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.

LGBTQ Conference Call

February 20, 2017
· 41 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming an LGBTQ 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.


DSA New Member Orientation Call

February 22, 2017
· 25 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; 6pm MT; 5 pm PT.  

What Is DSA? Training Call

March 03, 2017
· 26 rsvps

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

March 07, 2017
· 12 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.

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 2 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. 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,
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt,, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 20 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.