By Michael A. Dover
Leo Casey's five theses, published here 1/23/2023, Jessica Benjamin’s 1/30/23 Combatting Authoritarianism: Don’t Forget Gender Politics and Abortion Rights, and Alexander Hernandez’s The Case for Re-Alignment, reprinted here 12/8/2022 from Socialist Forum, are all on target. They suggest full engagement with electoral politics should be a key element of DSA member activism. They also build upon the earlier advocacy of Susan Chacin’s It’s Time for DSA Members to Rally and Help Save Democracy.
But there are still Five Fallacies which prevent many DSA members from recognizing the wisdom of such perspectives, and the dangers of not engaging in electoral activism along with other forms of activism.
Engaging in struggle on the terrain of civil society: defending unions, public education, free and independent communications media, and o 0ppressed and marginalized communities under attack.
Excerpt from FIVE THESES ON THE TASKS OF THE CURRENT POLITICAL MOMENT ( prior post)
by Leo Casey
5. Democratic governance does not stand on its own. It is rooted in democratic society and culture, and it relies upon them for its sustenance and its survival. The neo-fascist offensive of the MAGA forces has not simply attacked democratic government; it has sought to undermine the societal and cultural underpinnings of democracy. The defeat of the authoritarian danger requires that we understand this component of the danger, and that we develop a strategic approach which prioritizes this front of the struggle with meaningful campaigns.
Civil society has the capacity to confound authoritarianism in fundamental ways: it brings working people together in associations and organizations outside of the direct control of the state, making possible democratic collective action from below. For this reason, authoritarian movements and states invariably seek to eviscerate and dominate the independent spaces and institutions of civil society. Perhaps nowhere is this authoritarian impulse more evident than in the attacks on unions, as unions have been at the center of democratic movements and insurgencies across the globe over the last century.
Despite a decades-long decline in the size and density of U.S. unions, they continue to be the largest and most significant mass organizations on the broad left, without any meaningful competitors. If U.S. unions had the economic and social power they possessed at their height, when one-third of the workforce was organized, we would be at a quite different political crossroads today. Consider the fact that when white workers are organized in unions and involved in common cause with people of other races, they are much less likely to embrace racist views. If the once great industrial unions were still the potent forces that provided the political muscle for the passage of the New Deal and the Great Society, there would be many fewer white male workers that being drawn into the MAGA base through appeals to white racial resentment. As it is, even in their current form U.S. unions – especially public sector and service sector unions – have put into the field the most substantial campaign operations to defeat the MAGA Republicans in recent elections. This is why the MAGA forces which now control the U.S. House of Representatives will put unions in their cross-hairs, as will MAGA controlled state governments in places such as Florida and Texas. Teacher unions will be a particular target, because they are among the largest and most organizationally substantial of U.S. unions, because they have mounted especially effective electoral campaigns, and because they are at the intersection of another critical front in the MAGA forces offensive against democratic civil society, public education.[iii]
Public education – both preK-12 and higher education – contains the civil society institutions with the greatest capacity to educate young people into the knowledge, skills, and dispositions of democratic citizenship. Public schools can impart to their students the ability to think critically and independently, to reason logically and problem solve, and to question authority, all of which are inimical to authoritarian rule. At their best, public schools can bring together youth from different races and ethnicities, different social and economic backgrounds, different religious faiths, and different sexes, sexual orientations, and gender identities, and teach them how to work with each other in common purpose, toward the achievement of common goods. Even when public education fails to realize its full promise on these counts, which occurs far more than it should in the U.S., the fact that it has this democratic potential makes it a constant threat to authoritarian movement and states. And that has made public education in the U.S. into a target of MAGA forces.
by Jessica Benjamin
I write this with great appreciation for Leo Casey’s clear and cogent theses on the need for us to support and further the development of a broad-based struggle against the authoritarian Right. I fully endorse Comrade Leo’s analysis of the danger of ultra-leftist rejection of working within and around the Democratic Party, as a surrender of that arena to the often ineffectual center—although mercifully other left progressive organizations have continued their important work.
