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.

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 36 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 51 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
· 6 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.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
· 43 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.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 68 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
· 17 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.