Climate Change, Keystone XL, Sequestration and Beyond

Climate activists are justifiably fearful of the changes that runaway “Global Warming” can make to our world. Fear of climate change and its effects is justified and important. Fear is a two-edged sword. How can activists fight corporate-backed campaigns for fear at work?

But “fear at work” also is an effective weapon for corporations and banks and their political servants, elected and otherwise, who are fighting to maintain the carbon-based status quo.  Through the Tea Party, the Republican Party and right-wing think tanks, the fossil fuel industry is working to block progress on combating climate change by spreading mistrust of science and government and by promoting fears of job losses if Americans try to replace our carbon based economy with a saner and greener one.

Working families in the U.S., those that are paying attention, rightly fear the violent, destructive storms, droughts and wildfires that already are accompanying climate change, even without the added carbon-intensive tar sands development the Keystone pipeline would enable.

But working Americans also fear potential higher energy costs that the power companies are claiming would result from actually jettisoning fossil fuels and adopting alternative energy sources. American construction workers of all trades, and their unions, fear the loss of good, skilled jobs now being dangled by corporate proponents of the pipeline and other mega-energy projects that can only make “global warming” worse.

While corporations play on our economic fears, the centuries-old, accelerating process of industrial growth under basically capitalist auspices threatens to make planetary warming irreversible. As democratic socialists, we say all progressive forces have to fight back for public control of this dangerous moment.

Fear drives both sides of the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline. Why is this disastrously bad energy project even being considered by the Obama administration and some of its allies? Because the energy companies that hope to profit from it are proposing to put money into creating the relatively few decent-paying jobs that many Americans in the depressed construction trades have seen for years.

Why is the future course of U.S. energy development largely being dictated by the same corporations that have brought our nation to its knees, both environmentally and economically?  Because our formally democratic government, which is supposed to champion the public interest, is all too often in the hands of the corporate lobbyists who also dominate fundraising for both major political parties.

The odious Keystone XL project reveals the web of global corporate influence that constrains public investments in the public interest and that has tilted U.S. government policies into favoring, even subsidizing, private investments against the public interest.

As climate activists battle to stop the pipeline, we must tackle the wider task of reversing the stranglehold of private capital on the public’s consciousness and the government’s choices. And because economics is critically important to how most voters think, climate activists must counter the economic “Fear at Work” campaign that the fossil fuel advocates are deploying to keep our society captive to their agenda.

To counter Economic Fear, climate activists must:

  • Support not a “carbon tax” that people have been told will cause higher consumer prices, but instead support what climate scientist James Hansen has called a “fee and rebate” plan, one that would tax carbon-based fuels at the source, then use the money to fund generous tax refunds for all Americans on a per capita basis. We must work to insure that the majority will gain income–not lose it–from carbon curbs.
  • Join with construction unions in fighting for more funding of needed infrastructure repair and construction projects, especially green ones, so that construction workers can have decent-paying jobs that are environmentally sustainable.
  •  Support President Obama and political progressives–and even political conservatives, if they cooperate–in promoting greater federal funding for public transit systems and renewable energy development, again with the objective of promoting “green” jobs.
  • Support the existing Labor Network for Sustainability (LNS) and the “Blue Green Alliance” of conservationists and labor unions in its work to promote green jobs.
  • Strenuously oppose any deficit-driven “Sequestration” deal that defunds needed social programs, thus increasing the financial stress on millions of Americans and pushing them towards supporting even dirty and destructive energy projects for economic reasons.

Climate-friendly alternative development can support the creation of good, skilled jobs when managed by the public in its own interest–not captured by corporations. A key step towards such development must include a publicly managed jobs program to transition from carbon-based energy to alternative energy, but without the disruptive job losses that workers rightly fear if alternative energy development is left up to corporate and/or market forces alone.

Tell your representatives to fight “sequester” cutbacks in social spending and to back public renewable energy jobs and a “cap and dividend” plan as the first step toward freeing American politics from the corporate politics of fear. Alternative energy will benefit, not burden, consumers, if working people get their say. American democracy should guarantee us a voice in what kind of energy is produced–and with what impacts on employment–and by whom.

Credit: Metro Washington DC DSA


What Is DSA? Training Call

May 30, 2017
· 57 rsvps

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 95 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 27 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

June 13, 2017
· 14 rsvps

Join Bill Barclay, Chicago DSA co-chair, and Peg Strobel, National Political Committee and Feminist Working Group co-chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement. 9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Bill Barclay,
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt,, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 7 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
· 5 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.