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Democratic Socialists Are Deepening the Struggle for a Free Palestine

Judge DSA by our organizing—look at the streets, not the tweets. A response to the open letter by former DSA members published in TNR.

Pro-Palestinian supporters, including members of the Democratic Socialists of America
Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket/Getty Images
Pro-Palestinian supporters, including members of the Democratic Socialists of America, rallied in Manhattan on October 9.

On November 9, The New Republic published an open letter signed by two dozen DSA members announcing their resignation from the organization. DSA’s Ashik Siddique asked us for space for a reply, which we’ve published below.

“What would you have done during the Civil Rights Movement?” As a growing left movement comes to see history as something we must shape here and now, questions comparing historical moments to today have become a common refrain. When future generations look back to today, one of theirs will doubtless be: What did you do to stop what is, as one prominent Holocaust scholar put it, the “textbook case of genocide” in Palestine?

For members of Democratic Socialists of America, the answer is clear: anything and everything we can. We feel deeply that “there is only one viable future. We either all live together, or we all die together,” as activist and attorney Noura Erakat said recently. But for a handful of now-former members who have spent the last month announcing their resignations from the largest socialist organization in the country with pieces like “Out of Loyalty to Democratic Socialism: Why We Are Leaving DSA,” which ran in The New Republic last week, the question does not appear to be worth asking.

Instead, each article focuses mainly on the wording of select tweets and statements, frequently parroting misleading claims that have already been comprehensively addressed. At a time when so many are taking serious risks to stand on the right side of history, it’s disappointing to see a few outliers take the bait. But for the rest of our 80,000 members, what’s more important is that we use this opportunity to push public focus back on what matters above all else: our organizing to stop a genocide.

It started quickly. As chapters immediately sprung into action organizing and supporting rallies across the country, members also worked nationally to make the most of our mass base and connections to Congress through our No Money for Massacre phone banks, which have already made nearly 250,000 calls. These phone banks, often attended by 100 people at a time, have turned mass support into mass action by bringing an unprecedented level of constituent calls pushing reps to sign on to the cease-fire resolution. And equally important, they’ve provided a foundation of constituent calls in support of members like Representative Rashida Tlaib, which enables our already leading electeds to take even further political risks—most notably Tlaib openly calling out President Biden for supporting a genocide, resulting in a rare and reprehensible censure vote.

Physically, DSA chapters everywhere are anchoring every type of action imaginable. Metro DC DSA collaborated with a large coalition of Palestine solidarity groups led by American Muslims for Palestine to organize a massive protest in D.C. last month with tens of thousands of people, and DSA members across the country were proud to participate in the largest Palestine mobilization ever in D.C. on November 4. NYC-DSA co-led its own largest-ever rally with Adalah Justice Project, Jewish Voice for Peace, and other organizations where over 150 people were arrested (including socialist elected officials), successfully forcing the media there to finally talk about what is actually happening: a fight to stop a genocide. All across the country, DSA members have organized rallies and sit-ins, tabled in our communities, organized students, bird-dogged elected officials into supporting a cease-fire, blocked military cargo ships from port, protested at the Democratic National Committee headquarters, and more—often at substantial personal risk.

This is the unique power DSA can bring. Union leaders DSA members helped elect, like Brandon Mancilla in UAW, are making history demanding a cease-fire, and more members are organizing their own labor unions in the same direction. From state legislation like Not On Our Dime! to Cori Bush’s Ceasefire Now Resolution, our elected members are opening up a whole new front in the fight to free Palestine within the state itself.

We don’t know where all this will go, but we’re in uncharted territory that we must keep forging forward in. And we have made dent after dent at a level long thought politically impossible.

In 2001, I remember when every member of my family bought American flags to display outside our homes in hopes of heading off Islamophobic hate crimes, while fewer than 10 percent of U.S. voters opposed the march to war and a single member of Congress voted against it. In 2023, the U.S. political establishment is working to revive the 9/11 playbook in support of an equally destructive response to attacks in Israel: unlimited military funding for the mass death of Muslims and brown people abroad, and mass vilification and repression of those at home who stand against the escalation of atrocities.

But the results look vastly different today. In just weeks, a bloc in Congress including DSA Representatives Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has grown to nearly 20 times Representative Barbara Lee’s lone vote against war in 2001, bravely standing against a war from within its very source: the halls of the federal government. Even more starkly, the fiercest propaganda effort in decades has fallen flat on its face, with a supermajority 66 percent of voters supporting a cease-fire. You don’t need a poll to see this: Just look to the streets, where day after day, people from all walks of life are joining protests in a growing mass movement for Palestine.

This didn’t just happen: The difference is a resurgent organized left. Thanks to herculean organizing for decades by the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, or BDS, movement globally and across the United States, growing visibility of Palestinians speaking for themselves about conditions on the ground, increasing normalization by DSA elected officials, and too much more organizing to count, the ruling-class strategy of manufacturing consent for war is nearing the end of its rope.

From the streets to the halls of power” is not just a slogan but a description of what makes DSA such a unique threat to the status quo. Even our own enemies agree: Pro-war propaganda is hitting a wall in part because organizations like DSA are so effective at bringing together diverse people across differences, and fighting across issues in a way that makes us stronger in each, for a shared vision of universal liberation of all people.

While the online attention economy is designed to elevate the most incendiary outlier opinions, the vast majority of DSA members believe that ultimately, the cycle of extreme violence in the region will continue until we defuse its root in the everyday violence of occupation and apartheid, which, as Brazilian socialist educator Paulo Freire wrote, dehumanizes both the oppressor and oppressed. We are united too in knowing that, as famed democratic socialist Martin Luther King Jr. said in his essential “Beyond Vietnam” speech, which would alienate even his own allies: “The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours.”

Ultimately, those leaving DSA or focusing more on the wording of tweets than on building the largest anti-war movement in decades are a slim minority in DSA. They fail to see that, rather than losing our way, DSA is continuing to carve the path socialists always have: the risky one leading the way forward, regardless of whether it is comfortable to do so, until we’ve dragged the rest of the world along with us. So wherever you are, stop doomscrolling, and start organizing. We have a genocide to stop today, and a world to win tomorrow.