I felt kicked in the gut, that morning when I heard Bernie had pulled out of the race. It was a surprising feeling, because in recent years I have been less and less passionate about electoral politics. The last electoral cycle had really sealed it for me: the Democratic Party establishment decided to represent their interests by making sure Bernie would not be the candidate even if it meant losing to Trump. With the promise of serving the “people” that the Republicans undermine, the Democratic Party establishment has again and again shown its alignment with Wall street. I could not believe in the Democrats to do anything but produce the conditions for the return of Trump, or worse, the next time around.
But Bernie. “Bernie” sands for more than a man. His name has come to stand in this distorted terrain of the United States of America, as the possibility of a politician, a president even, who would respond to the social movements while in power. While I know how hard that would have been were he actually to have become president, the possibility of “Bernie” also served to galvanize a movement out of many silos.
As COVID began to take on a tangible, unignorable, local, form in New York, I took part in an affinity group of people in California and NY. We had many ideas about the terrains within we might act: municipal policy, analysis, housing, mutual aid, union radicalization. We stood in for different tendencies, but we all agreed that what we would do next needed to be formulated in such a way as to (re)invigorate Sanders’ movement.
Today, kicked in the gut, I feel the profound loss of a certain kind of scaling up that “Bernie” offered as an opportunity; as a necessity. Don’t get me wrong: the struggle is not over. I still believe we are seeing, and certainly I and my close comrades are taking part in the building of a commons necessary for transforming states on various scales. This common is the basis upon which policy, rather than being awarded, would emerge from our demands and actions, and the basis upon which we must say no, inter/nationally, together, to finance as our government.
We have lost Bernie the man, but we must not lose sight of that synergy; of a manner of dual power. Now we must consider what this movement is and can be without the goal of putting Bernie in the White House. The critical lesson is that just because ‘Bernie” is no longer running for president does not mean we stop fighting.
As a comrade said the other day, ”we have April, and then what?” When will the socialist-seeming emergency laws run out? When will the more sinister aspects of the emergency laws take more concrete shape to us? When and how will the desire for “normality” allow those less affected to ignore the frontline communities, exposed at higher levels to COVID?; to repack the prisons?
Our “Bernie” for the time being, must be the dynamic of what we do today, whether rent strike, feeding our neighbors, or joining an international “no” on MayDay, with the so called “Justice Democrats” who are either in power, or who we put there with our votes. Millions of people are on the verge of making demands they never dreamed of making before. We must simultaneously find new ways of “going out on the streets” and make sure we vote and support others to do so as well. “Bernie” has renewed the possibility to fight for peoples’ solutions in many fora. Now “Bernie” can continue to make clear that the crisis is not COVID, but Capital. But “Bernie” will not exist without us.
Mary N. Taylor has taught anthropology at Hunter College and The Cooper Union, and urbanism at The Parsons School of Design/The New School. She co-operated the Open University and Brooklyn Laundry Social Club and is on the LeftEast editorial collective. She is currently Assistant Director of the Center for Place, Culture and Politics at CUNY, Graduate Center.