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.

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 82 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
· 47 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.

 

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 19 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.