The socialists are coming! The socialists are coming!
July 6, 2018 11:59 AM   Subscribe

In 2015, the Democratic Socialists of America had 6,000 members. Today that number is closer to 43,000 and growing. With high profile wins in PA and NY, the DSA is poised to become a force on the left, pushing the Overton window leftward on everything from immigration to healthcare. While the DSA platform is committed to equality, questions about inclusivity in progressive movements persist. (DSA-talk started to take over the US politics megathread, so please take all your DSA musings here! This is also my first post, so, you know. Grains of salt. I tried to frame it around the conversation that was happening in the megathread, but more links are welcome!)
posted by schadenfrau (403 comments total) 101 users marked this as a favorite
 
(For context, part of the discussion in the most recent megathread centered around comments I made about my recent DSA experience here and here, hence the framing.)
posted by schadenfrau at 12:02 PM on July 6 [6 favorites]


I'm here for this. I just renewed my membership, and I am definitely concerned about the internal stuff mentioned by others: lack of support for women leadership, lack of support for antifascist direct action, etc. and hope I can make a positive difference.
posted by odinsdream at 12:03 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


I joined a couple of weeks ago after a very long time spent worrying over brocialists. I still worry over them and I feel weird about actually joining up with a political party for the first time ever? BUT, they're a force for good in the world and I'm glad The Whelk talked me into putting my money where my anticapitalist mouth is.
posted by libraritarian at 12:10 PM on July 6 [18 favorites]


I joined the Los Angeles DSA shortly after the 2016 election, and I've gone to a few events. But at the events I've gone to, it seemed like most people that were there already knew each other, so I would sort of just skulk around awkwardly and wasn't sure what to do with myself. I would love to encounter other MeFites at meetings so please feel free to MeMail me if you are a member/going to any events!

Regarding the gender balance, the new member orientation I attended was about 15 people, of which only myself and one other person were female-identifying, which I wasn't overjoyed about, but the subsequent events I attended had a much more even gender balance, both in terms of attendees and what appeared to be the leadership.
posted by Aubergine at 12:11 PM on July 6 [7 favorites]


Want to get involved? Look for a local chapter!
posted by filthy light thief at 12:11 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


There's a DSA meeting coming up in San Antonio soon, I'll be attending to see how it looks, the number of women, the number of Tankies, and so on.

I want to support DSA. But if they're mostly diehard Bernie Bros with a bunch of institutional misogyny I'm not sure I can stomach sticking around and trying to change from within.
posted by sotonohito at 12:12 PM on July 6 [11 favorites]


schadenfrau, thanks for this post, and your comments on getting involved in your local chapter. And thanks to everyone else who shares their experiences here!
posted by filthy light thief at 12:13 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


My local DSA does good work and I've worked on campaigns alongside them quite happily. I do follow a couple Rose Emoji Twitters but man they seem to be about 50/50 smugly dunking on fascists (hilarious, and the reason for my follow)/smugly dunking on literally everyone else on the anti-Trump side of things, and it does make me wonder, if I join up and go to meetings am I going to have to sit there like 😬 while people tell vaguely misogynist $hillary jokes? (I've told this story before, but the only time I got screamed at, called names, and physically chased off the property while canvassing for HRC in the general, it weren't Trumpers that done it.)
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:13 PM on July 6 [53 favorites]


For NYC-area MeFites, there's an IRL post for the next Feminist Working Group meeting, but the DSA also has like a massive amount of events going on at any one time. (It seems like, anyway.)

Here's the NYC calendar, and...yup, thanks for posting the chapter info stuff, filthy light thief!
posted by schadenfrau at 12:15 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


soren_lorensen, the Very Online DSA and the IRL DSA are extremely different.
posted by Automocar at 12:16 PM on July 6 [11 favorites]


I've attempted to join my local DSA at least four or five times, both via email and in person by showing up at meetings. I've never received a call or email in return. The meetings I attended were very large and generally I liked the mood, but they were also pretty clique-ish (it seems everyone had already been divided into committees and the ones I was interested in were "full") and focused more on logistics of building events and not on actually discussing politics or anything. I also got the distinct vibe that I was out of their age/demographic range, and so the people I talked to were basically humoring me. All very weird, so I've basically given up on them.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 12:20 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


I am very much hoping that's true, but as I said in the other thread, my concern is that the DSA hasn't been capable of acknowledging that they have a problem at all. Or at least I haven't seen any evidence of it. (The sign up form still asks you how much Bernie Sanders influenced your decision to join, but there isn't a check box for "MOTHERFUCKER KEPT ME AWAY FOR TWO YEARS," so they are, uh, not collecting accurate data.)

I'm psyched to see what happens at this next feminist working group meeting, but I think the first step (for myself) is at least an accurate assessment of what the actual situation is. Step 2 is probably just "flood the place with women," but that seems easier said than done.

Another thing I noticed at the thing I went to was that there didn't seem to be consensus on what the organization would be going forward. Some people didn't want it to be an electoral organization at all, others were all about jumping into the NYS Governor's race. It seems like an organization at a crossroads, but I do not know enough to get into more detail than that.
posted by schadenfrau at 12:22 PM on July 6 [36 favorites]


I only went to one event here, but it seems like the Bay Area DSA has a lot of women. The downside was that it also had a lot of bickering and infighting, but that could have also been the event I was at. I'm very wary of going to a meeting because of the social side of things. I've had a lot of bad experiences with people whose politics are the same as mine haha.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:27 PM on July 6


Yeah, DSA is very chapter-by-chapter dependent. My experiences with the Philadelphia chapter were kind of weird, so I haven't been back in a while. The way to make DSA better is to... make DSA better. But I don't blame anyone for not wanting to do that work, myself included.

Plus, this is an organization that is unrecognizable from what it was 2 years ago. They have some growing pains to work out.
posted by Automocar at 12:28 PM on July 6 [7 favorites]


Thank you for this post.

I'm starting to come to the conclusion that my joining the DSA wouldn't be a good thing. My pulse rate starts to increase anytime the primaries get relitigated here, and that's before the mods quickly come and stomp it out.

I really am made angry and sulky about dunking on HRC, and while I acknowledge that DSA has done great stuff lately, there's political shit I can do without having that finger stuck in my eye.
posted by angrycat at 12:28 PM on July 6 [30 favorites]


I've been a DSA member for several months, but I kept putting off going to my local Boston DSA meetings because the thought of going to a political organizing meeting by myself was enough to trigger huge social anxiety.

Last week, I asked my girlfriend if she was interested in going with me to a meeting. She's a socialist too, but she was skeptical about actually going to a meeting because she was concerned it might turn out to be a total boyzone and unwelcoming toward women. We ended up livestreaming a small Boston DSA meeting where just the heads of their different working groups met to present the work their groups had been doing lately.

The leaders present at that meeting were a diverse group, and while it was difficult to see everyone in the room from the POV of a laptop camera, the women seemed to outnumber the men. Everyone seemed very friendly toward each other. It was clear that they were an active organization getting concrete things done, but their vibe was relaxed and fun. They were very welcoming to those of us on the call viewing the livestream, and they answered any questions we had. They advised us that the best way for newbies to begin getting involved is to go to their monthly general meetings.

After the meeting ended, my girlfriend turned to me and said "I like these people!" We'll definitely be attending their next general meeting in person.

Anyone who's curious what a DSA meeting looks like, here's a recording of the Boston DSA's last general meeting: Facebook livestream archive
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 12:33 PM on July 6 [30 favorites]


I'm heavily involved in a DSA campaign right now. (I don't want to post too many details here but am talking about it more freely in the PoliticsFilter mefi Slack).

My experience as a woman on this campaign has been exceedingly positive, which I offer as a data point about one small pocket of DSA activity.

I will say this (and again, this is only my experience in a small pocket): if you come into this hoping to commiserate about how amazing your personal favorite mainstream Democrat is (for many of you this is HRC, for me this is Obama), you will probably be disappointed.

These folks are democratic socialists and have serious substantive and strategic differences with many mainstream Democrats. This is ok! But it's also entirely ok if that's not what you're up for right now.
posted by lalex at 12:38 PM on July 6 [42 favorites]


I support DSA and I'm a member.

I've also had a hard time plugging in locally: mostly plugging in means canvassing for candidates they've endorsed or ballot measures. This makes sense. I'm not that into canvassing but I may try. We had a local break light replacement program briefly I think and I'd love to get involved with programs like that.

There is also a lot of intensive infighting in my local chapter which is off putting. There seems to be a focus on who leadership will be over action, at least from the outside.

I'll keep trying; organizing is hard and adjusting to rapid growth is hard, I get that.

I do hope my local and nationally they work on addressing some of the concerns raised in this thread and elsewhere.
posted by latkes at 12:42 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


I'm very interested to see how the DSA turns out. There are concerns about it's right, and it's problems, but I think there is a lot of good work being done with regards to political education and general shifting of understandings of both socialism and capitalism.
They're shifting the overton window, sure, but what I love them for is raising class consciousness in the people of America.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 12:45 PM on July 6


I am new to a lot of this conversation. Can someone please give me useful (non-snarky) definitions or delineations for "brocialists," "Bernie Bros," and "Tankies"? I'd be very grateful.
posted by Silvery Fish at 12:47 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


schadenfrau, I feel you on that Bernie question. I checked "not at all," and then wrote that he delayed my joining in the textbox, but I wish they'd get the picture that it's very unlikely that someone joining *today* is joining because of him.

I haven't been to an East Bay DSA meeting since joining (two days ago), but I guess my plan as a male-identified person will be to keep my mouth shut at meetings for the most part unless it's (a) to call out and redirect any brocialism or (b)to say something brief that's within my narrow range of expertise (civil litigation) and is somehow essential to the discussion, with a heavy presumption against exercising (b).
posted by mabelstreet at 12:47 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


I've also been very wary of joining because of the brocialist factor. But I did join recently, and plan to go to the West Los Angeles Chapter Meeting and new member orientation next Saturday. Any Mefites up for joining me? I'd be happy to give any Mefites a ride, and since I'm nervous about going alone, I'd really appreciate the company.
posted by yasaman at 12:47 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


I've been following The Whelk's updates on DSA with interest for quite some time, and I'd been thinking about joining my local chapter for a while, even before their recent electoral successes. What's holding me back is time, concerns about Bernie bro-ism, and a concern that I'm not really left enough, or that I'm not left in the right *way* to be a useful member.
Personally I'm interested in social justice, and any economic leftism I have comes out of that root; that is, I'm interested in socialism as a way to bring about economic justice more than as an economic philosophy in its own right. Can I make common cause here? Or does it depend on my local DSA?

Also, my fears of Bernie bros are somewhat related to the unexamined appreciation of European models of democratic socialism. They aren't perfect either, and a few have some seriously fucked up racism issues and/or methods of tackling immigration; am I going to exhaust myself trying to explain that socialism without social justice is deeply problematic?
posted by nat at 12:49 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]




Thx for the definition, tofu_crouton.

I guess in the 80s I was a tankie (although not in the tanks sense, since I hadn't learned about Hungary 1956 or Prague 1968 yet): as a teenager I hated Reagan, and his "evil empire" rhetoric was so obviously over the top that I assumed everything he and other Republicans said about the CCCP was a complete fabrication. I was crushed when I learned, in my late teens after 1991, how much of it was true. I think it'd be hard now for someone to be as ignorant about e.g. Stalin as I was then.
posted by mabelstreet at 1:01 PM on July 6 [6 favorites]


Urban Dictionary also has definitions for brocialist and Bernie Bro, although the latter is substantially less useful than the others.

A "Bernie Bro" is usually a guy who was strongly in favor of Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton, often enough so that he'd vote for Gary Johnson - the Libertarian candidate - rather than the woman Sanders endorsed. Bernie Bros often push the idea that class and economic differences are the only factors that matter in politics, and the only reason some people are oppressed, and that fixing how money gets allocated will fix all of America's problems. They are especially prone to ignoring any input from women, people of color, and queer people who point out that not all forms of oppression are based on money.

Brocialists are guys who claim to support socialist ideals - but like the Bernie Bros, only address the parts of those ideals that relate to money and class. Their attitudes about social changes are frighteningly similar to Libertarians' theories: "if we fix the economy, everything else will be fine."

SJWiki has a good overview of brocialism: "sexists within the radical left. Specifically used for those who believe that the creation of a socialist, Marxist, or anarchist system will inevitably bring about gender equality and that therefore no measures need to be taken other than the destruction of the hierarchy imposed by class."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:02 PM on July 6 [31 favorites]


I will say this (and again, this is only my experience in a small pocket): if you come into this hoping to commiserate about how amazing your personal favorite mainstream Democrat is (for many of you this is HRC, for me this is Obama), you will probably be disappointed.

This seems like a big mischaracterization of what people are actually concerned about. I don't have any interest in bringing up HRC's candidacy in the year of our lord 2018 - but people who are still hung up on disliking her sure do.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:03 PM on July 6 [39 favorites]


The terms brocialist and Bernie bro have specific ideological functions. I would caution anyone that while these have meaning to some, they also are found offensive by others. There are in fact lots of male socialists and there were lots of male Bernie supporters. Some were sexist in their words and actions. Creating a label that discredits all socialists as anti feminist is, for many of us, problematic. As a woman and feminist, like most of my socialist friends, I find this shorthand really frustrating and erasing.
posted by latkes at 1:05 PM on July 6 [54 favorites]


Please be aware that socialists hate the epithets "brocialist" and "bernie bro", as they've typically been used as a cudgel against their entire political philosophy. Socialist women tend to take additional umbrage, because these nicknames paint socialism as the exclusive domain of men, and erase their presence and their contributions to the cause.

Briahna Joy Gray on the subject:

The “bro” stereotype entirely erased the perspectives of countless women and people of color who did not share the center-left political position. The “Bernie Bro” mythology—that progressives are almost exclusively white, male, and young—will not die, no matter how often women and people of color try to speak up to disprove it. In all the words spilled about the uninterrupted whiteness of Sanders supporters, prominent “Bros” like Rosario Dawson, Ben Jealous, Pramila Jayapal, Eddie Glaude, Spike Lee, Killer Mike, Cornel West, and Nina Turner went largely unmentioned.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 1:08 PM on July 6 [45 favorites]


Yeah, the HRC-jokes and ritual appeal to Bernie's candidacy seemed more like a form of in-group bonding at the event I was at, which is...gonna be limiting.

lalex, can you go into more about the strategic differences? One of the things that struck me most was that there didn't seem to be a lot of agreement on that, and strategy is the thing that seems most important at the moment. Like, for myself, strategy is pretty much the only thing I've disagreed with people on. There's that test that tells you where you would fall on the political spectrum in Europe, and when I took it (probably during the campaign), I was a centrist for Europe. (I don't know where I'd fall now, but if there's a change it's leftward.) So on questions of policy alone the DSA has probably always been the right fit for me. It's all the other stuff that's been a problem.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:10 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


I've been looking into my local group, which I have yet to attend, and found an article about problems with the east bay DSA. The complaints don't mention race or gender as issues, but they do mention that the leaders mock or ignore projects that they don't personally find interesting, which is exactly the kind of hierarchical problem that socialism is supposed to work against.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:11 PM on July 6 [6 favorites]


FWIW I don't plan on calling anyone at a DSA meeting a "brocialist," since (among other reasons stated) that would likely result in even more time spent focused on the men in the meeting. I'm just interested in shouldering more of the EL burden of gently but firmly taking down the practice of some other men of taking up all of the space all of the time.
posted by mabelstreet at 1:15 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


I also recently joined. I skipped an East Bay DCA meeting last night because it was in bar that looked like a place you'd get whacked in Goodfellas.

I'm an old white dude but I joined because I believe in working towards a more just society for everyone, including people of color and different sexual orientations. I was inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez because I think she's awesome* and it would be great to have more representation by women and/or people of color and/or LGBT people.

* I literally signed up because Sean Hannity posted her platform as a warning against socialism and it sounded good to me.

an article about problems with the east bay DSA

And that's not too appealing.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:17 PM on July 6 [18 favorites]


The term "brocialist" no more discredits all socialists as anti-feminist any more than the term "toxic masculinity" means that all masculinity is toxic. It's a leftist word coined by leftist women to describe destructive, patriarchal behaviors and people within the socialist movement, and the notion that it's an anti-socialist term hated by socialist women is simple fantasy.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:18 PM on July 6 [88 favorites]


I dated a tankie in the early 90s. There was more than a little whiff of "owning the Republicans" and being semi-ironic in a sort of mirror universe version of 4chan ironic Nazis. He was definitely a Communist, but the Stalinism was at least partly performative.

Anyway, yes also to showbiz-liz. I'd be happy to never ever again talk about Hillary or Obama, but it sucks to feel like I have to be in a defensive crouch among my own fellow travelers for the purely pragmatic decision I made in August-November of 2016 to do the opposite of electing a fascist. I live with an anarchist so I'm pretty much at quota for judgements on, like, any political choices I could make.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:20 PM on July 6 [20 favorites]


The term "brocialist" no more discredits all socialists as anti-feminist any more than the term "toxic masculinity" means that all masculinity is toxic. It's a leftist word coined by leftist women to describe destructive, patriarchal behaviors and people within the socialist movement, and the notion that it's an anti-socialist term hated by socialist women is simple fantasy.

I have literally never heard a socialist use that word in that way. The term rose to popularity as a nickname used by Clinton supporters to stereotype Sanders supporters in the 2016 primary.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 1:23 PM on July 6 [36 favorites]


I was hearing the word "brocialist" back in, oh god, '06 or '07, when I was involved with some folks running a chapter of that short-lived Students for a Democratic Society revival. (It was as useless as it sounds.) I know a lot of people have only recently heard it because it was appropriated by liberal centrists, but it's an older word (Wiktionary has a cite from 2013 but it's even older than that) that was picked up and abused by people with contempt for the people who coined it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:29 PM on July 6 [13 favorites]


Socialists and Clinton supporters are not mutually exclusive groups, and the assumption — or assertion — that they are is...not great.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:29 PM on July 6 [50 favorites]


Just joined and am hoping to be able to make myself useful in DC - thanks for this post.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:31 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


[Let's let the "brocialist" debate go at this point. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 1:32 PM on July 6 [14 favorites]


yeah, I was an enthusiastic Clinton supporter and also would enthusiastically fight for Medicare for all, assured housing, a zillion other socialist things. The tossing off the idea that brocialist would never be used by a socialist but by a person supporting Clinton as if it is ABSURD that an HRC voter could support a socialist platform is uh, weird.

well, it's not going to help your cause yo

[whoops sorry RN]
posted by angrycat at 1:34 PM on July 6 [26 favorites]


In the first couple of STL DSA meetings, I didn't really take a head count but it was about 35-40% female? But almost entirely white.

Racial justice was one of the three things the group wanted to concentrate on -- the Mike Brown verdict and other issues still very much in peoples' minds. A part of that was an effort to make the group more accessible and welcoming toward POC, to put their voices first rather than those of white allies. In the short term that meant choosing future meeting locations with care and organizing to provide transport, getting the word out in places other than small social media bubbles, etc. Since I haven't been back I'm not sure how successful they have been with it.

But it was a bit cliquish in that a few people who had been active in local politics and new each other did a lot of the talking. In some ways, that was actually good -- they had experience organizing stuff and that's what those early meetings were trying to do -- but I hope things balanced out a bit better over time.
posted by Foosnark at 1:36 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


I never said a socialist couldn't support Clinton. I'm a socialist and I supported Sanders in the primary, and then Clinton in the general. But I know that there are a lot of liberals on MetaFilter who are starting to get interested in socialism and in joining DSA (which is great!), so I'm trying to set expectations for what kind of discourse you'll likely encounter at those meetings and what kinds of words you should avoid using if you don't want everyone to hate you.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 1:43 PM on July 6 [11 favorites]


what an excellent first post. I've got a lot of reading to do now.
posted by bq at 1:44 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


I was kind of put off by this recent shenanigans by the leader of Pittsburgh's DSA. They seem to really want to exert control over the candidates and officials who they endorse.
posted by octothorpe at 1:46 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


I haven't been to a ton of DSA things, but at my first-ever one I bonded with the participants over our mutual belief in working pragmatically to achieve political goals rather than obsessing over ideological purity and who is more socialist than whom. If that hadn't been the case, I never would have gone back.
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:47 PM on July 6 [12 favorites]


useful (non-snarky) definitions or delineations for "brocialists," "Bernie Bros," and "Tankies"?

Brocialists - Male, typically (but I suppose not definitionally) white, who are into socialism as a political philosophy but have shitty / "bro-y" (toxically masculine) attitudes towards women, sexuality, or gender issues. May also enjoy mansplaining; typically does not enjoy the implications of socialism on patriarchy or gender politics. (Ref. Vice: "Brocialist: a guy so in love with his own progressiveness or radicalness he is convinced he can do no wrong. This extends to being a sexist jerk.")

Bernie Bros - Similar to a Brocialist, but a very outspoken Sanders supporter. Seemingly often former Ron Paul supporters, or at least the same demographic that might have Googled Ron Paul in a previous election. They were particularly visible during the primary, and controversial (IMO) for seeming to be more interested in tearing down Clinton than in basically anything else. (TNR and The Atlantic; from the latter: "The Berniebro might get into big performative arguments about how feminism saved his life. Or, the Berniebro might always seem like he’s going to say that we need economic equality for all genders but doesn’t actually say it, because he knows that it wouldn’t go over well.")

Tankies - Typically shorthand for Stalinists or Stalin-defenders, but (IMO) used more generally by people of a moderate / democratic-socialist bent to refer to those who would promote socialism or (especially) Marxism using violence, or justify / excuse authoritarianism under enemy-of-my-enemy logic. The term originally referred to British Communist Party members who supported the suppression of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution by the Soviet Union, which provoked a schism. (And, proving that history repeats itself, the same thing happened again in 2004, over support for North Korea.) I've never heard someone self-describe as a "tankie"; I think their preferred term for themselves is "anti-revisionist", for whatever that's worth, although as SJWiki notes there's some irony in calling pro-Stalin anti-revisionists "tankies", since the original tankies were distinguished by their support of Khrushchev, king of the revisionists. Personally, I like the irony.

On preview, I see I'm late to the party with this answer, which I got distracted from before I could finish writing. Hopefully it's still of interest.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:50 PM on July 6 [13 favorites]


> I was kind of put off by this recent shenanigans by the leader of Pittsburgh's DSA. They seem to really want to exert control over the candidates and officials who they endorse.

On the one hand, that's kind of the point: the NRA is so effective because losing an NRA endorsement can be a political death sentence to so many. On the other hand, the way they chose to exert that pressure -- not to push the candidate they endorsed farther to the left, but to engage in petty score-settling over an internship -- is straight out of the Bernie 2016 playbook.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:02 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


Truthfully, I’m concerned that the DSA will split off (or turn off) votes that would go to Democratic candidates, losing House seats and allowing Republicans to to retain control of Congress.
posted by haiku warrior at 2:03 PM on July 6 [9 favorites]


To put the 43k number in perspective, Eugene Debs' Socialst Party of America had reached a membership of 118,045 persons in 1912, at the height of the Party's influence, when Debs received 6% in the national election. The Communist Party USA's peak was at 66.000 members in 1939 (its membership has surged again after Trump from very low numbers to ~5k). The DSA seems to be heading that way numbers-wise, which is good for the world.
To put that in perspective the KKK had 6 million members in 1924.
posted by talos at 2:04 PM on July 6 [14 favorites]


haiku - but for the most part, they aren't running third party candidates- they're either endorsing Dems or running candidates as Dems. Ocasio just won the Democratic primary.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:05 PM on July 6 [33 favorites]


A part of that was an effort to make the group more accessible and welcoming toward POC

Are there any demographics for the number of minorities and POC that have been joining the DSA? I have tried to find them myself, but have come up empty handed.
posted by FJT at 2:08 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


Yeah it's not really clear but the Democratic Socialists aren't a political party, they're a membership organization that runs campaigns and advocates for specific policies and in some cases does direct service work. You can easily be a Democrat and a Democratic Socialist at once.
posted by latkes at 2:13 PM on July 6 [37 favorites]


I was put off by the DSA endorsement of the BDS campaign against Israel at their 2017 convention. I support most of their platform, and I hate that US foreign policy has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Likud-Shas-etc current Israel government, but I wasn’t quite ready support that. It seemed a little too close to the collective punishment BDS supporters decry. I’ve come around to luke-warm support, mostly driven by dislike of Netanyahu.

Unfortunately, as talos pointed out, parties to the left of the DSA, which would be a better fit, are atrophic to the point of irrelevancy.
posted by sudogeek at 2:16 PM on July 6 [7 favorites]


Anecdotally, DSA is very white and more male than female or non binary, with lots of exceptions in the form of specific strong women and POC leaders and participants.
posted by latkes at 2:16 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


My local DSA (I joined in November 2017 after Lee Carter won and sang "Solidarity Forever") is pretty white and male, though it's head is a white woman. It has at least one member elected to a city council. It's spread over a large geographic area which makes it difficult to coordinate. The chapter mainly focuses on canvasing for Medicare for All in NY, which is worthy, but I think more direct action (break light repair clinics, food drives, things that demonstrably make life better for some) would do to diversify our membership. I also work with the BLM and the LGBTQ+ Center which are far more female and have more people of color, so I'm trying to build bridges between the organizations. My hope is that the socialists in those groups will eventually cross over and bring both numbers and perspectives to the local DSA chapter (and hopefully become part of the leadership).
posted by Lord Chancellor at 2:30 PM on July 6 [10 favorites]


Are there any demographics for the number of minorities and POC that have been joining the DSA?

As far as I’ve been able to gather, they haven’t been collecting demographic data. I don’t know the reasoning behind that choice, but I think it’s the sort of possibly-innocuous-but-still-probably-dumb decision you can make with a small organization that becomes a much bigger problem once you start to grow. It’s like the institutional equivalent of “I don’t even see race.”

Happy to be corrected if they’ve started collecting demo data; I think the article I saw that said they don’t was from last year. OTOH I don’t remember being asked to tell them I’m a white lesbian when I signed up, either.
posted by schadenfrau at 2:37 PM on July 6 [7 favorites]


I went looking for articles about the DSA and intersectionality, got distracted by t-shirt designs, and wound up annoyed that there are no "Intersectional Socialist" t-shirts and coffee mugs.

For other content - a blog that hasn't been updated in over a year; a couple of tags at the DSA site; a long article about how Marxist theory and goals may not be compatible with intersectionality:
Having lost faith in the working class’s ability to radically transform the economic and social foundation of society, the academic left retreated to an emphasis on changing how individuals think. Stemming from this ideological trend, intersectionality emphasizes subjective experience and individual thought, language and behaviour as the lens through which to understand and overcome oppression.

This is a profoundly idealistic approach which is based on the idea that in order to change society, you need to change people's views first—or even worse, that by changing “discourse” you can transform reality.
***
To put it another way, it is the capitalist nature of the institutions that is the root of the problem, not the attitudes of the officials who hold posts in them.
***
While it is obvious that discriminatory and oppressive attitudes and behaviours are carried out by individuals and within interpersonal dynamics (which must be condemned and fought by revolutionaries), these attitudes have social and historical origins and are rooted in the structures of class society.
I don't have time to read the whole thing right now (6500+ words), but it seems to cover the base arguments that so many of the "it's all class; ignore everything else" crowd promotes.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:40 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


Brocialist is a new term to me. There is also a local all-male a capella group called the Brocal Chords. Now I'll never be able to hear one without thinking of the other and snickering.

EDIT: Come to think of it, I always snickered when I heard the name Brocal Chords so never mind.
posted by scottatdrake at 2:43 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


Does anyone have any feedback or experience to share re local chapter(s) for those of us in the DMV (DC, MD, VA)? I joined DSA after AOC's win and reading all the positive stuff on that thread for them. I would investigate myself but I haven't had a chance yet.
posted by driedmango at 2:47 PM on July 6


Just to head off a common (but inaccurate) critique of the left: Socialists care about fighting racism, sexism, AND classism. Intersectionality is not incompatible with socialism or marxism. Class is a dimension of intersectionality.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 2:47 PM on July 6 [9 favorites]


On the "control" language and expectations: DSA electoral strategy at the national level (locals are free to deviate as they see fit) is basically to err on the side of not endorsing candidates as a matter of course, and to be suspicious of the traditional model of activism where the endorsing organization basically puts up its members as unpaid staff for the candidate's campaign, in hopes of future support once the candidate is in office. So instead of knocking doors for the candidate, we knock doors for DSA, and by the way have you heard about Jane Doe who's on board with our platform?

So it is national organizational policy to only endorse avowed socialists, and to specifically use the offer of endorsement and support as a tool to grow and project political power and influence ("say the S word, put these things in your platform and we'll endorse you".) As I understand it, this policy is a reaction to the common progressive experience of supporting and campaigning for a candidate only to see them shift toward more centrist/corporatist positions after they win their seat. I can see the rationale but it's certainly open to critique, and schadenfrau's description of her experience watching a cavalcade of white dudes talk in terms of "controlling" a woman POC certainly made me cringe. It's supposed to be about keeping candidates accountable to all the people who power their campaigns, not just influence peddlers within the structure of DSA itself.

This issue is of particular interest to me as a white male member of a chapter whose only current endorsement is a woman POC running for local office.
posted by contraption at 2:49 PM on July 6 [12 favorites]


My understanding of socialism is that it is indeed working to dismantle racism and sexism, and various other forms of oppression, along with classism. But I'm giving a hard side-eye to articles (there were more) that claim or imply that "intersectionality" is some kind of idealist buzzword that involves reinforcing capitalist power structures in order to make a false equivalency between currently-oppressed groups.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:51 PM on July 6 [13 favorites]


I've been tempted to join up. Anyone here who's part of either the Wichita or Kansas City DSA groups?

I currently do volunteer work for my state and county's Democratic parties. One thing they've done to address gender issues is have a rule which mandates an even split between genders in leadership positions. If the county chair is female then the vice-chair has to be male, and so on. Up and down the line. Exceptions to this rule are never allowed, at least not in my experience.

This seems to work very well. All the functions I go to have women heavily involved, and the men listen to them. Has there been any talk of doing something similar in the DSA? Or do some of the chapters already practice this?
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 2:52 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


There is also a local all-male a capella group called the Brocal Chords.
And here I was imagining that it was about the connection to Broca's area, which is the area in the brain linked to speaking.
/derail I'm so sorry

posted by mosst at 2:57 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


Knocking On Doors With Julia Salazar: meet the other democratic socialist running for a seat in New York
posted by The Whelk at 2:58 PM on July 6 [7 favorites]


One thing they've done to address gender issues is have a rule which mandates an even split between genders in leadership positions.

National DSA is organized this way and so is my local, my impression was that it's a mandate from national. It's a very egalitarian organization on paper, it just seems as though there may be some problems in the implementation (SHUT UP CAPITALISTS.)
posted by contraption at 2:58 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


Just to head off a common (but inaccurate) critique of the left: Socialists care about fighting racism, sexism, AND classism.

I think it's important for all socialists to understand that adopting the label of socialist, believing yourself to be a socialist, and fighting for socialist causes does not AUTOMATICALLY remove a person's latent and possibly unconscious racism and sexism. And playing 'no true socialist' by claiming that "all" socialists care about those things and anybody who doesn't just doesn't ''count" will only result in sweeping those issues under the rug to fester.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:01 PM on July 6 [50 favorites]


To piggy back off The Whelk’s reminder that another DSA candidate is primarying the hell out of someone who should primaried:

The last(?) canvassing event for Julia Salazar for NY State Senate is this Sunday, July 8.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:11 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


I joined DSA in the early 80s. Back then, the average leftist male was almost by default a mansplainer, and DSA was not so bad in that respect: there were a lot of woman members, and the men were pretty reasonable, save for the occasional leftist college professor with theories. We had study groups. We drafted plant closing legislation. We urged the local University to divest from South African investments. We supported picket lines. We had a newsletter (this was before the internet existed!!).

It's true that the membership was blindingly white, but this was less of a problem as it might now seem. Most of what we did was in coalition with other groups, and, depending on what the action was, we worked with every progressive group in town, and knew and got along with all of them. When, in 1984, Jesse Jackson ran for president, all of these groups were instantly able to become a rainbow coalition and work for his campaign. I grew up in rural Michigan, so being in DSA and working with these groups shaped my thinking a great deal- I made friends with people from many backgrounds.

We were hard workers, and since our avowed aim was to work within the Democratic party, we eventually took over the party in our town and a DSA member became mayor. At the same time, Bernie Sanders was Mayor in Burlington, not so far away. We were simultaneously very proud of him and very pissed off at him (a combination of feelings I hold to this day). Bernie was not someone to reach out or try to form coalitions with others, and he was uninterested in helping other Socialists. So we cheered him on from the sidelines and didn't expect anything from him.

DSA had national conventions, where we would get together to argue about who we would endorse for president, always ending with us supporting the mainstream Democratic candidate. If we were "The Left Wing of the Possible", it was clear that not much was possible. We sang "Union Maid", mingled with old ex-Communists wearing black Greek fishing caps, hailed our chairman-for-life Michael Harrington. It was very dreary. We felt more-or-less vital during the Reagan and Bush I years, but less relevant during Clinton and forgotten after that. The issues that galvanized Michael Harrington: aid for the poor, support of the unions, became unpopular. No one wanted to discuss Yugoslavian models of market socialism any more.

I just emailed a friend from that time who has remained active in National DSA. I told her what was going on in Metafilter and asked her for her response. She says: "I guess I'd have to say that with so many new people flooding into the organization, it's hard to say what's going on. I'd say [our local] DSA still doesn't have this problem. But that could also be a question of my level of sensitivity.... There are certainly guys around who always think they know better than anyone else. One thing that helps is to start some real work -- showing up at protests, attending meetings of some body that can vote on something you care about and speaking up during privilege of the floor. Anyway, having real work to do will scare off some of those guys. Though they may hang around to tell you how to do it. National staff is majority women. (Lots of work to be done.)"
posted by acrasis at 3:20 PM on July 6 [47 favorites]


Intersectionality is not incompatible with socialism or marxism.

I agree with this, and I suspect most people critiquing DSA for its white-maleness also agree with this. A lot of women and people of color have noted race and gender problems with DSA. As long as the response is #notallsocialists or attacking the critiques, I am not super confident that DSA will ever be a place I feel welcome.

