A Socialist Commitment to Black Liberation

Authors: Chantel W., Melissa W., Jacob A., Brian W., Brandon R.

Revised September 5th, 2020

Introduction

This year’s Uprisings in the name of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and far too many others shocked the world. The Black Lives Matter movement’s demand to defund the police has radically transformed the popular conception of what is possible through mass political organizing and action. Moreover, the Coronavirus Pandemic has heightened the structural inequities disproportionately impacting precarious and vulnerable BIPOC communities. The situation has forced an international introspection to assess and dismantle structural racism in the arts, journalism, government, the workplace, and organizing culture. We are not exempt from introspection. As anti-capitalists, the Democratic Socialists of America – Los Angeles (DSA-LA) chapter must make tangible commitments to dismantling racial capitalism, fighting for Black liberation, and defending Black lives. 

DSA-LA must acknowledge that as a national and local organization it has not sufficiently centered the particular struggles and experiences of the Black community. This is true of its recent history, its foundation, and its predecessors. If DSA-LA seeks to build a multi-racial working class movement, the only viable strategy to defeating capitalism, it must proclaim that race and class are not separate concepts to be prioritized over each other, but rather that class and race are inextricable from one another. Cisheteropatriarchy and racial capitalism is to blame for the continued inequities, discrimination, and exploitation experienced by the workers of the world. 

We cannot engage in “trickle down” socialism, assuming all gains won will benevolently reach our most oppressed and vulnerable communities, nor should we take for granted that such gains will be adequate redress for the generations of systematic slavery and the capitalist, cultural, and physical exploitation experienced by Black and indigenous communities as well as other persons of color. 

Moreover we recognize that there will be no workers’ revolution without the reparative liberation of Black people. It is through this analysis that we act as comrades and accomplices to engage in the constant struggle against fascism, imperialism, and neoliberalism. 

DSA-LA must make organizational commitments to center Black people inside and outside the chapter in all of its work. All of DSA-LA’s elected leadership must make a commitment to building coalitions with Black-led organizations and organizers, especially those with roots in Los Angeles who have been fierce opponents to the industrial complexes of Prisons, Charter Schools, Real Estate, Oil & Natural Gas, and all profit-driven systems that have seen Black life as disposable. As outlined below, this resolution must be reflected in all of DSA-LA’s work, but there is a special emphasis on the relationship of Branches, especially South Central & Inglewood as this is where the Black community of Los Angeles has historically been concentrated and resists the onslaught of gentrification. 

We recognize our role as a member-led organization to be a continuous driver of change, organizing support for the demands and interests of Black organizers. DSA-LA must commit time, energy, and funds on organizing support for the People’s Budget of LA and the central demand to defund the police. We do not recognize the police as the working class, but rather state-actors who terrorize the Black community regardless of class, the unhoused, the undocumented, and working class people of all races through state-sanctioned violence in order to ensure a permanent underclass. We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter – Los Angeles and all organizers fighting to dismantle the racist policing and prison industrial complex. 

Through deep reflection and critical analysis, we must confront and rectify biases and blind spots hindering DSA-LA from actualizing our goal of becoming a multi-racial organization fighting for the liberation of ALL peoples. 

Omitting the vibrant history of Black radical feminist movements, Black gay, lesbian, queer, and trans liberation movements, and Black abolitionist movements? That is to white-wash socialist history. 

Without acknowledging that the marriage of racism and capitalism underpins all systems of oppression in the U.S., we risk continuing to replicate the same white supremacist practices within our organization. In order to enact this resolution, it will require a commitment of resources in the form of time, funding, and energy. 

As socialists a common critique of corporate workplaces and, “the non-profit industrial complex,” is that consultants are often hired to create anti-oppressive environments as an extension of diversity and inclusion initiatives. Corporate trainings are often feckless, primarily because they do not diagnose capitalism itself as inherently oppressive. Instead, we seek third-party experts, such as those from the worker-owned cooperative Anti-Oppressive Resource & Training Alliance (AORTA) who share DSA-LA’s values. Such trainings can hopefully develop a consciously anti-oppressive organizing culture that allows the chapter to engage in meaningful liberatory work.

While we see this resolution as necessary, we find it unfortunate that this many resources must be dedicated to make DSA-LA a space that is safe for the Black community and champions issues that disproportionately impact Black people. DSA-LA has already become a reputable political force fighting on behalf of the working class issues. If we can achieve this transformation, imagine how much more impactful we can be.

Summary:

This resolution represents the internal and external initiatives necessary to achieve an organizing culture and vision that prioritizes Black liberation. We define internal initiatives as necessary reflections and transformations of our organizing culture and inclusivity of our spaces. The enlistment of third-party anti-oppression experts to audit, assess, and facilitate change is necessary both for impartiality and to ensure the responsibility does not fall on marginalized organizers. We define external initiatives as actions that impact the communities our branches serve through projects, coalition building, and campaigns such as the defunding the police through the People’s Budget of LA and supporting anti-gentrification campaigns. 

