Democratic Left

A Brief History of Democratic Socialists of America (1971-2017):

Bringing Socialism from the Margins to the Mainstream

By Joseph M. Schwartz

Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)—and its two predecessor organizations, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) and the New American Movement (NAM)—had their origins in the early 1970s, at the beginning of a long-term rightward shift of U.S. and global politics. This shift to the right—symbolized by the triumph in the 1980s of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher—somewhat overshadowed the central role these organizations played in the movements of resistance to corporate domination, as well as in today's ongoing project: organizing an ideological and organizational socialist presence among trade union, community, feminist and people of color and other activists.

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There Are No Valid Reasons to Leave the Socialist International

Response to DSA Internationalism Committee April 2017 Report

by Enrique Calvo 

            The DSA Internationalism Committee released a report in April proposing that the Democratic Socialists of America either sever ties with or downgrade its status in the Socialist International, “an association of political parties and organizations which seek to establish democratic socialism.” The rationale of the Committee can be boiled down to four arguments: (1) that internationalism costs money, (2) that the DSA should disassociate itself from the policies and programs of the International, (3) that the DSA should disassociate itself from the austerity and neoliberal policies of some parties affiliated with the International in an effort to appease competing parties outside the International such as Podemos in Spain, Die Linke in Germany and SYRIZA in Greece and (4) that the International and the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) routinely ignore the DSA and YDS. These arguments are factually problematic or otherwise unconvincing.

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Social Movement Organizing and Electoral Struggles

A Comradely Response to Mike Hirsch’s commentary (DL blog 6/28/17) on Joe Schwartz’s “Coalition Politics and the Fight for Socialism” (Democratic Left, Summer 2017 and DL blog 6/14/17)

By Joseph M. Schwartz

Mike Hirsch knows my politics and history of social movement activism over the years well enough to know that I would agree with him that democratic socialists should prioritize building social movements that empower working people and communities of color. Electoral politics represents only one tactic in broader movement building. Most of my political work with DSA was first in just such movements (e.g.; tenants’ rights, anti-apartheid).

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Organizing for Resistance

By Jessie Mannisto

Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In
By Bernie Sanders, Thomas Dunne Books, 2016

Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals
By Jonathan Matthew Smucker, AK Press, 2017

We live in a strange new political world, with a bigot in the White House on one hand and a swelling of the democratic socialist ranks on the other. How do we chart a path forward? One way is to learn from experienced leaders on the left, many of whom are putting their experiences out there as books.


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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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