Talkin’ Bernie and Socialism

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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.

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 46 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
· 55 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
· 11 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
· 52 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: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 18 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.