Whereas:

  • There have been nearly 900 killings by LAPD since 2000. Nearly 80 percent were Black and/or Latinx. More than 98 percent were shot to death.
  • Black people make up 8 percent of the Los Angeles population but 29 percent of LA County jail population.
  • Black people make up 8 percent of the Los Angeles population but 34 percent of its unhoused population.
  • Black, Latinx and Pacific Islander residents in Los Angeles County are twice as likely to die of COVID-19 than white residents.
  • Over one-third of Black trans people who have interacted with the police reported harassment, and 15 percent reported that they experienced biased motivated assault by officers.
  • California’s unemployment rate of Black workers in the front line “essential” workforce is 48 percent, right behind Latinx workers at 55 percent.
  • More than 20 percent of people facing deportation on criminal grounds are Black, despite making up only 7.2 percent of the noncitizen population in the US.
  • The Black community in Los Angeles is a racial minority experiencing a super-exploitation as a result of systemic racial capitalism.

Component 1 – Description

Be it resolved, DSA-LA shall:

(Internal Initiatives)

  • Commit to a Semi-Annual Anti-Oppression Organizational Assessment and Transformation for Truth & Reconciliation. 
  • Third Party Anti-oppression experts will audit the internal organizing structures, practices, and cultures and provide binding recommendations to the DSA-LA Conflict Resolution Team and chapter leadership based on their findings. 
      • Assessment in early January 2021. Final analysis in July 2021. 
  • Required Resources: Cost of third-party anti-oppression experts.
    • Host Quarterly Anti-Racism Workshops for general membership led by outside facilitators.
      • Workshops in late January, early May, mid July, and early October 2021. 
  • Required Resources: Expenditure on third-party anti-oppression facilitators.
    • Require all elected leadership to undergo anti-oppression and racial-bias training led by a third-party facilitator.
      • Elected leaders who fail to participate in required training must vacate their positions until they have been able to meet training requirements.

      • Training in February 2021.
      • Required Resources: Expenditure on third-party anti-oppression facilitators. 
    • Incorporate anti-racism sections into new membership courses. 
      • DSA 101 will include an analysis of Racial Capitalism; how structural racism and white supremacy are inextricable, and reproduced from capitalism. 
      • DSA 102 will be dedicated to the dismantling of white supremacy in organizing spaces and in Los Angeles. 
      • Build a dedicated resources webpage to combat Anti-Blackness in DSA. 
      • Revised courses and webpage will be implemented by April 2021.
  • Required Resources: Time for Political Education committee to revise training and website.  
    • Continue the existence of the Organizing for All (O4A) task force as an open, less prescriptive body that works in coordination with the Steering Committee to build an anti-oppressive organizing culture. 
      • Year-long commitment starting upon resolution adoption.
  • Required Resources: Yearlong administrative resources and time.

(External Initiatives) 

    • Prioritize campaigns to defund the police and reinvest in human-centered services as outlined in the People’s Budget of LA, of which DSA-LA is a coalition member. 
      • Year-long commitment starting upon resolution adoption.
  • Required Resources: Communications support, campaign organizing resources, funding as-needed throughout the year.

[Section amended 9/8/2020 by friendly amendment submitted by Kristina M., Arielle S. and Alex Wi.]

    • Prioritize support and development of anti-gentrification and abolitionist organizing efforts led by local community organizations by:

