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.

Doug_Ireland.jpg

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.

What Is DSA? Training Call

March 07, 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.

Feminist Working Group

March 07, 2017
· 35 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 15 rsvps

Historian John D'Emilio's presentation will do 3 things: Provide a brief explanation of how sexual and gender identities have emerged; provide an overview of the progression of LGBT activism since its origins in the 1950s, highlighting key moments of change; and, finally, suggest what issues, from a democratic socialist perspective, deserve prioritizing now. John co-authored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. 1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am 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 Peg Strobel, peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 22 rsvps

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 also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 37 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.