DSA-LSC: Anarchy in the AfterBern

Since the Bernie Sanders campaign, there has been an uptick in interest in the ideas of democratic socialism among leftists. This has played a role in radicalizing both progressives and former democrats and refocusing the left on movements for labor rights and social justice. Seeing this as an opportune moment, many social anarchists have started to outreach to democratic socialists, progressives, and Berniecrats in the wake of the Sanders campaign to varying degrees of success.

One group that has seen a rise in membership post-Bernie is the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). The DSA was founded in 1982 as a merger of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, an anti-war caucus of the Socialist Party of America, and the New American Movement, a successor group to the Students for a Democratic Society. According to their twitter, since their endorsement of Bernie Sanders, their membership has seen a rise in growth to over 25,000 paid members, compared to the approximate 5,000 members they had before. Many of their older members, including some anarchist, have been trying to push the DSA further to the left for years, having formed the Left Caucus. But in the wake of the Bernie Sanders campaign, the Left Caucus has become irrelevant and unneeded. DSA has been successfully pushed further to the left but now the anarchists plan to push them in a more libertarian direction. As part of the continued outreach by anarchists and other socialist libertarians to these budding radicals, some have joined the DSA and went on to form the Libertarian Socialist Caucus (DSA-LSC). According to their announcement:

In keeping with DSA’s multi-tendency organization and commitment to internal democracy, LSC is not ideologically exclusive. Any DSA member who finds themselves within our broad ideological umbrella is welcome to join, and we look forward to internally debating and exploring the many perspectives on particular issues we all have developed through our unique experiences and reading. That said, we believe all members of the Caucus, regardless of their differing views, should adhere to three shared principles we see as inseparable from libertarian socialism:

  • FREEDOM refers to the positive capacity of individuals for self-determination. We believe that the freedom enjoyed by individuals is an inalienable social good and can only be strengthened through solidarity and democracy.

  • SOLIDARITY refers to the understanding that all oppressed people—both the economically exploited and the politically marginalized—share a common struggle towards a free and equal society. We aim to organize our movements accordingly, providing mutual aid and support to one another and deferring to the initiative of those most affected by decisions, on the principle that an injury to one is an injury to all.

  • DEMOCRACY refers to collective decision-making free from hierarchy, domination, and coercion. Democracy is a social relation between free individuals that should not be reduced solely to institutions or elections. We believe that democracy is always a “work in progress” to be altered or improved by communities according to their needs.

In accordance with these three fundamental values, the Libertarian Socialist Caucus is suspicious of centralized forms of governance and decision making that undermine freedom, solidarity, and democracy. Instead, we wish to promote the ability of individuals and communities to set their own priorities, both inside and outside the DSA.

Now while their claim that democracy is inseparable from libertarian socialist politics is debateable, the goal of the LSC is to move the DSA away from electoral politics and state solutions to social and economic issues, instead focusing on direct action and building dual power structures. According to DSA-LSC member John Michael Colόn, the LSC wants to promote, “things like directly democratic neighborhood assemblies, worker cooperatives, participatory budgeting, radical syndicalism and municipalism that DSA is currently not promoting, as well as the things DSA is already doing, like organizing workplaces and fighting bosses and landlords.” Many anarchists and libertarians within the DSA are also promoting issues such as gun rights and anti-fascist organizing. Some DSA members have even gone overseas to fight alongside the Kurdish anarchists and their allies in the International Freedom Battalion.

This would be a welcomed refresher to the slightly-more-radical FDR-style “socialism” advocated by the likes of Sanders and Jill Stein, who both advocate the growth of government and the centralization of many industries. We can indeed achieve the same outcomes of equality and social justice through libertarian means as countless anarchists, council communists, and libertarians have proven time and again.

With the Libertarian Socialist Caucus pushing the DSA to be more libertarian and the Povertarian Caucus pushing the Libertarian Party to be more working class oriented, we are starting to see a growing number of people aligning themselves with various forms of anti-capitalist libertarianism. As anarchists of varying stripes, we should continue to encourage these developments even if we have disagreements on issues like the role of markets, reform, democracy, etc. Anarchists will never fully agree on every single issue and that’s fine. But instead of focusing on our differences, we should be meeting people where they’re at and radicalizing them from there.

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