Addendum for National Electoral Strategy Proposal
via the DSA Libertarian Socialist Caucus
National Electoral Committee has created a document to guide DSA electoral strategy, LSC has built an Addendum that addresses holes in the document and centers the creation of bottom up libertarian municipalism through community organizing and building direct participatory democracy. This document will be given to NPC members to consider adding to the NEC document this weekend. If it is not adopted, we will revisit it and build our own electoral document off of it.
"Electoral strategy should focus on and follow from building local power through community organized institutions”
- Socialist electoral politics must prioritize direct, participatory democracy and encourage existing local neighborhood institutions to democratize or build new institutions where needed.
- These institutions can exercise a dual power, contesting the power of the capitalist State while simultaneously generating local, accountable leadership that can become candidates for local office with a solid base of support.
- Existing institutions such as block associations have large material impacts on the everyday lives of Americans. Successful socialist movements are built block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, and are intimately tied to the communities they are organizing.
- Transferring power to the local community should be a top priority for a DSA local.
Building Dual Power
National Electoral Committee should recognize the residential community as the primary political-economic unit from which electoral power should be built and developed. From this basis, electoral campaigns should grow from the organized power of local communities. Socialist electoral politics should empower communities to pursue direct participatory democracy, with a particular focus on empowering the most marginalized. Concurrently a medium and long term strategy of devolving existing State power to these participatory grassroots institutions must be pursued.
Where suitable local institutions exist, such as block associations, tenants unions, homeowner associations (HOA’s), neighborhood clubs, assemblies, and town halls, efforts should be concentrated on helping to transform them into participatory democratic institutions. Where they do not exist, the goal should be for DSA members to create such institutions in the communities where they themselves live. Bringing this about will be different for each DSA local, depending on the highly variable needs and material conditions of each local context.
This organizing model aims to build dual power, that is, an oppositional power base rooted in local, radically democratic institutions that are an expression of the self-governance of communities. Genuine dual power can be built only through the direct, engaged participation of the local community in these institutions. These institutional community structures can generate candidates out of their own base who will be accountable to the communities they represent and open further space and create infrastructure for their further empowerment. To the extent that engaging in formal electoral politics is deemed necessary, those campaigns and the candidates are put forward to make structural changes and implement non-reformist reforms that reinforce the power of working-class communities.
Our grounding example is the block association as it currently exists in most American cities. Block associations regularly organize community events, discuss infrastructure concerns, and even deal with security problems at the local level. In choosing this model, we want to redefine electoral work to incorporate the most local level of governance, which is often overlooked but has a substantial material impact on the lives of almost all Americans. The basis of all successful socialist and labor parties in the history of the 20th century was built block-by-block by neighborhood organizers who intimately knew the communities in which they lived. This model involves organizing within the community and listening to the needs and aspirations of its constituents while stitching together a political unit by building solidarity between individuals. The electoral strategy proposed here can re-establish these structures either by transforming present community institutions into participatory and democratic ones or by creating them where they don’t yet exist.
Radically democratic community institutions networked in a democratic confederalist model to steadily supplant capitalist State institutions can become the governing bodies of the new, socialist society. Such a movement has the capacity for radically reshaping the political terrain of the United States to advance the goals of democratic socialism. Through confederation, organized communities can extend their power into challenging higher levels of political authority with accountable socialist candidates.
This organizing process builds the base that brings its own momentum for the broader national electoral strategy and supplanting the capitalist State. The DSA local, serving as a center for organizing and networking between community institutions, facilitates each residential community in building dual power, and runs electoral campaigns when appropriate that are accountable to the communities which socialist politicians claim to represent.
Devolving power to the local community should be a top priority for a DSA local. Ultimately, the DSA electoral strategy should build toward socialist political campaigns which are staffed and run wholly by local, participatory institutions in which the DSA local is embedded. This all being said, until dual power is built that is capable of such a feat, local electoral working groups must recognize that DSA’s endorsement of Bernie Sanders’ national campaign opened the organization to a flood of newly radicalized people who have since become socialist organizers. This historical shift should shape DSA’s endorsement process to recognize and center the potential propaganda value of any candidate running for state or national level office.
Legislating the reforms necessary for empowerment of local communities through direct democracy should be top priority when drafting platforms and legislative priorities. Examples of such legislation should include but are not limited to ballot initiative reform, participatory budgeting, instituting direct voter recall of elected officials, HOA reform, supporting unions, expanding worker ownership and control, land trusts, addressing local ecological concerns, police accountability, and prison abolition initiatives. Any endorsed candidate should thus be committed to building, growing, and supporting these priorities.