Socialist Feminism & the Trump Regime

By Maria Svart

DSA has almost tripled in membership in the past several months and quadrupled in the number of organized local groups in red and blue states. Our growth alone shows that people want to be for something, not just against Donald Trump, and they want to have a voice. We have an ideological perspective that was missing from mainstream political debate until Bernie Sanders’s primary run, and it’s now on us to carry out a strategy to match. For this, we need a socialist feminist approach.

Building Bridges

What does it mean to bring a socialist feminist perspective to organizing? My own story may have some lessons in it. I grew up in a liberal but not left-wing household, watched my extended family win concessions from their bosses through participation in various unions, and became a feminist activist in college. My campus group promoted sex-positivity, abortion rights, and equal pay for women. But it wasn’t enough. I wasn’t satisfied but didn’t know why. Then I attended a Young Democratic Socialists workshop, and the socialist feminist ideas I heard there were like a bolt of lightning. Suddenly I realized what was missing!

My epiphany about the interlocking systems of patriarchy and capitalism led me to bring our feminist group into new fights, such as demanding farmworker rights. I argued that immigrant women in the fields faced unique struggles and asked why the growers chose to hire these particular workers instead of white, male citizens. My feminist group helped kick Taco Bell off our campus; the school then pressured the corporation that owned the Taco Bell brand to pay their suppliers more, who then paid their Florida tomato pickers more.

A similar bridge might be built today by socialist feminists. For example, mainstream feminists can forge solidarity with immigrants around the issue of domestic violence. Undocumented women often don’t report domestic violence to police if they fear deportation. This is a real concern. As I write, a woman sits in a detention center after being picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in February at the El Paso County Courthouse shortly after she obtained a protective order to shield her from the man accused of abusing her.

The same expansive politics can expand the narrow fight for “choice” into one for reproductive justice. Some women now fear abortion will be made illegal, and many of us are contemplating mutual aid solutions, such as the underground abortion services provided by socialist feminists in the pre-Roe days. But poor and working class women already face often insurmountable economic barriers to getting a safe abortion. That’s why every spring DSA chapters across the country participate in the National Network of Abortion Funds Bowl-A-Thon fundraisers and use that opportunity to bring a class analysis to mainstream feminists (check this out on dsausa.org).

Working-class and poor women face many other issues, including affordable, quality child care and access to food stamps, given that almost one in four children live in hunger. The ability to raise a healthy family is a reproductive justice issue. Living-wage jobs, elder care, clean water for the families of Flint, Michigan are all feminist issues.

Healthcare, which we consider a human right and a means to promote democracy, is another bridge issue. Through a socialist feminist lens, we see that women are the primary caretakers of the ill and infirm in our society. Women also suffer disproportionately from medical bankruptcies. Medicare, which saved countless families from bankruptcy and desegregated hospitals virtually overnight, is an example of what we in DSA call a transformative reform. As socialist feminists, we organize not just to protect the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from the GOP, we fight for Medicare for All.

Fighting for Our Lives

Donald Trump and Paul Ryan have both released healthcare reform plans that would harm millions of people. Unfortunately, one reason they have a political constituency for these attacks is that although the Affordable Care Act is lifesaving for many people, for others, the coverage is terrible. Centrist Democrats don’t have an answer for its problems because they are in thrall to the insurance industry.

This is why DSA fights for Medicare for All, which cuts out the insurance corporations. East Bay DSA is training hundreds of members to canvass for California single-payer legislation. NY DSAers, including in areas such as the Lower Hudson Valley and post-industrial cities such as Buffalo, are beginning to organize for the NY Health Act. Our members are asking tough questions in town halls and local media from coast to coast as they reach out to organize the working-class base we will need to win on this and all our issues. Denying healthcare to millions may be more difficult than the GOP hoped, and we have a shot at single-payer plans in at least a few blue states.

The healthcare fight is a clear example of the “simultaneous defensive and offensive and ideological” strategy DSA pursues, one that should be seen through a socialist feminist lens. It’s not going to be easy, which is why we need to think about “resistance fatigue.”

Training Long Distance Runners

In the capitalist patriarchy, women are socialized to bear the unpaid burden of sustaining families and communities. Capitalism pulls us apart, isolates us, and forces us to compete, breaking down the social bonds that hold us together. In this moment, when we are dealing with extreme fear in many communities and near-constant activism, women often do additional emotional labor to heal, or at least keep at bay, the pain and exhaustion many of us feel.

Being socialist feminists means recognizing the importance of that work and learning to share that burden. It means never forgetting that we’re in this fight to link arms with each other and stand together across the walls that capitalism puts between us. We’re in this to build democratic socialist community. We’re in it for the long haul, and we’re in it to win.

Maria120.jpg Maria Svart is the national director of the Democratic Socialists of America.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 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 post submission guidelines can be found here.

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 26 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
· 47 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
· 3 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
· 34 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.