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: When Abortion Was Illegal

March 26, 2017
· 12 rsvps

Directed by Dorothy Fadiman, When Abortion Was Illegal (1992, nominated for an Academy Award, Best Documentary Short Subject) reveals through first-person accounts the experiences of women seeking abortion before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973. We are one Supreme Court nominee away from a return in many states to back-alley abortions. Join Amanda Williams, Executive Director of the Lilith Fund, to discuss challenges to reproductive justice and abortion access. (Lilith Fund funds abortions for women in need in the Central and South Texas area.) Learn about how to participate in April Bowl-A-Thons to raise funds for low-income women. View the film here for free before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

March 30, 2017
· 39 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 50 rsvps

Historian John D'Emilio's presentation will do 3 things: Provide a brief explanation of how sexual and gender identities have emerged; provide an overview of the progression of LGBT activism since its origins in the 1950s, highlighting key moments of change; and, finally, suggest what issues, from a democratic socialist perspective, deserve prioritizing now. John co-authored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. 1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am 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 Peg Strobel, peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 30 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. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT. Here's a blog post about PHIT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

April 04, 2017
· 53 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-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 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 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 Joseph Schwartz, schwartzjoem@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

What Is DSA? Training Call

April 05, 2017

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.

Feminist Working Group

April 12, 2017
· 15 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

April 16, 2017
· 6 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT.