YDS on the Front Lines of the Student Movement

by Neal Meyer. National Organizer for YDS

The school year got off to a strong start for the Young Democratic Socialists. More than 40 YDSers and 10 DSA and outside speakers gathered in August in Washington DC for our annual summer leadership retreat. We heard from writer and activist Bill Fletcher, author and DSA honorary chair Barbara Ehrenreich, DSA Vice-Chair Joe Schwartz and DSA National Political Committee member Peg Strobel, in addition to many others.

Alexandra Deane from Vassar YDS was elected to her first term as YDS co-chair, and Matt Porter was re-elected to serve as co-chair. The full list of new members of the Coordinating Committee will be available on the new YDS website, currently under construction. The conference was also an opportunity for YDSers to thank outgoing national organizer Jackie Sewell for all her hard work and to welcome the new national organizer, Neal Meyer.

Toward the end of a long weekend of lectures, debates, and partying, YDS passed two new Activist Agenda items. The first calls for YDS to organize with DSA on the anti-student debt campaign and to organize against tuition increases on campus. The second directs chapters to build stronger connections with unions on campuses and to organize students in solidarity with organizing campaigns.

 Matt Conklin, a new member from the University of Alabama-Birmingham, said: “This conference has completely reinvigorated my interest in political activism. Nothing else could have better prepared me for the organizing we are planning for this year. Reading socialist news and literature has its place, but sometimes you just have to see it to believe it.”

Since the start of school in September, chapters have been hard at work putting these Activist Agenda items into action. YDSers at the University of California-Davis are building a solidarity campaign with campus AFSCME workers who are fighting for a new contract this year. Davis YDS was out in force at the end of October when workers called for a strike vote. Ian Lee, a Davis YDS leader who was one of the 11 students pepper-sprayed by Lt. John Pike during Occupy UC Davis, was also recently interviewed by Al Jazeera America.

 At Vassar College in New York’s Hudson Valley, YDSers are organizing a student-labor dialogue to support campus workers. Vassar YDS also continues to play a critical role in Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, a community organization resisting foreclosures.

 YDS is on the march in New Jersey as well. William Paterson University democratic socialists demonstrated outside the gubernatorial debate, demanding that Chris Christie sign the New Jersey Dream Act to give undocumented students in-state tuition. This was part of a long series of actions led by a coalition of New Jersey student groups, including William Paterson YDS. A week after the October demonstration, Christie announced that he would finally sign the Dream Act.

This year, democratic socialism is making inroads in the South. Our chapter at Lindsay Wilson College in Kentucky is leading a series of political education discussions on campus. YDS leaders at University of Alabama-Birmingham have also started organizing a chapter. They’ve been gathering petition signatures to support DSA’s Drop Student Debt campaign. And in Tennessee, students at Sewanee: The University of the South are organizing a new YDS chapter and are working with Latino/a student organizations on campus to inform undocumented immigrants about their legal rights. New chapters are also being organized at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas and St. Joseph’s College on Long Island.

At the end of October, a strong contingent of YDSers attended DSA’s National Convention in Oakland, California. We were especially proud to see David Roddy, our blog editor and Coordinating Committee member, elected to the National Political Committee. The large youth contingent at the convention and David’s election are proof that in the last few years a stronger bond has grown between YDS and DSA, and that YDSers are starting to make the transition into DSA and to take on leadership and responsibility.

Looking ahead, we’re excited about our winter conference in New York City in February, and we’re looking forward to pushing forward the campaigns our chapters have decided to tackle. At the moment, we have 15 chapters and allied campus groups, four new organizing committees, and around 150-200 activists. It’s a strong start, and we’ll be working on growing that number this year.

Our generation, according to polls, is the first American generation to have a more favorable view of socialism than capitalism. There is enormous potential for us to take the democratic socialist message to new campuses and to build solidarity with low-wage workers, undocumented immigrants, victims of police brutality and racism, LGBTQ people fighting for their rights, and women struggling against patriarchy. We’ve just got to organize – and that’s exactly what we’ll be doing.


Neal_2.jpg Neal Meyer is national organizer for the Young Democratic Socialists.




Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership.