Join DSA North Star: The Caucus for Socialism and Democracy
DSA North Star: The Caucus for Socialism and Democracy affirms a political perspective and organizational model that we believe can best facilitate the work and experience of the Democratic Socialists of America’s (DSA’s) entire membership and put us in a position to continue to grow as an organization and as part of a much larger movement for democratic rights and social and economic justice.

We do not see North Star as apart from DSA as a whole, do not seek to take over DSA and do not seek to devalue the experience or work of those whose outlook differs from our own.

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Our common principles are:

1. The defeat of Trumpism and the Republican majorities in Congress and state and local legislatures is a strategic imperative for democratic socialists.

2. As democratic socialists, we must work with broad democratic movements and organizations seeking progressive change and serve as their vigorous advocates and partners.

3. Our vision of democratic socialism has democracy at its core: we are radical democrats who believe in the deepening and extension of democracy.

4. As democratic socialists, we believe that democracy requires a foundation in the principles of liberty and equality, and protection from the influence of concentrated economic power.

5. We believe in the democratization of the economy in service of the public good and the common welfare.

6. We believe in the democratization of society and in an end to all forms of bigotry, discrimination and oppression.

7. We believe that the United States must adopt a democratic socialist foreign policy in world affairs, and we are opposed to militarism and imperialism.

8. We believe that DSA itself must be organized on the basis of the principles and values of democratic socialism.

We elaborate on why we hold these principles below:

1. The defeat of Trumpism and the Republican majorities in Congress and state and local legislatures is a strategic imperative for democratic socialists.

At this critical moment, with democracy under assault in the United States and worldwide, democratic socialists are uncompromising opponents of the authoritarianism of Trumpism and a Republican Party in the thrall of reaction and bigotry. We believe that the defeat of Trumpism and the Republicans in the 2018 and 2020 elections is a strategic imperative, the most important political task of our time. At stake in these elections is the future of the United States: we risk our democracy if we lose and anticipate a political terrain far friendlier to progressive and democratic socialist organizing if we win. DSA must focus on this task and should play a constructive role in organizing a broad coalition to achieve victory.

To defeat Trumpism and the Republicans, we must recognize that the Democratic Party’s decades-long acquiescence to neoliberal policies—austerity, privatization, deregulation and corporate-dominated globalization—has played a role in the rise of racist, far-right populism. The Democratic Party has been too passive as these neoliberal policies have led to the decimation of unions in the United States and to the socioeconomic devastation of large swaths of its working class. As democratic socialists, we believe that a clear, unequivocal break with neoliberal policies is needed to defeat Trumpism and the authoritarian politics of today’s Republican Party.

Trumpism, which targets Black people, Latinos, Muslims and immigrants, among other marginalized groups, is based on overt appeals to white racial resentment and prejudice. Moreover, Trumpism promotes misogyny, anti-LGBTQIA bigotry and ableism. To vanquish Trumpism, our efforts must have explicitly anti-racist politics at their core and openly oppose sexism, homophobia, queerphobia and transphobia. We can only build the working-class solidarity necessary for victory by uplifting and centering the voices of those who are under attack. We prioritize the fight against Trumpism not only because of its strategic importance, but also out of deep moral conviction—the struggles against racism and other forms of oppression are central to our vision of democratic socialism.
In this approach, we follow the political analysis and prescriptions laid out in the strategic document summary, Resistance Rising, adopted by the 2015 DSA Convention. It was this approach—which led to our role in the 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign—that has brought unprecedented attention to democratic socialism and garnered DSA thousands of new members. We are now in a position to make democratic socialism into a potent force in U. S. politics, but only if we maintain the strategic approach that has brought us this far.

2. As democratic socialists, we must work with broad democratic movements and organizations seeking progressive change and serve as their vigorous advocates and partners.

