Democratic Left

How Business “Partnerships” Flopped at America’s Largest University

By Lawrence Wittner

The State University of New York (SUNY)―the largest university in the United States, with nearly 600,000 students located in 64 publicly-funded higher education institutions―has served an important educational function for the people of New York and of the United States.  But its recent “partnerships” with private businesses have been far less productive.

In the spring of 2013, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, joined by businessmen, politicians, and top SUNY administrators, embarked upon a widely-publicized barnstorming campaign to get the state legislature to adopt a plan he called Tax-Free NY.  Under its provisions, most of the SUNY campuses, portions of the City University of New York, and zones adjacent to SUNY campuses would be thrown open to private, profit-making companies that would be exempt from state and local taxes on sales, property, the income of their owners, and the income of their employees for a period of ten years.

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Whither the Rainbow? A Golden Opportunity, 1986: DSA Debates Its Role in Electoral Challenges

jackson_slightly_larger.jpgBy Shakoor Aljuwani, with notes by Duane Campbell

The following article appeared in our magazine Democratic Left (Nov.-Dec. 1986), as a part of “Roundtable,” with diverse points of view.  We cannot offer a link to the entire issue because we do not have electronic versions of Democratic Left prior to 2000. Shakoor Aljuwani was the chair of DSA’s Afro-American Commission at the time of this writing. – Duane Campbell

The candidacy of Jesse Jackson and the growth of the Rainbow Coalition were the most exciting developments of the 1984 election. Jackson’s impressive showing in the primaries, winning more than three million votes and more than 400 delegates to the Democratic National Convention shocked political pundits from left to right.  The Rainbow Coalition showed that it is possible to build a broad and powerful constituency of the “locked outs and drop-outs,” the poor, and working people -- a group that in other countries forms the base of parties of the left.  It was the major progressive voice to counter the onslaught of conservatism.  It brought dynamism to the otherwise lifeless efforts of the Democratic party against the Reagan offensive. In doing so, it helped to open up important space for the socialist perspective on the critical issues facing this country.

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Coalition Politics and the Fight for Socialism

By Joseph M. Schwartz

DSA has thrown itself into resistance to Republican rule of all three branches of the federal government and 25 state governments. Highly visible DSA contingents have marched in every significant mobilization since the presidential election and shown up at local town meetings to push back against efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). DSA chapters also are challenging the Democratic pro-corporate establishment at the national, state, and local level. Since the election, in fact, thousands have flocked to DSA to make it—at 21,000 members—the largest socialist organization in this country since the 1960s.

DSA is a rare bird in United States politics: a democratic, national, federated organization (with local and state groups) that is almost completely member-funded. Chapters have considerable local autonomy, and democratically elected local representatives set feasible national priorities at our conventions. DSA is also a multi-tendency organization that believes in democracy as both a means and an end.  We do not compel members to adhere to one ideological line. Our members’ commitment to socialism derives from a multitude of traditions ranging from religious socialists to left social democrats, to various strands of democratic Marxism. We have spirited but comradely internal political discussions. Our most effective chapters build “unity through diversity” by focusing upon a few key activist projects that enable us to work with organizations representing working-class people of all races and nationalities. We function as an independent, visible socialist presence in mass social movements and focus our energy on “non-reformist” or “transformational” reforms—changes in public policy that constrain corporate power and that illustrate how economic democracy better serves people’s needs, such as Medicare for All and free public higher education.

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Reading "Politics in a Time of Crisis" - A View from the Left

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(GUE/NGL / Flickr)

 By Duane Campbell

As we know, the economic crisis of 2008-2012 disrupted the U.S. economy. The crisis was much worse in some of the peripheral countries of Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and Italy among others), and even more destructive in under-developed regions of African and Asia.

Spanish political leader Pablo Iglesias Turrión has written Politics in a Time of Crisis: Podemos and the Future of European Democracy, published in an English translation by Verso Books. Iglesias provides a critical summary of the crisis that began in the U.S. and spread to much of the world, causing political upheavals and leaving misery, starvation, and massive migration in its wake.  

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In Dark Times, Growing Pains And Opportunities

By Maria Svart

DSA is now almost quadruple the size it was last summer. It’s a far cry from the organization I joined sixteen years ago as a student in Chicago. Many longtime members had lost steam, and new folks weren’t joining, yet the politics and strategy of DSA resonated with me. I rose in the ranks as an elected YDS and then DSA leader, eventually joining staff as the National Director in 2011.

During those years, a team of national leaders and staff collectively transformed DSA. We held summer relationship-building retreats between YDS and DSA leaders. We developed more organizing trainings. We made the right strategic choices, such as supporting Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primary and using a highly democratic, bottom-up participatory process to develop a national strategy document, “Resistance Rising.”

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The Fight for Sanctuary in Los Angeles: A Revolutionary Demand

By Promise Li

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Since its inception in mid-February of this year, the Sanctuary City Working Group of the Los Angeles chapter of DSA has secured major victories for sanctuary policies. The group was formed by a group of DSA-LA organizers who are intent on connecting the immediate fight for sanctuary cities to the larger struggle for a just and democratic society.

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When Race & Sports Collide

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(Brook Ward/Flickr)

By John L. Elwell

In America there is hardly ever a moment when race and professional sports are not colliding. Long before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier of Major League Baseball in 1947, and long since Doug Williams became the first African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl in 1988, race has been a key issue and concern for athletes, coaches, and fans of all professional sports. And this is not a purely American issue, as the soccer fields of Europe have had multiple memorable moments where racism and xenophobia have overcome what was meant to be a game. 

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Books by DSA Members

Editors, Democratic Left (magazine)

We have limited space for book reviews, but once a year, we publish a list of books written by DSA members within the past three years. We can only list a book once. If your book is not here, please notify us for next year. Please buy directly from the author or from your local bookstore instead of from an online, non-union behemoth.

Browning, Preston, Struggling for the Soul of Our Country, Wipf and Stock, 2016. Browning asks how the life of citizenship influences our common future and addresses the spiritual dimension of the crises facing the United States.

Early, Steve, Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City, Beacon Press, 2017. Veteran labor reporter and DSA activist Steve Early tells the story of 15 years of community organizing that curbed the power of Big Oil in a California town.

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