Make That Leap

by Chris Maisano

by Chris Maisano
Democratic Left - Summer 2012

In the last issue of Democratic Left, Norman Birnbaum, the distinguished academic with a keen eye for European affairs, looked into the future and saw what he called an “asocial Europe” staring back at him. The tone of the article is deeply pessimistic. He concluded, “the socialist and social democratic compromise with capitalism no longer works: the new capitalism renounces welfare.”

The last few years have given us all the evidence we need to recognize the veracity of Birnbaum’s claim. Since the financial collapse of 2007-2008 and the grinding recession it left in its wake, European political and financial elites have taken advantage of the turmoil to impose a savage austerity program on the peoples of the most financially distressed countries in the European Union – Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and above all, Greece, where a book of “starvation recipes” reminiscent of those popular during the Nazi occupation has become a publishing sensation. Of course, this program has not solved the crisis. It has only deepened it and allowed it to spread, threatening the project of European integration itself.

The spirit of revolt that was born last year in the Arab Spring and caught by the throngs who occupied the state capitol in Wisconsin, the public squares of Spanish and Israeli cities, and the citadel of Capital itself in a tiny park in lower Manhattan, has finally made itself felt at the ballot boxes. After a campaign in which he declared war on austerity and the world of finance, François Hollande defeated Nicolas Sarkozy and captured France’s presidency for the Socialist Party for the first time in 17 years (and only the second time in the history of the Fifth Republic).

At the other end of the Continent, Greek voters put an end to not only a particular government, but an entire political regime. The center of Greek politics collapsed under the weight of social crisis as voters flocked to anti-austerity parties on the Left – particularly Syriza, the coalition of the radical Left that emerged as the clear winner of the election – and the Right. The Greek situation was incredibly fluid and ambiguous as we went to press, with the inability of the leading parties to form a stable coalition government pointing toward new elections in the very near future. But if Syriza can broaden its base and marginalize a growing threat from the far Right, the Greeks might strengthen the hand of anti-austerity forces everywhere and show the world that the exit from the crisis is on the Left.

On this side of the Atlantic, the contest between President Obama and Mitt Romney offers no prospect for a similar radical breakthrough in the electoral arena. But as DSA Vice-Chair Joseph Schwartz argues in his comment on the election, an Obama victory would likely result in a more favorable political terrain for the further growth and development of the social movements we need to change American politics.

In recent weeks, two issues have emerged as focal points in the campaign: student debt and women’s reproductive freedoms.

Student debt is on the agenda in no small part because of the rising tide of protest among students and young workers on campuses and in the Occupy movement. Young Democratic Socialists (YDS) activists have been on the front lines of the struggle, and YDS National Organizer Andrew Porter reports on their activities in this issue.

Since the Republicans swept the 2010 midterm elections, they’ve launched an all-out offensive on women’s rights that have restricted reproductive freedoms and cowed women’s ostensible representatives in the institutionalized feminist movement. New York-based YDS activist Amber Frost takes them on and makes the case for a bold and unapologetic socialist-feminism. “From resistance to counter-offensive, however, is a leap not yet taken.” That’s how Birnbaum concluded his assessment of our political fortunes. I agreed with him at the time, but I don’t think I’m still with him now. We’re poised at the edge of resistance, knees bent, getting ready to finally make that leap. Whether we land on our feet, however, is another question.

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 36 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 51 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 6 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
· 44 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.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 69 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
· 18 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.