In light of recent events involving DSA’s Class Unity Caucus (CUC), we at DSA-LSC think it appropriate to make a definitive statement outlining our stance on CUC, its ideology, and its concerning reactionary tendencies.
Among other things, CUC has a stance on social issues that could charitably be called class reductionist. One needs to go no further than CUC’s website to find it in plain terms. Item number 1 on their statement of principles is “Class politics, not identity politics.” Inherent here is a distinction between “class” and “identity.” Is “class” not an identity? It isn’t sufficient to say that class is distinct from other social categories, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, etc. because all of these categories are themselves fundamentally different from one another. Does this distinction lie in the central nature of class in capitalist society? But aren’t other social categories and their oppression also important and, again, distinct? To suggest anything else would be reactionary in that it denies that our conjecture is shaped by the logic of racial capitalism and legacies of settler-colonial domination. We have the most massive carceral state and, increasingly, only the illusion of democratic control and workplace power principally because of those factors. We cannot afford to ignore how effective struggles involve not only well-organized workers but democratic organization and revolts from below–including those last summer–that were led by the most excluded groups. We also ignore the trajectory of the left in the 20th century in which simplistic rubrics imposed by theoreticians and popularizers can lead to political marginalization but, more dangerously, to the left adopting other forms of social exclusion and oppression.
This class reductionism, at best, is misguided and incomplete; at worst, it savors of bigotry. Particularly egregious is “Let them Clap,” an article one can still view on CUC’s website, in which the author, in addition to demonstrating very clear ableism (the title is a reference to the group’s opposition to clap bans, which are meant to help neurodivergent people), also rails against simple procedural courtesies such as mandatory pronoun disclosure. In “Chicago DSA’s adventures in liberal antipolitics,” the following especially offensive remark can be found:
“In the aftermath of last year’s protests against police brutality, many DSA chapters descended into an outright obsession with racial politics that now far outstrips the popular energy behind those very protests.”
It’s appallingly tone-deaf. Anti-racism is a fundamental part of true socialism, but white supremacy is a complex social phenomenon that must be given special attention. CUC continually ignores a proud history of intersectionality on the Left, in favor of a revisionist one where all struggles are formed along class lines. Labor history is indisputably rife with examples of white unions excluding minority members, even as recently as the 1960s. But when the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed with support from white workers, it was a black Knight of Labor who dissented and urged his fellow workers to organize Chinese workers. Yet while CUC does acknowledge racial disparities in America today, they cannot help but always try to veer the conversation back toward an exclusively class-based analysis, as if to say, “That’s all well and good, but can we get back to real socialism?” This is condescending to the extreme and has no place within the Left.
None of this is to say that many of these more problematic takes aren’t interspersed with quite reasonable criticisms of “liberal identity politics” (to be distinguished from truly progressive, leftist intersectionality, though CUC consistently conflates the two) and worrying right-wing elements that pervade DSA everywhere. Yet, given CUC’s general insensitivity and cynicism, one can’t help but feel that these arguments are disingenuous, more a rationalization of reactionary thinking than a conclusion arrived at in good faith, if not an insidious rhetorical strategy to launder their regressive social stance. We do not use the term “class reductionist” lightly. We understand that the term has been misused by liberals who would prefer to ignore the fundamental connection between capitalism and, say, racism – but an intersectional analysis is the antidote to such a limited understanding of power dynamics in our society. It isn’t the problem. Liberals and class reductionists both fail to see the forest for the trees; they ignore the complex web of oppressive and hierarchical relationships that form around the nucleus of class society.
We fully acknowledge that class-based analysis is the cornerstone of modern socialism, but it would be a mistake to focus so narrowly on class at the expense of other vitally important social issues. In doing so, we risk alienating those who are most heavily burdened by the yoke of capitalism and the state. Socialism is liberation, and that means the liberation of all. So long as we do not understand that, we will not succeed.