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Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Socialists Behind the "Progressive Caucus"

As the Congressional Progressive Caucus is the most powerful and radical group in the new US Congress, it might be useful to find out who is behind the organisation.

The most obvious backers of the CPC are the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

DSA is the principal US affiliate of the Socialist International, a federation of socialist, social democratic and labour parties.

"We are socialists," says the organization "because we reject an international economic order sustained by private profit, alienated labor, race and gender discrimination, environmental destruction, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo.... To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed. ...

Formed in 1983, DSA brought together what it calls "former Socialists and Communists, former old leftists and new leftists, and many who had never been leftists at all."

According to Wikipedia

During the 1990s, DSA began looking to the Religious Right's activism within the Republican Party as a model for how the Left could gain a greater foothold within the Democratic Party...

The result was the "Congressional Progressive Caucus, a group of 65 Democratic legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives anchored by US Rep. Bernie Sanders, a DSA sympathizer....DSA's website included commentary supportive of the legislative caucus throughout much of the late 1990s.

According to US commentator and former leftist, David Horowitz's website, Discover the Network, DSA seeks to increase its political influence not by establishing its own party, but rather by working closely with the Democratic Party to promote leftist agendas.

"Like our friends and allies in the feminist, labor, civil rights, religious, and community organizing movements, many of us have been active in the Democratic Party... We work with those movements to strengthen the party's left wing, represented by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. ... Maybe sometime in the future ... an alternative national party will be viable. For now, we will continue to support progressives who have a real chance at winning elections, which usually means left-wing Democrats."

Horowitz goes on to say:

"Until 1999, DSA hosted the website of the Progressive Caucus. Following a subsequent expose of the link between the two entities, the Progressive Caucus established its own website under the auspices of Congress. But DSA and the Progressive Caucus remain intimately linked. All 58 Progressive Caucus members also belong to DSA."

DSA is open about its aims and its support for the Progressive Caucus. From DSA's 2000 Election Statement.

"DSA recognizes that some insurgent politicians representing labor, environmentalists, gays and lesbians, and communities of color may choose to run under Democratic auspices, as in the 1988 Jesse Jackson campaign, or operate as Democrats like Senator Paul Wellstone, and the 59 Democratic members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, one-half of whom are Black and Latino and all of whom possess strong labor backing and operative social democratic politics.

Electoral tactics are only a means for DSA; the building of a powerful anti-corporate and ultimately socialist movement is the end. Where third party or non-partisan candidates represent significant social movements DSA locals have and will continue to build such organizations and support such candidates. DSA honored independent socialist Congressperson Bernie Sanders of Vermont at our last convention banquet, and we have always raised significant funds nationally for his electoral campaigns.

At the same time, we were pleased to have Democratic Congressperson and Progressive Caucus member Bob Filner of San Diego introduce Sanders at the convention, and note that Progressive Caucus member Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) will be honored at our annual Debs-Thomas-Harrington dinner this Spring in Chicago

According to US writer David Farah, DSA is quite cynical about using the Democratic Party as a cover for their socialist activism. He quotes from a DSA youth organising document.

"Stress our Democratic Party strategy and electoral work... "The Democratic Party is something the public understands, and association with it takes the edge off. Stressing our Democratic Party work will establish some distance from the radical subculture and help integrate you to the milieu of the young liberals."

As of August 2005, DSA has 5-6,000 members, in 24 chartered "locals". Many are influential and well known, including literary critic Irving Howe, feminist activist and journalist Gloria Steinem, actor Ed Asner, author Barbara Ehrenreich, 1997 New York City mayoral candidate Ruth Messinger, United Auto Workers co-founder Victor Reuther, leading African-American Studies professor Cornel West, linguist Noam Chomsky, political scientist Stephen Rosskamm Shalom, political columnist Harold Meyerson and AFL-CIO president, John Sweeney.

It also has more than 60 US Congressmen and Senators in its pocket.


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