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[This is also on my blog now:
On August 31, Counterpunch published a bizarre and dishonest
racism-baiting attack on the Democratic Socialists of America by Andrew
“Grappling with the racism of the DSA’s Founders” has the peculiarity
that three of the five “founders” of the DSA --described by Stewart as
“its early leaders/thinkers”—in reality had nothing to do with the DSA.
So much so that one of them –Max Shachtman—had been dead for a decade by
the time DSA was founded in 1982.
The other two, Albert Shanker and Bayard Rustin, were close associates
of Shachtman. Rustin was the head of the Socialist Party and its
successor organization, Social Democrats USA. Shanker was president of
the New York teacher’s union from 1964 to 1985 and a close friend of
Shachtman’s, though as far as I know not actively involved in socialist
groups like the SP during those years.
By the early 1970s these three were the political enemies of the figure
most associated with the DSA’s founding, Michael Harrington.
Harrington and those three had all been part of the Socialist Party, a
political current of anti-Stalinist socialists. Over time, the SP’s
anti-Stalinism increasingly became plain right-wing anticommunism and
even in domestic politics the group shed most vestiges of its socialist
past, coming out against the antiwar movement and the Black movement.
But a small part of the SP led by Harrington resisted the drift to the
right and instead began to move to the left under the impact of the
antiwar and other protest movements of the 1960s, leading to a split in
the early 1970s between the progressive minority that founded the
Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, one the organizations that
eventually joined to found of the DSA, and the right wing majority
which, to make clear that they were not socialist and not a party became
“Social Democrats USA” in 1972.
Stewart lies by saying the three from the right wing were founders of
DSA. They were not. The purpose of the lie is to then saddle DSA with
political responsibility for Shachtman’s rabid anticommunism, Shanker’s
reactionary teacher’s strike in New York in 1968 against Black and
Latino control of the schools in their neighborhoods, and Bayard
Rustin’s attacks on Black nationalism taking advantage of his
well-deserved prestige as the key behind-the-scenes organizer of the
1963 March on Washington.
And if you insist that DSA is somehow responsible for the actions of
those who years before the DSA existed were in the same group as Michael
Harrington, then why not give DSA the credit for the 1963 “I have a
dream" March of Washington, Shachtman’s leading role in resisting the
rise of Stalinism in the 1920s and 1930s, and the things Shanker did to
defend the legitimate interests of New York Teachers?
The reason, of course, in that this is an outrageous frame-up, the sort
of thing I’d expect from Fox News or Inforwars, not a web site like
Stewart also brings up Harrington’s opposition to the founding Port
Huron Statement of Students for a Democratic Society in 1962. But
Harrington later reversed course and the DSA was founded by the fusion
of DSOC with the New American Movement, a group descended precisely from
the early SDS.
Stewart begins his Philippic by trying to shield himself from the
obvious criticism that this construct of his is based on events from a
half century ago, has nothing to do with the real world DSA of today by
admitting as much:
* * *
OK, with a serious dose of honest humility and respect, I will admit
readily that the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) membership is
doing some great stuff at the grassroots level.... So this polemic will
be relegated entirely to the founding generation of Democratic
Socialists of America and its early leaders/thinkers.
* * *
But he continues by assailing the DSA’s electoral work with the
paper-thin disguise of countering “a meta-narrative” supposedly being
foisted by Jacobin and other outlets. According to Stewart, this story
holds that after decades of failed efforts by everyone from the Greens
to the SWP and the Communist Party, in its first try the DSA “has
finally … brought socialism into the mainstream electoral realm,” and
concluding in ironic bold type: “And with that, dear comrades, we
shall now proceed to construct the Socialist order!”
And, of course, of course, of course, he proceeds to deconstruct to his
* * *
I am compelled to recall the great quote of Amilcar Cabral, “Tell no
lies, claim no easy victories.” … Unfortunately, we are not on the verge
of a great socialist electoral upsurge.
* * *
But Stewart has nothing but his own straw man compelling his
recollection of “the great quote of Amilcar Cabral,” (by which I assume
he meant to say, “a quote from the great Amilcar Cabral” instead of
implying that only once in his life did Cabral say anything memorable.)
Despite his disclaimers, the real target of Stewart’s attack is not
people who have been dead for decades but today’s DSA. It has just
reached 50,000 members and has growing political impact and recognition.
He betrays that the electoral success of some DSA members is a special
concern (and provides another example of his dishonest methods) by
recommending to us to his “recent dismantling of the mythic Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez candidacy over at Washington Babylon.”
That story, “How Long Was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Planning Her Run For
Public Office?” slimes her by implying she is a Kennedy family puppet.
It takes off from a tweet from her that mentions in passing her
internship in Senator Ted Kennedy’s immigration office and leads to a
Stewart rant about “the political circus known as the Kennedy family”
and especially “the ne’er-do-well Patrick,” a carpet-bagging Boston
Brahmin who had the temerity to move to Rhode Island and get elected to
But soon he remembers that he meant to talk about Ocasio-Cortez and not
“An internship in Ted’s office was a great career booster in government
agencies and/or the Democratic Party,” he snarks, adding:
* * *
Ocasio-Cortez worked in Kennedy’s office from early 2008, when she was
19, until his death in the summer of 2009. Prior to that, she was active
in the National Hispanic Institute’s Lorenzo de Zalvala Youth
* * *
Actually, in “early 2008” Ocasio would have been 18, not 19, since she
was born in October 1989. And, of course, there’s that week-long Youth
Legislative Session summer camp and never mind that the name is “Lorenzo
de Zavala” and not “Zalvala” with an extra “L” as Stewart would have it.
But what are facts to the rapier thrusts of this polemicist?
Put those two together, the internship and the summer camp, and the
conclusion is supposedly inescapable: “this is the resumé of someone who
wanted to run for public office as a teenager.” And worse.
* * *
I’d even have to wonder if she joined DSA because she saw a wellspring
for free interns and staff for a campaign she has been planning since
the Dubya administration.
* * *
Of course! The woman is so brilliant that she foresaw the radicalization
of working class millennials that powered her campaign on the cheap even
before the economic depression that sparked the radicalization had taken
place. And so she positioned herself to take advantage of it by
attending a “Boy’s State”-type summer camp in high school.
But despite that, don’t give Stewart all that bull about her brilliant
* * *
Certainly the “miracle primary victory” narrative is partly mythological
horse shit. AOC had connections within the Democratic Party and would
have been able to target a vulnerable but liberal district like Joe
Crowley’s…. That’s the MO of a Kennedy operation top-to-bottom, I’ve
watched them do it forever.
* * *
So that explains it. Why is this woman sitting at the table instead of
waiting on it, her previous job? Because Massa put her there.
I mean, you don’t really think a young, working-class Puerto Rican woman
from the Bronx could have done it herself, do you?
I only have one more thing to say to Stewart about his attack on the
DSA’s “racism”: for your next hatchet job, try getting a cleaver made of
firmer stuff than bovine excrement. So you don’t get splattered.
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