New Caucus "Revolutionary Power" launched for YDSA’s 2020 Convention
We are happy to publish here the declaration of Revolutionary Power, a new caucus of Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA). The formation of this revolutionary socialist current in YDSA is a welcome step towards politicizing and strengthening YDSA and can help to lay the basis for a powerful revolutionary Marxist wing of YDSA and DSA. While we have some political differences with their statement, we are learning a lot from very fruitful discussions with these comrades. We look forward to continuing these discussions and collaboration, with the aim of achieving deeper political agreement on the politics and methods of revolutionary Marxism.
The statement from Revolutionary Power stands out to us for its embrace of revolutionary politics, its support for DSA taking a principled stand in the 2020 presidential elections by endorsing Howie Hawkins or Gloria la Riva, advocating for DSA to actively work towards a Democratic Socialist Party as a step towards a mass workers party, and its efforts to win YDSA to launching a campaign against police brutality and for Black Lives.
We are looking forward to more exchange over how to translate the revolutionary spirit of this statement into a more concrete set of policies and ideas for taking DSA forward. In our view, Marxists need to have an orientation, strategy, and a program to build mass support for our ideas within YDSA and DSA, but also the wider working class. We believe united front methods, a transitional approach that links immediate struggles with a revolutionary strategy, and principled mass work are key elements of Marxist strategy that we look forward to discussing further with the comrades of Revolutionary Power.
-- Reform & Revolution Steering Committee
In a moment of incredible upheaval for Black lives, of new debates about socialism, in the search for a political revolution against the billionaire class, but also of reactionary tendencies reflected in the reign of Donald Trump, a right-wing openly racist demagogue encouraging and empowering the most ruthless exploitation of people and the planet, empowering white supremacists and Nazis. In this contradictory time, we have a unique opportunity to build YDSA into an active, campaigning and organizing force to fight for the end of capitalism, oppression, imperialism and war.
We welcome the debates within YDSA and the different political tendencies YDSA brings together. Within that spectrum, we believe it's time to organize a strong voice of those of us who believe that only a solution grounded in the power of revolution—of pursuing powerful and transformative solutions—can bring about socialism in the US. The task is not to separate us from all the large and small ongoing struggles against the brutalities of the oppressive system we live under, but to organize to make YDSA a force within those struggles and to offer within YDSA revolutionary socialist ideas to build toward the fundamental change we need. Several YDSA members from around the country are postulating this vision for the YDSA 2020 Summer Convention under the banner of ‘Revolutionary Power’. You can join us by signing up here.
Who Are We?
Revolutionary Power is a caucus of YDSA students across the country organizing during the YDSA 2020 Convention towards a just world. You can join us here. We believe that this justice can only emerge from a truly revolutionary outlook, and the time for that vision is now. When we speak about a revolutionary outlook, we mean to focus on the potential and the need of the working class to reorganize society, to abolish the power of corporations and the capitalist class, to establish a democratic, socialist society where the resources of society are used to end poverty, fight racism, discrimination and oppression, to overcome the heritage of class rule and the legacy of racial, sexual identity or sexual orientation based oppression. To achieve such a fundamental change, we need a mass membership, democratically organized political party of, for and by the multiracial working class with an internationalist, revolutionary socialist outlook and program. We can and we will contribute to that task.
We reject the idea that this state, built on the genocide of Indigenous peoples, the enslavement and commodification of Black people, and the continual subjugation and erasure of all people of color, the exploitation of the working class and imperialist interventionism on a global scale will peacefully hand over power. We also reject the idea that the moment for revolutionary action can be called upon in an elitist perception or in some small sect. We say that revolutionary action is distinct from tepid reformism, or from elitist adventurism!
Truly revolutionary action must be based upon the collective power of the multiracial working class. Within the context of YDSA as the largest student socialist organization in the US, we are committed to building support for revolutionary socialist politics within the broader socialist movement, specifically within a future mass socialist party. We have seen that the youth have historically compromised the most radical sections of any worker’s movement, such as the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution, therefore, our goal is to grow the movement of radical youth and organize them in such a way that they lead the struggle, serving as a vanguard towards socialism. In this global moment of hopeful uprising, it is our responsibility to build a mass socialist movement on principled foundations - one that avoids the traps of reformism and sectarianism which so crippled the left over the past century - that can lead in the day to day struggles of working and oppressed peoples for reforms as part of a revolutionary struggle to finally put an end to the fundamentally exploitative and oppressive system of global capitalism.
