|Bernie Sanders with supporters: Gage Skidmore/Flickr|
By Maria Svart
As Democratic Left went to press, the results of the South Carolina and Super Tuesday primaries were unknown. Whatever the status of Bernie Sanders’s campaign, he has highlighted what is at stake in this election year for the country and precipitated major opportunities for DSA.
Articles in the spring issue of Democratic Left implicitly cover what happens when economic, environmental, and political instability put masses of people into motion, crossing borders in search of survival. Much of the instability driving these exoduses, whether through military action, trade, or other economic policies has been triggered or exacerbated by U.S. government decisions that put profit above people.
Rather than taking responsibility for the natural results of these actions (and don’t they love to lecture us about personal responsibility?), the capitalists scapegoat Muslims, immigrants, black and brown people, poor people, union members—anyone who can be “othered.”
November’s election is fundamentally about who will shape our future: the forces of greed or the forces of the common good.
Members of DSA have different ideas about how best to proceed. Should we focus on building a truly independent third party? Should we focus on supporting those progressive Democrats and even some moderate ones who can help hold back the right? DSA’s Socialist Strategy Project revealed that our members believe that it is a time for experimentation, but with attention to the very real danger of expanding right-wing political power.
It’s clear that good people disagree on the best course of action, but we can ALL agree that all plans will fail without the muscle to carry them out.
That’s why DSA’s astronomical growth is so important. Just before press time, our National Political Committee recognized the petition of the Buffalo, New York, organizing committee to become a full-fledged DSA chapter. In the same week, a group of union organizers decided to join DSA en masse, because they want a place to strategize as open democratic socialists and they value that we foster political debate instead of stifling it. Our Young Democratic Socialists’ national conference drew from across the country, and we had to expand the number of New Member Welcome orientation sessions because so many people are joining, more than 50 in one week alone.
I want to close with a story about a member who called the office recently to find out how to get more involved. She’s retiring soon and has been a member for less than two years. To paraphrase, she said “I’ve been reading Democratic Left and between that and listening to Bernie Sanders, I’m realizing that things don’t have to be this way. I grew up poor and white in a black neighborhood. I always wondered why my neighbors’ dads didn’t get hired at the local factory, but white men from out of town did. I always felt it was unfair that my coworkers and I work so hard but are always struggling. Now I know why we have a hard time! Because the world is not set up for us. It’s set up for the people with money and they try to keep us apart so we’ll fight with each other instead of against them. So I want to help change things. I’ll send some more money now, and when I retire I’m going to get active.”
I’ve waited my whole adult life for a movement moment like this. We’ve kept the flame alive and fertilized the ground during the neoliberal era of the last 40 years. Now is the time to cultivate new leaders, of all ages, who are reaching for the sky. Let’s keep them Berning long after November!
This article originally appeared in the spring 2016 issue of the Democratic Left magazine.
Maria Svart is the National Director of Democratic Socialists of America.
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.