Now it's our move.

Jeff Roby thinks about where we go from here. You can also read about it at the St. Petersburg Independents.

Now it’s our move

sanders_knightThe opening moves have been played. The fight has taken shape. We are well into the middle-game.

During the March 9 debate, Hillary Clinton was inadvertently got herself redefined. Again. Sanders had already permanently branded her as a tool of Wall Street. Then the former Secretary of State and major celebrity in the Clinton Foundation (called during 2013–15 the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation) blundered by attacking Sanders for acknowledging the impressive achievements Cuba has made in healthcare (now sending doctors all over the world) and education (each-one-teach-one). Glen Greenwald stated in The Intercept that she “sounded like a right-wing, red-baiting Cold War cartoon”:

Sez Clinton: “You know, if the values are that you oppress people, you disappear people, you imprison people or even kill people for expressing their opinions, for expressing freedom of speech, that is not the kind of revolution of values that I ever want to see anywhere.”

Now they know.

But every attack she makes ends up with her looking like she had just smoked a loaded cigar. Continued Greenwald:

“Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Qatar all donated to the Clinton Foundation and also gained State Department clearance to buy caches of American-made weapons even as the department singled them out for a range of alleged ills, from corruption to restrictions on civil liberties to violent crackdowns against political opponents.”

Her State Department oversaw and she publicly praised (“g[a]ve the Honduran people a chance to choose their own future”) the murderous military coup in Honduras in 2009 that Clinton characterized as a “pragmatic” foreign policy approach, which routinely murdered opposition leaders. Greenwald concludes that Clinton holds that:

“… Sanders’ opposition to Reagan-era wars against Latin American governments and rebel groups — a common liberal position at the time — is actually terribly wrong and something worthy of demonization rather than admiration … Hillary Clinton for years has been one of the world’s most stalwart friends of some of the world’s worst despots and war criminals.”

cigarAs I have said previously of Hillary Clinton’s reliance on Henry Kissinger, “Millions of young people had had no idea who Henry Kissinger was. Now they know.” Again, now they know. Not only is Hillary of Wall Street, but a tool of murderous dictatorships around the world.

From Middle–Game to End–Game.

In the middle-game, the opponents begin to mix it up, most of the pieces (Pawns are not considered pieces) are active, players maneuver, winning and losing material, attacking and defending, seeking permanent structural advantages.

In the realm of international grandmasters, while players may seek to launch a crushing attack that ends the game quickly (as Hillary had hoped to quickly polish off Sanders), that usually doesn’t happen. So even during the middle-game, they are playing for an advantageous end-game. In the end-game, most of the major pieces have been removed from the board, and at that point, the Pawns begin to take command.

We are the Pawns in this campaign, and it is time for us to begin preparing to take command.


The DNC and Hillary have long had an end-game stashed away: as soon as Sanders is crushed, all his troops are to be pumped into their get-out-the-vote operation, not only for Hillary but for the party’s entire slate. They dangle the prospect of recapturing both the House and Senate in November. Just like Obama enjoyed when he was sworn in in 2009. Lots of hope, not much change.

Been there. Done that.

The DNC’s goal is not to transform America. They would even be trimming Social Security and Medicare, while still trying to re-conquer the Middle East. No, their end-game is designed to further entrench Wall Street and corporate power in the face of us natives getting restless. How sad for them that the Sanders campaign — and movement — is throwing a monkey wrench into the works.

monkeyWrenchThe kill switch is ready, their fingers are twitching, the chorus of editorials demanding that Sanders quit the race for the good of the party had already been written and re-written. Then along came Sanders’ win in Michigan. The editorials went back into cold storage. But they were not burned. Following their March 15 sweep, they again smell blood.

Where do we stand?

One aspect of high-level chess is knowing when to convert, when to transition from the opening to the middle-game, when to start moving into the end-game. When to carefully protect one’s material and positional assets, and when to recognize that they have played themselves out. Convert your material advantage, give it go in exchange for increased mobility. Switch from attack to defense or vice versa. Give up an open file for a more solid Pawn structure, etc. Many games are lost from clinging to an advantage as the position transforms.

The Sanders campaign is approaching such a point. We have tremendous assets: major name recognition, the capacity to focus resources from around the country to the next strategic states as primaries wrap up. We have a grassroots fundraising operation that impresses even the so-called experts. Not least, we have a reputation for principle and integrity.

But the game is changing as the delegate count becomes central.