Now is the time—power to the people!
The Need for a Revolutionary Vision
When we advocate for “a truly revolutionary outlook”, many eyebrows are raised. Questions arise about a reformist vision, where the existing capitalist state can be utilized by the multiracial working class to gradually overcome the power of the ruling class. As many of us have joined DSA through the radicalizing nature of the Bernie campaign, we are aware of the power of electoral work and of the hope and the experience gained in struggles for concrete improvements that come from the fights for reforms.
As revolutionaries, we still support bold reforms such as Medicare for All, tuition free college education, a Green New Deal, stronger unions, immigrant rights and so on. However, we recognize that such reforms can only be won through determined mass struggle from below against the opposition of the capitalist class. Furthermore, as long as capitalism remains intact, substantial reforms will be unstable and temporary, and will be undermined and rolled back by the ruling class as soon as our movements ebb. Such reforms can only be secured if the underlying system of capitalism is overthrown and the multiracial working class takes over the running of society. For these reforms to make meaningful and transformative change in the lives of oppressed peoples everywhere, they must come about as part of an intentional path towards revolution. We must fight to dull the weapons of the ruling class and to improve the conditions of the oppressed—but our goal in this struggle is not reform for reform’s sake. Instead, our goal must be to end the systems of oppression themselves.
This means that there is a necessity for an explicitly revolutionary vision—a vision in addition to that of the reformist and other factions that currently dominate DSA. We want to, in the absence of this vision in large sections of DSA, propagate it. We believe that it will take many of these radicalizing moments to recognize the violent nature of the state and the only way to defeat it, and for that, there must be a space for these organizers to come to.
Alchemy, or Marxism?
Revolutionary Power is staunchly Marxist. We follow in the tradition of Marx, Engels, Luxemburg, and Lenin, while taking on the pertinent ideas of other revolutionary socialists that we’ll formulate over comradely debate. We are focused on creating socialism in our time. Being Marxists means that we believe that the history of society is the history of classes fighting for power. Within capitalism, the ruling capitalist class steals wealth from the worker by exploiting their necessity of money for their own profit. They will create systems of free domestic labor, imperial resource exploitation, slavery, and more in their quest for their continued profits and power. Through imperialism and racism, capitalist powers have sought to create different systems of tyranny, such as slavery, colonialism, neocolonialism, sexism, queerphobia, and so on. As Marxists, we do not shy from the struggles they present, but recognize that we must stand in solidarity with our Black, brown, indigenous, women, LGBTQ and international comrades in the long struggle for not only the liberation of a white, male, cis-hetero working class, but of the entire working class. This entire system, from the military to the educational system, is what is known as a state. A ruling class will create a state to maintain its rule and oppress the classes beneath it — it was designed entirely for this purpose. This framework shows us that an exploitative capitalist state cannot be reformed into another. Such a state must be destroyed to create a new state to secure the revolution and to organize the running of society by the multiracial working class.
Yet, most people enter struggles against capitalism and oppression for this or that reform, meaning improvement for the life of working class and oppressed people. That's a welcome and needed point of entry to the resistance against this system! The struggles for Medicare for All, the fight for College for All, abolishing all student debt, a Green New Deal, police abolition, and anti-imperialism measures such as BDS - these are bold struggles to improve the lives of the working class and oppressed people. Within capitalism, it is extremely difficult to enforce this or that step forward under the rule of the markets and profits. For us, these struggles are objectively linked to the overthrow of capitalism, whether people entering those struggles are aware of that or not. In the struggle for reforms we can radicalize people when they see the difficulty of every reform, ultimately until they see the necessity for a revolution.
