Occupy Davis to Democratic Socialism

Davis Democratic Socialists

By Melody Yee

In 2011, millions of people saw the footage of police officer John Pike pepper-spraying seated, unarmed protesters at the University of California-Davis, and many followed subsequent investigations, demonstrations, and court cases. But an under-reported story from Occupy Davis is that the movement brought together five activists, including one of those who were attacked, to form the Davis Democratic Socialists (DDS), which is affiliated with the Young Democratic Socialists (YDS). It now has about 20 active members and is one of the most politically active groups on the UC Davis campus. 

For the past few quarters, we have worked closely with two of the unions on campus: AFSCME Local 3299, which represents the on-campus service workers and the patient-care workers in the UC medical centers, and UAW local 2865, which represents the academic student employees (such as tutors, readers, and teaching assistants). Although our short-term goal is to build student support for each union’s contract campaign, our ultimate goal is to build a lasting network between workers and students so we can fight for a more just, equitable, and democratic university.

To foster support for these campaigns, we have conducted public political education events such as an ice cream social(ist), at which YDS National Organizer Neal Meyer explained socialism over ice cream, and a lecture by Counterpunch editor Jeffrey St. Clair on the state of the U.S. left and the life of a political journalist. We conducted internal education on privatization of the university so that we could better support both AFSCME and UAW workers in their short-term strikes against the university.

Our support for the unions has been creative and varied, from banner drops to marches to giving testimony at the bargaining table. During the AFSCME strike on November 20, 2013, hundreds of workers, graduate students, and undergrads came out to protest the university’s intimidation tactics. In April, UAW 2865 held an Unfair Labor Practice strike, for which about 200 undergraduates came out in support.

Painting the Big Picture

But what does socialist organizing look like for students? We always aim to weave in a socialist narrative—one that connects issues such as feminism, racism, homophobia, and imperialism—with issues facing fellow students and workers on campus. For example, we link problems such as increasing class sizes, the over-reliance on adjunct lecturers, and the systematic defunding of the ethnic studies departments as examples of how the university has been adopting a more corporate model, which values profits over human dignity and even education itself. We make the argument that, as socialists, we must fight for a university community run collectively by students and all workers and a democratic society run by all, not just the privileged few. We are still very far from our goal. However, with every heart we turn and every campaign we win, we march ever closer.

  Melody Yee is a second-year neurobiology, physiology, and behavior major at UC-Davis and the current convener of the Davis Democratic Socialists.

This article originally appeared in the summer 2014 issue of the Democratic Left magazine.

Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog 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

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.