Elections, Power, and the DSA #2: Having Power, or Access to It?
Welcome to our second podcast episode exploring the topic of electoralism, reformism, and the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). While our last conversation broadly tackled the topic of an electoral strategy vs one of building the power of social movements and autonomous organizations, in this episode, we talk with a group of people actually inside the DSA, the Communist Caucus out of the East Bay of California.
The Communist Caucus comes out of the Left and anti-state communist currents, which rejects the authoritarian State and Marxist-Leninist vanguard party most people associate with communism. Like anarchists, they push for autonomous self-organization of the working class to run their own struggles and lives, and fight for a stateless and classless society.
In this episode, we talk in the first half of the podcast about the struggle of the Communist Caucus within DSA to articulate a revolutionary position, while at the same coming up against reformist, bureaucratic, and electoral tendencies. In the second half of the podcast, we discuss the organizing project the Communist Caucus is involved in, TANC, or Tenants and Neighborhood Councils, as well as the possibilities and future of anti-gentrification and autonomous anti-capitalist housing struggles.
Freshly printed posters from our Ministry of Propaganda…? pic.twitter.com/WHASiCX1zA
— Tenant and Neighborhood Councils (@TANCBay) July 29, 2018
As we discuss in the podcast, the members of the Communist Caucus saw joining DSA as a strategic move, as the organization was growing by the thousands, and people figured it would be a great vehicle to meet new people; especially those activated by Trump and interested in organizing. However when coming into the organization, they came up against a culture which often seemed more interested in pushing for policy changes and progressive Democrats than organizing in the wider working-class. Moreover, many within the national DSA structure that hold sway often come out of leadership positions within large non-profits, hold positions as union bureaucrats, or are involved in publications such as Jacobin.
Those who think that socialist organization trails electoral candidates had better get used to justifying their politicians’ precious embrace of the enemies of the working class.
And they better get used to it fast. Because this is just the start. https://t.co/zNY3ehMuRr
— DSA Communist Caucus ☭? (@DSACommunists) August 26, 2018
But, “there’s a difference between having power, and having access to it,” and we discuss what exactly is meant by working-class and poor people having actual power, or the ability to shape and control not only the way in which we fight back against daily attacks, but also begin to take control and run our own lives.
"Many of us have been told to forget our own needs in some wider interest, never wide enough to include us. We've learnt by bitter experience that nothing unified and revolutionary will be formed until each section of the exploited will have made its own autonomous power felt." https://t.co/4nXKlaWMwf
— DSA Communist Caucus ☭? (@DSACommunists) September 6, 2018
This ethic also informs our discussion on TANC and broader housing struggles, which are exploding across the US and Canada right now, as various cities launch large scale rent strikes, and many autonomous groups, tenants unions, and solidarity networks spring up to take on landlords.
Today, our members joined a coalition of over 250 folks to demonstrate outside San Quentin Prison in solidarity with @IWW_IWOC #prisonstrike. Incarcerated people in over 17 states are striking to end modern day slavery. pic.twitter.com/8fMi7N7MBS
— DSA San Francisco (@DSA_SF) August 25, 2018
Something that one of the Communist Caucus members said that resonated with many of the things that we have articulated while doing this podcast; that they are “less concerned about unity of the Left, than they are about unity of the class.” Meaning, we should focus our energies into organizing where we are and where we might hold power with our neighbors, co-workers, and community members, instead of attempting to wrangle together everyone that chooses to attend political demonstrations or become involved in radical groups.
This post was written by It's Going Down