DSA’s main task in the coming two-year period is to develop a plausible democratic socialist vision for social justice in the 21st century. We will challenge the attacks of neoliberal capitalist austerity on the rights and freedoms of citizens and on key government programs. We will elaborate this critique and vision in dialogue with fellow social-movement activists and organizations that oppose neoliberalism and seek a better life for all. A discussion of the changed political terrain and DSA’s basic strategic orientation in the coming two years will educate, empower, and grow our current activist core, while equipping DSA with intellectual tools appropriate to this century.
Anti-democratic practices have become a staple of U.S. politics. We have seen it in so-called electoral reforms in many states that restrict the opportunity to exercise the most basic of rights—the right to vote—of minority and other voters based on their party preference. We have seen it in Supreme Court decisions that have equated money with speech, privileging the political rights of corporations, millionaires and billionaires at the expense of the 99%.
Joseph Schwartz speaking at the DSA national convention
DSA National Vice-Chair Joseph M. Schwartz gave this address to a plenary session at the 2013 National Convention. He argued that DSA’s founding strategy assumed that socialists would be the left wing of a revitalized New Deal coalition grounded in the traditional labor movement. But since DSA’s 1982 founding, the Democratic Party’s national leadership (though not all the party's grassroots activists or elected officials) has embraced a bipartisan consensus favoring “the four Ds of neoliberalism”: deregulation, de-unionization, decreasing taxes on the rich, and defunding social services. Thus, DSA strategy has to both defeat the anti-democratic far Right and build ties between a weakened labor movement and movements of the dispossessed: immigrants, low-wage workers, victims of the prison-industrial complex, and indebted recent college graduates. Finally, Schwartz urged DSA to be more militant in its critique of capitalist injustice, while offering a visible socialist alternative to neoliberal capitalism.
Joseph M. Schwartz is a Professor of Political Science at Temple University and a Vice-Chair of DSA. He serves on DSA's National Political Committee and on the executive committee of his AFT local. Active on the left since the anti-Vietnam war movement, Schwartz was the first campus organizer for DSA (1979-81) and has been active in the anti-apartheid movement, the fight for single-payer health care, and the struggle against austerity cuts to funding for education and other vital public services.
Steve Williams is a long-time community organizer in San Francisco and the cofounder and executive director (1997-2012) of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER). He recently completed a listening project with N’Tanya Lee in which they interviewed 150 organizers and activists from around the country. Williams now coordinates Left Roots, a national organization of leftists engaged in various social movements.
John Nichols, the Washington, DC correspondent for The Nation, writes The Beat, a blog, and is cofounder of Free Press and author of many books includingThe "S" Word: A Short History of an American Tradition...Socialism.
Catherine Tactaquin is executive director and cofounder of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. The daughter of an immigrant farmworker from the Philippines, she was involved for many years in grassroots organizing and advocacy in the Filipino community on issues of discrimination and foreign policy. In 1994 she helped to found Migrant Rights International (MRI), a global alliance of migrant associations and other nongovernmental organizations. She represents NNIRR and the Global Coalition on Migration on the Steering Committee of MRI, and is on the board of the Poverty, Race and Research Action Council in Washington DC.
Tom Hayden was a leader of 1960s peace, justice and environmental movements. In 1962 he drafted the “Port Huron Statement,” expressing the idealism of the New Left, and cofounded Students for a Democratic Society. He participated in civil rights work in the South and in Newark, N.J. and in efforts to end the Vietnam War. Elected to the Calif. State Legislature in 1982, he served for 10 years in the Assembly and eight years in the state Senate, authoring more than 175 progressive measures. He is also author of 20 books, includingThe Lost Gospel of the Earth; Ending the War in Iraq; The Long Sixties; Inspiring Participatory Democracy: Student Movements from Port Huron to Today, and Writings for a Democratic Society: The Tom Hayden Reader. Hayden founded and directs the Peace and Justice Resource Center in Culver City, Calif.
Journalist, photographer and author, David Bacon speaking at the 2013 National Convention of Democratic Socialists of America. His topic is the title of his latest book:The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration