Keep Pushing

by Chris Maisano
Democratic Left - Spring 2012

When he campaigned for the White House in 2008, President Obama spoke admiringly of Ronald Reagan’s status as a transformational figure who reshaped the nation’s political order. In his State of the Union speech and in recent campaign appearances, Obama has sought to channel the Gipper’s sunny, can-do spirit by declaring that “America is back.” That’s news to us, and it’s news to the tens of millions of Americans still grappling with the devastation the Great Recession left in its wake. Fifty years after Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) founder Michael Harrington published his groundbreaking book The Other America, the poor are not only still with us; over the last decade, their ranks have grown dramatically. DSA Vice-Chair Joseph Schwartz surveys the grim landscape of poverty in the contemporary U.S., while the distinguished historian Maurice Isserman reflects on the ways in which Harrington’s democratic radicalism resonates in our own time.

Such hardships, of course, are not confined to our own country. A global crisis has produced suffering on a global scale, and the comparatively humane countries of Europe have not escaped its terrible grasp. The eminent sociologist Norman Birnbaum has been a keen observer of European society and politics for decades, and in this issue he applies his characteristic acuity to the contemporary crisis of European social democracy. From Greece to Spain to Ireland to France to Germany, the principles of solidarity and social welfare are under attack. They may not hold up under the combined pressures of the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, and the financial elite. Capitalism’s clear inability to deliver the goods,combined with the passing of the Cold War, have created clear political openings for socialists. Whether we take advantage of them is, of course, up to us.

But the story is not solely one of doom and gloom. As Phillip Logan, an Ohio-based Young Democratic Socialists (YDS) activist, demonstrates in these pages, the long economic crisis has made American youth increasingly open to progressive political alternatives. If recent public opinion polls are to be believed, a majority of young adults actually prefer “socialism” (which the polls leave undefined) to “capitalism” (also left undefined). Capitalism’s clear inability to deliver the goods, combined with the passing of the Cold War, have created clear political openings for socialists to take advantage of; whether we do so is of course up to us.

YDS has wasted no time in doing so. In February, the youth section held its annual outreach conference in New York; it was one of the biggest and most successful youth conferences in years. Skyrocketing student debt, cuts to public education funding, and the spectacular emergence of the Occupy movement have reinvigorated youth and student politics in the U.S., and YDSers have been on the front lines of the movement on campuses and in communities across the country. Temple University YDSer Beth Cozzolino reports on the conference’s highlights and considers the prospects for rebuilding a new democratic Left for the 21st century.

These are interesting times indeed, and if there is to be a future for our vision and our values, DSAers will need to settle in for a long-term battle. The challenges are daunting, but there are signs that the tide may be starting to turn, however slightly, our way. Let’s keep pushing.

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 53 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
· 20 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
· 12 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
· 5 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
· 12 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.