Coherence, with its demand to be both teller of difficult truths and social butterfly who brings people together creating unity, has been an issue with me and Democratic Socialists of America right now, for example. I want to join, I want to stay out, I want to praise, I want to criticize, I know criticizing burns bridges, I know criticisms must be made regardless.
There are some very optimistic things going on from my perspective in Democratic Socialists of America. It’s been growing like crazy for one, almost to 20,000 members. I’ve never been a fan of the Democratic Party, and I only just now learned that DSA’s Left Caucus explicitly supports running openly socialist candidates. I don’t know to what extent it actively opposes the Democratic Party entirely, though I know there was a recent petition within DSA’s Left to that effect, advocating something other than the Democrats, some new kind of party.
This means that DSA is emerging as BOTH a site of genuine Leftism, insofar as it has a space for non-Democratic Party politics, genuine Leftism insofar as it allows pluralistic factions unlike the monolithic authoritarian sects of virtually all the other Left groups, ie it actually practices internal democracy, and Left unity insofar as the Left Caucus probably includes leftists of all sorts of persuasions and stripes and tendencies, not really caring what you believe as long as you respect democracy (which should be the minimum requirement anywhere anyway).
However I still find myself plagued by the question: is DSA really worth bothering with? It’s still hampered by its old leadership and that leadership’s commitment to Democratic Party politics, to the awful strategy of attempting to reform the Democrats and wasting immense amounts of resources running “progressive Democrats,” and it’s not just the old leadership to worry about, but how the Bernie-based popularity of the group does make it act as a magnet not for real socialists, but a bunch of politically uninitiated, unradicalized liberals whose entire concept of politics consists of elections and Democrats, whose entire concept of socialism is welfare-capitalist Europe, whose continuous flooding into the organization makes the old leadership’s continued dominance and the continuation of its awful strategies a serious threat.
But there is still so much going strong in favor of DSA that I can’t ignore it. Having been burned so hard in the past by not one, but two “revolutionary socialist” organizations that claim to value democracy and even have a critical perspective on Stalinism but turn out to be just as repressive to internal dissenters in practice, an organization based on democracy sounds pretty damn good to me.
It’s also the case that DSA’s politics are strong, aligned as they are with Bernie’s strong focus on class demands, as opposed to whatever ridiculous quackery the rest of the Left is focused on. This is an emphasis I share.
As always, the dialectic answer to any question in life is both.
My other doubts about DSA? Honestly they attract a lot of yuppies and the people in it are just too fucking soft and liberal. I think that turns off a lot of the harder, lower-income, less politically correct elements in the working class, ie most of us. We wouldn’t feel at home being in DSA and I’m not sure I do either. It’s nice for the liberals and progressives and Democratic Party loyalists; it’s not a great space for the true Silent Majority of the working class who are unaligned with either wing of the two party system and aren’t really culturally dominated either by liberalism or conservatism but really by a bit of both and the general randomness of life.
That is a real problem and I’m sorry if I hurt some feelings saying that, and on the other hand I’m honestly not entirely sorry, because hard truths must be told. Of course it’s not that these harder elements of the working class would be at home in any OTHER socialist group right now in any significant numbers, but I raise this as an issue with DSA as a compliment, really, because DSA is the only mass pole of attraction of any significance really worth discussing in the USA. Bernie was a good pole of attraction for this largest Third Wing of Americans; most socialist groups right now are sadly almost more welcoming to Clinton people, and that is a big problem because in truth Clinton people are a minority, and not a good one, but gross, disconnected, class-blind, often well-to-do identitarian-reductionist/tokenist corporate Democrats. Courting that demographic isn’t just a recipe for missing out on who we really need; it’s a recipe for actively driving them away.