Horse first, cart last: building ourselves before we build others.
- Statement about: Jovanka Beckles and Gayle McLaughlin
- For these candidates: I oppose endorsing these candidates.
- Summary: Resource siphoning from our own inchoate infrastructure, no means of accountability, and working class mistrust of politics won't deliver.
Written by East Bay DSA member Aaron Hall
East Bay DSA should not endorse Jovanka Beckles and Gayle McLaughlin.
EBDSA is still in its infancy as an organization and as such is going through the growing pains of creating and establishing the infrastructure necessary to become an effective, functioning, and vibrant force in advancing socialist politics in the East Bay. Even if we are able to recruit new members into our chapter through the support of the campaigns in question, without a solid infrastructure in place with things such as a worked out new member program and monthly general membership meetings to ensure membership retention and empowerment, those prospective members, assuming they, like most of the population, are not already politically inclined or conscious, will most likely quickly leave upon seeing a lack of internal organization and strength. The logic will follow that if an organization is not internally established and strong, it cannot somehow also be externally established and strong in the community.
No Means of Accountability
Since EBDSA is taking its first precarious steps into community organizing, activism, and politics, it does not yet possess a strong base, let alone a base at all, in the community and thus does not yet possess community clout with local politicians, to say nothing of state politicians. With little to no clout, and given that Beckles and McLaughlin are not DSA members, there is no effective way to hold them accountable should they drift from their campaign positions and/or formulate positions in contradiction to the principles of DSA. This will, in effect, underscore our weakness and inchoate development.
Siphoning of Vital Resources
The rationing and deployment of our resources is a zero-sum game: if a solid portion are spent on campaigning for Beckles and McLaughlin, we then have that amount less to put forward towards our Medicare For All campaign, building constituencies and rapport within unions, and establishing necessary and vital infrastructure.
Weak Motive Force of Empowerment
To most of the general population, politics is unimportant. It is something abstract that occurs in the estranged corridors of city halls, state capitols, and federal agencies. It is a parcel tax for an education fund, subsidies for an unfamiliar niche industry, underfunding for enforcement of work safety laws, esoteric changes to zoning -- all things that, while certainly important in determining equitability and standard of living, are far too removed from the immediate experience and struggle of everyday life for the average working person to want to put valuable time and energy into if they have those at all. The working person must figure out how they are going to get their children to school, who will pick them up, who will watch them; how they will pay for clothes, food, housing, insurance, education, and transportation for themselves and their children; how they will save for a rainy day, unemployment, vacation (if lucky), an injury, and retirement; how to enjoy life. The further down the income ladder the working person is, the more intense and preoccupied must they necessarily be with the acquisition of these necessities.
To energize people, to get them to act, to ensure commitment, and to have any hope of politicization or radicalization, the motive must be based in direct material interest and the action must show that the individual or group that sits further up the power hierarchy who is responsible for the poor conditions is actually quite weak if opposed actively and strongly by a significant portion of the governed. This is what unionization campaigns seek to do with a group of unorganized workers when they agitate the workforce to take action to win better wages/benefits/etc and confront the boss en masse to demand them. The other side of this coin however is that the workers must think the plan and organized action credible enough to actually win -- otherwise, the desired goals are discarded as pie-in-the-sky. Given that most become disillusioned and disengaged with politics very early on, especially marginalized communities, and given that even if Beckles and McLaughlin won they would merely be small rocks in the river of the political establishment around which the waters would easily and without labor flow, our ask of engagement and message of radical change via our alliance with two politicians who are unaccountable to us and at least nominally are affiliated with an establishment party would be seen as hollow, unable to fulfill the demands we desire, and chalked up as pie-in-the-sky socialism. I do not proclaim to know the particular trail we must take to build and win power, but the main path must be through direct material conditions. It is our task to figure out what this in the community and the country.
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.