Fwd: We Need to Revise the List of Chairs.

Doug Henwood dhenwood at panix.com
Sun Jan 30 20:17:48 PST 2000

[A prominent young DSAer of my acquaintance who wishes to remain anonymous has been circulating this complaint.]

I am very unhappy.

It was bad enough that our Honorary Chair, Cornel West, opted to campaign for Bill Bradley. Bradley, of course, is not a left-liberal, funded wholly by unions and people's cash, but candidate of Wall St.

Now, another DSA Honorary Chair, Gloria Steinem has openly endorsed Al Gore. Of course, Steinem has made bad decisions before -- she was once chummy with the CIA -- but that was then. Apparently, she judges candidates wholly on one issue -- whether they are pro-choice or not. That they are paid for by corporate America apparently doesn't matter.

What the hell sort of "socialism" are West and Steinem expressing??

This is embarrassing. No, the US working class won't care. It doesn't even know we exist. But it is truly pathetic when Honorary Chairs of a SOCIALIST organization are endorsing capitalist politicians. It is unprinicpled.

DSA is an organization without discipline. We cannot throw West or Steinem out of DSA. But come the next convention we must revise our list of Honorary Chairs. West and Steinem must be taken off the list. Honorary (and Vice) Chairs ought to be under the discipline of the organization not to endorse candidates for federal office which have not been endorsed by the organization. (Then again, we should probably remove the Honorary Chair positions entirely and return to the Co-Chair positions that were once filled by Harrington and Ehrenreich.) And if this means no top labor officials can be in the Honorary Chair position, so be it.

I hope people in DSA don't make excuses for West or Steinem. Their behavior is truly pathetic.

I am beginning to wonder about this organization. Despite the total lack of discipline in DSA -- a result of gaining most of our members through direct mail -- I was under the impression that there were definite ideological limits. But here I find that Richard Rorty, who regularly makes it clear that he is not anti-capitalist and wishes to "dissolve the boundary between liberalism and socialism," is a lifetime member of DSA. And he says so in an interview that will appear in the upcoming issue of Democratic Left -- an issue where he says there is no point in there being a socialist movement in the US!! But does DSA care? No -- we're just happy to take his $750! We'll take anyone's money regardless of their politics! Doesn't matter if you're a liberal apologist for Clinton (a man with a "good heart," in Rorty's view) -- or an apologist for Stalinism, like a certain person on this list!

I used to think that even though DSA had collapsed as an organization, I could at least identify with it politically. I am no longer sure. We seem to have no real politics. We are so starved for cash, we don't care who joins. We don't even care who our Chairs are -- we just hope that having celebrities on our letterhead (West, Steinem, Sweeney) will magically attract people. Sorry folks! It hasn't worked! It never will!

I am a member of the National Political Committee. I was planning on starting to make regular, monthly financial contributions to DSA. I was planning on busting my ass to re-build -- hell, simply BUILD -- this organization.

I no longer know if it's even worth it. Lately I have just wanted to run away screaming from this organization. Right now, DSA really Doesn't Stand For Anything. DSA must start exerting some discipline over its spokespeople and NOT BE AFRAID OF PISSING PEOPLE OFF, be it West or Steinem or Sweeney or whomever.

I will not be a member of a socialist organization which has no principles. If DSA does not shape up -- POLITICALLY as well as in its capacity to function as an organization with an active membership, functioning locals, etc. -- I will walk out and not look back.

- X, who cares very much about this organization and the future of the US socialist movement

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