Democratic Left

Sanctuary: In a Great American and International Tradition

By Dan La Botz

Author's note: "I was asked at a recent meeting of the NYC DSA Immigration Justice Working Group to say a few words to put our work in historical context and then asked me to write up my brief talk, because it might be useful to others."

Our sanctuary work is in a great national and global tradition of humanitarianism and it is consistent with our international socialist principles. Our work, while fighting for the reform of the immigration system, has as its goal the abolition of the capitalist system that causes involuntary mass migration. And while using existing law to defend immigrants and fighting for better laws, we stand opposed to the concept of the national state, which will never respect and defend immigrants as equals in our society.

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Trump and the Politics of Fluid Masculinities

By James W. Messerschmidt and Tristan Bridges

In the 1950s, a collection of sociologists and psychologists (which included, among others, Theodor Adorno) wrote The Authoritarian Personality. They were attempting to theorize the type of personality — a particular psychology — that gave rise to fascism in the 1930s. Among other things, they suggested that the “authoritarian personality” was characterized by a normative belief in absolute obedience to their authority in addition to the practical enactment of that belief through direct and indirect marginalization and suppression of “subordinates.” While Adorno and his colleagues did not consider the gender of this personality, today gender scholars recognize authoritarianism as a particular form of masculinity, and current U.S. president Donald Trump might appear to be a prime illustration of a rigid and inflexible “authoritarian personality.”

Yet Trump’s masculinity avoids a direct comparison to this label precisely because of the fluidity he projects. Indeed, the “authoritarian personality” is overly fixed, immutable, and one dimensional as a psychoanalytical personality type. Sociologists understand identities as more flexible than this. Certain practices of Trump exemplify the fluctuations of masculinity that illustrate this distinction, and the transformations in his masculinity are highly contingent upon context. While this is a common political strategy, Trump’s shifts are important as they enable him to construct a “dominating masculinity” that perpetuates diverse forms of social inequality. Dominating masculinities are those that involve commanding and controlling interactions to exercise power and control over people and events.  These masculinities are most problematic when they also are hegemonic and work to legitimize unequal relations between women and men. Here are a few examples:

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Beyond the Socialist International: Report-Back on the Acampamento Internacional

By Ella Mahony 

Last month, I and Neal Meyer, as representatives of the DSA, attended the Acampamento Internacional de Juventudes em Luta (the International Encampment of Youth in Struggle) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The Acampamento is organized by a current within Brazil’s Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSOL), designed both as a congress for its youth wing and as a convocation of international solidarity.

PSOL was formed in 2004 after Brazil’s Workers Party (PT), purged its left wing in an effort to pass an austerity-style pension reform. The purged activists regrouped as PSOL, which is a multi-tendency party, with several internal currents (who maintain their own international affiliations), and which promotes democratic socialism. As of 2016 it had 122,396 active members and 73 elected officials, some of whom are fairly influential, such as Marcelo Freixo and Jean Wyllys.

Present were delegations from socialist parties and currents in Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Peru, the United Kingdom, and Portugal.

Overall, the Acampamento was a powerful experience, from which we drew several new lessons. Those lessons can be broadly separated into two themes: (1) how best to renew DSA’s internationalist commitments and (2) organizing ideas inspired by the Acampamento that can be applied to DSA’s work back home. Theme 1 will be addressed here and Theme 2 will be addressed in my next Democratic Left post.

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What is Net Neutrality ?

By Julianne Tveten

Kitchen Table Socialism:

This spring, Congress passed anti-online-privacy legislation that could hinder organizing efforts by groups like DSA while channeling millions of dollars into corporations. President Donald Trump signed into law a bill that allows Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to harvest sensitive data, such as medical information, geolocation, and Web-browsing history, and sell it to advertisers. 

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Democrats 2018: I Mean, Have You Seen Their Slogans?

By Jeremy Mele

These days, everything seems dire. Donald Trump is president, “alternative facts” are running amok, Republicans are trying to use their power to kick millions of people off health insurance, and, perhaps worst of all, there's no end in sight. Fortunately, the Democrats have announced new slogans to win over voters and take back the government. Unfortunately, those slogans are awful, and suggest the same tired and substanceless catch-phrasing that lost them the 2016 election (remember “America is already great?”)

The worst offender in this cavalcade of B-list ad copy has to be the one that reads, “Democrats 2018: I Mean, Have You Seen the Other Guys?” This forced and lazy attempt at a call to action points to a repeated failure to connect to all but the most dedicated Democratic voters on anything beyond a superficial level.

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How to Canvass Door to Door

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By Jamie Gardner 

This spring, the East Bay DSA, working with the California Nurses Association, mobilized almost 200 volunteers for door-to-door canvassing to educate voters about the benefits of single-payer health care. The response was so positive that the local plans to use canvassing for a variety of issues.—Ed.

Why canvass?

Door-to-door canvassing can be very effective in reaching folks who wouldn’t otherwise encounter our message. We’ve been experimenting with both big city-wide canvassing events and smaller, neighborhood-focused groups. By election season, we hope to have trained 1,000 local leftists to canvass—giving us a powerful tool to back socialists in local elections.

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WHEN THE WORK IS PHD: UNION STRUGGLES ON CAMPUS

by Douglas Williams

To an outsider, the work that a graduate student has to do might seem easy. A bunch of people who get paid to read and write all day, yeah? What could be easier than that?

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Pentagon Cries Poverty as Trump Marches to War

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(Flickr/David Owen)

 By William D. Hartung

When Donald Trump’s administration ordered the bombing of a Syrian air base in response to a chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians, the decision was greeted warmly in the mainstream media, as if it were a well-considered decision designed to dissuade the Assad regime from engaging in further chemical attacks. It was not. It was at best an emotional outburst, at worst an effort to distract attention from the growing scandal over the Trump team’s ties to Russia. It had no military significance, as the airfield that was hit by 59 cruise missiles—at a cost of $89 million—was up and operating the next day. But it did risk escalation of a war in Syria in which the United States has been far from passive, dispatching Marines and Special Forces to the battlefield and dropping 12,000 bombs on Syrian targets in the past year alone. Assad’s killing of civilians in the hundreds of thousands is a crime against humanity, but dropping more bombs will only make matters worse.

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