The “Bernie Bro” mythology—that progressives are almost exclusively white, male, and young—will not die, no matter how often women and people of color try to speak up to disprove it. In all the words spilled about the uninterrupted whiteness of Sanders supporters, prominent “Bros” like Rosario Dawson, Ben Jealous, Pramila Jayapal, Eddie Glaude, Spike Lee, Killer Mike, Cornel West, and Nina Turner went largely unmentioned.


The fact that there are non-white, non-male Bernie supporters is not a secret, and also doesn't prove what you think it does. Although DSA does not collect demographics, people who support the organization enough to join mention how white and male it is. People on this website have recounted alienating experiences with left-wing misogyny (which is obviously not exclusive to the DSA). Defensiveness is not how DSA members need to respond if they truly want to address racism, sexism, AND classism. I joined. I put my money in. I will go to meetings and see how it goes. I will not use the word brocialist. I will direct my money and energy elsewhere if I encounter much of what schadenfrau did at the NYC meeting.
posted by Mavri at 3:23 PM on July 6 [48 favorites]


The last(?) canvassing event for Julia Salazar for NY State Senate is this Sunday, July 8.

That's a petition deadline coming up fast; idk how it works in other states but folks like Julia Salazar and Cynthia Nixon have to collect signatures to get on the ballot.

The actual primary is (Thursday) September 13; you can sign up to get involved with Cynthia here and Salazar has a whole raft of canvassing you can sign up for.
posted by lalex at 3:25 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


(Heads up, Tucker Carlson is going to have a DSA section on tonight so a lot of us Very Online Folk are taking our social media accounts private for a few days to avoid being the target of a right wing Fox News troll around )
posted by The Whelk at 3:25 PM on July 6 [7 favorites]


(Also there’s an outdoor mixer for the NYC Queer Caucus this Sunday at 1pm, MeMail me for info)
posted by The Whelk at 3:36 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


In the UK we've had our resurgence of the left taking over what had become a liberal party and what I can tell you is that there will be a lot more inaccurate stereotyping of the left in as many ways as possible.

In the UK momentum are all (according to the papers) entryist Trotskyite Marxist thugs. A hive of nasty bullying trolls who are all uniformly hard left agitators from the 70s and also clueless ingenues.
It's undermined a bit when people actually go to a momentum knitting circle or tea party or whatever and they're all generally quite nice.

So the brocialist labelling is right on trend and it's only going to get worse as they get more popular, because the attacks come not only from the right, but also from the liberals (and generally with more vitriol from them) who don't want to lose the leftist vote despite never actually doing anything that the left want.
Because the left are of course unelectable (even after being elected) and their policies are unrealistic and regardless you can't do anything if you don't win so let's all have centrists policies so we can win and then not do the leftist ones anyway.

All arguments you get to look forward to :)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:42 PM on July 6 [26 favorites]


we've been having those arguments right here for well over two years
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:44 PM on July 6 [14 favorites]


I’m less concerned about the “brocialist labeling” then I am the repeated incidences of sexism on the left.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 3:47 PM on July 6 [36 favorites]


I heard (thanks The Whelk) about local action the DSA was taking and I was interested in hearing more about that so I signed up for the local newsletter a few months ago. Maybe it’s becuase I work on Wall Street but when the newsletter comes with the heading “Comrades!” It feels a little like cosplay to me.

I am super busy and am more likely to work with Democrats upstate (trying to flip a red congressional district) than DSA in New York City.
posted by shothotbot at 4:01 PM on July 6 [7 favorites]


Happily, the best antidote for both problems is largely the same: serious introspection coupled with real organizational policies that encourage participation from members of marginalized groups and offer them concrete remedies when they encounter bias on an organizational or individual level.
posted by contraption at 4:01 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


I was also thinking about joining the East Bay DSA, but the article linked earlier has so many red flags for things I've seen in other membership organizations around here though... What's with the overwhelming inclination toward centralization and authoritarian decision making around here? Indivisible East Bay was the same way, all of the Democratic clubs I joined, everything has been rather blatantly undemocratic with strong and completely opaque central committees making decisions in secret that are presented fait accompli to the membership, if at all.

I'm hoping someone else will jump in and say that since that article was published (January 12th) things have turned around. I just don't know where to go to be helpful.
posted by books for weapons at 4:04 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


we've been having those arguments right here for well over two years

Just because you've annotated the hell out of your own notebooks that several of the pages are starting to fall out, it doesn't mean there isn't value in comparing notes with your neighbours. A different context might be the only way to gain fresh new insight out of old ideas.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 4:06 PM on July 6 [6 favorites]


So I realize the framing of the post was always going to make this challenging, but that’s because the nature of...well, reality is challenging. I went back and forth about how to put this together before I finally went “fuck it there is no way to do this without maybe starting a fight and still be honest about what I just experienced, just do it.” I tried, but...yeah.

So we’ve already had one mod note about the “brocialist” thing; I don’t think it’s helpful to bring it up again without having read the rest of the thread.

For me, personally, if you can’t accept the premise that sexism and racism exists on the left...I don’t know what to tell you. It means you’re saying you don’t believe those of us who have experienced it. Which is a way of ending a conversation, really. I mean, you can’t talk to someone who just announced that they don’t respect you enough to believe you about your life, you know?

So in the interests of continuing to be able to talk about the DSA as a changing and growing organization...I don’t even know. The mods have it pretty tough. I think we’ve all kind of remained polite so far — or we’ve thrown sort of polite elbows? Like nudges, here and there, rather than going after each other — and it would be great if we could keep doing that? This is just something that’s so easy to fight about (and I say that as someone who has historically been VERY FIGHTY about That Which Shall Not Be Mentioned).

I’ve really valued the conversation so far, so thank you all, and I’ve just remembered the phrase “thread sitting” so I will probably back away slowly now.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:08 PM on July 6 [29 favorites]


The solution to "brocialist labeling" is to be welcoming and inclusive to women. I've heard several people claim that the term is used to be divisive, that it's an insult from outsiders to the DSA membership/community, that it's related to the 2016 election conflicts... what I haven't heard, is women saying, "it's a bogus term; I attend DSA meetings all the time and I never notice any sexism."

Instead, I hear a lot of "I like the DSA's goals and their style of action - I guess I can put up with some assholes in yet another area of my life." Often, this comes with a caveat: "if they get too awful, I'll leave."

I suspect the DSA is going to have a choice: either become yet another political group to push the goals of a subset of straight white men, or have its focus shifted to address the needs and wants of a broader constituency. "Dismantle capitalism" may not be biased by race or gender or orientation or ability or religion, but "which parts do we dismantle first?" is definitely a question where identities come into play. (Raising minimum wage is a goal - gov't stipend for childcare is not.)

I am reminded of a DailyKos story about White Feminist Privilege in Organizations: The core group began by thinking it was easy to go beyond tokenism to integrate women of color into the organization. They ended, however, with the realization that genuine integration means not only attracting more women of color to events, but also shifting the structure of the organization to include women of color as powerful forces in *shaping* the organization. Perhaps because their racism made them see me as a "white ally," these resistant white feminists were often very up-front with me about their decision not to share power with women of color.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:12 PM on July 6 [35 favorites]


This article of the DSA constitution is interesting:

Article XIII. Polls
Polls of the members on specific issues may be held upon petition of one-half of the Locals or one-third of the members. Such polls shall be advisory and not binding.

I wonder how hard it would be to get 50% of chapters to sign on to a petition requiring a poll to collect: 1) demographic info on members and 2) opinion on whether DSA should conduct further inquiry into inclusivity issues within local chapters.
posted by contraption at 4:21 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


I gotta say, I've been eyeing joining or donating to the DSA based on the good works different chapters have been able to achieve and based on the Whelk's very enthusiastic canvassing. The general "omg don't use brocialist, it's an insult to the left!" defensiveness response, however, is eroding that tentative interest pretty dramatically.

I think I'm going to keep watching, me. I'm worn the hell out, and I don't even have the energy to join something that even might require that much institutional hell-raising and changing from within--and the defensiveness is such a red flag to me that that's what is likely to happen.
posted by sciatrix at 4:24 PM on July 6 [27 favorites]


Socialism is not so fragile that constructive criticism from socialists will destroy its chances of success. But a refusal to accept any form of criticism absolutely will destroy those chances, because then it will vanish up its own ass.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:25 PM on July 6 [48 favorites]


ErisLordofFreedom, back in the olden days I described above, feminist groups were having divisive discussions about gay rights. There were a group of feminists who strongly argued that supporting and discussing lesbian rights would "dilute the message" and "alienate potential allies". They were wrong, of course. Socialist groups have a similar temptation to ignore intersectionality on the theory that class structure explains all of that. I strongly disagree, both factually and tactically. I don't know how to get enough people from diverse backgrounds into DSA to fix this, other than finding eloquent speakers to address this and inspire people. However, Barbara Erhenreich is pretty eloquent; Cornell West is pretty eloquent. I really hope all the Mefites who went to a meeting and were alienated will go back and try again. This organization is what we make of it.
posted by acrasis at 4:29 PM on July 6 [10 favorites]


I think I'm going to keep watching, me. I'm worn the hell out, and I don't even have the energy to join something that even might require that much institutional hell-raising and changing from within--and the defensiveness is such a red flag to me that that's what is likely to happen.

This is a totally understandable position to take, sciatrix, and I hope those of us within the organization are successful in bringing it along into something that's more appealing before you give up on watching and waiting. I've heard your tales of organizing over the last few years and know you'd be great to have in our ranks, and it saddens and pisses me off to know that we're missing out on potential members like you for stupid reasons.

For anyone feeling put off by problems with their local chapter but interested in DSA nonetheless, there is an option for anyone interested in pushing DSA in a more inclusive direction without duking it out on the local level: you can join the Socialist Feminist national Working Group as a member at large.
posted by contraption at 4:46 PM on July 6 [13 favorites]


mingled with old ex-Communists wearing black Greek fishing caps,

Whoa man, this takes me back. Everything old is new again.

I will say that some of my reluctance is on me. I'm not a joiner, I'm socially awkward, I've got my own work to do on me that's not on anyone else to cater to. But defensiveness is not a great look. I've seen it happen a ton vis-a-vis white feminism and it just doesn't help. My advice meted out to many white folks on the internet over the years is the same as for white male socialists hearing criticisms of other white male socialists: if it's not about you, it's not about you. Just take a seat and listen for a spell.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:10 PM on July 6 [7 favorites]


A few high-level fleshings-out, rebuttals, anecdotes, etc to add to what's been said so far, from an insider's (a cis-straight man of color) perspective:

0) DSA is awesome. The comments have been very negative, but for myself and my (gender balanced! and queer! and inclusive!) chapter, it's a community and a home. I seriously love the people (comrades, if you will) who fight for radical outcomes in an otherwise suffocatingly liberal city. What the city wants: to talk about how you can shower less, recycle more. What we want: to put our bodies on the line to fight for the planet, for the most vulnerable in our society, and for radical changes that needed to happen yesterday.

1) Socialism is very diverse. In fact, there are a lot of people on this thread claiming the mantle of "leftist" (very brave!) while talking about Hillary etc. Yes, if you come in guns blazing about bernie bros and Hillary, I will fucking hate you. This isn't because I hate Hillary (though I do - remember how she released a statement about her concern for the safety of "both sides" during Standing Rock?), it's because we're not interested in electoral or Democratic Party politics, and people who are still litigating the 2016 primaries are insufferable.

2) In response to specific comments about classism - classism isn't a focus for us, because we're fighting for a classless society. The idea isn't to lessen "prejudice" or "discrimination" against the poor, the idea is to make it so there _are_ no poor people. Interested in: anti-eviction canvassing, medicaid signups, campaigns against the criminalization of homelessness. Not interested in: putting up pictures of homeless people at the library.

3) The most serious problem in our particular chapter right now, along the lines of what this thread is discussing, is of old-timer Harrington-ites not wanting to take gender pronouns seriously. I'm not sure if you can tell from how much hostility there is in this thread, but DSA is trying to build a radically queer anticapitalist movement. There is no socialism without gender and sexual equality, because socialism means, um, everyone.

4) The org is indeed "multitendency", so if your local isn't, let's say, up to par, then... that's a problem! But that's a different critique than "they're all Bernie bros", which like 999999 people have said above me, erases the serious labor that women, people of color, and especially women of color put into making this happen.

5) Lastly, as someone with a disabled partner who desperately wants to organize but can't because these groups have little to no infrastructure for disability, I'll venture an insider critique that the biggest problem of the left is ableism. As the woman who introduced me to Bernie Sanders, she'll probably burst an artery if she read how many times the phrase "Bernie Bro" was written in this thread.
posted by neil pierce at 5:27 PM on July 6 [26 favorites]


As a woman, gender non conformist, and a socialist, and an (admittedly only peripherally active) DSA member, I am glad for people to call attention to specific sexist behaviors among socialist organizers. I support naming and addressing gender imbalance in DSA. I also get frustrated by non specific name calling that seems to paint all socialists, including women and non binary socialists, as "bros". I'm not saying "not all men", I'm saying "don't erase women and non binary folks".
posted by latkes at 5:29 PM on July 6 [11 favorites]


DSA is awesome. The comments have been very negative, but

A lot of the comments you're describing as 'very negative' have been made by active, engaged DSA members. Having some issues with it isn't a blanket condemnation. It means people care enough to want to make it better.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:40 PM on July 6 [24 favorites]


I've been considering becoming a member of the DSA, but if it's mostly a bunch of dudes treating real politics like they're the politics at the local LARP, maybe I'll send my money to Solidarity and/or become a Wobbly instead.
posted by ob1quixote at 5:40 PM on July 6


Yeah how dare women telling their own experiences with sexism in the DSA and DSA adjacent groups be negative. So the ladies just have to chin up huh?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 5:41 PM on July 6 [11 favorites]


DSA is awesome.

That's also been my experience! It's incredibly invigorating to get together with like-minded people and do actual concrete work to effect change, and I want everyone to have the opportunity for the same experience that I've had joining DSA as a white dude. What I've heard here are specific accounts from people who have had another, really shitty and dispiriting experience, and they deserve to be heard. My small local chapter has a really diverse group with women and gender-nonconforming people participating and occupying leadership positions. I don't think they feel chapter culture is unwelcoming, but you can bet I'm gonna ask after this conversation.
posted by contraption at 5:53 PM on July 6 [17 favorites]


I also want to say: if your local chapter isn't like that, that's awesome! I'm not saying I don't believe you. But when other people say they've had bad experiences, why not say "that sucks, let me support these people in their attempts to make their chapters as inclusive as mine," rather than taking it as an affront?
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:54 PM on July 6 [17 favorites]


1) Socialism is very diverse. In fact, there are a lot of people on this thread claiming the mantle of "leftist" (very brave!) while talking about Hillary etc. Yes, if you come in guns blazing about bernie bros and Hillary, I will fucking hate you. This isn't because I hate Hillary (though I do - remember how she released a statement about her concern for the safety of "both sides" during Standing Rock?), it's because we're not interested in electoral or Democratic Party politics, and people who are still litigating the 2016 primaries are insufferable.

Thanks for this, this is really making me reconsider my membership. I don't see this kind of condemnation coming for Bernie after his stupid ass remark at Maxine Waters re: Trumpers being shamed out of establishments.
posted by driedmango at 5:55 PM on July 6 [24 favorites]


Maybe it’s becuase I work on Wall Street but when the newsletter comes with the heading “Comrades!” It feels a little like cosplay to me.

I have to just inwardly eyeroll at it, personally, but I am unsure how much is my brainwashing from growing up through the cold war and the constant boo-hiss-commies that was omnipresent through that time. So perhaps it rings different for the non-olds.

This isn't because I hate Hillary (though I do - remember how she released a statement about her concern for the safety of "both sides" during Standing Rock?), it's because we're not interested in electoral or Democratic Party politics, and people who are still litigating the 2016 primaries are insufferable.

That this sentence as a whole could be written is astounding in its own way.
posted by phearlez at 6:00 PM on July 6 [21 favorites]


Thanks for this, this is really making me reconsider my membership.

To be fair, based on my experiences so far, this type of attitude has not been the most prevalent one. (Also the blanket statement that the DSA is "not interested in electoral politics" does not even slightly square with my local DSA in Brooklyn, which spends a ton of time knocking on doors for various candidates.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:01 PM on July 6 [10 favorites]


THIS THREAD IS WHY WE CANT HAVE NICE THINGS
posted by entropicamericana at 6:01 PM on July 6 [11 favorites]


Yes, if you come in guns blazing about bernie bros and Hillary, I will fucking hate you. This isn't because I hate Hillary (though I do - remember how she released a statement about her concern for the safety of "both sides" during Standing Rock?), it's because we're not interested in electoral or Democratic Party politics, and people who are still litigating the 2016 primaries are insufferable.