But there is an interesting lacuna in the elucidation of political state struggle (Thesis 4) and civil society (Thesis 5). The latter section is particularly helpful, in my view, because it addresses not only civil society institutions as part of struggles for hegemony but also the all-important way that ideology is implemented by the Right.
by Leo Casey.
The immediate and present danger of an authoritarianism of the far right, in the U.S. and internationally, is now widely recognized on the broad left. The fundamentally racist character of this danger is also widely acknowledged.
To focus on making this case is to preach to the converted, pointing out the glaringly obvious. Even on the ultra-left, the general point is not so much disputed as completely ignored, especially in prescriptions for action, as if this paramount danger had no important ramifications for what the left should do politically. Our emphasis should shift to what is to be done in this moment, given the authoritarian danger.
The critical question before us is how to respond to the danger of authoritarianism from the far right: what are the strategic imperatives of this moment, given this danger?
A grounded left strategic approach begins with the reality we face: the nature of the authoritarian threat from the far right, with its drive to institutionalize white supremacy and autocratic minority rule in the state, and the real danger it poses to essential democratic institutions and cultural norms. Even in their increasingly attenuated forms, political democracy and civil liberties in the U.S. are the indispensable foundation for the organization and struggles of working people, people of color, women, LGBTQ folk, immigrants, and religious minorities. Consequently, a serious left strategy prioritizes the defeat of the neo-fascist threat, which in the U.S. takes the form of a MAGA-dominated Republican Party. In this historical conjuncture, the MAGA forces are our immediate and primary enemy, and their defeat is our first and most important objective. Since the U.S. left is manifestly too small, too weak, and too organizationally immature to accomplish the goal of defeating the authoritarian danger posed by the MAGA forces on its own, it is necessary to join in organizing and to participate in a broad center-left coalition to accomplish this goal.[i]
By contrast, those in the thrall of ultra-left dogma operate from fixed and unyielding first principles that always override concrete conditions: nothing in the emergence of a grave neo-fascist danger has caused them to reconsider their absolute prioritization of opposition to the Democratic Party. From their perspective, the liberal and centrist forces in the Democratic Party are ever and always the primary political enemy, as they spread ‘illusions’ about what is required for real social change, and so keep working people from flocking to the banner of working class revolution. Take the recent panel “DSA Adrift?,” featuring various ultra-left currents in and around DSA: the entire focus of the event – every question and every answer, all prepared in advance – was on the ‘corruption’ of the Democratic Party, the ‘opportunism’ of DSA’s elected members in the U.S. Congress, and the need for an ideologically driven vanguard party dedicated to the precepts of ‘revolutionary Marxism.’ In the eyes of the panel’s organizers and participants, the looming danger of neo-fascism did not even merit discussion. This is a politics that brings to mind the refrain of the old Talking Heads song, “same as it ever was”: if a time machine could assemble this panel at various points in the last one hundred years (say 1923, 1935, 1945, 1968, 1984, and 2001), its participants would offer the same political analyses and political prescriptions in all but the most minor details.
The left can and should put forward its own analysis of the danger of authoritarianism from the far right and its program for how to defeat it within this center-left coalition. Contrary to ultra-left doctrine, there is nothing about participation in a broad front that precludes making an intelligent democratic socialist case for how that front can best achieve its objectives. During the 1930s and 1940s, the left did precisely that in many different nations where it participated in a united front against the classical form of fascism; in that context, it grew significantly in size and influence. But other forces in the broad center-left coalition must be treated as allies and partners, not enemies, for the left to get a proper hearing for its analysis and program.
The Russo-Ukrainian War and the rest of us.
By Bill Fletcher Jr.
The Nation January 20, 2023
The announcement of the Ukraine Solidarity Network is a small step in breaking a strange combination of silence, ambivalence, and complicity within some left-leaning circles regarding the Russian aggression against Ukraine. Code Pink, for instance, which is outspoken on international affairs, falls into the “ambivalent” category, criticizing the Russian invasion—but not supporting Ukrainian resistance. Black Alliance for Peace is an example of a group that is complicit through its support of the invasion.
