Certain Problems Require Socialist Solutions

by Maria Svart

I’m told that Michael Harrington once wistfully commented to colleagues that he had written sixteen books, and on the dust jacket of the sixteenth, the publisher had put, “By the author of The Other America.” It is entirely fitting that Mike should be best remembered for his first work. It influenced President Kennedy, and President Johnson sent Mike a pen from the signing of the Economic Opportunity Act, the War on Poverty. The book has sold well over a million copies.

We should remember, however, that Mike’s other fifteen books were about socialism. Unlike many on the left, Mike was not an impossibilist. He believed that through union organization and an expanded safety net, the lives of everyday people—both the poor and the middle class—could be vastly improved, even under capitalism. Indeed, Mike-the-Socialist was far more optimistic about this than many liberals are today.

Nonetheless, in a subsequent essay, “Poverty and the Eighties,” Mike concluded: “There was progress; there could be more progress; the poor need not always be with us. But it will take a political movement much more imaginative and militant than those in existence in 1980 to bring that progress about.”

What happened? Why, from 1962 to the present, has that movement not come about? Indeed, everything now seems to be moving in the wrong direction. Last July an Associated Press survey of economists predicted that the poverty rate in 2012 would rise to the same level it was in 1965, the year after President Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act.

Continue reading this article where it first appeared in Dissent.

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 42 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 24 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.