What The ‘Democratic’ in DSA Actually Means

In a recent article In These Times editor Joel Bliefuss commented on the Democratic Socialists of America’s 2019 Convention. Bliefuss summarizes some of the tensions people felt going into the convention but concludes that things are looking optimistic for the organization. Bliefuss also pays particular attention to one of the resolutions passed by the convention’s delegates, the “Class Struggle Elections” resolution. The language of the resolution commits DSA to centralize class and labor solidarity in our electoral work henceforth.

While the article maintains an overall positive tone about the DSA convention Bliefuss misinterprets the language of the resolution and as someone who served as a delegate at this convention and supported this resolution I must correct this misinterpretation.

Bliefuss summarizes the majority of the resolution correctly, his misinterpretation focuses on one piece of language from the resolution:

“The resolution included a caveat that says DSA’s ultimate goal is to break with the Democrats “and their capitalist donors,” and “form an independent working-class party,” rather than reform the party from within.

A new party? It’s socialist Dems who are already changing the nation’s political conversation…”

Bliefuss is interpreting the language to mean that DSA is moving to break with the Democratic party as a whole with this resolution, this is not the case. There is truth in that the DSA is often arguing amongst ourselves about how much we want to get involved with the Democratic party, but the language “form an independant working class party” does not mean “DSA is going to become a third party.” And our “break” with Democrats “and their capitalist donors” means we seek to do things 1. Differentiate democratic socialist candidates from liberal democrats and 2. break with the capitalist element of the Democratic Party. Blieffuss’s analysis reflects that he interprets a break with capitalist democrats to mean a break with the democratic party all together, this misinterpretation comes from a place that hyperbolizes the language of the resolution.

The language in this part of the resolution is very general and open to interpretation, which I think lends itself to Bliefuss’ hyperbole. However as a delegate I feel the language was kept general for a good reason, it is too early for DSA to decide to form it’s own party, any third party with less than a million active, dues paying members is doomed to fail in the United States.

The language of this resolution allows us flexibility, and gives us the chance to decide for ourselves how we want to build an independent working class party. We have multiple options, the two most likely being we can either take over the democratic party by filling it with socialist delegates and abolishing its anti-democratic safe guards such as the super delegates, or we can wait for the Democratic party to collapse on itself while we build DSA to the point where we can become the new party of the working class.

The author then goes on to cite the various other DSA members and endorsed candidates who have won elections recently, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, most of whom ran and won their elections as democrats. Bliefuss’s conclusion about their success stories is however mistaken. “Most of these pols have run as Democrats (without “capitalist donors”) and won by turning out registered Democratic voters.”

This is a misconception of the current political landscape. It was not just a matter of motivating the democratic party base, most of whom will vote for the democrat’s candidate no matter who is running, these candidates won by motivating the unmotivated, by pulling in non voters and giving them a reason to vote.

While the article is mostly complimentary and attempts to paint the DSA and our convention in an overall positive light, Bliefuss misinterprets one of the conventions most important resolutions and uses a disprovable argument to justify his interpretation. He does not misinterpret the whole resolution, but he does make over generalizations about one, very small, caveat of the resolution. DSA did not resolve to become a third party, we resolved to create a working class party, what that will look like will be for the organization to decide as it marches into the future.

What Is The Difference Between Liberals And Socialists

Bernie in Carson, CA 2016, his first rally in California.

This might seem frivolous to my more radical followers, but the fact is a lot of people in the world who identify as “liberal” or “progressive” even, but in fact they are socialists.

Now, those of us who are already radicalized, we understand the key difference is whether or not someone believes in the labor theory of value. If you think labor generates wealth and therefore the workers should be in control of the wealth they generate, then congratulations you are a socialist.

But there are many who have other socialist values, (a hatred of sexism, war, racism, imperialism etc) but still call themselves liberal. This often caused by a cold war era disdain for socialism left in the mouths of older generations, and is perpetuated by the establishment class’ control over the dialogue.

The real difference can be summed up in the divide we see between Warren and Sanders and the supporters of what some might call the “Third Way.”

Third way democrats, Warren supporters, and most liberals will

This is what I think sums up the key difference between Liberals and Socialists, aside from belief in the labor theory of value. Liberals will intellecutalize why there will always be some kind of poverty, while socialists will always intellectualize how to eradicate poverty.

So, if you are not sure if you are a liberal or a socialist, ask yourself, do you think poverty has to exist?

If you believe poverty does not have to exist and can be eradicated, especially through collective action, then congratulations, you are probably a socialist.

In Defense of The Internationale

There are some who would argue that socialist organizations should not sing songs like the Internationale anymore because it can come across as “cultish.” My DSA chapter used to stand up and sing songs at the end of our meetings, songs like the Internationale, The Red Flag, Which Side Are You On, and Solidarity Forever. I for one miss this practice and would like us to bring it back.

While I can admit that I see how this can feel cultish group think or just plain weird to some people, to me it’s the ritual I need.

I am not a church going man, nor do I believe in astrology or anything metaphysical. I do meditate and occasionally burn incense but I am not a praying man.  I have no rituals or practices that can help one’s self-care and can help build a community around oneself other than my yoga, which to me is a purely physical practice, or my meditation, which I practice for mental clarity. 