Particularly since the end of the Cold War and the turn towards capitalism within China, much of the US left and progressive circles have found themselves adrift in navigating the stormy seas of neoliberal globalization and growing right-wing authoritarianism. Given the crimes of the United States—domestically and internationally—it came as no surprise that a great deal of the attention of left and progressive forces has been on the posture and practice of the US government (and its allies). This approach, however, began running into complications when governments in the Global South that had appeared to have embraced a left, anti-imperialist approach, began embarking on approaches that were either complicit with neoliberal capital and/or undertook repressive measures against their populations—in the latter case in response to popular protests. Zimbabwe under former President Robert Mugabe is a case in point; the Ortega regime in Nicaragua is a more current example. In both cases, the left-wing “bona fides” of these regimes covered over an increasingly authoritarian approach, often mixed with corruption.
Read the rest at The Nation
King called himself a democratic socialist. He believed that America needed a "radical redistribution of economic and political power."
Jan 17, 2023 Common Dreams
King called himself a democratic socialist. He believed that America needed a "radical redistribution of economic and political power." He challenged America's class system and its racial caste system. He opposed US militarism and imperialism, especially the country's misadventure in Vietnam. He was a strong ally of the nation's labor union movement. He was assassinated in April 1968 in Memphis, where he had gone to support a sanitation workers' strike….
In 1966 King confided to his staff: "You can't talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can't talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You're really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water, because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism. There must be a better distribution of wealth, and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism."
King became increasingly committed to building bridges between the civil rights and labor movements. Invited to address the AFL-CIO's annual convention in 1961, King observed, "Our needs are identical with labor's needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community. That is why Negroes support labor's demands and fight laws which curb labor. That is why the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth.
He continued: "The labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who today attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them."
In a 1961 speech to the Negro American Labor Council, King proclaimed, "Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God's children."
By Max Sawicky
In keeping with my obsessions on my substack, I need to point out that the antics of Trump’s MAGA caucus in the U.S. House of Representatives can distract from what I see as the other key dimension of political struggle in the U.S. — state and local government.
I don’t need to recapitulate at any length the insanity in the Federal government. Bolstered by a packed Supreme Court, the GOP is angling to hold the world economy hostage via threats to block a routine increase in the debt limit. The ransom would be cuts in Social Security and Medicare. A default by the U.S. government on debts for the safest securities in international finance — U.S. government bonds — would have unknowable consequences for the world economy. (Note that in finance, since time is money, even just paying a debt late is a default.) And knowing — finding out — is not something that should be contemplated. Needless to say, debt limit increases during the Bush or Trump Administrations never came in for parallel scrutiny.
The lesser threat is to hold up future budgets and provoke a new Federal government shut-down. It is lesser because government by continuing resolution, also described as “flat funding,” is damaging but short of catastrophic. The Rs dirty secret is they like their own pet appropriations bills too. Deals can and will be struck.
As I said, all that distracts from the equally dangerous Trumpist organizing at the grassroots. As Trump crony and convicted felon Steve Bannon said on his podcast: “The path to save the nation is very simple — it’s going to go through the school boards.” The article linked above provides some encouragement that the effort is not invincible, but still there is no sign of any let-up here in Virginia. Governor Glenn Youngkin, failed account manager chased out of the Carlyle Group, is zeroing in on the Fairfax public schools, race-baiting the school board and administration over their efforts in the field of diversity-equity-inclusion (DEI).
It should be said plainly: opposition to admissions criteria to elite schools that allow for some flexibility when it comes to people of color, or criticism of DEI policies as an affront to “merit,” are appeals to racism. The implication that allowance for factors in addition to test scores and grades is a rejection of “merit” rests on a definition of merit consistent with white supremacy that precludes equal opportunity for African-American and Hispanic students.
The political game here is to hive off some Asian-American voters from the Democratic Party, completely similar to gambits in years ago with respect to Jews. In the latter case it failed, since we Jews still disproportionately vote Democrat, understanding that at bottom, these bigots are not and have never been our friends. I doubt that Asian-Americans will be any less insightful in this respect.
As I’ve written, the Republican ascendancy in Virginia, in the form of a turnover in the offices of governor, attorney-general, and lieutenant governor, plus the lower house of the state legislature, rests on a year of demagogy regarding Critical Race Theory, DEI, alleged transgender student predators, and dirty books in school libraries. The Fairfax Foofaraw is just the latest salvo in this bombardment of bigotry.
Youngkin is relatively slippery in this respect, angling between the old GOP establishment and the new extremists. So far he has failed to register in presidential polls, but it’s easy to see him on a national ticket with Florida’s execrable, unambiguously MAGA governor Ron DeSantis. Youngkin is term-limited in Virginia and doesn’t have anywhere else to go. There isn’t all that much daylight between him and our very moderate senators — Tim Kaine and Mark Warner.
The new Republican Party is dedicated to electoral tactics that cement them into power indefinitely. Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio are cases in point: the GOP majorities in state legislatures are grossly inferior to their shares of registered voters in those states. When it comes to drawing district lines, where Democrats play fair and Republicans play dirty, the dismal outcomes are not difficult to foresee. When the Rs lose a statewide office like governor, where gerrymandering is not feasible, their super-majority state legislatures try to enact new bills denuding Democratic governors of executive powers.
“NeoFascism” may be a little strong to describe all this, but the fact remains that the Republican Party of yesteryear has been transformed by a line of deplorables from Newt Gingrich to Pat Buchanan to the TEA Party to Donald Trump to whatever comes next. To me, any movement that is sufficiently authoritarian as to be intent on eliminating democratic institutions qualifies.
Rerunning all the old civil rights struggles is not a pleasant prospect. Ideally we would be fighting new battles to win new ground, rather than struggling to retain past victories. Unfortunately, the trend in Virginia is pointing to the latter burden.
This is the sum and substance of my own campaign for the state legislature, coming out of Loudoun County.
By Maurice Isserman
Jan 16, 2023
On Martin Luther King Day, leftists remember that his heart was with democratic socialists, mainstream writers talk about his dream and today’s realities, and rightwingers contort themselves to claim something of his legacy. Even if you;re a person who knows nothing about King, you’ve probably heard about his “I have a dream” speech and may even have read it or listened to it in school. Chances are that you’re less familiar with another speech, the one that, as Maurice Isserman asserts, “changed the conversation,” about the war in Vietnam and in doing so helped change the mind of an entire country. Delivered from the pulpit at the Riverside Church in Manhattan a year before he was assassinated, this sermon helped turn the tide of public opinion. As we honor King’s life, let’s remember the power of moral witness. Below is Isserman’s column from the Democratic Left series on events that changed our national conversation.–Eds.
Fifty years ago, on April 4, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered an impassioned speech at the Riverside Church in Manhattan. In eloquence and power, it matched the one he gave at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. Unlike that earlier (and better remembered) effort, his topic was not civil rights but the war in Vietnam, an ever-escalating conflict that had killed nearly 20,000 American servicemen since 1963, along with hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, North and South, military and civilian.
We thank Democratic Left for this post and link.
Maurice Isserman, a founding member of DSA, a member of North Star, and is the author of The Other American: The Life of Michael Harrington, and the foreword to the 50th Anniversary edition of The Other America.
by Jamelle Bouie
NYT Opinion Columnist
The way most Americans talk about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., more than 50 years after his assassination, you might think that he gave exactly one speech — on Aug. 28, 1963, in Washington — and spoke exclusively about racial harmony and his oft-mentioned dream of integration.
But King, of course, is a more complicated figure than his sanctified image would suggest, and his body of work — his writings, speeches and interviews — is deeper and more wide-ranging than most Americans might appreciate. With our annual celebration of King’s life on the immediate horizon, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at one of his lesser-known, although by no means obscure, speeches, one in which he discusses the struggle for global peace.
Read the rest here.
The Democratic Socialists of America condemns the coup attempt in Brazil’s capital of Brasilia and calls on the Biden administration to revoke any refuge for former Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. Nearly two years to the day of the invasion of the US Capitol by far-right hordes, an all-too-similar scene played out in the center of Brasilia. Thousands of supporters of former President Bolsonaro gathered in the Brazilian capital, calling for the closure of the Congress and Supreme Court and an immediate intervention by the Armed Forces, messages disseminated repeatedly by Bolsonaro himself and his closest political allies throughout the four years of his administration. The protest quickly transformed into a violent invasion of the buildings which house the Brazilian Congress, Supreme Court and Presidential offices. Federal District police forces took little to no action in order to prevent the depredation, instead spending their time taking pictures and chatting with the fascist protestors.
by Bill Fletcher Jr.
