Points of Unity

The Democratic Socialists of America has seen tremendous growth and development recently. Between the summer of 2016 and the summer of 2017, the organization has over quadrupled in size- with both newly-radicalized and longtime socialists joining and organizing into branches across the US. And while an organization going through such growth and transformation will inevitably go through growing pains and periods of internal strife, the rallying of tens of thousands of people to the broad cause of socialism is something to be celebrated and encouraged.

However, we in DSA Spark also believe the organization needs to be thinking about its next steps, both internally for developing DSA into a truly democratic, mass socialist organization of the working class, and externally to both wider society and the wider left in order for the working class to be the best-equipped to organize itself to take power. Ultimately, we believe that the Democratic Socialists of America must declare itself to be for a party that can serve as an instrument for working class politics and international socialism, we view the proposals below as the best framework for such a party. To that end, DSA Spark openly declares our support for these proposals, and seeks to work towards the closest possible unity of the left towards such an end.

Internal Reforms

1. For the Democratic Socialists of America to achieve its goals, internal democracy is paramount. While the current rules are a solid foundation, more robust commitments to both democratic and republican principles must be incorporated. Open and public criticism of actions taken, by leadership and membership alike, should not just be tolerated but encouraged. Stifling debate and discussion only creates the stagnant sects of the past 80 years. To that end, the various branches, caucuses, working groups, etcetera would do well to produce their own newspapers, pamphlets, blogs, and more. The flipside of this is that for any criticism to be valuable and useful there must be nearly full transparency in the leadership’s process of decisionmaking, at least internally.

2. Members of the rank-and-file of the DSA need to have full confidence in their leadership’s capabilities and loyalty. Towards that end, elected officials within the organization should be subject to the total and immediate right of recall by the relevant bodies - the National Political Committee and other national positions to the membership as a whole and branch leaders to their branches. These same positions must also be subject to term limits to prevent over-bureaucratization and separation of the leadership from the members. As the infrastructure for recalling elected officials would rely on the general membership, this also lays out the possibility of referenda representing the will of the membership which in times of crisis can change rapidly, having the leadership be the rear-guard of the fight for socialism.

3. In order to triumph in the class struggle, the proletariat must organize into a political party around a political program that expresses its exclusive class interests. Such a program should be unapologetic in its denunciation of and goal to transcend capitalism for communism, provide the minimum basis for working class political rule, and incorporate the immediate demands of the various sections of the class. Such platforms have found voice in the Erfurt Program of the Social Democratic Party of Germany and the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party program from its Second Congress.

Socialist Strategy

4. The Democratic Socialists of America must decisively and definitively break from the Democratic Party and other parties of the capitalist class if it ever hopes to achieve its goals. We believe the DSA should take part in building a new, independent political party of the working class. This class party must merge itself with the existing workers’ movement and reforge it where it does not exist. Unions have declined in power simultaneously with the socialist movement - this is not a coincidence. However, we cannot wait for the class to move or limit ourselves to mere trade unionism, we must build the workers’ movement which is communism - “the real movement which abolishes the present state of things.”

5. Socialism is incompatible with the capitalist mode of production, there can exist no mixed economy, market socialism, or gradual reform from one to the other. However this does not mean we should abandon the push for the expansion of workers’ political and economic rights within capitalism while we can. Job protections, safety measures, reductions in hours for no loss in pay, increasing voter access, protection of immigrants, and many more are policies we can push for in the here and now through state power and direct action that would greatly increase the quality of life, not to mention political capability, of the working class.

6. Just as we must push for reforms within the state while it exists, we must not be complacent towards sexism, racism, and other forms of non-class based chauvinism. The problem with identity-nationalism or separatism and post-structuralist identity politics is not in addressing these issues as such, but in failing to recognize their root causes in the material reproduction of society. We cannot wait for the eventuality of communism to solve these problems, they affect workers constantly and we need to fight back wherever possible. One of the foremost pressing demands therein is the abolition of the carceral state. We cannot support candidates or organizations which seek to increase the power of the police or the military. Cops and strike-breakers are not part of the working class and are class enemies in all circumstances.

7. Because the class must constitute itself in a political party and because we should push for reforms favorable to the working class, this party must have both an electoral strategy and a firm commitment to its principles once elected. Representatives of the party must be beholden to its program as the expression of the democratic will of the membership. We must refuse to manage the capitalist state but cannot refuse to engage in the political arena. Towards that end, we should attempt to stymie the capitalist state however we can - refusing to pass budgets, fighting against anti-worker and for agreeable legislation, and other strategic actions.

Communist Internationalism

8. We are internationalists. We oppose all forms of imperialism and refuse to side with our own nation-states in worldwide conflicts. In situations of imperialist war the only sensible position to take is revolutionary defeatism: to pursue transforming imperialist war into a revolutionary civil war against world capitalism. We also reject all forms of nationalism as an obstacle to revolution and reject political alliances with nationalists of all stripes. This includes rejecting “socialism in one country” or any other national road to socialism and populist governments. Communist revolution must be international in scope or nothing. In logical continuity with our internationalist principles is also our conviction in the importance of upholding a pro-immigrant stance. This means support for the abolition of borders and maintaining an uncompromising position against all forms of xenophobia and national chauvinism. Anything less would mean departure from the basic ethic of working class solidarity. In countries where nominally “anti imperialist” regimes repress the working class movement our solidarity should always be with the workers not the police. We reject the “global class war” thesis in all its variants.

9. DSA should work to foster increased communication between itself and revolutionary socialist political movements in other countries. These ties should go beyond merely sending representatives to each other’s conferences, and include the development of political ties that serve to build the strength of the world socialist movement. In practical terms this would mean developing international unity between socialist groups around campaigns such as BDS and opposition to imperialist war. In the longer term, DSA should work towards the formation of a new international of socialist and communist parties.

10. We categorically reject that the USSR and its various offshoots such as the People’s Republic of China and Cuba are examples of socialist societies or functioning proletarian dictatorships which serve as models for us to use. However, we recognize that insofar as these regimes were created out of genuine attempts at revolution there are lessons that modern communists can draw from these experiences, primarily negative lessons about the dangers facing a new revolutionary government. So called “actually existing socialist” regimes, while far from our vision of communism, did provide a counterweight to the capitalist system and have achieved major material advancements over previous regimes for their citizens. While no functioning communist society has existed, we point to the Paris Commune, the early days of the Russian Revolution, the German revolution, the Shanghai Commune and aspects of the Spanish Civil War as historical moments where the working class grappled with the task of forming a new society.