From the National Director: Struggle and Victory

By Maria Svart

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. For DSA’s National Political Committee’s talking points on electoral activity between now and November, see here. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

What does it mean that Donald Trump—a man who has built his career on stiffing small businesses and his own workers, on exploiting racialized fears and pro-corporate loopholes in financial regulations—is sounding a faux populist message that combines the usual right-wing talking points about “parasitic” people of color with attacks on free trade and the declining standard of living of most of us?

It means that he sees our pain, he sees our frustration with a political system rigged by the billionaire class, and he sees an opportunity. Yes, it is rigged, but Trump’s policies would make it worse.

The neoliberal capitalist class, including many Democratic politicians, pushes for free trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement and potentially the Trans Pacific Partnership, for example. Trump’s support comes from speaking to this reality, as well as to the racialized fears and hatred that are ingrained in the fabric of U.S. culture and reinforced by institutions.

The ability to fight against these fears is one reason why labor unions matter. Unions are the only large institutions in this country that are led by and for working people and that demand a voice in workplaces, politics, and the economy. Thus, unions can play a unique and critical role in building an antiracist, anticapitalist class consciousness. That’s why we devote the annual Labor Day issue of Democratic Left to exploring issues facing organized workers today, and why we look forward to supporting and seeing where Labor for Bernie goes next.

But we must also discuss our role as open socialists, even outside of labor. We think systemically. We look at the world as it is, we compare it to the world we wish to create, and we develop a strategy that accounts for the true balance of power and the real barriers in our way.

Right now, we have a weak, but growing left. Some 13 million people voted for Bernie Sanders in the presidential primaries. There is a hunger for an alternative to capitalism, and he moved us several steps forward in the war of position, to use a term from theorist Antonio Gramsci.

Our job is to continue building our power.

We can not do so by fighting among ourselves. Not one of us has all the answers, and we need each other for the battles ahead. In fact, listening to each others’ stories of how we came to our different points of view can make us better organizers as well as build a stronger movement. Debate about strategy and tactics must be done in a comradely way.

We don’t need to be in unquestioned unity behind Hillary Clinton. We do need to be in unity behind the short-term goal of strengthening the left by defeating the far right and in distinguishing between neoliberalism and neofascism. We need to be in unity about building a grassroots army of democratic socialist organizers. We need to be in unity about winning real power, independent power, through concrete local fights. We need to be in unity about making racial justice central to our fight for economic justice and part of all the work we do, whether electoral, issue, or direct action, in the coming months and years.

People become empowered through struggle and victory, and the wounds and distrust that divide us are healed through solidarity. None of this is easy. It’s complicated. We all have lessons to learn. Our future depends on our learning those lessons together.

And we have a duty to win.

This article originally appeared in the Labor Day 2016 issue of the Democratic Left magazine.

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 45 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 14 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
· 9 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 8 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 4 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion.