Libertarian Socialism and the LSC: An Introduction

by the Boston Libertarian Socialist Caucus

Introducing the Libertarian Socialist Caucus

Members of Boston DSA are currently working to form a Libertarian Socialist Caucus (LSC) chapter. The central goals of the caucus include ending capitalism, horizontalizing power structures, and replacing vanguardist, centralist approaches to organizing and ideology with decentralized, consensus-oriented decision-making systems.

The LSC advocates a radical, revolutionary approach to anti-capitalism. For libertarian socialists, the revolutionary counter-power against the capitalist class and bourgeois political system must be directly controlled by the totality of the working class—not representatives, and not party leaders. The revolutionary movement and the future modes of organizing must always put power into the hands of those affected by the decision-making process.

Creating structures and cultures of direct control over our lives through cooperative and mutual decision-making is both the goal and the general strategy. We strive for a world without bosses and a revolutionary movement without party leaders or self-appointed political visionaries.

The final major goal of the LSC is to broaden the appeal of the DSA in order to increase membership and build more anti-capitalist power. Our socialist comrades oriented toward libertarian socialism and similar tendencies may not feel that there is a space for them in DSA’s big tent. Our hope is to prove that there is a definite place for libertarian socialists within this organization.

Libertarian Socialism and the DSA

Libertarian socialism is an umbrella term that covers various political philosophies, including syndicalists, anarchists, cooperativists, council communists, and libertarian Marxists. One unifying feature is a total rejection of authoritarianism, especially in the structure and culture of the revolutionary movement. Power is always distributed as widely as possible, to every person affected by it. The emphasis is always on giving the working class and ordinary people direct power over their lives.

The most famous contemporary libertarian socialist, Noam Chomsky, claims that libertarian socialism rests on two fundamental principles. First, no form of power or authority can be legitimate without both the real consent of those affected by it and the possibility of immediate revocability of that power. The second principle is a skepticism of all ideas propagated by any system of power whatsoever, from the capitalist system, to bourgeois governments, to hierarchical and authoritarian attempts at replacing those systems.

Rosa Luxemburg, one of the most influential thinkers historically associated with libertarian socialism, advocated spontaneity of organization. This emphasizes the grassroots nature of real class struggle. The proletariat will not follow some abstract revolutionary science handed down from above. They will engage in class struggle, and “learn to fight in the course of their struggles.” The working class will organize themselves according to the revolutionary needs that they recognize at the time. No esoteric law of history can tell them what the battlegrounds of their political life will be like. They must use their own eyes and minds. And power.

We have seen again and again that no cadre, no party can be trusted to lead the working class. It is worth noting here, though, that libertarian socialists sometimes do pragmatically endorse engaging in party politics to end immediate harms that would not otherwise be promptly stoppable and to foster solidarity with anti-capitalist allies who have different political visions. This goes especially for supporting marginalized groups here and elsewhere, who face forms of oppression that we may not ourselves face — far would it be from libertarian socialists to impose a revolutionary vision on a group who is marginalized or dominated in ways that we are not. With maximal care to respect extant power relations (especially those of which we might be unaware, as privileged people of one sort or another), libertarian socialists endorse the principle that only the working class can ultimately lead the working class, toward a world without bosses without bosses.

Liberal capitalism has ingrained deeply into us the counter-revolutionary notion that we need leaders to organize society. We must excise this lie from our thoughts and practices.

The LSC hopes to realize these principles of direct self-organization both within the DSA and in the broader society through principles of freedom, solidarity, and democracy. The National LSC website defines these terms as such:

FREEDOM refers to the positive capacity of all individuals and communities for self-determination. We believe that the freedom enjoyed by individuals is an inalienable social good and can only be strengthened through solidarity and democracy.

SOLIDARITY refers to the understanding that all oppressed people—both the economically exploited and the politically marginalized—share a common struggle towards a free and equal society. We aim to organize our movements accordingly, providing mutual aid and support to one another and deferring to the initiative of those most affected by decisions, on the principle that an injury to one is an injury to all.

DEMOCRACY refers to collective decision-making free from hierarchy, domination, and coercion. Democracy is a social relation between free individuals that should not be reduced solely to institutions or elections. We believe that democracy is always a “work in progress” to be altered or improved by communities according to their needs.

Our particular vision of a libertarian socialist society—and the specific path we intend to take to get there—will emerge out of the discussions and activities of the LSC itself. We believe radical democracy is an ongoing participatory process of deliberation, renegotiation, and collective self-determination. It is for the people themselves to decide what the world they wish to live in is to be. Our inability to describe the precise contours of the liberated society is rooted in the simple fact that democracy is inherently a work in progress, continually created and recreated by its participants.

In short, wherever domination exists, we seek to replace it with equality, cooperation, and mutual respect. Ours is a vision of total liberation, not just in some far-flung revolutionary future but here and now.

Want to Learn More? Come Meet Us!

We will be holding an ice cream social for anyone curious about libertarian socialism or the newly forming Boston DSA-LSC chapter. Please join us at Joan Lorentz Park (in front of the Cambridge Public Library) on Saturday, September 22nd from 2pm to 5pm. See the event here.

Our first official meeting will be the LSC Convention, where we will begin to vote in our system of bylaws, set an agenda for the group, and get this chapter off to a running start toward creating a world based on common ownership of the means of production and total self-determination. The LSC Convention will be held on Saturday, October 14th, from 12-2pm, at the Democracy Center. See the event here.

To join the caucus, please email with your DSA dues-paying receipt email from National or your local DSA chapter. If you no longer have the email, let us know if there’s someone already in the LSC who can vouch for you. The welcoming email from National DSA to your address is enough for us to make sure that all our members are DSA members.

For more information, feel free to find us on Twitter, email us, or follow us on Facebook.

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