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Democratic Socialist Game of Thrones "Alternate Universe”
Updated: Oct 23, 2022
So much for the old Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and Michael Harrington’s strategy (and Bernie Sanders) of working within the Democratic Party. To operate as the “Democratic “Left and be to the “Left of the possible.” The new DSA is neither. It was the merger of 1983 that put forth this view, even a bit before that, and it lasted for some 40 plus years. Nothing lasts forever, and it is probably time for another organization, or other organizations either presently existing or otherwise, to pick up where this idea has been dropped by the DSA’s Marxist cadre and move on. Come August 2023, there will be a change in course with a new skipper, a new Sheriff in town. This is in no way to suggest that Michael Harrington’s strategy was wrong. It is just wrong with this current Marxist cadre of the new DSA.
The transition started circa 2016 and will find its culmination at the 2023 DSA Convention this coming year.
That new “Sheriff.”
That new skipper will be Kshama Sawant and Social Alternative (SA), she will likely lead the DSA for a good deal forward. For one, she is the right person for the job at the right moment. She presently speaks to the core within, which is the organized Marxist cadre, who want that dirty break from the Democratic Party (DP). Based on a paid survey of the DSA membership in 2021, the members were asked “how do you identify politically - you can choose as many as three identifiers?” Among the identifiers were some 15 choices. My three identifiers were “Social Democrat,” “Progressive” and “Green,” but 17% of the membership who responded identified with “Revolutionary Socialist” and 27% with “Communist,” and I highly doubt their third identifier was anything close to any of mine! "Anarchist" was 15%. I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I was removed from DSA ZOOM meetings or had my chat disabled just because of my opinions. You have to really ask, is there any space for Social Democratic thought in this political organization?
Additionally, Sawant has a quiet charisma, being female helps balance off the male dominated Marxists, and being an elected socialist puts her on a close to equal par with AOC, so she speaks with credibility. I know several in the North star Caucus who feel they as individuals should be leading the organization forward, based on their book smarts, and past far left affiliations, which comports with the present crowd (" I am qualified because I speak their language." ), but my polite response, "Comrade, you do not hold a candle to Kshama, because for this crowd, she checks all the boxes."
I can proudly and thankfully say I have never been taken with the far left language so this disqualifies me right off the bat.
When you factor in the drop in overall DSA membership, you can argue just as easily that the Revolution Socialist/Communist identification has gone possibly upward as well as downward, but this article assumes an upward trend, with the agreement of most who are close to the action.
Not your mother’s DSA.
Sawant’s view is that one of the reasons that DSA membership has fallen is because of the association with the Democratic Party. There is no inside/outside strategy here for Sawant. It is a dirty break, period, with your DP elected officials (the “squad”) and others down ballot who relied upon DSA strength to get across the finish line, to now be cast aside under Sawant and SA’s guidance and leadership. And Sawant and SA will get their way because there is no countervailing force within DSA to stop them. I am not going into all the stuff about all within DSA who oppose Sawant, such as the caucuses (DSA NorthStar and half of Socialist Majority). If anything, elements within those two caucuses (half of Socialist Majority) have aided and abetted Sawant’s forces to some extent. Let’s just say if George Orwell were alive today, he would have had a field day with some of the NorthStar loud mouths! There are still good people within DSA, but they are powerless to stop Sawant and SA, and the bulk of these folks do not even belong to any organized caucus.
Not your mother’s Green Party.
You might ask, will this be another attempt at an electoral party, like the Green Party? If you review the Marxist cadre’s past playbook, it suggests quite otherwise. In conjunction with the ISO’ers (International Socialist Organization, now defunct) who also dominate the DSA landscape, this will be no Green (like) Party. It will be a Marxist dominated political organization with all the trappings of a far-left “mass working class” party (Die Link for America). Perhaps more akin to the old Communist Party.
“Comrades, introducing your new political party.” Let’s let history repeat itself.
