Let’s Get Real vs. Let’s Get Small

An argument in support of the "Uniting Against the Ultra-Right" resolution at the upcoming national convention.

I have a few ideas on what to stress in the upcoming convention. Although I’m a member of the North Star caucus, I can’t say the words that follow have been approved by the entire caucus. Any inadequacies are mine alone. I see DSA as in danger of falling into an abyss of irrelevancy. I also see great potential. A resolution that I co-authored, “Uniting Against the Ultra-Right,” embodies my principal concern going forward.

A similar argument, elaborated effectively in more detail at greater length, may be found in “The Case for Realignment” by Alexander Hernandez, a candidate for the National Political Committee.

The penetration of elective office by the U.S. Left, in and out of DSA, is growing by leaps and bounds. We should be in that mix. The Sanders campaigns in 2016 and 2020 showed the potential, as did the expansion of the Squad. The makings of a mass socialist movement may be found in the impassioned supporters of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and friends. Of course, the explosion of DSA membership itself was due mainly to the excitement over Sanders and the revulsion over Trump. We would be foolish to walk away from those roots and hold ourselves apart from that organic growth of receptivity to radical politics in the US.

Socialist transformation will depend on orderly, democratic elections. To be sure, electoral efforts are fueled by grassroots organizing, by social movements oriented to the Green New Deal, labor, anti-racism, reproductive rights, housing, and the like, but such movements are primarily able to get things done through the work of elected officials. Neither works without the other.

Democracy in the US is under direct threat from the Republican Party, which Noam Chomsky has called “the most dangerous organization in the history of the world.” The ascendance of this organization to national power will mean the destruction of all progressive politics. We see such embryonic scenarios playing out in Florida, Texas, and other states. Indeed, our would-be Führer Donald Trump pledges to liquidate any socialist presence in the U.S. It’s not as if it has never happened before. The Palmer Raids and McCarthyism are cautionary tales.

The threat of fascism leads me to stress broad unity in support for Democratic candidates in the national elections in November 2024 as an essential way to block the Right’s road to power. Formal DSA endorsements are beside the point. What matters for the election is material support, and what matters for DSA growth is a visible contribution to that support. Prior to November, primary campaigns that showcase DSA ideas are fine, but third-party efforts or electoral abstention in November can only help rightists gain elective office.

This is my rationale for the resolution urging DSA participation in center-left unity in the face of fascism. The magnitude of the threat commends the broadest possible opposition, not limited to progressive formations.

Mainstream Democrats’ policies leave much to be desired. Time and again, we have seen the elite of the party squander congressional majorities for the sake of austerity policies. Nor have party elites forsaken bankrupt efforts to maintain geopolitical hegemony of the U.S. in the world. To an important extent, notwithstanding very narrow support in Congress, the Biden Administration has rejected austerity, though little change is evident in its foreign policy. Even so, the difference between Biden and any likely Republican nominee is one of kind, not degree.

Further gains will depend on keeping Donald Trump and his neo-fascist party out of the White House, expanding the Democratic majority in the Senate, and flipping party control of the House of Representatives. DSA’s reputation and political prospects depend on being part of that effort. Hence, I urge the convention to adopt our resolution “Uniting Against the Ultra-Right.”

I welcome the resolution with a title that sounds similar, namely “Fighting the Right by Defending Abortion Rights, Trans People, and Democracy.” That resolution points to effective work done in Kansas in defense of reproductive rights. I would like to note that that campaign defended legislation that fell far short of full access to abortion. Moreover, it entailed working in concert with non-socialists. As such, it was reformist and defensive. Of course, I applaud the entire effort. The Kansas activists picked the right hill to defend, given their own political setting. I hope such an approach is more consistently upheld throughout DSA’s work.

The real political choice before us remains. Liberation, unfortunately, depends on people we don’t like winning the November 2024 elections. There is no getting away from it. Heading into the make-or-break year of 2024, DSA needs a firm grip on its political mission. So once again, I urge convention delegates to vote in favor of the resolution “Uniting Against the Ultra-Right.”