Jack L. Suria-Linares
2017 NPC Candidate
Local Chapter: Los Angeles
Immediately after the Rodney King “riots” and fleeing the Salvadoran Civil War, I emerged out of my mother’s womb to a Los Angeles engaged in political unrest. As a result, my parents never supported political work, but they silently engaged in economic struggles in their workplaces and at home. By the time I reached 8, I was already involved in labor solidarity with my father at the SEIU Justice for Janitors campaign and with my mother at her housekeeping jobs. Who knew that child care led to slowdowns and cheap labor? When I turned 11, a whole section of my family failed to receive citizenship status which in turn caused great psychological stress and confusion when my parents separated. This led to an internal rage and desire to be left alone. But when I turned 14, I began attending the Central American Resource Center’s youth leadership program which rejuvenated my ethics. CARECEN led me to realize my passion in history, political-economy, and culture. They taught me about Salvador Allende and Archbishop Oscar Romero. When I entered Hamilton College in the Fall of 2011, Occupy Wall Street emerged. To my disappointment the student body did not reflect the attitudes of Occupy, but this changed in 2014 when students walked out of their classes and held the biggest protest in the history of the school. On January 2014, I joined Democratic Socialists of America after my college advisor and author of Michael Harrington’s biography, Maurice Isserman, suggested that I intern at the National Office. There I met Neal Meyer, the national youth organizer at the time, who convinced me to begin a YDS chapter at Hamilton leading to a strong on-campus presence. In 2015 I ran for an at-large position for the YDS coordinating committee intending to address and include a racial justice agenda in YDS. My activities with DSA led me to enter the Labor Movement via several organizing-in-training positions at the AFL-CIO and UCLA Labor Center. I enrolled at the Murphy Institute in New York City to complete a Master’s in Labor Studies where I learned about the complexities of working-class history, organizing models, labor unions, and various socialist and radical traditions. At 23, I feel like I’ve been a socialist all my life and that DSA is my political home.
Why I'm Running
I am running for NPC primarily to continue supporting DSA in its transition into the largest contemporary socialist organization in the United States. My administrative experience and historical knowledge of DSA can be of use in restructuring the national organization to better support chapter, regional, and statewide campaigns and organizations. To that extent, I am primarily running to provide administrative and structural support. I am making it clear that whether people decide to support my political platform or not, if elected to the NPC I will prioritize building a more fluid internal structure that benefits regional and statewide formations. However though I am primarily running for structural reasons, I also believe that my political positions will revitalize and encourage a wider variety of debate within DSA as well the priorities that national and chapters should seriously take. I first entered the socialist tradition after Enrique Dussel convinced me that Karl Marx contributed to the “politics of liberation” and “contemporary decolonial struggles,” all of which have sadly been distorted by Leninists, Stalinists, Trotskyists, Maoists, and even so-called Marxists themselves throughout the entirety of the 20th century. Dussel argues that theological arguments and other traditions erased from the history of political theory ought to be highlighted and embraced as Left analysis in order to combat the rising wave of nativism and multicultural liberalism. As a Christian, Dussel’s Ethics and Community as well as several of his philosophical and historical accounts of the process of liberation provide a good theoretical grounding for me and what I understand as the socialist struggle. Furthermore, the politics of Manning Marable, who was a DSA member, and Bill Fletcher Jr., who recently joined DSA, provide a much more accurate understanding and strategy for U.S. socialists. We should recognize that the centrality of racism and national oppression in the United States remains the current logic of capital. Racial capitalism is real. By and large we continue living in an apartheid state meaning that the internal imperialism model will come to fruition in the upcoming decades as well as the reemergence of decolonial projects via a materialist orientation. Combine a de-facto apartheid state alongside the firm grounding of a multicultural liberalism and this will change the conditions in which the Left, and DSA in particular, organize. Elites of color will eventually take positions of power, suggest racism is over, but inequality will remain. Under multicultural liberalism the terms of intersectionality, “white privilege,” and even class struggle as we know it will drastically change. To that extent, the Left will need to come up with new terms, definitions, strategies, and positions. We should begin to ask ourselves what our long term organizational priorities are. We should ask ourselves what it would look like if DSA was primarily people of color? How are we going to organize people of color away from multicultural liberalism and toward a democratic socialist vision? What are the frameworks that better understand the history of the United States outside of the classically defined “Marxist” perspective? The U.S. Left faces a global challenge in ending the blurry lines between a “political-economism” and a historical materialist understanding of the world. The Left is good at making reading groups over global wealth redistribution, but when it comes to making concrete ideological and structural positions over how we make such distribution, the U.S. Left fails to make racism the significant component in its articulation and practice; Rather they fall into the blurry line of making labor the significant component when in reality they mean the trade-union movement. I support the trade-union movement, but labor always meant actions that people do with their lives at the workplace, in their communities, and in their personal lives. The U.S. Left faces the biggest challenge in the history of the leftwing movements because they need to take on the double task of stopping this blurry line between labor and unions on the one hand, and racism and identity on the other hand. Instead lets combine a race and class analysis