B4—the Broad Front Opposing the Right—can’t be about the status quo. While it must be aimed at defeating all attacks on our democratic rights, its thrust must be to expand democracy and shift US domestic and foreign policy.
By way of preface, it is important to be clear that the right-wing populist/authoritarian movement that has become energized since 2009 did not appear out of nowhere. The history of the US as a racial settler-colonial project laid very firm foundations for the periodic rise of nefarious movements of the political Right, movements that are regularly racist, sexist, xenophobic and irrationalist. The current incarnation of right-wing populism aims to create a future for the US based on a reconfigured US, something akin to the pre-1912 country, if not being a 21st century version of the Confederate States of America. A neoliberal right-wing combined with a far-right semi-fascist tendency has resulted in the development of what can be understood as a “neo-Confederate” political bloc. This is a complicated and contradictory alliance that shares the objective of establishing a semi-apartheid system in the US along with the suppression of basic democratic rights up to and including the possibility of gutting and redoing the Constitution.
Pro-Democracy Organizing Against Autocracy in the United States takes, as its starting point, the possibility of the successful capture of government by right-wing authoritarian forces. It does not treat this as inevitable, nor does it suggest that all is hopeless should such a scenario come into existence. But it does argue that in order to prevent the success of right-wing authoritarians and undermine a right-wing authoritarian hegemony, there must be a new practice introduced by progressive forces.
Read more at Convergence.
Jan 7, 2023
by Paul Garver
On December 2, 2022, as Joe Biden admired the view of Boston Harbor alongside William, Prince of Wales, the Boston DSA labor working group helped organize a protest rally against Biden’s having signed the imposition of the Railway Labor Act on the railroad workers earlier in the day. The protest received wide and favorable media attention in Boston, and at this writing at the end of December, remains the largest single demonstration in support of the demands of the railroad workers.
Twelve railroad unions were involved in the negotiations leading up to government intervention, and although the imposed settlement gave them some of what their leaders bargained for, the lack of paid sick days was a major defeat and disappointment. At the time, Biden said that he would push for the sick days by other means. The workers remain without the sick days, and the imposition of the Railway Labor Act has led to fractious debates on the Left and revolt in the ranks of some of the unions involved.
The debates within the Left threaten to derail (pun intended) the serious work of supporting the beleaguered workers. What is a left-wing labor activist or supporter to do?
Read the rest at Democratic Left
by Harold Meyerson
Time was when the conservative credo was "That government is best which governs least." If that needed quantitative metrics, Grover Norquist came along to say that government should be small enough that "it can be drowned in a bathtub."
But that was oh, so then. Today’s Republicans repudiate those nostrums as way too statist. What they’re making ridiculously clear (and just plain ridiculous) on the floor of the House this week is that their new credo is "That government is best which cannot even convene."
The process of revolutions growing more radical by bumping off every previous revolutionary cadre is well established. In revolutionary France, the Girondins supplanted the royalists, the Montagnards supplanted and executed the Girondins, the Jacobins supplanted and executed the Montagnards, and having run out of rival factions, the Jacobins executed each other. In revolutionary Russia, the Leninists overthrew and executed the czarists, the Stalinists overthrew and executed the Leninists. And having run out of Leninists, the Stalinists executed each other.
Read more at American Prospect
By Bill Barclay
There has been increased attention to “Equal Pay Day,” the date into the new year by which the average female worker has to work in order to be paid the same amount as the average male worker made in the previous year. And there has been some progress: that date for the United States used to be in April but the most recent projected Equal Pay Day is March 15, 2022. The same cannot be said for the “Unequal Pay Day,” the time of the year when the average CEO will be paid the same amount that his, or sometimes her, average employee will make during the entire year.
Read the rest at Democratic Left
Earlier this month, we marked five years of the renewed Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Since 2018, millions of people across this nation have joined this Campaign to shift the narrative on poverty, to build a powerful fusion movement, and to move this nation towards implementing a Third Reconstruction Agenda that fully addresses the needs of poor and low-wealth people.
