|Portland DSA Collecting Signatures For Bernie|
By Dustin Guastella
Scene I: You’ve set up your table. The Socialists for Sanders sign can be seen from ten feet away. You’re wearing a DSA T-shirt. The table is stocked with flyers on Bernie’s positions. The sign-up sheet is in front of you. You’re building DSA and Sanders’s campaign. Someone walks up to the table.
Scene II: You’re at a party and somebody notices your Sanders button or T-shirt. “He seems like a nice guy, but what does he stand for?” “I like his ideas, but I really want a woman president.” “He doesn’t have a chance.”
Linking Bernie’s campaign and our vision of democratic socialism requires real conversations with thousands of workers, students, and voters, many of whom have not heard of Bernie, his platform, or his call for political revolution.
So, what do you say after you say hello? First, listen to the person’s comments and questions, then put the message and the man together.
Link Bernie’s platform to a socialist analysis and a long-term vision of a radically democratic and egalitarian society. For instance, when we talk about Bernie’s commitment to tuition-free public higher education, we should explain why education is a fundamental social right, not a commodity sold to the highest bidder in order to get an edge in the global capitalist marketplace. Just as our country decided to make elementary and secondary education available to everyone, not just the wealthy, we can do the same for higher education, paid for by a financial transaction tax.
When we mention Bernie’s position on wealth redistribution, we make it clear that wealth itself is created by society as a whole and not by a class of capitalists.
You bring up easily relatable and popular key positions: “Bernie is the only candidate pushing for a $15 minimum wage,” “Bernie is the only candidate fighting for free healthcare for all,” and “Bernie is the only candidate pledging to expand the labor movement.” And then you explain why that matters. Bernie’s platform has many strong policy positions. We socialists need to bring the analysis that informs those policies to the foreground.
What if the person is already a “Sanderista” but didn’t even know that DSA existed? Schedule a time to sit down one-on-one and talk about how to make this political revolution a reality. First, find out where the person is coming from. Then, explain how Bernie’s goals and ours fit with their desire for a more equal and democratic future. Explain that we need a parallel social movement to complement Sanders’s electoral movement. If he’s elected, he’s going to need a strong movement behind him. And if he’s not elected the need for such a movement is even greater. Bernie himself has repeatedly stressed the need for increased social movement activity. His supporters need to know that it is not enough to vote for him and go home.
Without a strong socialist organization there can be no strong leftist movement. When you table and leaflet or wear a button or T-shirt, always introduce yourself as a member of DSA and invite enthusiastic Sanders supporters to talk with you at greater length or come to your next local meeting. DSA has been fighting for many of Bernie’s positions for nearly 40 years (way before it was cool!). DSA is training and developing the next generation of socialist leaders, activists, and organizers. If Sanders supporters want to continue this work after the campaign is over, they should see our organization as their political home. Democratic socialists should be front and center of the Sanderista political revolution, but we can only make that happen if we organize and speak up about socialism.
Dustin Guastella is a member of Philadelphia DSA and co-chair of the DSA We Need Bernie campaign. You can find DSA resources at www.dsausa.org/weneedbernie_organizing_materials.
This article originally appeared in the winter 2015 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.