Why DSA Should Run a Socialist Slate for the House in 2022

We went all-in for Bernie and it paid off. Let’s do it for ourselves this time.

Many socialists in the United States have recently been reflecting bittersweetly on the one-year anniversaries of many milestones of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign. We all remember his enormous victory in the Nevada caucus, his ‘Fight the Power’ campaign event with Public Enemy, and the coordinated drop-out of most of his opponents in favor of Joe Biden immediately preceding Super Tuesday. These milestones have given us a chance to remember a time before the pandemic, when a DSA-endorsed self-styled socialist candidate appeared to be on track to win the presidency of the United States. A time when we felt confident in standing against feckless liberals, calling Pete Buttigieg a “rat” and Elizabeth Warren a “snake” with glee. And backing him up was an army of canvassers and small donors — many of them DSA members.

Due to the onset of the pandemic and the coordinated activity of our enemies, we lost that fight, but it wasn’t for nothing. DSA used the Bernie Sanders campaign to raise its own profile through the independent DSA for Bernie campaign. Over the last year, in the aftermath of Bernie’s campaign, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and during the historic BLM uprisings its membership grew incredibly to the over 90,000 DSA members there are today. Large-scale coordinated national campaigns like the Bernie Sanders campaign are indispensable for a socialist organization to grow and spread its message. However, we are living under Biden now and there isn’t another presidential election until 2024. In the meantime, we will need to take advantage of the popular disappointment with Biden that we’re already seeing and highlight DSA’s independence and radical opposition to the ruling class that is sacrificing our lives and livelihoods. Besides, even in 2024, there aren’t any other independent socialist senators with presidential ambitions waiting for us. We have to find something else around which to coordinate our activity. That something can be a socialist slate for the House of Representatives.

The House of Representatives is a good target because winning a seat gives a candidate a national platform from which to preach the socialist gospel but, unlike the Senate, doesn’t require winning a whole state. Winning House seats also allows us to avoid a problem we would have faced in the case of Bernie’s victory. We wouldn’t be in the position of trying to hold the most powerful person in the world accountable to an organization they’re not even a member of. We wouldn’t be forming a government and managing the executive state without winning a majority of the population to a principled socialist program, which is the condition for us to be able to exercise real power. 

If we ran a slate for the House, we could take up the practices of the classical socialist parties of the Second International. This would include requiring:

  1. that our candidates be members of DSA 
  2. that they campaign on our national political platform
  3. that they meet regularly with our elected leadership
  4. that they accept only the salary of an average union worker in their district and pledge the rest to the socialist movement
  5. that they coordinate their campaigns and their activity in the House as a bloc, rejecting any other party or caucus affiliation they may have once elected

This would be the next logical step to keep our candidates accountable to the socialist movement after the passage of the Class Struggle Elections resolution at the 2019 DSA convention. Starting to run some independent campaigns for these positions would give us an even better opportunity to highlight our overall political stance of opposition to the whole ruling class. Remember, much of Bernie’s charm comes from the fact that he’s still not a Democrat. Running an effective campaign for a serious socialist slate for the House would cost DSA resources, but like the Bernie campaign, it would be worth it.

The newly launched Marxist Unity Slate has put forward a resolution for such a campaign to be adopted at DSA’s 2021 national convention but it needs 100 signatures from DSA members before April 1st to be considered. It can be found, along with the other Marxist Unity Slate proposals, at marxistunity.com.

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