By Enrique Calvo. First published on DSA’s Democratic Left blog.
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) Internationalism Committee released a report in April proposing that the Democratic Socialists of America either sever ties with or downgrade its status in the Socialist International, “an association of political parties and organizations which seek to establish democratic socialism.” The rationale of the Committee can be boiled down to four arguments: (1) that internationalism costs money, (2) that the DSA should disassociate itself from the policies and programs of the International, (3) that the DSA should disassociate itself from the austerity and neoliberal policies of some parties affiliated with the International in an effort to appease competing parties outside the International such as Podemos in Spain, Die Linke in Germany and SYRIZA in Greece and (4) that the International and the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) routinely ignore the DSA and YDS. These arguments are factually problematic or otherwise unconvincing.
Based on the Committee’s own calculations and the almost four-fold increase in dues-paying DSA members over the past year, our international commitments will be around 1% of the DSA national budget in 2017 and 2018. By the Committee’s own admission in the report, “budgetary considerations are not [a] substantial argument” given that “international work would be a modest portion of total expenses.” This is a question of political will, not resources.
Secondly, the Committee suggests that the policies and programs of the International should be rejected despite offering no example of any policy or program of the International that is objectionable. On the contrary, the 25th Congress of the International in March approved resolutions that call for the independence of Puerto Rico, call for recognition of the State of Palestine, call for ending the blockade of Gaza, call for ending discrimination against non-Jews in Israel, condemn Israeli violations of international humanitarian law, condemn undemocratic constitutional changes in Mauritania, amend the statutes of the International to have equality between men and women in all levels of the organization, call for Turkish recognition of the Armenian Genocide, condemn Trump’s border wall, call for convening an Ibero-American Summit in Mexico to coordinate against Trump, call for the release of thousands of political prisoners in Turkey and so on and so forth. The DSA should be able to comfortably support all these moral documents plus others that the 25th Congress approved in March.
The 25th Congress even approved a lengthy, detailed resolution of self-criticism condemning how neoliberal globalization benefited few in the name of many and calling on socialist parties to reclaim economic equality as their goal. In other words, the member parties of the International openly criticized the neoliberalism of some of their peers. By participating in Congresses and Councils of the International, we can advocate for issues we care about.
Thirdly, the picture that the Committee paints of the DSA becoming discredited by association with the austerity and neoliberal policies of some International-affiliated parties is factually lacking and actually strengthens the argument for staying in the International. Far from wanting nothing to do with the International-affiliated PSOE in Spain and the International-affiliated SPD in Germany, the main demand that Podemos and Die Linke have of the PSOE and SPD, respectively, are to be open to coalitions at the national level. The parties have already formed several coalition governments at the regional level, including some coalitions where Podemos or Die Linke head the governments. Moreover, Pedro Sánchez just won the primaries in the PSOE this May on a platform of working together with Podemos at the national level and the SPD is now also open to a national coalition government with Die Linke for the first time since German reunification.
Meanwhile, other developments discredit the notion that parties affiliated with the International have abandoned socialism and call into question the dichotomy that the Committee sees between International-affiliated parties and other leftist parties. The Committee specifically mentions SYRIZA, which is in power unlike Podemos and Die Linke, as one of the parties outside the International that the DSA should focus on building ties with. We have seen SYRIZA continue austerity measures and neoliberal policies in Greece after taking power. In contrast, we have seen the left wings of the Labour Party in the U. K. (an observer of the International) and the International-affiliated PS in France win the most recent leadership election in their parties.
But more than anything, this argument only serves to underscore a major benefit of staying in the International. If we have problems with the politics of our peers around the world, the DSA can actually leverage its membership in the International to engage with fellow socialists and push for our vision of democratic socialism.
Finally, the Committee bemoans, perhaps rightly, insufficient interaction between the DSA/YDS and the International/IUSY. Our long history of affiliation with the International that stretches back to the early 20th Century is currently undergoing a low point, but lack of international coordination is not a reason to betray the core socialist principle of internationalism. Rather, we must invest in reengaging with the International and reinvigorating internationalism at home. As for the relationship between IUSY and YDS, that is not a factor in this debate. IUSY is a completely separate organization from the International, based in Vienna instead of London, with an entirely different membership list and partnered with several organizations besides the International, including the rival Progressive Alliance.
Let us not forget that our affiliation with the International is one of our best recruitment tools, highlighted in the second line of the About DSA page on our website. We should not take it as happenstance that, after doing their research, the vast majority of new U. S. socialists forged in the Bernie 2016 campaign chose to join our organization over at least a dozen other socialist organizations that are active in this country. As the opening sentence of our About page promises, we are not only the largest socialist organization in the United States, but we are the only socialist organization in the States affiliated with the International besides the Puerto Rican Independence Party.
There are no valid global alternatives. The only democratic leftist competitor to the International is the recently formed Progressive Alliance, which is far enough to the right on the political spectrum as to have member parties such as the Democratic Party here in the United States that would never think of joining the International. The committee argues that downgrading the DSA to observer status in the International could allow DSA members to maintain “productive . . . side meetings at official events”, but even this would be made harder given that by the statutes of the International we would be limited to a smaller delegation size, which in addition would have no speaking rights and no voting rights to help draft and debate the moral documents that are adopted at the Congresses and Councils of the International. As a small organization, the DSA greatly benefits from the added legitimacy, both at home and abroad, that affiliation with the International conveys.
The DSA must stay in the Socialist International, not only because there are no valid reasons to leave, but because our mission as socialists demands that we reembrace the core socialist principle of internationalism and reengage with our peers across the globe.
Enrique Calvo is a delegate to the DSA National Convention representing the Metro DC chapter. He was a double-major with a Certificate in International Relations from Wesleyan University, was born a dual citizen of Spain and the U.S. and has lived abroad in multiple countries.
For background information on what the Socialist International is, on how the International functions, on the structure of the International, on the nature of the Progressive Alliance, on the historical relationship of the International with socialism in the United States, on the different membership levels of the International and on the debate over whether to continue DSA membership in the International, read more here. You can also read the Internationalism Committee report released in April for lengthy background material on the history of the International, on the history of international socialism and on the current relationship between the DSA and the International.