The Washington Socialist <> October 2019
By Kurt Stand
DSA at its convention endorsed Bernie Sanders for president, a decision based on Bernie’s program, his leadership in the fight for Medicare for All, his engaged, proactive role in supporting the labor movement and working-class struggles, and his support for the Green New Deal. More than that, his open identification as a socialist has created the political space for DSA and the socialist movement more widely to openly discuss and build toward socialism not on the margins but as part of a politics at the center of U.S. society. His candidacy in 2016, his work in initiating Our Revolution, and his campaign this year has helped put to bed the reactionary notion “There is No Alternative,” not only for activists on the left, but for millions of people across the country.
Sanders is widely respected across the spectrum of left and progressive activists. However, not everyone shares this this analysis — a reality sharply brought into focus by the Working Families Party endorsement of Elizabeth Warren. Many DSA members are Working Families Party members, and DSA has worked with the WFP in numerous campaigns. To some extent, discussion within the WFP around the decision to support Warren was similar to discussion within DSA around whether to support Sanders, albeit with a different outcome. The question this similarity poses for DSA is one that has always been present: (a) How do we continue to build support for Sanders, the movement, politics, and values his campaign has come to represent without attacking or alienating those who have come to a different decision? (b) How do we prepare ourselves and our politics to continue to work for a Green New Deal if Warren gets the nomination? (c) The same question applies if the nomination goes to Biden or someone else who embraces corporate neoliberalism. And (d) how do we do all this without losing sight of the necessity of defeating Trump and all he represents?
The need to find language that enables us to proceed with our political work without engaging in insults, attacks, or challenges of personal motives against those with whom we differ is all the more important in light of racist and sexist attacks on the WFP leadership after their decision was made. These did not come from Sanders’s campaign nor, in any official way, from DSA. Nonetheless in a very public and direct way, all of us in DSA need to reject language from putative Sanders supporters that reflect the mindset of Trump and his acolytes.
Below are four articles that address this issue in a manner that should inform our discussion in Metro DC DSA and beyond over the course of the next months. Two are from Organizing Upgrade, a collective that has created a space where left organizers from numerous different tendencies and perspectives can “discuss strategy and share organizing models that respond to the profound dangers and the real opportunities of this political moment.”
>> Organizing Upgrade statement on the need to sustain unity amid difference on the left and among progressives more broadly in light of dissension over the WFP decision:
>>Brief article (also from Organizing Upgrade) by CUNY Labor studies professor and activist and Sanders supporter Stephanie Luce on the legitimacy of the WFP decision and the need to place support for Sanders and support for the WFP’s attempt to build a political party in context as mutually supportive parts of a bigger picture: https://organizingupgrade.com/primaries-and-party-building/
>>An explanation by WFP co-chairs Maurice Mitchell and Nelini Stamp about the WFP process: https://medium.com/working-families-party/2020-and-the-party-were-building-together-d3385bc80ac5
>>An open letter by more than 100 African American activists and leaders decrying the open racist and misogynist attacks on Mitchell and Stamp after the WFP decision was announced: https://medium.com/@aliciagarza_78013/a-letter-from-our-movement-to-our-movement-265b89c4c9e4