Hillary’s assets are now asserting themselves: corporate money, a captive Establishment press and commentariat, thousands of endorsers at every level getting out the vote, and a slipping but still substantial hold on the Black community through Black elected officials and alleged community leaders. Sanders’ weakness, frankly, is that his infrastructure is spread too thin compared to Hillary’s and still relies on crowds and media coverage from a hostile media. Hillary addresses moneyed insider groups of 500 to 600 and lets the official Democratic Party machinery do its thing. Under those circumstances, Sanders is performing magnificently. But …

We are now in a slugfest (though not in the Donald Trump sense), with Sanders currently trailing but having favorable state primaries on the horizon. I make no prediction as to how the delegate chase will play out. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. But it would be reckless not to be looking toward the end-game.

What is to be done?

We are increasingly vulnerable to the party bigs hitting the kill switch, as each primary wraps up and our national campaign pulls our resources to the next big race — not digging in for building our local operations. This is serving us up on a silver platter to the DNC and further entrenching their lock on the Democratic Party.

capitalistsI find it horribly frustrating when people ask me, “What should we do?” The fundamental problem is that there is no “we”! By that, I mean a self-consciously organized body that can discuss, plan, and take action. A self-consciously organized body that can respond to events as they unfold.

So every tactic we pursue at the local level, every course we advocate, has to directed to creating the “we”! Create sufficient cohesion and communication among the troops, we Pawns, so that we can become independent actors in this whole Political Revolution. Some might find this call for the “we” to be a bit abstract, if not overtly bizarre, and they are correct insofar as it cannot be done in the abstract, it can only be done through activity.

The trick is to find what level of activity the current state of the troops is capable of, building on the fact that we the Pawns have a powerful movement, if not our own self-actualizing organization. Then do it. (See “Mass Consciousness and its Discontents” for more on the difference between “movement” and “organization.”) In the process the “we” solidifies, becomes capable of more complex, more long-term tasks, more capable of collectively “thinking.”

Philosophical interlude.

Pawns are generally misunderstood. They are considered the lowliest of the low, the weakest players on the board (not even considered “pieces,” and that may well be true when considered individually. But a unique feature of Pawns is that they function at their best as a unit. Thus Pawn structure is a major component of most any game. They create the terrain, the battlefield, upon which the supposedly more powerful pieces maneuver. In fact, pawns acting as a unit can be the strongest “piece” on the board.

Simply put, we need a more-developed pawn structure that can transform this campaign not just for the White House, which we may or may not win, but the Political Revolution, which we have to win.

Interesting editorial on the Bernie Sanders Revolution by the New York Times Editorial Board. They quote Ilya Sheyman, the executive director of

“Mr. Sanders’s supporters say his election will inspire more such candidacies, giving him the congressional backup he needs. But given Democrats’ problems on the state and local level, that could take years — and that’s evolution, not revolution.”

Wrong! The character and quality of a revolution has nothing to do with how long it takes. It has everything to do with the character of the changes it renders. We have gotten over our heady delirium of the early days of this campaign, when we thought “we could storm the gates of heaven,” and we are digging in for the long haul.

Enter the Pawns.

pawns now

Pawns. Not organized.

As I said before, creating the “we” requires that we “Create sufficient cohesion and communication among the troops, we Pawns, so that we can become independent actors in this whole Political Revolution.” That’s a mouthful, to be sure, and I would be nothing but a chatterbox if I left it at that. Just what IS to be done? Or rather, to that end, what CAN be done?

There is a potentially powerful reciprocal relationship between Sanders and his troops. The basic setup is a fairly traditional topdown operation (based on an incredible grassroots fundraising base). There are no formal mechanisms for the campaign leaders and the troops to make anything approaching a collective decision, that being the nature of campaigns. But there is a reciprocity at work here.

So Sanders, at the start of the campaign, promised that he would run a positive campaign, never mentioning Hillary Clinton at all, and furthermore, directing his supporters to never say anything negative about Hillary. But that couldn’t last. It was in large part due to the anger coming up from the grassroots, the outrage over the Hillary campaign’s outright lies, and more importantly, the outrage over what the 1% have done to us, that Sanders stepped up his excoriation of Hillary for being a tool of Wall Street.

Likewise, the Political Revolution began as an intriguing footnote occasionally mentioned in passing. But at the local level, the call for the Political Revolution, however vaguely defined, began popping up with greater frequency and is now becoming a central goal of the campaign. Sanders himself has now made the Political Revolution a centerpiece of his stump speech. Political Revolution is still vaguely defined, but it is becoming a hot topic for discussion.

It is up to us, the Pawns, to take initiative in making that relationship of leadership to the grassroots deeper and stronger. We thereby transform the campaign and transform ourselves in the process.

Sanders on his own is still constrained in what he can do. Playing by the rules of American electoral politics has been his ticket for being able to inject Political Revolution into the American discourse. With Hillary having a lead in delegates, both from the primaries and in convention superdelegates, the calls for Sanders to admit defeat, and throw us to Hillary are reaching a new crescendo.

The troops want to fight all the way to Philadelphia and beyond, and I think that has been instrumental in Sanders becoming stronger in declaring that he’s at least taking it all the way to Philadelphia. The longer the campaign goes on in some form or another, the better for the Political Revolution. The more time to develop the “we.”

And in our actively making demands on Sanders, that he give us political direction outside the parameters of the campaign narrowly defined, we ironically strength his hand as well as our own.

But as I said above, that can’t just be done in the abstract. Even as the “we” forms, we need to be developing our own end-game (which never ends). Not be sacrificial pawns in the DNC’s end-game.


Pawns. Self-organized.

205 to 5.

Whether or not Sanders wins or loses the nomination, we face some of the same issues. Some of us are regular party activists, for others, this is the first election they’ve taken a real interest in. Some identify as Democrats, some are independents who have registered Democrat solely for the sake of the Sanders campaign. Be that as it may, our activity will include, but cannot be limited to, supporting local candidates.

To not be cannon fodder for the DNC, we need some guidelines to get us through November. For a start, let’s take a look at some numbers, from the list of endorsers for Sanders and for Hillary from Wikipedia, an impressive compilation, however incomplete.

Senators 40 to 0    
U.S. House members 165 to 5    
State executives (governors, etc.) 39 to 3    
State legislators 740 to 138    
Mayors, county execs, etc. 107 to 3    
Municipal and county officials 100 to 36    

middle gameFor U.S. Senate and House, that’s 205 to 5. For elected officials alone, it’s 1,191 to 85. Hillary’s list is the state and local backbone of the Democratic establishment that would like to crush Sanders and get on with business-as-usual. These are the people that the planners behind the DNC end-game would have us busting our asses for. It would be a travesty.

As a practical matter, we can stand by two very simple principles: we should not endorse any candidate who did not endorse Sanders for his presidential run. Likewise, we should not endorse any candidate who will not publicly support the Political Revolution. We’ll be charged with having a “litmus test.” That’s another term for principles. We should simply plead guilty.

Many of the candidates this litmus test might be good guys, or good gals, bowing to local expediency. I sympathize. But abstract principle aside, there is a tactical imperative. Our strength to date has been our ability to focus our energies strategically. By working for every good guy or good gal out there, we end up scattered to the wind. The act of concentrating our forces, without being directed to by a national campaign, is an essential step in creating the “we.”

queenA final note.

Under the broad rubric of Political Revolution, there is a lot of room for disagreement. We have advocates of liberalism, communism, socialism of many stripes, anarchism, libertarianism, on and on. I suggest that all these “isms” are a bit out of date, to say the least. However, I think there is one simple principle that can carry through the storms we will be facing in the coming year. Merely a starting point.

Whenever there is a conflict, whenever there is a choice to be made, between human need and corporate profit, we come down four-square and without apology on the side of human need. Period.

— submitted by Jeff Roby
March 18, 2016



1-Organizing? What Organizing?!?  

2-Quo Vadis? 

3-Cautionary Tales 

4-Jeff Roby on Strategy and Tactics 

5-Mass Consciousness and its disconnects  

6-An Interesting Conversation on the Way Forward   

7-So You Say You Want a Political Revolution




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commented 2016-03-22 12:24:11 -0400 · Flag
Excellent article! Many of us not actively involved in the Sanders campaign are watching with great interest what pro-Sanders supporters will do in a post-Sanders general election. Will Sanders himself organize a body that can discuss, plan and take action and respond to events as they unfold? Or will the pawns have to organize themselves? Many of us now on the sidelines of political activism are there because we found that trying to organize leftist pawns on a national level is like trying to herd cats. Therefore a local group dedicated to recruiting and supporting local candidates has a better chance of doing the analyzing, strategizing, organizing and publicizing necessary to win campaigns.