Our perspective on the defeat of Trumpism and the Republicans reflects our general views on how democratic socialists should engage in political work. Democratic socialism is not a sectarian cause—we do not put doctrinal purity before real world political engagement, or narrow organizational advantage before broad political, social and economic progress. Rather, we join in mass movements and organizations in their democratic struggles: in progressive electoral campaigns, both inside the Democratic Party and in independent efforts; in unions; in civil rights and anti-racist organizations; in feminist and LGBTQIA organizations; in organizations fighting for people with disabilities; in organizations that advance the cause of a habitable planet, struggling against climate change and for environmental justice, and in organizations defending immigrants and religious minorities. We believe that engagement in broad coalitions is necessary to build a progressive majority capable of taking political power.

3. Our vision of democratic socialism has democracy at its core: we are radical democrats who believe in the deepening and extension of democracy.

We believe in rule by the demos, the people. To rule in a modern society, the people must exercise real decision-making power in the different facets of their lives: at their work, in their communities, in civil society and in government. To this end, we defend existing expressions of democracy against efforts by the powerful and wealthy to undermine them, and we seek to extend and deepen those expressions of democracy into other spheres of our lives in order to make our society, economy and government fully democratic. We are radical democrats: democracy is among the most important principles from which we develop our conception of what it means to be a democratic socialist in the 21st century.

It is now well past time for real democratic change. It is time to put the principles of socialist democracy—with democracy at the core—on the agenda again in this country and, for that matter, help raise their profile around the world.

4. As democratic socialists, we believe that democracy requires a foundation in the principles of liberty and equality, and protection from the influence of concentrated economic power.

By “liberty,” we mean the freedoms of expression, press, conscience and association, as well as the rule of law, including due process of law. Liberty is the basis of political freedom, without which the people cannot express its will.

By “equality,” we mean:

• equal protection of the law,
• the prohibition of discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression, age, profession and ability status (as called for in DSA’s Constitution, Bylaws and Resolution 33 on harassment),
• full voting rights for citizens on the basis of one person, one vote, and
• the right of working people to organize collectively in unions.

Equality is the basis of democratic citizenship, without which the people cannot exercise its will.

These principles of liberty and equality are indispensable to the self-rule of a free people. Their denial transforms government into a tyranny, be it of a minority or of the majority. While authoritarians on the Left dismiss this foundation of democracy as bourgeois liberty and bourgeois equality, we defend it as the product of hard-fought struggles that working people (and specifically African-Americans and other people of color, women and other popular forces) have waged and are still waging against the powerful and wealthy who seek to limit democracy.

5. We believe in the democratization of the economy in service of the public good and the common welfare.

We are democratic socialists because we believe that democracy—decision making of, for and by the people—is the best answer to the issues facing the economy and society as a whole. We oppose the reign of predatory capitalism in which the billionaire class controls obscene levels of wealth and capital and monopolizes economic decision-making to serve their own private interests.

Democratization of the economy begins in the workplace, where the unilateral rule of owners and managers must be rolled back by the democratic power and rights of workers. Labor unions are indispensable institutions for the democratization of the workplace—to provide power and democratic rights to working people, unions themselves must be inclusive and democratic.

A democratic socialist economy has a robust public sector in which vital public goods and services such as healthcare, education, communications, transportation and energy infrastructure are removed from the tyranny of the marketplace. The highest quality goods and services now owned or controlled by the wealthy are in such a public sector democratically and equitably provided to all as a matter of right. Cooperative economic enterprises, in the purchase of essential goods such as food, clothing, shelter and healthcare, and also in the production of such good and services, flourish in a democratic socialist economy.

Finally, to ensure that the economy serves the common good, not just the interests of the wealthy, a democratic socialist economy has meaningful regulation of and controls on all economic enterprises. For example, democratizing the economy, by definition, runs in tandem with environmental responsibility, with an eye to the global future and not the immediate bottom line. Also, the vast economic inequalities of class and race we experience today must be addressed by the democratization of the economy.

As democratic socialists, we believe that the ultimate goal of a socialist society is advancing the physical, emotional, intellectual, psychological and social welfare of all people. This includes providing all people with universal and free education and healthcare, as well as ensuring adequate and affordable housing, meaningful employment, healthy nutrition and a pollution-free environment.