For identification purposes, and transparency (we don’t want others to join and find out they are wasting their time, because they will be) let us call for convenience this new political entity, “Left Alternative Party.” (LAP)
With democratic centralism, party discipline, political correctness, and other rules, there will be limits on your career and dual memberships. No law enforcement for sure, and this may also open the door to banning lawyers, and white-collar employees, who also have their own problems with their employers. Also, struggling small businesspeople will likely be on the banned list. Any non-working-class person (wrongly perceived) will be banned from membership. A strictly “mass working-class party” with their opinion and only theirs of who is working class will be allowed entrance. Karl Kautsky’s Social Democratic Party faced this same “dilemma” in his time regarding German white-collar workers who requested membership. See Sheri Berman’s Social Democratic Moment.
If you are not a socialist and/or a Democratic Party activist, your membership will not be welcome. LAP will also limit dual memberships in other organizations, and for this, we can expect an explicit list of “bad” organizations which, as a LAP member, you will be barred from carrying. Very likely if you belong to another organization with “Social Democrat” or “Democrat” in its name, you will not be welcome, but your AARP and AAA membership should be OK, along with your American Express card, don’t leave home . . . . From my own personal experience, I was told by a senior DSA member in Houston some years back that if I did not consider myself a socialist, I should stop coming to Houston DSA meetings. It will be this attitude that will pervade the LAP and carry with it a rather strident Marxism, which will likely offend most folks. It will have the feel of the “Irish need not apply.”
“Capture the flag” – Newsflash: Cadre Marxists have their way.
A good question about the new DSA which is front and present now is why this self-conscious need to cocoon itself from those who really need to hear the better ideas, namely, progressives, moderates, liberals and according to Bernie, conservatives? Answer? They want a real far-left party.
“Bernie or bust” was a total embarrassment. But not for the Marxist cadre. I actually heard one of the cadre say, “Oh, I got in my car into heavy Houston traffic and drove cross-town during Covid and still got my Biden yard sign. “and “As a DSA’er, I voted for Biden, and I personally knew several other DSA’ers who did same.” This limited engagement of yard sign and personal vote - how can this really help build a political organization that makes statements, takes stands, and responds as one loud voice? For them, “Bernie or bust” makes total sense, but to others (like me) this is total nonsense. In the end, no bother, DSA was a none factor in getting the two needed GA senators elected anyway in January 2020; Warnock and Ossoff, to help give the US Senate a fighting chance for Democratic Party legislation. They were elected without DSA’s help. It ended up not mattering at all. None of DSA resources were lent or offered during our hour of peril (Jan. 6th) with the balance of power in the US Senate at stake. Were the Marxist cadre unwittingly helping to open the door to real fascism by not supporting the DP in the US Senate? Does it also make you wonder whether DSA is really relevant and much of a factor in American politics? And this was when the organization had close to 100K members nationwide; since then, the numbers have considerably dwindled, maybe 50K now.
No distinction between two forms of socialism? and how about a "popular front? "
And do not even ask if helping form a “21st Century popular democratic front” is even possible. This is an idea of building a broad coalition of climate change activists, pro-labor, human rights activists (women and BLM), pro-Democracy and healthcare advocates, has been bantered around in the DSA NorthStar Caucus to their credit, but with no results within the larger DSA body. In fact, no one within the larger DSA body is even listening. American political history informs us that the old Communist Party turned toward support of FDR policies and the DP. The LAP would never pivot like that, for like the old Socialist Party of America, their Marxist cadre locked their party into non-DP work, and this is where LAP is tracking for 2024. See Michael Harrington’s Socialism.
The problem here is if you decide to work within DSA on this path, you are headed for heartache, wasting your time, and after you resign from DSA, the Marxist cadre will quickly take credit for any of your work that serves them. I also find it amazing, that by saying you feel we should continue to work within DSA, you fall into the lap of the far right who argue that there is no distinction between socialists and communists.
The kids’ “alternate universe.”
