Response to DSA’s 2016 Electoral Strategy


The National Political Committee of the Democratic Socialists of America released bullet points of the organization’s 2016 electoral strategy a few weeks ago. They ask that DSA members who don’t agree “articulate these points as the organization’s perspective and then indicate where the individual member disagrees.”

You can read all of their points for yourself at the link included below. I have to say that I am deeply disturbed by what I interpret to be their (at least tacit) encouragement of strategic voting and organizing for the Democratic Party ticket.

…DSA will work with the emerging labor, immigrant, and anti-racist-led “Dump Trump” movement. For this reason, we do not endorse the #BernieOrBust tactic, though we understand the sentiment behind it. Our perspective can best be summarized as: “Dump the Racist Trump: Build the Left from the Grassroots Up.”

Although I certainly agree that a Trump Presidency would be a disaster, I also believe that a Clinton Presidency would be a disaster. The NPC’s strategy does call for turning a critical eye toward Clinton should she win, but placing emphasis on opposition to Trump alone during the campaign is a mistake, in my opinion. Socialists ought to take a principled stand to oppose both Trump and Clinton between now and November.

My own efforts will be in support of the Green Party candidacy of Dr. Jill Stein. It’s way past time to break with the Democratic Party and build a true party of the people.

I hold no illusions that someone other than Trump or Clinton shall prevail in 2016, but I cannot in good conscience lend my support nor my vote to someone I consider to be an enemy of working people. In the words of the great Eugene V. Debs,  “I’d rather vote for something I want and not get it than vote for something I don’t want, and get it.”

I am thankful that the NPC anticipated and explicitly allowed for dissent within our ranks, and am certainly thankful that they didn’t endorse Clinton. This is one of those times, though, when I wonder whether I’m a member of the right organization.

Read the DSA Strategy Points Here: Talking Points for DSA’s Electoral Work between May and November 2016 – Democratic Socialists of America

★ ★ ★

Here are a few more relevant links.

This is why a Clinton Presidency cannot defeat Trump.

This is why I broke with the Democrats, and quit voting for the “lesser evil.”

This is why I voted Green in 2012. I’ve since joined the Green Party and am actively working for Jill Stein’s campaign.

If It Were Not For You


I would have you make up your minds that there is nothing that you cannot do for yourselves. You do not need the capitalist. He could not exist an instant without you. You would just begin to live without him. You do everything and he has everything; and some of you imagine that if it were not for him, you would have no work. As a matter of fact, he does not employ you at all; you employ him to take from you what you produce, and he faithfully sticks to his task. If you can stand it, he can: and if you don’t change this relation, I am sure he won’t. You make the automobile, he rides in it. If it were not for you, he would walk; and if it were not for him, you would ride.

– Eugene V. Debs

Daddy, are we working class?

In this second article in our series explaining socialism to kids, we take a look at a key concept for many socialists, particularly Marxists. What is “the working class?”

You’ve probably heard the words “working class” being used on the news lately. Especially during an election year, people will talk a lot about “working class voters.” Or sometimes you’ll hear them say something about a “working class neighborhood.”

Here in the United States, people think of the working class as folks who do factory work. Or sometimes they mean someone who works in a job that doesn’t pay very much, or one that doesn’t require a lot of education, or maybe one that involves a lot of hard physical work.

There’s another meaning of “working class” though, that’s really important to socialists. Socialists believe that this special classification of people are the ones who can transform society and lead the world to freedom and equality.


Who is the working class?

In order to make the things that we need for our lives, two things are required. They are labor power and the “means of production.” Labor power is the ability of a worker to do something. It could be making a sandwich or driving a school bus or writing computer code, or anything else that workers do. The “means of production” is everything the worker needs in order to do the job. In a sandwich shop, means of production would be things like the building, the ingredients, the cash register, tables and chairs – everything needed in order to prepare and sell and serve the meal so the customer can eat it.

Under our capitalist economic system, a pretty small percentage of people own these means of production. They are called owners, or bosses or “the ruling class.” All of the rest of us, who don’t own the means of production and must sell our labor power to the bosses so we can earn money to live, are in the working class.

It doesn’t matter what type of work a person does, or how much money she makes. If she doesn’t own the means of production, she is part of the working class.


Why is the working class important to socialists?

Working class people can have it pretty rough. We have to show up when the owners want us to show up. We have to do what we’re told. If we don’t, we might be fired from the job and not have money to buy the things we need in order to live. For a lot of workers, it’s a struggle every day to keep our jobs and earn enough to survive. It’s especially hard for people with limited education and skills, for single parents, or for anyone with extra challenges in their lives. Lots of times people have to choose between taking care of important things at home, and doing what they have to do to keep their jobs.

