DSA Los Angeles Endorses Public Bank LA


DSA Los Angeles has formally adopted an endorsement of Public Bank LA, with 97.1% of voters in favor of the endorsement. The Climate Justice Committee's proposal that DSA Los Angeles officially endorse and move to work in coalition with the Divest LA campaign, as well as the related Public Bank LA campaign that has evolved from it.

The Climate Justice Committee produced the following analysis of the Public Bank LA campaign:

The Los Angeles City Council recently decided to divest $40 million from Wells Fargo it held in city accounts. This decision came after a sustained campaign on the part of Divest LA, a broad coalition of progressive community groups and residents in Los Angeles.  

As a result of pressure from Divest LA, the city council is investigating standards the city would have in any future agreements with banks. The divestment from Wells Fargo, a bank that has directly supported the North Dakota Access Pipeline, has resonated with a broad swath of the Los Angeles political spectrum. As socialists, this victory presents an opportunity to forward our critique of all for-profit banks as inherently unethical institutions which grease the wheels of capitalism.

In phase 2 of their campaign, Divest LA is pushing the city to divest its entire holdings from private banks and push a new movement to create a public bank in Los Angeles. Aligning ourselves with Divest LA and this new public banking campaign, Public Bank LA, is an excellent opportunity to link our struggles in Los Angeles with the growing national movement to de-commodify banking. By taking up the struggle to create a Public Bank in Los Angeles, we can educate people about the historical role that banking has played in resource exploitation and extraction, which has contributed significantly to man-made climate change. Supporting the establishment of a Public Bank would also make a material difference in the lives of working class people who are either excluded from the banking system entirely or burdened by fees and charges which enrich bank executives or shareholders at the expense of the public interest.

In the shorter term, some of the goals advanced by DivestLA are reformist. They suggest reinvesting city funds in socially responsible financial institutions (CDFIs) and demands banks work toward economic and environmental justice. Though admirable, we believe that such reformist goals are insufficient while “responsible” institutions still have an ultimate capitalist commitment to profit. However, the explicit longer term goals of Public Bank LA – the creation of a public municipal bank – is a clearly transformative goal. Publicly-owned banks have the potential to radically alter the state of the banking industry by offering financial institutions with primary social responsibilities to environmental and social justice rather than the exclusive pursuit of profit.

The Divest LA and Public Bank LA campaigns both provide DSA-Los Angeles the opportunity to align ourselves with growing movements with large public support which articulate and enact our values as democratic socialists. Additionally, in allying with these movements DSA Los Angeles also has the opportunity to explicitly and publicly draw the links between the destructive force of profit motives and the destructive pervading force of capitalism, a link that many non-socialist organizations may otherwise be hesitant to make. With the national attention that Wells Fargo has drawn for supporting the Keystone Access Pipeline, now is a crucial time to harness that political energy and encourage concerned progressive to envision a transformative future, beyond simply re-allocating funds to new profit-driven institutions. Creating a bank for and by the people is just one important step toward tipping the balance of power in favor of the working class and the planet.