August DSA Dispatch

We’re doing something right, because they’re coming after us.

Last week our member Julia Salazar, New York state senate candidate in Brooklyn, was taken to court in a frivolous lawsuit by the Democratic incumbent Senator Martin Dilan. I sat in solidarity in the courtroom as the Senator’s pitbull of a lawyer grilled Julia for hours on end, keeping her from spending time with people in her district for days on end, and I was reminded of the way that institutions are twisted to keep the powerful in power.

Meanwhile our member Edward Nelson, Tennessee state representative candidate in Knoxville, had a campaign event shut down by members of a local far-right group. And a DSA event the next day was saved only by trained de-escalators, who happened to be nearby at another movement event and heeded DSA’s call for solidarity when the right showed up again. As we near the anniversary of A12 in Charlottesville we see increasingly brazen fascist action, even in supposed liberal enclaves like Portland, Oregon.

Finally, President Barack Obama endorsed Buffy “the Bernie Slayer” Wicks, the neoliberal opponent of our member Jovanka Beckles for California state assembly in the east bay. Wicks raised over $50,000 in her primary race from school privatization interests. That and other special-interest spending helped make it the most expensive assembly race in California history, and we can only assume she’ll continue receiving a high level of corporate support in the general election.

The reason the far-right — and the neoliberals — attack is that our message is resonating with working people.

Even two years ago, it would have been unimaginable that a Democratic candidate running a primary campaign against Andrew Cuomo for governor of New York would call herself a democratic socialist. For that matter, that establishment politicians would join the call to abolish ICE. This tells me we have changed the debate!

The mainstream media can’t get enough of us right now. When I was on C-SPAN last week, I made a point to mention that Lincoln, Nebraska DSA had just held a protest outside an ICE contractor who is developing surveillance technology. I did this because your organizing work demonstrates that working people across this country are ready for change.

We’re proving that democratic socialist ideas are popular, and we recognize the value of reaching outside the socialist bubble, to connect with people who have only ever heard the “capitalist common sense” that everything is normal and any struggles to survive are their own fault. We say it doesn’t have to be this way — and that only the huge and diverse working class has the power to change it! We can build a mass, politically aware and organized grassroots movement of people working across our differences for a common goal — democratic socialism.

This is also why we just surpassed 48,000 members!

I credit our National Electoral Strategy, which emphasizes building our power by supporting candidates through DSA-led base building, electorate expanding campaigns, terrifying the establishment incumbents and organizing working class people tired of pandering politicians and the violence of capitalism.

I also credit our commitment to corporate campaigns, mass strikes and the incivility of public protest with helping move the Overton window to create more space for our politics, and stop the functioning of the capitalist system and force concessions from the capitalist class.

Finally, organizing against the barbarism of capitalism is the only long term way to undercut the fascist right, but we’re also standing strong against their intimidation tactics. The Knoxville example I cited earlier in this email ended well, with a successful DSA event four days later when the chapter made some strategic plans and received community support. This is is the strength of a big tent organization, that we thoughtfully employ more than one tactic to carry out our strategy for change and self defense.

I promised last month to provide more frequent updates, and while my July 4letter had a lot to report from the first half of the year, I still have some great news to share with you from the past month.

FIRST, please join me to welcome TWO new staffers:

Alison Baldree is our new Development Director. She has extensive experience in all relevant areas of fundraising, as well as grassroots organizing and a socialist background. And she lives in Kansas City. We’re happy she’s joining Hannah Allison, our midwest Field Organizer, to hold down the DSA fort in the middle of the country! Alison joining staff will free up Claudia Cahill to focus exclusively on internal member communication.

Eric Wimer is joining us as our Electoral Field Organizer. He has campus, labor and electoral organizing experience and he will provide holistic support to some chapters. But his primary area of work for the next four months will be helping chapters get our endorsed candidates elected and our ballot initiatives won, using his experience in field and long distance electoral work. Eric is based in NYC.

SECOND, a report on more leadership trainings and member convenings:

In July, we had an amazing weekend meeting comrades from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee at the Atlanta-hosted Regional Leadership Training — our third site in the South so far this year.

I’m sending this very email right after wrapping up the national convention of the Young Democratic Socialists of America, our college campus and high school wing, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was a model of comradely debate, where political ideas and differences were hashed out to create compromise positions that delegates will enthusiastically carry back to campuses for the school year.

And next up, Regional Leadership Trainings in Wichita, Kansas and St. Louis, Missouri. This month will be busy, since we’re doing all this pluslaunching the fall campus YDSA recruitment drive.

That said, we are making time to respond to the rise in open fascist activity across the country and will be working directly with chapter leaders to provide support around best practices for meeting and information security.

THIRD, July was a National Political Committee meeting month, and we announced some new initiatives:

Dues sharing is happening! We held two calls for chapter treasurers last month, and since our chapter approvals moratorium has been lifted, local chapters can get set up to receive 20% of monthly dues raised from members. This will support local organizing but take a bite out of the national budget, which we’ll explain in an August financial report call for members.

We set up a new national member volunteer management system using Slack and Asana. We’re starting to plan for the 2019 national convention, which will take place in the South. And we launched a chapter lookup tool on our website so members can see right away, simply by plugging in their zip code,  if they are in a chapter.

The NPC appointed two new members to fill vacancies, Marianela D’Aprile from Chicago, Illinois, and Alex Birnel from San Antonio, Texas.

We stand together because it will take all of us to win!