Generation Left: Millennials Building the Next Socialist Movement

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Attendees at the YDS conference in February 2016 gather for a group photo.

By Louie Messina

The 2016 national YDS Winter Conference, aptly titled “Generation Left: Millennials Building the Next Socialist Movement,” was a powerful demonstration of the widespread excitement and motivation that is growing in today’s Left, especially among its youth leaders. The conference was held at the MayDay Community Center in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, Feb. 12-14. The event served as a successful forum for education, networking, and camaraderie for over 100 young activists and socialists. 

As was to be expected, some of the weekend was focused on the Sanders campaign, and what we, as young socialists, can do to show our support. The main topic for discussion at the conference, however—and the Berning question in everyone’s minds—was, of course: “What comes after the campaign?” The opening plenary of the conference, titled “Building on Bernie: What Comes Next,” sought to address this question.

Co-sponsored by Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung and moderated by Moumita Ahmed, from People for Bernie, this exciting session set the tone for the rest of the conference. Speakers from Jacobin magazine, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, and College Students for Bernie, as well as the We Need Bernie Committee of the DSA, addressed a packed room—filled with socialists, young and old—who were more than happy to fill all available space. Each speaker discussed what their organization was doing to help the campaign and how they were using it as a means to build up the socialist movement. The plenary provided all who attended with a demonstration of the multiple different ways in which we as young socialists can get involved in educating the public and garnering support for the DSA and for socialism in general. In addition, many informative workshops, plenaries, and even casual conversations, addressed the true impact of the Sanders campaign and how we should use it as a means to a greater end, by building the DSA and building the next socialist movement. 

Though the YDS winter conferences never lack fun and excitement, they are essential to the growth of our organization, as they always provide high quality discussion and opportunities for education to both new members and seasoned veterans. I was able to attend a wide variety of informative workshops and plenaries over the weekend that branched out from the normal Sanders rhetoric, which many of us are already well versed in. Among my personal favorites were two workshops, one of which was entitled “Fighting the Neoliberal University” and the other, “Coalition Work and Solidarity.” The first of these, “Fighting the Neoliberal University,” was of particular interest to me, as my own chapter at Sewanee University is discussing the possibility of a campaign for workers’ rights for those employed by our school. The workshop provided valuable information about some of the challenges and strategies of running such a campaign. All the speakers provided helpful commentary and tips, and were able to answer all of my detailed questions. Other topics of discussion included Gender and Sexuality, Socialist Feminism, Starting a YDS Chapter, Alternative Labor Organizing, and Climate Change and Capitalism—all of which are important aspects of our organization and our political movement.

In many ways, the Sanders campaign has already sparked the next socialist movement, but it doesn’t stop there. It is up to us to continue being social justice activists, continue speaking out against capitalism and the systems of oppression which it creates, continue campaigning for socialist candidates, and continue feeding the fire. This conference was evidence of the desire for change that already exists in our nation’s youth. With so many people feeling the Bern, we must seize this opportunity to create a red-hot political revolution. 

Louie Messina is an at-large member of the YDS Coordinating Committee and co-chair of the Executive Board of the Sewanee YDS chapter.

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

 

What Is DSA? Training Call

May 30, 2017
· 57 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

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· 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

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· 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.