On the other side, there are leaders such as Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who want to keep these struggles for reforms within the framework of capitalism. Reform as an end in itself only strengthens the stranglehold of the oppressor far more than it advances the liberation of the people. This is what we call reformism. This reformism is pacification. So is the refusal to acknowledge revolution. If we allow these struggles and concessions to exist outside the framing of true revolution, we legitimize a neoliberal claim that progress is being made.
Others would call themselves ardent Marxists, yet not acknowledge that in as fundamental of a text as The Communist Manifesto, Marx himself asserts that their goals “can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.” Indeed, these groups have seemingly ignored this simple text. We so explicitly emphasize the need for a revolutionary vision because we believe it is necessary if we are to materially transform the conditions of the multiracial working class. The heart of this vision is a radical reimagining of what the world can be. The spark of actual transformative change is not to think smaller, but to dream bigger.
We also warn of the dangers of sectarianism. Sectarianism counterposes a revolutionary program with the real, living movement of the working class. Rather than connecting the most radical sections of workers with mass struggles, it isolates revolutionary elements from the majority, serving to deepen the political control of reformist leaders over the working class. We fundamentally reject sectarianism by always putting the interests of the movement of the multiracial working class first and foremost. As Marxists we believe the role of revolutionaries is to be organically part of the actual movements of the oppressed as the most committed and effective fighters, who work to win the trust and political support of the majority of the working class. Even more dramatic is when they disagree upon minor intricacies, proving the further danger of sectarianism. Infighting regarding the minutial intricacies of our individual visions of liberation does not only impede progress, it also serves little purpose in our collective fight for transformation.
Furthermore, there do exist certain sects which are not hurt by their size, but rather by having a line that presumes the revolution is right around the corner, or that the only path forward is one of adventurism disguised as “leftism”. In action, it pits the so-called vanguard against the state—to quote Lenin in “Left-Wing” Communism, “to throw only the vanguard into the decisive battle, before ... the broad masses, have taken up a position either of direct support for the vanguard, or at least of sympathetic neutrality towards it and of precluded support for the enemy, would be, not merely foolish but criminal”. Consequently, a revolution of the many requires the great masses—not a menagerie of sects, but a powerful proletariat, united in its march towards liberation!
The Youth as the Vanguard
We do not seek to build a revolutionary wing within YDSA simply to fulfill a vague ideological space, but with a specific purpose in mind. Through the fight for reforms, constant agitation, and the contradictions of capitalism coming to a head, we see that a revolutionary crisis is brewing that will rupture the old and bring forth a new workers' state. To help steward towards that moment, the most radical sectors of the multiracial and multi-identity working class will manifest themselves as the leaders, or the vanguard of the working class. When we use this term, it is not to say we are dictating the movement from above, but that we should work to educate others into revolutionary Marxism. We have seen historically that the youth are often the most radical, with the most time for socialist organizing. Therefore, YDSA does not simply constitute a “kiddie table” of the broader socialist movement, but potentially its most radical base. Our view of YDSA is a confident one, where YDSA can develop into a mass socialist youth movement all across the country that will shake our society to its foundations.
Chief among our concerns are the creation of a socialist, working class party, but to go further, we see our goal as a caucus to be a powerful presence for revolutionary Marxism within that party and YDSA today, constantly reminding and publicizing the eventual need for a revolution to abolish the capitalist state and replace it with a worker’s state. We are not simply trying to advance socialism as students, but to develop the vanguard that is necessary to build a mass working class movement that can take on the billionaire class and carry through a socialist revolution. This involves advancing the capacity of YDSA and whatever socialist party we create, while also building our own organizational capacity to turn organizers into revolutionary Marxists.
Towards this end we emphasize a strategy centered on a dual task: the agitation of the masses while the contradictions and stratification of capitalism intersected with white supremacy and imperialism takes shape, and building towards a mass working class party with a socialist program that can lead a revolutionary struggle to its end. This means we are fighting for reforms in a united front with other members of the working class and progressive movement, while maintaining our independence in policy and organization to show our comrades the failures of reformism, electoralism and why Marxist politics are far more effective to win the improvements we are fighting for together. It means we are unabashedly anti-racist, anti-imperialist and seek to make connections with comrades in the US and abroad committed to our vision. It means we are committed to combining the tools of reform and agitation to set the stage for the revolutionary moment, linking the two whenever possible. This caucus, then, is a manifestation of this dual task: we are working to build YDSA while creating the space and agitation for Revolutionary Power.
We acknowledge that a struggle grounded in vague projects would inevitably devolve into so many empty words. With that understanding in mind, and in light of this historic global moment, we propose a set of resolutions for the convention. These are meant not for YDSA to become a spittle-throwing outlet of revolutionary fervor, but to take grounded steps in powerful demands against the capitalist state and to develop the forces necessary to build YDSA on the rocky road ahead. With that acknowledged, we present the following platform.
The Here and Now: Our Platform for the 2020 YDSA Convention
We will now explain our platform, our concrete resolutions, for the upcoming convention. These are divided into three main issues that we would like to focus on: the recent revolt in response to the murder of George Floyd and so many others, the upcoming general election in November and how we move forward as socialists to build a true working class party.
An Uprising for Black Lives
The United States of America is a state founded on the enslavement of Black people and the genocide of Indigenous people. This violent exploitation and oppression of the most marginalized communities among us is not just a historical fact — it is an ongoing violence.
This state has never and will never prioritize or protect Black and brown lives. The disproportionate effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on these communities is a well-documented example of this passive violence. According to the CDC, “New York City identified death rates among Black/African American persons (92.3 deaths per 100,000 population) and Hispanic/Latino persons (74.3) that were substantially higher than that of white (45.2) persons.” Between living conditions, work circumstances, lower access to healthcare, and a government’s refusal to meaningfully address any of these issues, the state has obviously no regard for these lives.
But even further than this passive violence, this country has historically committed and continues to commit active violence against its people—specifically Black people. The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are not isolated incidents; instead, they are only the latest in a long history of murder, assault, and harassment of Black people by the state, and specifically, by the police state.
This should not come as a surprise. The central function of the police in America has always been the oppression of BIPOC people and the protection of capitalism. Indeed, it is impossible to separate that violent institution of oppression from its origins, having begun as slave patrols and strikebreakers. The institution of police serves a state that sees Black people as nothing but capital to be exploited.
The role of DSA in this moment is not one of a teacher, calmly explaining Marxism while Black people are being murdered by police officers, but rather one that acknowledges and upholds the fight for Black liberation and connects it to the broader anticapitalist struggle for true freedom. We affirm that we must connect the issues of racial liberation to class liberation, and not the other way around.
Knowing this, we stand in solidarity with Black organizers across the country in an uprising for Black lives. We recognize that to truly end racism this system must be overthrown. We affirm that Black Lives Matter.
So if reform cannot stop the violence of the police, how should we go about securing true racial justice?
It’s Time to Talk About and Commit to Abolishing the Police
Revolutionary Power resolution "Abolish the Police" for YDSA convention here
Is it not surprising that the liberal figures who dominate the politics of our largest cities have sprung to create the original, watered down version of the “8 Can’t Wait” reforms as a benchmark of demands? How sadly comical it is, that we are to believe that requiring an officer to report when they’ve murdered someone is going to stop police brutality! How obscene, that police forces have already reported following these demands, and yet they are to be lauded as effective reform! These demands do nothing because they do not actually stop a police officer from physically pulling the trigger, or choking the person. They do not decrease the amount of guns or police officers in the streets to commit the crimes. Therefore, any demand that does not explicitly take away the tools of abuse cannot be said to do much of anything. We warn all YDSA members to demand far more than these milquetoast ‘reforms’.
Currently, many cry out in the streets to “Defund the Police”, or in addition, “Demilitarize the Police”. These transitional demands are powerful steps toward weakening the oppressive police of the capitalist state, preparing the ground for its complete dismantling and replacement by a socialist state. Still, let us not be content with a weakened police force in the same way we must not be content with a weakened capitalist state. We desire the abolition of police in the same way we desire abolition of capital. As socialists, our end goal is the withering away of the state as a whole, and with it, the ability of one group to use violence for the oppression of the multiracial working class. However, this will not come about in a capitalist state, that can only be replaced. Did Marx not say so famously that we “disdain to conceal [our] views and aims” in the last chapter of The Communist Manifesto? So why then, would we call for only the barest minimum of a demand?