We've worked with hundreds of state coordinating committee leaders in over 35 states, we've released groundbreaking studies and reports that have uncovered the true toll of systemic poverty in our nation, and we've mobilized millions of people online and in person, all toward the goals of challenging the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, systemic poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism.
As we enter a new year, we express our deepest gratitude for your sustained engagement in this work over the years. We continue to do this work because we know how critical a sustained movement-building effort is to our collective effort to create a just and equitable society. We thank you for all the ways in which you have contributed to the Campaign's work in the past year. Every single act - joining us in the streets, organizing a community mass meeting, courageously telling your story at our gatherings, collaborating on our research efforts, volunteering to mobilize poor and low-wealth voters, donating any amount - it all counts. You have all played a critical role in the advancement of this Campaign's work, and we are grateful to work alongside you.
Bishop William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis
Co-Chairs of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
Max Elbaum of Convergence published an important reflection in May 2022, describing what he saw as problems/issues in DSA. We posted it in May.
Chris Riddeough, long time leader in DSA, has responded: DSA Debate Shows Growing Pains.
as did Jack Suria Linares, also of DSA: Big Tent and Programmatic Unity Can Coexist in DSAconvergencemag.com/articles/big-tent-and-programmatic-unity-can-coexist-in-dsa/
Misunderstanding Labor politics on the Rail Issue
by Leo Casey.
1. This argument from @CarpenterLauraG illustrates a lot of what is wrong in @BreadRosesDSA's and @DemSocialists' approach to labor organizing & politics. It begins by asserting what it must prove – that the Squad stance on rail worker fight was neither principled nor strategic.
Laura Gabby @CarpenterLauraG A few weeks on from Biden’s forced rail worker TA, and I stand by criticizing the Squad for their vote on this one. It was neither principled nor strategic (failed to distinguish them from the capitalists’ politicians, gave a few Republicans cover to act pro-worker). https://twitter.com/CarpenterLauraG/status/1605205532704444417
2. But the first principle of labor solidarity is that the workers and their unions get to make the key strategic decisions in their struggle. The Squad – @AOC, @JamaalBowmanNY, @CoriBush, etc. – did what the unions and the cross-union rank & file group wanted & asked them to do.
3. Certainly we who espouse democratic – let alone democratic socialist – politics must embrace this principle: those with direct stake in struggle, who have to live with its outcome, get to make the key decisions. Others must respect their choices.
4. For all of their rhetorical advocacy of the rank & file, what we see in Gabby and Bread & Roses is a vanguardist approach, where they decide that they know better than the railway workers & unions what should be done. That is not true labor solidarity.
5. But strikes are tactics – high leverage tactics that can bring wins otherwise out of reach and build power, but also high risk tactics that can result in devastating losses and lose power. They require great sacrifices on the part of workers who strike. https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/the-teacher-strike-conditions-for-success
6. Successful strikes are thoroughly organized and prepared, with the strong support of the great majority of workers and a solidarity that will survive severe testing. Community support and support from other unions is key.
7. Decisions to undertake a strike should be free of romance, based on an unsentimental assessment of the balance of forces and the likelihood of success. Most importantly, they should be the province of the workers and their unions, not outsiders, however well-meaning.
8. Having failed on the key question of principle in labor solidarity (which the Squad got right), Gabby and Bread & Roses demonstrate a fundamental lack of understanding of political strategy, substituting a performative notion of politics for it.
9. According to Gabby, the Squad's actions were not strategic because they failed to distinguish themselves from capitalist politicians and gave cover to GOP senators to appear pro-worker. This is a criticism based entirely on appearances, a 'politics' of posing and posturing.
10. The mistaken idea here is that politics is about winning propaganda victories which demonstrate your righteousness and your foes perfidy. It is a philosophically idealist conception of politics, of the same order as pure – and utterly futile – third party electoral efforts.
11. The strategic goal of the Squad was not to propagandize and pose, but to win the workers' & union's key objective: real sick days. There was a narrow but realistic legislative path to that objective, which was what the unions asked the Squad to pursue. https://twitter.com/ryangrim/status/1598357234102288385
12. A serious democratic socialist politics does not build power through empty rhetorical appeals to the rank & file, or a performative politics of posturing. It builds power by winning struggles that attain objectives which better the lives of working people.
by Shuvu Bhattarai
The Progressive Dec 15, 2022
Biden forced railway workers to accept an agreement that lacked paid sick days; now rallies against the deal have spread across the country.
