Early on, the CSC decided they would have a direct membership structure. Rather than having a council of representatives from the various socialist organizations, as had been proposed initially, every person involved is part of the CSC. This way, the voices of those who are not members of an existing tendency (who form the majority) don’t get drowned out.
Direct membership is a critical part of the CSC model: its structure makes it easier to talk to working-class Chicagoans about socialism and get the organizing and propaganda boost that having a socialist alderman can give them, but it has the side effect of combatting sectarianism by bringing a diverse group of socialists together to do real organizing work.
It seems possible to incorporate such an element into the development of socialist campaigns on the Green ballot line in New York. Indeed, not to do so would be a real missed opportunity because like Chicago, New York has many socialist groups that don’t talk to one another enough.
The CSC is beginning its campaign by attempting to elect one alderman in one ward, but the long-term aim is to organize working-class and immigrant residents by focusing, uniting, and amplifying Chicago’s interrelated social movements.
This is an old idea for socialists. In the brief period between the 1905 and 1917 revolutions in Russia, the Tsarist state set up a parliament called the Duma. The Bolsheviks had members stand for election, and then, once in office, use their positions to legitimize, publicize, and connect different worker struggles to build a more coherent working-class force. When the Russian state faced a crisis, that electoral work helped equip the Bolsheviks to take state power.
Although Chicago is not on the edge of an October Revolution, this traditional revolutionary socialist thinking underlies the current strategy of the CSC. Whether the CSC wins or loses in February, it will organize more and run additional candidates in new wards.