Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is on a roll, growing from 8,000 nationwide members in 2016 to over 25,000 today, which makes it the largest organized socialist group in the United States. Its members play a large role within the Democratic Party, where they work with others from Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign to push the party further to the left.
At its recent convention, as I explained in The Daily Beast, the organization’s members distanced themselves from DSA’s social democratic beginnings. They voted by a large majority to both endorse the BDS movement to delegitimize Israel and to withdraw from membership in Socialist International — which the members saw as too close to imperialist and colonialist powers.
Now, recent documents from DSA’s large Los Angeles chapter reveal that it has moved closer to the kind of membership rites familiar to those who study totalitarian movements. Rites such as those practiced by the Chinese Communists during the Cultural Revolution and by the Communist Party in the Soviet Union, which continually charged dissenting members with betraying the party. They often expelled them from their ranks, or forced them to grovel in public demonstrations of obedience to the party line. Since these parties ran their respective nations, most often the recalcitrant individuals were found guilty in show trials, and then executed.
The key document issued by their chapter is a statement originating from a man named Josh Androsky and the Los Angeles Steering Committee of the group. It seems that Androsky, an active stand-up comedian, engaged in an action that DSA members saw as over-the-top and politically incorrect. His crime was to post a photo on Twitter of himself and his friends standing on Bill Cosby’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star with the caption: “hey libs try taking THIS statue down.”
If you analyze the picture, it appears that the group — Androsky is the man on the right — is laughing that Cosby’s star is still on display, since we now know he allegedly raped many women. It seems, however, that DSA’s commissars saw things quite differently, believing that the photo includes “an ironic caption that minimized the experience and mistreatment of rape survivors.” Of course, it stands to reason that the organization (and perhaps many Americans) would want Cosby’s honor to be removed, but the offense was for Androsky to quip that liberals would find it hard to do.
The next step taken by the Los Angeles central committee — or the “Steering Committee,” as they call their cultural enforcers — was to demand a mea culpa from Mr. Androsky, where he would be required to humiliate himself publicly for his gross transgression and bad taste. Androsky, of course, not desiring to be expelled from the bubble he lives in, willingly obliged: “I caused people pain and suffering,” he writes, “and for that I am truly sorry.”
He attributes his error to living in both the world of comedy and that of left-wing activists, and he is new to being an elected official of L.A.’s DSA chapter. He explained how anxious he is that his photo might affect all the good works and “heroic efforts” of his 1,500 comrades in the fight for socialism. His comrades, as he says, have engaged in “unceasing, inspiring labor.” Hence, he announces that he has officially resigned from the Steering Committee and ended all of his own DSA work.
If that is not enough, he also shows how far he is willing to go:
I’ll be voluntarily undergoing sensitive/anti-oppression training offered by an external third party before I consider returning to DSA organizing.
His comrades say that he has passed the test, since he has “put the organization’s needs aside from his own comfort,” has apologized publicly, and has accepted the criticism given him. They accept “Josh’s offer to resign” and to step away from any DSA work, and especially to complete “anti-oppression training” before being readmitted.
Seriously, this is not an Onion parody of how a socialist group operates today. It’s the real thing. But it gets better.
The Steering Committee explains that the patriarchy dominates the society, and “gendered violence and oppression is too often minimized or ignored.” Therefore, “glib and ironic language” works to minimize the experience of survivors. They fear that Androsky’s personal Twitter account was viewed by many as speaking for DSA, and thus DSA has to be vigilant and avoid “replicating forms of sexist, racist, classist, ablest and all other forms of oppression in our interpersonal actions.” To make up for his apparent crimes, they are satisfied that Josh sat down with them and understands that “meaningful reparations and amends are necessary.”
With these actions, it has become clear that DSA is replicating the “self-criticism” sessions of Marxist-Leninist Old Left groups. Let me cite two examples:
1. The Hollywood Communists’ Witch-Hunt Against Albert Maltz
In February 1946, Maltz — a highly regarded Communist and screenwriter — wrote an article for a CP magazine titled “What Shall We Ask of Writers?” Departing from the party bromide that “art is a weapon,” Maltz wrote in favor of judging artistic achievement without considering an author’s politics. Worse, he declared that novelist James Farrell was the best American writer, despite Farrell’s being a follower of … Leon Trotsky.
All hell broke loose.
Maltz, CP leaders declared, was advocating retreat and compromise when the “forces of imperialism” were on the rise. A top group of New York CP leaders came to Hollywood to hold a meeting with him and to demand that he retract his article. He did. Maltz wrote a second article declaring that if people agreed with his first article, it would “result in the dissolution of the left-wing cultural movement.” He had been, he wrote, in “total error.” Having thus confessed his guilt, Maltz was reluctantly allowed back into the ranks of the CPUSA. (For full details, see the book my wife and I wrote, Red Star Over Hollywood.)
2. The American CP’s War Against “White Chauvinism”
In October of 1949, as Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes describe in their book on American Communism, the chairman of the CPUSA’s “Negro Commission,” demanded a new offensive against white racism to be carried out within the party’s own ranks. The result was a massive internal witch-hunt against those who were suspected of being guilty of “white chauvinism.” “Thousands,” Klehr and Haynes write, were accused of the sin “on the flimsiest of evidence.”
If you happened to use the phrase “whitewash” or “black sheep” in a conversation, you would be brought up on charges. Party members used the charge to get back at those who they thought had given them trouble in the past, or to make sure they would get promoted instead of a potential competitor for a job in the party leadership. The result was that thousands of CP members were expelled or left on their own volition.
The ex-Communist Joseph Starobin wrote in his own book:
No single experience is remembered in retrospect with such dismay … by thousands of former Communists and their progressive sympathizers. Not a few have asked themselves: If they were capable of such cruelties to each other when they were a small handful of people bound by sacred ideals, what might they have done had they been in power?
With their castigation of an activist stand-up comedian as politically incorrect, and his being cast out until his “oppression training” is complete and the Steering Committee assured that he is fully reformed, Democratic Socialists of America has proved that it risks being indistinguishable from the old American Communist Party and its Stalinist practices.