On December 7, outside of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, a crowd of more than 100 Metro-North Railroad workers, airline pilots, construction workers, teachers, and activists held a solidarity rally in support of railway unions.
The rally is the latest in a string of protests that have taken place across the country after President Joe Biden and the U.S. Congress imposed a tentative agreement on Class I freight rail workers, an agreement that had been voted down the membership of four rail unions representing a total of around 60,000 workers. The agreement grants only one additional day of paid sick leave, which was a major concern for the rail workers, many of whom are on call virtually 24/7.
Read the rest at The Progressive
Statement of the elected Steering Committee of the North Star Caucus 12/14/2022
When George Bush invaded Iraq in 2003, protest against that adventure inspired a legion of pro-war defenders who came to be known as keyboard commandos. These typists had little personally at stake. They were not mobbing local Army recruitment centers, begging to be sent to fight. Today on the Left and in DSA we have our own wave of people who would urge others to take great personal risk and foment a national rail strike. And the thing that our cosplay adventurers cannot grasp is that the workers themselves, while dissatisfied with the contract that had been negotiated, prefer to enjoy their upcoming holidays and year-end bonuses to hitting the bricks.
Take ex-DSA member Andy Sernatinger of the Tempest faction. (Please!) He and others would have DSA attack progressive Members of Congress, including actual DSA members, for “strike-breaking.” Now several DSA chapters are voting to expel electeds for voting as the rail unions and rank and file requested, cheered on by the comrades at Fox News. This criticism is grounded in vanguardist fantasy.
There was no strike. There were no picket lines. There was no “scabbing.” The rail unions had failed to prepare for any such strike. A vote to reject a contract is not a vote to strike. The vote against the contract was 55 to 45 percent. Anyone with experience in labor knows these are not the preconditions for a successful strike. The fact is that progressive votes in Congress to accept the agreement were following the wishes of the unions on the spot, as well as the rank and file Railway Workers United organization. Sernatinger and friends have no answer to this.
In his column, Sernatinger cites the justification of Squad members who followed the split bill strategy (voting separately on the negotiated contract and the addition of sick days) – namely, it was supported by the unions – but fails to note that the sick days bill had a realistic chance of enactment in the Senate.
It is the height of irresponsibility, not to say delusion, to criticize supportive Members of Congress for acting at the behest of the unions with a direct stake in the conflict. Pseudo-Marxist whining about the inherent conservative nature of unions does not cut it. Unions cannot be more militant than their own members. DSA is obliged to support workers’ decisions to fight, but any such decisions must, for the sake of their own legitimacy and practicality, originate among the workers themselves.
We ought to criticize the leadership of the Democratic Party, especially President Biden, for not providing greater support, especially after November elections that ended better for Democrats than anyone had a right to expect. Still, it was foolish for DSA’s National Political Committee to demand that the White House compel the rail bosses provide a better contract. The bosses could easily have said no. Then in the absence of further action, the White House would just look foolish and weak. We are not going to get socialism by calling for the government and the unions to go to war against the capitalist class.
The reality was that neither the workers nor the Democratic party leadership had any stomach for a national rail strike with potentially far-reaching implications for the unstable U.S. economy. At present they are just not made that way. DSA members in rail and DSA as a whole can work both ends of this, but for the time being the matter is settled.
In the working class, leadership is earned in struggle. It is not self-anointed by would-be vanguards. Neither DSA, nor anyone else on the left, are in any position to dictate to workers that the time is now to rise up and strike. To imagine otherwise reflects profound political confusion and ill-behooves the leaders of any socialist organization.