It seems like the bosses sort of have us in a bad situation. Since they own the means of production, they can order us around and we pretty much have to do what they say. Some owners (or the managers they hire) are nice people, and try to treat their workers with kindness and respect. Still, the worker always knows that he has to do what the boss says or he might lose the job.

So, how can a group of people like the working class, who seem so powerless, be the ones to transform society? If we have to do what the bosses say, how can we possibly lead anyone to a better world? It’s because the working class has a secret super power. The power is called solidarity.

Although an individual worker may be powerless to defy the owners, when workers stand together in solidarity, they can change the world. The ruling (owning) class is so small, that they can’t possibly do the work themselves. Without the workers, no work gets done.

When workers decide together to stay off the job until their demands are met, it’s called “going on strike.”

Think of your favorite sandwich shop. If all of the workers decided not to show up to work, there would be nobody there to make the meals, to clean the tables, or to take the orders.

Or think about an owner of a bus company. She would be sitting alone in a parking lot full of empty busses if the drivers decided not to come to work. Without the working class, everything in society stops.

So when workers stand together in solidarity, they can show the bosses that it’s really the workers who have all the power – in the workplace and in society. But it’s only when they stand together as one that this becomes the truth.


What can solidarity do?

When workers join unions, and stand in solidarity together to make demands, they can get the bosses to pay attention and give in. In fact, before the struggles of unions in the early 1900s, people sometimes had to work fourteen hours a day or more, six or seven days a week. Workers formed unions and went on strike to demand an eight-hour work day. Later, they demanded higher wages, and benefits, such as vacations and health insurance and days off when they’re sick. These things that so many of us enjoy and take for granted today were not given by the owners simply because they wanted to be nice. They were won by the workers who stuck together and demanded them.

Workers can demand and win things like better hours, better working conditions and higher wages for their own jobs. But they can also work in solidarity to make a better society for everyone. Unions have fought for things like an end to child labor, laws regulating workplace safety, a minimum wage for all workers (even ones not in unions), Social Security benefits for retired workers, and so much more.

Working Class Solidarity for a Better World

For socialists, the goal is a society where we do away with the ruling class owners altogether. In a socialist society, the workers would control the means of production, and would share in all the decisions about what to produce and how the work should be done. There wouldn’t be an owner to boss people around. We would rule ourselves in fairness and equality. We would do this because we’re all in the same boat. In the words of the Wobblies (a union that started more than a hundred years ago) “an injury to one is an injury to all.” We would all stand up together in solidarity for a just and equal share of society’s bounty and an equal say in society’s decisions.

So yes, my dear. We are a working class family, and proud of it. It’s up to us to always show our solidarity with other workers, and to fight together with them for a better life for all of us.

In the words of the famous socialist and philosopher Karl Marx “Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains!”

Beyond The Campaign

What do we do next?


If you’re one of the millions who have been invigorated by the Bernie Sanders campaign and want to join the ongoing political revolution, this May 7th forum on movement building beyond the election is for you. We’ll discuss the significance of the Sanders campaign, the meaning of democratic socialism, and strategies for confronting exploitation and inequality at the state and national level. We’ll also offer skills training on coalition building and grassroots organizing. Together, we’ll plan ways to channel the renewed interest in democratic socialism toward a sustainable movement for political transformation. There’s never been a more exciting or vital time to work for change.

The forum is co-sponsored by the Alliance for Community Services, Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, National Nurses United, and Progressive Democrats of America.

There’s more information on this Facebook event page.

Einstein: Why Socialism?


In May of 1949, one of the greatest minds on the planet, renowned physicist Albert Einstein, wrote an essay for the inaugural issue of The Monthly Review. In it, he outlines the crisis facing human society and enumerates some of the evils that are part and parcel of the capitalist mode of production. He then turns to discuss the solution.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Read the full essay: Why Socialism?

Southland Reading Group March Meeting

Tuesday Night March 15th at Feed

This month’s meeting of the Chicago Southland Jacobin Reading Group will be held at 7 PM on March 15th at Feed Arts & Cultural Center, 259 S. Schuyler in Kankakee. Come join us to talk about political realignment, radical feminism and the “small c” communism of Pete Seeger.

Find out more: Readings for March 2016 – Jacobin Reading Group – Chicago Southland

Renewed Interest in Socialism

What does it mean to socialists?

