DSA Communist Caucus: Our Statement

DSA Communist Caucus banner

We’re a newly formed DSA caucus. We’ve written this public statement to clarify what we are all about, and what we would like to do. We are currently based out of the East Bay DSA, but we hope to begin organizing with comrades everywhere!

1. We are of the working class. We recognize ourselves as part of the working class because we have no meaningful ownership of the institutions that produce everyday essentials. Nor have we inherited massive sums of compounding wealth. We have nothing but our bodies and minds, and we are forced to put them to work. We are compelled to carry out unfulfilling jobs, work long hours, piece together dangerous hustles, or else delude ourselves into believing that education is not merely workplace training. All of this means that our lives are dominated by the capitalist economy. Only wealthy elites benefit from this arrangement. Our freedom will only come from collective ownership, access, and control over the means of life. The DSA’s objective should be to end capitalist exploitation and domination for good.

2. Despite our shared condition as part of the class, our individual experience is often radically different. This is a main feature of working class life. We experience class society through racialized and gendered identities; according to work types, like blue collar, white collar, and unwaged labor; and through our full-time, part-time, or unemployed status. Internal separations and inequalities of power between us is a fundamental trait of life under capitalism. Racialized and gendered oppressions are ruthlessly intensified by our class subordination. The need for class power requires that we move against these internal divisions, even if they cannot be fully transcended before capitalism ends. Real freedom, true equality, and liberty that is not defined as consumption choices: these desires spur us to act together. Once capitalist society is buried, even the most privileged of our class will find fulfillment beyond what is possible in today’s society. We have everything to gain from our collective liberation.

3. Making demands of capital and the state are only useful if doing so organizes us as a class. Organizing as a class teaches us how to collectively fight and win. We learn how to sustain protracted strikes, occupations, blockades, and take-overs. We improve our ability to rout white supremacists, pressure bosses, force politicians to act, or reverse urban displacement. As we get organized, we build our capacity and endurance to fight together. Our ability to become a collective force allows us to reclaim the dignity and autonomy that is forcibly taken from us daily. We want full control over our collective situation. We are done with our fractured and alienated social lives. We will seize control of the world which was built through our collective exploitation and domination. All of this we want, and yet none can be had through the ballot box. Concessions from the capitalist classes come only as a response to our collective power.

4. We oppose all institutions that block working class power. Engaging in struggle teaches us who these enemies are. Some enemies have already become clear. This includes police departments, the Democratic and Republican Parties, union bureaucrats who betray us to serve the interests of capital, and nonprofit organizations that co-opt and nullify social movements. There are those who, like the Republican Party, obviously oppose us. Others, such as the Democratic Party, hide their opposition behind false acts of goodwill. They publically advocate policies that are said to reduce harm. But their real goal is expressed in their relationship with Goldman Sachs and other capitalist institutions: to manage capitalism more efficiently as an alternative to replacing it. Their paternalistic harm-reduction schemes can never replace, and will often decay, working class power.

5. We live in an age of intense capitalist crises that appear everywhere. Environmental destruction; rapid urban displacement; violent police management of black and brown people; brutal objectification of feminized workers; excessive working hours for those on salary; high levels of debt; the explosion of mental health problems among us; everyday social isolation; and, of course, Donald Trump — all of these are symptoms of today’s capitalist disaster. Some time ago, our class maintained solidarities based in the factory, in the neighborhood, and in common ways of life. These solidarities gave us access to at least some collectively shared life essentials. Collective access to essentials protected us from unpredictable changes in the market, like housing insecurity or rising expenses. Decades of counter-revolution have destroyed most of these. We have been turned into isolated individuals. We are left with few organic connections to community. As a consequence, we are forced to rely on the capitalist market for almost everything. More market-dependent than ever, the ongoing crisis of capitalism now makes itself appear in every facet of life. We feel caught in a paradox: our era seems apocalyptic, while at the same time capitalism seems indestructible. But the opposite is true. The world has yet to end, and capitalism can be overthrown.

