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Houston DSA – Their weekly “echo chamber, “and suggestions on how to form your own SD Club

Updated: Mar 28, 2022

I can’t help but not comment on the Houston DSA’s weekly steering committee meetings. This has been going on for some time. When you go to Calendar on the website for the local Houston DSA chapter, you will see their “weekly” meetings in April of 2022. Not monthly, but weekly.

If I were a fly on the wall (the meetings are for members only, which I understand), which I am not any longer welcome to attend any ZOOM DSA meetings, what topics do we think they may be constantly covering, rehashing? I would venture that to maintain their de facto democratic centralism, the cadre needs to constantly remind itself which “side” they are on. Take your pick, who to expel, abolish the police, open borders, that the Democratic Party (and Neo-liberalism) is evil, bash NATO as imperialist? You name the bad idea, and they are for it. I wonder if they cover that their sponsored candidates got their heads handed to them in the recent local elections. And we are not talking about young, imaginative folks trying to get it straight. We are talking about rather unfriendly, middle aged revolutionary socialists and communists trying to maintain “their order.” No different from the current Tsar Vladimir, trying to “protect” his empire and maintain his “order.”

The point for them in having so many meetings over a short period of time is to lock in a groupthink, a form of self- brainwashing, where no other ideas or thoughts are ever considered or allowed. Their constant denouncing of Social Democracy is a case in point. Keep telling yourself and your followers that you are right, are they borrowing from Tsar Vladimir?

And then, for the real connoisseurs of Marxist critique, one can rely on the work of a German Marxist theorist critic named Wittfogel, who makes the powerful argument that Russian development of the nationalization of land by Lenin was really a form of “Asiatic Restoration.” And this may explain what Vladimir P. and the far left of the DSA are really all about. Ironically, for Russia, there is no real Marxist theory here and no “real existing socialism. ” From Eric Lee’s The Experiment, “Wittfogel rediscovered a whole body of work (referring to Marx), describing a type of society that did not fit into the usual Marxist historiography. The opening sentences of the Communist Manifesto famously describe how the various stages of class society evolved, from ancient slave societies’, through feudalism to modern capitalism. To most Marxists, this remains a more or less accurate picture of European history. But parallel to this, in large parts of the world, (not only in Asia), societies existed in which there were no social classes in the European sense, and no class struggle either. These were countries in which the state was stronger than society, and where instead of progressive historic changes, the only changes seemed to be dynastic. “ Therefore, from Lenin, to Stalin to Vladimir P., all we really see is a form of “Asiatic Restoration,” not Marx’s historiography. Ironically, this would also suggest the Marxist far left within DSA is way off the mark as well.

Where is the “big tent?” Their “big tent” is to attract more Marxists and more anarchists and keep up the lie of the DSA’s true membership numbers (more like 70K than 90K). They have two internal DSA caucuses groups who aid and abet their efforts.

The first is “Socialist Majority Caucus” (SMC) who maintains a rather failed Social Democratic perspective coming from the Inter war German Social Democrats and Karl Kautsky. SMC tends to raise the flag of Revolutionary Socialism and feel this is the appropriate model for 21st Century America. They are quick to raise the failures of Nordic Social Democracy. They disdain cooperatives, just like Karl Kautsky. Their lack of support of the Democratic Senate race in Georgia in January 2020 is inexcusable, following Kautsky’s failure to form coalitions with non-socialists. They denounce “neoliberalism,” which is more finger pointing at certain historic figures (FDR) rather than seeing neoliberal programs as a starting point. The Kautskian Social Democrats fell on their faces when they rejected modest reforms of the German labor unions, and instead, opted for their own radical plan for German Social Democracy by pressing for nationalization of mass industries and therefore, alienating middle class support, ushering in Hitler’s squad. For a history of this, read Sheri Berman’s Social Democratic Moment. The SMC is no different in leading us over a cliff. The real failure of SMC is in their name, They are waiting forever to have their big tent of Marxists and anarchists to organize just enough to vote in a majority government with their bad ideas, and this is how far they go when it comes to the idea of Democracy, and no further.

Our other caucus group within the DSA who aids and abets the far left is the so-called “Social Democratic “caucus within DSA, known as NorthStar, also known as “Know-it-all.” This is a “mixed bag” of basically, stray Marxists and ex-Maoists and ex-Trotskyists, who should really know better. There are also some genuine Social Democrats, but all maintain their old way of thinking, and are totally blind to what is going on around them. They will remove you also from their chat if they do not like your comments. They also hold double standards towards their rules of enforcement as to who gets removed. No real democracy here. And several of them feel the need to relitigate the DSA merger of 1983; DSOC and NAM, which is a total waste of my time. They tend to be very unwelcoming and rather hostile to new folks who join their chat. Not nice at all, and not fully reflective of what Michael Harrington had envisioned. They are not his standard bearers. When I was a younger man, I knew former communists and Trotskyists and found them to have some great ideas and were assets to DSA. They were folks I could truly learn from. Not true with the “Know-it-all” crowd. They are defensive, dower, and are not real world in their approach to problems at all.

NorthStar thinks they can reform DSA by “engaging” the far left on some newly discovered DSA chat board, toward a more “democratic” socialism, but they totally overvalue their influence. They hold no standing within the DSA hierarchy. Try and get NorthStar to agree on anything, the ZOOM ID Number, maybe, because it is being handed to them by the corporate producers of ZOOM. And asking NorthStar to “reform” the DSA is like asking for more reformed wolves to watch the hen house. I would not trust them at all. George Orwell, if he were alive, would have a field day with “Know-it-all.” I sometimes wonder about their retirement plans and if they meet the sufficient Marxist threshold of their money not having exploited the masses.

If I would have any advice to give anyone who is interested in involving themselves in socialist politics in America right now, I would suggest staying clear of the DSA, anywhere, as you are headed for heartache. I should not say that. I found the Los Angeles DSA, after I was removed from a Houston DSA meeting just because I had a different perspective, quite refreshing and polite, quite professional. They had real labor union representatives attend their meetings (several). So, there are good folks out there. I can report that the Houston DSA had no such representation.

There is also Social Democrats USA, which I am a member.

You can form your own book club, there is so much you can do in your area. You can form your own Meta page (Facebook page) and refer yourself as a Social Democrat Club and get involved in your local Democratic Party where the real action is. Link up with a political campaign. Establish your own home-grown address. If there is a local DSA in your area, I would just attend meetings as a non-member, maybe announce that you would like to start a reading discussion group and see if you can attract like-minded people. Go with books, or even magazine articles. And I would not worry about being “left-enough.” Just be yourself and get involved. Engage in a real way, with our “big tent”, conservatives, moderates, liberal and progressives. I think you will find that if you engage these groupings and use Democracy as your core, you will find a better audience for our politics. They will respond if you show that you are not afraid of them.

Over time, we would welcome some national association of Social Democratic Clubs, that hold core principles of internal Democracy, through practice. If we were born, and find ourselves walking this Earth, we may as well do so together.

In the meantime, stay away from the Kautskian, “Know-it-all” echo chamber!

Kevin McGuire

March 2022

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