Spenser Rapone and the Democratic Socialists of America
Contribution by a supporter of the BT at the “Endless War No More” forum in Troy, New York, on 18 January 2019. The text has been lightly edited.
I thought you [Spenser Rapone, a former West Point cadet and current member of DSA] gave a very illuminating account of your political evolution. Obviously, you recognize from this experience the perils of trying to ‘change the system from within’ at least in regard to the military.
I would also like to say that, as a supporter of the Bolshevik Tendency, ‘endless war’ is a product of and inseparable from capitalism.
1914, as many people in this room know, was a significant year of realignment in the history of the socialist movement, when the leadership of most of the mass socialist parties in Europe and their elected parliamentary representatives backed their ‘own’ imperialist military in the First World War. Left-wing socialists like James Connolly, Rosa Luxemburg, Trotsky and Lenin advocated that socialists adopt a defeatist position against all the imperialist powers. They argued in effect for ‘turning the guns around.’ Easier said than done, right?
Except that three years later it happened in Russia. You had not only the mutiny of the Kronstadt sailors who became the front-line of the Russian Revolution, but also thousands of soldiers who voted with their feet, showing they were unwilling to fight for the Czar.
However, October 1917 would not have been possible on that basis alone. It also required an organized political party such as the Bolsheviks. Now you’ve admittedly mentioned several times tonight the need for a mass socialist movement and an organized party. However, you also seemed dismissive of the struggle for programmatic clarity as ‘sectarianism.’
While I was relieved to hear your criticisms of Bernie Sanders, isn’t that precisely why we need to have, if you will, a ‘struggle for the soul of socialism’ just as had to occur in 1914? If a ‘socialist’ Member of the House [DSA member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] eulogizes a war hawk like McCain and votes for Nancy Pelosi as Leader of the House, or an ostensibly ‘socialist’ Senator from Vermont [Bernie Sanders] fights for massive munitions contracts for his home state and frequently votes in support of military subsidies for Israel, don’t you think we have an obligation to denounce them? To tell people: ‘this is not what socialism is,’ otherwise working people will associate ‘socialism’ with this misleadership that offers no solution and no way forward. There is also an illusion of ‘trying to change the system from within’ via electoral politics that must be challenged. You cannot get to the Soldiers Soviet by going down that path.
Published 25 January 2019