A still from a video of DSA Congressional Candidate, Heidi Sloan, being paintbombed by revolutionaries
Read the Editorial “Egging On the 2020 Election Boycott” for more information on the Election Boycott Campaign
By Phillip Grove
Heidi Sloan, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) US House candidate for the 25th congressional district, was ambushed by a small group of revolutionaries as she left a DSA meetup on East 7th Street on Sunday. They tossed flyers announcing this year’s election boycott around her before eggs filled with red paint were smashed on her head. Eyewitnesses report she burst into tears immediately.
In a statement posted to social media, Heidi claimed the action’s main goal was to ‘suppress democracy.’ Heidi’s paranoid statement reveals the real reason revolutionaries sought to embarrass her – she is a shill for the US imperialist project, who actively attacks revolutionaries and the people. Earlier in the week, at their antiwar rally, she was part of DSA leadership who agitated against antifascists while allowing infamous local fascists to remain.
Sloan’s day had also been disrupted a few hours earlier at an event held at Givens Park, to gather support for her election bid in what DSA promoted as a ‘Big Ass Canvass,’ conducting voter outreach in the quickly gentrifying area. Sloan has been campaigning for the congressional seat for months, as well as for DSA-endorsed presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.
In the streets around Givens park, election boycott graffiti and flyers were prevalent on walls and electrical boxes, with slogans such as “Don’t Vote, Fight for Revolution,” and “Elections, No! Revolution, Yes!” On social media, DSA supporters attempted to use identity politics to criticize these slogans, offended at the idea that revolutionaries would promote an election boycott in a historically Black working class neighborhood.
Voting statistics show that only about half of the Black population voted in 2018 elections, a number that is not merely the result of ‘voter suppression’ but of a correct political understanding. To many in the DSA, it is inconceivable why the working class and poor, who are exploited and oppressed regardless of race by US imperialism, would ever support a boycott of this system. And yet, less than half of people with incomes below $10,000 in the US vote. This can be rightly understood as the poor and working class rejecting imperialist electoral politics as only another tool of their oppression.
To the DSA, not voting is the equivalent of giving up hope, because they do not believe in the possibility, let alone the inevitability of revolution and the overthrow of the imperialist system they serve. Revolutionaries on the other hand have total faith in the masses, who will organize to overthrew imperialism, principally of the US, and build a new society on its ashes. Voting for the imperialist presidency, or any other office, is antithetical to this inevitable revolution, and only steers people back into the jaws of the ruling class.
Prior to the start of the DSA event, revolutionaries approached the mostly Black, Chicano, and immigrant working people from the community enjoying their Sunday morning in the park, and shared flyers with information about the DSA and the election boycott. One parkgoer said he fully supported their boycott efforts, sharing that he had spent time in prison in Mexico for supporting socialist politics. He understood that voting in an imperialist system was a waste of time.
As DSA began to gather, a group of revolutionaries approached the event behind a banner showing one hand labeled ‘DSA’ shaking hands with another hand labeled ‘US imperialism’. While some attendees took flyers and listened to the criticisms against the DSA, other DSA members immediately started shouting at the revolutionaries. In response, the group chanted an election boycott slogan, “Every four years, the ruling class chooses! No matter who wins, the working class loses!”
The combative debating, escalating into shouting matches, revealed the discrepancy in principles between the two groups. DSA members resorted to name-calling and baseless accusations, with one woman DSA member telling a group of women revolutionaries they were part of a “cult” and were “sexually abused.” Women revolutionaries were outraged at this twisted claim, especially considering DSA’s history towards dealing with sexual abuse in their organization.
It is the DSA who has come under scrutiny for allowing sexual misconduct and abuse within its ranks, most recently in the Lawrence, Kansas chapter. In Los Angeles, they notoriously harbored men in their chapter who actively stalked their ex-partners. In both cases, organizational bureaucracies and personal associations were used to silence women victims and accusers.
Some of the “democratic-socialists” resorted to the tactic of pretending your political opponents are police called “cop jacketing,” which resulted in a brief skirmish. Charges of being involved in law enforcement, from DSA are particularly laughable, as they consistently work with the police and have elected police union organizers to their national body.
The revolutionaries, criticized the DSA based on their documented actions in service to US imperialism. These ranged from the general, like the organization’s use of socialist-sounding language for electoral gain, to the specific, like how the DSA had united with fascist Christopher Ritchie at their recent anti-war event against the antifascists who were trying to kick him out. Sloan and politicians like Greg Casar spoke at that event as Texas Nomads, Colin Whites and Ritchie stood by, praising DSA on his livestream for protecting them and supporting their political attacks on antifascists.
The Austin DSA chapter has earned the reputation of being one of the most politically backward since they nominated police union organizer Danny Fetonte for national leadership. The Austin chapter has also relied on the police to protect them from principled criticism, such as when Sloan and others attempted to host a “Socialist Night School” on the Eastside “honoring” the 1969 Stonewall Riots. Women and LGBT revolutionaries took over the event, denouncing the phony “socialism” of the DSA and advocating for rebellion against the current system exemplified by the historical example of Stonewall.
The post-canvassing took place at Kinda Tropical, an upscale cafe that illustrates the class orientation of the DSA. The cafe caters to the wealthy gentrifiers who have invaded the formerly segregated East Side over the past two decades, benefiting from the racist and capitalist displacement of the longtime mostly Black and Chicano working class. On the fence behind the bar, a piece of graffiti reads, “You bought the neighborhood.”
At the outreach event earlier, Sloan and others running for leadership in Austin DSA (under the title “Grow”) gave speeches, where they emphasized the importance of “numbers.” At one point during the confrontation with revolutionaries, the DSA leaders had chanted “We are many! They are few!” DSA could only make empty statements of their attendance numbers, but refuse to engage the political arguments for revolution, because it threatens the entire basis of their opportunism, the imperialist electoral process.
The DSA regularly touts its admiration for democracy, but Sloan’s canvassing campaign and that of other DSA candidates show that the path of electoral politics is not up for discussion. Candidates like Sloan set the agenda, and the rank and file is expected to do the grunt work to support the political careers of these so-called leaders.
What the DSA, and candidates like Sloan admire is not the democracy of the working class, which can only be won through revolutionary violence, but the so-called democracy of the owner class, which simultaneously staves off revolution while making itself available only to those who carry out the exploitation.
The resolve of the likes of Sloan and Bernie Sanders may be stubborn, but their commitment is tied to the dying behemoth of US imperialism. They have shackled themselves to a sinking ship and are trying to bring the masses down with them. Revolutionaries, on the other hand, are dedicated to upholding the election boycott, a campaign that does not champion another “savior” to solve the problems of society but places faith in the working class and the people, the true makers of history. The election boycott calls on those who reject participation with the US government to turn their abstention into active rebellion, to attack class enemies, and to make revolution.
The action against Sloan was both an initiation of the 2020 election boycott campaign as well as a justified response to the Austin DSA’s acceptance and protection of local fascists. In a bold way, it proclaimed that those who collaborate with fascism and imperialism are not safe to operate in the working class neighborhoods that are home to revolutionary work among the people.