DSA should return to its roots and embrace the realignment strategy to guide our political work.
by Alexander Hernandez - Fall 2022 Socialist Forum
But how do we transform these basically antisocial structures with the urgency that is required? Not by a vague third force. The Democratic Party is where the overwhelming bulk of the reform forces—trade unionists, minorities, women, the issue constituencies—is concentrated. As a Democratic Socialist…, I have no illusion that it is as radical as the times demand. But it is just the only place where a beginning can be made. – Michael Harrington, Time (January 13, 1975)
Michael Harrington was and continues to be correct on where a beginning can be made. In his 1980 book Decade of Decision: The Crisis of the American System, Harrington imagines new political alignment scenarios. The first is a positive one where the Left successfully advances a program addressing human needs. The second is a negative scenario, which has more or less come to pass, that pits working people against each other with reactionary and corporate forces benefiting from the situation.
DSA now has no agreed-upon political strategy to expand the power of the Left, to defend democracy, and to build toward a viable governing majority. The status quo position of becoming a mass party at some point in the future and various debates around strategic orientation have failed to grapple with how we get there. Perhaps revisiting realignment as a strategy and analysis can help ground our work going forward.
What is Realignment?
Two members of DSA's International Committee share their perspectives on the theory and practice of labor internationalism today.
by Jana Silverman and Paul Garver - FALL 2022 Socialist Forum
An important component of our labor internationalism is an emphasis on the need to struggle for a democratic, legal and human rights framework for workers organizing. This is why we advocate against the governmental repression of trade union activists and leaders in countries such as the Philippines, Belarus and Hong Kong. The struggles for workers’ rights, human rights and self-determination are, as they have always been, the concern of global socialist activists. Worker solidarity across borders only makes sense if built by workers and union organizers from below. Any real gains in global labor internationalism have to be anchored in organized activity from the workers themselves. In this sense, we should prioritize not only building international class-based solidarity movements but also strengthening national-level labor movements that organize from a “social movement unionism” perspective.
Some progress in the University of California strike, but nowhere near enough. And by the way, where’s Gavin?
By Harold Meyerson
In her 2019 book Squeezed, Alissa Quart gave a name to the middle class that was just getting by in today’s middle-class-unfriendly economy: the middle precariat.
One group that may just manage to ascend, wobbily, to the ranks of the precarious middle are the 12,000 striking postdoctoral scholars who reached a tentative agreement with the University of California earlier today to boost their wages and benefits. Under the agreement, which will shortly be presented to the postdocs for an up-or-down vote, the scholars will receive raises of between 20 percent and 23 percent to take effect next year, as well as a couple thousand dollars in child care assistance. By my very rough calculations, that should put them in the lower ranks of the mid-precar, with annual incomes in the mid- or upper 40 thousands—not enough to get a decent rental in coastal California, but able to buy a good-sized car to sleep in.
But the 36,000 teaching and research assistants, most of whose annual incomes come in at around the mid-20 thousands, remain on strike, and the postdocs made very clear that they’re not reporting back to work until the TAs and RAs get a contract they can live with (if not live on, exactly), too. In a sense, the postdocs’ solidarity is in the grand historic tradition of UAW strikes against the Big Three auto companies, in which the skilled craft workers for those companies—the ones who could fix the assembly lines if they sputtered to a halt—won comparatively higher pay than their union brothers and sisters who actually worked on those assembly lines.
Those craft workers often settled their contracts first, but stayed off the job until the far more numerous assembly line workers could settle theirs. As the union credo goes, an injury to one was, and still is, an injury to all.
The importance of this UC strike cannot be overstated. Like their fellow Gen Zers and millennials who work at Starbucks, the TAs and RAs are well educated and lowly paid.
Kristian Hernandez Nov 17, 2022 In These Times
Democrats Can’t Be Counted On to Stop the MAGA Right, So Socialists Are Stepping Up
After the midterms, Congress will have more socialists than ever—while progressive policies won across the country. The Left will have to use its power to take on the anti-democratic GOP.
Read the rest here:
North Star caucus members
antiracismdsa (blog of Duane Campbell)
Hatuey's Ashes (blog of José G. Pérez)
Authory and Substack of Max Sawicky
Online University of the Left
In These Times
The American Prospect
Black Agenda Report
Dollars and Sense
Working Families Party
Poor People's Campaign
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
Progressive Democrats of America
Democracy for America
Black Lives Matter
Movement for Black Lives
The Women's March
Jewish Voice for Peace
National Abortion Rights Action League
National Organization for Women
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights