From the North Star Editors

by Brandy Baker, on behalf of the North Star Editorial Board on January 27, 2018

We here at North Star are very happy at the immense growth of a new radicalism in the United States, particularly the increased interest in socialism. This sentiment sprang from newer generations that have grown up under the weight of neo-liberalism: heavy student debt, lack of jobs, lack of affordable healthcare and housing.  These exacerbate the persistence of racism, sexism, and imperialism. 

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has benefited most from this new wave of radicalism. We are heartened by the growth of DSA and the passing of BDS at the last convention.  The DSA has the numbers and enthusiasm to establish the foundations of a serious effort to build a genuine political party not bound immediately to wealthy donors and benefactors and directly asserting the needs and concerns of working people.

The North Star website was started in homage to the late Peter Camejo, a principled socialist who felt throughout his life that forming a third party completely free of the Democrats and Republicans was imperative to win justice for working people and those in US society and the world who were most oppressed by capitalism. 

The North Star wishes to begin a dialogue about the future of DSA. Should DSA form or lead the formation of a left workers’ party completely free of the corporate duopoly, or should it continue in the vein of Michael Harrington and others who wish to continue pursuing the demonstrably mistaken belief that change could be made from within the confines of the Democratic Party? 

We are calling for submissions on this topic; also, we are also hoping to form a panel on the question of DSA and a viable third party at the Left Forum in New York City on June 1 to 3. 

Brandy Baker
On behalf of the North Star Editorial Board


 

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Brandy Baker January 28, 2018 at 11:07 am

From Socratic Gadfly, commenting from Twitter:

“Commenting not working on website, so: No actual submission, just a comment.

I know the Green Party nationally is pretty much teh suck, as does one of the editors here. That said, just NO on the DSA going (further) down the Harrington path.”

*The commenting feature should be working now. -ed

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Wilson Jackson January 28, 2018 at 6:21 pm

Both of these options are proven failures so the debate would be useless and not representative of politics in 2018. The 3rd party approach has been tried and failed a million times in the alphabet soup of fringe Marxist Leninist sects with their newspapers and ultraradical purity and in the hapless Green party guise. What are we going to do different this time? Sure, we need a workers party but DSA have no organized mass base like labor unions that would make such a proposal fruitful at the current time. It’s largely a small group of urban, college-educated (still mostly white) folks with radical politics and needs to understand its limitations. DSA should not waste one minute playing at vanguard party.

At the same time, almost no one in DSA is still promoting the failed Harrington approach of working inside, pushing the corporate Dems to the left. Literally *everyone* who joined the DSA last year did so precisely because they *hate* the democratic party– post-primary fury against the Dem leadership is like the single unifying theme of why so many people came out as democratic socialists. Any primaries within the party are hostile, counterhegemonic, and against the corporate “duopoly.” In those venues in which Dem. ballot line isn’t a prerequisite to have a shot, DSA members are now running as independents and open socialists.

It’s through breaking with the two simplistic options laid out in this proposal and trying innovative new approaches built for 2018 that the DSA can have an actual impact… not in rehashing the tried and trued debates of reform vs. revolution that we’ve all heard 50,000 times. (hint: the most fringe ultraradical position get to feel superior by playing to the choir even if they accomplish nothing and remain on the margins).

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Brandy Baker January 28, 2018 at 7:50 pm

Wilson,

We are not in any way calling for a “vanguard party”.

Also, you assert: “The 3rd party approach has been tried and failed a million times” I strongly disagree, and the historical record would contradict you as well. Third parties were part of ending slavery in the US, ending child labour, as well as getting women the vote in 1920 (Alice Paul, National Womens’ Party), among other reforms.

Socialists won local elections in the 20th century and made positive changes until the GOP and Democrats passed laws making it harder for third parties to get on the ballot.

You say that you are proposing a third way, but respectfully, we are not seeing that in DSA. The majority of candidates are running within the Democratic Party under the naive notion that they can reform the Dems with an inside/outside strategy. DSA has decades of failure to show for this model. The Democrats are much worse now then they were in 1982, when DSA started.

We are not asking DSA, in its present form and size, to solely spearhead a mass workers’ party, that would be unrealistic and downright absurd, but DSA is the only organization that has the muscle at this time to start to move us in this much needed direction.

Also, respectfully, the “vanguard” paper selling pure sects are a caricature that we are not advocating in our call. North Star has published many pieces arguing against vanguardism and the sect model.

Comradely,
Brandy

Any comments I made here outside of the above call (that is from the whole editorial board) are my views only. I will allow the other editors to speak for themselves if they desire to do so.

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SocraticGadfly January 30, 2018 at 10:31 pm

Really? These are the two real options, not the two “simplistic” options.

And, “the most fringe ultraradical position”? I’m a Green myself, not a Trotskyist.

Puhleese.

Sniff, sniff? Hmmm, I smell Democratic sheepdogs in the air.

Thanks for making that clear even as you claim you aren’t.

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Manuel Barrera, PhD January 28, 2018 at 10:01 pm

Hello, per Brandy’s suggestion I am reposting a short interchange on my FB page with Mark (Lause). I am not really sure what Wilson proposes are “breaking with the two simplistic options laid out in this proposal and trying innovative new approaches built for 2018 that the DSA can have an actual impact…”
A) The “solutions” are not simplistic at all and B) it really isn’t all that clear to me that current–new–members of DSA are all that “counterhegemonic”, especially if Wilson see his, what, more complex, nuanced, “elegant” (?), solution as “innovative new approaches built for 2018”? What is that? It’s a bit disingenuous, if not dishonest, to say that the call, and this discussion is somehow “rehashing the tried and trued [sic] debates of reform vs. revolution that we’ve all heard 50,000 times”. It isn’t and it is also unclear to me whether Wilson has even “heard” such debates even once. Perhaps I am wrong about that, but putting down an effort to discuss entering into the fray within DSA by arguing that we should “innovat[e] approaches built for 2018” sounds a bit like, well, nothing on the one hand or just another way to argue for an “inside/outside” strategy within the Democratic Party, which is definitely a “tried and true” failure.
I encourage Wilson to be more concrete if he cannot be more positive. It would help to know exactly what he means by “innovative approaches” that “literally ‘everyone'” who has joined DSA this year are “against the Dem leadership [“leadership”? Don’t you mean against the Democratic Party?] is like the single unifying theme of why so many people came out as democratic socialists.” All that sounds more like a tried and true failure not in any way innovative.
Below is my interchange with Mark:
Mark A. Lause: We have to remember the mechanisms that led to the emergence of the party of Debs . . . .lots of non-electoral stuff or vaguely electoral stuff or communitarian and cooperative stuff. This is part of a process.
Manuel Barrera: Yes, and I also think the process will look different in these times. We will need to observe and operationalize what exactly “communitarian”, “cooperative” may look like. It seems to me that a party like DSA may not initially involve itself in such efforts and a revolutionary current within DSA may have to bring in such people and efforts into that party to gain ever stronger influence. Thus, deciding to be a part of such a party becomes important because the current membership, while possible to influence may not have such inclinations, initially.

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Wiliam Crain January 29, 2018 at 1:23 am

