May Day 2018 Letter to DSA Comrades
We invite you to join us as founding members of a new caucus within Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). For now, we are calling ourselves DSA North Star: The Caucus for Socialism and Democracy. You can find our provisional statement of principles here. We are going public on May Day in honor of International Workers’ Day.
We are reaching out to DSA and YDSA members in all geographic regions of the country, and we are asking those of you receiving this statement to help with that outreach. Our movement right now in 2018 must focus on defeating as many of Trump’s allies in the Republican Congress as possible. To do that, we must ally with a broad array of forces in the resistance to the Trump Administration and its enablers.
The provisional statement of principles expands on our purposes for organizing. Suffice it to say here that all of us are committed to democracy as both a means and an end. Socialism cannot be achieved except through democratic struggle. “Come the revolution,” a society shaped by that struggle would be profoundly democratic and egalitarian. In advancing that struggle now, we all believe that socialists need to engage in the fights people are already waging for immediate demands. Most immediately, we define ourselves as loyal participants in the resistance to the Trump Administration and its allies in the Republican Congressional majority. Defeating Republicans in the 2018 election and removing Trump from office are minimal conditions to restore decency and democracy right now. We’ll work with lots of non-socialists to achieve those ends. And we will be clear that those minimal conditions are just that—minimal. In the broad majoritarian struggle, we will work alongside our allies while seeking to educate them and the broader US public about the need for fundamental changes in our economic, political and social life.
It’s an exciting time to belong to DSA. The most recent elections in Virginia, Montana and elsewhere demonstrate the great potential for democratic socialists to engage in and begin to transform US politics. We’re still living off some of the fantastic momentum of the 2016 Bernie Sanders campaign, where Senator Sanders forced his opponents and the media to deal with his self-identification as a democratic socialist. DSA has grown to more than 30,000 national members, with organized groups in nearly every state in the union. In many locations, DSA chapters have developed great programs of activity, ranging from Medicare for All advocacy, to electoral engagement, to defense of immigrant communities, tenant organizing and more.
So why organize a caucus at all and why now?
As stated above, socialists are starting to enter and to transform US politics. Keeping an eye on the prize of transforming US politics is what all of us signing this statement of principles think DSA is about. Unfortunately, we’ve seen some less healthy developments in the organization. Nearly 40 percent of the delegates to the recent national convention voted to reject any joint work with Our Revolution, the group explicitly organized by Senator Sanders’s supporters to carry on the work begun in the 2016 campaign. What was the objection to Our Revolution? It’s not pure enough. It doesn’t support only explicitly socialist candidates. That stance of political purism has a long and not a very proud tradition in US left politics. Those holding it end up isolating themselves—and DSA—from the very people we need to reach.
Even more disturbing, we’ve seen a trend of people, often operating through anonymous social media but sometimes identifying themselves openly, behaving in a manner that can be only described as toxic. They demonstrate a willingness to scrap any hint of due process or democratic deliberation and to organize digital mobs to enforce some sort of orthodoxy. If DSA heads down that path, the best outcomes would be driving good people away from DSA and a descent into irrelevance; a much worse outcome would be that an organization with a toxic internal culture infects the larger liberal left.
DSA can and must do better.
We hope you can and will choose to join the caucus by signing our provisional statement of principles.
Here’s our plan:
We’d appreciate your response to this letter and to our statement of principles. If you support the statement of principles, please sign on as a founding member of our caucus. If you disagree, we’d welcome further discussion.
DSA North Star: The Caucus for Socialism and Democracy
See who we are: www.dsanorthstar.org
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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