The Dec. 12, 2015, Wall St. Journal has an interesting article about the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and Bernie Sanders. For those unfamiliar with DSA, they have always functioned as more or less the left wing of the Democratic Party, liberals through and through.
First of all, as far as Sanders’ alleged socialism: he really made it clear in a November interview with the WSJ. “For me, what democratic socialism is about is to maintain the strong entrepreneurial spirit that we have in this country to continue to produce wealth, but to make certain that the wealth is much more equitably distributed than is currently the case,” he said. He continued that FDR’s social programs are really his model.
And D”S”A? The 12/12 article explains: “We definitely share the same immediate political program that Bernie is pushing,” said Maria Svart, the group’s national director. “We also believe that true democratic socialism would go even further. But we believe that what he is doing is a very important first step.”
“A Background in Corporate Finance
What they’re doing is orienting themselves slightly to the left of Sanders in order to give themselves an excuse to exist, but not so far to the left that they would turn off Sanders’ supporters. The strategy seems to be working, as the WSJ reports a 33% increase in attendance at DSA’s recent national convention. The article describes who they are recruiting: “Julie Allison lives in a Chicago suburb. Walking through a farmers market one day, she stopped at a table set up by the Democratic Socialists and read a pamphlet touting Mr. Sanders. Curious, she went to the group’s website, liked what she saw and signed up. So, there she was at the convention, a 46-year-old with a background in corporate finance and a fresh convert to democratic socialism and the Sanders campaign.”
DSA or SA?
Reading this article, it’s hard to tell the difference between DSA’s position and the position of Socialist Alternative and their elected representative, Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant. Like DSA, SA has publicly shown very few political differences with Sanders. Like DSA, SA is really orienting towards middle class, white liberals – a fact which is affecting their entire politics.
The difference is that Socialist Alternative has not completely shed their origins and traditions, including some revolutionary traditions. So this, plus the fact that they probably have less resources, is holding them back as far as fully capitalizing on the support for the liberal Bernie Sanders (although they probably will experience some growth). Instead, what it means is that Kshama Sawant is steadily walking down the path blazed by Sanders – from an independent socialist to the left wing of the Democratic Party.
What a shame.