Night Schools on Socialism and Electoral Politics: Advancing Working Class Self-Education and a Transformative Politics

Amidst the breakdown of the neoliberal consensus and Bernie Sanders’s insurgent candidacy, millions of people are hearing and talking about socialism for the first time. When millions are talking about socialism, it’s our responsibility as organized socialists to be in conversation with them. Now more than ever, working class self-education is critical to building and sustaining a meaningful socialist movement that extends beyond any single politician or election cycle. 

As members of DSA-LA’s Political Education Committee, we’re committed to meeting the urgency of the moment by ensuring structured, ongoing spaces for working people to learn about our collective struggle for freedom, liberation, and power for all people. In 2020, our chapter resolved to support the Bernie Working Group and elect our first socialist president and so, to that end, we’ve organized a series of Night Schools that complement our organization’s local and national commitments to Bernie’s campaign and  engage with this candidacy within the broader context of socialist strategies and perspectives on electoral politics.

While these Night Schools are an invaluable place for new members to build from current events to a new political horizon, they’re also an important space for committed organizers and long-time socialists. To contest and wield power, we collectively need a deeper shared analysis of the political landscape to guide our activity and inform our member-led democracy; these educational spaces are an important space for critical, reflective, and generative discussion around socialist strategy and practice across campaigns

Entrenched ruling class resistance can only be overcome by a coherent, politically conscious socialist movement with a clear understanding of the structures we seek to dismantle. Join us for one (or many!) of the five Night Schools detailed below, to learn from the radicals who have built and sustained our struggle, and expand our capacity to communicate and popularize socialist concepts where we all live, work, and commune.  

 

Night School: All for All—Fighting for Transformative Reforms in a Liberal System 

January 30th | 7-9pm |UTLA [Find more details + RSVP here]

Bernie is the only person running in the Democratic primary who is proposing universal programs — Medicare for All, College for All, and Housing for All, to name a few. This session asks us to consider why universal social programs are important, as opposed to the means-tested programs advocated by the Democratic establishment. We’ll also explore how, as socialists, these programs offer us the means to move beyond the goal of reforming capitalism, to the final goal of abolishing it. 

Recommended readings:

 

Night School: Beyond Roe v Wade—The Socialist Feminist Case for Bernie Sanders 

Rescheduled to: February 20th|7-9pm |UTLA [Find more details + RSVP here]

This session will review a brief history of abortion politics, from Roe v. Wade to present. Studying subsequent laws, Supreme Court decisions, and strategies deployed by feminist movements will be a lens through which to understand the failure of liberal electoralism and over-reliance on the judiciary. We’ll ask crucial questions such as: 

—Why did the left cleave ‘abortion rights’ from the broader push for decommodified healthcare? 

—What implications did the Roe v. Wade decision (and subsequent Supreme Court decisions) have for the abortion rights movement? 

—How should a socialist feminist approach to abortion rights differ from a liberal approach? 

—Why should socialist feminists prioritize Bernie’s policies like  Medicare for All, The Green New Deal, and Housing for All?

Recommended readings:

 

Night School: “Not Me. Us.” Transforming Los Angeles Inside and Outside a Bernie Presidency

February 27th|7-9pm |UTLA [Find more details + RSVP here]

Bernie’s campaign has served as a platform for working class politics in the US for the first time in decades—supplying energy and excitement to the Democratic Party while simultaneously piquing the interests of unengaged voters on a scale that could promise a fundamental change in the political electorate. But what does that change look like, practically? How does that change become permanent? And how do we avoid breaking the promises of political change made by Democrats before? This session will explore what political change could look like under a Sanders presidency and how to take advantage of political opportunities locally. Discussion will also include consideration of forces necessary for social change outside of friendly administrations and within hostile political climates—with a focus on the alliance of labor and immigrant activists that took place in Los Angeles during the 2000’s.

Recommended readings:

 

Night School: The Nature of the Two-Party System and a Vision of a Labor Party

March 12th|7-9pm |UTLA  [Find more details + RSVP here]

Though Bernie Sanders won his Senate seat as an Independent, he’s vying for the Democratic Party nomination for President. This session interrogates why United States politics is dominated by a two-party system, and how exactly this system functions. Within this framework, we discuss the relationship between organized labor and the Democratic Party, why the Democratic Party is not a Labor Party, and what a truly mass Labor Party would look like. 

Recommended readings:

 

Night School: Socialist Strategy & the Democratic Party

March 26th|7-9pm |UTLA [Find more details + RSVP here]

Given the structural limitations of the American electoral system, organized socialists’ orientations toward the Democratic Party have long been an important and contested topic. This session situates DSA’s support for the Bernie campaign within the broader landscape of socialist perspectives towards the Democratic Party—ranging from those who seek to ‘take over’ the party, to those who abstain from Democratic Party politics entirely, to those to seek a strategic engagement with the Democratic Party. Recommended readings offer distinct perspectives on whether or not strategic engagement with the Democtratic Party is possible, and what forms it may take. 

Recommended readings:

  • The Democratic Party Cul-de-sac (Chapter Nine from On New Terrain: How Capital is Reshaping the Battleground of Class War), by Kim Moody (Haymarket Books, 2017)

It’s Party Time: DSA and Post-Realignment Electoral Strategy by David Duhalde (DSA Socialist Forum, 2019)