Jamaal Bowman and DSA’s Crisis of Leadership

This past December 2, DSA’s National Political Committee released a statement in response to growing calls from membership to discipline Rep. Jamaal Bowman for a recent string of votes to provide over $4B in military aid to Israel. In the statement, the NPC stated that they “have seen considerable movement from Representative Bowman and his office” and that “expelling Bowman would mean handing the perfect tool to the establishment to stoke divisions within the Palestine solidarity movement.”

While chapters (including DSA SF) and the National Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions & Palestine Solidarity working group voted to dissent from the decision, it’s unlikely the NPC will take up the question before Bowman’s 2022 re-election campaign begins.

Writing in response to the NPC statement on DSA’s forum, one member, a part of the Tempest Collective that led the initial charge for Bowman’s expulsion, said “the statement shows that DSA, too, will roll over when it comes to the needs of Democratic politicians.”

But the DSA I know is not the one that will roll over when it comes to the needs of Democratic politicians. The DSA I know is already solving the questions facing us and showing

Red Star San Francisco: 2021 DSA SF Convention Guide

On June 12th and 13th, DSA SF will hold a chapter convention where we will vote on our first-ever chapter priorities, consider bylaw changes, and elect National Convention delegates and new chapter leadership. We believe DSA SF needs a political program that improves its organization and commits to specific courses of action to organize the working class in San Francisco. Our priorities process is a welcome step in that direction, and there are a number of proposals up for debate that we think could set the organization on strong footing for the year ahead. We hope to expand on our labor organizing work locally, help the organization make concrete commitments to racial justice and Black liberation, and set a course in electoral organizing that puts DSA SF and the socialist project at the fore, while enshrining democratic norms and elected political leadership within the organization.

Additionally, National convention delegate elections will be taking place at the chapter convention, and we hope to send Red Star delegates along with chapter members who share our analysis and vision on key business items to the convention. Our recommendations for both chapter convention business and national convention delegate are below.

Priority Resolutions

Worker Organizing

Statement on the National Rage Against the Killing of George Floyd:

March from the Port of Oakland with the ILWU Longshore Union for Juneteenth, in Oakland CA. June 19th, 2020. Photo by Mícheál Madden.

The murder of George Floyd on May 25th by Minneapolis PD was an intolerable act that is still having repercussions across the nation, and is setting the stage for renewed confrontation by Black people and workers against the authoritarian capitalist state.

The reformist leadership coming from the Democratic Party and nonprofits have criticized the riots and outbursts as hurtful to the movement and unconstructive when it comes to achieving its goals. In a recent press conference on the events, Rep. Ilhan Omar said, “I realize our frustrations are warranted, our despair is justified, but today our priority needs to be to minimize harm. We can’t let the violence committed against one Black man give way to more destruction. You can’t say you care about Black lives, and engage in fires that endanger Black lives.”

But in truth the criticism of the rioting which took place is an ahistorical criticism that does not take recent history into understanding. Anyone can see there have already been peaceful demonstrations year after year, killing after killing—and yet the

In Defense of "Zombie Marx"

“There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.” -Karl Marx, Preface to French Edition of Capital Volume I

Fellow DSASF member Alex Biancardi recently posted an article on Medium entitled “What Should We Do About Zombie Karl Marx?” Though Biancardi’s article does not mention Red Star San Francisco by name, there’s no doubt that his piece illustrates a split existing within DSA as the organization tries to reckon with its own history, with the history of the socialist movement, and with the future of the working class struggle.

I think that a critique of Biancardi’s piece is an excellent opportunity to highlight some major theoretical departures between Biancardi’s view of Marxism and how most of those who identify as Marxists or revolutionary socialists actually approach the work we’re doing here in DSA. In Red Star San Francisco, we see critiquing and engaging with the openly-advanced positions of our comrades in DSASF not as petty factionalism, but as the process by which our chapter can clarify its positions on important issues and more coherently develop

The Labor Theory of Value and Surplus Value

Part I: The Basics of the Labor Theory of Value

The key to understanding the nature of the capitalist economy, according to Marx, lies in understanding the nature of the commodity. A commodity is something that is useful and that is produced in order to be exchanged for a different kind of commodity. Parents who make bread to feed their family are not producing commodities. Bakers who produce bread to sell on the market are producing commodities.