If you're trying to get me to stay away from the DSA, you're doing a darn good job. Are you saying that we can't have been supporters of Hillary and also be socialists. 'Cause I kind of am both. So I guess that you fucking hate me.
posted by octothorpe at 6:02 PM on July 6 [29 favorites]


[Please try to crank it down a notch or two, especially in the interpersonal snarking.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 6:05 PM on July 6 [6 favorites]


not interested in electoral or Democratic Party politics

So in all seriousness, if you aren't interested in electoral politics, how are you going to change anything? Like it or not getting leftier and leftier people elected is going to be the only way we drag this country into fully automated luxury gay space communism, aka the star trek future, and if you're not interested in electoral politics....???
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:09 PM on July 6 [23 favorites]


The entire reason so many people are thinking about joining the DSA despite its problems is because it has been getting very involved in electoral politics, and has some high-profile wins to show for it. That means democratic socialists heading to state houses and even the U.S. Congress to give members a seat at the table -- something third parties have never been able to do to any significant degree. The idea that DSA members would somehow see this as a bad thing is perplexing. Just when you're finally getting a chance to exert influence inside the party but from the outside of the party apparatus, why would you choose to walk away from that?
posted by tonycpsu at 6:10 PM on July 6 [29 favorites]


Anyone who’s ever spent even five minutes doing activism will know that activism is full of assholes. Being the change you wish to see in these organizations is part of the work. The alternative is disengagement.
posted by moorooka at 6:11 PM on July 6 [11 favorites]


Anyone who’s ever spent even five minutes doing activism will know that activism is full of assholes. Being the change you wish to see in these organizations is part of the work. The alternative is disengagement.

I just... this work of challenging the jerks ALWAYS falls on women/POC/Queer/etc people and it is an exhausting form of emotional labor that I do. not. have. the spoons for. So if like, five minutes of reflection and discussion with women about sexism in the movement is impossible without like throwing my body onto the gears, I guess I'm disengaging.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:14 PM on July 6 [34 favorites]


So in all seriousness, if you aren't interested in electoral politics, how are you going to change anything? Like it or not getting leftier and leftier people elected is going to be the only way we drag this country into fully automated luxury gay space communism, aka the star trek future, and if you're not interested in electoral politics....???

But also 'just elect democrats' gets us Clintonian triangulation when the people who are in it for political power see greener pastures from other constituencies. So socialists and anarchists see a society that grinds down the poor and says 'we need to try every avenue we can to stop this which might include elections but also includes just giving homeless folks food, and getting arrested for it, and building structures and strength outside of the established channels of power because those channels were put in place by people who want to maintain the status quo.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:14 PM on July 6 [12 favorites]


I do remember that last year there was a lot more discussion and kinda internal soul-searching about whether explicitly endorsing and assisting candidates was the right direction for the DSA... but from what I can see, that ship has now thoroughly sailed and the majority of members and chapters are on board.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:16 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


I am curious if other hinterlanders have experience/plans regarding organizing new DSA groups/OCs/chapters?

My own experience (which I'm hoping to avoid recreating a second time around) was that the people who initially gravitated to DSA were not from existing local activist communities (and also lacking diversity in key dimensions including race), and that the ill effects of charging forward with that relatively disconnected and unrepresentative group (rather than taking time to rectify those issues at the outset) created lasting obstacles to being an effective local chapter.
posted by shenderson at 6:16 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


I didn't say 'just elect democrats' though- I said get leftier and leftier people elected, not once did I say they had to be democrats?
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 6:16 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


Hold up Coyote, nobody but you made the jump from 'engage in electoral politics' to 'just elect [any and all] Democrats.'
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:18 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


So in all seriousness, if you aren't interested in electoral politics, how are you going to change anything?

"Not interested in electoral politics" is not a universal in the DSA -- in fact there's a new Electoral Field Organizer position opening at the national level.
posted by Foosnark at 6:18 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


Elections happen so often in the U.S. that it's a pretty common complaint that activism that isn't directly related to an upcoming midterm is a distraction. And as we've just seen in New Jersey and Seattle, even if you do win electoral victories on redistributive issues, those initiatives have a tendency of just plain not even happening. So building up the organization to work outside of elections is totally necessary.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:23 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


Perhaps a more focused question to ask is: should DSA be endorsing / lending its imprimatur to candidates who are not avowedly socialist? I have seen some local chapters doing so but am a bit unclear on the purpose. There are lots of bigger-tent "progressive" orgs that are already doing the important harm-reduction work of finding the least bad viable candidate.

(Ideally that would be a separate question from control -- a socialist candidate need not have any affiliation with or accountability to DSA -- although it sounds like the two have tended to be conflated in practice.)
posted by shenderson at 6:23 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


I've never heard that DSA is not interested in electoral politics, just that we're not exclusively an electoral politics organization and that we recognize the need for building solidarity and power outside the electoral system.
posted by contraption at 6:23 PM on July 6 [10 favorites]


I think it’s simply the difference between viewing electoral success, within the constraints imposed by the constitution, as an end in itself, as opposed to a means toward breaking down those constraints.

For example, what happens when the progressive legislation passed by your democratic majority is blocked by the Supreme Court? Do you keep on electing democrats running on a platform of waiting for these justices to die off?
posted by moorooka at 6:30 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


I'm currently unable to join the DSA because [reasons which I hope will change soon], but my outsider-y take on things is thus:

1. The only way we get out of this shit alive is by Democrats winning elections in 2018 and beyond.
2. The Democratic Party, as presently constituted, is not properly equipped to win enough seats to make the kind of changes they need to make. They are varying degrees of too isolated, too comfortable, too timid, and too beaten down by decades of right-wing noise.
3. The DSA is the only vehicle I'm aware of that's substantial enough to combat the party's tendency toward inertia and "living to fight another day" over extracting the most positive outcomes from the political process and energizing a progressive base that's awakening in districts blue, red, and every shade in between. Unite that hunger for better policy with a nationwide sense of disgust toward the President and his party and you can *really* do some damage in a wave election.
4. It sounds like the DSA has a lot of problems at the chapter level, and probably some at the national level as well, that are turning off many of the people that it's going to need in order to effectively push Democrats while not dividing the larger left-leaning tent that encompasses folks who hold progressive ideals, but don't trust that the modern leftist movement has their interests at heart.

These points, when taken together, leave me to one inescapable conclusion, which is that while at least some in the DSA are trying to infiltrate and occupy the Democratic host organism, good progressives who have sufficient energy, believe in economic and social justice, and understand that flipping seats and changing the balance of power in DC is vital to our survival have to in turn infiltrate and occupy the DSA. In chapters where the local leaders are already more receptive to social justice goals and endorsing candidates, that can be done amicably. In chapters where there's a stubborn Berner/Steiniac contingent that sees partnering with liberals as anathema or thinks only economic justice can cure our ills, a more forceful approach of outnumbering, outvoting, and replacing them might be necessary.

Unfortunately, the people that can do the most to improve things are the very people, that, per schadenfrau's report and other reports I've heard from local DSA members, are having the toughest time feeling like they belong. Which makes it hard, because there's no check-mark when you join that says your dues go to backing leaders who are committed to increasing representation of marginalized groups and winning elections, and no guarantee that when you show up to a meeting that there will be like-minded folks to back you up if you're trying to change minds or push your local chapter in a more productive and inclusive direction.

Which means we're basically back to the sheer force of numbers -- getting good people who have good views on inclusive progressive politics to participate and force the DSA's tent to expand. There's a chicken/egg collective action problem here, and it seems to me it's incumbent on the people inside the organization already to not keep giving people reasons to stay away, just as it is on people like me to examine and overcome their impediments to joining.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:32 PM on July 6 [21 favorites]


So socialists and anarchists see a society that grinds down the poor and says 'we need to try every avenue we can to stop this which might include elections but also includes just giving homeless folks food, and getting arrested for it, and building structures and strength outside of the established channels of power because those channels were put in place by people who want to maintain the status quo.

The recognition that electoral politics are insufficient doesn't have to come coupled with a rejection of electoral politics.

So building up the organization to work outside of elections is totally necessary.

I very much agree! Engagement on issues outside of elections is necessary in its own right, but it's also necessary because it's the only way I can see to sustain pressure on the electoral process in the interest of leftist causes. Electoral organizing contains the seed of its own defeat if it's not coupled with a strategy to maintain the pressure after victory in the election itself. There's a natural enthusiasm problem after an election. The winning side won and is ready to stop pushing and let the electeds do their thing, while the losing side is incentivized to push as hard as they can. That's not true for everyone, but it's a consistent pattern.

Engagement with non-electoral issues and an organization outside of them helps maintain the structure of involvement once the election is over. That provides a platform for continued pressure which is necessary to achieve real wins within representative governments.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 6:32 PM on July 6 [12 favorites]


Perhaps a more focused question to ask is: should DSA be endorsing / lending its imprimatur to candidates who are not avowedly socialist?

My immediate instinct is to say no, they probably shouldn't. But I'd want to know more about the specific candidates and those local chapters' reasoning. It's a good thing that the chapters are decentralized enough to assess their local political contexts and make those decisions for themselves.
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:33 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


Maybe it’s because I work on Wall Street but when the newsletter comes with the heading “Comrades!” It feels a little like cosplay to me.

This was a real problem back when DSA was filled with Old Left members and New Left members and those of us who were in the "Youth Group". [I mean, seriously? The YOUTH GROUP?] I really resented being forced to sing "Joe Hill":

"I never died, says he,
I never died, says he"

I'm over that now: it's a cool song. I am also eternally grateful that one time our entertainment was an Odetta concert. Calling each other "comrade" is stupid, we need to get across that normal countries run their economies this way without creaky anachronistic folk singalongs. But we do have a culture of the left.
posted by acrasis at 6:33 PM on July 6 [6 favorites]


On the electoral issue, a point I think is worth emphasizing is that for many of us (certainly me) the DSA is itself a fairly big-tent, pragmatic organization, and people from all over the left half of the spectrum find reasons to march under its banner -- but when we do so, we retain our existing attitudes about electoral action, direct action, the nature of the social order we're working toward, etc. So there are quite a few DSA members who categorically reject electoral action, and quite a few who have little use for any other form of action. Fortunately, the organization is big enough that everybody can do the work they consider important (albeit not so big that we can necessarily avoid getting on each other's nerves, as in this thread).

For those struggling to understand the anti-electoral viewpoint, in the aftermath of AOC's win the Black Rose/Rosa Negra Federation has been posting some rather pointed critiques of DSA's electoral focus, which might be of interest to some in this thread. They are collected on Twitter under the topical hashtag #BuildMovementsNotElections.
posted by shenderson at 6:44 PM on July 6 [13 favorites]


[Deleted a whole chain of rehashing and uncharitable misreadings.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:02 PM on July 6 [7 favorites]


For a lot of people, almost certainly the majority of Americans, the word 'liberal' just means 'not conservative' and isn't in conflict with socialist principles at all. I'm not saying that's strictly correct, but it's worth keeping in mind as we do outreach.
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:04 PM on July 6 [24 favorites]


Gotta say I really appreciate this thread for helping me evaluate whether DSA is something I want to be a part of. I guess I'm not entirely convinced that capitalism is the root of all evil so it'll require some more mulling and thinking.
posted by driedmango at 7:05 PM on July 6 [6 favorites]


Not of all evil, but definitely a bunch.

As are sexism and racism, neither of which is owned exclusively by any one political group. And yes: even the Actually Evil Party (née GOP).
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:08 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


To clarify, my issue was with this:

good progressives who have sufficient energy, believe in economic and social justice, and understand that flipping seats and changing the balance of power in DC is vital to our survival have to in turn infiltrate and occupy the DSA.

Obama was a “good progressive”. DSA is a socialist organization. So “progressives who believe in economic and social justice” sounds to me like a roundabout way of avoiding the word “socialist”.

Frankly, “socialist”, is a poisonous word when it comes to electoral politics in much of the USA, and so this is at the crux of what we’re discussing; I’d expect that a strategy based on electoral success would begin with diluting “socialism” into a fuzzy “progressivism”, and diverting the organization’s goal of building an anti-capitalist current in American politics toward a goal of “more and better Democrats”.

Ultimately I think the goal of actual socialists engaging electorally within America’s two-party system is to put a legitimately socialist party on the ballot line. The Republican Party was once the anti-slavery party, so radical that their coming to power broke up the Union. An anti-capitalist party would be similarly radical.
posted by moorooka at 7:16 PM on July 6 [10 favorites]


Thank you for clarifying, that makes much more sense, and is a very good point.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 7:19 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


For those struggling to understand the anti-electoral viewpoint, in the aftermath of AOC's win the Black Rose/Rosa Negra Federation has been posting some rather pointed critiques of DSA's electoral focus, which might be of interest to some in this thread. They are collected on Twitter under the topical hashtag #BuildMovementsNotElections.

Stuff like this is weird to me because like, I feel like I'm in sync with most of the analysis, but not the conclusions. Like yeah, elections *are* universally compromised by money and elected officials will never live up to even their own ideals, let alone those of the people who got them elected which in this discussion will nearly always be to the left of the electeds themselves. Real reform *is* difficult to achieve within the system, and easily lost once achieved.

But on the other hand, I'm not convinced that the alternatives they're proposing are any easier to achieve, so I don't view any of that as reason to write off electoral politics. Just being realistic about the work that is to be done. Which is important!
posted by vibratory manner of working at 7:21 PM on July 6 [13 favorites]


Legit question: is there an organization for social democrats in the U.S.? Or is that just being a progressive Democrat?
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:23 PM on July 6 [7 favorites]


Gotta say I really appreciate this thread for helping me evaluate whether DSA is something I want to be a part of. I guess I'm not entirely convinced that capitalism is the root of all evil so it'll require some more mulling and thinking.

I'm right there with you on that, and what got me to unlimber the metaphorical checkbook (cuz it's 2018 and the socialist org let me pay my dues with a credit card that it verified through a processing clearinghouse and which will transfer the money to their non-public bank) was some statements I'd seen elsewhere about us being so so so far from any sort of big socialism that this is the work of a lifetime to do much more than move things to where we put some good systems in place to help the poor keep body and soul together and provide better education and universal access to health care etc etc

and I thought, I'm 48. If we really do somehow, in the next 40 years, go past just getting everyone to be a part of the basic needs for everyone else, head towards taxing the 3rd+ million folks make every year at a rate that recognizes just how far above 99% of the nation that is, tax inheritances at a sanely aggressive level such that having fortune smile on a person doesn't turn their descendants into a permanent royal line, etc and so on.. and we start going past that point where someone's working up to going around and redistributing kidneys? I feel like I can see that coming and call my participation with the org done at that point.

I guess it's possible that someone in DSA will suss out my less than full commitment to SparkleMotion unfettered gay space communism and take umbrage. If they really decide it's not okay for me to be there when we're heading in the same direction for the foreseeable future, well, that's their lookout and I guess I'll take that when it comes. But when it comes to my own personal feelings I've decided I can reconcile feeling like there's salvageable bits in capitalism while still working to get some smart socialism in place. I didn't have a problem reconciling my belief in the value of public education and mass transit programs in the past, why do I have to draw a line here?
posted by phearlez at 7:25 PM on July 6 [20 favorites]


Yeah, to be clear, my assumption was that very few people who weren't already at least skeptical toward capitalism if not hostile toward it would be inclined to join DSA.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:26 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


I joined a week or so ago. I jumped on the bandwagon when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won her primary. I have been unhappy with the Democrats since pretty much ever, but at least they aren't Republicans. I caucused and voted for Obama twice, and tend to lean Democrat at the national level, but vote split at the state and local level (I live in Iowa, and sometimes the Republican is the best choice, since sometimes the Democrats either don't field a candidate, or fields someone completely off their rocker). I'll vote for anyone who is running unopposed. I'm generally to the left of Bernie on most social issues, so there's seldom anyone out there I can vote for (I am usually forced to vote against).

I started opening my wallet to politicians a few years back. Mostly to support 1st Amendment legislation, but Sanders got me to donate to him, Democrats in general, and progressive in particular. I don't think anyone I've supported recently has won, but to me, that's not the point. Sure, I would love for J.D. Scholten to beat Rep. Steve King, but he won't. I still kicked in what I could afford.

I try to vote for the best candidate, and I try not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but I've been pretty pissed for quite some time at both parties. No, I don't think the parties are the same, but on some issues important to me they are both pretty fucking bad (i.e. Obama's drone program, the continued existence of the Guantanamo Bay prison, the reauthorization of FISA and the Patriot Act to name a few). I am exhausted that every time a Democrat loses, the solution seems to run right to appeal to the other side's voters. That's never going to work. Doing that only means some of the people on your side who would have supported will stay home, and you aren't going to change minds on the other side.

I want to see the left run left when they lose. Double down on worker rights, union support, wage inequity, wealth inequity, financial and consumer protection reform, privacy, net neutrality, universal healthcare, affordable college, entitlement programs, and every other cause that Democrats once claimed as their sole purview. I want a candidate that rejects Wall Street money. I want one that will continue to fight for universal healthcare instead of pretending Obamacare is good enough. I want one that sees $15 as a good start, not a wage that should only be rolled out in certain places. I want one that fights for jobs.

So when it came to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the DSA, well, her platform seems to mirror Sanders's platform pretty closely (do they differ on anything other than guns?). So I threw some cash their way. The enemy of my enemy and all that. I figure I don't have to be 100% on board, and I don't have to believe they will ever field successful candidates in my state, but if they can force the Democrats to move left, then I am all for it.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:29 PM on July 6 [39 favorites]


Legit question: is there an organization for social democrats in the U.S.? Or is that just being a progressive Democrat?