6. We need a working-class organization that can support and build our collective power. The DSA should aim to grow and connect, not to instruct, the revolutionary desires of all parts of the working class. Our organizational actions should be measured by the project of expanding our collective power and fighting spirit, with the goal of overthrowing capitalism. From those of us lucky enough to find employment in the affluent field of tech, to those of us who have been denied reasonable employment altogether — we must build real, which is to say practical, solidarities between us. Building practical solidarities is done through action, not through words. Real solidarity will be made if we remain open to supporting different parts of our class as they become politically active. Since the future political activity of different parts of our class is unpredictable, we must always be prepared to change course, act on new situations, and remain ready to take necessary tactical risks. In other words, we must be strategic without becoming dogmatic. Doing so will ensure that we become powerful together, and it is only together that we may endeavour to create a new world.

7. Building working class power requires us to understand our collective worries, desires, and needs. In the immediate term, this means studying, identifying, and organizing around our collective experiences. As the second largest socialist organization in US history, we have a unique opportunity to organize DSA members. Inquiries regarding work, rent, consumption, and sociality should be immediately conducted for DSA members. In addition, we must conduct inquiries for those external to our organization, so that we can find ways of empowering others in our class. We can begin with those close to DSA members, like co-workers, neighbors, friends, and associates. We have to retain an outward-looking stance if we want to grow and develop solidarities throughout the working class. As our class gains a shared sense of trust and organizational strength, we will build a path to victory.

8. Working class power is international or it is nothing! The system of capital that confronts us is thoroughly global; it reaches well beyond the boundaries of the United States. Capitalist exploitation means extraction in Africa, exploitation in Asia, and the propagation of urban slums throughout the Global South. This system of global capitalism is not natural. It is reinforced by the military might of the United States government. Our development of class power through international solidarities stems from our collective opposition to the US government’s capacity to build empire and inflict imperialist violence. The history of the US state is riddled with the counter-revolutionary acts of imperialism, slavery, genocide and colonialism. We must always remember this history, for it shows the development of the American state as a terroristic capitalist formation. Just as global capitalism, today’s working class crosses all national borders. Capitalism is a global threat, and only a globally-organized working class is sufficient for fighting it.

9. The DSA has a great potential for promoting and unifying working class struggles. We can do this by acting to support self-organized power in all parts of our class. We hope comrades far and wide will join us in this effort. Together, we can win the world, and forever cast off our chains.

Originally posted on Medium.

Comments

Hieronymous
Sep 16 2017 13:10
syndicalist wrote:
Here ya go, chuck the Trots into this mishmash of social democracy: https://oaklandsocialist.com/2017/09/16/dsa-eugene-debs-caucus-formed/

Sounds like DSA is quickly devolving into being 25,000 chunks of juicy reformist-liberal carrion being torn to bits by competing bloodthirsty Trotskyite and Leninist vultures.

Chilli Sauce
Sep 16 2017 07:55

I have to say, for a long time I thought what the f*ck are anarchists/communists doing within thy DSA. But it does seem to be a pole of attraction for the newly radicalized in The US and I think there's value in putting forward a clear class struggle line with that grouping. I have no idea if this is the group/statement to do that, but I do see the value in making those arguments and engaging with the wider organisation.

Pennoid
Sep 16 2017 10:57

Chilli, politics is either hopelessly reformist; or cynically manipulative. You can't talk to people with different opinions!

Juan Conatz
Sep 16 2017 15:59

I dunno. I'm still sticking with the SDS comparision for DSA. Very similar demographics. Very similar places where they are large, but also almost as spread out, too. In fact, for some places that now have DSA chapters with several dozen members, SDS may have been the last radical left organization that existed that had that many members.

The somewhat decentralized structure is similar, too. As I understand it, the national committee or whatever it is called, doesn't have much power over the local level groups and whatever staff they have that service the locals, is somewhat disorganized and not done great.

The big difference between SDS and DSA though is that SDS actually did things and developed before the proliferation of factions and caucuses. DSA hasn't really had that oppurtunity. Where people joined SDS for what it was, people are joining DSA for what it might be.

Hieronymous
Sep 16 2017 16:32

How is DSA relevant all of a sudden, when historically it has endorsed Walter Mondale, Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader, John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Bernie Sanders for the U.S. presidency? Why not the 50 year old Peace and Freedom Party with its origins connected to the Panthers? Or the Greens, who's fundis in the mid-1980s supported an "anti-party party" anti-electoral position? Or the legacy of the Labor Party Tony Mazzocchi helped found in mid-1990s?

