The Steering Committee of the North Star Caucus makes the following statement on the campaign to expel Jamaal Bowman from DSA and the political strategy and efforts behind these efforts.
THE CAMPAIGN TO EXPEL REP JAMAAL BOWMAN:
WE BELIEVE THAT DSA MUST ACT ON THE BASIS OF THE PRINCIPLES AND VALUES OF DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM
We of the North Star Caucus of DSA support our National Political Committee's decision not to expel Congressman Jamaal Bowman. In addition to the pragmatic reasons the NPC outlined in its statement, expulsion of a member for a partial dissent on a single issue profoundly betrays the founding organizational principles that we hold dear and believe have been -- and will be -- crucial to our integrity, survival, and growth.
DSA’s notion of democratic socialism is rooted in our origin as a pluralistic organization that, from our founding in 1982, brought together diverse strands of the left. To honor and continue that tradition, DSA must be an organization characterized by healthy dialogue and debate over tactical and strategic perspectives on how to advance and achieve democratic socialism. Our vision of democratic socialism is the basis for our shared politics, while also creating the space for diverse strategies, tactics, and points of view. This is what gives life to the notion of DSA as an inclusive, democratic socialist organization. This is what has made it possible for us to grow during a period of ascendant rightist politics.
It is that commitment to pluralism, rooted in the core values and politics put forth in the DSA Constitution, which guides our work.
DSA’s approach to political discussion and action means that we, as an organization, do not seek to impose a single course of action upon members who may be uncomfortable with specific programs and strategies. This organizational practice reflects our commitment to the democratic demands we place on society as whole. A democratic organization prioritizes consensus-building as the central principle of organization and governance.
Our effectiveness in modeling this approach to political discussion and action boosts recruitment and encourages participation, which strengthens the democratic praxis in our work.
This conception of how DSA has functioned in the past and should in the future was in conflict with the campaign to expel Congressman Jamaal Bowman.
The notion that expulsion is the best approach to deal with disagreements over tactics or strategy implies a highly centralized organization with little room for discussion and debate. Carried to the extreme, this approach would turn DSA into a cadre organization that operates with some version of centralized discipline which individual members – including elected officials – would be obligated to follow.
We welcome members from current or former Leninist organizations who have joined DSA, but DSA has grown in part because it has consistently rejected being an organization that imposes discipline on its members or expels members for having policy disagreements.
More to the point, a democratic socialist organization has no business dictating to members who have succeeded in winning election to public office. No accomplished, self-respecting politician would accept such demands, and neither would their voters. Only the politically inexperienced would expect otherwise. Principled criticism can be appropriate, but untoward, futile pretensions of control weaken the substantive force of any such criticism.
Whatever one might make of a century of failed efforts to build politically successful organizations along such cadre lines in the U.S., this perspective is clearly not a helpful guide in the current historical situation. Today in DSA, political leadership should not be imposed through organizational dicta, but must be exercised through a project of building political and cultural hegemony, in coalition with others in a broad progressive left.
The voluntary and enthusiastic support of the working class can only be earned through the power of persuasion, in a setting of comradely dialog inside DSA and in amicable external relations with the broad, progressive left.
We oppose any effort to expel allies or demonize fraternal, progressive formations. Only through dialogue, debate, and education, can we strengthen and clarify our own positions, attract more members, and work with allies in solidarity with oppressed people.
Demands to expel Rep. Bowman run up against political reality. DSA is not nearly strong enough to impose our will on Bowman, AOC, Sanders, or others who are elected by a constituency much broader than ourselves. That path ends in isolation and political failure.
Congressman Bowman’s actions regarding BDS, Palestine and Israel in no way come close to being in substantial disagreement with DSA. Resolutions passed at DSA conventions are not indivisible measures requiring absolute adherence.
We therefore agree with the NPC decision to not expel allies such as Rep. Bowman. Rather, through dialogue, debate, and education, we can strengthen and clarify our own positions, win more members, and work with new allies in solidarity with oppressed people.
We hope that comradely dialogue will enable us to move beyond the current conflict and re-focus our efforts on forging an effective approach to international peace and solidarity work.
Steering Committee. North Star Caucus.
December 7, 2021
The opinions expressed here are those of members and allies of DSA North Star Caucus meant to educate, inspire discussion and encourage comradely debate.
North Star caucus member pages
antiracismdsa (blog of Duane Campbell)
Hatuey's Ashes (blog of José G. Pérez)
Authory and Substack of Max Sawicky
Online University of the Left
The Washington Socialist
In These Times
Black Agenda Report
Working Families Party
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