However, police dismantling, or total defunding, in the midst of a capitalist state will not truly abolish the police. Let us examine the Minneapolis case, for example. Within their dismantling, it was noted that such a process would last a year and does not actually disband the Minneapolis Police Department. Furthermore, it is well known in abolitionist spaces that replacing police with social workers, as some conceive, is not adequate.
The example of involuntary institutionalization makes one of the strongest cases for this. In Massachusetts, this is found in Sections 11 and 12 of MA General Law. Section 12, specifically, gives physicians the right to institutionalize someone by force for 72 hours. It also states that in an emergency where an examination by physician is not available, a police officer can do the same. This denial of autonomy is carceral by nature, and so is the involvement of police. Perhaps even more frightening is how social work has perpetuated and been weaponized by white supremacy—the same systemic oppression that created and is perpetuated by policing. A study published in The BMJ found that “some Black and minority ethnic groups are less likely to be offered psychotherapy, more likely to be offered drugs, and more likely to be treated by coercion.”
Outside of mental healthcare, social workers also have the ability to take children away from Black, brown, poor, and disabled families. This too is an extension of the carceral state. That said, a dismantling of a police force would certainly serve as a transitional reform, in that the ability of the state to explicitly exert its violent will on the people would be lessened.
Revolutionary Power will propose a resolution calling for YDSA to support the official demand at this moment to be “Abolish the Police”, and further elaborate that defunding and demilitarizing police forces are the minimum acceptable compromises. Furthermore, we will create two more slogans acknowledging that this is “An Uprising for Black Lives” and therefore justice for the instances of brutality, before and in the future, must be answered for in our local organizing. Finally, we will demand that funds from the police department must be divested into vital services, to “Fund Our Communities”. It is clear that we lack any semblance of adequate funding for public housing, mental health services, or even public libraries. It is vital that money we reclaim from bloated police budgets is used to empower communities. These funds should not be spent on arcane projects that do not produce tangible benefits for those who have been oppressed and marginalized by a racist and violent police state.
Stand in Solidarity, March for Black Liberation
Revolutionary Power resolution "Campaign for Justice for Black Lives" for YDSA convention here
It is not enough to cry out only after doing endless analysis in an ivory tower. We, as socialists, must fight on the front lines of this uprising to the best of our respective abilities. While some are well suited to doing research, others will find themselves developing materials, coordinating campaigns, providing food and medical treatment at demonstrations or physically risking their own bodies in the struggle.
DSA has historically been known for being a predominantly white and male organization, but that is not any reason for us to exclude ourselves from this moment. Rather, it is imperative that we stand in solidarity with the movement for Black Liberation.
When DSA and YDSA are able to mobilize their large memberships to attend protests, they are better able to push demands. Not only are the benefits from the increase in numbers obvious, but the understanding that DSA and YDSA, now well-established in city politics, are entering the fray with the same (if not more) radical demands, will increase pressure on the city to adopt said demands. The way to do this is not by subsuming the energy of the organization into another group out of misguided white guilt. When have performative displays of white guilt ever done anything for Black communities? The way is also not for DSA and YDSA to arrogantly decide their actions without any consideration for the community — this would be a liberal strawman. Rather, we encourage chapters to create and utilize the existing network of the Afrosocialists and Socialists of Color caucus that has already created incredible programming and brought strength to the movement in cities like New York and Seattle. We should take this opportunity to not only consult them, but to constitute them among our organization and proudly march forward with our own demands.
Furthermore, by being physically present in solidarity with protestors, we are able to agitate and distribute pamphlets, flyers, palm cards, and general exposure. We hope that DSA and YDSA marching on the front lines in support of Black Lives Matter will help build trust between our many communities. Far too many factions within DSA have ignored or avoided grappling with the specific and urgent needs of Black and brown communities across the country and it will be our responsibility to earn that trust. Eventually, we hope that the communities we reach out to will include people with the willingness not only to join, but to be an active and radicalizing force in the organization. On that note, YDSA should be able to not only create those materials, but at the very least provide enough resources to chartered YDSA chapters for a medium sized campaign.
For YDSA chapters, this includes a special emphasis on a student specific demand: removing police forces from schools. Whether it’s “Student Resource Officers” (SROs) that create a school to prison pipeline in marginalized communities, or private police forces with deputized powers that attack university activists and members of the communities around them, we must take the fight to our arenas and confront these egregious paramilitary forces that exist in our schools.
Therefore we propose that YDSA should, in our second resolution, call upon DSA to create a campaign for this moment, create a YDSA campaign based on our demands above, and distribute materials to all chapters with a reimbursement of up to $100 to fund that campaign.
Using Elections to Build Socialism
Contrary to what some may think upon hearing the term “Revolutionary Power”, we are not unaware that elections play a vital role in building the consciousness of the working class, providing a platform for building our organizations, and building struggles to ameliorate the worst excesses of the capitalist state. However, we are also not so defeatist that we will bow before a liberal establishment that has sought to destroy the Left through operations like COINTELPRO under Lyndon B. Johnson and the Bay of Pigs invasion under Kennedy. It’s clear that while the Republican Party is a national-conservative party that approaches fascism every passing day, the Democratic Party has seemed impregnable to any realignment, if indeed such a thing was ever possible.
The Bernie Sanders campaigns in 2016 and 2020 were monumental moments that resulted in an increase in class consciousness that led to membership increases for most socialist organizations, especially for DSA, which has skyrocketed to 70,000 members. Most of the Left has acknowledged this, including the Party of Socialism and Liberation, who critically supported Bernie in 2020! Thus, to say we oppose electioneering that shows the flaws in capitalism and capitalist politics would not only be theoretically wrong; in fact, it is a proven practical mistake. However, strategies that do not grapple with the various issues of capitalist electoralism as described above, and act upon those issues are not only doomed to fail, they hurt the movement by pacifying us. This topic is one that merits a much longer analysis, but we will endeavor to briefly explain our position.
Class struggle elections, defined by having a candidate clearly point out an enemy to working people and heighten the contradictions of capitalism, are possible, but they are not a given. To grow socialist agitation, we must constantly strive to create class struggle election scenarios where there is a key difference between a liberal Democrat or conservative Republican and use it as an organizing vehicle to recruit into DSA and into radical thought. We believe YDSA and DSA chapters need to use their endorsements to advance socialism, and that will occur by electing committed socialists to positions of power. Ideally, we’d be electing revolutionaries, but DSA is a big organization and this is not always possible.
However, a few major considerations can help ensure that our elected officials are accountable to the chapter and not separated from the movement. There are real pressures of careerism and toward the separation between elected officials and the working-class membership of the organization. To help check this, DSA should insist that all its members elected to political office take home no more than the average wage of a skilled worker in their area. The remainder of their salary should be donated to building the socialist movement and other worthy struggles.
It is also important to begin developing our approach of what we expect from these elected members and how DSA can have democratic input into their work. The development of a common platform will greatly assist in allowing DSA to hold political representatives democratically accountable to agreed policies.
DSA and YDSA should limit their national endorsements to candidates who are willing to publicly identify as a ‘socialist’. While it is tempting to snag victories with ‘progressives’, ultimately this dilutes the nature of a DSA candidate and the politics of DSA. For instance, they may hold views against BDS, a position opposed to anti-imperialism. We also believe chapters should seek to run candidates who are core members of their chapter to prevent conflicts between those in office who have the lucrative DSA endorsement and core members, along with more ideological consistency in regards to difficult votes, like those regarding police budgets. Campaigns should also be taken seriously with the goal to either win or increase the organizational capacity of the chapter and the general agitation of the masses, meaning we should see less blowouts electorally, which only hurt the reputation of the organization.