together which can more accurately be defined as the need to overcome the imperial/colonial consciousness, something that cannot occur through “class struggle” when defined by changing only the political-economy. By definition socialists need to support a global wealth redistribution, but that can only occur by changing the U.S. working class’ imperial/colonial consciousness. This can only be done by pushing through that racism is the logic of capital. Right now the U.S. Left, and DSA in particular, stumbles over the racial question, national oppression position, and the anti-imperialist/decolonial struggles around the world. This is because the U.S. Left fails to address that when we speak of class we are not speaking about socioeconomics, but of the unequal relationship that occurs at the level of controlling our labor. Thus, when people hear us speaking over class struggle they hear “political-economy first” instead of “Our global civilizations revolve around how we treat our relationship to one another.” The U.S. Left should end the dichotomy between changing the political-economy as changing all oppressions together. If we keep stumbling on this question, people of color in mass will feel ambivalence on joining an organization. We would have pushed ourselves into a long-term trap by 2050 unless we specifically answer succinctly our positions on racism and imperialism as the fundamental driving force in the United States. Multicultural liberalism is already making an onslaught on the U.S. left that will become even more difficult to overcome. When the United States becomes majority people of color, it will become the terrain of struggle between people of color seeking liberation for all and elites of color intending to obtain power for their own benefit. Under those conditions, white supremacy may even be eliminated but anti-black racism and apartheid will continue. Can white workers by and large be won to combat elites of color while at the same time being in solidarity with the working-class of color? Right-wing populism, nativism, and imperial/colonial consciousness continues to have strong presence. DSA in the long run will have to be organized primarily by the working-class of color and whites, but it will not be majority white. I am not speaking about “diversifying” DSA, but addressing that structural racism exists materially and it impacts our strategies. By prioritizing an anti-racist framework in all our campaigns as opposed to a union rank-and-file or labor movement framework, we would have aligned ourselves with the vast majority of people who have the most to benefit in both building the labor movement and combatting internal imperialism. The anti-imperialist/decolonial positions will increase in organizations led by people of color. We will have to be serious in supporting a case for reparations in the United States. Reparations is the redistribution of wealth, but in a completely different framework because it was not just theft of labor, but of lands and histories. If this means working with multi-class coalitions for the moment to present our antiracist/antiimperialist analysis to people of color, we should do so to move away from a long term ideological and organizational failure and begin to seriously work on our international politics. Afterwards, we will engage in struggle against the elites of color. With this in mind, in the following section I present the following vision proposals. Some will be a vision to complete in two years. Others begin to target imperial/colonial consciousness in the United States and will more effectively organize people of color toward a democratic socialist organization, but will be a long-term project.
My Previous Political Work
During my three and half years in DSA I have worked primarily on racial justice campaigns and somewhat in international and labor campaigns. Two of those years I have been elected as an at-large member of the YDS national coordinating committee. My first concrete success came with the establishment of the Hamilton Democratic Socialists. We held private weekly political education meetings and monthly public events. We invited both Joe Schwartz and the 2015 national youth organizer to speak to an audience of about 30 people. Our presence on campus led to collaboration with the Women’s Center and the Black and Latino Student Union. In addition, we led the efforts to organize the student body to attend a NYC march by pressuring the President, faculty, and administration to support a Bus “Freedom Rides” trip. We intended to connect the events that occurred in Ferguson to the lack of political education within the school’s curriculum. By 2016, Hamilton students succeeded in establishing a diversity requirement curriculum. As an at-large member of the YDS coordinating committee, I quickly learned the detail-oriented skills necessary to organize, facilitate, and lead workshops and panels at YDS conferences. We helped organize over 8 conferences covering political theory, organizing models, political history, etc. Furthermore, the coordinating committee has pushed through several political statements in support of student activism in southern schools, facilitated monthly trainings to new YDS chapters, and aimed to represent the organization in its national campaigns through publications and interviews. Alongside Dan La Botz, I attended the 2016 Sao Paulo Forum as DSA observers in order to get an understanding of Left international politics and what our relationship should be to other Left formations outside the Socialist International. While La Botz focused on the larger organizations, I focused on its youth wings. As usual, youth wings have more inclination to radical movement politics and a larger democratic say. Overall, we concluded that DSA should not join the Sau Paulo Forum but organize with the organizations working in the United States such as the FMLN. During my summers and winters I return to Los Angeles from NY and support my local chapter to the best of my ability. In 2014, I helped reboot the social media presence of DSA-LA leading to several new members and folks who had previously been less involved such as Brandon Rey Ramirez. In 2015, I helped initiate the DSA Sanders Campaign including tabling at schools and having one-on ones with potential YDS chapter leaders. We established contacts with folks in USC and also others organizing around the Sanders campaign. This crucial component led to the rebirth of the Los Angeles chapter in 2016. We are now the second largest chapter in the nation that emphasizes support for smaller chapters.
