Comrades, Not Pupils

Statement by Matthew Taylor, NOlympics LA Coordinator
Position: Opposed
Food For Solidarity establishes a dynamic in which some of the most vulnerable people in our city are on the outside of a movement whose goal is ostensibly their own liberation.

DSA-LA is not equipped to take on the task of in-depth political education for people who are not members of our own organization, and doing so in tandem with an exclusively service-oriented approach would be ineffective and, regardless of intent, patronizing. An outward-facing political education program is useful when the objective is to persuade an audience of a particular position/set of positions. But we are a big-tent, multi-tendency org, which means that by design we do not have a unique, coherent, and agreed-upon analysis or vision we are trying to disseminate.

What DSA does have are basic, broadly accessible left talking points. These are useful for generating interest and recruiting, but not for building a curriculum. We can expect none of these ideas to be novel—much less ‘radicalizing’—for food-insecure families and individuals who know these struggles and antagonisms intimately.

Internal political education among committed members of our org is critical. Robust discussions and debates help all of us to better appreciate the history and foundational ideas of our movement and develop into stronger socialist organizers. But that does not make political education an effective tool for external recruitment.

Most importantly, the entire basis of this proposed project mischaracterizes the kinds of relationships we should cultivate with people we hope to recruit. It establishes from the outset a dynamic in which some of the most vulnerable people in our city are on the outside of a movement whose goal is ostensibly their own liberation. It is true that DSA needs to connect with poor and struggling people, but we are already moving in that direction with our work in the tenants movement and the trust that some of our most devoted organizers have gradually built by supporting and working in coalition with existing organizations. The strategy of entering communities where DSA is not established or embedded and putting on a program that we designed for them yet without them is wrong.

When I knock on doors or speak with community members at a forum, I certainly don't do so as an educator, there to bestow my knowledge upon somebody who may well know more than I do. I do so to make people aware that DSA exists and that we are engaging directly in the struggles that affect all of us, in the hopes that people will see their own involvement—whatever form that may take—as worthy of any amount of time, energy, and knowledge that they can devote to it.

We should be asking people to join us as equals, as comrades—not as pupils—in building collective working class power. Our existing projects and resolutions facilitate that, while this project would do just the opposite.