Communist Caucus: On the Question of Electoral Support

  • Statement about: Jovanka Beckles and Gayle McLaughlin
  • For these candidates: I oppose endorsing these candidates.
  • Summary: Electoral endorsement will be ineffectual at a moment when we should be building material working class power.

Written by East Bay DSA members William O. and Kelsey J.

Two candidates, Jovanka Beckles and Gayle McLaughlin, are asking for the East Bay DSA's support. Careful consideration shows that support is not in our interest at this time. This position paper begins with arguments against electoral support. The second part proceeds to lay out an alternative vision that is based on material working class power, rather than electoral forms of organization.

Part One: Arguments Against Endorsement:

  1. Supporting Beckles and McLaughlin will not build our ability to conduct class struggle. The role of electoral politics is to support already-existing class struggles. But, class struggle in the US is stalled. Union density is its lowest ever. Strikes are at the lowest in recorded history. Non-workplace forms of struggle are as low as ever. Endorsement of Beckles and McLaughlin puts the cart before the horse. We need to focus our very precious time and resources on developing new forms of class struggle that resonate within, and outside of, the DSA.
  2. Our current weakness in obstructing capital means that we have no meaningful way to told Beckles, McLaughlin, or any other politician, accountable. Without an ability to hold the capitalist profit hostage, we fall back on liberal forms of politics. We are forced to act in the capacity of an electorate, rather than as a class. Without significant recourse, reforms won can be taken away from us at any time. We become reliant on the goodwill of politicians, or the undemocratic judicial system, rather than our power as an organized class.
  3. When we strengthen our power outside of electoral politics, we become more electorally impactful. Recent electoral shifts have occurred because of situations outside of governmental bodies. External factors, like economic stagnation and emergent social movements, have animated right-wing to left-wing polarization. We must strengthen our position outside of the electoral sphere if we want to have power over it.
  4. Relying on electoral activity will make the already-existing problem of diversity worse for the East Bay DSA chapter. Levels of voter engagement - from the literal act of voting, to merely keeping up with elections - map onto income levels in the United States. Income, as we all know, maps onto race and gender categories. This is why the run of Bernie Sanders electrified a specific portion of our class, namely those with some higher education or white collar employment. In order to reach out to other parts of our class, a non-electoral route is necessary.

Part Two: Towards Working Class Power

We need to build our power - working class power. Our class power is material. It is found in our ability to block and obstruct the flow of capital. When we obstruct capital, our enemies suffer directly. Capitalists and landlords lose profits. States lose tax revenue. Organized class struggle is what historically empowered and propelled past socialist and communist parties. Yet capitalism has changed since the 1970s. Unions have become increasingly defunct. Non-profits have tended to blur social and economic contradictions. We need new forms of working class organization that can empower us in the workplace, the neighborhood, and the city. We, in the DSA, have the power to creatively tackle this problem.

We can begin by conducting research about our collective situation. Thus as a first task we should administer inquiries regarding work, rent, and consumption for DSA members and their associates. Getting ideas about our collective situation will then allow us to experiment with new types of self-organization. For the purposes of clarity, here are some preliminary examples of what this might look like:

Landlord-Specific tenant organizations - It is likely that many DSA members unknowingly share the same landlords. DSA can help build tenant infrastructure that could keep tenants in touch as a modest first step. DSA Communist Caucus has already begun experimenting with this idea. We've begun organizing around an Oakland/Berkeley landlord, with some success.

Regional worker organizations - For example, a service workers organization for those employed in the Downtown Oakland area. Service workers are precarious, and have difficulty making demands on their own. However, external solidarity from neighboring workers, and from our DSA chapter members, might be sufficient in enforcing worker demands/desires without endangering specific workers themselves.

Neighborhood assemblies - Class and race divisions are often deployed geographically. Some neighborhoods might have issues that others do not have. Yet most of us exist without much contact with our neighbors. Our DSA chapter could begin building the infrastructure necessary to cut through today's urban alienation. Neighborhood assemblies could act as a place for new demands and issues to be collectively thunk. This could include eviction defense, repurposing of vacant land, or issues of policy brutality and violence.

Without information gained through inquiries these are just speculations, but they represent possibilities for new cellular units of today's class struggle. We will not know what kinds of organization are appropriate until we find out more information, and begin experimenting. Engagements at the level of elections miss out on this entirely. It is for this reason that we oppose endorsements at this time.

The statement above is the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the opinions of East Bay DSA, its local council, or its members.