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: When Abortion Was Illegal

March 26, 2017
· 13 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
· 42 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
· 52 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
· 54 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
· 7 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.