Dear Fellow Workers, I’m not sure i can get any mental traction on Mr. Jackson’s position.
I for one don’t see any Unions in the US of A as much of force, for anything that’s mentioned herein. None of them. They are as useless as the Dem Pty.
Be that as it may i certainly wouldn’t discount them in any way. I would not disparage them in any way. I wouldn’t disparage any group, org or movement that somehow might find DSA a viable opportunity to move this baby forward.
DSA is even stronger now that they see the louse that Sanders was/is…they are continuing to gravitate to a force like DSA.
What put me off about DSA was when i was interested in getting involved there was a Dues. A Dues to join…just did not sit well with me. However, a dear friend in Portland said she didn’t have to pay any ‘dues’ and DSA was very active…gaining a large number of the Bernie supporters. (not even remotely a Socialist)
If DSA is to get traction we need to broaden the tent to the entire Women’s movements, incl #MeToo… all of these people are worthy of DSA. Time spent disparaging these little steps, little knock-downs of the ‘man’ deserve our open door.
Enuff of this inside-out non-sense, we need a format that says ‘come on in the water is fine’ not one that advertises ‘enter at your own risk’ . It has taken some time but the folks of the last ten, twenty years have seen what the Democrats have dealt ~ Big D dems are simply more insidious than Repugs.
I feel for Socialism to succeed in the numbers and quality game we need to REACH OUT to all of these orgs and quasi-movements. Clearly the recent tripe out of HRC’s mouth about sexual harassers at the top of the Dem Pty structure has got to blow some people our way maybe a lot.
On FB there are a number of pundits in our camp who are so anti-women’s movement that it’s nothing and Feminism has hurt something, what i don’t know. I’m tired of the slimy criticisms of something going down that ‘they’ didn’t think of. Right on Miss Rose McGowan…this is the kind of intestinal fortitude that WE want. From the top to the very poor we want them all.
Well maybe not all, my Union doesn’t allow for any form of Police in it…and there’s good reason. I’m sure this site is monitored and any changes in the WaveLength getting stronger or more powerful will elicit some form of espionage.

Viva Socialism,
Will
Billings, Montana

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Quite Likely January 29, 2018 at 2:07 pm

“The North Star wishes to begin a dialogue about the future of DSA. Should DSA form or lead the formation of a left workers’ party completely free of the corporate duopoly, or should it continue in the vein of Michael Harrington and others who wish to continue pursuing the demonstrably mistaken belief that change could be made from within the confines of the Democratic Party?”

Haha nice impartial framing. But yes, DSA should definitely focus on the Democratic Party rather than no-hoper 3rd party runs. That said the DSA is firmly over the Harrington-style “let’s push existing Democrats to the left by critical support” approach, but that’s far from the only approach. The key distinction of current DSA strategy is that there’s total focus on building up the organization’s own capacity to directly intervene in elections. The parties are so porous these days that there’s very little obstacle to outside organizations like the DSA running / backing anti-establishment candidates no different from the ones you’d see running on a 3rd party ticket in Democratic primaries. And it looks like such candidates are FAR more likely to actually get elected when they take that route.

The “only a new party can be sufficiently pure” approach just doesn’t really have any value to it in that context. There’s no advantage for an organization like the DSA to have its own ballot line, and tons of advantages to being able to run in Democratic primaries.

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Brandy Baker January 29, 2018 at 8:09 pm

“The “only a new party can be sufficiently pure” approach just doesn’t really have any value to it in that context.”

I completely agree….which is why we never said this. Yet again, those opposed to our politics are caricaturing our positions instead of actually engaging with our points.

Running in elections as Democrats show that you are trying to reform the Democratic Party: a practice that has ended in many defeats for the US left and enabled the Democrats to shift further and further to the right. This is part of the failed Harrington strategy. “We don’t have to listen to the Left, they have nowhere to go.”

A new party would have shortcomings, contradictions and frustrations, that is to be expected. But it would not be funded by the corporate masters that fund the Dems and the GOP as well.

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Mark Lause January 30, 2018 at 10:59 pm

Well, if people are going to promote the Democratic Party because they’ve convinced themselves that they can make a more humanitarian capitalism, that’s one thing. But anyone who claims to want to get rid of capitalism and also argues that the two-party system can’t be changed are being innately illogical. Capitalism predates the party system and exists in countries that have different electoral systems. it permeates every aspect of this civilization and replacing the system is going to be a gargantuan project.

If you think you’re going to get rid of capitalism but can’t change the two-party shell game, you’re fooling yourself. i

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Marcus Otono February 11, 2018 at 10:23 am

This post is not wrong, but it is rather generic IMO. And it puts the cart before the horse in calling for a “conference” before you have an agenda to discuss at said conferences. Here are some of my thought on this from a FB group that is attempting to tackle this subject. And yes it IS rather long (2k+ words), but there are some specific thoughts here that could be used to base an agenda on FOR a conference.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1553428454710747/permalink/1554571837929742/

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