6. We believe in the democratization of society and in an end to all forms of bigotry, discrimination and oppression.

As radical democrats, we are opposed to all forms of economic, social and cultural inequality, especially racism, sexism and oppression of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual (LGBTQIA) people, immigrants, religious minorities and people with disabilities, among other marginalized communities. We see the elimination of bigotry and discrimination as central to our vision of a democratic socialist society. So long as any group of people is subjected to such oppression, our society will not be fully free. That is why we support the Black Lives Matter movement, which works to end mass incarceration and police violence against people of color. We support the fundamental human rights of women to reproductive freedom and of LGBTQIA people to the free choice of partners, including in marriage. Moreover, the solidarity among working people that is essential to the democratic socialist project will not be achieved unless divisions among working people caused by such oppression are explicitly addressed and eliminated.

7. We believe that the United States must adopt a democratic socialist foreign policy in world affairs, and we are opposed to militarism and imperialism.

We are internationalists, supportive of struggles for democracy and democratic socialism not just in the United States, but across the globe. We oppose militarism and imperialism in U. S. foreign policy, which cannot be separated from a history of domination and exploitation of peoples of color around the world.

U. S. militarism has been a central factor in the growth of authoritarianism, by eroding civil liberties and democratic norms, within our society and throughout the world, as well as contributed to the violence that afflicts our country. Moreover, much as deindustrialization and the destruction of unions have contributed to mass incarceration, so have U. S. global military and foreign policy contributed to the undermining of working-class and social justice movements around the world. Militarism and war also play a major role in climate change; if we are to protect the air we breathe and water we drink, disarmament is a necessity.

A democratic socialist foreign policy must be rooted in reduction of military spending, advocacy of nuclear disarmament and an end to the policy of open and covert intervention in the affairs of other nations. The United States must redirect its massive military spending to address underfunded human and environmental needs and in the process restore the world disarmament movement, both for weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons. We support the use of peaceful, diplomatic means to resolve conflicts among nations wherever possible.

DSA at its origins in the early 1980s took part in the struggle to end U. S. support of South African apartheid, to end U. S. support for the Guatemalan and El Salvadoran militaries and against U. S. support for the overthrow of the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. We opposed the U. S. invasions of Grenada and Panama, both wars against Iraq and the bombing of Serbia. We reaffirm that heritage and advocate the withdrawal of U. S. troops from Afghanistan, demand the end of U. S. support for the Saudi attack on Yemen, oppose the Trump administration’s threats against Iran and support the agreement with Iran reached during the Obama administration. So too we support recent steps taken to de-escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula and support any initiative that would end the state of war that still exists between the U. S. and North Korea. We likewise stand completely opposed to the Trump administration’s threats of military intervention in Venezuela.

U. S. military bases in almost every region of the world contribute to neither peace, nor human rights, nor security and should be condemned as such. We should join with others in advocating for their closing and decommissioning.

It is also vital to combat corporate globalization by seeking to end U. S. business exploitation abroad, supporting international labor rights standards and backing global labor organizations defending workers’ rights, including the right to migrate wherever they are under siege. We also stand in solidarity with those in other nations who seek to control or limit foreign investment as another side to our own struggles against U. S.-based corporate practices. We must oppose Trump’s demagogic and counterproductive trade policies, not by a return to or apology for neoliberal so-called free trade policies, but rather by turning to trade policies based on mutual solidarity here and abroad, rooted in control of capital, domestic investment strategy and mass unionization.

DSA works with a wide array of leftist organizations in the United States, including a wide range of organizations engaged in social justice struggles. So too we ought to develop links with a wide range of left-wing, socialist and progressive organizations around the world. Narrowness in how we approach social movements abroad, just like narrowness in our domestic alliances, only undermines our effectiveness and discredits our vision.

