By: Matthew Strupp
At this year’s National Convention, the Democratic Socialists of America are considering the adoption of a new national political platform, which the organization does not currently have. This will be a different sort of document from the priority resolutions drafted by the National Political Committee (NPC) for past conventions. Those priority resolutions were primarily tactical documents, concerning the campaigns and activity that DSA would be engaging in for the next two years. The 2016 document, Resistance Rising, was drafted in a similar process to this year’s draft national platform, but it too was mostly concerned with tactical and strategic questions. The national platform is, in contrast, a programmatic document. The move to consider the adoption of a national political platform recognizes that DSA has become a serious working class political force as a result of its explosive growth, electoral successes, and increasingly prominent role on the ground in myriad working class struggles,
In order to continue to project itself as a serious political force, DSA has to show that we take political power seriously, that we have all-sided answers to the many social and political problems that exist in US capitalist society, and that we tak a definite stance towards the different social classes. To address this need, a socialist platform outlines the essential policy of a socialist organization or party upon the seizure or assumption of political power, with the aim of effecting a transition to socialism and the realization of universal human emancipation under the leadership of the working class.
The current draft of the national political platform was developed in a several-months-long process. The process began with the appointment of a Platform and Resolutions Committee by the NPC. This committee wrote an initial draft of the platform which was sent to members in the March NPC newsletter along with a feedback form, through which members could provide input on the draft. There were also discussions on all the sections of the platform at each of the pre-convention conferences, held from mid-May through mid-June, in which members were encouraged to fill out aform to share the ideas they had expressed in the meetings. I helped facilitate several of these discussions.
The Platform and Resolutions Committee then released a second draft of the national political platform in mid-June. The most significant difference between the first and second drafts of the platform was the elimination of the distinction between long, medium, and short term demands in the second draft. Many members felt that this distinction implied a gradualist strategy for the achievement of these demands, that it suggested a “theory of stages” in our political agitation where we would only talk about the short term demands until they were achieved, then move to the medium term demands, and then to the long term demands. The placement of many of the individual demands into their respective categories was also seen as too arbitrary by many members I spoke to in the pre-convention conferences.
Instead, in the second draft, many of the demands in the platform which could only be achieved in a totally classless, stateless, marketless, and democratically planned society, in other words under high communism, were moved to the end of the preamble of the section, with the rest of the demands no longer classified as long, medium, or short term. The most ambitious of these demands were placed near the top rather than the bottom of the section, as had been the case in the first draft. This was to some extent an imitation of the “minimum-maximum” format of the programs of the mass socialist parties of the Second International, which consisted of a “maximum program” for communist society in their preamble, alongside a “minimum program,” a set of demands that amounted to the minimum conditions for the working class to be able to take and exercise power. For this reason, it was understood that the party would only join or form a government on the condition that the minimum program be carried out in full.
The current national political platform draft consists of a general preamble and 10 sections, each with their own preamble and set of demands. These sections are: Deepening and Strengthening Democracy, Abolition of the Carceral State, Abolition of White Supremacy, A Powerful Labor Movement, Economic Justice, Gender and Sexuality Justice, Green New Deal, Health Justice, Housing for All, and International Solidarity and Immigration Justice. The sections are organized in alphabetical order, with the exception of Deepening and Strengthening Democracy, which, the DSA national convention website says, “the Platform and Resolutions Subcommittee voted to place first in order to foreground our commitment to political and economic democracy as necessary conditions to achieve a democratic socialist society.”
Alongside the adoption of the platform itself, amendments to the platform draft will also be debated and voted on at convention. Proposed amendments had to be submitted with the signatures of 250 DSA members in good standing by Thursday July 15. At the time of the writing of this article, the compendium of accepted amendment proposals has not yet been released.
It would be impossible to lay out the full content of the platform in this article without simply reproducing it, but I will conclude by listing the first demand of each section, the ones considered the most ambitious by the committee (the current draft of the platform, which delegates will discuss at the 2021 National Convention, can be found here):
Deepening and Strengthening Democracy
- A new political order through a second constitutional convention to write the founding documents of a new socialist democracy.
Abolition of the Carceral State
- Defund the police by rejecting any expansion to police budgets or scope of enforcement while cutting budgets annually towards zero.
Abolition of White Supremacy
- Pass reparations legislation like the “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.” Coming out of the commission, we would want budget lines for reparations at municipal, state, and federal levels.
A Powerful Labor Movement
- Social ownership of all major industry and infrastructure.
- Social ownership and democratic control of utilities and key industries including water, gas, electric, telecommunications, media, and internet service providers and other critical sectors of the economy through direct government support, public banks, and pension funds at every level of government.
Gender and Sexuality Justice
- Reproductive justice for all.
Green New Deal
- Guaranteed free access to a healthy and clean environment.
- Public ownership and funding of our healthcare system, including hospitals and other healthcare providers, pharmaceutical research and production, and other medical research and production facilities.
Housing for All
- Public housing for all.
International Solidarity and Immigration Justice
- End exploitation of immigrants.
Interview with NPC members and Platform and Resolutions Committee chairs Justin Charles and Dave Pinkham
Articles on the History and Purpose of Socialist Programs
- Programme: Lessons of Erfurt – Mike Macnair
- Why Have a Political Program? – Parker McQueeney
- The Revolutionary Minimum-Maximum Program – Donald Parkinson
Historical Socialist Political Programs