This article is a companion piece to Episode 2 Part 1 of Y’all Ain’t Alone, a podcast available on Soundcloud and YouTube about leftist ideology and leftists living in the Southern US. Most of what’s written here is covered in the episode, so check it out below if you’d rather listen than read, but definitely take a look at the sources for further information.
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) are getting a lot of attention lately, so that’s what we’re discussing in this episode of Y’all Ain’t Alone. The DSA is a rapidly growing organization and while I’m not a member, nor do I necessarily agree with their approach, I’m often sympathetic to their message. As a member of Socialist Party USA (SPUSA), I feel it’s important to draw a distinction between the two organizations. The most important difference is that DSA isn’t a political party, they are not running candidates under their own banner, but endorsing candidates from political parties. Furthermore, DSA is generally thought of as reformist largely due to the fact that their platform explicitly says they want to fight for reforms to help the working class. They’ve endorsed candidates like Obama, John Kerry, etc. and that makes it pretty obvious that they aren’t an explicitly socialist organization. However, the DSA is doing admirable work in many areas and I definitely consider them allies, especially considering a lot of their members are more radical than the platform might suggest.
Some quick stats about DSA:
- Membership has grown from ~32,000 in December 2017 to ~46,000 in July 2018 with about 180 local chapters across the US.
- Membership is currently growing at about 2,000 members per month.
- The median age is 33 (it was 68 just five years ago!)
- DSA endorsed candidates hold ~35 elected offices
“Democrats are not socialists. Bernie Sanders is not a socialist.”
Now, do I think the DSA is going to accomplish much? Probably not if they keep trying to use the Democrats to reform the government. Capitalism won’t be overthrown from within the existing structure and it certainly won’t be overthrown by bourgeois politicians who are likely just seeking to capture the hearts of young people to secure the election. Socialism isn’t just the government doing stuff, that’s simply a myth spread by people who have little understanding of the ideology.
Socialism is, at it’s core, anti-capitalist and requires at least some sort of worker controlled production; anything short of that is just regulated capitalism or a social democracy at best. Democrats are not socialists. Bernie Sanders is not a socialist. I’m not saying this as some sort of gate-keeping, no-true-Scotsman thing. No one who embraces capitalism in any way is a socialist, the two are diametrically opposed. That said, the DSA seems to be comfortable with the slow crawl approach of reformist policies, which is understandable. I’ll be doing some future videos covering a more in-depth definition of socialism, so keep an eye out for that.
Well, what’s wrong with the DSA then? They seem to have the same goals in mind, just a different approach; they operate under the idea that we will get there by the inch instead of by the mile. Honestly, I have a lot of inner turmoil over throwing my time and energy into the DSA or sticking with a more radical approach. The problem is largely centered around the idea of the time it takes to get to proper socialism. The slower the process is, the more likely we’ll all be dead or living in the massive deserts inevitably caused by climate change. The improved material conditions for marginalized people offered by reform is great, but is it enough to be satisfied with that?
I’m not yet convinced that we can overcome capitalism without first opening up our elections beyond the two party system we currently have in place. Democrats are as unlikely as Republicans to give up a portion of their power to outsider parties by way of things like ranked choice voting; however, that seems like the only way any leftist electoral strategy would be effective in the long-term and across the US as opposed to in small pockets in the more left-leaning areas.
I could likely write endlessly on this topic, but I’ll keep it brief for now. We’ll be doing some episodes introducing these topics in a more in-depth way down the road, so stay tuned for that!
Thank you so much for reading, listening, and/or watching, please follow us on Facebook @yallaintalone and share this around if you don’t mind. We’re also publishing on Soundcloud and YouTube, so don’t forget those as well. If you have ideas for future shows, articles, or would like to be a guest, hit me up anytime in the comments or via messenger, etc. I’d love to hear from people even if it’s just to insult me or argue, but I also love compliments.