In my opinion all of those were destined for failure since they fetishize the Left-Leninist orthodoxy of building the organization first, emphasizing form over content. I remained unconvinced the DSA, which politically is to the right of all of the above groupings, is any different. Yet I remain agnostic and am open to being convinced otherwise. Despite the rhetoric, how can DSA contribute to class struggle? And how can anti-authoritarians coexist in organizations manipulated by parliamentary maneuverings, which inevitably happens when opportunistic Leninists and Trots -- especially the worst of the bunch, the ISO -- jockey to take over?

comrade_emma
Dec 6 2017 09:36

I find the Communist Caucus intersting because "some of the founding members" are influenced by Bordiga and "early" Camatte.

jondwhite
Dec 6 2017 23:23
comrade_emma wrote:
I find the Communist Caucus intersting because "some of the founding members" are influenced by Bordiga and "early" Camatte.

That's not a good sign.

comrade_emma
Dec 7 2017 07:18

It's the only good sign I've seen in anything related to the DSA.

jondwhite
Dec 7 2017 20:32

Not adhering to the Leninist vanguard model would be a good sign.

comrade_emma
Dec 7 2017 21:49

What is a "Leninist vanguard model"? The concept of a vanguard is something that was spoken of in the manifesto as well, it's not something that Lenin came up with out of nowhere. If you mean what Lenin talked about in What is to be Done?, then I'd say that you are taking it out of it's historic context and it's not something any "Leninist vanguard model" outside of that context would apply.

Further more, have you read Camatte's texts like On Organisation or Origin and Function of the Party?

Steven.
Dec 8 2017 00:41

Does this group still exist? Have they actually done anything?

comrade_emma
Dec 8 2017 06:25

They are still around but they are just a caucus in the DSA so they don't really organise anything separate from the DSA.

jondwhite
Dec 10 2017 16:24
comrade_emma wrote:
What is a "Leninist vanguard model"? The concept of a vanguard is something that was spoken of in the manifesto as well, it's not something that Lenin came up with out of nowhere. If you mean what Lenin talked about in What is to be Done?, then I'd say that you are taking it out of it's historic context and it's not something any "Leninist vanguard model" outside of that context would apply.

Further more, have you read Camatte's texts like On Organisation or Origin and Function of the Party?

You realise this is libcom don't you? Judging by Lenin peeking into your profile pic, maybe not. Many libcoms are not in favour of parties let alone vanguard parties irrespective of what Marx or the renegade Lenin said over a century ago.

comrade_emma
Dec 10 2017 17:46

I don't expect everyone, or even most, to agree with me of course. But that wasn't my point, my point was that you are just throwing around random evil sounding buzzwords like "Leninist vanguard model". It literally just acts like a pat on the back from your libcom friends and as quizzical look from anyone who has read Marx or Lenin.

I mean seriously, I don't care about downvotes or disagreement but every time two or more people disagree with me someone says something along the lines of "you know most libcoms wouldn't agree with you right?".

Mike Harman
Dec 10 2017 18:07
Hieronymous wrote:
How is DSA relevant all of a sudden, when historically it has endorsed Walter Mondale, Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader, John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Bernie Sanders for the U.S. presidency? Why not the 50 year old Peace and Freedom Party with its origins connected to the Panthers? Or the Greens, who's fundis in the mid-1980s supported an "anti-party party" anti-electoral position? Or the legacy of the Labor Party Tony Mazzocchi helped found in mid-1990s?

In my opinion all of those were destined for failure since they fetishize the Left-Leninist orthodoxy of building the organization first, emphasizing form over content. I remained unconvinced the DSA, which politically is to the right of all of the above groupings, is any different. Yet I remain agnostic and am open to being convinced otherwise.

So I don't see the difference either, but in terms of relevance to this site, a lot of (in the main newly politicised) US people (maybe as much as 20,000?) have joined the DSA in the past year or two. This is a similar trend to the tens of thousands who joined the Labour Party and Momentum in the UK. Although they are structurally and politically quite different groups, but it's been the default organisation that people have joined in the same way, and the fact that various types of anarchist/trotskyist/leninist and non-aligned people have joined both groups is a common theme.

I think this is significant enough that it's relevant to publish/discuss critical stuff produced internally to those groups, as well as content critical of the organisations from a communist perspective - including on the limits of entryism etc.