Most people in the USA think of politics in left-right terms; "liberal", "leftist", and "progressive" are all the same, while "socialist" is a bit more radical and "communist" more radical still. I would bet anything that there are a number of members of the DSA who are effectively social democrats, and there are progressive Democrats whose belief systems line up with many of those in the DSA, and a regrettable amount of infighting is based in groups who speak different terminologies and thus come away believing they all think radically different things when they don't.
posted by schroedinger at 7:35 PM on July 6 [14 favorites]


I gotta say, big tent folks, the other thing I'm invested in as an organizer (insofar as I am one; I'm a burnout trying desperately to recover a sense of competence at the moment, honestly, and just trying to survive)--anyway, the other thing I'm invested in is going out and mainstreaming socialism. The idea that DSA groups are cheerfully virtue-signaling based on how much they hate Hillary tends to make me raise my eyebrows, because when I engage in activism, public relations spin and attempting to create the kind of environment where you can have a bigger tent is always on my mind.

If I was running these organizations and I had the ability to push for it, I would be pushing very strongly against anything relitigating 2016--not because I personally have strong feelings about either Hillary or Bernie, but because so many people do and because the topic is endlessly and exhaustingly divisive. I would be nipping that shit in the bud every chance possible, rather as the mods do here, because it's such a stupid pointless fucking distraction. It also alienates people who want to coalesce around something positive or develop tactics to move forward and score concrete victories, which are my main political goals--I am a very take-no-prisoners, fight-for-every-inch-of-ground kind of person, and that means that you set up fights on all fronts and you nod cheerfully at whoever is holding the line somewhere you can't and trust them to guard your flanks. You don't bitch about who is really doing things well, you shove your energy behind the best chances you have and you pivot on people who are consistently unhelpful. That's politics. They're never going to be perfect, because people are complicated, so you roll your sleeves up and you do the best you damn well can.

So in light of that--in light of the desire to achieve concrete goals and more importantly the desire to shift the Overton Window to mainstream the belief that socialist goals are worth fighting for and achievable--when I think about the spin I want to take, I focus heavily on moral talking points, watching my classism--classism is honestly one of the biggest pitfalls that the left tends to fall into, oddly enough, and socialists ain't exempt--and checking to make sure that I'm not accidentally alienating unexpected sources of support. And... I can't make up my mind as to whether the DSA as a whole does that. I know Metafilter is... better than some spaces, in part because I can march in and point out that people are being needlessly asinine to, say, all the progressive folks in the South and Midwest for no damn reason. But there's an awful lot of that shit, even in Austin (especially in Austin), and it's damn foolish and a waste of effort. Figure out what's actually horrible about your enemy and last target your ire, and take care not to aim that ire at anyone who might get caught in the blowback. Don't piss people off before you get a chance to convince them.

The DSA, among progressive leftists, does have something of a PR problem as evidenced in this actual thread. If individual DSA chapters have these particular problems, they're not going to convert anyone who ain't already on their side, and their efficacy is going to be severely hamstrung. I think the vibe I get from the national leadership suggests that they do have an idea about this, but I'm not sure how they can enforce it downstream, and that's one hell of a problem the organization is going to need to figure out before it collapses into irritated infighting.
posted by sciatrix at 7:35 PM on July 6 [27 favorites]


Most people in the USA think of politics in left-right terms; "liberal", "leftist", and "progressive" are all the same, while "socialist" is a bit more radical and "communist" more radical still. I would bet anything that there are a number of members of the DSA who are effectively social democrats

I have trouble finding info on the core beliefs/goals of the DSA. I've seen plenty of buzzword-laden paragraphs , but nothing that tells me what's required for this:
Membership shall be open to every person who subscribes to the principles of the organization.
Does this mean membership is open only to people who agree with every bit of the Where We Stand document, or is it just anyone who ID's as a "democratic socialist?" Something in between those? --I looked. There is no list of "our principles" to serve as "if you believe these things, we want you involved; if you don't believe these things, we're working against you."

However, I am intrigued by this part: Local organizations, called Locals, may be chartered by the National Political Committee upon application of 15 or more members. The NPC may charter Locals of 10 or more in special circumstances as defined in the Bylaws. So... if people are not happy with East Bay DSA, they could start their own local group - Oakland DSA, or even separate groups of East Oakland DSA, Fruitvale DSA, Piedmont-area DSA, and so on.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 7:50 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


My local DSA and several members from Orlando DSA just had a protest today at the headquarters of one of the companies that run the detention centers. My experience so far with DSA has been very positive.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:03 PM on July 6 [11 favorites]


Also: Is this where I rant about the classist bias that assumes everyone has the time and education to wade through several thousand words of a constitution and "our history" and "about the DSA" documents just to find out what the organization believes and what it wants to do?

I get that the longform, carefully-defined, academic version is important. But I'm not seeing a < 500 word nor the more important < 200 word writeup of "What the DSA Is and Why You Should Join It." It's like they expect blog posts and tweets and the occasional rantish article to carry enough info that people will join based on today's hot topics, and nevermind if they agree with the org as a whole.

... I want a DSA "who we are" page in Simple English.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:04 PM on July 6 [25 favorites]


I want a DSA "who we are" page in Simple English.

There are a lot of issues with the website and organization of info in general. I think the assumption is that you'll locate your nearest chapter and get indoctrinated that way, but there certainly should be an easy to find page with a quick rundown of some core points. As far as big tents go, though, it is pretty damn big. We have social democrats, we have communists, we've even got a Libertarian Socialist Caucus, whatever that is.
posted by contraption at 8:17 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


From the Ithaca DSA Facebook page: We are a political and activist organization, not a party; through campus and community-based chapters, DSA members use a variety of tactics, from legislative to direct action, to fight for reforms that empower working people.
posted by acrasis at 8:20 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


The discussion here about how accepting an organization is to new members, particularly those that are women, POC, LGBT, and queer reminds me a lot of the discussion we had couple of weeks ago about the revival of the Elks. A lot of similar themes about the difference between being "open" to new members vs. being "welcoming". Also similar is how the only way organizations evolve is by having an influx of new members, but new members will only join if they see the organization that's changed and welcomes them (chicken vs egg issue as someone mentioned upthread).

As different as the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the Democratic Socialists of America are, it seems all organizations have similar problems resulting from a tension between the old guard and new members. And I would think some tension is a good problem to have, because it means the group is growing.
posted by FJT at 8:29 PM on July 6 [8 favorites]


While I'm plugging Ithaca DSA, you might want to listen to "The Inquiring Socialist", their radio show. It is wildly uneven, often extremely local to upstate New York politics, but often very good. The current episode is on the Ukraine. Warning: more Pete Seeger ahead. Soldier on, Comrades, and eventually the show will start.
posted by acrasis at 8:35 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


ErisLordFreedom, the website of DSA's San Diego chapter lists ten points:

Our Platform

-An end to deportations. Free movement of people, not capital.
-An end to discrimination based on race, sex, gender identity, sexuality, religion, disability or class.
-Tuition-free public education at all levels.
-Health care as a human right.
-Complete reproductive freedom in all forms.
-Safe, affordable housing for all.
-The end to military aggression.
-Equality in and democratization of the workplace and economy.
-Abolishment of the police and prison industrial complex.
-People and the environment over profit.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:42 PM on July 6 [6 favorites]


There does seem to be quite a bit of difference between DSA chapters. I joined the SF chapter a few weeks ago and have gone to a few "climate justice" (environmentalist) working group meetings and some electoral events.

So far, my impression has been quite positive and I'm sorry to hear that some other chapters have such attitude problems. My group opens every meeting by introducing ourselves with name and pronouns and I assume the other groups do too. Groups are expected to have at least one non-male-identifying co-chair (and we do), and it seems to me that women speak and are heard roughly as much as men. Our steering committee is 5 women, 0 men. It's never perfect but it seems like they're making a good-faith effort to do the right thing.

Another thing I really like about my chapter is that they collaborate with a lot of other progressive local organizations without barging in and trampling the people who did the hard work in the first place. The semi-official line is "the DSA's got your back" rather than "the DSA takes the spotlight". As a behind-the-scenes type myself, I really like that approach.

The demographics of my chapter are basically the same as SF MeFites - it's actually funny how much a DSA event looks like a MeFi meetup, except with more zines and less beer. I haven't been to any other chapters but just from looking at websites, there are some noticeable differences. The East Bay chapter seems way more militant than SF and kind of unfriendly too. Even allowing for the fact that socialists seem to write a lot more aggressively than they speak, I'm a little intimidated by the East Bay bunch. In contrast, I've felt quite welcome and even appreciated by my SF homies.

So I guess I'm saying that it's possible to make a DSA chapter that's pretty egalitarian and just plain nice, and I hope people persist in either making their own chapters a little better (which I realize is exhausting), or find/start a chapter that suits them better. Hey, Bay Areans, come on over to the SF DSA - we're just a 15 minute walk from the BART station and we're pretty friendly!

And I will definitely bring up some of the suggestions from this thread - there are good ideas and valid criticisms here. We're trying to make the world a better place for everyone, including our fellow travelers ;-)
posted by Quietgal at 8:48 PM on July 6 [26 favorites]


Calling each other "comrade" is stupid, we need to get across that normal countries run their economies this way without creaky anachronistic folk singalongs. But we do have a culture of the left.

I joined last year but have only gone to a few protests so far. FWIW I've spoken to three progressive lefty people who, independently of each other, went to orientation meetings at NYC chapters and who did not express any other reservations except that they were so turned off by "comrade" and/or the sing-along (Solidarity Forever, I think?) that they didn't want to get more involved.
posted by crone islander at 8:52 PM on July 6 [10 favorites]


Has there been any talk of doing something similar in the DSA? Or do some of the chapters already practice this?

Gender quotas among chairs: yes. My chapter does this. We have two co-chairs and the rule is they can’t both be men.

Legit question: is there an organization for social democrats in the U.S.? Or is that just being a progressive Democrat?

Schroedinger has it, but DSA has a social democrat wing too. Nationally they have the Northstar Caucus, this is a bit confusing because their statement of purpose refers to democratic socialists a whole bunch, but the caucus local to me that is Northstar aligned is called the Left Social Democrats.

we've even got a Libertarian Socialist Caucus, whatever that is

Libertarian socialists are anarchists, they’re reclaiming the term “libertarian.” We have some of those locally too, they’re great.
posted by clavicle at 9:00 PM on July 6 [2 favorites]


On a lighter note THIS RULES THANK YOU SCREAM BOT
posted by clavicle at 9:21 PM on July 6 [14 favorites]


I talked briefly about the Providence DSA chapter in the last megathread, and I'm here after a little more digging. PVD DSA focused on a lot more things last year, but then a new board was elected and they decided to focus on a primary issue, which is socializing utilities. I've been following them for a while, and it was jarring seeing their feed go from we're protesting this and we're protesting that to literally nothing but hashtag nationalgreed. Also, from the meeting pictures, it's really white and male.

On the other hand (I am not relitigating anything, there's a ton of overlap with Pantsuit Nation and RI Stronger Together!) the RI chapter of Our Revolution is woman led, slightly tipped toward women in numbers, and has a racial makeup that more closely matches the actual demographics of Rhode Island. It's also very queer. The three women who are at the heart of the state Democratic party endorsement brouhaha are all members, as are several other members of the State Senate and many others, mostly women, who are running for local office. The woman who runs the state chapter was the one who got the ball rolling on publicizing the endorsement mess, which ultimately led to the party chair rescinding two of the endorsements. So it seems like that's where all the RI socialists are hanging out.

Here's where I bring it back to the DSA. I'm only finding out about this now because I've only recently gotten back into local activism (when the RI chapter of the Women's March disaffiliated) because there was a lot of casual anti-Semitism in these local groups (more so in the one I didn't go back to, but I disengaged from all of them). So I'm still a little on edge. And I'm uncomfortable with Israel being referred to as "historic Palestine" in the DSA platform. I mean, I think Netanyahu is a walking human rights violation, too, but denying the existence of the country itself makes me uneasy. (This is my personal feeling and not an invitation to discuss the DSA's position on I/P, thanks!)
posted by Ruki at 9:22 PM on July 6 [10 favorites]




Just to head off a common (but inaccurate) critique of the left: Socialists care about fighting racism, sexism, AND classism. Intersectionality is not incompatible with socialism or marxism. Class is a dimension of intersectionality.

I said this before in a pithier way but a divide I've seen is that I think a lot of more classically Marxist-influenced folks would frame it as "racism and sexism are part of what makes class, in something descended from the classical Marxist sense" as opposed to a narrower definition of class being "merely" one dimension of some other scheme of oppression.

If it doesn't really sound like these two worldviews should have that much trouble working together on many issues regardless - well maybe they shouldn't and sometimes they don't but you know how these things go.
posted by atoxyl at 9:59 PM on July 6 [3 favorites]


Legit question: is there an organization for social democrats in the U.S.? Or is that just being a progressive Democrat?

Militant/revolutionary leftist groups like to accuse the DSA and "democratic socialists" in general of being nothing but social democrats with pretensions. Personally I see a lot of democratic socialists as being baseline social democrats who are curious about something more radical (or recognize the limitations of social democracy) but aren't quite sure where to go from there. But that's about where I am so I'm fine with that.

My big picture perspective on this comes from reading the Fights Online, but I think a lot of the questions being discussed here - elections versus direct action, allying with/realigning the Democratic Party versus building something separate - are represented by factions that exist in the DSA, depending on what chapter you're looking at. So if you want to be part of resolving those questions there's a reasonable chance there's a place for you.
posted by atoxyl at 10:13 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]




I think a lot of more classically Marxist-influenced folks would frame it as "racism and sexism are part of what makes class...."

Unfortunately, multiple articles I looked at while trying to sort out the DSA's approach to intersectionality, seemed to claim that racism and sexism only happen because of capitalist oppression, and the whole concept of "intersectionality" is just describing the problems without proposing solutions - and if we get rid of the bosses and switch to worker-collectives, there will be no reason to discriminate by race or sex and those problems will go away.

Limits of Intersectionality: Socialists must focus not on simply describing experiences but on fighting for unity in our class - this means dealing with the messy nature of being human under capitalism, with all our different kinds of sexualities and identities.

Can we combine intersectionality with Marxism?: “Intersectionality”, she writes, “is a concept describing the experience of oppression, not a theory explaining its cause(s)”. This is ­uncontentious, but then she continues: “It can therefore be applied to a variety of theories, from those informed by Marxism to those influenced by postmodernism.” This is very problematic as it fudges the gulf between identity theories and a Marxist approach to women’s oppression and liberation.

Marxism vs. Intersectionality: On the surface, then, it may seem as if Marxism and intersectionality are complementary. However, if we look beneath the surface into the theory underpinning intersectionality, we can see that in its understanding of oppression and how to fight it, it is very different from Marxism. Intersectionality, despite the best intentions of many of its proponents, cannot adequately explain the origins of the varying forms of oppression, and therefore the solutions.

Marxism and Intersectionality: While postmodernists have taken up intersectionality in ways that often obscure the historic origins of oppression, Marxism provides a framework for not only seeing how oppressions intersect, but how the history of capitalism has produced and changed these intersections throughout time.

None of these are specifically DSA pieces. And there were counter-arguments. (Not on those pages; there were other articles - but not many.) I do understand that what I should do is go meet my local DSA crowd and make my opinions based on them; I'm just twitchy at the idea of joining a group that thinks discrimination will vanish if we equalize the money balance.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 10:29 PM on July 6 [4 favorites]


they’re saying it’s *necessary* for ending discrimination, not that it’s *sufficient* for ending discrimination
posted by moorooka at 11:26 PM on July 6 [5 favorites]


is there an organization for social democrats in the U.S.?

For people who were as confused as I was, social democracy is very not the same as democratic socialism.
posted by ragtag at 12:22 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


...we really need like

More then two words.
posted by The Whelk at 12:30 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


For people who were as confused as I was, social democracy is very not the same as democratic socialism.

Well, I think they are neighbors across the border of "is it necessary/desirable/possible to abolish capitalism altogether?" But since demsocs tend to be somewhat reformist/incrementalist, you get a lot of stuff like Bernie Sanders saying he believes in democratic socialism but supporting a fairly standard social-democratic policy vision.
posted by atoxyl at 12:38 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


As I have said before, please make my opponents social democrats rather than fascists I beg you.
posted by The Whelk at 12:39 AM on July 7 [21 favorites]


Yeah, we've all got a long journey to make together before we need to start bickering over whose destination is the right one.
posted by contraption at 1:04 AM on July 7 [10 favorites]


I like the term "comrade." We don't have many other labels that work as a way to address people who have similar goals but don't personally know each other, and calling other members "allies" would be problematic. Comrade is a lot better than letters addressed to "neighbor" or "dear friend" - I am neither of those to the organizers of the DSA.

However, it does call up cold war memories, and every time I hear it, I have to stop to figure out the context, and then I remember, "Oh yeah, this is that group that wants to replace our entire economy." That's a happy thought for me. For most people, I suspect that's not what they want the DSA to focus on.

When a Discordian actively likes your term of address, it may be a good idea to re-examine your assumptions about that label.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:28 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


People are turned off from socialism because of a folk song, seriously?

