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Our common principles are:
1. The defeat of Trumpism and the Republican majorities in Congress and the states 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. We believe in the democratization of the economy in service of the public good and the common welfare.
5. We believe in the democratization of society and in an end to all forms of bigotry, discrimination and oppression.
6. We believe that the United States must adopt a democratic foreign policy in world affairs, and we are opposed to militarism and imperialism.
7. 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 work with democratic movements and organizations seeking progressive change, and we 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; 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 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.
As democratic socialists, we believe that democracy requires a foundation in the principles of liberty and equality.
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.
We are democratic socialists because we oppose the autocratic and chaotic reign of unregulated and unfettered capitalism, in which private property is supreme and those who control great concentrations of private property and wealth monopolize 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 checked by the democratic voice and rights of workers. Labor unions are indispensable institutions for the democratization of the workplace—to provide voice and democratic rights to working people, unions themselves must be democratic. A democratic socialist economy has a robust public sector in which vital public goods and services such as healthcare, education, communications, transportation and economic 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, particularly in the purchase of essential goods such as food, clothing, shelter and healthcare, 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. 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.
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.
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. 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 and to this end demand strengthening the United Nations.
We are members of the Democratic Socialists of America. Our ranks include new DSA members and founders of DSA and its predecessor organizations who have spent decades in their ranks and struggles. We belong to DSA in part because we believe that the organizational name “democratic socialist” has important political meaning. DSA cannot be an organization for all people—those who do not subscribe to the fundamental principles and values of democratic socialism, be it out of disrespect for human life and human dignity or out of support for capitalism, authoritarianism or various forms of bigotry and oppression, belong in a different organization that accords with their views. The core of our value system is about building a better society where respect for human life and human dignity reigns.
DSA must be a multi-tendency organization with healthy dialogue and debate among different strategic perspectives on how to advance and achieve democratic socialism, but the organizational tent cannot be so broad as to include those who advocate for views antithetical to democratic socialism. This question of what views are admissible and what are not is a matter of organizational integrity and self-defense. The DSA Constitution is the democratically established framework that guides our work. While the Constitution can be changed through the democratic procedures laid out in it, its provisions cannot be openly disregarded. The current Constitution states that the ranks of DSA are the wrong place for those who are in “substantial disagreement with the principles or policies of the organization or [who] consistently engage in undemocratic, disruptive behavior or [who] are under the discipline of any self-defined democratic-centralist organization.” It is destructive of our organizational democracy to invite people who are not democratic socialists and are under the discipline of authoritarian sects to become members of DSA, against the express language of our Constitution.
DSA 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. We must affirm, as Eugene V. Debs did, “I am for Socialism because I am for humanity.” Civility among democratic socialists is not a bourgeois value—it is a universal value that must be defended against a bourgeois culture that is increasingly crude, disrespectful and violent.