A Movement in Support of Shared Values and Goals, Not a Name
TLDR: We shouldn’t only endorse candidates who identify themselves as Democratic Socialists. We should be a movement in support of shared values and goals, not a name.
Greetings EBDSAers! My birth name is Robert, but some people call me Robbie. Others call me Rob, or Bobby, Richie, Ryan, Robo, Reginald, Rye Bread, Rockmononof, Regalia, Rebo, Reba, Ron, Ronda, or Roy. It really depends.
Strangely enough, what I believe in doesn’t change between all these nicknames. Whether I’m Ryan or Robo, I’m still me! While my opinions on various issues may change over time, they don’t change if I’m referred to as Ron as opposed to Roy. If I sign off an email as Robert instead of Robbie, my preference for wool sweaters doesn’t shift. If my Twitter handle changes I don’t suddenly become a “burritos are better than tacos” guy (corn tortilla > flour tortilla).
Calling yourself a Democratic Socialist is… a name!
EBDSA should support candidates who align with our shared political vision (democratically decided on of course). We shouldn’t limit ourselves to only supporting candidates that call themselves Democratic Socialists. What’s most important isn’t the name I give myself, but it’s who I am!
Now I’m not saying that names are irrelevant. The way someone brands themselves is an important part of a campaign and can be a part of the discussion on whether we support them or not.
However, I know that there are many good, left wing candidates that might not identify as democractic socialists. It may be that they don’t know much about the term. Maybe they’re unsure of what the term implies- who can blame them, we probably couldn’t agree on a definition as a chapter ourselves! Or perhaps they have roots in a country where the term Socialism was used by a group that did terrible things (I don’t mean to sound like a conservative Youtuber, but that shit is real). Can we blame them for not wanting to be a part of the “make socialism a good word again” movement? Is that really the most important thing for us? Personally, it’s much more important to me that we work together to achieve our shared, bread and butter goals.
Perhaps a candidate simply feels that democratic socialism doesn’t define their vision. During a contentious 2018 EBDSA endorsement meeting discussing possible endorsement of Cat Brooks for Oakland mayor, Brooks gave an impromptu speech where she poignantly and perhaps controversially said something along the lines of (I’m paraphrasing from memory here) “...and yes, since you are so eager to know, I am a Socialist, but you cannot dictate how a community defines their own liberation!” Perhaps Socialism isn’t the only way to talk about a beautiful world...
Since Socialism is an idea that can and has been defined in so many ways, a ban of “non-Socialists” actually doesn’t really say much. I get that there are of course real political differences that people can have. But if what members really want is to ensure that candidates have a specific policy vision, then this vision should be the actual criteria proposed. For example “we only want to support candidates that don’t think any markets should exist” or that believe “reforms are a waste of time that prolong the life of Capitalism” (personally I would not support either of these proposals).
I find it very awkward, and damaging to our work, to force good candidates (or prospective members!) to “convert” to socialism for us to be able to work with them. Do we really need to make candidates (or members!) profess their allegiance to “Democratic Socialism”? Should we have an elaborate ceremony for new members where they swear with one hand on a copy of Karl Marx’s Capital that they are true “Democratic Socialists”? Ok… I’m getting carried away here… but perhaps you see the point I’m trying to make.
Our chapter recently endorsed two Hayward city council candidates that don’t identify as Democratic Socialists. I believe the chapter voted to endorse these candidates based on their values, goals, and the opportunity their campaigns presented for creating positive left wing change. This amendment brings Proposal 1 in agreement with how members of the chapter are already voting. This paragraph is way more convincing than all my other busllshit lol.
If you would like to offer a rebuttal in the burrito vs. taco controversy, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.