Democratic Left

Review: Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War”

 Review: Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War”

 By Maurice Isserman

Say what you will about the Vietnam War, it had a great soundtrack. Feature and documentary filmmakers have, of course, long appreciated this—cue “The End” by the Doors for the unforgettable opening sequence of 1979’s Apocalypse Now, and, about a decade later, Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” for a long, wet, and ominous combat patrol sequence in HBO’s documentary, Dear America: Letters Home from Vietnam (1987).

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DSA Priorities Resolution 2017

Priorities Resolution for DSA National Convention August 3-6, 2017  Finalized September 7, 2017

Whereas national conventions set the main political and organizational priorities that govern the Democratic Socialists of America’s national work over the next two years, particularly in regard to the time and resources of national staff and the elected national political leadership, the National Political Committee (NPC), devoted to these tasks;

Whereas a nationally coordinated campaign, with the national staff and NPC supplying relevant guidance, literature and political education, in favor of both national and state-level Medicare for All and single-payer legislative bills and citizen initiatives (where possible) would provide DSA chapters the ability to campaign for a transformative working-class demand that would socialize the health insurance industry;

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What Should Socialists Do?

By Joseph M. Schwartz and Bhaskar Sunkara

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has 25,000 members. Its growth over the past year has been massive — tripling in size — and no doubt a product of the increasing rejection of a bipartisan neoliberal consensus that has visited severe economic insecurity on the vast majority, particularly among young workers.

No socialist organization has been this large in decades. The possibilities for transforming American politics are exhilarating.

In considering how to make such a transformation happen, we might be tempted to usher those ranks of new socialists into existing vehicles for social change: community organizations, trade unions, or electoral campaigns — organizations more likely to win immediate victories for the workers that are at the center of our vision. Why not put our energy and hone our skills where they seem to be needed the most? Workers’ needs are incredibly urgent; shouldn’t we drop everything and join in these existing struggles right now?

While it’s crucial to be deeply involved in such struggles as socialists, we also have something unique to offer the working class, harnessing a logic that supports but is different from the one that organizers for those existing vehicles operate under. Here’s a sketch of a practical approach rooted in that vision that can win support for democratic social change in the short run and a majority for socialist transformation in the long run.

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Making the Unions Strong

Joseph A. McCartin Talks with Maxine Phillips


PATCO strikers at Detroit Labor Day rally

The U.S. labor movement is facing some of its greatest assaults in more than a hundred years. On this Labor Day 2017, we asked labor historian Joseph A. McCartin what lies ahead and how labor and its allies can make gains in such a hostile environment.—Ed.

DL: When many of us think about the modern-day attacks on labor unions, we think of the way Ronald Reagan broke the Professional Air Traffic Controllers’ Union (PATCO) in 1981. You’ve written about that strike and its effects, but do the roots of the attack go back further?

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Trump is wrong on DACA. We will not retreat.


DSA Immigrants’ Rights Committee Statement on DACA

President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, under pressure from a nine-state coalition led by the Texas Attorney General, represents another racist attack by his administration on immigrants, in this case on young people who were brought into the United States as children.  The undersigned members of the Democratic Socialists of America denounce the repeal of DACA and maintain solidarity with the nearly one million DACA recipients who will become targets for harassment and deportation by ICE.

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How We Fight


By Maria Svart

What is a union? Put simply, it’s a collection of workers who decide they have a common interest, an interest that is in conflict with their boss.

More precisely, it is the organization those workers form so that they can negotiate with their boss collectively, instead of individually, over the terms of their employment. They do so by threatening to disrupt their boss’s accumulation of profit, by withholding their labor. But their power goes beyond just one workplace and one employer. Unions are the only enduring institutions in the United States that are dedicated to being run by and for the working class—through pooling of dues money—to advance their class interests in the economy and in the formal political arena. 

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In the Fields of the North/ En Los Campos del Norte


by David Bacon  University of California Press, 2017

Reviewed by Duane Campbell

 “We are not animals. We are human beings.”

In an impressive and important new book, David Bacon effectively counters the racism and xenophobia advanced by our current president and promoted in right-wing media by providing hundreds of photos and clear descriptions of the real life and work of the immigrants harvesting the food we eat. 

Bacon does so by interviewing farmworkers and photographing farmworkers in their “housing” and in their work. He reports and records the humanity of the thousands of people who come north to harvest our crops and to feed their families as best they can.


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The Potential Impact of Energy Micro Grids


By Daniel Adkins

The energy sector is changing as renewables enter the picture.  The traditional model of a utility, buying from distant producers and delivering service across states, is being challenged by local production.  Micro grids facilitate these changes by balancing renewable power.  These grids can operate independently and thus offer redundancy and potentially local control.  This change offers a breakthrough for democracy, as some utilities like Dominion Energy run their operation by choosing their political bosses.  Sometimes this slows down the transition to renewables by buying leases and not using them and other techniques.  As long as there is a robust education system, there is little reason why a state cannot power itself using networks of micro grids (public and private) and using the utility as a coordinator.  Utilities need not be the states’ unofficial energy department.  Networks of local control are opposed to the reality of our corporations having so much influence that they run our government and continue to invest in fossil fuels.

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