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.

Lessons in Organizing from the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union

January 17, 2017
· 51 rsvps

Join DSA Vice-Chair Chris Riddiough to explore what we can learn from the work of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (1969-77), the largest of the socialist feminist women’s unions of the 1970s, which had a rock band, a graphics collective, the underground abortion collective JANE, and numerous other projects. Check out their website and join the discussion via internet connection.

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 41 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 10 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
· 7 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

February 15, 2017
· 50 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.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 6 PM MT; 5 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 1 rsvp

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But check out their short the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 2 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.