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.

What Is DSA? Training Call

May 30, 2017
· 60 rsvps

If you're a new DSAer, have been on a new member call, but still have questions about DSA's core values/strategy/core work and how to express these ideas in an accessible way to the media, as well as to friends, family and others who might be interested in joining DSA, this call is for you. 

We will talk through the basics of DSA's political orientation and strategy for moving toward democratic socialism, and also have call participants practice discussing these issues with each other. By the end of the call you should feel much more comfortable thinking about and expressing what DSA does and what makes our organization/strategy unique. 8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT. 70 minutes.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 95 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. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 27 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. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

June 13, 2017
· 14 rsvps

Join Bill Barclay, Chicago DSA co-chair, and Peg Strobel, National Political Committee and Feminist Working Group co-chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement. 9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Bill Barclay, chocolatehouse@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Pride

September 10, 2017
· 7 rsvps

Join DSA members Eric Brasure and Brendan Hamill to discuss the British film Pride (2014). It’s 1984, British coal miners are on strike, and a group of gays and lesbians in London bring the queer community together to support the miners in their fight. Based on the true story of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners. The film is available for rent on YouTube, Amazon, and iTunes. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Union Maids

September 24, 2017
· 5 rsvps

 

Join DSA member and labor historian Susan Hirsch in discussing Union Maids (1976). Nominated for an Academy Award, this documentary follows three Chicago labor organizers (Kate Hyndman, Stella Nowicki, and Sylvia Woods) active beginning in the 1930s. The filmmakers were members of the New American Movement (a precursor of DSA), and the late Vicki Starr (aka Stella Nowicki) was a longtime member of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. It’s available free on YouTube, though sound quality is poor. 8ET/7CT/6MT/5PT.