May Dispatch: Crisis and Opportunity

“Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.”

We knew well before COVID-19 that capitalism was killing us. The shootings of Ahmaud Arbery and Sean Reed, each caught on video, and the completely different treatment of black people vs white ones by police during the lockdown, illustrate that the already existing violence of the system will not be easy to shake. One in four children lived in poverty and migrant children have been locked in cages for over a year. Now with tens of millions more people unemployed and millions of people facing death at work every day, that slow burn has dramatically accelerated.

The scale and depth of the crisis and the shock to all of us mean more people than ever realize we are at a crossroads. The question is whether we can use this opportunity to organize for socialism, or whether we are dragged down the path to barbarism.

Unfortunately, the quote above is from an enemy, Milton Friedman. We are not the only ones who recognize that the old world is dying. The far-right and the neoliberals have moved quickly to take advantage of this crisis. The airlines and other industries use their workers as hostages to prevent oversight over bailout funds; politicians from Mitch McConnell to Andrew Cuomo gut state budgets and privatize key public services; and bosses from meatpackers to warehouses flout safety practices. Both Donald Trump and Joe Biden point the finger at China rather than admit it is the neoliberal government, which both parties have whittled down to the size that it can be drowned in the bathtub, which is leading directly to tens of thousands of U.S. deaths already. And they are doubling down.

But the Bernie Sanders campaign and the multiracial working class movement behind him has brought democratic socialist ideas back into the center of political conversation.

Our job as socialists is to keep moving us in that direction, to build a new world on the ashes of the old.

If there is now a crisis of legitimacy of the old way of doing things, there is an opportunity to create permanent shifts. We see this already where low wage workers receive unemployment checks higher than old poverty wages, and where millions of people lost employer-based health care overnight and are now adrift in a pandemic and looking to Medicare for All. People look to the north and see a much more generous relief program in Canada, and they see that the relief packages from Congress bail out huge corporations at the expense of ordinary people.

We know what a democratic economic system and a just and democratic society can look like, we spent the last year fighting for it. But what we need now is the courage to deepen that demand. Between seeing that workers really are essential for human survival yet the bosses still see us as expendable, it has become clear that we have nothing to lose but our chains.

Who stands in the way of Medicare for All? Universal rent control? Living wages? Workers deciding to produce the ventilators we need? The owning class, not the working class. Large majorities of the 95% of people sheltering at home want to stay there, and for those who cannot, strike activity is picking up.

We must organize ourselves and fight. DSA is a place with many options for you to build connection, preparedness and working class power. When we have a political opportunity to win transformative reforms in Congress or at the state or local level, or when we can build the solidarity across differences among our own neighbors, meet people’s immediate material needs whether food or the right to exist in the world without death by police, or when we have an opportunity in our own workplaces to demand concessions from our boss or to organize our community to support striking workers, DSA is there.

If you are not already active in your local DSA chapter, please check this list and reach out about an upcoming event, or read on for other opportunities to join the struggle today.

Now is the time!

Maria Svart
DSA National Director

In this Dispatch:

UPCOMING NATIONAL CALLS

Do you know anyone who is DSA curious but hasn’t yet joined? We have a special Q&A about DSA call for non-members next Monday night 5/11 at 10pm ET/9pm CT/8pm MT/7pm PT. Please share the link widely as this call is specifically geared towards non-members who are considering getting involved in DSA.

For the many members who have joined in the last few months, I want to invite you to our next DSA Organizing School class Thursday, 5/14 at 8pm ET/7pm CT/6pm/5pm PT. Our Organizing School series takes a deeper dive into the political ideas and skills we need to win. Join us!

We are continually planning new national programming, regularly updated on our national calls calendar.

NATIONAL ELECTORAL COMMITTEE — WATCH THE AOC CALL, MAKE CALLS FOR ENDORSED CANDIDATES

DSA has endorsed a slate of fantastic candidates in Louisville, KY as we continue to build the pipeline of candidates and our field capacity across the country. Phone banking for and donating to our campaigns is more important than ever, so see how to support them and all our other endorsed candidates on our website’s endorsement page. Watch out for our phone bank training, our Congressional candidate town hall, and other mass calls coming up on DSA’s event calendar as well.