There will always be debate and disagreement within our ranks over the specifics of social developments in other countries—how could that not be, given differences over domestic policies with which we are collectively better informed? But whatever the circumstances, we need to be clear in opposing both overt and covert U. S. intervention abroad, and in opposing U. S. corporate practices of labor exploitation and environmental destruction across the globe. At the same time, we need to work with others internationally around a shared commitment to peace, justice, democracy and human rights, acting in solidarity with those engaged in such struggles in other countries, without ever giving up our critical perspective or voice.

To this end we demand strengthening the United Nations (UN) and demand that our government operate within the UN framework to conduct international diplomacy. UN institutions work to achieve world peace, uphold international law, defend human rights, attain global disarmament, promote labor rights standards, deploy peacekeeping missions, protect cultural heritage, eradicate hunger, ensure refugee rights, safeguard health and build international collaboration on many more fronts, but they can only serve their functions when member states are actively involved.

8. We believe that DSA itself must be organized on the basis of the principles and values of democratic socialism.

We are members of the Democratic Socialists of America. Our ranks include new DSA members, as well as founders of DSA and its predecessor organizations who have spent decades in our ranks and struggles. We belong to DSA in part because we believe that the organizational name “democratic socialist” has important political meaning.

DSA’s notion of democratic socialism is rooted in our origin as a multi-tendency organization and in our conception of socialism. DSA must be a multi-tendency organization with healthy dialogue and debate among different strategic perspectives on how to advance and achieve democratic socialism. In practice, that means a shared politics, but also room to include diverse strategies, tactics, and points of view. This is what gives life to the notion of DSA as an inclusive democratic socialist organization.

It is that commitment to being a multi-tendency organization, rooted in the core values and politics put forth in the DSA Constitution, which guides our work. The current underlying tendency within DSA toward winner-take-all politics, hate and personal attacks is undermining our most important task: building organized power for the working class. We need clear, well-thought-out rules for managing internal disagreements. To this end, we should require adoption of codes of conduct and standards for managing internal disagreement at every level of the organization, including organizing committees, chapters, working groups and the National Political Committee.

Different factions in DSA can provide important representation of different political views and strategies, while working to improve DSA as an organization. That said, factions should not put the interest of the caucus above the interest of DSA as a whole, and even more importantly, above the interest of the movement as a whole.

DSA as an organization had previously been able to act without imposing a course of action upon members who were uncomfortable with it. We must go back to modeling a commitment to the democratic demands we place on society as whole within our own structure and practices. A democratic organization prioritizes consensus-building as a central principle of organization and governance. More formal rules and procedures should be used only in the case of serious disagreement, not to stifle dissent or silence different points of view. DSA’s effectiveness as a broad-based organization that encourages participation depends upon the extent to which we reflect democratic principles in our own structure. For DSA to grow and thrive, any DSA member should be able to draw on their own experience in similar community-based structures—from neighborhood associations to local unions—to understand and participate in DSA.

Returning to a politics of inclusion also means that nobody should be dismissed as a so-called paper member of DSA. This term has been used to write off material supporters who bring vital perspectives to and strengthen our cause. Different levels of participation in DSA are not only natural, but to be encouraged. Working-class people have jobs, lives and organizing responsibilities outside of DSA that take time and energy. Some bring a democratic socialist perspective to other community organizations, organize around issues beyond the scope of DSA’s work or have busy careers working in other spaces. We should also recognize that whether members participate in DSA through meetings is not an accurate measure of members’ commitment or engagement with DSA. Members who, for example, join DSA out of support for high-profile democratic socialist figures must be included in decision-making without imposing upon them our cultural expectations of in-person travel.

Expressing our ideas isn’t enough. We want to build power. DSA must prioritize one-on-one organizing and on-the-ground activism. But first and foremost, we must promote an internal organizational culture that embodies the democratic socialist principles and values we espouse, promoting comradely treatment of one another and respect for the human dignity of each person while rejecting bigotry and oppression within our ranks. DSA has suffered from a long-standing failure of political education, understandable given our rapid growth, to define the moral underpinning of our ideology to potential recruits: building a better society where respect for human life and human dignity reigns. We must affirm, as Eugene V. Debs did, “I am for Socialism because I am for humanity.”
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