and economic crisis triggered by COVID-19. Our arguments regarding the orientation of socialists to the Sanders phenomena and supporters have been proven correct by events. Socialist Alternative’s turn towards opportunism, as evidenced by their minimal criticism of the Bernie Sanders campaign and their heavy focus on building in DSA, has left them unprepared for the current economic and political crisis. By dropping the patient work of building movements in unions and communities to focus on helping elect Democrats, including Sanders, SA undermined their roots in the working class that could be used now to organize the struggle for hazard pay, sick leave, unemployment benefits, and more. By not consistently raising criticisms of the Sanders campaign and the need for Sanders to help form an independent, working-class party earlier, SA is now unable to effectively help Sanders supporters draw the correct conclusions about the nature of the Democratic Party. In part, this led to a number of their members splitting off to join DSA, including two groupings, one of which started a faction in DSA. Both of these groups had argued that SA should have gone further in its support for Democrats.
A series of discussions with members of the International Secretariat (IS) of the CWI and the membership of the Independent Socialist Group (ISG) in the US has resulted in a unanimous vote of the ISG for political solidarity with the CWI. The vote took place at a national meeting of the ISG on February 2nd, 2020.
Unification in political solidarity with the CWI is rooted in two overlapping internal struggles which emerged within Socialist Alternative (SA) in the U.S. and within the CWI internationally. The first internal struggle was in SA around a growing tendency to blur the lines between themselves and ‘progressive’ Democrats, and a failure to emphasize the wholly capitalist character of the Democratic Party, which many members of ISG opposed through an organized faction before leaving SA.
The second was a worldwide political debate which took place in the CWI during 2019. A struggle was fought between those who defended the Trotskyist method and program the CWI was founded on in 1974, and an opposition moving away from this position.
This opposition had taken a right-ward opportunist turn, buckling to the pressures of identity politics, turning away from conducting a systematic and consistent struggle in the trade unions, and blunting the socialist program that the CWI and its sections have fought to defend, instead tending to look for shortcuts to growth.
The debates resulted in a split, with SA being among the forces that departed in order to be free to move in a rightward direction. This has been reflected in their campaign in support of Bernie Sanders, which has not consistently argued that Sanders should have run independently of the Democrats, or organized for an independent workers’ party in the US. We understand the enthusiasm that Bernie Sanders’ campaign has generated particularly among young people, but Marxists’ intervention into the movement has to skilfully point out the way forward not simply cheerlead what already exists. Unfortunately, the approach of SA has been their overwhelming concentration on mobilizing to ‘have Bernie’s back’ at the Democratic Convention in July 2020.
The comrades in ISG had been in consistent opposition to the direction of the leadership of Socialist Alternative in relation to the Democrats, and left in November 2019. During the earlier debates within SA on this issue there were also some tactical differences between them and the leadership of the CWI. As is normal in a healthy international it is possible that similar tactical discussions could arise in the future.
There is agreement, however, on the fundamental issues that arose during the international debate. After leaving SA the ISG comrades undertook a thorough internal discussion on all of the issues that had come up during the international debate and in the previous period, concluding in their unanimous decision to declare political solidarity. They will be sending representatives to the CWI’s summer congress in July. The IS looks forward to working together with them to build the forces of Trotskyism in the US.