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.

Talking About Socialism Webinar

March 25, 2018

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Join Steve Max, a founder of the legendary community organizing school, the Midwest Academy, to practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table or canvass. This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources. Questions? Contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.

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March 28, 2018

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April 08, 2018

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