Democratic Left Magazine - Winter 2014

Shut Out from Democracy

By Bilal Dabir Sekou

The 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gave all male citizens the right to vote regardless of “previous condition of servitude,” and the 19th Amendment extended the franchise to women, but an estimated 5.85 million ex-felons have been disenfranchised by restrictive legislation in 48 states and the District of Columbia that prevents people convicted of a felony from voting. Only Vermont and Maine allow prisoners to vote, even though every state counts their bodies in apportioning congressional districts. According to the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy project, some 75% of disenfranchised citizens are people who are no longer in prison but on probation or parole supervision. In some states, ex-felons who long since completed their sentence are still barred from voting. Let me emphasize that last point: some 2.6 million people who have paid their “debt to society” are not allowed to participate in the most fundamental act of a democratic country because they live in the 12 states that deny ex-felons the right to vote.

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The Legacy of Occupy Wall Street

Three years ago this fall, Occupy Wall Street (OWS) set up its tents in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park and hunkered down for a long stay. Occupy has yet to receive the in-depth historical examination it deserves, but one thing that the movement’s chroniclers will almost certainly agree upon is that it “changed the conversation” about income inequality and Wall Street’s economic and political dominance.

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Young Democratic Socialists prepare to march on October 5, 2011, the day Occupy Wall Street and its labor allies shut down the Brooklyn Bridge
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Capital, Kapital, and the Continuing Struggle

By Bill Barclay

Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty

What can you say about a book that has been reviewed dozens of times, was a New York Times best seller for three weeks, led to numerous book discussion groups, and has been a cultural phenomenon? You can say that Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century (hereafter Capital) is worth the fuss. It has brought what socialists have known for a long time to the wider public.

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Making DSA More Accessible

By Mark Alper

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 expanded the scope of accessibility beyond state and federal programs to include obligations for compliance by the private sector. Private membership groups such as DSA are exempted from the requirement to comply with the law, but as a democratic socialist organization committed to the expansion of democracy, we should be pro-active in making our meetings and activities welcoming to people with disabilities. Creativity and openness to experimentation will aid this process. Start by asking your comrades who are differently abled what they need from you.

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A Socialist Strategy for the 21st Century

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Frank Reynoso

By Jared Abbott and Joseph M. Schwartz

DSA’s current organizational statement of principles and strategic vision, “Building the Next Left,” was written almost 20 years ago, when the political and economic situation was different from that of today. It’s time for a new statement, and the 2013 national convention mandated a two-year, organization-wide discussion in preparation for the rewriting.

Our long-term goal continues to be to achieve a democratic socialist society in which institutions—be they political, economic, social, or cultural—are democratically controlled by their participants. On the way from here to there, what are the intermediate steps, the strategy? 

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Novels for the Not-Yet-Socialists: Young Adult Fiction

We asked members of the YDS Coordinating Committee what novels they might give to a younger sibling this holiday season or what had influenced them. If you have a young adult on your gift list, you might want to check them out (or read or re-read them yourself). We encourage you to order from a local independent booksellerEd.

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After Ferguson

Maria Svart Interviews Darnell L. Moore

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Darnell L. Moore

After Michael Brown was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, this past summer, writer and educator Darnell L. Moore helped organize, with Patrisse Cullors, the Black Lives Matter ride over the Labor Day weekend.  This action brought protesters to Ferguson to join the ongoing demonstrations against police brutality and increased militarization of the police. DSA National Director Maria Svart spoke with Moore soon after his return from #FergusonOctober, a mass mobilization attended by thousands of people from around the country, including some DSAers. Brown and Svart discussed building a movement against both capitalism and the so-called “colorblind” system of race relations that sustains white supremacy.

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Don’t Mourn, Organize!

As democratic socialists, we have a long-term vision and, by necessity, a long-term strategy. At the same time, we must understand the current terrain in order to get us from here to there. Last month’s election results were disastrous for the Democratic Party and, by extension, the progressive movement. Not just because who holds state power has real implications (should we hold our breath about a national right-to-work law or more governors enacting policies from the ALEC playbook?), but also because, for many people, elections are their only engagement with the political process, and they engage in elections around one of the two major parties.

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