By Chris Riddiough
(Aug 31, 2022) In his response to Gong and French and Abbott and Duhalde, Max Sawicky writes, “The unpleasant truth is that DSA is snow-white, and the U.S. working class is not.” I would add another element to that. Not only is the working class not ‘snow-white,’ the group of DSA elected officials is not snow-white either. Why is this? Why is an organization that is so predominantly white represented in elected office by people who are very diverse? I don’t think it’s because of a conscious effort by the National Electoral Committee or by the chapters.
Max goes on to say, “I happen to think there are many black socialists…” and I would agree with him. And I would agree with another statement he makes – that calling on someone else to do something, as Gong and French do, is a non-starter. So, the question is what do we do?
One thing I would suggest is that we (DSA nationally and locally) work to develop relationships with these elected officials. That’s happened in some places, like Washington, DC, but certainly not nationally. One step that would help would be to get the NPC to unleash Maria Svart and allow her to act like a real leader of DSA. She could then make connections to the national elected officials (and some of the key state and local officials). If we build those relationships, we can work with the electeds to do outreach to the communities they represent. That would help broaden DSA’s base in the long run. There is, of course, much more planning and strategic thinking that would need to go into this.
There is one more element that is missed by all the authors – women – women voters, women elected officials, women activists…. Women. Not only is DSA snow-white but the vast majority of members are men. Yet as is typical of the Left, women’s liberation/socialist feminism are given short shrift. Just as the race of elected officials is much more diverse than in the DSA population, so is the gender. But that’s symbolic of how the left ignores women’s liberation.
If we observe polling data, we see that more women vote than men, more women vote Democratic, more women say they’re liberal, more women care about the issues we in DSA care about. The day after Trump’s inauguration millions of women marched in cities large and small, not only around the United States, but around the world. DSA did have a contingent in Washington, DC (the crowd was so big that I couldn’t get close to it) but has done little since. Today there is a lot of focus on reproductive justice both inside and outside of DSA, but basically it’s a side issue for DSA, if not for the millions of women whose lives will be drastically affected by the Supreme Court decision.
Including women in whatever ‘united front’ might emerge in coming years is essential to building a socialist society – it’s not just a side issue. Our labor organizing needs to take into account the recent wave of strikes and other labor action that involve fields dominated by women – education, health care, and, more recently, pink collar work like Starbucks baristas and Trader Joe’s checkers. (This recent wave of organizing is great but would be even greater if it started to include pink collar workers like McDonald’s workers.) The labor movement is no longer focused as it has been on blue collar workers (although when I hear ‘labor’ in a DSA setting I can almost see the burly guys with hammers [and sickles?]).
And I don’t want to pick on the labor movement, this is true of all our initiatives. We must develop strategies that allow us to reach out to women because they should be among the most likely people in the US to support our goals. We have to talk with women, and we have to listen to them. We need to find out women’s concerns and act on them in our electoral work, our labor work, our work on the Green New Deal. Any united front must include women’s organizations, women’s ideas, women’s issues, and women or it’s bound to fail.
(Chris Riddiough is a founding member of DSA and has been on the National Political Committee. She has been active in the women’s and LBGT+ movements for close to 50 years.)
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antiracismdsa (blog of Duane Campbell)
Hatuey's Ashes (blog of José G. Pérez)
Authory and Substack of Max Sawicky
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In These Times
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Black Agenda Report
Dollars and Sense
Working Families Party
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Democracy for America
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Jewish Voice for Peace
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National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights