Remembering Doug Ireland: Comrade and Friend

By Michael Hirsch

I got the news the modern way that DSA comrade Doug Ireland passed: from the flurry of anguished emails late at night on October 26. Another good one gone, and WAY too soon.

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I was 18 when I first met Doug in 1963. He was younger than me and already a moving force in the early Students for a Democratic Society. With Steve Max and Jim Williams, he formed the Political Education Project, an SDS work group that saw political action as doable by the New Left and a necessary adjunct to its ongoing campus, community and civil rights organizing   Reading a poorly formulated criticism of electoral politics — a piece whose author or provenance I can’t remember but do recall liking and saying so, he shook his head in that wry way you know someone is in for a psychic bruising. “I’ve heard of vulgar Marxism, but this piece is just vulgar,” he said. Looking back, I suspect he was right.

Moving on that commitment to electoral activity, he would soon serve as campaign manager for Bella Abzug in her first — and immediately successful — run for Congress from New York’s upper-west side in 1968. Her victory was iconic, given that she was a virulent critic of the Vietnam War, then insanely escalating under a Democratic president, and her victory validated our critique of the U.S. misadventure.

In a tussle with the candidate over discrete campaign tactics, he told Abzug as reported at the time in the Village Voice — that she’d better shape up or get dismissed by voters “as just another pretty face.” That was something she decidedly was not, and Bella howled with delight. She also heard him. It was pure Doug. He knew humor was a political instrumentality, too.

In later years, Doug worked as a journalist and was a spirited and endlessly clever writer for the Village Voice. Sojourning in Paris, he introduced American readers to the delectable French putdown of self-important intellectuals, usually but not exclusively leaders of microsects. He called them “les grandes têtes pensées” (the big thinking heads), but he was no less dismissive of the right-sloping and frequently anti-intellectual if not pinheaded leaderships of the French Socialist and Communist parties, too.

Back in the USA, he was active as a writer for New York’s Gay City News, identifying himself less as “gay” than as a “queer activist” and being, as Tom Harrison calls him in his sparkling obit on the New Politics blog, “a relentless scourge of the LGBT establishment.”   

Radical, funny and endlessly wise, he is already missed.

Michael Hirsch is a New York City-based labor and political writer and an editor of Democratic Left.

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

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

May 25, 2017
· 34 rsvps

Join DSA's Queer Socialists Working Group to discuss possible activities for the group and its proposed structure. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

What Is DSA? Training Call

May 30, 2017
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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
· 93 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
· 26 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
· 9 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.