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.

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Love Trumps Hate, Unless You Are Bernie Sanders

Recently Bernie Sanders underwent an immediate operation to unclog an artery and have a stent put in.

When it was announced his campaign was suspending events until his recovery, the #StillwithHer & #LoveTrumpsHate sphere of twitter did not hesitate to show their true colors despite the fact that their great leader, Warren, was incredibly gracious and supportive to both Bernie Sanders and his staff when the news of his operation broke. As much as I criticize Warren I extend my compliments to her, that was a cool thing to do.

It was much cooler than how her following handled the news.

“Hope the old bastard dies.” Tweeted more than one enthusiastic Warren supporter.

Others tweeted the equivalence to this:

Others still wished him well but did not hesitate to show their ablism and agism in the process:

Others were just got plain idiotic, weird, even sociopathic:

And others are convinced that the Sander’s campaign is conspiring to downplay things:

The funniest part about this is that many of these people commented that his campaign was done and that he was as good as dead before the news broke that Bernie has once again passed a fundraising record, over $25 million in donations for the the 3rd quarter of 2019, all of them small personal donations.

Bernie has once again emerged with his head held higher than ever before over the clamor of his idiotic opposition. Not only is he recovering speedily but he is resuming his campaigning as if nothing had happened, and the memes have just been cranking out ever since.

What I take most from all of this was how the event once again put the hypocrisy of liberals on display. The same group that is claiming to want to see a united country, the people who have been begging for civility in this election because they fear how polarization will force them to confront their privilege, they were either celebrating a man’s possible death, or they were making ridiculous conjectures with no actual source of information, a very “Fox News” move of you, liberals.

These are the same people who decry the baseless faux news of Fox, who cry foul whenever Donald Trump sneezes on twitter. They talk about equality and post rainbow flags on their profile during pride month. They will say black lives matter and call Greta Thunberg a hero, but do not be fooled.

These are the people who make up the core base of the democratic party. They are the people who are holding the left back more than our reactionary capitalist oppressors ever could because they are the road blocks to making things like the democratic party truly left and truly democratic. No one wants to be associated with hypocritical idiots like these, no one wants to join a party with people like these in its ranks.

Bernie is about motivating the unmotivated, his tactic is to give the non voters a reason to vote. Bernie is still the most popular candidate amongst no party preference voters, the largest voter demographic in the country. Warren can count her popularity amongst loyal democrats, and folks, these tweets are from the people who are loyal democrats.

I am a registered democrat, this is true, but the only reason I reregistered as a democrat was to make sure I could vote for Bernie in 2016 and I shall do so again in 2020. That said, he level of “cringe” that it makes me feel is beyond words, and that feeling is caused because as a socialist I believe in humanity and in responding to the material needs of the masses, not to be loyal to any individual elected official.

The True Left is socialists, anarchists, and communists. We put humanity first, there is no humanity in any of these tweets. We challenge ourselves and force ourselves to confront our internalized sexism, racism, homophobia, and yes even our internalized ablism and agism. The problem with liberal democrats is that they refuse to confront these things, both in themselves and in the system. Because they refuse to challenge their own internalized ways of thinking, it leads to bullshit like this, it leads to people who will preach “give peace a chance” while conjecturing about the death of one of the most integral, hardest working public servants in U.S. history.

I registered democrat so I could vote for Bernie, but my loyalty is only to the people who Bernie’s platform will help, not the party and not even Bernie himself. My loyalty will never be to the democratic party so long as these people are its base. As socialists we must either take over the democratic party and purge its problematic elements, or we must build our own organizations to the point that we can have a viable alternative to the democratic party that is not a just another third party fringe slate. Whatever the case, what we need is a mass movement socialist party.

Bernie Sanders still has my vote, and liberals have once again furthered my distain for their ideology. May the heart of Bernie Sanders and the rhythm of our movement beat on! #NotmeUs

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.

Undemocratic, A Word Not To Be Taken Lightly

As an active DSA member I hear this word all the time, almost as much as I hear the words “organizing” and “socialism.”  I think active leftists in all organizations can relate to this, but I think the attack of something being “undemocratic” is overused.

Now I am not suggesting in any way we not call out undemocratic behavior, what I am saying is we need to acknowledge that being called “undemocratic” is the heaviest attack you can lay against someone in an organization that is supposed to be democratic.  That is not something to take lightly.

Behavior that is genuinely undemocratic is something that an elected official does not have the authority to do or is an action that goes out of its way to side step democratic procedures.  That does not stop people from throwing the term around when a comrade does something that they simply do not agree with.

Most of the time what is called ‘undemocratic behavior’ is actually just people disagreeing with how something was done, or it is people letting personal differences effect their outlook on what is good for their organization. If we attack every single thing or person we disagree with as ‘undemocratic’ then the word will lose all meaning.  It will be a boy who called wolf situation, the moment we actually have to face the consequences of someone doing something undemocratic we will be ill prepared to handle it.