My Vision for DSA
1) More Democratic Control within YDS: Push that the YDS-CC have more control over Winter and Summer Conference planning in years in which the National Convention is not held. This will ease out the historical workload of the NPC. Workshops should be organized and led by students involved in student campaigns as opposed to the top-down facilitation of the NPC over workshops, panels, and speakers. DSA members who are not students should only speak at panels of the conferences, but the workshops led by YDSers. YDS students should have the ability to make their own mistakes and prioritize their own theoretical and political debates, organizing methods, without NPC controlling every step of the way. To that extent, this also means that YDS-CC shall have more responsibility and take serious their roles in raising organizational stability within YDS. Second, a constitutional amendment will be suggested for the 2019 convention that the YDS-CC have two votes instead of one vote after the transition to a 24-member NPC. This will shift the percentage votes from 1/16 to 1/12 for YDS in the NPC thus proving similar voting power in national campaigns, priorities, and decision making. A constitutional amendment should be drafted by the NPC to be voted on the 2019 convention. 2) Prioritizing Monthly Dues: Support the transition prioritizing a monthly dues membership with ranks depending on income while also allowing the possibility for onetime payments of annual dues. The reason for this is simple: as opposed to always opting in and renewing membership will automatically continue to be member until they choose to opt-out and cancel membership. 3) Build Regional Councils and State Federations: In the next two years I want to help develop state federations and regional councils that can provide larger campaign capacity and link chapters together in a way not facilitated, influenced, or controlled by national. I also want to work with NPC members to consider amending the constitution to include the requirement of chapters to participate, however minimal, in regional councils and state federations. These regional councils and state federations should be democratically elected by the chapter as opposed to controlled by mentors via a communications system. Regional councils and state federations should have the ability to run their own campaigns. This will level out the current ambivalence of primarily having to go to national to look for regional or statewide support. Regional councils and state federations could theoretically organize funds for regional and state campaigns without the detriment of national funding. National funds go to nationally supported campaigns. 4) Editorial Publication: Reboot the Third World Socialism publication began by Manning Marable as an ongoing issue that either gets highlighted within the Democratic Left Magazine and blog or has a separate printing or online publication via the Anti-Racist Commission. This will continue the national debate of race as the logic of capital as well as provide a counter narrative that people of color have in fact always participated in socialist movements. 5) Rebirth of the Anti-Racist Commission: Transition the national anti-racist working group and the newly formed Afrosocialist and People of Color Caucus into a “Decolonial Commission” or “Anti-Racist Commission” devoted to creating nationwide campaigns to organize, recruit and understand the conditions of people of color, their terms for self-determination, and effective methods to organize people of color into socialist struggle. 6) Labor Proposals to come from the Labor Commission: We should understand that capital has moved away from industrial and commercial to financial. Thus, the labor movement must engage in fighting financial capital while recognizing how industrial and commercial capital still hold intact much of our political economy. As a result we should not push DSA to organize the rank-and-file or simply supporting the labor unions where possible. Let’s allow the Labor Commission to fully develop its analysis of the Labor Movement today that best benefits the work for DSA: a mixture of organizing DSA members to have strong rank-and-file leverage, build relationships between DSA and the AFL-CIO, its regional federations and local and national unions, organizing the unorganized, and current labor policy. However, as opposed to subsuming labor politics to union politics, the Labor Commission should look into best strategic political education campaigns that connects international and national policy to the labor movement. Rank-and-File or Democratic Unionism is effective to the extent that it can force its unions to voice workers’ demands. However, on an international and national level, policy remains an important piece that cannot be influenced by democratic unionism alone. DSA should see how it can link the environmental and social movements to the labor movement. Social movements in collaboration with radical democratic unions is key, but DSA should not focus on the rebirth of the labor movement internally, but based on our membership and national political education campaigns. For example, we should consider organizing a campaign that politicizes the 1986 Immigration and Reform and Control Act which effectively violates labor rights for undocumented workers. Bosses would rather pay employer sanctions than allow undocumented workers to organize. The Campaign proposal for Sanctuary now provides more concrete tactics for this example. This is easily an anti-racist campaign and builds toward a new national immigration movement, labor organizing possibilities, and genuine DSA recruitment. 