We have commented on DSA elsewhere in the past year (“3 Reasons Why Revolutionary Students Should Not Join YDSA” and “DSA’s Iron Dome Bowman Voted for Israeli Apartheid“). Here is a brief followup to the discussions provoked by those articles.
To conceive of the defeat of capitalism by revolutionary means might seem to require, in 2022, in the US, a quixotic and stubborn denial of reality. This would explain certain features of the revolutionary Left, familiar to anyone who has spent time in its atmosphere. Suspicion towards all who descend from the realm of principles (better to say, morals) to considerations of the correlation of forces and one’s own place in them. Fantastical conceptions of history and the operation of the present world. An innocent sense of novelty, so that efforts can be joined anew with no knowledge of past failures or interest in their comprehension. Messianic feelings: perhaps what accounts for the pile of tracts to be gathered at each action and the vacant nature of what they have to say.
To the extent that this small and dreary world even registers among their concerns, the social democrats of our time in DSA hope to construct a wall against it. The maniacs who for decades have populated this world, some noble and others frightening, who live on an impassable limit between dreams and reality, must be kept at bay. Their intransigent style must also be prevented from infecting the youth of the post-2016 movement, who might otherwise be susceptible to its influence as reform campaigns stall, running up against the futility of engaging the adversary on its own terms, and disappointments accumulate. The handwringing aimed at containing and putting a lid on the “Bernie or Bust” (2019-20) and “expel Bowman” campaigns (2021-2) precisely had to do with constructing this wall.
Thus, to say, “against social democracy!”, in the eyes of many young social democrats, is equivalent to inviting them into the nightmare world of the “microsects”, of old books, doctrinal debates, newspapers, poorly attended meetings, and inflexible work pushed by its own march, which recuperates after setbacks sometimes in a weaker state, and where perceivable developments are modest and unequal to the image it often seeks to create. However, youth who have been trained into viewing politics through the opposition of relevance and irrelevance, against their own intuitions, share with the delusional among the revolutionary anti-capitalists the lack of a basic condition for progress: self-consciousness, the ability to correctly assess one’s own place in the correlation of forces.
What lies behind the “relevance” of their organization, DSA? Membership decline—especially salient given how much was made of recruitment numbers as the main barometer of the ascendance of “democratic socialism” since 2016. A formal leadership on paper, the NPC, with no authority over the personalities who are effectively the tendency’s real leadership in Congress. A record of capitulation (recall only the outcome of “Force the Vote“), futility (an inconsequential bloc to defend Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan), and general avoidance of the third rail of foreign policy during the intensification of the inter-imperialist drive (an area more so relegated to its IC). Now, there is a simplistic hope to be renewed by contact with labor.
Revolutionary anti-capitalists can recognize the odious features of our groupings, a step towards their transformation—infantilism will fade, while weakness imposes a need to withdraw into oneself, into the internal conditions that are the basis for new movements, away from the ebb and flow of daily politics, defined everywhere at present by the trends and agendas of the bourgeoisie. Can the democratic socialist youth recognize their own?