DSA’s Factions Explained

The Caucus Wars

Over the last two years, caucuses have emerged as a defining characteristic of how DSA does internal politics. To me this is a sad development; I think the overwhelming impact of caucuses is to degrade the quality of our leadership, culture, and politics. That said as someone who cares and wants to be involved, I joined one of them and I’m pretty friendly to another.

The Caucus Wars Are About Centralization vs. Decentralization

Trying to distill the many arguments and conflicts is hard. Remember that the vast majority of the organization is made up of people new to socialist politics in a mass membership organization. That said, here goes…

  • Momentum/Bread & Roses strongly supports more centralization, and supports resolutions that establish priorities that it can project nationally and at the chapter level in accordance with it’s politics.
  • Socialist Majority mostly supports those priorities, but it is more committed to a big tent approach that creates space — procedurally and emotionally — for other things. It is less committed to ‘my way or the highway’ but still agrees on the road to follow.
  • North Star is very close to Socialist Majority on this question, but includes people who are even more suspicious/critical of MBR.
  • Build should be the far pole on the side of decentralization. But this is complicated by the fact that they have built a national infrastructure, including publications, training, conferences etc. That requires a kind of organizing mentality that isn’t quite the same as anything resembling ‘horizontalism.’
  • The LSC isn’t ‘more’ against centralization, as compared to Build. But it has an ideological component that is absent in Build, and some of its members don’t feel comfortable with various aspects of Build. On many resolutions, I’d expect Build and LSC to vote similarly.

But ‘Centralization’ Barely Begins to Cover It…

In no particular order, here are other aspects of the conflict that I observe, deduce, or know.

Endnote

In writing this, I imagined explaining things to a trusted friend who also trusts me not to lie or obfuscate. It’s entirely possible that here and there I’m wrong or emphasizing things the wrong way — and I did this on Facebook so that people can tell me so. Full disclosure, I’m a member of the Socialist Majority Caucus, which clearly has some affinity with the PT legacy. But that is not my legacy — I’m from the more traditional DSA big tent outlook, and think that forming a party, even talking about someday forming a party, is misguided. But I recognize that vicious factional infighting is a problem, not a solution to anything. The only way I can influence DSA so it’s more of what I personally want, is to fight for the big tent nature of it, to weaken the ‘caucus culture’, and above all, to demand that the spirit of inclusion and democracy permeate ALL of its structures. That’s the only defense against small groups of sophisticated actors seeking dominance. May none of them succeed.

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