"I was all set to join up and overthrow capitalism but fuck pete seeger"
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:03 AM on July 7 [23 favorites]


People are turned off from socialism because of a folk song, seriously?
I blame Tom Lehrer.
(they don't even care if Jimmy crack corn...)
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:22 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


is there an organization for social democrats in the U.S.?

The party of Debs renamed itself Social Democrats, USA in 1972 during the split that lead to the DSA.

Left sectarianism is no joke. It's why there's been no left. There's more liberals entering into socialist organizations than there are socialists entering into the Democratic party. Is it like an Occupy moment? In the end the socialists will run in Democratic primaries and endorse Democratic candidates anyway, so maybe indeed it's "just being a progressive Democrat". Meanwhile, for impossibilists from tankies to anarchists, the revolution will not be voted upon.
posted by bonefish at 2:44 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Why does left-wing sectarianism mean schisms and loss of power, while right-wing sectarianism apparently leads to the White House?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:25 AM on July 7 [10 favorites]


Hey Massachusetts folks, plug for Boston DSA and North Shore DSA here. Boston's been doing some great work in the areas of prison abolition, fighting against gentrification, solidarity and organizing with sex workers re : SESTA/FOSTA and the pending Nordic model legislation on the state level.

If you're into electoral work, Boston just sent out some really well-thought-out questionnaires to candidates at the state and local level, and folks are going through responses now.

If you're in college, we have some badass YDSA members on our Steering Committe that are among our most fervent organizers.

Amongst the Boston and North Shore membership there are quite a few members of Refoundation, DSA's radical left caucus. To my eye these are the folks who are putting the most effort into bringing about a socialist future, not that I'm biased or anything. The left and center tend to squabble, but we had great multi-tendency participation in the civil disobedience action at South Bay organized by Cosecha last weekend and I hope this trend continues.

Finally: the nonmen in Boston DSA are loud and unapologetic. Good place for a woman on the left to be.

Join us!
posted by Sheydem-tants at 4:33 AM on July 7 [13 favorites]


I’m not going to tell anyone how to feel about “comrade,” but a read of the Wikipedia entry shifted how I felt about it.
posted by clavicle at 5:27 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Just a piece of anecdata from my one and only NYC Bronx/Upper Manhattan (B/UM) general meeting.
* at registration, I was asked to write my name and preferred pronoun on my name tag.
* meeting protocols for sharing ideas from the crowd prioritized marginalized group members
* it did seem to be mostly white, but plenty of women, though.
* I was too anxious to talk to people during the time set aside to talk to working groups, so I took a smoke break.... During which I met a male of color who also canvassed for AOC, and eagerly introduced me to other people when we got back inside.
* so many of us were new that two women held an intro session on DSA and how to learn to engage & organize.
* meeting included a speaker from TX on immigration, canvassing to save a local psych ward at a community hospital, revitalizing a local community garden, supporting the local ICE occupation and other things I can't remember.

I was kind of overwhelmed at how outgoingly friendly people were - it was impossible for me to be my preferred anonymous self.
In all, this chapter seemed really focused on supporting the local community, with an eye to connect the local to the national.
I'm planning to attend the Nixon/Williams candidate forum on the 10th, and especially based on what I'm seeing here, I'm interested to see the dynamics there.
posted by Sweetdefenestration at 5:34 AM on July 7 [15 favorites]


Why does left-wing sectarianism mean schisms and loss of power, while right-wing sectarianism apparently leads to the White House?

We're the People's Front of Judea!
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:54 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


We're the People's Front of Judea!

Splitting is what Root would call "Bad Code"... We need firmware updates, obvs.
posted by mikelieman at 6:27 AM on July 7


Well, I think they are neighbors across the border of "is it necessary/desirable/possible to abolish capitalism altogether?"

I don't even know which side of that border I'm on myself. But I do know our current form of capitalism is highly undemocratic, and it's killing us and our future. There are concrete changes that can be made that will greatly mitigate the harm, and nearly all of them involve some form of redistribution of wealth and power.
posted by Foosnark at 6:27 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


> Why does left-wing sectarianism mean schisms and loss of power, while right-wing sectarianism apparently leads to the White House?

Because right-wing sectarianism in the US doesn't actually exist to any significant degree? The Tea Party was nothing more than a coat of paint on top of the same policies championed by conservatives for decades, and Trump is simply the apotheosis of the American right-wing ideology.

Also, the left is structurally disadvantaged in the US in many ways between Senate malapportionment, gerrymandering, and a media that is afraid of being called mean names by Republcans. In a fair fight, even a somewhat divided left could take control of Congress and the Presidency for decades. As things are, we're going to have to hang together or hang separately.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:29 AM on July 7 [10 favorites]


Why does left-wing sectarianism mean schisms and loss of power, while right-wing sectarianism apparently leads to the White House?

Replace "while" with "and then".
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:56 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


One exciting thing that's happening in California on the left sectarianism front is the California Progressive Alliance. Started just in the last couple weeks by Gayle McLaughlin after her failed Lt. Gov bid, it's aiming to be a statewide version of the very successful Richmond Progressive Alliance. The idea, as I understand it, is to build a communication network of groups on the left so that we can work together as an organized coalition even though we've all got our own priorities and opinions.

Gayle spoke to my chapter and we were all very impressed with her, I think it has a real shot at succeeding.
posted by contraption at 8:13 AM on July 7 [6 favorites]


I’m not going to tell anyone how to feel about “comrade,” but a read of the Wikipedia entry shifted how I felt about it.

Maybe it is just my age showing, but a sentence in that Wikipedia page rang very true to me:

In the United States, the word "comrade" carries a strong connotation with Communism, Marxism–Leninism, and the former Soviet Union.

Not that the opinion of someone who isn't a member matters, but to me things like using "comrade," singing Pete Seeger songs, etc. are disincentives to involvement. For me, those aren't positive connotations; I get that not everyone shares that, and that people are trying to reclaim the term from just those limited and negative associations and to reconnect the term to other traditions.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:20 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


People are turned off from socialism because of a folk song, seriously?

I've found that people who hate "socialism" love their socialized police/fire and socialized military.

Mostly, a person is smart. People are stupid.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:30 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Also, the left is structurally disadvantaged in the US in many ways between Senate malapportionment, gerrymandering, and a media that is afraid of being called mean names by Republcans. In a fair fight, even a somewhat divided left could take control of Congress and the Presidency for decades. As things are, we're going to have to hang together or hang separately.

The system is so clearly rigged that the only way to participate in it without legitimizing it is to participate on a platform of un-rigging it. This is crucial to the debate over electoralism. A senate majority isn’t a worthwhile goal except insofar as it’s probably a necessary step toward abolishing the senate.
posted by moorooka at 8:38 AM on July 7


Schism is how groups propagate - like cells.
posted by Grangousier at 8:51 AM on July 7


Back when I was in the YOUTH GROUP, some guy was writing a book about folksongs and the leftist tradition, and he put an ad in "The Nation" asking people to contact him with stories. Well, I was still incensed about being forced to sing "Joe Hill", so I wrote him to tell him that it was weird and alienating. He actually wrote back to explain how wrong I was.

I think it's that right there: folksongs unite us, and if you disagree you are wrong. It's not that folksongs per se are important, but being in an organization that listens to its membership and changes with the times *is* important. This is why I'm happy so many new people are joining DSA: you can decide what you want to do and where you want the emphasis. On the other hand, it's important to listen to the experience of people who have fought battles for decades before you decided to join up.

When I was in the anti-apartheid movement, we had three main branches. First: undergraduates, who like to do extreme things like throw stink bombs and hold hunger strikes and deface buildings. They were uncontrollable, but they brought in the most publicity to the cause, because they genuinely threatened the running of the University by building a shanty town in the middle of campus. Second; the graduate students, who liked writing reports comparing the potential profitability of divested and undivested portfolios, and had 1-hour meetings using Roberts Rules of Order, and staffed the information booths at undergraduate riots. We always made sure there were pamphlets, and we maintained mailing lists. Everyone sneered at us, but depended on us. Third: the faculty. They held endless meetings where they always decided that they didn't dare do anything. As a group they were useless except as a symbol of respectability. The Trustees could ignore us, but couldn't ignore the faculty. After hours, however, a lot of those faculty let on that they were once undergraduates, and told us about the Civil Rights and Anti-War protests of the 60s, and explained tactics to us.

So it's important for an organization to have all three branches. When I hear about DSA members heckling Nazis in bars, I think "heh. Undergraduates". When I see dark horse candidates win, I think "graduate students went door-to-door". And the old farts singing "Solidarity Forever" could tell you a few things.
posted by acrasis at 9:05 AM on July 7 [37 favorites]


I was raised on that kind of music and still find it legitimately moving and inspiring, but I definitely know it isn't for everyone. Especially people my age. As I have discovered after adding Best of Broadside tracks to various shared Spotify playlists.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:22 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


(But seriously though Gonna Be an Engineer by Peggy Seeger = tears every time)
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:23 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


People are turned off from socialism because of a folk song, seriously?

You're being disingenuous. People are not turned off from socialism, they're turned off from the DSA.

I'd be turned off of that behavior by nearly any organization; I find the nigh-requirement to perform the Star-Spangled Banner out the Pledge of Allegiance irritating too (though I'll admit "Comrade" feels more egregiously like make-pretend).
posted by schroedinger at 9:29 AM on July 7 [14 favorites]


As a disabled woman I’ve been on the lookout for small things that are within my limited power to do. I don’t know everything about disability - in fact I know little - but I know more than the average able bodied person.

And DSA goals seem like they would line up in terms of being good for disabled lives with healthcare and such. But I always want to see where an actual voice of a disabled person is because we are often ignored.

That said, my chapter would be Salt Lake City. I assume from everyone else that it would likely be male and very white. I have no idea how active it is.

But then I see the next event for DSA titled “Talking About Socialism: Create Your Own Rap”. And if it’s true that demographics for DSA are primarily white then encouraging a bunch of white people to rap it out really makes me cringe. Writing a song or poem would be sufficient. Proposing a rap has a lot of history that I feel uncomfortable with.

There are enough elements here that I am far too unsure about. If groups are reporting very low women and POC then it discourages me as a disabled woman that my voice would be heard.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:38 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


("Rap" in this context refers to a sort of loose script to use when talking with people about an issue or candidate, it's not a rap in the hip-hop music sense.)
posted by contraption at 9:47 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


I could be wrong, but given that the event is hosted by a New Left veteran and refers to "conversations" based on personal experience rather than poetic/musical compositions, I think "rap" is actually being used here in its mid-20th-century sense of "casual talk."

But maybe I'm wrong, because it seems beyond bizarre that nobody would catch that. Literally nobody uses that word in that sense today.
posted by shenderson at 9:48 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Yeah rap is a canvassing term that is not exclusive to the DSA and is closer to the "rap" definition "talk or chat in an easy and familiar manner." If this event is aimed at new folks it would certainly be better to avoid that kind of insider lingo, though.
posted by lalex at 9:54 AM on July 7 [5 favorites]


If that’s so for rap (and thank you for informing me of such) then it should be more clear for average people like myself that do not use canvassing lingo. Still a sign of a disconnect.
posted by Crystalinne at 9:56 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Possibly this is a regional thing, but "rap" is used frequently to mean "informal conversation" here in the Northeast. The hip-hop culture sense wouldn't have even occurred to me had you not noted it.
posted by ragtag at 10:02 AM on July 7 [2 favorites]


("Rap" in this context refers to a sort of loose script to use when talking with people about an issue or candidate, it's not a rap in the hip-hop music sense.)

Could I still get some more snare in my headphones?

posted by Barack Spinoza at 10:23 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


If groups are reporting very low women and POC then it discourages me as a disabled woman that my voice would be heard.

I think the only way to tell is to go or find someone you trust to go and report back. Alternatively I don't know if local chapters have websites or Facebook pages, but if they do then perhaps they'll have group or event photos that can give you an idea of what the membership looks like.
posted by schroedinger at 10:31 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


This is neat: NOLA DSA Our next Health Care + Medical Debt Clinic with @0debtzone is TOMORROW! You can learn about your medical debt rights (and how to fight back against them), get a free health screening, Medicaid enrollment assistance, and way more!
posted by The Whelk at 10:37 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


Why does left-wing sectarianism mean schisms and loss of power, while right-wing sectarianism apparently leads to the White House?

To step back a bit historically - fractures in the conservative coalition over, for example, isolationism vs. interventionist anti-Communism in the 1930s-1050s helped weaken the Republican Party, as did the clash between Western populists and Eastern Establishment conservatives which led to the nomination and electoral stomping of Barry Goldwater. George H. W. Bush was in some ways a victim of a similar clash between the more doctrinare Reaganites (who had never quite trusted him anyway) and what was left of the more pragmatic Eisenhower-Nixon era conservatism (for whom things like tax hikes and government spending were sometimes a necessary evil) whose banner-carrier he was.

Left sectarianism is no joke . It's why there's been no left.

I don't think that sectarianism within the Left really is the core issue here - it's the breakdown of the traditionally strong but troubled relationship between the Left and liberals which occurred from Carter to Clinton. The political Left has never really been a power in and of itself in the USA in the way it has been in Europe or Latin America. It has usually operated as an external pressure group (or loosely affiliated set of groups) targeting liberal conscience, while liberalism has traditionally used the absorption of ideas and programs from the Left as a means to access populist enthusiasm. The right turn under neoliberalism created a situation where that alliance could no longer function, which weakened both sides enough that the the newly revitalized Right had a much better chance.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:41 AM on July 7 [7 favorites]


I've spoken to three progressive lefty people who, independently of each other, went to orientation meetings at NYC chapters and who did not express any other reservations except that they were so turned off by "comrade" and/or the sing-along (Solidarity Forever, I think?) that they didn't want to get more involved.

There are good reasons not to join DSA. As the comments show, there's lots of stuff they do and fail to do that rightly turns off potential members. But someone who was totally going to join a leftist political movement but decided not to because they sang Solidarity Forever...was never going to join in the first place. Talk about purity tests!
posted by This time is different. at 11:05 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]


People are turned off from socialism because of a folk song, seriously?

Well, no, but they're uncomfortable with attending DSA meetings that expect everyone to sing along to music they don't like. They may or may not have issues with the song itself, but if they're not comfortable at the meetings, they won't return - they'll believe, fairly accurately, that their personal interests are not welcome here.

Part of creating a community involves setting boundaries that establish who's welcome and who's not, and that's one of the ways to do it. (Another is food. If your gathering consistently has an array of snacks that don't have vegan or gluten-free or kosher options, you're telling some people, "you're tolerated, but you're not really welcome here.") The organizers need to be aware that "people who don't like this music" includes both "people who are uncomfortable with pro-union worker solidarity" and "people who dislike the folk music genre."

People who stop attending because of the music, or the snacks, or the seating arrangements (is there room for a wheelchair? are the chairs comfortable for nursing moms?), or the distance from public transit, may be avid, activist socialists; they may even be part of the DSA - but they're not going to be part of the conversations that shape the group's activities.

No place can be entirely accessible and no group can feel welcoming to everyone - but they can pay attention to how they're being exclusive and consider how to modify that.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 11:09 AM on July 7 [14 favorites]


It's worth mentioning that in many places the DSA is not the only activist organization on offer - I could totally see going to the meeting, finding the music weird or off-putting, and deciding to volunteer with someone else instead.

I mean, when I was younger and more religious my choice of which congregation to attend sometimes hinged on precisely that sort of thing. If you're planning to put considerable time and energy into an organization, you'll probably pick one that doesn't have features that grate on you.
posted by AdamCSnider at 11:12 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


However, I am intrigued by this part: Local organizations, called Locals, may be chartered by the National Political Committee upon application of 15 or more members. The NPC may charter Locals of 10 or more in special circumstances as defined in the Bylaws. So... if people are not happy with East Bay DSA, they could start their own local group - Oakland DSA, or even separate groups of East Oakland DSA, Fruitvale DSA, Piedmont-area DSA, and so on.

They could--see NYC as an example of this. I think there's like 6 DSA chapters in NYC now?

IIRC the only limitation is that the chapter has to cover at least one ZIP code, because that's how chapter territories are delineated.
posted by Automocar at 11:28 AM on July 7 [1 favorite]


My husband is a folk musician so Solidarity Forever is a thing that has indeed been sung in our house on the regs, along with Joe Hill and Rebel Girl and all that happy horseshit, but this isn't everyone's fight song. Why not El Pueblo Unido? Lift Every Voice? Is there an assumption that everyone even knows the words? Because that also is a signal of who does and does not belong.
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:29 AM on July 7 [8 favorites]


NYC DSA has sing training events where they do include "El Pueblo Unido" "We Shall Not Be Moved" and I'm sure others.
posted by lalex at 11:36 AM on July 7 [3 favorites]


I joined my local DSA chapter (Houston- we are the grackles!) around March 2017. Demographically, general meetings usually skew white and male, but not wildly so. One of our two co-chairs is a woman, as are the chairs of several working groups. People of color make up a decent percentage of attendees and play significant roles in the working groups (where bonds with other groups seem to be most frequently made). GLBTQ folks aren't numerous, but they're present. It's a fairly young crowd; I'm pushing 40 and feel kinda old. We've got two members running for county office this fall.

