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Socialists and Elections: DSA Forum on Electoral Visions

When: Wednesday, July 18, 2018, 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Where: Democracy Center • 45 Mount Auburn St. • Cambridge

The abject failure of the Democratic Party in the 2016 election, and the waking nightmare of the Trump regime that followed, has shown the critical need for a new electoral strategy for the Left. We cannot hope to continue under the failed politics of the past. The ballot box must be turned into a tool of resistance in 2018 and beyond, but the question is how and what does that look like. 

The Democratic Socialists of America has an opportunity to present a real alternative to the destructive business as usual politics characterized by the two parties. We need a vision that goes beyond this or that dreary mainstream politician, but points towards a brighter socialist tomorrow. There are many ideas on how that can be accomplished. Please join us for a panel discussion and open forum on socialist visions for elections. 

The below represent three possible visions for socialist electoral work. They each touch on important areas to consider, and many overlap significantly. But they also show the shades of opinion in the DSA on this important questions that needs to be expressed, fleshed out, discussed, and debated:

ALTERNATIVE BUILDING AND PUSHING POLITICS LEFT: Boston DSA faces a historic opportunity to build membership and power through active engagement with electoral politics in Massachusetts and canvassing candidates aligned with DSA’s core values. A growing number of candidates who are running as open socialists is evidence that support by organizations like ours encourages courageous candidates to run openly with ideals they might have previously been hidden. The possibility of mainstreaming socialist politics should be seen to outweigh the risk of disappointments. Even small victories can shift the terrain of political possibility. No long-term strategy for a class politics strong enough to defeat capitalism can forego the ballot box. The goal is to fight for candidates who push for non-reformist reforms that call into question fundamental aspects of the current order, while also working at local and international levels to build left power and alternative institution-building.

BASE BUILDING AND POLITICAL INDEPENDENCE: The vital task of our time is to build a mass socialist party based on the working class. Boston DSA’s electoral work is a tool to advance that vision by meeting the working class where it is at. It is imperative that Boston DSA’s electoral work make a clean break with the two parties of capital, the Republicans and the Democrats, and commit to only endorsing open socialists who are independent of both parties. We must also understand that winning an election means becoming the administer for an imperialist, capitalist state and therefore is not always simply a victory for creating socialism. With this understanding, we should be involved in a limited number of electoral races - picking races where a candidate or question closely aligns with socialist goals and where DSA can have some reasonable expectation of accountability for a candidate. We need an on-the-ground approach to electoral work that prioritizes spreading the message of socialism and building deeper connections in communities over simply securing votes. 

POWER BUILDING AND COALITION CAMPAIGNS: In the next 5 years, Boston DSA should aim to elect socialists to the State House and Boston City Council. We need to ensure that our electoral work is putting maximum pressure on the business lobbyist backed Corporate Democrats and educating the broader public that the Democratic Party in Massachusetts is not even progressive, and that we need socialism to fix the issues we face. Boston DSA must build an electoral machine that we control so as to build a mass of supporters in specific geographic areas. This will give us more leverage over candidates once elected to hold them accountable, and it will ensure that our electoral work goes to building our power for future contests. We should step up our participation in the Raise Up Coalition and seek to build a coalition for Repeal of the Ban on Rent Control at the ballot in 2022. Given how most elections are decided within Democratic primaries, we should accept that most of the candidates we endorse are going to be running as Democrats. We should not close off the possibility of endorsing a left-progressive who agrees with us on most issues at least in the next 2-3 years as we build our own power, but after 2020 we should only be endorsing out Socialists. 

**Important Accessibility Information** The Democracy Center is partially wheelchair accessible, no accessible bathroom on site. The Mandela, Parks, and Chavez rooms are accessible, but the Library is not. Wheelchair users are welcome to use the accessible restroom at Daedalus while we plan our improvements for bathroom accessibility. To reach that bathroom, exit the ramp and turn left on Bow St, at the next building (Daedalus) use their accessible entrance and their restroom will be on the right. If you have any accessibility concerns, please reach out to to request accommodations. You may also email or use the form to reach the Boston DSA accessibility team

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