Capitalism is a system based on exploitation, one that robs us of our time, freedom, dignity, and creativity. Every day the capitalist class increases its rule over our lives, not only in our workplaces, but with respect to where we live, how we receive care for our health and well-being, who controls our public institutions – even our free time to enjoy the first days of spring, play with our kids, or be there for our loved ones in times of need. On a global scale, the endless pursuit of profit threatens humanity with the specter of economic crisis, ecological catastrophe, and war.
Socialism is a system where the economy is democratically planned by the working class for the benefit of society as a whole. As Marxists, we are tasked with building the consciousness and capacity of working people to fight for the transition from capitalism to socialism. We must cultivate organization and struggle in and across our workplaces and communities, forging genuine solidarity among fellow workers and uniting our class as a class towards collective self-emancipation.
… lay the groundwork for a mass socialist party, one that is capable of unifying our forces and linking single-issue campaigns for higher pay, better housing, and universal healthcare to the overall goal of advancing socialism.
The DSA must take a leading role in building up a highly-coordinated and independent workers’ movement that can lay the groundwork for a mass socialist party, one that is capable of unifying our forces and linking single-issue campaigns for higher pay, better housing, and universal healthcare to the overall goal of advancing socialism. To this end, we must fight for an increasingly militant labor movement and democracy in our organizations in order to elevate the class struggle at every point of potential conflict.
The following principles unite us as a caucus:
1. Workers and Unions
Workplace organizing and unions are an important vehicle for raising class consciousness, developing fighting capacity, and building class organization. Socialists should support and participate in unionization, strikes, shop floor actions, negotiations, and union reform wherever such activities contribute to the above goals. But we must not stop there.
The reality is that capitalist initiative (capital flight, the gig economy, etc.), existing labor law (the Wagner Act, Taft Hartley, etc.), and dominant approaches to unionism (craft unionism, undemocratic practices, etc.) undercut the ability for unions to evolve into class-wide power. Furthermore, most existing unions are not only uninterested in but also incapable of organizing large sections of the working class. This is on top of the inherent challenges around progressing beyond narrower interests, whether by sector, trade, employer, or front of the house vs. back of the house. Therefore, socialists must lead within workplace and union struggles in order to stoke class consciousness and help realize the potential of these struggles to build towards something greater.
There is still another major obstacle, though – the capture of labor unions by the Democratic Party.
2. A Mass Socialist Party
We need a movement and political party for the working class that is grounded in Marxist principles where the socialist movement is merged with radicalized labor to win over a critical mass of working class support. Together, our struggle will be to overcome capitalism and implement the transition to socialism.
In America, capitalists dominate politics through the two major parties, many existing unions, any NGO that isn’t exclusively member-funded, and all charitable foundations. Meanwhile, the working class has no voice, much less control, at their individual places of employment or in the political arena. A working class takeover of the Democratic Party on the grounds that it is the “more progressive” of the two capitalist parties is a dead end. The Democratic Party’s underlying logic is dictated by the interests of capital, which are antagonistic to ours. This party’s role in capitalism is to function: 1) as a controlled opposition; and 2) be a mechanism by which the ruling class can diffuse any popular energies that could be harnessed for building a truly democratic society. We reject efforts by DSA chapters to contest Democratic Party leadership positions at the local level. We also reject ideas and groups that exist within DSA that channel our efforts into NGO coalitions where DSA is the junior partner and can only mobilize activists.
Working people are hungry for a coherent alternative to the two-party sham. Therefore we must work to build a full-fledged political organization that encompasses far more than elections, one that provides coherence and direction to the various struggles of workers such that they take on a class, rather than merely sectional, character. Operating as a party will allow our organizing to be more efficient, to reach more people, and to operate on a larger scale.
3. Electoral Discipline
We believe in running socialist candidates when and where our movement is strong enough so they’re actually subordinate to DSA. Endorsing progressives who employ a liberal theory of change once in office is counterproductive. The lack of standards has led to DSA electeds capitulating to the Democratic Party on domestic and foreign policy issues. DSA must field its own candidates, authentic socialists, who are subject to a high set of standards and democratic discipline while campaigning and in elected office. These candidates must pursue genuine oppositional politics and utilize the platform of political office to agitate for socialism, recruit to DSA, and drive people into organizing beyond the ballot box.
In many places, DSA lacks the strength to engage properly in electoral politics and campaigns can consume valuable resources that could be better used elsewhere. Building a strong movement outside of the electoral realm will make keeping socialist candidates accountable much easier and our movement more durable. Our electoral efforts should seek to reinforce and work in tandem with direct political confrontations with capitalists and their agents – unionization, democratization of existing unions, rent strikes, tenant unionization, etc.
Democracy, whether in DSA, trade unions, or society at-large, means that membership is always the most important decision-making body. The strongest organizations are those with the highest member engagement. If we are to believe in the ability of working people to develop class consciousness then we must also believe in their ability to actively participate within a democratic body. Low expectations and presumptions of ignorance are patronizing and create little incentive for leadership to meaningfully defer to the rank and file. Members must vote, stay engaged, and have their voices heard to exercise true ownership over an organization.
While we recognize the need to center membership, we also oppose structureless horizontalism. For organizations to be successful, there must be accountability and democratically-made decisions must have consequences. The ability of a member to work in support of a majority position established by the general membership is equally important to the freedom of the member to advance potentially unpopular ideas. By promoting proportional voting systems, which encourage turnout and better allow for elected bodies to fully reflect their constituencies, we seek to give more and more people the tools to participate, organize, and lead. It is of paramount importance to practice these democratic ideals within DSA in order to best translate these principles to the workplace and other socialist political projects.
5. Class Solidarity
Class struggle is the primary force behind social and political change. Solidarity as a whole working class is necessary to confront the capitalist class that uses prejudices to divide us so we never stand up to them. We oppose identity politics not because we oppose struggles for the liberation of groups from particular forms of oppression, or deny the existence of those oppressions. We recognize that these struggles concern – and so must be waged by – the entire working class.
Identity politics are a project of an elite political class. They seek to maintain their role as brokers, purporting to represent the interests of this or that group, but in actuality protect and benefit from their position as gatekeepers. Think of movement non-profits who use radical (and even socialist) rhetoric and spectacle, but financially depend on – and serve the interests of – Democratic Party machines. This closes off potential for the kind of mass working class organization that can fundamentally challenge the social and economic order. Uniting as a whole class, we can someday own and run the bakery, not just fight for a bigger piece of the pie.
In practice, we will keep ourselves rooted in forging class solidarity by prioritizing outward-facing organizing at points of class conflict, building member-funded and -directed organizations, and directly engaging with people in the places we live and work.
Class struggle is a global struggle. Capitalism and the struggle against it are not constrained by borders. If we are to confront capitalism and imperialism then socialists must organize as a global movement. Establishing relationships with socialist and workers’ parties around the world is essential to our common fight against global capitalism and neoliberalism. Socialists abroad, many of whom are leading successful movements in their own nations, have invaluable perspectives and experience that cannot be ignored. We want to create a common understanding and movement as a single working class across all borders and languages.