An action is only undemocratic if it goes out of its way to defy democratic principles, unless it is intentionally sidestepping the consent or consensus of the voting body, the odds are it was not “undemocratic.”

I am not saying hold your tongue when you see genuinely undemocratic behavior, all I am asking is that people remember that in organizations that pride themselves on democracy, it is not a term to be taken lightly.

Sex and Revolution, Why The Left Needs to Talk About Sex

Many like to think that we have overcome our prudish cultural fear of sex. It would seem like we have come a long way if one thinks about the constant use of sex in advertising, the existence of thirst trap instagram feeds, and the new public acceptance of kink culture. While we have come a long way in the sexual dialectic, we still have very far to go.

The left must make sex and sexuality integral to our rhetoric and platform. Forsaking sex when talking about our society leads to a continuation of our insecurities and perpetuates the erasure of large groups of people.

Sex Sells

Sexually repressive cultural constructs in our society are still rampant. Our fear of sexual nuance leads to a lack of dialogue on the subject of sexuality. This lack of a dialogue leads to numerous social problems and leads to people developing sexual insecurities. These insecurities are extorted by the capitalists who work in advertising and marketing in order to drive unnecessary consumption for the sake of generating profit.

The use of sex to sell is rampant most in online culture. On instagram we see body building men and women, or “fitstagram models,” selling us snake oil powders and teas that are supposed to make us stronger and sexier. More often than not these models and the commercials they perform in are not only extorting our insecurities, they are selling us the idea of what sex should look like.

The same can be said of the commercials on tv and videos that use sex to sell. Remember when you see an Axe body spray commercial or a Just For Men hair care ad and it ends with a man and a woman sensuously caressing each other, the advertisers aren’t just telling you “Buy this so you’ll have more sex,” they are also telling you “Remember, this is the only kind of sex!”

So long as the sexual dialogue is lacking then there will continue to be erasure of people outside of the heteronormative and gender binary spectrum. While we have made progress in the acceptance of gay people, we are seeing the erasure of trans people and those who identify as queer, as well as gender fluid people, non binary people, and asexuals thanks to the use of sex in advertising. The use of sex in advertising more often than not normalizes only one kind of sex, heterosexual sex.

The fact that we almost never even talk about asexual people leads to both erasure and perpetuation of further insecurities. (Am I not normal because I’m not sexual enough? Maybe if I buy this stuff I will be!). Erasure of sexuality hurts and holds people back on multiple levels.

We Can’t Talk About Sex Without Talking about Consent!

Our lack of a genuine and all-encompassing discussion of sex also holds back the growing #MeToo movement. One of the reasons we exist in rape culture is because we do not teach enough about consent. You cannot teach what consensual sex is if you can’t even talk about sex itself. This lack of understanding of consent is one of the reasons why victims of sexual violence are held back and afraid to speak up. It is a direct cause of the belittling and even life threatening attacks against victims who come forward. We have often heard these toxic, and infuriating arguments made when a victim of a sexual predator comes forward, “If she didn’t want it why did she dress like that?” Or “Are you sure you didn’t lead him on?” Etc. If we do not talk about sex, how can we properly talk about consent!?

Porn as a Public Service

Our lack of a sexual dialogue is evident in the thriving industry of pornography. Consider how the number of genres of pornography has gone up exponentially over the last decade, why has this happened? Because for literally millions of people internet pornography is the only avenue to explore their sexuality because capitalism isolates us from one another, keeping us from having the sexual dialogue we need.

The porn that a society consumes is reflection of that society, and the fact that porn genres seem to be increasing in numbers by the day demonstrates how people become isolated from talking about sexuality with each other and are desperate for outlets of expression. As a pro sex individual, I am glad that porn performers are giving people this place to explore. Porn performers and other consenting sex workers are the sexual vanguard because they are willing to express and explore their sexuality to the point it becomes their living. The services they provide allow the sexually repressed masses an avenue to explore their sexuality. Just a side note, the least we could all do is pay for our porn every once in awhile.

What Will Happen If We Don’t Talk About Sex

So long as we do not discuss sexuality in an open, public, and universal way there will be capitalist extortion of our sexual insecurities. We can fight this extortion by making a discussion of sexuality central to a leftist platform.

One of the best ways to do this is to support sex work decriminalization and to elevate the voices of sexwork organizers. We should particularly elevate the voices of organizers who identify as LGBTQA+ in order to fight back against their erasure. It also makes the most sense to elevate the people who make their living off sex as the vanguard for discussing the need for sexual liberation.

We can counter the capitalist isolation and its extortion of our sexualities. Talk about sex and talk about sexwork. Talk about consent and make sure that you do not shy away from the word sex.

Acknowledge that our social perceptions of sex are still heteronormative. Acknowledge that many still think of gender being a biological binary.

Let us fight the erasure of sexual preferences and of gender and sexual identities so that we may overcome the insecurities that the capitalists use to extort our consumption.

Let us elevate sex workers and fight for decriminalization and unionization of sexwork. Let sexworkers and LGBTQA organizers take the platform and follow their lead.

Let’s make the revolution sexy!