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.

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.