Alan Maass of the ISO and Bhaskar Sunkara of the DSA discuss what the renewed interest in socialism in the United States surrounding the Sanders campaign means for socialists who are already organized, both in terms of the opportunities and of the challenges.

Sunkara spoke about the importance of ongoing struggle beyond an election campaign.

I think you can find those little incubators of, if not what socialism looks like, then the power of collective action. And I think the memory of those moments — of strikes and other extra-parliamentary activity — is more durable and longer lasting than something like a presidential campaign.

There’s a lot to be said about that and what it would take to transform society. It’s not just a battle of ideas and convincing people that we need more social democracy, but figuring out how to organize people to exert disruptive power, be it through a strike, or disrupting the day-to-day functioning of political parties like the Democratic Party, or shaking up the regular functioning of the trade union movement by sparking rank-and-file activity and militancy.

There’s a lot that needs to be said about that vision. Just because I focus at this moment heavily on the Sanders campaign doesn’t mean that I think that’s the only arena of struggle.

Read the entire discussion: Can America go socialist? |

Reading Marx’s Capital

marx-das-kapitalAs my political awakening unfolded a few years ago, I began to read more widely from sources beyond the mainstream of U.S. commentary. What I was reading often made reference to Karl Marx. At some point, I realized that I had never read Marx. The thought had never crossed my mind prior to that moment, but it suddenly seemed very odd that I was able to graduate with honors from a decent public high school and a fine private university without ever reading one of the great philosophers of all time. I’d never even read of him by reference, that I could remember.

Here is all that I knew of Marx from all those years of formal education: “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” and “religion is the opiate of the masses.”

So, I decided to dive right in to Marx’s major work, Das Kapital. It didn’t take long for me to give up in abject frustration. I wrote this to a friend.

I’ve been slogging my way through “Capital.” I’m finding Marx incredibly difficult to follow, and feel like a 5-year-old. Is there some resource out there that will help me make sense of his basic theories? Especially having difficulty with concepts like surplus value, the distinction between use value and exchange value, etc. I’m a serious person who knows how to concentrate and have been told that I’m fairly bright – but I’m not understanding the details at all.

He replied.

If you are starting your adventures in Marx with “Das Kapital” then my immediate advice would be – STOP!

He recommended beginning with secondary sources and some of Marx’s shorter, earlier, more accessible writings, and I took his advice, abandoning Capital for the time being. In its place I began to read (and listen to) Marxists of our day. Paul D’Amato’s The Meaning of Marxism was particularly helpful, as was much of the material from We Are Many.

After a couple years of studying, I gave Capital a try again, and once again put it down somewhere in the first few chapters. I was convinced that I would never have the fortitude to complete it.

Then in early 2015 DSA ran a series of video conference sessions with Joseph Schwartz that was an introduction to Marx. I found that I was understanding the material fairly well, and the idea came to me to make another run at Capital as a summer reading project. I’d also listened to another talk from We Are Many about the book, and they had mentioned that if you can get through the first few chapters, the rest of it is easier going. I took a deep breath, picked up my Kindle and started again from the beginning.

It took me months of on-again, off-again effort, but I finally finished reading the first volume last evening. Although none of it is especially “easy” to read, I agree that the first few chapters are the most difficult. I also found that there were parts, mainly those featuring formulas, that I just could not decipher. I soldiered on through these, deciding to come back and research those parts further, not allowing the lack of mastery of each concept to impede progress. It was a comfort to know that even those who have read this work dozens of times still find that they gain insight upon each new encounter.

The main things that struck me throughout the experience were both unexpected. First of all, it is uncanny that Marx’s descriptions of how capitalism works explain what we see going on in society today. The exploitation, alienation and oppression that we experience are part and parcel of the capitalist mode of production, and Marx describes it all with incredible precision. For something first published in 1887, the insights and the accuracy of analysis concerning what is happening today is astonishing.

I was also struck by Marx’s wicked sense of humor. There were times when I literally laughed out loud while reading Capital. This was certainly a surprise.

I would not have been able to make sense of this book absent a foundation of knowledge and without some helpful resources. If you’re interested in attempting to read it, I would encourage you to do so. It’s an arduous adventure, but well worth the trouble. Here are some links that may be helpful.

Capital – Full Text and Downloads at

Reading Capital with David Harvey (Video Series)

The Meaning of Marxism

BBC In Our Time: Marx

From We Are Many:

How to Read Marx’s Capital (2008) – Larry Bradshaw

Introduction to Marx’s Capital (2010) – Sid Patel

Understanding Marx’s Capital (2014) – Leia Petty

Introduction to Marx’s Capital (2015) – Sid Patel and Daphna Their