Our Revolution

Issue section: 

Our Revolution is essentially a lengthy version of the stump speech that self-proclaimed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders perfected at rallies across the country during his campaign. He provides an autobiography of his childhood as the son of working class parents in Brooklyn, his college days in Chicago as a civil rights activist, and his political life in Vermont as the independent mayor of Burlington to the state’s senator today.

There is a detailed account of the presidential campaign from the announcement in April 2015 to September 2016 when it was assumed Clinton would win the upcoming presidential election.

Finally, Sanders goes into detail on his election promises and their continued relevance. Transforming the campaign finance system which benefits the super-rich and corporations is at the top of the list, alongside healthcare for all, making higher education affordable, fighting climate change, and criminal justice and immigration reform.

Sanders only touches upon some of the major questions for the left in terms of strategy: why for instance stand as a Democrat and not as an independent? That decision, he says, was due to the people he met with before launching the campaign overwhelmingly telling him to stand as a Democrat.

But the main point of this book is to provide a much needed alternative to the corporate greed and soullessness of the Democratic Party.

The most interesting parts of Our Revolution are the vignettes describing the people he met during the campaign. While testing the waters for a possible presidential run, Sanders visited some of the poorest areas in the US. He demonstrates the futility of a Democratic Party that takes votes for granted in northern states while neglecting southern states as too conservative, and the need for grassroots coalitions to challenge Republican control.

In Jackson, Mississippi, a year before he launched his campaign, Sanders spoke to hundreds of unionised workers, both black and white, about the need to overcome racial division and the necessity of convincing workers of their shared interests — a challenge most Democrats appear to have given up on. Sanders roots himself in class politics but his answers are based in reforming capitalism.

The issues Sanders highlights should take on more relevance as Trump and the Republicans redouble their efforts to redistribute wealth from the poorest to the wealthiest through tax breaks, and launch assaults on migrants and healthcare.

However, we cannot wait four more years for the opportunity to put forward an alternative, and certainly cannot rely upon the Democratic establishment to instigate it. This book is a stepping stone to understanding the polarisation and class politics at play in the US, and how an alternative to “Trumpism” for the left is possible, even as it leaves much to be desired in how we can achieve this alternative.