Over three years ago, a group of close to two hundred DSA members came together to form the DSA North Star caucus. Many of us were veterans of decades of activism on the U.S. left and in DSA. A smaller number were younger, new to the left and DSA. What we had in common was a belief that the US was at a pivotal political moment, with the defeat of Donald Trump and the Trumpist GOP in the 2020 election being a political imperative. At stake was whether or not the U.S. would devolve into an openly authoritarian state of the far right with racism at its core, or maintain the elements of a democratic government we now possess, such as free and fair elections.
The founders of DSA North Star thought that DSA could and should play an important role in that struggle. There was extraordinary potential in DSA, given the growth of our ranks after the organization’s role in the 2016 campaign of Bernie Sanders and 2018 campaign of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But we were concerned that the caucuses that had organized in DSA up to that point did not share our estimation of the importance of defeating Trump, and were instead guided by a sectarian opposition to meaningful involvement in electoral politics, either because they would only support third party candidacies or because they were electoral abstentionists. DSA North Star was a vehicle for advancing our political perspective on what DSA should do.
From its beginning, DSA North Star was something of an anomaly among DSA caucuses. We did not look to capture positions in the DSA leadership, but were happy to support NPC candidates from other caucuses whom we thought would make good leaders. We were not concerned if members of our caucus were also members of other caucuses, or of other democratic left organizations outside of DSA. Indeed, it was our experience that ultra-left and sectarian attitudes toward the world outside of DSA was invariably combined with factionalism inside the organization, and we were opposed to both. Over the three years of our existence, our major interventions inside DSA and the left – our statement of principles; our letter in support of AOC when she came under attack by ultra-leftists in DSA’s ranks; our letter of prominent socialists inside and outside DSA calling for a vote for Biden in 2020 that was published in the Nation; the essay by a number of our leading members of the dangers of entryism; our public forums – have been defined by a politics that sought to rise above sectarianism and factionalism to address the key questions of our moment.
After three years of existence, it is time to take stock of who we are and where we want to go. Part of the reason for doing so is take a look at what has changed – and not changed – in the politics of the U.S. Has the threat of a racist authoritarianism of the far right passed, or does it remain the defining issue of our day? And in what ways has DSA’s politics changed over the last three years? Do ultra-leftism, sectarianism and factionalism pose the same sort of danger within DSA that they did when we were formed? We should not assume that we are of a single mind on such questions, although we may well be, but instead have a full and robust discussion so we know for certain where we stand.
And part of the reason is that other caucuses in DSA are changing in ways that will impact us, and to which we will have to respond. One caucus has reached out to us and told us that they will tell their members who are also members of North Star that they can no longer remain members of both caucuses, and will have to make a choice between the two caucuses. How do we respond?
On the steering committee, there is common agreement on the value of continuing to articulate and organize our politics, inside DSA and the broader left. What is less clear is this: should we continue to call ourselves a caucus, even though we are different from other DSA caucuses in some major ways, or should we adopt a different term, such as a network, which may better describe the work we have done inside DSA and our views toward the broader left? The differences here may seem more semantic than practical, but how we choose to describe ourselves is a political choice, a statement of both of who we believe we are and of how we relate to the political world around us. It is a semantic choice that should be taken with care and deliberation.
We invite your thoughts. No decision has been made at this time.
A lively discussion among North Star members is continuing on our North Star list serve.
DSA North Star: The Caucus for Socialism and Democracy".