      • Hosting fundraising initiatives for projects in need throughout the year. 
      • Engaging DSA-LA membership to participate in Street Watch activities and DSA tenant organizing projects via the Neighborhood Organizers. Neighborhood Organizers will be assigned to a Street Watch local in order to connect their neighborhood contacts to Street Watch activities. Neighborhood Organizers will disseminate resources from the Housing & Homelessness Committee and Tenant Organizing Circle, with an emphasis on historically Black neighborhoods.
      • Prioritizing the growth and development of new Street Watch locals in the South Central / Inglewood branch, with support from the Branch Organizing Committee and Neighborhood Organizers, and holding a kick-off training event within the first month of resolution implementation.
      • Holding Street Watch film the police trainings with support from or in collaboration with coalition partners such as LA CAN or Black Future Project.
      • Engaging in the Community Land Trust campaign for the Baldwin-Hills Crenshaw Mall, eviction defense efforts led by Tenants Unions in Los Angeles, Reclaim Our Homes campaign efforts, NOlympics’ SoFi Stadium anti-gentrification campaign, and similar campaigns. 
      • Implementing a Rapid Response system, via the Branches and in coordination with the Steering Committee and the Housing & Homelessness Committee, that is focused on mobilizing DSA members to participate in: 1) Street Watch encampment sweep rapid response and direction actions, 2) eviction defense actions held by DSA and tenants groups in Los Angeles, and 3) direct actions in defense of Black life that are held by Black-led coalition partners.”
      • Developing political education events/materials that focus on the histories and struggles of Black organizing within the tenants and unhoused peoples movements in Los Angeles.” [End amended section.]
      • Year-long commitment starting no later than February 2021.
      • Required Resources: Supplies such as PPE, printing for outreach and KYR materials, and communications strategy.
    • Dedicate overarching Political Education focus for 2021 to Anti-Racism and the Black Radical Tradition. 
      • Year-long commitment starting January 2021.
  • Required resources: Will require graphic design resources for promotions and syllabi, honorariums for guest speakers, funding for room reservations for potential events, live streaming via Social media.
  • Build, through the Branches and the NSN, coalitions with local Black-led organizations who share our broad political goals. 
    • Branches/neighborhoods without high density of Black organizations will commit to furthering conversations with the community around combating gentrification and anti-Blackness, and building overall solidarity with Black Angelenos. 
    • Year-long commitment starting February 2021. 
    • Required Resources: Time for coalition development.

Component 2 – Organizational Priorities

Build an organizational culture that embodies our socialist ideals, and a welcoming community that supports all members to engage in collective work to dismantle systems of oppression, in accordance with our shared values.

Our organizing culture must be consciously anti-racist. The goal of anti-racism training is to equip membership with an ability to identify and dismantle racial bias and prevent Black, indigenous, and POC members from experiencing the same microaggressions in organizing spaces that they experience in a racist profit-driven society. 

Cultivate a culture of openness, respect, and camaraderie by aiming to meet people where they are and assume good intentions, recognizing that everyone comes to organizing from different perspectives and experiences.

Cultural competency is a real obstacle for recruitment and retention among Black, indigenous, and POC membership. This is not merely a moralist conclusion, but a materialist one as well. Culture is a product of labor, environment, and tradition. Powerful histories of emancipation, sanctuary, and self-determination are culture. For us to achieve a stronger organization, we must actively work to make the organization not just a big tent for political ideologies, but a big tent to cultural experiences. 

Forge and maintain intentional, deliberate and reciprocal relationships as well as share resources with other organizations who share our broad political goals. This includes other explicitly socialist and anti-capitalist organizations, as well as non-socialist organizations whose politics and values align with ours and are working towards similarly defined ends, while working to avoid duplication of efforts.

Protagonism, the understanding that we must be comrades in the liberation of all peoples, must be the driving force behind our coalition building; however organizers must respect and recognize the specific experiences and perspectives Black-led organizations have leading emancipatory movements. Coalitions are built on mutual respect, with an understanding that Black-led organizations should be viewed as indigestible and self-determined bodies, not to be co-opted or tokenized. Only through thoughtful and strategic collaboration, will DSA-LA become an organization fully in the fight for Black liberation. 

Work ​​to​​ develop partnerships ​​with​​ other ​​organizations​​ to ​​challenge ​​and​ ​transcend ​​the stratifications ​​that ​​divide ​​Los​​ Angeles.

Los Angeles is a city that has historically been segregated through redlining, job discrimination, policing and other forms of structural racism. As a result, political struggles even within the Left often are racialized. As a multi-racial organization, we should see our role as being able to overcome these racial divisions of the working class and build united, popular coalitions in a common struggle against racial capitalism. 

Recognizing that learning and growth as organizers includes and requires being challenged, encourage and support learning and growth in all members by offering opportunities to develop new skills and take on additional responsibilities.

Through constant examination, we can normalize a culture of change and growth. Conscious anti-racism is essential to capacity building skill. Mistakes will happen. By assuming good faith and committing to a collective willingness to transform, the multi-racial movement necessary to winning democratic socialism can be built. 

Amendment 1 (Submitted by Michael S. and Sarah F. and adopted as friendly 9/8/20)

YDSA has been at the forefront of addressing the lack of diversity within the organization that has hindered our ability to be reflective of the multiracial working class. YDSA has found particular success in diversifying our organization and rooting itself in the working class by investing in developing chapters at community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). 

We must support YDSA’s efforts to recruit and train organizers at high schools, community colleges, and MSIs in particular so that we may improve our organizing, improve our representation of the working class, aid in unifying class struggle around both universal and particular struggles, and ultimately aid in creating a unified socialist movement that is anti-racist in action, and not only in name. 

DSA-LA must provide material support for the formation and development of YDSA chapters in nearby community colleges, and high schools, and MSIs. These resources may include organizer trainings, individual- and campus-level mentorship, and inclusion in chapter-wide campaigns.