The new DSA has presently devolved into some strange dystopia that few of us 55 and older could have ever wanted or imagined. Is ageism the problem? Perhaps acting your age is a problem for some. I have personally known in today’s 21st Century America, late 30 and 40-year-olds behave like” kids” (I also know 55 plus adults who behave likewise). They are the Marxist cadre who hate "neoliberals" and are far left, who lead the real “kids,” and are not your twenty-somethings that is for sure. They have been around the block, with Clinton and Obama, (and hate them as well), this would put them at minimum in their late 30’s. Whether they should know better is another matter.
Two things that I have noted about far-left folks, they do not share power with others who have different views, and they want to take the organization as far left as possible with their bad ideas. It is never about the truth, except their version of it.
"Trust no one, change brand, and let’s turn to Vladimir L."
LAP will be billed as the party that “trusts no one over 30 years old.” Except for the Marxist cadre, their exception to ageism. They must change the name and logo. The name “Democratic Socialists of America” has been branded by some as imperialistic, and incorrect politically. The logo no longer comports with their programmatic beliefs with Socialist International. The name must come down and so the fist and rose. “We need something that identifies what we are, as a far-left 'mass working class' party." It will be their perfect “echo chamber.” Their own Marxist universe.
The one caucus, “Socialist Majority,” even the name sounds like trouble. True, under Karl Kautsky, the Inter war German Social Democrats grew larger and larger. The massive entry of new DSA members happened with, not with the “squad” but with Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns within the DP, offering democratic socialism greater visibility. To think that LAP can just stay put, and gravy train off other movements, (that we should all start drinking “Fivebucks” coffee and become cheer leaders with pom poms when there is a new local union formed by non-DSA’ers at your local Starbucks), and to think that others will just join LAP in the same way is a huge mistake. And for them, cooperatives are a bad idea. One must also wonder, if they have their way, after capitalism has been voted out the window, whether there will be any continuation of an elected democratic governance, or instead, fully replaced by an alternate Leninist model for America. “If we build it they will come” is not going to happen.
There will be no efforts by LAP to engage non-socialists to any other form of socialism, except their own.
Some things just don’t last forever.
There are several organizations out their right now who will give LAP a run for their money. The one that comes to mind is Bernie’s “Our Revolution,” but they do not stand alone speaking to the Harrington Strategy. “Our Revolution” has none of the trappings of a left party. Membership is loose, they work within the DP on local electoral campaigns like the “sewer” socialists in the early half of the 20th Century - city council, boards of education, and utility district offices, county clerk and county offices. James Weinstein in his Corporate Ideal in the Liberal State discusses how popular these socialists became and how their local efforts were thwarted on a national level.
“Our Revolution” is making the needed efforts right now, not the DSA, in achieving this possibility of social democratic reform. For instance, two of our locally elected State representatives at our last "Our Revolution Harris County" monthly meeting gave a report of the goings-on in the state legislature. The Houston DSA could never hope to sponsor any such meeting. And to be fair, there are other organizations whose local and regional work move us in this direction as well. I am really referring to the local Democratic clubs in your area, who endorse local and state candidates for office. And when you dig deeper, you find that the “21st Century popular democratic front“ referred to earlier, covers much of what they stand for, it just needs expression on a national level. I have visited several local Democratic clubs in my area and there you find plenty of “Our Revolution” folks and others who share these ideals without the Marxist baggage.
The LAP will claim to want to take credit for any victories, on grounds that LAP helped inspire a new movement. Nothing could be further from the truth. LAP will hopelessly remain a movement within other movements, not out in front of anything except the nose on their faces. They will continue to drink their “Fivebucks” coffee until the moment of "revolution" arrives, which ONLY THEY, the Marxist cadre, will know, and no one else. And feel free to use your American Express points when buying.
Ironically, the LAP will not be a “we the people” party, just pro "working class" with more division. Get ready for the proletariat!
Disclaimer: This article in no way advocates, or supports, aids, or abets, the Leninist form of Socialism for America, even though the Marxist cadre might steal the name from this article for their new Marxist party. If you find some humor in this article, that was partly intended, though this article could be taken the wrong way, and that is not my fault. And this is not an advertisement for American Express, although you can’t help wondering if the Marxist cadre and American Express don’t share the same ideals.