Another way to put it - we can have a very low opinion of the organisation and its possibilities, but the organisation and the thousands of individuals in it aren't the same thing.

jondwhite
Dec 10 2017 22:47

A Leninist vanguard model is one where important decisions are taken by a minority of 'important' members, reflecting the way they rule society if they take power. Not necessarily restricting an open party press or factions.
Marx said

Quote:
The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.

to which one reply was

Quote:
It is, of course, quite legitimate to say that the socialist party represents the true interest of the working class; Marx had said the party represents "the most advanced and resolute section of the working class". Such a statement is a tautology as long as the mass of workers accept capitalism. But Lenin went much further than this. In his State and Revolution, written during 1917, he declared that the Party must seize power by force and hold on even in the face of resistance from the workers it claims to represent. In other words, "dictatorship of the proletariat" meant little more than the dictatorship of the Bolshevik Party.
comrade_emma
Dec 10 2017 23:13

Are you just linking non-sourced quotes from your own parties statements?

Quote:
For "the people", Lenin substituted "the proletariat", which was hardly appropriate since 90 per cent of Russians were peasants. However, this did not worry Lenin since he decided the working class was incapable of progressing beyond a trade-union consciousness and that the revolution would have to be carried out in its name by an élite of professional revolutionaries, the "vanguard party". Once this had been accepted, there was nothing left of Marx's statement that "the emancipation of the working class itself", as some of Lenin's opponents pointed out at the time.

Again, this is just a reading of What is to be Done? and was one of Lenin's more "orthodox marxist" works, it is not something he stood for after those circumstances had passed, especially not during 1917, which is when he fully broke with the ideology of the second international.

I'm going to quote Left-wing communism: an infantile disorder on struggle and the party.

And here Lenin literately says that the party needed the support of the masses to succeed. Lenin did not believe that the party can just take power by itself and manage to maintain and consolidate it. Look at what happened to the parties in the provisional government, they had not mass support because they wanted to continue the war and compromise with the bourgeoisie on workers power.

Quote:
It is, I think, almost universally realised at present that the Bolsheviks could not have retained power for two and a half months, let alone two and a half years, without the most rigorous and truly iron discipline in our Party, or without the fullest and unreserved support from the entire mass of the working class, that is, from all thinking, honest, devoted and influential elements in it, capable of leading the backward strata or carrying the latter along with them.

As you can see here, Lenin does "believe" in the development of spontaneous struggle that leads to revolutionary organisations like the soviets, not just "trade-union consciousness".

Quote:
The years of revolution (1905–07). All classes came out into the open. All programmatical and tactical views were tested by the action of the masses. In its extent and acuteness, the strike struggle had no parallel anywhere in the world. The economic strike developed into a political strike, and the latter into insurrection. The relations between the proletariat, as the leader, and the vacillating and unstable peasantry, as the led, were tested in practice. The Soviet form of organisation came into being in the spontaneous development of the struggle.

The point of Lenin substituting the peasants is just odd. I mean, of course Lenin recognized that the industrial proletariat was the most revolutionary class but he still saw that the peasants had a role in revolution. It's lazy analysis to just look at numerical values like the amount and base the entire analysis of that. Yes, there was a lot of peasants but that doesn't mean that they are the most revolutionary.

Mike Harman
Dec 10 2017 23:15
comrade_emma wrote:
What is a "Leninist vanguard model"? The concept of a vanguard is something that was spoken of in the manifesto as well, it's not something that Lenin came up with out of nowhere. If you mean what Lenin talked about in What is to be Done?, then I'd say that you are taking it out of it's historic context and it's not something any "Leninist vanguard model" outside of that context would apply.

There were plenty of twentieth century groups that continued a 'what is to be done' model outside the context of illegal groups in Tsarist Russia. It applies to most of the British Trotskyist groups for a start - full time cadre, unaccountable leadership etc. with horrible results.

So when people react to this, it is sometimes 'big A anarchism' in the sense of not having read Marx or Lenin or only having read it in the most hostile possible way, but it can also be a reaction to lived experiences of Trotskyist and/or Marxist-Leninist groups. Either on the outside watching the antics of Socialist Alternative, ISO, WRP, SWP, RCP or whatever, or people may be ex-members of those organisations. Also a lot of people in those groups haven't read much Marx either, they can be pretty shoddy for political education and encourage people to read interlocutors.

