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Judean People’s Front

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I am not a member of Democratic Socialists of America, largely because I feel that being involved with it is not a good use of my energy, in particular arguing with young leftists and being tarred as being a hopeless sellout. In other words, I’m too old and cranky for it. When I was 25, I would have been all over this. I also simply don’t agree with the idea of a long-term socialist party in the future. It’s just counter to how American politics work. But DSA has done a great job in building its membership and becoming a useful force on the left, largely because it is inclusive, not too worried about ideology, and optimistic. That’s great! It now has 21,000 members, a drop in the larger world of American politics, but would anyone be surprised if it had 100,000 members by 2020? I wouldn’t.

Of course this has attracted the attention of other socialist parties that are really splinter communist parties. Socialist Alternative thus has published an essay that congratulates DSA for all its accomplishes and then calls for it to turn its back on that for the all-important agenda of ideological purity and running pointless candidates in elections.

The growth of DSA will pose real questions and challenges for how it should use its new influence to advance the struggle. Events will require a fuller discussion and debate about what ideas and program are necessary to successfully build a new socialist movement on a solid, principled basis that can avoid repeating the failures of previous mass left formations.

Is their vision of socialism a social-democratic model where capitalism remains intact but with a strong welfare state? Marxists fight for every reform we can squeeze out of the ruling class, but we recognize that these reforms are fundamentally incompatible with capitalism in the long run as shown by the huge neoliberal attacks taking place in Europe. We link the fight for reforms to the need for a fundamental transformation of society which breaks the power of capital and establishes a new social order based on mass, democratic institutions of workers and the oppressed.

More immediately, as a larger force, what will DSA actually do? What will its policy be in the debates that break out in the anti-Trump movement? Will DSA run its own candidates independently of the Democratic Party or within the Democratic primaries? How will DSA hold them accountable when they get elected or when they get elected to leadership positions in social movements? Does the DSA have a way to combat the huge pressures towards opportunism and careerism that such positions inevitably create?

Also, please let us in!

Socialist Alternative urges DSA to take advantage of its rapid growth and dynamism to use this potential to launch a new, broad, democratic Socialist Party. In our view, there is an opening to bring together the best forces on the left, and, more importantly, a new generation that is actively looking to fight for socialism.

With a bold lead from DSA, a new party of 50,000 to 100,000 members could be rapidly built. Of course, without further steps toward political clarification of key strategic issues such a formation would have an unstable character. Nevertheless, this would represent a qualitative step forward for the socialist movement.

A new party should have a broad, federal-type character, allowing organizations coming from different backgrounds to affiliate with full democratic rights. Socialist Alternative will bring our political ideas to the discussions in such a formation. It would allow different trends to join forces while collectively discussing and testing out the best way to build a fighting, socialist pole within the broader movement.

Somehow, I think DSA is doing just fine as it is. Perhaps learning that far left splinter parties have been utterly pointless for a century is an example of the left learning from the past, as opposed to enforcing ideological purity to create the Revolution that is probably never going to happen.

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