Watch the recording of our recent national call with Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez and other DSA elected officials here!

DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST LABOR COMMISSION — SAVE THE POSTAL SERVICE

The Democratic Socialist Labor Commission (DSLC) is gearing up to help #SaveUSPS! We are working on a campaign to pressure Congress to support the postal service. Sign up for a call Wednesday 5/13 at 8:30pm ET/7:30pm CT/6:30 pm MT/5:30pm PT to hear from postal workers and DSA members about what’s at stake.

For the latest updates, please check out our campaign website! If you’re a postal worker or have a personal story about USPS to share, send us an email at dslc@dsausa.org!

MEDICARE FOR ALL — HEALTH CARE EMERGENCY GUARANTEE ACT

We are excited to announce a campaign in support of the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act, which is legislation introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal that would empower Medicare to cover all healthcare costs for the uninsured and all out-of-pocket expenses for those with insurance for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.

The legislation also “bans surprise billing, empowers Medicare to purchase pharmaceuticals at the same prices as the VA, and prevents private insurance companies from increasing copayments and deductibles, or decreasing coverage, for the duration of the health care crisis.”

Our campaign calls on our representatives to support the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act specifically. See our resources for you and your chapter here.

GREEN NEW DEAL AND CANCEL BILLS

DSA for a Green New Deal has launched a campaign to #Cancelbills — demanding the full cancellation of rent, utility bills, and mortgage payments through the COVID-19 crisis, a two-year moratorium on utility shut-offs, and a bar against passing the costs of utility bill cancellation on to ratepayers after the crisis.

Chapters joining the campaign can connect organizing to #Cancelbils with other COVID-19 response efforts around housing justice, healthcare for all, and fare-free transit, among others. Let’s rally our communities around the importance of decommodifying survival, now to get through the crisis, and longer-term for an ecosocialist Green New Deal.

To participate, fill out this form to receive the #Cancelbills toolkit.

DSA ENDORSES INCREASED TRANSIT FUNDING IN THE FACE OF COVID-19

DSA has officially endorsed the Labor Network for Sustainability and Institute for Policy Studies partnership of more than 70 unions, civil rights groups, transit organizations, and coalitions in the labor and environmental justice movements to urge Congress to provide more funding for transit agencies. You can read their letter to Congress here.

HOUSING JUSTICE COMMISSION

To prevent a wave of evictions in the wake of COVID-19, we must #CancelRent and build power with working-class tenants. DSA is organizing tenants in communities across the country, and endorses Rep. Omar’s Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act. Can you call your congressperson right now and demand Congress #CancelRent?

We also know many DSA members have not been able to pay their rent in April and/or May, and won’t be able to pay in June either. If you’ve been impacted by COVID-19, we need you to share your story! Take just a few minutes to film a short video testimonial to continue to ramp up the pressure on our legislators to #CancelRent. See our video testimony guidelines here.

TRANSLATION TEAM FORM AND REQUEST

Politics begins where there are millions. The 2019 DSA national Convention recognized this in orienting to over 60 million Latinx people in the United States by overwhelmingly supporting Resolution #6, Orienting to Latinx Communities. To support this, we’re happy to announce a DSA Translation Team has been established! This body’s initial work will be translating and contextualizing DSA materials, from organizing guides to social media content, into Spanish. #DSAenEspañol

Join us!

La política comienza donde hay millones. La convención de 2019 reconoció esto en la orientación a más de 60 millones personas Latinx en los EEUU y apoyo Resolucion #6, Orientando a Comunidades Latinx. Seguimos apoyando, y estamos emocionados para anunciar que hemos establecidos el equipo de traducción de DSA. El trabajo inicial de este grupo será traducir y contextualizar materiales de DSA, a español! #DSAenEspañol

Unete con nosotros!

2019 MEMBER FINANCIAL REPORT

This March, DSA held its 2019 annual report to membership call. You can watch the video here. On the call, our development director Alison Baldree, fiscal officer Heidi Chua, and Budget and Finance committee member Carolyn Carter presented an overview of DSA’s story in the data, income and expenses from 2019. You can find a pdf of their presentation here.