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Home > English > Alternatives International Journal > 2016 > May 2016 > Bernie Sanders and the Awakening of the American Left

Bernie Sanders and the Awakening of the American Left

Friday 6 May 2016, by Katrina Gibbs

On Thursday, April 14th, a conference was held by Donald Cuccioletta on Bernie Sanders: Le Réveil de la Gauche Américaine. The talk focused on an analysis of the phenomenon of Bernie Sanders and the emergence of global changes in democratic parties over the last three years (Jeremy Corbin in the U.K. and Bernie Sanders in the U.S.). Are we witnessing a new generation of the Left?

Mr. Cuccioletta began the talk by citing the long tradition of a minority of Americans who define themselves as socialists, dating back to Eugene V. Debs. Part of this tradition has been what Cuccioletta calls the “militants de la gauche” taking control of municipal positions in cities.

Sanders took control of a municipal position, beginning with his election as Mayor of Burlington in 1981. He then served for 16 years as Vermont’s sole congressman in the House of Representatives, and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006. For the past 36 years, Bernie Sanders has remained true to the same message.

Despite the difficulties of the political landscape in the United States, Sanders has brought progressive, socialist ideas into the political discussion and created a network beyond Vermont and beyond Washington DC. He has sought to foster a new generation that is in touch with progressive, socialist ideals.

Cuccioletta goes on to describe Bernard Sanders as, “un socialist avec un visage humain” (“a socialist with a human face”) and iterates how two agricultural workers from Iowa expressed their support for Sanders, saying that “he speaks for us”.

In response to criticisms that Sanders isn’t truly a socialist, because Sanders is running as a Democrat, Mr. Cuccioletta explains:

“Il est devenu démocrat, pourquoi? Parce qu’il veut changer à parti démocrat? Absolument pas. Sinon, il ne prend pas la peine de parler au peuple d’une révolution politique. Quand il dit je veux une révolution politique, il parle à la population, vis-à-vis les deux partis en place qui sont controllés par Wall Street. Les Clintons sont payés par Wall Street. Bill Clinton est l’ami personnel de Michael Bloomberg. Et la classe politique à Washington traditionnelle, c’est les Clintons et le reste qui font l’affaire avec Wall Street, ces sont des amis. Donc lui prépare une révolution politique, ça veut dire qu’il fait peine à la population de prendre en mains ou reprendre en mains telle que le veut le mythe américaine que les États-Unis sont controllés par sa propre population. On dit c’est un mythe, mais néamoins c’est un mythe qui a circulé longtemps aux États-Unis. Puis, il y a beaucoup de monde, particulièrement maintenant cette nouvelle poussé d’une gauche progressiste et même socialiste, qui croient. Qu’est-ce que ça voulait dire dans l’avenir, qu’est-ce qu’il arrive après Sanders? Qu’est-ce qu’il va rester?”

So what will the legacy of the “Sanders effect” be? So far, he has changed the conversation within the Democratic, among others like Senator Warren. Sanders has brought the issues of free state university education, “equal work, equal pay”, the $15 minimum wage, universal healthcare, and breaking up banks to the forefront of American politics.

As Mr. Cuccioletta explains, when someone like Sanders speaks, it gives energy and hope to progressives in America. It gives them the invention of an American Dream of the Left, not the Right. He has created and unified a new group within the United States, and we see that his discourse has awakened progressive discussion.

Sanders has brought the contradictions of “fake progressives” into the limelight. These “fake progressives” represent the democrats who are not, in fact, democratic—those who pretend to support the middle class while using the money of the people to save Wall Street.

Despite his support for Sanders, Mr. Cuccioletta remained doubtful that Sanders will actually win the Democratic nomination, due to Hillary Clinton’s support from superdelegates. He cautioned that democracy is in danger in the United States, citing the hypocrisy of democrats and the rise of a wave of neo-fascism in the Republican party.

Yet the long-term “Sanders effect” remains significant amidst these dangers. Sanders has shown a light on the hypocrisy in American politics, revealing the “fake progressives” and the elites who do not serve the interests of the people. He has garnered a reprise of populism and created a new political basis in the U.S.A., while helping to push towards long-term change using inclusive discourse.