Walking with Vision for Labor Day

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nwuat.org

By Maria Svart

A union is a group of individuals who get together with their co-workers and approach their boss about conditions at work—together. These individuals are practicing freedom of association. Yet in the capitalist mind, they’re engaged in economic extortion. That’s not a completely wrong analogy, because workers who form a strong union are capable of forcing the boss to share the results of their collective labor more equitably than are non-unionized workers. That’s one thing I learned in my years as a union organizer before joining the staff of DSA: it’s all about power.

That’s why democratic socialists love unions: we want to expand working-class power and restrict capitalist-class power. Unions are where people learn to fight back and win. Strong unions can fight for political reforms. Those political reforms can affect the structure of the economy, thus making it more democratic. This makes unions dangerous to the capitalist class. 

Hence, the current attacks on labor. This September, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that challenges the right of a public-sector union to collect dues from everyone covered by its collective bargaining agreements. If the CTA loses, then the 26 states that still permit unions to collect such dues could become “open shop” states, and public-sector unions could hemorrhage funds.

But the truth is, this is just the latest in decades of assaults on the gains of working people. Governor Scott Walker’s successful rampage in pro-union Wisconsin demonstrates that when big money backs the most extreme version of capitalist ideology, we are unprepared. We have to find new ways to fight back.

How do we organize in the age of the “new normal”? In the Labor Day issue of Democratic Left, you’ll read about glimmers of hope in very dark times.

In the last issue, I talked about the need for solidarity, about acknowledging and building on our differences in order to create a powerful and democratic movement. Even as we come together in solidarity, we need to walk with vision. Capitalists have a vision of endless accumulation for themselves. They either do not know or do not care that the end game is destruction of the planet and of “civilization” as we know it.

To me, walking with vision means fixing my democratic socialist ideals in my sights despite the difficult times. I fight every day in immediate battles to protect Social Security, to defend workers who are standing up for their union rights, to gain full civil and voting rights for everyone, to stop racist police violence. This is how to build power. But I do so while also building a community around me that values cooperation and brings strategic, socialist thinking to the front lines. Our end game is not a planet devastated by greed and ceaseless war. Our end game, in the words of James Oppenheim’s famous poem, “is a sharing of life’s glories: Bread and roses! Bread and roses!”

Maria Svart is the national director of DSA.

This article originally appeared in the fall 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.

Film Discussion: When Abortion Was Illegal

March 26, 2017
· 16 rsvps

Directed by Dorothy Fadiman, When Abortion Was Illegal (1992, nominated for an Academy Award, Best Documentary Short Subject) reveals through first-person accounts the experiences of women seeking abortion before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973. We are one Supreme Court nominee away from a return in many states to back-alley abortions. Join Amanda Williams, Executive Director of the Lilith Fund, to discuss challenges to reproductive justice and abortion access. (Lilith Fund funds abortions for women in need in the Central and South Texas area.) Learn about how to participate in April Bowl-A-Thons to raise funds for low-income women. View the film here for free before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

March 30, 2017
· 50 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.  9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 57 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
· 30 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. Here's a blog post about PHIT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

April 04, 2017
· 57 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-Chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement.  9 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 PM 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 Joseph Schwartz, schwartzjoem@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

What Is DSA? Training Call

April 05, 2017

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

April 12, 2017
· 18 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.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

April 16, 2017
· 8 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.  8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT.