Working Smart in the Class Struggle

By Maria Svart

When billionaires claim, as investor Sam Zell has, that “The 1% work harder,” I can only respond, “Why yes, you are working harder than the rest of us in the class struggle. Of course we are envious of your wealth—you stole it from us!”

Make no mistake: over the last 40 years, a small group of people has gained much at the expense of almost everyone else. The right wing governs “top to bottom” in almost half of the states and seems poised to extend that dominance at the federal level. They have rigged the game, and the only way for our side to win is to organize.

But understanding economic injustice isn’t enough. Conditions for protest have changed. There is no such thing as “work-life balance.” Most people are perpetually anxious about meeting their boss’s demands to work longer and faster. They wonder how they will make the rent, whether they should pay down their debt or start a family, whether one illness will wipe them out. Folks know they are getting the short end of the stick, but it seems that action is useless.

There are two main reasons for this. The first was articulated by Margaret Thatcher, who claimed that “there is no alternative.” We cannot underestimate the sense of futility, particularly among young people, that is created when popular mobilizations (most recently, Occupy Wall Street) fail to create immediately visible changes in public policy around finance capital. When collective action seems to have no effect, people retreat to individualistic explanations and solutions. This makes movement building difficult.

Second, now that the effects of de-unionization and declining real wages are being felt by more (white, “middle class”) people, the right wing has ramped up racial scapegoating to fan fears of a black or brown parasitic “other” sucking the hard-earned cash away from virtuous (white) “middle class” people. This divisiveness, which has a long and dishonorable history, also makes movement building difficult.

Yes, there is a class struggle. And, at the moment, we are not winning it. We understand the systemic nature of our economic problems, and history shows us that in this country movements arise when people can feel some hope. We know that racism has been used since colonial times to keep us from uniting against a common opponent, and it is being used blatantly again. This does not mean that we will retreat to our couches and order an escapist movie. It means that we will redouble our efforts, but do so more thoughtfully.

And that’s what our chapters are doing. Atlanta DSAers helped build the Georgia Moral Mondays movement. Several members were arrested in the state capitol while demanding that the governor expand Medicaid. At the same time, the chapter organizes “socialist education circles” for political discussion and engages in solidarity work around a staggering list of issues. Sacramento, Seattle, and other DSA chapters joined the “Fight for 15” minimum wage campaign with other socialists and labor activists, and Philadelphia DSA assisted Temple University YDS in a campaign against the politically motivated firing of a prominent African American studies professor and activist. Local chapters across the country participated in the National Network of Abortion Funds bowl-a-thons in April, raising money to help low-income women gain access to safe abortions. Putting the “social” into socialist, many chapters organize happy hours to build community and welcome new members. We combine organizing and education to build the kind of community we want to see everywhere—and the kind of cooperation it will take to win.

One-percenters like Sam Zell work hard in their offensive against the 99%. We have to work harder and smarter.

Maria.JPGMaria Svart is national director of DSA.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 45 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 14 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

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· 9 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 4 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.

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 8 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.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 4 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.