This confusion is supported by people’s lack of understanding about the difference between a political party and a mass movement. Movements involve any and everyone who takes an agreed upon position about an issue. The issues can be anything from police terrorism to healthcare to foreign intervention to houselessness. And, with issues like those, the participants in a movement will participate and support actions, marches, rallies, teach ins, and all other forms of resistance to express their unified position against and/or for an issue. What isn’t unified in a movement effort is how the issue will be resolved. Within a movement, if the issue is police terrorism by example, the degree of difference among the participants about the best ways to solve the problem can be as divergent as possible. Some participants will believe police reform i.e. body cameras, community policing, etc., to be the best solution. Others see the complete abolishment of police as the solution. And, the beauty of movements is people who are serious about their participation will engage all of those elements of movement work up to a point where the movement approach is no longer viable for this type of participant. They now want more of a focused analysis and action plan for how the problems will be addressed. When this happens, revolutionary organizers gleam because we know this is the pathway for creating a more informed populace at worse, and revolutionaries at best.
Political parties are usually formations that have one common ideology and direction. Parties have principles that define their objectives and their work and everyone in the party is expected to adhere to those principles at all times. So, everyone can be a participant in a movement provided they agrees to take a position against and/or for a specific position on specific issues. With a party, only those who accept the ideological direction of the party would be members and participants.
Its just confusion within the bourgeoisie U.S. electoral process which makes it so difficult for some people to see the forest for the trees. For example, the Democratic Party wants you to believe that it is a political party that honors the definition provided for political parties here. They bill themselves as the party for working class people. The party against white supremacy, patriarchy, and homophobia. The party for justice and forward progress for all human beings.
Any African and/or other persons from colonized communities knows that the Democratic Party is anything except what it bills itself, and what so many of us want to believe, it is. Truthfully, the Democratic Party has much more in common in terms of ideological solidarity with the ruling elites who dictate the direction of the Republican Party than they do with anything happening with working class people and colonized communities within the U.S. And, whatever progressiveness that exists within the Democratic Party is only there due to the struggles of those previously denied access to representation within the U.S. electoral process who fought for inclusion. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s (SNCC) Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) pushed the National Democratic Party to recognize it in 1964 and the subsequent drama around the Democratic Party’s national convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, that year did more than anything else to facilitate the integration of African and other colonized people into the Democratic Party’s delegate process.
Of course, the progress SNCC and MFDP provided to the Democratic Party took place, along with other similar advances, because of the civil rights movement within the U.S. There was a mass movement that had identified white supremacy as its primary issue (which expanded to include poverty, imperialism, patriarchy, etc). During the mid 1960s, the civil rights movement became the primary accountability enforcer for the Democratic Party. The civil rights law of 1964 and the voting rights act of 1965 don’t happen without the constant pressure placed on Lyndon Johnson by Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Congress of Racial Equality, SNCC, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the masses of people who supported those organizations. The leaders of those groups pushed for constant meetings with Johnson’s administration during those years. And, when they met with him they assured him they would continue to take the struggle to the streets to get the reforms they were looking for. And, whether he wanted to or not, Johnson, Kennedy before him, Nixon, etc., had to respect the threat even the most reformist elements of the civil rights movement represented because without question, there was a mass movement behind those individuals sitting in that office. Another tactic those organizational leaders used on U.S. political leaders was to strongly suggest that without wins, the tide of African people would shift to the more militant rhetoric and actions of Malcolm X and later others like SNCC and Kwame Ture/Jamil al-Amin (Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown), the Black Panther Party, etc. Again, another movement - the Black Power movement. And, from this movement work we even received some reforms that benefited our people without a doubt.
So then, the question now is why do we seem to struggle with being able to make even the slightest reformist progress within the Democratic Party today? It would be inconceivable that today we could push for the type of legislation even on the level of the 1964 civil rights act. At least two of the prominent reasons we struggle so much today to win even an effort of respect towards us (not to mention tangible policy efforts) inside of the Democratic Party is the lack of a movement like that which existed in the 1960s, and the lack of mass political education among the population of the U.S. No movement, no basis to hold the political system accountable. We say that until we can no longer speak, yet so many seemingly intelligent people continue to believe without fail that investing so much energy and so many resources into individual candidates without any type of mechanism to hold them accountable is ever going to work. Clearly it isn’t. The Democratic Party and Republican Party each agree – through their combined lack of action otherwise - that their primary purpose is to uphold the capitalist system promoted by the multi-national corporate world that pays the bulk of their bills. That means that individual candidate, despite good intentions, at some point will have to answer to that Democratic Party apparatus that is forced to bow down to imperialism. In fact, the only variance between these two "parties" is that the Democrats says the right things, sometimes, and sometimes accomplishes some level of reform – like the Affordable Care Act – which stops just short of providing nothing to the masses (and that assessment is based on the objective realities of what should and could be available to us. Not just our emotional response to our current individual challenges). Nothing about the Democratic Party is ever going to present a strong presence against imperialism, world domination, the crushing of legitimate dissent, and a true platform of justice for the majority of people on the planet. Biden has no record that comes close to even being interested in any of those things and yes, we say that confidently understanding clearly his parasitic relationship to the imperialist; Barack Obama. Bernie Sanders, Barry Sanders, or Colonel Sanders, none of them can point to any concrete and consistent measures they’ve championed in their approximately 40 years in congressional “service.” Its that lack of substance that explains why Sanders is having such a difficult time getting any Africans and other colonized people to vote for him. With no movement in place, none of this will change despite another 100 years of people shaming people for refusing to participate in this absurd process.
The lack of mass political education is actually a problem that the U.S. electoral process shares with the U.S. labor movement. Interactions have become so transactional that people now see unions and their political parties in this country as corporations. They offer financial support and in return, they expect a service. What needs to happen instead, is people have to be provided with the educational resources for advancing ideas like it is absolutely impossible for anyone to say they support working class people while also supporting capitalism, imperialism, and the continued existence of this system of exploitation. Then, along with that, the dialogue must ensue, and expand, around the question that capital accumulation and imperialism are unquestionably against the interests of the overwhelming majority of people on earth from everywhere on earth. Anyone convincing you that they can be in favor of humanity and capitalism at the same time is selling game. In truth, its game to attempt to convince people, as Sanders and his supporters are doing, that socialism can come any way except through organized revolution. Revolution is the overthrow of the capitalists and the insertion of the masses of people as the decision makers in society. That can never happen and should never be expected to happen with the blessings of those who support the capitalist system that manifests oppression of the world in the first place. This concept of "Democratic Socialism" is really another compromise for those who want a strategic way to put politically unconscious people at ease about the type of social change that we desperately need. There are no shortcuts to socialism and liberation and no amount of transactions with the masses is going to change anything in any substantial way. Only the power of the organized masses can accomplish this.
The Democratic/Republican, and capitalist party system as a whole needs to become dead to true pursuers of justice. Reformists must advance to being politically mature enough to no longer accept shortcuts. Start building true movement work. Revolutionaries have to get to work with building revolutionary capacity through international anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements abroad and revolutionary community defense projects to support that work locally within the U.S. As long as we continue to the Democratic Party like the person we keep asking for a date who consistently keeps promising us yes for next time, we will remain in this subservient place. This place where we willingly participate in periodic circuses which should be an absolute insult to everything we are and certainly everything we have been through over the last 500+ years.