Election 2016

Madison socialists still skeptical of Sanders

Image By: Jessi Schoville and Jessi Schoville

Despite enthralling thousands of frustrated Madison progressives living under austerity minded Republican rule and winning 62 percent of Dane County’s democratic vote in the process, a small but persistent band on the liberal fringe remains reserved in their support of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president.

In an odd twist, the Marxist International Socialist Organization’s Madison chapter is feeling a much more controlled “bern” than less radical liberals due to their fellow socialist’s embrace of the Democratic Party and his relative moderation.

According to Madison-based ISO political organizer Ken Love, a 31 year old father and EMT, a long-standing schism within the movement separates his group from the most successful socialist presidential candidate in U.S. history.

“There are two types of socialism,” Love explained. “One is socialism from above … which is the camp that Bernie Sanders falls into. Economic reform gets handed down from above through the government while keeping the system of capitalism mostly intact.”

“The other version is socialism from below,” Love continued. “Workers and students having democratic control over all democratic institutions and workplaces. The ISO falls into socialism from below.”

That’s not to say Love does not like some of what he sees in Sanders.

“I actually think that some of the social, political and economic reforms that he has at the center of his campaign would alleviate problems that workers face,” Love insisted. “I think that anyone in the ISO would be happy to see them happen… we just don’t think he goes far enough.”

However, Love and the ISO worry that with Sanders’ increasing success comes the possibility his already diluted ideology gets subverted by the vehicle he is borrowing for his revolution.

“I think he genuinely wants to do those reforms and believes in them on a principled basis, however we don’t think that him running in the democratic party is the best option,” Love lamented. “Democrats have shown time and time again throughout history that any left wing challenger can just be absorbed by them. There are countless examples about how social movements have been sent to the grave for a vote.”

Though dismayed by Sanders’ insider approach for bringing about Marxist policies, Love applauded the Vermont senator for forcing Wisconsin to pay attention to socialism as a legitimate political movement for the first time since Milwaukee’s string of “Sewer Socialist” mayors fizzled out in the 1960s.


“It starts the debate about the limitations of working within the system,” Love said. “It starts the debate about how to reform capitalism. Regardless of whether he wins the White House or not, those kind of questions are now part of the mainstream. We just have to muster our forces and get organized to actually make a serious fight.”

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