July 2, 2018
In November of 2016, like many others, I joined the Democratic Socialists of America in response to the election of Donald Trump. I was at the first organizing meeting of the Milwaukee, WI chapter. I am an active member of the chapter and have found a “home” politically with DSA.
Admittedly, I had a shallow grasp on what democratic socialism is when I first joined. However, I’ve read deeply (and continue to do so) and am now more conversant. Also, we have great “educationals” at chapter meetings which help new socialists understand democratic socialism and the “better world” we believe is possible.
While I have found my political home among my DSA comrades, one thing I’ve found needed is a political “arm” to our struggle. DSA is not a political party. It runs no candidates in elections. It does, however, endorse candidates, for example Ms. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who just won an amazing primary in New York. But we lack a political party through which to elect democratic socialists. More often than not our endorsed candidates appear on the Democratic ticket.
I find this to be problematic. Here’s why: the history of the Democratic Party with regard to the Left/Socialists is one of co-option, suppression, and obstruction. I will not rehearse that history, but the history is available for those who wish to investigate.
So while I would, personally, vote for a DSA-endorsed candidate who chooses to run on the Democratic ticket, I don’t believe this strategy is wise. In the long run the Democratic Party will discourage (to say the least) socialist candidates, obstruct their path in primaries, and if they do manage to get elected, they will either attempt to co-opt the elected official into the party apparatus and/or refuse them influence (e.g., Congressional Committees).
As I reflected on this, I began looking for a political party that would be more open to democratic socialism. In the U.S. our entrenched two-party system has created an undemocratic duopoly that makes viable third parties difficult to start or sustain. However, the Libertarian Party and the Green Party U.S. have both managed to become third parties in the U.S. — albeit not very influential. We have no Labor Party or Socialist Party (though we did once have a vibrant Socialist Party during the early 1900s before red-baiting caused its demise).
Obviously, the Libertarian Party would not be open to democratic socialism. But what about the Green Party?
After spending time reading their platform it became apparent to me that the Green Party and DSA are aligned in many areas. Not perfect alignment, mind you, but to a very large degree. While the Green Party is not explicitly socialist in orientation, they are anti-capitalists and worker-oriented. Their platform includes the “10 Key Values” of:
- Grassroots Democracy
- Social Justice And Equal Opportunity
- Ecological Wisdom
- Community-Based Economics
- Feminism And Gender Equity
- Respect For Diversity
- Personal And Global Responsibility
- Future Focus And Sustainability
Each of these are expanded on in the Platform. The point is that these are democratic socialists values as well. The emphasis on democracy from the bottom up — in the workplace and political structures is spot on. Social justice and economic equality is also in alignment with democratic socialism, as is the anti-imperialism and anti-war emphasis. Really, you can go right down the list, and plank after plank of the platform, see genuine alignment with democratic socialism.
Having looked at the Green Party platform carefully, I joined the Green Party. I am a “dual-member” of Green Party and DSA. I am, as some have humorously remarked, a “Watermelon” … Green on the outside, Red on the inside!
For me the question becomes — What’s stopping a Red-Green alliance from becoming a reality? I believe there are a lot of “watermelons” in both the DSA and Green Party. They may not describe themselves as such, but the alignment in beliefs and ideology are there.
I firmly believe continuing to try to work within the Democratic Party is a fool’s errand. However, until and unless DSA starts the arduous process of creating a political party through which to elect democratic socialist candidates, we have to work through an established political party. Why not commit to exploring and forming a Red-Green alliance between DSA and the Green Party?
I believe this alliance would be powerful! DSA now boasts 40,000 members and is growing. I am unsure of the numbers of Green Party members nationwide but I imagine it is at least comparable if not more. Imagine the power of DSA aligning with the Green Party, endorsing its candidates, canvassing for them, and building a party already on the ballot? Running candidates and winning elections in towns and cities, in the statehouse, and nationally?
Sure, there would be the inevitable turf-guarding and petty skirmishes between Greens & DSA members. Our people are, if nothing else, determined and independent minded. But with a shared vision of bringing real change to the United States the possibilities are endless!
At a personal level, as a dual-member, I am going to be working with my local chapter — Milwaukee DSA — to act as a liaison with the Greater Milwaukee Green Partyand the Wisconsin Green Party. But I would love to see this idea catch fire and take off nationally. Time is of the essence. Our country is sliding bit by bit into right-wing fascism and oligarchy. In truth, we are there.
The time has come for a Red-Green alliance to fight for a better world because both DSA and the Green Party know “a better world is possible!” Let us work and fight together to organize to see that better world realized!