As Marx pointed out in Capital, commodities have not existed in all human societies. They were virtually absent in very early communal societies where members would share their wealth with one another or redistribute it by giving gifts to one another. They would not produce things in order to exchange them with other members of their community. An elder of a tribe might teach a youth how to fish but expect nothing in return. As societies became more complex, commodities became more prevalent. Capitalism is unique in that commodities entirely dominate the economy. Everything seems to have its price. People who are professional teachers expect to be paid and will refuse to teach without compensation.

Once the economy is overtaken by commodities, things

Revolution in the Time of COVID-19

Source: Felipe Esquivel Reed

COVID-19 has thrown the capitalist order into crisis. The Sanders campaign has been defeated. Once the quarantine lifts, where do we fight?

These are dark times. The COVID-19 outbreak has plunged the US working class into uncertainty, fear, and chaos. As I write this, the toll of infected and dead are rising at an exponential rate.The country’s already murderously threadbare healthcare system has been stretched to its breaking point. Makeshift hospitals are being constructed in New York City’s Central Park, military hospital ships are being deployed to major coastal cities, and the reality of the staggering amount of suffering and death we face is beginning to set in. We should be clear - every death and every suffering and sick person should be laid at the feet of capitalism, which has left us so utterly unable to deal with this crisis.

Among those not yet sick, the luckiest among us contend with boredom, monotony and cabin fever as they work from home. Companies are already pioneering new forms of employee surveillance, chaining workers to their computers. Others now face financial uncertainty as their workplaces close and bills come due. Especially hard hit are

Statement on Bernie Sanders' Endorsement of Joe Biden

Bernie Sanders’ endorsement of Joe Biden is a disappointing but predictable outcome of an insurgent left-wing campaign conducted within the auspices of the Democratic Party. Bernie’s candidacy was a once-in-a-lifetime, near-perfect alignment of factors that turned the unthinkable into the immediately possible.

However, even with so many aspects of the campaign working in our favor—Bernie’s relatively consistent record and skeleton-free closet, a weak pool of other candidates, the increasingly broad popularity of left-wing policies—the Democratic Party machinery not only outmatched us, but is now attempting to co-opt our movement.

The fact that Bernie managed to get so far within a party apparatus so transparently and fiercely opposed to his candidacy speaks to the potential of a re-energized working class movement. At the same time, the fact that this energy was nonetheless defeated proves that social-democratic change, much less socialist transformation, will never happen from within the “nicer” party of capital.

Feminist and civil rights activist Audre Lorde once said, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” The US left has tested this thesis in the most favorable conditions we will ever see and found it to be correct. We must refuse to

A People's Recovery From COVID-19

One of the best-known bits of apocrypha in the Marxist canon, attributed to Lenin (and likely paraphrased from The Chief Task of Our Day), came alive this week: “There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” A flurry of rapid developments in the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the political conditions facing the American working class upside-down. Faced with an impending recession that deepens with every passing day of bleak Coronavirus news, a troubled nation has quickly thrown decades of neoliberal consensus right out the window. The Trump administration has offered up over a trillion dollars—with a ‘t’—in short-term loans to financial institutions, and any positive impact on the stock market was instantly wiped away. A profound economic crisis, long thought to be looming on the horizon, has arrived in full force, and brought an exceedingly deadly pandemic with it.

The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States has shown just how much damage has been done to America’s public institutions, not just over the past three years of the Trump administration but the last forty-plus of neoliberal capitalism. The haphazard kleptocrats in charge right now may be robbing us blind

Onward to a Workers' Party

As it now seems that each passing Tuesday may bring further confirmation that Bernie Sanders will not be the Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential race, a particular era of left organizing is coming to a close. Bernie’s 2016 presidential run, which sparked new life in the US left, and his 2020 run, which was at least a distant glimmer on the horizon for much of the intervening years and which has dominated political life on the left for the last few months, were unlikely catalysts for a reinvigorated socialist movement.

But it certainly does not seem like there is another Bernie waiting in the wings. Bernie is an anomaly; his political trajectory is, of course in some sense, the product of the material conditions of the last few decades, but if this were the dominant reason for his unique political role we would expect to see more people like him. There are high-profile politicians with similar politics, but none who have any real shot at becoming president for the foreseeable future. The door to the highest office of the foremost imperial power seems as though it is about to close indefinitely for the left, and the left ought