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From the crippling cost of living to the genocide in Gaza, broad layers of the population—workers, black people, Latinos, youth—are fed up with Biden and his party. Many Democrats can hardly show their faces without running into pro-Palestinian protesters. This widespread discontent should be a wake-up call to the DSA left, which for years has talked of cutting the ties that bind the organization to the Democrats but never actually called the question: There is no middle ground and no time for delay. The longer the DSA maintains its link to the party of economic ruin and Palestinian genocide, the more it debases the name of socialism. The choice is simple: maintain unity with the pro-imperialist politicians or break from them to the side of the working class.

In many DSA chapters, the leadership is pushing to “save the Squad” in order to defeat Trump as the elections approach because most members cannot stomach the thought of voting for Genocide Joe. But we have already seen this movie. The last time around, in 2019-20, the Squad was at the center of the anti-Trump resistance. AOC and her cohorts made themselves the main conduit between the struggles in the streets and the Democratic Party, which they pushed as a supposedly progressive alternative to the reactionary Trump. What happened? Biden captured the White House and those struggles hit an impasse, unable to challenge capitalist interests in any real way because they were hitched to a wing of the ruling class. While Trump lost the election, workers and the oppressed did not win. Rather, they were saddled with another reactionary administration, which has only made Trump stronger. The Squad’s liberal denunciations of the backwardness of Trump supporters have not helped either, propelling white workers toward him.

Trump can and must be defeated. But everything the DSA has done so far is to corral anti-Trump activists into the Democratic camp, whether boosting the efforts of the electeds or the Sanders candidacy in 2016 and 2020. That won’t do. The only way to bring Trump to his knees is to build a movement that fights for the needs of workers and the oppressed independently of and in opposition to all Democrats. Today, the DSA left can help lay the groundwork for an anti-Trump resistance that gives the working class a fighting chance, but only if it fights to dump the Squad and immediately effect a clean break with the Democratic Party!

Many of the electeds are today rather discredited, having crushed the potential rail workers strike, funded Israel’s Iron Dome and committed a host of other betrayals. AOC’s star has fallen considerably as she stumps for the doddering president. But if Biden retains the White House, he will have one fellow Democrat to thank above all others: Rashida Tlaib. She has done more than any other Democrat to tidy up the party’s image, especially by keeping alive false hope that it can be a vehicle to come to the rescue of the Palestinians.

Take her campaign, backed by many in the DSA left, to vote “uncommitted” in the primaries in order to pressure Biden into brokering a cease-fire and make him a more viable candidate. AOC, who is very committed to Biden, recently spelled out its upside: “They’re using this process to be seen, and it’s best that we do that now than for folks to stay home in November.” Thus far, some one in ten of those voting have done so. But far from a rejection of the Democrats, this campaign, like Tlaib’s anti-Zionist statements more generally, provides them an essential service. Voting “uncommitted” (or blank) keeps those outraged by Israel’s slaughter in the clutches of the very party enabling that slaughter, breathing life into the illusion that the Democrats may be allies in the struggle for Palestinian freedom or otherwise act in the interests of the oppressed. This is a lie.

The Democrats, every bit as much as the Republicans, are a party of U.S. imperialism and guided by its strategic interests, which are bound up with the maintenance of Israel as a bulwark in the Middle East. The White House will never be an “impartial arbiter” of Israel’s national oppression of the Palestinians, no matter how much the liberal-led cease-fire movement contends otherwise. Millions have joined protests to demand a cease-fire, but the situation of the Palestinians grows more dire by the day. What could actually turn things around is the working class taking the fight to Israel’s imperialist backers. But that will never happen if the movement is kept in check by Democratic Party handlers. One obvious conclusion presents itself: To stop the genocide and free Palestine, Tlaib and all other Democrats must go.

You Must Be Independent to Build an Independent Workers Party

Nowadays, it is rather fashionable in the DSA to proclaim the need for an independent workers party. Hell, even the National Political Committee correctly observes: “Relying on the Democratic Party to lead the fight against the Republican Party and the right isn’t working. An independent path, rooted in the working-class majority and building towards an independent workers’ political party, is necessary.” But talk is one thing, and actually doing something concrete about it is another matter entirely. Any socialist worthy of the name wants to change reality to the benefit of the working class. An independent workers party does not emerge of its own accord but must be painstakingly forged through active intervention against all obstacles that block the way.

Right now, the ground is fertile to cohere a working-class opposition to both the Democrats and Republicans given the unpopularity of the two reactionary presidential candidates. The Party for Socialism and Liberation’s presidential campaign, which provides a working-class alternative to Trump and Biden, is currently the best situated jumping-off point for such an opposition, and the entire left would do well to pour itself into building support for the PSL candidates for that very reason. It is from these seeds that socialists can bring forth an independent workers party, as long as they push back against each and every attempt to link it to the liberal class enemy. For the DSA left to be a progressive factor in this process, it must take the plunge and commit to its own independence from the Democrats.

