The following op-ed expresses solely the opinion of its authors and does not reflect the views of Midwest Socialist or any affiliated DSA chapters.
Pinpointing a precise definition for Midwest—much like for socialism itself—can seem to dissolve any notion of consensus. What does unite us is the shared belief that capitalism, on its current trajectory, will continue to immiserate the working and oppressed classes throughout the world and destroy our ability to survive on this planet longer than a few generations. Whether we live closer to the Great Lakes or the Great Plains, our region has a history rich in working class and socialist organizing (even beyond bits of trivia in Wayne’s World throwaway jokes). One of the country’s first general strikes culminated in 1877’s multi-racial, labor-backed occupation of the city of St. Louis; Midwesterners played central roles in turn of the century political parties aiming to reform, if not explicitly oppose, capitalism, including the Populists, Progressives, Minnesota Farmer-Labor, and of course the Socialist Party of Terre Haute, Indiana’s Eugene Debs; and the region has been a hotbed for militant labor and civil rights organizing for over a hundred years. If there is one thing history teaches us—contra another contemporary Midwestern politician—the Midwest is a region where democratic socialism can win.
The Socialist Majority Caucus was formed earlier this year by DSA members across the country from dozens of chapters and organizing committees. As the name suggests, we look forward to a movement that wins over broad swaths of the working class to democratic socialist values and our shared principles. We recognize this can only be accomplished through a movement that doesn’t just win in every geographic region of the country, but also one that mirrors the composition of the working class—especially its most oppressed groups. However, we also recognize that by any appreciable metric the capitalist class and their right-wing allies hold control and power over much of our economy, state, and culture. DSA’s strategy is not to retreat in fear, equivocate in impotence, or offer revolutionary sloganeering that amounts to little more than symbolism; rather, our answer is—organize.
As a caucus, our approach to this strategy—which will be outlined more fully in our coming platform—means applying a critical socialist lens to the following areas:
- Local organizing: we believe chapters are best equipped to assess their own specific, unique material conditions and how this shapes the context of their work. Winnable campaigns that tackle clear targets and make tangible shifts in power structures are the best way to build our own capacity and confidence in preparation for tackling larger and more consequential issues.
- National organizing: we also recognize that some problems transcend individual cities, or even states and regions, and may require the coordinated efforts of not only DSA, but allied left-progressive and working class movements in coalition.
- Electoral organizing: in order to secure victories won in the streets, we understand the necessity of critical engagement with state power. This arena is also uniquely suited to build connections with the working class, as it is the only explicitly political outlet many folks engage with.
- Labor organizing: we fully believe DSA can help grow a militant and democratic labor movement that is both oriented toward rank-and-file power and ready to struggle against oppressive forces, including white supremacy and heteropatriarchy.
- Internal Organizing: our members, even those who have joined more recently, share a deep love and commitment to DSA as an organization. It is from this place, and not one of malice, that we seek to improve it. The qualitative changes we have undergone from a small, mostly regional organization to what is hopefully a mass organization in its embryonic stages are undeniable; it is time the structures of the organization begins to reflect these changes as well.
We in Socialist Majority are united in our positive vision for DSA and for the world we’re working toward. We seek to ground our work in the hope and joy of a socialist future. Our political tradition is that of movement organizers who have worked to transform everyday working people into leaders and organizers themselves, who have kept the fire burning during times of repression and fanned the flames as mass movements have challenged the status quo.
We believe the DSA model for mass politics is crucial to our growth. Our low barrier to entry allows new socialists the space to develop their politics through struggle, political education, and the practice of formal democracy. We believe we should maintain and strengthen these elements of our organization.
Caucus members will be present at the Chicago DSA preconvention conference, this coming weekend April 12–14th, to answer any questions and provide further information. We are open to all DSA members that share our values and align with our shared principles—you may sign up here.
Hannah Allison, Lawrence (KS) DSA
Pannill Camp, St. Louis DSA
Bobby Cervantes, Lawrence (KS) DSA
Spencer Chan, Chicago DSA
Alicia Hernández, St. Louis DSA
Sarah Hofkamp, St. Louis DSA
Sam Natale, Lawrence (KS) DSA
Jessica Newman, Detroit DSA
Christopher Ottolino, St. Louis DSA
Lauren Pyatt, St. Louis DSA
Nic Raymond, Twin Cities DSA