In the future, we must also strive to create a working class party that can be the basis of developing a mass class and socialist consciousness in the working class. Any strategy that pursues a realignment of the Democratic Party is not only as wrong as the generalized reformist strategy, but even within it. It fails to reconcile the events of the Bernie campaigns and the circling of the wagons we’ve seen in every single progressive challenge, such as the campaigning against Charles Booker, who does not even identify himself as a socialist. We fight for DSA to work towards the creation of a multiracial, multi-identity, mass membership working class party. This work must be done carefully and deliberately so as not to result in the irrelevance that has plagued the Green and Libertarian parties. We endorse a dirty break strategy: working within the Democratic line when applicable, to eventually rupture from them and create an ascendant new party. Yet we must differentiate ourselves in saying that we strive to advance the infrastructure and conditions by which this break is possible, and will seek to put in the monumental amount of work to make this happen.
With that said, we focus on two resolutions regarding the electoral sphere. They deal with the presidential election in November and the aforementioned democratic socialist party. This does not represent the totality of our views, but we recognize that it is undemocratic to submit a large portion of the resolutions being voted on and will continue to push for a truly socialist electoral policy.
The Election Continues, Vote Socialist
Revolutionary Power resolution "Joe Biden and the November 2020 Presidential Election" for YDSA convention here
It is a misguided notion that our work in the presidential race is over with the end of the 2020 Bernie Sanders campaign. Many people in the US engage with politics almost exclusively through the presidential contest . While local elections are a viable path to build power, the notion that we should sit out the Presidential race while the vast majority of Americans do not engage with local politics is a serious mistake.
Of course, endorsing Joe Biden is absolutely not the answer. Biden is against a leftist agenda, and has been credibly accused of sexual assault. Many DSA members, especially those in socialist feminist groupings, have called for DSA to explicitly not endorse Joe Biden and for him to drop out. We respect those calls and will be staunchly against any attempt to endorse Joe Biden. We are aware that a Biden presidency will not be a friend to the working class, and will need to mobilize intensely against their neoliberal overtures.
However, we are also against Donald Trump, who uses fascist iconography and is supported by a national conservative and white supremacist posse that seeks to destroy the rights and livelihoods of everyone outside of the most privileged communities. We do not support efforts that might inadvertently let such a demagogue win another term, especially in the current situation wherein it is nigh impossible to even imagine a third party candidate winning. This means our third party attempts should limit themselves to ‘safe states’, the vast majority of the population and electoral votes that do not typically swing in either party’s favor.
At this moment, it is time to survey our best remaining options. In order to challenge the widely held conception that mainstream politics are forever locked in this two party system, we must go beyond only agitating within the leftist circles that follow DSA endorsements closely and instead do so on the larger scale that the Presidential race affords us. Among the third party campaigns, there are two that stand out. Both align well with our values and clearly recognize that third party presidential runs should strive to push the envelope of mainstream politics beyond our intransigent two party system. These campaigns are Howie Hawkins of the Green Party and Gloria la Riva of the Party of Socialism and Liberation.
While it is tempting to only consider Hawkins, as the Green Party has historically been the largest left-wing third party and Hawkins has touted his ecosocialist credentials, there are concerns to be raised with the party as a whole. Among these issues are transphobia amongst the party, the lack of a historically socialist vision and a bizarre (if exaggerated) image of being ‘kooky’ that alienates them from mainstream political engagement. In contrast, the Party of Socialism and Liberation has only in the last election emerged as the sixth largest party, at less than a tenth of the votes the Greens received in 2016. However, their campaign is explicitly socialist and the party’s relatively unknown history shields it from the ‘kooky’ narrative. The questions of what will reach more voters versus the ability to radicalize those voters or lead them into DSA is meaningful and cannot be answered definitely without a full debate. There is real debate to be had in regards to endorsing either one, and it is clear that due to this, we support YDSA beginning a conversation about endorsing either Howie Hawkins or Gloria la Riva in all ‘safe states’ for the November 2020 election.
A Mass Workers Party
Revolutionary Power's resolution "Towards an Independent Working Class Party" for YDSA convention here
A capitalist party will never get us to liberation. We have iterated and reiterated the reasons why reformism and capitalist parties cannot be realigned or reformed, or why reformism in general will not work, but to go further, the answer in a developed imperial power must be to first create the conscious class divide between a capitalist and worker’s party. This is the reasoning behind the creation of a mass worker’s party, and why that is so vital. Once a mass worker’s party is established, the push towards revolutionary politics will truly begin, as the multiracial working class must be agitated by groups like Revolutionary Power and other comrades to see the failures of electoralism, even when rejecting the corporate stranglehold on the Democrats. Last year, in the 2019 DSA Convention, Resolution 31, entitled “Class Struggle Elections” it was made clear that “our goal is to form an independent working-class party, but for now this does not rule out DSA-endorsed candidates running tactically on the Democratic Party ballot line.” We agree with this principle. Not only do we agree with this principle, we want to see it put into practice, and oppose attempts to inhibit this work.
Despite our criticisms of certain DSA endorsed elected officials, it is clear that their contribution towards growing the socialist movement far outweighs the potential benefits of demanding they switch to the democratic socialist party line immediately. Others fear that this will become a diversionary tactic that deadens the left wing before it can grow into a mainstream political power. These criticisms are usually made with the fear that there will not be adequate infrastructure created to sustain a large party, but the solution is not to delay the building of a party, rather, it is to build the infrastructure now.
There is no reason why we could not at some point declare the party, register it on ballot lines across the country and then tactically use the Democratic Party line while looking for opportunities to avoid it. For instance, New York’s fusion ballot laws would allow for candidates like AOC, Jabari Brisport, Zohran Momdani, and others to run on both a Democratic line and a socialist line. Eight more states (including California only allowing the practice for Presidential elections) allow for fusion votes, which would allow further use of this tactic. The election of Kshama Sawant on an explicitly socialist campaign tells us that third party wins are possible, along with those of the independent run of Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez for City Council in Chicago. We believe DSA endorsed candidates should proactively assess whether or not a race like this is a possible victory or will raise class consciousness immensely, such as in non-partisan races or other scenarios, while also using the Democratic line when necessary.
The question then arises, how do we actually build this infrastructure and this possibility? DSA members began a petition calling upon DSA leadership to, after the November election, host broad conferences to begin discussions on creating a broad, working class party within DSA and the left-wing of the Bernie campaign. These discussions would lay the groundwork and infrastructure needed to build a coalition beyond the relatively small 70,000 membership base that DSA has and would include calls to individuals like Bernie Sanders, AOC, Labor for Bernie leaders, and so on. This petition signifies a crucial first step in building this infrastructure, and opposition to it seems out of place. Revolutionary Power will call on YDSA to begin the conversations and conferences in this petition, and to pressure DSA to adopt the same platform.
We want to thank everyone for reading this entire statement. We understand how long and how much additional reading is entombed within the references and statements being made. To reiterate: in this incredible moment it should be clear that only a vision embracing the creative power of revolutionary Marxism will be enough to build a new society from the ashes of the old. In the future, we hope to not just be a formulation for this convention, but a caucus of revolutionary Marxists operating in a comprehensive theory found through debate, though within the political philosophy outlined above for YDSA. Towards this end, we invite anyone interested in learning more to sign up to learn more and join us! We will send out emails and other information to get involved with us, along with a website and social media handles. We are excited to pass these resolutions and advance the banner towards liberation!
Ruy Martinez, Harvard College YDSA
Kai de Jesus, Harvard College YDSA
Ben Roberts, Harvard College YDSA
Piper Winkler, Harvard College YDSA
RJ Caldwell, Harvard College YDSA
Richard Merino, Harvard College YDSA
David Grumbine, University of Arkansas YDSA
Zachary Lee, University of Arkansas YDSA
Annemarie Shook, University of Arkansas YDSA
Pierce McGoran, Kennesaw State University YDSA
Dustin Junk, University of Texas at Austin YDSA
Bennett Burke, University of Texas at Austin YDSA
Joseph Strom, University of Illinois at Chicago YDSA
Seamus McNamara, University of Illinois at Chicago YDSA
Matt Chvasta, Vanderbilt YDSA