PUBLISHED IN JACOBIN. Aug.26, 2019
If we're going to revive the labor movement, we need a strategy that's rooted in socialist principles but flexible enough to adjust to changing conditions in the US workforce…
DSA is perhaps the only organization on the US left right now that could imagine supporting its members to take on such work in a systematic way. The organization could even, for example, explore purchasing or renting homes near targeted facilities and providing free or subsidized rent for salts. I have very modestly supported DSA salts to buy a car that they share, but we can be much more thorough in our support of people willing to take on this grueling, vital work.
We should also be actively assessing the willingness of existing left-led unions — even ones where the target industry or company is not a perfect fit — in their willingness to support such efforts. That is, we don’t just need to wait until new activists who are targeting unions for takeover have success — there are already unions that have a vibrant, left-wing, democratic culture.
Leftists can build relationships with left-led unions. To the point above, some unions already experience the vibrant and militant internal life that is the goal for many on the Left to achieve when they get jobs on the shop floor of existing bargaining units. We could be building relationships with such unions to assess opportunities for collaboration — on new organizing, working-class legislative goals (like the new rent laws in New York), solidarity in the midst of pitched industrial battles, and much more.
Leftists can support or build workers centers. Workers centers are one of the more creative organizational forms generated in the recent decades of general labor movement decline. At their inception, they did not aim to negotiate collective bargaining agreements like traditional unions, but rather they organized low-wage workers to fight the boss, often using wage-and-hour violations as leverage...
This is especially important with respect to the looming environmental crisis — if we cannot pivot the bulk of the existing labor movement to a coordinated approach to transitioning to a sustainable economy, there will be no labor movement because there will be no humans to populate it.
Leftists can run campaigns and win elections. If it weren’t for Bernie Sanders bringing democratic socialism to the millions through a Democratic Party presidential primary, we would not have the current scale of organized left to even host the discussion we’re having right now about labor strategy. There are stakes to this debate in part because there is an organization with nearly sixty thousand members that could really take a crack at deep and serious involvement in the labor movement. At this level alone, elections matter and should be understood as an essential tactical element of left labor strategy.
Projects like Labor for Bernie suggest further possibilities — leverage high-profile elections to build connections with and among regular workers who have politics to the left of their unions. Such projects are another potential path to identifying and cohering shop floor leaders, even if they don’t fit the typical mold.
Read the entire piece on Jacobin.
reposted with permission,
Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect
At its biennial convention last weekend in Atlanta, DSA (which, with 56,000 members, is now the largest American socialist organization in the memory of anyone under 80) passed a headline-grabbing resolution declaring that it would not endorse any Democrat save Bernie Sanders in next year’s November presidential runoff.
The vote on the resolution was actually fairly close, though support for Sanders in the primaries is overwhelming within the organization. And its proponents provided a number of qualifications and caveats, making clear that DSA members are free to campaign for the eventual Democratic nominee if they so choose, and that in 2016, DSA locals did campaign against Trump (and members for Hillary) in swing states.
Still, inasmuch as DSA locals work closely with immigrant-protection groups, and the national organization has called for the abolition of ICE, it could be difficult to explain to undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers, facing deportation and family separation, why the group won’t join its allies in a forthright fight to dump Trump.
However, I find myself of two minds in assessing DSA’s position. As a member of the organization and one of its predecessors (the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee) for the past 44 years, I’m embarrassed and regretful that my organization hasn’t grasped the primacy and urgency of joining, in a public and full-blown way, the battle to rid the world of Trump. In 1944, the U.S. Communist Party effectively, if temporarily, self-abolished so its members could support Franklin Roosevelt’s re-election bid, as part of the fight against fascism. To be sure, that move came at the behest of Joseph Stalin, whose nation was allied with ours in the existential battle against Hitler. But for all its myriad and ultimately fatal flaws, and granting that its self-abolition was a typical CP overreaction, the U.S. Communist Party understood the gravity of the fascist threat. Why not DSA?
That’s the reaction of my DSA mind. But partly through my long-ago work with DSOC, which led to my political work for some left-wing unions, which led to my own work for left-wing candidates and causes, I also seem to have a political-consultant mind. And that mind tells me that the eventual Democratic presidential nominee needs the formal endorsement of DSA like a hole in the head. Where DSA is strong and where socialist and progressive candidates can win—generally, in cities with substantial populations of millennials, immigrants, and minorities—a DSA endorsement can make all the difference, producing scads of the most tireless precinct walkers and dedicated phone-bankers. It has made that difference in New York, Chicago, and any number of smaller cities. In nearly every state, and certainly in the nation at large, however, a DSA endorsement would be one more item on the bill of particulars the Republicans would hurl at the Democratic nominee in hopes of revving up more of their right-wing base. In every encounter with reporters, the nominee would be pressed about DSA’s endorsement. Just as well, says my consultant mind, that DSA takes a pass—particularly since I have no doubt most of my fellow members will end up helping that Democratic nominee in states where that help matters.
Read the essay
Media coverage of the DSA convention.
The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/aug/06/democratic-socialists-us-alexandria-ocasio-cortez-bernie-sanders
DSA convention and North Star made the New York Times.
The opinions expressed here are those of members and allies of DSA North Star Caucus meant to educate, inspire discussion and encourage comradely debate.