After the conclusion of the “largest socialist organization in the US” comic con we have to say it’s much ado about nothing. Anyone new to leftist politics could easily fall in the trap of DSA propaganda with its personality cults centered around AOC, the Squad and Sanders (even though Bernie isn’t even a DSA member), believing that finally after all these decades of weakness and insignificance socialism is back in the mainstream and building momentum. Who could fault someone for thinking there was actual substance to an organization claiming over 100,000 members with prominent politicians leading the charge?
But just as is the case with all US politics the substance behind the propaganda is practically nil. Marketing has always been a strong suit of America, learning to sell cheap products for maximum profit which we consume and find nowhere close to the level of satisfaction we were sold on. The DSA is no different. In fact this was acknowledged by veteran member Maria Svart when she opened the convention admitting membership growth has stagnated well below the “100,000 membership” claim.
We must also ask what is the quality of the DSA membership? How many members are actually organizing workers on the basis of a revolutionary socialist politics in their communities and how many are just paper members who joined because they thought the squad was cool? Based on the national impact DSA has had for the working class we can conclude there’s nothing to show. No national reforms such as a $15 minimum wage have been won (despite prior promises by Biden to do so), the heavily promoted PRO Act and it’s supposed mass mobilization by DSA members has also flopped. The Medicare for All campaign has stalled with DSA politicians dropping it for opportunistic peace with imperialist liberals inside their capitalist party. Even the call for “defunding the police” was de facto abandoned with DSA politicians actually enabling the funding of cops under the banner of “national security” against the supposed “fascist coup” on January 6th.
There has only ever been one hope for the DSA to redeem itself to live up to the title of a socialist organization and it would require purging the organization of all right-wing opportunists who refuse to break from their allegiance to the imperialist Democratic Party. As we spelled out in our prior article “What Socialism is and What it Aint” nowhere have revolutionary socialists ever advocated abandoning political independence for workers. And the fabled “dirty break” argument that has come to dominate the DSA was rebuked at the comic con not in favor of a clean break to establish necessary class independence, but just acknowledged the reality that the DSA has only ever had any relevance because of its strong ties to the imperialist Democratic Party and to break from it would mean political irrelevance.
In our time among the Left over the last decade or two we’ve come to terms with the fact the working class is historically weak, both within the US and across the world. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the destruction of labor unions worldwide the working class has not been in a position of power to assert its class interests on a national stage, let alone a global stage. We still have not recovered from decades of defeat. The infrastructure the class once had to wage militant mass campaigns no longer exists and much of that blame can be attributed not just to the capitalist class but to the dominance of liberals and opportunists within the remaining worker organizations who’ve kept them tied to the imperialist Democratic Party. Rather than challenge this status quo the DSA has embraced it, after all there’s a material benefit for those who choose to side with the enemy – paid staff jobs in the Party, in the unions, in other NGOs. Why sacrifice your shortsighted interests in a career for the cause of revolutionary socialism? Bourgeois society tells us this is insane, that instead we can find our own little niche under capitalism so long as we play nice. The DSA has never refuted it, in fact its founder Michael Harrington established the DSA on such premises.
Despite the fearmongering from capitalists and their institutions in the schools, churches, and corporate media, the “socialism” of groups like the DSA have never posed an existential threat to the capitalist class, nor does the majority of its membership have a desire to. They are happy to remain opportunists who betray not just the US working class, but the global working class as well. They will call us “sectarian”, “dogmatic”, or even “ultra left” for not overlooking their opportunism, but we actually want a worker democracy and the working class to have state power by smashing the capitalist state and its institutions used to exploit and oppress us. We are not here to reform these institutions, it’s impossible to reform them or integrate into them for the purposes of socialism, this is a basic truism of socialist theory and history, it’s only the revisionists who attempt to erase these facts for their own material gain.
The reality is if we want socialism we have to build independent worker organization from scratch and through class struggle starting on the local level, proving to local workers we can offer them an alternative to the stinking corpse of liberal politics, this has always been our objective as New River Workers Power and unlike other so called socialists we have a track record of demonstrating this across the NRV.
To those well-meaning folks still stuck in the DSA it’s your obligation to wage a merciless fight against the opportunism of the DSA and it’s politicians. It’s beyond reasonable doubt that the organization and its leadership have proven their commitment to bourgeois democracy against worker democracy. Nothing will fundamentally change until we relearn the lessons of past generations of militant socialists who sacrificed their lives for socialist revolution. We must understand the differences between principled socialism and these welfare capitalist-minded people, only then can any meaningful unity happen. In the meantime we’ll continue our work across the NRV in organizing workers into worker-controlled organizations such as the New River Tenants Union and the NRV Industrial Workers of the World to fight local bosses and landlords. We don’t need the superficial brand recognition of an opportunist organization like the DSA to effect material change, it clearly hasn’t helped them.