No, I am denied the majesty of joining in on church hymns and thus I am denied the feeling of a sense of meaning drawn from a star chart, from praying, or from a bible.

While I may not believe in God or prayer, I do not see why I should be denied the sanctity of ritual and the sense of belonging that comes from singing out your beliefs with others. Say what you will about religion but I do think there is something powerful in the hymn, singing in church gives one a feeling of self-expression and a sense of belonging.

I may not feel that when my family drags me to church and they start singing “This little light of mine,” but I damn sure feel it every time me and the comrades sing the Internationale.

While it is cultish for some, for others it is supplemental, a way to replace organized religion with socialist organization and still feel the power of communal ritual.

Does it spark the same feeling in everyone? No, and it is understandable why it’s not for everyone. All I am saying is that I don’t think I should be denied the benefits of ritual or community just because I have a different take on things. The Internationale brings a tear to my eye and puts power into my heart, and it makes me feel a little less alone in this dark, painful place we call life, especially when I’m singing it with others.

That has to count for something.

Electoralism and Reformism Are Not The Same Thing

Because one participates in organizing for electoral politics does not mean one has put all their faith in reform.

Some treat electoralism as a form of base building, and given the current political landscape it is the kind of base building that can reach the most people in the fastest way.

However, just because one is supporting a candidate or ballot measure does not mean they have put all their hopes in changing the system that way.

Reformists believe in changing the system from the inside.  Electoralists understand however understand that change is unlikely to happen from the outside without massive public pressure that is also rank and file.   Electoralists understand that elections can be used to base build and can chip away at the power of capital in one is both victorious and consistent after that victory. For example, a reactionary anti woman republican will have a much harder time gutting abortion rights or taking away welfare if he has to worry about losing his seat to a socialist, and when he loses his seat they must live with the reality that a socialist is now in office making policy decisions.

Of course, one cannot depend on that socialist in office alone to make all the right decisions, not without a huge base constantly putting pressure on them to do the right thing.

If that elected socialist demonstrates good practice they will push for policies that direct power away from capital and expand social services. The odds of them going full Lenin and leading us to a revolution are microscopically slim, but their base can now be called on to show up for strike solidarity and anti racist protests. They can be called on to pressure and bird-dog other elected officials to act on climate change.

This is not what reformists believe.  Pure reformists believe that we can count on elected officials to do their jobs once elected.  There is no room for an interest in base building for a revolution if one is counting on reform alone to liberate the working class.  Reformists only care about the bottom line, but electoralists know that they can use the base they have built from the campaign they have organized to build a genuine alternative to the capitalist system.

To reject electoralism because of a false equivalency to reformism hurts us more than it will help.

Plus, more elections should be what ever socialists push for. We need more elections, more mass participation, more things should be put to a public vote. The more we are voting the more we are in control of our communities. This is the goal of socialism and communism, democratic control over what affects our daily lives, that is going to mean lots of voting in lots of elections.

Another world is possible, but we need to get our practice in now. Until we have a mass movement behind us, we have no other choice than to build our base any way we can.

What Place Do The Artists Have in Revolution? A Poem

What Place Do The Artists Have in Revolution?

PRODUCE!

Must produce content!

For fame,

For a following,

Quite literally and painfully so,

thanks to the stench of both words.

To produce is to manufacture,

To manufacture is to produce.

The workers are the ones who produce,

So the artists,

the writers,

the creators,

we are the workers to.

We are a part of that thing called revolution,

And we must forgive Marx for forgetting us.

Artists!

Artists of the world, unite!

We have nothing to lose but our chains,

We have everything to gain

when we gain the freedom to create!

Liberal Identity Politics Are Dehumanizing

Recently I saw an article in the Los Angeles Times that actually used the following phrase, “The coveted black women vote.”

Candidates like Kamala Harris or Liz Warren perpetuate toxic ID politics

Before I begin my tangent let me start by saying I am hesitant to even use the term “identity politics.” I feel that the term is used more often than not to silence the voices of women or people of color in leftist spaces when confronting the reality of what it means to be anti racist becomes uncomfortable. That said, I think that there is a staunch difference between liberal identity politics and leftist identity politics.

Leftists acknowledge intersectionality and use it to improve their analysis so that they may recruit and engage with more people in a more diverse way. Liberals use identity politics to tokenize, to excuse their own complacency in white supremacy, and most shallowly to get votes.

This is why I get infuriated when we talk about “the women vote” or “the black vote,” as if anyone who is not a white straight male in our society is of some bizarre kind of hive mind.

Pundits dehumanize LGBTQA+ people when they assume Buttigieg has their votes locked down simply because he is gay.

I hope everyone realizes that is what pundits and politicians are saying when they sayings like “the coveted black women vote.”

They are saying that oppressed groups of voters, such as black people, women, black women are nothing more than who they vote for president and what is worse is the dehumanizing idea that they will all vote for the same person for the same reasons.

When it comes down to discussing the “woman vote” or the “black vote” in the eyes of liberal and conservative pundits you are no longer a collection of individuals, each with your own stories and culture and background and reasoning. No, to them you are simply a part of a demographic, a thing to be used as fodder for politicians and talking heads alike.

They are fucking insulting you and reducing you to an infantile point. We should not stand for this.