7) Support to Flip Texas: Begin to consider a voting rights political education campaign can go large into organizing people of color in Texas into DSA as well as increase the voting percentages in Texas leading to flip the entire country back to blue in the Presidential Election of 2024. This is not a voter registration campaign but a political education one. With the establishment of a state federation, a much more concrete analysis of Texas will exist and then for the 2019 convention we would make this a campaign resolution. To this extent some long term project to have a Medicare-for All March Day of Actions should have the largest concentration in Texas. 8) Electoral Campaign Strategies: We should support DSA members and socialist candidates at the chapter level regardless if they run in the Democratic Party or a Third Party. We should run DSA slate socialist campaigns at a city, county, and regional and state level that have 2/3 of its slate running in the Democratic Party and 1/3 in a Third Party. All campaigns should be issue-based or political education campaigns to reveal the contradictions of the Democratic Party, engage seriously for socialist politics, and organize new members. We should strategically support candidates who already have loyalty to the progressive block in state or federal race, but are not necessarily socialists. Example: Ben Jealous for Governor of Maryland. However, the NPC needs to create an effective elected and accountable amendment proposal to the Constitution for the 2019 Convention. Our loyalties shall be primarily to DSA and not to trying to reform the Democratic Party or organizing a Third Party before creating a base. 9) From Immigration, Housing, and Incarceration to Sanctuary City Now!: Immigration and the Housing crisis is a direct result of U.S. imperialism. Thus, our chapters should recognize that gentrification, incarceration, and deportation is a contemporary form of colonialism in the sense of dispossession, dehumanization, and extermination. We should work to combat housing zone regulations. The global catastrophe of forced migration is blamed on migrants themselves rather than on how capital is moved to displace migrants. An anti-imperialist politics must have a transnational vision not bound to borders. If capital can move freely then so must our movements. The Sanctuary City Working Group of Los Angeles provides a strong campaign resolution advocating for transformative reform around the state while beginning a political education campaign targeting current federal immigration laws as anti-labor laws. 10) Gender and Sexuality in an anti-imperialist framework: The question of gender and sexuality changes through an anti-imperialist politics. In the future, it may be possible that western feminism will maintain economic imperialism while providing support in the states. The dangers is in how paternalistic this form of feminism, even its materialist version, can become. A major concern is also how the labor supply impacts women and lgbt communities in splitting them from the working poor of all colors. We have seen the co-optation of black feminist thought and intersectionality by both liberals and classically defined Marxists. We must look to the failures and successes of the Combahee River Collective, and others such as Chandra Mohanty, rather than the academic sense of intersectionality and white privilege. To a large extent we should invite them into DSA debates. 11) Historical Education over DSA: Just as the workers make the union, so too does DSA exist only when members feel they are DSA. To maintain stronger membership and loyalty to the organization, NPC should consider how the organization will more effectively teach the historical background on the emergence of DSA, the genealogy of our organization, internal debates, and the structure of the organization. The growth of DSA has to come with a genuine growth of solidarity and loyalty to the organization even at the cost of self-interest positions. So we should conceptualize the notion of power within DSA. It makes much more sense to frame power as a politics of obedience to the working-class against the accepted notion that power is a politics of domination. In other words, DSA elected leaders will have to lead by remaining loyal to chapter decisions. Obedient to the chapters with less geographical representation and membership. Obedient to our larger rank and file and not just our cadre or main member organizers. 12) Political Education: An effective political educational program should begin from history then move to theory. Since we live in the United States, we should focus on the history, philosophies, and strategies of socialists and radicals throughout the Americas. We should highlight folks like W.E.B. DuBois, Claudia Jones, Mario Barrera and Enrique Dussel as philosophers who pushed the boundaries of Marxism and have gone beyond it. We should brake assumptions that Marxism is incompatible with social democracy or that cultural based campaigns cannot be simultaneously materialist based campaigns. We should study other concepts that participate in the socialist movement but don’t fit adequately under it including the black radical tradition, theological radicalism, Decolonial theory, Indigenous thought. There may be traditions we have not considered as well. 13) Internationalism via Climate Change and Demilitarization: Endorsing BDS, Reparations and abandoning the SI is not enough. Those are all rhetorical support. The antiwar movement is dead. We need to follow through on a national political education campaign defunding our army and police, closing U.S. bases, and promoting new international agreements addressing the environmental crisis. Currently, DSA fails to address either. Significant policy changes in the United States revolving militarization and climate change will provide left formations in other countries new conditions in which to organize. In the process we will form a 21st century International with organizations doing similar work. 14) DSApuppies: Create a national Instagram account solely for socialist puppies.