Socialist Fundamentals Series

The Socialist Fundamentals Series was created by East Bay DSA's Political Education Committee (PEC) and elected committee leaders. The curriculum creates a shared vocabulary and understanding as the basis for debate, solidifies knowledge of socialist fundamentals, and enables members to make informed strategic and tactical decisions. Join us each month as we work through the curriculum. The material in the Socialist Fundamentals Series may be amended via recommendations from the Political Education Committee to the chapter Steering Committee.

We hope that studying the core curriculum will be a shared cultural experience that fosters a sense of connection between members and the larger chapter. PEC will organize a monthly Socialist Night School to work through the curriculum. Chapter members are highly encouraged to read the standard curriculum along with the Political Education calendar, even if they can't make every (or any) of the curriculum events the Political Education Committee puts on. The first session is on February 10, 2024. All members and non-members are encouraged to attend!


Part 1: Fundamentals and Core Concepts of Socialism (Sessions 1-3)

Session 1: The Communist Manifesto 

  • Reading:
  • The Communist Manifesto (1848) by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels
  • Themes and key concepts/ topics:
  • Socialism/communism, materialism, idealism, class, class struggle, capitalism
  • Socialist History
  • Why the working class?
  • Utopian/Idealist vs. “scientific”/ “materialist” socialism

Session 2: Introduction to Key Socialist Concepts

  • Readings:
  • Elementary Concepts of Historical Materialism (PDF linked here) by Marta Harnecker, intro and pages 63-114 (Intro, chp. 4 "Economic Structure of Society," chp 5- "Base and Superstructure," chp 6- "The Ideological Structure" and chp 7- "Juridico-Political Structure")  
  • Themes and key concepts/topics:
  • Socialism, communism, materialism, idealism, mode of production, class.
  • Why the working class?

Session 3: Class and Class Struggle

  • Readings: 
  • Elementary Concepts of Historical Materialism by Marta Harnecker, pages 115-182 (chp. 8- "Mode of Production, Social Formation, and Political Conjuncture," chp 9- "Social Classes," chp 10 - "Class Struggle")
  •  Themes and Key Concepts/topics:
  • Socialism, communism, materialism, idealism, mode of production, class.
  • Why the working class?

Part 2: Developing a Socialist Analysis (Sessions 4-9)

Session 4: Social Reproduction and Socialist Feminism

Session 5: Black Reconstruction and the General Strike

  • Readings: 
  • Black Reconstruction by W.E.B. Du Bois excerpts (Chapters 1 "The Black Worker," 2 "The White Worker," and 4 "The General Strike" - totaling ~60 pages)
  • Themes and key concepts/topics:
  • US History, racism, and racial oppression from a materialist perspective
  • Expanding the conception of "the working class" beyond literally employed wage workers and "militant labor action" to properly understand that enslaved people launched and won the most successful general strike in US history

Session 6: Racial Ideology in the US

  • Reading:
  • Racecraft by Barbara and Karen Fields (ch. 4 "Slavery, Race, and Ideology in America," conclusion) - pages 111-148, 261-290 
  • Themes and key concepts /topics: 
  • There is no scientific biological basis for the idea of race.
  • American fealty to the idea of race has serious negative ramifications for our ability to confront class exploitation.
  • Racism remains a major obstacle to working class solidarity in the US and is vital for socialists to understand and confront. 

Session 7: Capitalism with Californian Characteristics

  • Readings: Golden Gulag by Ruth Wilson Gilmore (Ch. 1: "Introduction" and Ch.2 "The California Political Economy") 
  • Themes and key concepts/topics:
  • Accumulation and surplus
  • Discusses the end of the Fordist political moment and the brutal transition to neoliberalism, specifically through a focus on why California solved the capitalist crises of the 1970s and 80s with mass incarceration and the abandonment of public goods like education and child welfare.

Session 8: Imperialism and Global Capitalism

  • Readings: Neocolonialism by Kwame Nkrumah (excerpts - intro, ch. 18, conclusion)
  • Themes and key concepts/topics:
  • Neocolonialism, imperialism.

Part 3: Socialist Strategy, Tactics, and Organization (Sessions 10-12)

Session 9: Socialist Labor Strategy

  • Reading: 
  • The Rank and File Strategy by Kim Moody 
  • Themes and key concepts/topics:
  • Why is rebuilding a militant fighting labor movement in the US essential to winning socialism, or even winning basic improvements to the lives of the working class? 

Session 10: Building Independent Working Class Organization

  • Readings: 
  • Mike Parker on Political Action (article published on The Call)
  • Our Moment: Disorganization as the Problem of Our Time (article by Communist Caucus)
  • Supplemental Reading: A New Party of a New Type (article or podcast)
  • Themes and key concepts/topics:
  • Understand the value of class struggle elections as a key strategy to building an organized multiracial working class; the value of delivering legislative wins for the working class; the importance of being selective about endorsing proposals/candidates that explicitly build the power of the working class; the challenges of holding electeds accountable*; and the limitations of trying to win electoral reforms without defeating capitalism.
  • Present pieces that make a clear intervention on questions of socialist strategy and tactics that are legible to our readers and can be applied to current questions facing DSA. 

Session 11: Democracy in our Workplaces and in our Organization

  • Reading: 
  • Democracy is About People Having Power by Mike Parker (article published on The Call)
  • Learning goals:
  • Present pieces that make a clear intervention on questions of socialist strategy and tactics that are legible to our readers and can be applied to current questions facing DSA. 
  • Understand that socialist power is derived from the independent organization of the working class; reckon with current constraints that the working class is not sufficiently organized to win reforms (much less revolution) until greater organization is achieved; be able to formulate questions to analyze current constraints and opportunities to increase working class organization; be able to engage with the question of what DSA's role, and what the party's role, is in building socialist power.