DSA, like the working class in general, is facing a moment of possibility and peril. In the course of the last few months, we have seen political shifts that normally take decades. We have seen massive uprisings by Black working class communities against police repression and violence, with unprecedented solidarity from around the world. These uprisings are occurring against the backdrop of a global pandemic, severe unemployment, and a newly inaugurated recession. Chicago DSA must take a deliberately socialist and explicitly political approach to understanding the conditions the working class is facing and our organization’s response. This is not the time for socialists to stay on the sidelines – we must be bold and we must be loud as we fight in solidarity against policing and for a world where Black Lives Matter. As candidates for chapter office, we want to lay out our political analysis of why CDSA should prioritize a campaign to defund the police and fund our working class neighborhoods that have been starved for generations.
Building Working Class Power Through Mass Action
At the core of our work as a socialist organization is understanding that a unified, organized, and multiracial working class can and must be the agent of its own liberation. The power necessary to defeat the ruling class and fundamentally transform society will only come through the mass action of an organized working class. Our task is to build the kind of democratic, socialist, mass-membership, working-class organization that is strong enough to bridge the divides the capitalist class has created through white supremacy, patriarchy, and other forms of oppression.
Building DSA and our Chicago chapter takes work on many fronts. This means waging class struggle elections and, when we win, using state power to build class consciousness, dismantle systemic oppression, build our organization, and elevate all of our work. This means engaging in big, chapter-unifying campaigns that we connect to all facets of our work. This means engaging the labor movement primarily at the level of the rank-and-file, moving shop floor leaders towards socialism, and developing a layer of militant leadership in workplaces throughout the working class. These approaches share a common purpose: moving large numbers of working class people of all races and backgrounds towards socialism by encouraging them to struggle in their workplaces and neighborhoods and, in the process, grow the skills, experience, and analysis needed to win the class war.
Let’s Build Socialist Power by Fighting to Defund the Police
We believe that a concentrated campaign to defund the police and fund basic human needs for the working class will help develop Chicago DSA into a political home for the city’s working class, and will win the kind of transformative, non-reformist reforms, that can weaken the power the ruling class has to crack down on a militant working class fighting for its own interests.
The uprisings in response to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have made it impossible for the country to continue to ignore the white supremacy and violence that is at the heart of policing and our society at large. Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets and there is unprecedented support for action to be taken. There will now be a fight over what form that action will take. We are already seeing moderate politicians and nonprofits attempting to co-opt and divert movement energy into off-ramps — such as the calls for police licensing and more training coming from the Mayor’s office — that would leave the status quo in place. We have been called upon to stand with the emerging Black-led coalition pushing to defund the police as part of an abolitionist framework aimed at taking resources out of state repression and moving them into basic human needs like housing, education, health care, and other social services.
The fight to defund the police provides a vital opportunity to build working class power. We understand that the police are not members of the working class because they have an entirely different relationship to production: workers provide the labor that produces value, while the police serve to protect the ruling class and keep the working class in line. We further recognize that the disproportionate violence and repression that the police bring down on Black and brown communities is intrinsic to policing — and to capitalism itself. The dual lineages of American police in slave patrols and strikebreakers make this clear. To win, a campaign to defund the police has to engage on a broad front accounting for these dynamics. For example, pressure from the rank and file in the labor movement to educate the broader labor movement on why police organizations are not unions and have no place in the movement draws a clear line that workers themselves, not just staffers, draw. Drawing the line themselves helps the working class see themselves all on the same side.
By taking on this fight in solidarity with Black and brown comrades across the city, we can strengthen CDSA’s connections to Chicago’s broader multi-racial working class. While CDSA is a working-class organization, it is significantly whiter than the working class overall. This is a problem we can and must solve. We must make a concerted effort to make CDSA a welcoming and inspiring political home for the entire multiracial working class. This campaign to defund the police will help us form deeper organizational bonds with the Black grassroots organizations that we have already begun to work with to support the uprising.
We can win this fight, and that win would be transformative. The Black Abolitionist Network has set forward a demand for a 75% cut to the CPD budget — among other demands to work towards abolition of the prison industrial complex. Such a victory would fundamentally change the balance of power between the working class and the ruling class. The ability of the state to violently occupy Black and brown neighborhoods with police forces, to inflict daily violence, and to tamp down working-class organizing, while simultaneously failing to provide the same level of public service or benefit received by wealthy, white neighborhoods would be severely curtailed. If we take that money from CPD and invest it in human needs, we can ease the constant pressure of survival facing Chicago’s working class and give ourselves the time and energy both to live our lives and to continue to organize.
Only through our solidarity and collective action can we shape our future. A campaign to defund the police and fund the unmet essential needs of working class communities will empower the working class and help us turn Chicago DSA into a vehicle for concerted mass action by the working class for the working class. Through this work, we have the opportunity to transform DSA into a genuinely abolitionist organization and make CDSA into a political home for Chicago’s working class.
-The authors of this piece are candidates for CDSA office-