Component 3 – Advancing Committee and Working Group Goals

Housing & Homelessness Committee

The Black community has been historically segregated, policed, and surveilled along zoning and redlined boundaries in South Central Los Angeles. Presently, capitalist accumulation by dispossession is one of the most vicious threats to Black life in Los Angeles. South Central and Inglewood are facing gentrification that not only contributes to a rise in houselessness and police brutality, but cultural landmarks like the Baldwin Hills-Crenshaw Mall may fall to urban renewal.

The Housing & Homelessness committee has already been on the front lines in coalition with the LA Community Action Network through Street Watch, organizing unhoused tenants, and directly challenging the LAPD for its abuses. As a result of COVID-19, mass evictions will likely take place while unhoused residents are already extremely vulnerable to contracting Coronavirus. As highlighted by H&H’s “Rally for Black Unhoused Lives,” a disproportionate 34 percent of the unhoused population is Black. A socialist commitment to Black liberation will require increased support of this work by the chapter with time, energy, and resources. 

Prison Abolition Committee

The prison and policing industrial complexes are state sanctioned violence against Black people, enslaving and terrorizing communities by race for profit. There cannot be Black liberation as long as there are policing and prisons. 

Out of the George Floyd uprisings has come the paradigm-shifting demand to defund the police. In Los Angeles this has taken the form of the People’s Budget of LA, a product of Black Lives Matter LA’s organizing efforts. Non-reformist reforms are gaining traction such as the 8,000 prisoners being released in California, the 35 percent defunding of LASPD,  and the first steps by LA City Council to reduce the operating budget of LAPD. While this is encouraging, as abolitionists DSA-LA has a responsibility to continue education about what defunding the police means and what proposals are abolitionist demands. As an organizational force, it is also necessary to remain in the fight for campaigns like the People’s Budget of LA as vocal, mobilized coalition partners. 

Political Education

If DSA-LA is going to dismantle internalized white supremacy and colonialism, it will require re-education. Trainings on how to change our organizing culture and coalition building with Black-led organizations are crucial, but without a deep understanding and appreciation for Black Marxist theory, capitalism’s dependency on racism or an analysis of contemporary Black Power movements, DSA-LA risks endorsing an incomplete class-reductionist analysis that fails to understand the centrality of racial struggle in anti-capitalist movements. 

The resolution calls for DSA-LA to dedicate its overarching Political Education focus for 2021 to Anti-Racism and the Black Radical Tradition. These are not overly prescriptive commitments, but rather a declaration that DSA-LA needs to develop a clear political line on racial capitalism. The political education committee has already streamlined new membership trainings, and assembled an educational series, “Lost Angeles” that roots socialist organizing to the multi-racial anti-capitalist roots of Los Angeles. This resolution presents an opportunity to further the committee’s goals of building and maintaining emancipatory educational spaces that are welcoming and inclusive of all people.

Through extensive internal and external political education and engagement around the connections between capitalism and racism, DSA-LA will become a more informed, disciplined, and organized force in the fight for racial and economic justice.

The working class is disproportionately Black and Brown; yet too often, discussions on the Left around developing a strategy towards Black liberation and racial justice are essentialized and separated from questions of how to develop a democratic, militant labor movement that’s committed to building worker power and confronting capital.

Amendment 2 (Submitted by Michael S. and accepted as friendly 9/8/20)

In truth, we cannot achieve racial justice without directly addressing the root capitalistic causes of both economic inequality and structural racism, and there can likewise be no organized multiracial working class without the deliberate transformation and growth of the labor movement. DSA-LA should prioritize direct engagement with workers in strategic industries and workplaces where they can best leverage their power to strike blows against capital and raise class consciousness. However, in our approach to labor work, we must also lift up and directly engage with the particular struggles of Black and other oppressed workers in our articulation of a social democratic program of class-wide demands which would have a disproportionate material impact on their lives. 

For example, public education is a key area for struggles against both capitalism and racism. Decades of austerity, unregulated charter school growth and bloated police budgets have drained resources from public schools and services, widened wealth and income inequality, and reinforced segregation in California, a state which has the fifth-largest economy in the world, yet currently ranks 39th best in the country in terms of per-pupil spending. The results have been devastating for LAUSD, where the student body is 89 percent students of color and 77 percent low-income students. UTLA has committed to realizing racial and economic justice both in public schools and throughout LA, and DSA-LA must be a close partner in fighting back against the racist implementation and effects of austerity and privatization.

UTLA has been working with Black Lives Matter, Students Deserve, ROS-LA, and SEIU Local 99 to fight for safe, equitable and police-free schools, common good demands, and taxing the rich through Proposition 15. DSA-LA should always seek to lift up and engage in struggles that underline the link between capitalism and racism so that we’re better able to dismantle all systems of oppression and exploitation.