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On the DNC photoshopping our poster: a history of co-optation illustrated in one Tweet

The DNC’s Original Tweet

Last Friday, the official Twitter account of the Democratic Party sent out a Tweet celebrating the defeat of the Republican health plan, including an image of the mass protest movement against Trump. In the bottom of the photo, taken at the Jan. 21 Women’s March in D.C., they flagrantly blacked out the text of a PSL poster that read, “Trump is the Symptom. Capitalism is the Disease. Socialism is the Cure.” The lines about capitalism and socialism were erased but “Trump is the symptom” was left — which allowed people to quickly identify their falsification.

Some journalists have asked us if we are considering legal action against the DNC, or will demand they take down the image. We’ve said: no, they should leave it up. The image perfectly illustrates the strategy of the Democratic Party leadership to co-opt the grassroots people’s movements and use them as window dressing for their own political interests. Let the whole world see what they’re up to.

Across the country there is in fact a growing interest in socialism, and a growing rejection of capitalism. Our members carried and distributed thousands of newspapers, posters and signs at the Women’s March, and at the #InaugurateTheResistance rally on the Inaugural Parade the day before, which we helped organize. Our messages were embraced by protesters from all walks of life. Having seen the Democratic Party establishment completely flop in the face of the Trump campaign, there is now an urgent hunger for new political ideas. No matter how crudely they attempt to erase us, a new socialist movement is here to stay.

But as Nancy Pelosi responded to a young person’s question at a recent town hall meeting: “we’re capitalist―and that’s just the way it is.”

She’s right about that. On all the burning issues of the day, the DNC is not at all in sync with the movement in the streets, which includes a large number of people who voted Democratic. When the people demand single-payer health care, or Medicare for all, the Democrats say it is “off the table,” and insist that parasitic insurance companies are here to stay. When the people demand tuition-free college and expanded Social Security benefits, or a $15/hour minimum wage, the DNC proclaim these as unrealistic. On other important struggles—to bring an end to the wars abroad, to stop the deportations, to reverse decades of mass incarceration and end militarized policing, to dismantle the Surveillance State, the DNC is positively an enemy, not a friend.

That is why the DNC can engage with the mass movement only at the level of empty symbolism and rhetoric, not substance. The DNC is beholden to corporations and entrenched state power not the tens of millions of progressive people who are demanding a real resistance and a real change.

The photoshopped poster was on the back of the January issue of Liberation. This was the cover story, which you can read here.

The DNC discredited and attacked the Sanders campaign when it posed a challenge. Then once they successfully crushed the uprising within their own party, they turned around and put on a progressive face. After the election, they told marchers to go home and give Trump a “chance” but now post images as if they were part of the protests. The same Democratic senators who approved Trump’s cabinet picks magically showed up at the airport protests with megaphones as if they were the leaders. The same Democratic mayors who say “no collaboration” with Trump have not lifted a finger to really stop the ICE raids, and are in many cases facilitating them.  

At the very moment that Trump was assaulting the health care rights of tens of millions of people, the Democrats in Congress focused on a McCarthyite effort to prove a connection between the Trump campaign and Russia. That GOP healthcare bill failed because it was so terrible and widely hated that it caused divisions within the Republican Party—not because of the “resistance” of Democratic politicians.

The people who are organizing, protesting, and challenging their elected officials, who are sacrificing time, money and energy to stop the Trump Agenda are not doing so because of the Democratic Party, but in spite of it. That is what makes this attempt at co-optation so blatant and outrageous.

This of course is nothing new. Radicals and socialists—who were at the center of so many social movements for labor rights, Black freedom, women’s rights, LGBTQ equality and others—have largely been erased from the history books and popular culture, whether by distortion or outright omission. Contrary to what we learn, emancipation did not come from Lincoln, the New Deal did not come from FDR, civil rights did not come from Kennedy and Johnson, and Roe v. Wade did not come from the Supreme Court. The struggle from below is what compelled all these changes—but the real heroes have been photoshopped from history, substituted for elite and powerful “great men.”

The Party for Socialism and Liberation believes that the time has come for the people to become their own power—to lead, speak, and represent ourselves.

The two major parties have jointly managed a decades-long assault on the country’s working class and most vulnerable communities. The Republicans have done so shamelessly while the Democratic leadership has done so more cleverly and cynically, wrapping their policies superficially in the language of social justice. All organizers and protesters, old and new, have to be alert to this reality, and not allow this new grassroots movement to be redirected behind their narrow electoral aims.   

The Democratic Party is a party of Wall Street and the military-industrial complex and is simply not up to the task of confronting the menace of the Trump Agenda and the far-right. It is a dangerous illusion to expect the Democrats to “persist” against Trump when their whole historical record points to collaboration with the right.

For those who want to keep up the struggle, it is time to organize independently, and we invite everyone who agrees to check out the PSL’s Program and to join us.

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