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[This is also on my blog now: http://hatueysashes.blogspot.com/2018/09/a-dishonest-sliming-of-dsa-and.html]

On August 31, Counterpunch published a bizarre and dishonest racism-baiting attack on the Democratic Socialists of America by Andrew Stewart.

 “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 Counterpunch.

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 own fabrication:

*  *  *
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 Congress.

But soon he remembers that he meant to talk about Ocasio-Cortez and not the Kennedys.

“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 Legislative Session.
*  *  *

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 primary victory.

*  *  *
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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