The capitalists have two parties, we need a party of our own

Frances R., Jeremy G.

In 1864, Karl Marx wrote that “the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves.” To accomplish this historic task, workers need their own political party.

The "Towards an Independent Workers’ Party" resolution recommits EBDSA to the goal of constructing a mass workers’ party independent of the Democratic Party. We propose that the chapter set itself on this path by: 

  • rejecting attempts to take over the Democratic Party;
  • propagandizing around the failings of the capitalist two-party system and the need for an independent party; and 
  • allowing for endorsements of nominal Democrats in the near term, while exploring opportunities to run candidates independently and to build independent political organizations.

While it is in workers’ interests to “emancipate” themselves from capitalist injustice, the US working class is not yet united or organized enough to be capable of doing so. It is through class struggle that workers build the consciousness and capacities to win socialism. Strong working-class institutions are needed to pit workers against bosses and the rich on the mass scale needed to create a united working class ready to fight as one for a different world.

Democratic unions and social movements like recent uprisings are a fundamental part of this process of class formation. But on their own, they are limited both by the sporadic and issue-specific nature of campaigns, and by the geographic and sectoral fragmentation of workplaces and communities. And without their own party, workers are either locked out of the political process, or their struggles are channeled into the capitalist-dominated Democratic Party and co-opted by non-profits. 

That is why we agree with labor leader Tony Mazzocchi who argued, “The bosses have two parties. We need one of our own.”

We appreciate the concerns other comrades have expressed around this goal and would like to address them. From one side, people worry that calling for a future break from the Democrats is overly ambitious:

Won’t this alienate us from ordinary people?

The reality is that the majority of working-class people don’t even vote as it stands now. Most people are disgusted with the two-party status quo, and discouraged from participating in the political process at all. Without a serious alternative on offer, why would workers care about politics, let alone become active beyond the ballot box? Polls show that many people already oppose the two-party system and want a new party.

Isn’t it dangerous to alienate Democratic lawmakers and their hangers-on, which will make it harder for us to accomplish things once in office?

While we must fight to pass legislation, the work of establishment Democrats can’t substitute for workers’ activity and organization. If, by helping build independent workers’ political power in order to attack the privilege and cruelty of the ruling class, socialists alienate corporate politicians, that’s good! The battle lines of the class war will be that much clearer. We do not want to win palliative reforms at the expense of working-class self-organization.

It will take a long time to build a party, why should we worry about this now?

While we are not ready to launch a national workers party today, if we don't start building the basis for it now, it will always be a future that never comes. We can start to make it more realistic by helping build workers independent power in unions and social movements, winning workers to the idea of political independence, and building local “pre-party” experiments like the Richmond Progressive Alliance.

From the other side, comrades argue this proposal is not ambitious enough:

We should fully break from the Democrats right now, and not wait until some unknown future.

Following this argument would have stopped DSA from supporting figures like Bernie Sanders or AOC, the two campaigns most responsible for winning over millions of people to the socialist label and bringing thousands into DSA. At the local level, many good candidates we should support will still identify as Democrats for now. We will need to win more people over before we can break cleanly from all Democrats in the future.

We shouldn’t participate seriously in elections because they are a bourgeois trick.

Historically, workers’ parties have been essential for building the unity and power of the working class. If socialists don’t contest elections — the process which the vast majority of people considers to be “politics” — very few people will take our work seriously, let alone join us.

We have a world to win, and we need a mass workers party to win it.