The DSA left caucuses, though, have yet to step up to the plate. In an April 13 statement, Red Labor concludes: “Every moment spent in the Democratic Party and on the Democratic ballot line is a moment that could be spent developing an independent workers’ party.” Very good, but socialists are measured by their actions, and Red Labor’s have been lacking. As any mechanic can attest, the only way to separate two objects adhered to one another is to break the bond at its strongest point. It is essential to dispel illusions in the most popular Democrats, like Tlaib today. But Red Labor has rather conspicuously limited itself to demanding the expulsion of low-hanging fruit like the open Zionist Nithya Raman in L.A.

Raman should be out without question, but so should be the anti-Zionist Democrats, including Tlaib. The push to expel Raman ran aground when Socialist Majority argued that it was necessary to keep Raman around in recognition of her good work on housing and to preserve the unity of the cease-fire movement. It is easy enough to poke holes in such arguments in the case of Raman. But to make a clean break requires setting forth why the bogus arguments used to justify clinging to Raman are just as wrong when used to justify clinging to Tlaib. In short, Tlaib’s “good work” is in the service of duping the masses into giving the Democrats another chance, and she stands in the way of the unity of the necessary anti-imperialist movement for Palestine. When it comes to Tlaib, Red Labor’s silence is deafening.

Others on the DSA left are rather more blatant in their capitulation to “lesser evil” pressures. In a March 22 editorial, Reform and Revolution argues: “DSA should publicly announce that we will not endorse our class enemy, Joe Biden” and advocates instead an “independent working-class party.” They go on to note that the electeds have voted to fund the war in Ukraine and support NATO, but do not call to expel them. Even more criminally, they call for a “tactical vote” to Biden in swing states in order to help defeat Trump. Reform and Revolution would have the DSA go down in flames with the Democrats, while blocking a working-class fight against reaction.

As for the Communist Caucus, it claims to “oppose all institutions that block working class power,” including the Democratic Party and “union officials who seek an accommodation with capital.” But in a March 30 article in Partisan it denounces the Spartacist League for “a rigid belief that labor union leaders are the primary obstacle to building militant working class organization.” However, the unions will remain subordinated to the Democrats unless socialists fight to take leadership from the hands of the “union officials who seek an accommodation with capital.” The fight for a clean break is urgently posed now more than ever, but the Communist Caucus is more concerned with defending the pro-Democratic Party labor bureaucracy against the SL, which is actively fighting for a clean break.

The Marxist Unity Group-affiliated Cosmonaut magazine recently issued “A Call to All Socialists” (April 3) arguing “that we need a Mass Socialist Party, and that we can and must build it now (our emphasis). Its author bitterly complains that the DSA’s rank and file won’t split with the electeds and that the DSA is beholden to the right wing. But the duty of the left is to rally the greatest numbers possible to act in the interests of the working class and make the split. Let the right drop its socialist pretensions and stick with the Democrats. Whether or not the left carries a majority, it will be better off for having put the Democratic Party apparatchiks in the rear view. From the standpoint of actually building a mass socialist party, the worst thing that could happen is for the DSA left to put off a break with the Democrats in the name of unity with the right.

The Cosmonaut call, for all its correct insistence that we can and must build an independent workers party now, noticeably fails to provide any concrete course of action toward that end, whether pursuing a break between the DSA and the Democrats or a working-class alternative in the elections. Some in the DSA, like the Rhode Island chapter, oppose endorsing both Trump and Biden but stop short of putting forward any alternative in the elections. This does nothing to help advance the struggle for class independence either. The Spartacist League advocates a critical vote to PSL because, unlike the Greens and Cornel West, it argues against “lesser evilism” and puts forward an anti-capitalist program. Voting PSL builds the power of the working class in the lead-up to the elections and will put us in a better position to fight whichever capitalist candidate wins.

For Revolutionary Leadership!

Some DSAers who claim to want a split with the Democrats argue that it’s too early to do so because the working class still has illusions in them. Such arguments say more about these DSAers than about the working class, which at the moment hates the Democratic Party. The DSA itself, the party’s liberal moralizing wing, does not rate very high either. The only illusion operating here is that the DSA’s embrace of the Democrats is good for the cause of socialism. Socialists who wait for all the stars to align are not really serious. The time will never be perfect, but it’s pretty damn good right now. The key is that socialists have to act like socialists and fight to advance the struggle for socialism, not make excuses for the status quo.

The formal organizational independence of the DSA from the Democrats would be a step forward for the class, but the DSA minus the Democrats would still not be a revolutionary organization in the absence of it having a program counterposed to liberal reformism. But a split would set the stage for further exposure of the bankruptcy of reformism, because its supporters inside the DSA would no longer have the Democrats to blame for its failures. The precondition to planting a revolutionary pole in the DSA is the fight for its split from the Democrats. If the activity of the DSA left is not oriented in this direction, then it is completely failing the working class and the fight for an independent workers party.