Last Sunday, the Movement for a People's Party conducted their convention. The People's Party has been growing in popularity among leftist circles, and now the group is making trying to forge a new major political party to run candidates by 2024 and create a left-wing electoral alternative to the democrats.
The speeches at the convention were great, they had all my favorites, including Cornel West and Nina Turner, and I support everything the People's Party wants to accomplish, but I am not impressed with their strategy, and everything that the People's Party wants to do is something that the Democratic Socialists of America is already doing.
In short, I don't people think should get involved with the People's Party, I think they should join DSA instead.
If you are interested in Medicare for all, police defunding, creating an alternative to the democrats, and forging a mass working class movement, I do not understand why they don't just join the DSA. The organization is running campaigns for all of these things and they have been for the last 3 years.
There are a number of other reasons why I am not impressed with the People's Party strategy, the first and foremost being, that I see no strategy. I see no work being down except for the building of the party itself. While I do agree that we need a leftist party and that we need to eventually break with the democrats, it will take much more than electoral victories alone to gain programs like Medicare for all and police defunding.
This is something that DSA understands but the People's Party does not seem to, which is ironic since the idea of the party conceptualized around disillusionment with the current two-party system. But although DSA participates in electoral politics, the organization understands that winning elections, though immensely challenging and very important, is the easiest part of organizing, it is the work that comes afterwards that matters, and while a party is a better vehicle for getting a candidate elected, it is not necessarily the best mechanism to hold a candidate accountable or to motivate community organizing. In between elections, you will find that DSA is doing work on the ground to achieve all the desired goals of the People's Party.
The People's Party strategy is also a repeat of what has already been attempted many times before by well-meaning progressives who grew tired of being allied with the democrats. The People's Party is forming in the same fashion and with the same motive that the Working Families Party did . The WFP has since just become a progressive organization that simply votes along the democratic party ballot line. While it was created with the hope of creating the leftist replacement for the democrats, and centered around creating a space farther left than the democrats, and it has never seen genuine gains beyond where they are today.
The reason new parties always struggle to forge in the U.S. is because creating a party farther left to the democrats is not inherently going to fix the problems with our electoral system. I do concede that the majority of voters lean left when it comes to policy, especially disillusioned non voters, but the party strategy ignores that most people are neither registered democrats nor republicans. The largest voter demographic in the country is no party preference, or independent voters, and to me that demonstrates that inter-party conflicts are not that important to most voters. Just because a new party was forged does not mean people will flock to it. Simply creating a leftwing alternative to democrats is not enough to mobilize the mass base needed to make a party successful.
I call it "Field of Dreams Organizing." Many leftists seem to think "If you build it, they will come." That is definitely not true. You can't just assume that the working class will flock to your organization because of your politics alone, you have to engage people, you have to give them a reason to care, not just a place where they can posture themselves as farther left or "better" than democrats.
And keep in mind, this take is coming from someone who quit the democratic party for all the same reasons people want to start the new party.
And as I said before the speeches at the People's Party Convention were all great. I'm always inspired when I hear Cornel West, and the speeches covered everything that was lacking from the DNC, but I saw nothing in the convention except a space where people were safe to say they were farther left than the democrats. I see nothing in the People's Party except leftists wanting to self validate their leftism against a comparison to democrats.
Again, while I am critical of the People's Party, I am not arguing in defense of the democratic party nor do I think they are the viable mechanism for leftist politics. I agree with all speakers at the People's Party that we need a true working class mass movement in the country, but I do think it needs to be explicitly socialist.
And that is a thing I cannot understand about these knee-jerk attempts to create a left-wing party. The People's Party, the Working Families Party, even the Green Party all claim to want to create a leftwing alternative to the democrats, yet they all seem to dance around the "s" word just as much as any liberal democrat does. Yes, people will talk about creating a "people's party" a "workers party" even a "leftist party" so why don't they call it the kind of party that encompasses all of that, just call it a "socialist party" goddamnit!
Aside from embracing the title of socialist explicitly, DSA is already organizing for all the things the people's party wants, including breaking with the democrats. The organization has already voted to make building itself towards an eventual break an organizational strategy, which to me makes the People's Party redundant. Granted there is debate in the organization over what that looks like or if it will even be effective, but it can't be denied that it is a part of the strategy because delegates voted on it at the 2019 DSA convention.
Speaking of conventions, the People's Party convention itself also demonstrated to me that while the spirit of the movement is good and the ideas agreeable, the strategy overall is dangerously nearsighted. The voting of the convention was conducted online, which is to be expected during this pandemic, but the voting was open to anyone who could download the People's Party App. Convention voting is supposed to be closed to the delegates, or at the bare minimum the members of the organization. In a sense, the People's Party stuffed their own convention ballot box. This might be the 2 time DSA convention delegate in me talking, but I am hesitant to trust an organization that doesn't understand it's own parlimentary procedure.
I would also like to take the time to say that the convention demonstrated a lack of understanding of democratic procedure overall. The convention was more of a summit, a series of speakers. Conventions are supposed to a democratic process where an organization's members vote on it's direction, they are not just a platform for symbolic speeches.
Again, I respect the ideals of the People's Party and I loved the speakers they found, but creating a party outright simply to be further left than the democrats is not enough to bring the change that we so desperately need and the energy spent on building the People's Party from scratch could and should be applied to building DSA, who already have a plan and infrastructure and an understanding that there is more work to organizing than just winning an election.
Don't join the People's Party, join DSA instead.