DSA Statement on the 2000 Vote

Xxxx xxxxxxx at xxxxxx.xx
Mon Aug 28 20:31:58 MDT 2000

While I guess I'm happy that DSA no longer views itself as the "left wing of the
Democratic Party," this statement leaves me confused as to what DSA's tactics are.
They're committed neither to building an independent working class party such as
the Labor Party nor are they committed to the Democrats and they're all over the
map on the Presidential election. DSA mentions that it's a co-sponsor of the
Working Families Party in NY which, I believe, is a practitioner of "fusion"
politics (ie running candidates on it's own and the Democratic Party ticket). If
so what's the difference between the DSA and the New Party?


                                   The DSA Statement on the 2000 Elections

  The National Political Committee consciously chose not to endorse any major
party presidential candidates. While understanding that for pragmatic reasons many
progressive trade unionists, environmentalists, and African-American and Latino
activists have chosen to support Al Gore, DSA s elected representatives believe
that Gore, like the now defeated Bill Bradley, represents a centrist, neo-liberal
politics which does not advocate the radical structural reforms   such as
progressive taxation, major defense cuts, and real universal health and child
care   necessary to move national politics in a genuinely democratic direction.

 Gore’s strong support for “free trade” fails to integrate the need
for international solidarity and global regulation of transnational capital
required for egalitarian politics at home and abroad. Nor is it sufficient to talk
of getting “soft money” (unlimited contributions directly to the
political parties) out of politics. Corporate influence over electoral politics
can only be curtailed through public financing of campaigns and access to free
media. It is a sad commentary on the state of American politics when
dyed-in-the-wool conservative John McCain is portrayed by mass media as a
“progressive reformer” of campaign law.<br>
                                                <p>Some DSAers may support Ralph
Nader for president, if he appears on the ballot in their state. Others may
support our Socialist Party comrade David McReynolds. Nader’s campaign is
likely to appear on more state ballots and it has the potential to harness the
energy of the protests in Seattle and Washington against the WTO and IMF. This
time around, DL hopes he runs a serious campaign and does not again dismiss issues
of racism and sexism as “divisive” or “gonadal” politics.<br>
                                                <p>But in states where the
presidential race appears close next November, it is likely that DSA members with
ties to mass constituencies will engage in pragmatic lesser-evilism and hold their
nose and vote for the Democrat. These are all understandable tactical choices. DSA
Vice-Chair Harold Meyerson’s electoral analysis in this issue concludes with
a case for “critical support” of Gore. This position is by no means an
official DSA “line,” but a perspective held to by many in the
organization, but dissented from by numerous others.<br>
                                                <p>It is inaccurate to describe
DSA as primarily working within the “left-wing” of the Democratic
Party.” The 1993 DSA convention in fact resolved “that the imperative
task for the democratic Left is to build anti-corporate social movements which are
capable of winning reforms which empower people. In so far as such social
movements and coalitions wish to influence state policy they will, at times,
intervene in electoral politics. The fundamental question for DSA is not what form
that electoral intervention takes, whether it be through Democratic primary races,
non-partisan local elections, or third party efforts. Rather, our electoral work
aims at building majoritarian coalitions capable of not only electing public
officials, but capable of holding them accountable after they are
                                                <p>DSA’s main task is to
build grassroots, multi-racial, progressive coalitions. There is no short-cut to
doing so other than the hard work of “education, agitation, and
organizing.” Neither flying the flag of a third party which lacks a mass
social base, or placing uncritical faith in isolated progressive Democratic
politicians will build a powerful Left. A successful third party would have to
command sufficient strength in mass constituencies that it could split one of the
two major parties.<br>
                                                <p>DSA is no more loyal to the
Democratic Party – which barely exists as a grassroots institution –
than are individuals or social movements which upon occasion use its ballot line
or vote for its candidates. The peculiar nature of the American constitution
renders third party politics difficult at both the national and state level.
Myriad structural factors mitigate against viable third parties, and various
constitutional blockages are exceedingly difficult to amend: executive-based
federalism makes parliamentary-style coalition-governments impossible, winner-take
all districts, absence of proportional representation, open primaries in which
party membership is regulated states not parties themselves — allowing both
Klansmen and Communists to be members of the Democratic Party, In the GOP, white
libertarian upper-middle-class suburbanites contend with white working-class
fundamentalists for influence in that party. Veterans of the left will remember
that the 1968 Peace and Freedom Party and the 1980 Citizens Party arose at moments
of greater left-wing strength and did not significantly alter the national
electoral landscape. Nor has, unfortunately, the New Party, which many DSAers work
with in states where “fusion” of third party and major party votes is
possible (such as the DSA co-sponsored Working Families Party in N.Y. State).<br>
                                                <p>DSA recognizes that some
insurgent politicians representing labor, environmentalists, gays and lesbians,
and communities of color may choose to run under Democratic auspices, as in the
1988 Jesse Jackson campaign, or operate as Democrats like Senator Paul Wellstone,
and the 59 Democratic members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, one-half of
whom are Black and Latino and all of whom possess strong labor backing and
operative social democratic politics.<br>
                                                <p>Electoral tactics are only a
means for DSA; the building of a powerful anti-corporate and ultimately socialist
movement is the end. Where third party or non-partisan candidates represent
significant social movements DSA locals have and will continue to build such
organizations and support such candidates. DSA honored independent socialist
Congressperson Bernie Sanders of Vermont at our last convention banquet, and we
have always raised significant funds nationally for his electoral campaigns. At
the same time, we were pleased to have Democratic Congressperson and Progressive
Caucus member Bob Filner of San Diego introduce Sanders at the convention, and
note that Progressive Caucus member Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) will be honored at our
annual Debs-Thomas-Harrington dinner this Spring in Chicago.<br>
                                                <p>DSA is a modest, sometimes
effective organization, whose members have greatest influence in community-level
electoral politics. DSA is not an electoral organization, but rather a democratic
socialist political organization which aims to bring socialism into the mainstream
of American politics. We endeavor to do so through a two-pronged strategy of
education and organizing. Much of our work is cultural and ideological: forums,
debates, publications. But our voice can only be heard if we simultaneously play a
central, activist role within struggles relevant to working people, communities of
color, women, gays and lesbians and other oppressed constituencies. We operate
within progressive coalitions as an open socialist presence and bring to these
movements an analysis and strategy which recognizes the fundamental need to
democratize global corporate power. We do not see ourselves as a vanguard speaking
for the masses nor do we romantically believe that a small socialist organization
can unilaterally transform the U.S. electoral map.<br>
                                                <p>DSA strives to be a crucial
socialist leaven within a mass movement for social justice. In the 2000 elections,
most electorally-active, progressive constituencies will endeavor to elect
progressives to Congress and to the state legislatures. These state legislatures
will engage in the post-census redistricting which will influence electoral
politics throughout the coming decade. For better or worse, it is unlikely that
presidential politics in the year 2000 will structurally transform the landscape
of American politics, however important the outcome.<br>
                                                <p>DSA will continue to be a voice
inside — and outside — the electoral process, to argue against panaceas
of ‘fixed’ markets, and for a bottom-up democratic, decentralized and
environmentally sane economy.</td>

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