Food For Solidarity - Building Charity From The Top Down

Statement by Johan Miranda, Immigrant Justice Committee Communications Liaison
Position: Opposed

DSA-LA doesn't have the mandate to go into other neighborhoods

In response to the feedback that "focusing on areas where we already have members creates a feedback loop" I would like to point out that, as an organization, DSA-LA has not yet reached all the working class families in the neighborhoods where our members currently live. It is true that DSA-LA members tend to live in neighborhoods that have been gentrified such as Echo Park.

This "feedback loop" is simply the social circle & echo chamber that results from gentrification. To only analyze our neighborhoods through this "feedback loop" robs the working class families that remain and resist in spite of gentrification in our neighborhoods of their political agency by suggesting that either 1. they don't exist, or 2. we've already reached out to them & it's their fault they're not engaged with our perfect political program.

Which brings up my main concern with the F4S program, which is if we're not even capable of engaging the working class families that live right next to us, where do we get off thinking we're capable of engaging with working class families in other neighborhoods. In response to feedback that this presents a catch-22 "whereby we can never organize where we don’t have members, which means some areas will never know who we are or see our presence", I would suggest that It's only once we solidify our base at home that we can even try to claim the kind of mandate that allows us to go into other neighborhoods. This means strengthening our branches, organizer training, and rent control campaigns in communities where we live.

The F4S proposal has too many contradictions to suggest that we have this mandate. The contradiction that I will address in this article is that the proposal doesn’t know if it wants F4S to be a disciplined recruitment strategy or simply be a gesture of goodwill. The proposal states that the reason for the program to exist is to illustrate what socialism is in practice” That reason is then later directly contradicted in the final notes, “The food has never been meant to radicalize anyone. The service is simply a way of getting people’s attention. Attention and good will.”

Another statement from the proposal that highlights this contradiction

“The legal framework of the DSA Fund actually prevents us from giving DSA members priority access to the resources from Food for Solidarity.”

Which means that people who are being served by this program are better off not joining DSA and keeping priority access.

Another problem with the F4S program is that would use up badly needed resources, as detailed by other opposing articles. Under the DSA Members section, the proposal states that their top priority will be to:

“Recruit multilingual volunteers who will be able to communicate with the participants in their preferred languages.”

The Immigrant Justice Committee & Language Justice Caucus are in constant need of translation services, and this program's top priority would stretch thin this already scarce resource.

To bring up a relevant Marx & Engels quote, "people cannot be liberated as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity. 'Liberation' is a historical and not a mental act and it is brought about by historical conditions."

Liberation for me as an undocumented immigrant means consolidating power so that I don't have to depend on anyone else's charity or goodwill, and I joined the DSA in the hopes of working towards that goal. The F4S program doesn’t get us closer that goal in any measurable way. It’s true that we cannot be liberated until base needs are met, but there are already several charities & organizations that are working to meet those base needs. Which brings up the question of why not work through existing organizations? The proposal does provide an answer:

“The purpose is not just to give food away, but to give food away while being DSA.”

“While being DSA” doesn’t really mean anything since the final notes clearly states that the food program isn’t meant to radicalize anyone. Perception is reality, & those who the program is meant to serve will have no reason to view F4S as anything else than a charity.