The impression I get from the statement though is it's located in the workers enquiry tradition, which started with Johnson-Forest (Grace Lee Boggs, Dunayevska, CLR James, Glaberman) and then the more recent communization stuff (although they haven't talked about this at all yet afaik, so it's mostly supposition). Those are interesting groups that didn't necessarily break with Lenin in all cases (see https://libcom.org/library/silences-suppression-workers-self-emancipation-historical-problems-clr-jamess-interpreta) but yet can't really be described as 'Leninist' either.

jondwhite
Dec 10 2017 23:30

The "spontaneous struggle" is Leninist vanguard terminology. It is used to counterpose with struggle directed or agitated by the party, in other words, orders from above - something the road to socialism will need to reject as many in the First International did. All major parties have some mass support and most governments and of course Lenin would claim the Bolsheviks had mass support wouldn't he?

comrade_emma
Dec 10 2017 23:51
Quote:
The "spontaneous struggle" is Leninist vanguard terminology. It is used to counterpose with struggle directed or agitated by the party, in other words, orders from above - something the road to socialism will need to reject as many in the First International did.

I think that is a too specific definition, it is struggle that happens outside of any form of formal organisation, that includes unions. It's odd to be against this distinction, most people use it, it was not invented by leninists as some sort of double speak to trick people.

Quote:
All major parties have some mass support and most governments and of course Lenin would claim the Bolsheviks had mass support wouldn't he?

The other parties obviously didn't have much support since 1) Bolsheviks were voted to the majority in the soviets and 2) the Bolsheviks helped lead the struggle against the provisional government with the demands of peace, land and bread. The new formed dictatorship of the proletariat also lead a civil war that helped consolidate it's power, which probably wouldn't have happened unless they had mass-support.

Seriously, your entire argument seems to boil down to that when Lenin said "bad things" he meant what he said but when he said "good things" it was an evil trick and he actually meant more "bad things".

comrade_emma
Dec 10 2017 23:41

-

Mike Harman
Dec 11 2017 00:23
comrade_emma wrote:
Seriously, your entire argument seems to boil down to that when Lenin said "bad things" he meant what he said but when he said "good things" it was an evil trick and he actually meant more "bad things".

So I think one way to avoid that line of argument, is to look at some of Lenin's final works:

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1921/jan/25.htm

Lenin wrote:
Or is it that the masses of organised workers are legitimately protesting and inevitably showing readiness to throw out the new officials who refuse to rectify the useless and harmful excesses of bureaucracy?

https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1923/jan/23.htm

Lenin wrote:
With the exception of the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs, our state apparatus is to a considerable extent a survival of the past and has undergone hardly any serious change. It has only been slightly touched up on the surface, but in all other respects it is a most typical relic of our old state machine. And so, to find a method of really renovating it, I think we ought to turn for experience to our Civil War.

In these, there's a clear admission that:

- workers had genuine grievances against the bureaucracy, after a four year process of the Bolsheviks subsuming workers' organisations into the state.
- the Bolsheviks in four years had not made significant changes to the Tsarist state "It has only been slightly touched up on the surface". Although the one exception he holds up looks to be just an advisory group if anything and not any example of real self-management.

You don't need to think he was good or bad to recognise that he admitted these failings - although of course we can also point to him expelling Miasnikov from the party around the same time for making similar (but stronger) criticisms.

I do think that criticism of Lenin is strongest when it avoids conspiracy/betrayal and just focuses on his actual politics and behaviour. https://libcom.org/library/renegade-kautsky-disciple-lenin-dauve is an example of this.

comrade emma wrote:
think that is a too specific definition, it is struggle that happens outside of any form of formal organisation, that includes unions.

It's not just outside though. A lot of the biggest wildcat strikes were by workers organised in formal unions, who struck despite/against the formal organisations they were a part of (and sometimes with tacit or explicit support from shop-floor union representatives, but not always). Informal work groups, strike committees and other forms may look spontaneous but they aren't necessarily.

jondwhite
Dec 11 2017 22:53

I think you seriously underestimate those that did not support the Bolsheviks.

While a vanguard is a minority of the class, it can have "mass support" and this is what Lenin claimed for the Bolsheviks. This sort of "mass support" is however not the consciousness required for socialism. The DSA should reject the Leninist vanguard as it is a barrier to socialist understanding including as evidenced by Lenins first actions in power.

Lenin is certainly regarded as the pioneer of fake news (Pravda) and post truth political campaigning demonstrated most ably by the trump campaign.