One of the reasons I joined DSA and got involved locally was to provide a counterweight to my deep-seated pessimism. I haven't done as much as I can or should, but helping out even a little with Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, or marching on May Day, or attending events out in suburbia (because not everyone interested in socialism lives inside the Loop), has helped remind me that the world isn't predestined to be an uninhabitable capitalist wasteland, and that if we fail, it's better to fail in the company of others instead of on our own.

Re: "comrade," I think it's fine as a general marker of affiliation, but I'm not down with being called "Comrade X" in conversation. Our chapter sings "Solidarity Forever" at the end of general meetings too. I hate singing, but fuck it, it's only one verse and the chorus (which are projected on the wall for everyone's convenience).
posted by heteronym at 11:47 AM on July 7 [4 favorites]




No place can be entirely accessible and no group can feel welcoming to everyone - but they can pay attention to how they're being exclusive and consider how to modify that.

This is absolutely true, but being called comrade is not the same as not having wheel chair access, or child-care or language barriers or inconvenient meeting locations/hours. I find it hard to believe that someone who is turned away from activism by something like that would not find a similar trigger with any other organization. There isn't any organization or campaign (or group of human beings) out there that's going to fit like a glove, and being unwilling to participate when it doesn't over something as trivial as comrade or Solidarity Forever is ridiculous, especially if it's about something as deeply felt as completely transforming the economic basis of our society.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 3:05 PM on July 7 [10 favorites]


I read almost all of this thread with great interest. I've been active in DSA San Francisco since January 2017. I joined after being energized by the Sanders campaign (and subsequently volunteering for and voting for Clinton).

Since I joined, DSA has been a constant in my life. It's been a community, an inspiration, and a source of continual personal growth and education. I'm a rank-and-file member and don't hold any elected leadership position, although I have facilitated various meetings and actions.

There have been a lot of interesting things brought up here that I could give my two cents on, but instead I'm mostly going to talk about a few things our chapter has accomplished during my time in the organization.

First, this has been brought up a few times, but it's very important to remember -- DSA National is distinct from individual chapters, which are all distinct from each other. I can speak vaguely about DSA as a whole, and I learn about things happening in other chapters from friends around the country, but I can only speak authoritatively about DSA SF (and to a lesser extent the other Bay Area chapters). It's also important to remember what the massive growth of DSA over the past two years (we've passed 44k members now) means -- the identity of the organization, as much as such a thing can exist in a multi-tendency, big-tent org, is in flux, and will continue to be as we head into next year's biannual national convention. But we are fundamentally a democratic, grassroots organization. We are what our members decide we are (at least ideally).

Our chapter has a very horizontal structure, with most of the work being done in issue-specific committees and working groups. These committees include things like Homelessness, Healthcare, Socialist Feminism, Electoral, etc. I work primarily on the Outreach committee; one of the things we're responsible for is hosting an Intro DSA meeting every month where we welcome new and prospective members, break into discussion groups about what brought them in, explain what socialism means to us, and tell them about our various committees and how to get involved.

Every month we have a general chapter meeting which includes educational talks, report-backs from various committees, and voting on chapter business. The Steering Committee is the leadership body of the chapter, although it plays more of an administrative/facilitation role. In June 2017, DSA SF elected an all-female steering committee, making us the first chapter to do so in two decades. We elected a new steering committee a couple of weeks ago, and 4/5 members of the new committee are women.

This recent SF Weekly article gives a nice overview of some of the work we've done in the city, including showing up to support the Midtown Tenants Association and fight against their displacement; and recent electoral wins in passing Prop F, which guarantees a free lawyer to any tenant in the city facing eviction, and defeating Prop H, which would've allowed the Police Officers Association freedom to use tasers under almost any circumstances.

Last August we organized as part of large coalitions to shut down fascist rallies in Berkeley and SF. We have recently been involved in numerous anti-ICE actions, including the current occupation of the ICE facility in the city that's now in its sixth day (that's me in the video wearing the red scarf :) We are currently in the final phases of gathering signatures for a ballot measure called Our City, Our Home, which would tax big business and aim to permanently end unsheltered homelessness in the city.

There's a ton of stuff I'm not mentioning but this is a long comment already. Please feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any questions about DSA in general or DSA SF specifically. (Quietgal, I'm really glad to hear you've had a good experience and I hope you keep coming around!)
posted by ludwig_van at 3:06 PM on July 7 [16 favorites]


and being unwilling to participate when it doesn't over something as trivial as comrade or Solidarity Forever is ridiculous

I mean when people say stuff like this they’re usually making a joke or picking the one most obvious weird moment to stand in for a bunch of other things that all combined to make them feel uncomfortable, some of which they might not be able to articulate right away or which might feel deeply personal. “They kept making lots of Shillary jokes and were weirdly cliquish and maybe not aware of their own hypocrisy in a way that made me feel like they were kinda culty” is more detail than most people go into, and is in fact easier to communicate and experience as “the song weirded me out.”

Like if an acquaintance asked me in passing at a bar why I was uncomfortable at that DSA thing I might launch into a feminist monologue or I might laugh it off with a one liner, depending on whether I wanted to further explain my life to the person asking.

Assuming that people who use songs as a reason they weren’t comfortable were only uncomfortable with singing and/or didn’t experience anything else weird just because they didn’t explain it seems...uncharitable? And it’s not really how people work.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:44 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


I find it hard to believe that someone who is turned away from activism by something like that would not find a similar trigger with any other organization.

I don't think anyone's turned away from activism by being called "comrade." But they might turn away from the DSA, and definitely might turn away from their local group.

[sarcasm]
Of course that's stupid. I mean, it's not like any woman would give up on an activist group just because she was being called "sweetie," right? They were being friendly! And she couldn't possibly find another group that won't annoy her, probably in the same way - it's going to be Sweetie or Honey or Yo Babe, wherever she goes, so she should just accept that people are going to call her whatever they like, and ignore that and work to overthrow the patriarchy!
[/sarcasm]

Everyone has different tolerances for things that annoy them. And "what people call you" is not a small part of the current political scene that we're trying to change. Saying "it's just a label; nobody should be so upset at the label that they couldn't work with the group" ignores how labels have been used to categorize and oppress people. Someone deciding "I don't want to be called comrade, and I'm not joining a group where that's required" is not a matter of "my feelings are more important than politics."

What we call each other is politics.

I'm fine with "comrade." Those who aren't, aren't the enemy, and they're not picky or over-sensitive or egotistical; they just have different boundaries. And DSA members should respect that, even if those people's identities and choices keep them from actively participating with the group.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:50 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


I like the idea of a big tent on the left. Problem I see with this is the people who felt they were in the tent longest were defining what it meant to be a true Democrat, and if you failed that test, then by god, you were delusional and living in fantasyland. I also believe in not relitigating 2016 ad nauseam to the extent that it puts the party "on tilt." You need to play the next hand of poker, not the one you lost over and over again. This said, I've never had the feeling Democrats did any self-reflection, no assessment of what actually went wrong, and what lessons to take from the loss. Something about those who fail history are destined to repeat that class.
posted by cjorgensen at 4:02 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


> Which means we're basically back to the sheer force of numbers

> The solution is more women.

Young Women Could Redefine The Women's Vote - "We often think of political eras as defined by the values, character and politics of whoever occupies the Oval Office. But political eras are also shaped by the forces that emerge to challenge them... It is hardly a coincidence that the Trump era also witnessed the emergence of the #MeToo movement. If young women remain committed to empowering women, they, more than Trump, will be responsible for defining this era in American history."
posted by kliuless at 4:21 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


So, I went to the New Orleans thing, mainly because of the blood pressure check (I was fine!) but also to, you know, see if anybody tried to call me comrade or anything.
Everyone was fine! They had food, and all sorts of information about things, and I signed up to get emails, and they told me to check the website for volunteering opportunities, and it was grand.

I am a white guy, but most of the people who were talking were women, which was cool. This chapter is youngish, I think, so a bunch of potential!
posted by hap_hazard at 4:22 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


A big issue that I can see people (and me) having with group singing and calling each other comrade is that it speaks to a specific group identity that they are asking folks to get on board with, and that is not critical to the work itself. It suggests much more than "show up to do the work", it suggests, "show up and be a part of our scene". Those scene markers (shibboleths!) can be hugely motivating for folks who get on board, but also majorly alienating for those who are not.

I want a movement where folks feel welcome to bring their own words and culture, and where we focus on how we can collectively, with different identities, move forward. I think strong scene markers don't really help that.
posted by wemayfreeze at 5:01 PM on July 7 [15 favorites]


This said, I've never had the feeling Democrats did any self-reflection, no assessment of what actually went wrong, and what lessons to take from the loss.

So the campaigns I'm involved in have resulted in meeting Dems from all over the country, as well as higher-up ones, and believe me, this is not the case. There's a lot of angst and wrestling and a strong desire to not repeat 2016--but the organization is still recovering from its decimation during the Obama years and trying to heal the frustration of local groups with the national organization due to issues during 2016 and it's made it hard to get out that unified message.

Everyone I spoke with is extremely aware that this political resurgence is being driven by grassroots efforts, and right now they're desperately trying to get things together to ensure they can provide support (not control) across all 50 states. Basically revisiting Dean's fifty-state strategy (which arguably shouldn't have been abandoned in the first place).

(I'll stop there, this is the DSA post, not the DNC post)
posted by schroedinger at 5:28 PM on July 7 [11 favorites]


I would also be very interested in a DNC post! Or hearing about it here! I wanna know all the things!
posted by schadenfrau at 5:35 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


Happy to announce Julia Salazar has reached 4,000 signatures, twice than the federal minimum needed to be on the ballot, ahead of schedule.
posted by The Whelk at 5:47 PM on July 7 [11 favorites]


I started getting involved with East Bay DSA because I felt like they were the only organized political group that was doing active and productive work to move the Overton window left, and were the only ones that offered an agenda that roughly matched up with my beliefs. I don't agree with everything that's said at meetings or on all the positions the chapter or the national organization take. There have been things that have turned me off. But I have a broad sense of alignment with DSA's mission and focus, and part of my job as an active member of a community is to contribute and make that community what I'd like it to be. Part of why DSA is the way it is a the current moment is because of a flood of new members who transformed the organization. You can transform it too.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 6:22 PM on July 7 [6 favorites]


I would also be interested in talking about the DNC! And state parties! And not just because RI women are in active revolt to take the party back! Unfortunately, I am not recovering well from a recent surgery due to inadequate pain management so I cannot be the change I want to see in the world on this one.
posted by Ruki at 6:26 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


Is there an assumption that everyone even knows the words?

I'd guess people are all too excited to teach you the song.

I have actually heard multiple people say the singing turns them off, though - the reason generally being because it seems like people are trying to hard playing at being 20th century socialists. Same with "comrade" - this guy's basically got it:

A big issue that I can see people (and me) having with group singing and calling each other comrade is that it speaks to a specific group identity that they are asking folks to get on board with, and that is not critical to the work itself. It suggests much more than "show up to do the work", it suggests, "show up and be a part of our scene". Those scene markers (shibboleths!) can be hugely motivating for folks who get on board, but also majorly alienating for those who are not.

There are chapters with 1000 people, though - plenty of those people aren't really part of "the scene."
posted by atoxyl at 6:30 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


WRT the singing thing.... I can totally feel people who would be put off by this. Heck I'd risk my life to avoid that kind of thing.

I am a terrible singer. The only organization I can truly imagine joining that required singing of ANY song at meetings would be an organization who's purpose was to give me free drugs and or money every visit, preferably both. And even then I'd probably skip a bunch of meetings.

Here's a real life example:

I once stopped in to check out arguably the best BJJ gym in a certain city, and I left and never came back because they had some weird motto/chant thing they would all recite at the start and end of class, and I found it just so fucking weirdly creepy cultish shit that I didn't give a fuck if they had Helio Gracie himself teaching there, I'd rather take my chances learning inferior BJJ and potentially getting hurt as a result by training somewhere where they didn't give me such a Heaven's Gate vibe.

Maybe someone can learn from my experience. I hope so anyhow. Or maybe I'm an extreme weirdo. Could be, it might come with the territory I guess.
posted by some loser at 6:35 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


I really appreciate the folks who are active in DSA chiming in here, thank you!
posted by latkes at 7:06 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


These points, when taken together, leave me to one inescapable conclusion, which is that while at least some in the DSA are trying to infiltrate and occupy the Democratic host organism, good progressives who have sufficient energy, believe in economic and social justice, and understand that flipping seats and changing the balance of power in DC is vital to our survival have to in turn infiltrate and occupy the DSA.

Leftward realignment of the Democrats was one of the core strategies of the Michael Harrington version of the DSA, and if there's been a movement away from it I'd argue it has more than a little to do with people being disillusioned with the results the first time. Personally I think there's plenty of room for people who want to try to elect lefties as Democrats and people who want to do direct action to do it at the same time though.

Incidentally I think some of the people I've encountered who are most radical on issues of race and gender are not particularly into working with the Democrats - not sure those categories overlap as cleanly as some comments here seem to expect them to.
posted by atoxyl at 7:23 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


Mitch caught heat with the Louisville DSA and others after finishing lunch today

Mitch please.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:34 PM on July 7 [1 favorite]


Or maybe I'm an extreme weirdo.

Then I am an extreme weirdo, too. I wasn't raised in any religion and I've found that the formation of group identity is a thing that many people approach waaay differently than me.

That's my own hangup though, that I try not to hold against groups, because I recognize it's a thing that groups do. I still go to protests and wave my sign around and make angry faces, but I can't make myself do call and response.
posted by soren_lorensen at 7:35 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


This said, I've never had the feeling Democrats did any self-reflection, no assessment of what actually went wrong, and what lessons to take from the loss. Something about those who fail history are destined to repeat that class.

This is going to differ by region, I think - but my experience has been that there's presently widespread discussion among Democrats as to what lessons to take away from recent political events. Or not so recent - I've run into a number of people whose view of the 2016 electoral defeat is simply "Obama wasn't Reagan" - third presidential terms for either political party are rare as hen's teeth, and it takes a massively powerful political force to overcome that. The really frightening trend, in this view, is the loss of legislative seats at both the state and national level over the past few decades. That's the indication that there's something systematically wrong with the party's status quo.

A couple of DSA participants in this thread have mentioned tensions between "old-school" DSA/Leftists and newcomers, and I think that there's something similar going on within the Democratic Party, albeit less due to an influx of new arrivals than to a generational shift. Much of the Democratic Establishment as it exists today, in terms of personnel, organization and ideas, is rooted in the transition from New Deal/Great Society liberalism to neoliberalism and 90s Third Way politics, which was in turn the result of the crisis of that older liberal tradition in the face of Reagan and the rise of the new Right in the 1980s. They're being challenged by people who see them as representing a (now) old and failed political order. It's among the latter, the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, that most of the self-reflection seems to be happening, and not surprisingly where much of the energy seems to be.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:44 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


I'm also going to suggest you don't have to do anything that makes you uncomfortable. I will never cold call for a candidate. I hate those calls and I would feel hypocritical making them. I will not go door to door. And I will not sing. On and on. So don't. Do the things you are comfortable with. Drive people to the polls. Sit at a farmer's market booth for the candidate you love. And my favorite, open your wallet. Look at how much milage Sanders got out of telling people how many donors he had and what his average donation was. Join multiple political groups. You can join the DSA and be a member of the Democratic Party as well (especially since the DSA doesn't have a recognized party). Write a post on Medium about why you think your candidate is the bee's knees or why the other guy is worse than a puppy beater. Write letters, call politicians, march. Give money to causes regardless of political bent (as long as you believe in these causes). When someone sues the state to keep prayer out of school, donate to that legal defense. When a trans person gets sued for writing something negative on her blog about some asshat, donate to that legal defense. Put a few bucks in the Planned Parenthood kitty. I'm not suggesting giving until it hurts or being irresponsible with your money, but I bet most people give more to the charity jars in the checkout lines at grocery stores than they do to causes they believe in or politicians they want to win.

It's not really about what you won't do, or who you don't care for because they do. Don't want to sing? Don't. It's about what you can do.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:48 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


If groups are reporting very low women and POC then it discourages me as a disabled woman that my voice would be heard.

Speaking very literally, I think you will be heard. The DSA does genuinely try hard to be egalitarian, including in structural issues like speaking at meetings. At my chapter, this is the participation guide that is posted at every meeting invitation and gone over at the start of every meeting. It specifically says that not only is men talking over women anti-socialist and anti-feminist but that "to counter ingrained patriarchal behavior, whenever a white male comrade interrupts a non-male comrade, or a person of color, everyone should raise their fist."

Whether you will *feel* genuinely heard is an open question, though. I think that, like someone said above, the values are there but the execution isn't always.

That said, on the basis of this discussion, I'm thinking now that maybe I need to go to events/action, hold my space, and speak my mind even if I don't feel entirely welcome (even if I *know* people will disagree), because the truth is that these actually are comrades and maybe there needs to be a certain amount of faith that our shared mission and shared values will carry us through disagreements.

Also, another thanks to The Whelk -- he's the one who put the DSA on my radar.
posted by rue72 at 7:58 PM on July 7 [9 favorites]


Oh! And I'm going to the DC general meeting tomorrow, which is also a picnic, if anyone else here is going? Afterwards, progressive MeFites -- DSA and non -- are going to have coffee together at Peregrine Espresso by Eastern Market Metro station to talk politics and activism. YOU ARE INVITED :D
posted by rue72 at 8:05 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


I don't believe you can actually achieve socialism by electing people into leftward positions. As people have said, they tend to shift right immediately, they become involved in power structures which do not incentivise delivering socialism, they become responsible for the successful operation of your state, and the operation of your state is essentially keeping capitalism going within that state and in the international order. If you take government without the primary and immediate goal of ending capitalism, you will only end up contributing to it. You'll become the method of delivering the small compliance benefits and consolations to the people in order to keep them happy and stable, rather than a catalyst for change.

It cane sometimes be beneficial to run candidates. Sometimes those consolations are essential to keeping people alive. Sometimes there's anti-fascist concerns about not ceding moments to the right. Yet it's always going to be a huge drain on resources, and if the only thing your organisation does is electoral socialism, you're very much a part of the capitalist system, and not working to dismantle it.

Even if those factors are overcome, and it has been done before, there's two main concerns. The first is that there will be a counterrevolutionary coup. This happens a lot. The USA loves to instigate them, as the most powerful industrial nation in the West for a long time, it does protect the world, only the world it protects is a the world of international capitalism. Other states have also been involved at varying points. Even without inside involvement, the capital of any state is powerful. If the working class are not united in their struggle, and able to stop the functioning of capitalism wholesale through strikes, demonstrations, hard pickets, propaganda and other forms of dissent, then the forces of the capital of your country will come to bear. The military is very often heavily involved in such matters, unless class consciousness is high enough that the soldiers come to realise that they are not in any way serving their country or people by participating in brutal repression.

The second is that you risk, or even almost guarantee, especially if your method is to take power and then use the mechanisms of state power yourself to crush opposition, establishing state capitalism instead. You transfer ownership of the means of production not to the people - because you're not allowed to vote the working class into power - but instead to the state. That's a quick pathway to Stalinism. You're still oppressing people, you're still stripping workers of their surplus value, you maintain the power structures that create and sustain most forms of bigotry, be they queerphobias, misogyny, ableism, racism or other terrible practices that are encoded in and serve a purpose for capitalism. State capitalism is really not any better than private capitalism.
Electoral socialism can raise consciousness, it can put ideas on the table, force media attention, but if you actually want to end capitalism, the structure and forms of governance need to change wholesale. You must end the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and establish a dictatorship of the proletariat. Working people, and that of course includes a wide range of people who don't "work" under capitalism, must take the reins themselves. Anything else will, and always has, lead to disaster.

If your only goal is to establish a Scandi-style "capitalism lite", with a touch more compassion, then sure, maybe it'll work for you. That's just not good enough for me, and if you listen to the Scandinavian left, they'll tell you the same. Or even the jealousy Australia gets. The widespread racism here isn't added on top of our capitalism, it's baked into the system as a method of class division, wage lowering, fearmongering-distraction, and probably a number of other functions as well.

To be clear, other forms of oppression outside of class of course just won't disappear if you achieve socialism. It'll still be the work of generations. Yet capitalism and its associated power structures propagate these beliefs, because they help capitalism function. Perhaps most simply by disempowering huge swathes of society. If we want to alleviate these issues, capitalism needs to end. These movements need to be anticapitalist and operating in concert with working-class power, or they will fail. There is of course, a lot more work that needs to be done in educating more working-class groups that these oppressions are connected, and they need to stand in solidarity with others, not against them. That's a big part of what you can be doing instead of devoting your resources to electoral socialism. You can make sure, for easy example, your union is willing and able to come out in favour of change. Social unionism can achieve actual change a lot more effectively than legislative fiddling. A homophobic company may be vulnerable to a sufficiently large and disruptive boycott. They're always vulnerable to having their workers just walk out.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 8:19 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


"to counter ingrained patriarchal behavior, whenever a white male comrade interrupts a non-male comrade, or a person of color, everyone should raise their fist."

This is great! Makes it everyone's job, leaves it up to the interrupter to notice and acknowledge the error, doesn't interrupt the flow of conversation. Will suggest to my chapter.
posted by contraption at 8:20 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


On a different side of things, does anyone have any really good practices for combatting discrimination and the like in your organisations?
On preview, like above.
One of the biggest things we do is almost all meetings and discussion groups are run through speaking lists. Somone runs the speaking list and a (usually 3 minute) timer. After a presentation or the like, names go on the list, people can raise hands or whatever they prefer to make that happen, and people don't talk or interrupt while others go through their 3 minutes. If they want to respond, they get put on the speaking list. The allotted time is filled out, sometimes the original presenter etc gets a final comment at the very end. It really works very well to stop any one person monopolising the time and content of discussion, and helps those who are anxious about commenting for any reason be part of the conversation.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 8:25 PM on July 7 [2 favorites]


If your only goal is to establish a Scandi-style "capitalism lite", with a touch more compassion, then sure, maybe it'll work for you. That's just not good enough for me, and if you listen to the Scandinavian left, they'll tell you the same

I mean, if I’m being cynical then yes I’m advocating the most extreme version of things I can think of cause I’m hoping when the compromise happens it settles into maybe Scandistyle social democracy with more democratic control and that’s the best we can hope for cause this country is so barbaric and insane ....Buuuut the thing that pivoted me out of social democracy and into more left philosophy was watching social democratic states get compromised, legislated out of existence, taken over, sold off, cut to death by austerity , etc. I’m sympathetic from arguments about electoralism from the left, elected officials become part of the political class and will rule in their interest, etc. and I’ve always thought we need to get people thinking about this now and putting radical ideas out there if we’ll have any hope of eroding the current order and replacing it with someone new and democratic and equitable and compassionate.

I mean I can get into the weeds with “plausible policy” and “majority positions” and “short term goals” and the like but I’m still you know, down for the abolition of money and a new way to organize society away from production and capital cause I think we’re facing a existential, species-wide threat in the form of climate change and we can only hope to change it by moving away inti something new,

Push comes to shove the socialist project is about too much power and resources being in the hands of too few.
posted by The Whelk at 8:48 PM on July 7 [16 favorites]


Buuuut the thing that pivoted me out of social democracy and into more left philosophy was watching social democratic states get compromised, legislated out of existence, taken over, sold off, cut to death by austerity , etc.

Every form of human political organization is going to face the problem of how to maintain itself against whatever forms of degeneration are native to it. Socialism, if it ever actually came into existence in the "best" sense of the term (I presume no one here is particularly interested in re-running the USSR), would face different threats than, say social democracy does, but you'll still have to get up in the morning and fight to maintain what you value about your society.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:57 PM on July 7 [4 favorites]


I would like to know the specifics on how one plans on instituting no-money-pure-socialism on a nation-wide scale. Here's just one aspecr: Are we getting rid of international trade, then? Going full isolationist? And if we aren't, how does that work when we don't have money? And if we are, how do you propose rebuilding those manufacturing systems in the US when even the most base materials will, at some point, need to be imported?

I mean, if we're going to shit on electoral systems as tools of The Man I would like to know more about the alternative and exactly how one plans on getting there.
posted by schroedinger at 9:24 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


I mean I work on electoral programs so I just say - I don’t know what it’s going to look like it’s just not gonna look like anything that came before (we should probably be like , producing way less, to start).

Like the dangers of a capital strike by private owners of vital industries, like agriculture, is a bigger risk ..and a way around that could be decentralization.
posted by The Whelk at 9:40 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


if you actually want to end capitalism, the structure and forms of governance need to change wholesale. You must end the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and establish a dictatorship of the proletariat. Working people, and that of course includes a wide range of people who don't "work" under capitalism, must take the reins themselves. Anything else will, and always has, lead to disaster.

I think the idea that a dictatorship of the proletariat would automatically be in any way inherently better than the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is naive in the extreme.

I've met the proletariat, and I've met the bourgeoisie, and both are just people. Neither group has a lock on compassion, or morality, or honesty, or decency, or wisdom. Each has about the same proportion of wise generous community builders and selfish manipulative reactionary arseholes; most members of both groups are neither. Which group any given individual has ended up in appears to me to be more a matter of luck than anything else.

The focus needs to be on replacing unacceptable practices with better ones, not on shifting power from one bunch of hands to another. Because when it comes right down to it, the hands are all just hands.

Anything that looks like a successful attempt to overthrow capitalism will simply create the conditions for the blooming of a thousand twisted flowers of assorted other kinds of oppression. Hell, capitalism isn't even an ideology; there's nothing there to overthrow. You might as well try to fix terrorism by declaring war on terror.

Capitalism is millions of little interlocking patterns of behaviour, and if we want to stop capitalism from causing the damage that it manifestly does, we need to replace those behaviours one by one by one until the system inside which we all live would simply no longer be recognisable as a 21st century capitalist system.

The behaviours proceed from the norms, and norms can be challenged and changed as well as solidified and reinforced. The Right has understood this principle for a very long time, and implements it continuously via the use of propaganda on an industrial scale.

The fundamental messages underlying all Right propaganda are these:

(a) There are Good People and Bad People, and you can become a Good Person just by aligning yourself with the Correct Group.

(b) The collective organisation and continuous hard work that will always be needed to resist the self-reinforcing tendency of power to concentrate in fewer and fewer hands is an illegitimate activity performed only by Bad People who want to Wreck The System and Destroy Our Livelihoods.

(c) The Correct Group is right now under attack from Bad People who must be Got Rid Of as a matter of overriding urgency.

If you find yourself acting as if you believed any of those three canards, you might want to spend a little time on pondering why.
posted by flabdablet at 9:50 PM on July 7 [13 favorites]


You institute it on an international scale, very significantly. It can't be done on a purely national scale, because of the international nature of capitalism. Socialism-in-one-country is dangerous and mistaken.

Capitalism is an ideology, or many.
If you're not on board with the idea that the bourgeoisie are actually oppressing the proletariat, any other details aside, I'm not sure socialism is right for you. I'd love to know if I'm wrong, but I think even the most tender-hearted of democratic socialists believe that. Everything else is either in what ways or what we're going to do about it.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 10:01 PM on July 7 [3 favorites]


I’m More “none of us are capitalists because none of us own a significant amount of capital, even collectively.” But that’s cause getting the rapidly donwardly mobile professional class to realize the capital class has never liked them and will never help them is my bag, baby.

Hey maybe putting everyone in the US in debt and unable to survive without nearly killing themselves was a bad idea?
posted by The Whelk at 10:04 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


The DSA is an anti-capitalist organization, and people who aren't at least somewhat comfortable with that probably shouldn't join, but I don't think we really need to develop a coherent theory of post-capitalist society right in this thread?

The things people are posting about experiences with specific chapters -- especially things that are and aren't effective in terms of building an inclusive socialist space -- are super helpful and interesting. They also require a lot more -- if I may risk a somewhat capitalistic metaphor -- investment to write than general reflections on political and economic theory.

I know we all have treatises we could write about the possibility or impossibility of change through various modalities, but I hope we can maybe leave some oxygen for the kinds of specific, practical insights that we can carry into local groups. Because I really, really want to hear more about that stuff.
posted by shenderson at 10:04 PM on July 7 [19 favorites]


Childcare! Every branch and working group I’ve been at has has childcare available upon request. It’s a big investment of time and engery but also a way for people who don’t want to march or call people or offically attend meetings (I’m actually bad at attending) to help.

I know Bronx/Uptown has a sticker you can wear if you’re a new member and it’s a “hey you can talk to me/ I don’t know where the bathroom is” indicator.

I always say chapters and groups should out calls for data entry/number crunching rather then wait for the people woukd prefer doing data entry to speak up.
posted by The Whelk at 10:07 PM on July 7 [7 favorites]


If you're not on board with the idea that the bourgeoisie are actually oppressing the proletariat, any other details aside, I'm not sure socialism is right for you.

Just to clarify: sure, the bourgeoisie are actually oppressing the proletariat. But the way I see it, this is happening not because there's something villainous about the bourgeoisie and something noble about the proletariat; rather, the bourgeoisie exists as a recognisable class because of the multitude of ways in which various forms of oppression are held to be normal and natural and acceptable or at least inevitable by and to members of all classes.

Marx called the widespread acceptance of the normality of oppression "false consciousness"; I just call it culture. And culture can be changed. And the only way it ever gets changed is when people come together and organise to change it deliberately.

This is why I'm seeing the rise of organisations like the DSA as such a tremendously positive development. "Socialism" has been a filthy epithet in the US for far too long. Seeing reports from people who actually bother to go along to socialist meetings and actually work on the political and organisational problems they encounter inside them in order to render their local chapter more coherent and effective and non-oppressive is hugely encouraging.

Yes, brocialists are fucking exhausting. But brocialists can be turned. Only a small handful will be there purely for the sake of grandstanding to other bros; most of them just haven't thought their attitudes through properly because they haven't been called on them. And if you turn those, the grandstanders will be deprived of their adoring audience and will either shape up or fuck off. And yes, this is work and no, it's not work that anybody ought to need to do in a society organised along saner lines. But with luck and persistence and ongoing commitment to collective organisation, it might just be possible to get society organised along saner lines.

The silent fist raise thing is bloody genius.
posted by flabdablet at 10:31 PM on July 7 [10 favorites]


I think this thread is to discuss the DSA, not "is socialism a thing at all????"
posted by tofu_crouton at 11:51 PM on July 7 [9 favorites]


So, what have you done or seen at your chapter or group to help or what in your chaoter or group needs help? either by bringing in talkers from other progressive or activist organizations or by creating a mutual aid group (diaper donation, tail light, food bank donation work etc) or maybe a craft night ahead iof a big protest or rally to get the signs out?

I always like when we have a union rep tslok at our meetings, or a community organizer. It’s part of grounding us into the fabric of activism and we can ask them “well, what do you need?”

I know a lot of smaller chapters had had good results just deciding what thier issue is and sticking to it - for North NJ it’s social housing in Jersey City (they make a lot of noise in city council and are always here and trying to vote of thier guys in) , for a lot of chapters it’s Medicare For All cause you can get a packet about that from National. I know B/uM asked us to vote on we thought our biggest issues should be and they’d pick from that for our concentrations for the year (NYC is big enough that electoral can be its own thing and also we didn’t have a candidate in our distinct, if you want to do electoral ya can donate time at those places) One is saving the Allen Psych Department from closing and another is Postal Banking Pilot Campaign in the Bronx. That one is being run by Racial Justice Group , so we get a lot of BLM ties and speakers there.

Citywide Media Working is a little easier, cause there exists a job board so yiu can look at what needs to be done, the jobs other chapters and group post, and tag one. I think something like that could exist for other administrative tasks. I encourage anyone with design or art skills to check out the DSA National Design Committee, Which wants to be NYC Media Working for everyine.

There are, of course, still book clubs and craft nights and movie screenings and happy hours and non alcoholic social meetups. I like that we broke happy hours down by industry in the city, Service Industry Happy Hour, Medical Industry Happy House, Education Happy Hour, helps kickstart organization by trade. I think one was just a kid play date. Beach day is coming up! I think we’re gonna also be signing people up to vote. Sometimes it’s Medicare nerkollment. At the 4th of July BBQ it was getting Salazar signatures.

I used to think smaller chapters might want to stick to mutual aide work but now I think they could get ahead of things and ask activists or progressive candidates if they’d be interested in running or having them helping man campaigns , the time has come to start flexing muscle - bind your future to the people you’re trying to help, bail funds for protestors, strike funds for workers- seek out the people in your community trying to organize and live and offer to help.

Hell the DC DSA has seen great goals just by having people show up at eviction courts. People normally don’t, even if the eviction is widely illegal , not showing uo for it makes it go by default. They spread a bunch of flyers and news and meetings with tenants about what they could provide.

The happens a lot in debt collection, the NYC DSA Debt and Finance Group has been working with Debt Collective to spread awareness and get debitors help and know thier rights. A lot of them are being harassed by third party collectors who don’t have the documentation to actually claim the loan - having someone who knows the law and willing to shout on a phone or show up at court is a use deal.

So like, there’s a lot of stuff a chapter or member can do. You need imagination, and will, and resources, and luck, but this like the tip of what was possible before. House mucking and brake lights and flu shot was a dream a year ago. So was winning a congressional election.

(Me, I’m going with walking tours for visitors in exchange for donations, my own donations of art and design and uh ..being the party planner for a blowout August fundraiser based around ...wait for it ..Socialist Prom.)

The thing is : we’re trying to build the structures and institutions in the world we think should exist. That’s pretty much been my go to point in trying to figure out what to do
.
So on that note, I’ve also set up a shelf at s local bar where I drop off Leftist or socially conscious fiction and nonfiction, it has our chaoter cards near by, our stickers, and a little sign “Courtesy Of Your Friendly Neighborhood Socialists” And then the uRL.
posted by The Whelk at 12:26 AM on July 8 [22 favorites]


To be clear, other forms of oppression outside of class of course just won't disappear if you achieve socialism. It'll still be the work of generations. Yet capitalism and its associated power structures propagate these beliefs, because they help capitalism function.

See, the point of intersectionality is that the reverse is also true at the same time. For instance, socialist-style healthcare systems in the US were undone by racist attacks on how the state was paying for black people. Quelle horreur. The current moment in the US is another example: too many people took the 'economic anxiety' of Trump supporters at face value, but that anxiety disappeared as soon as Trump became president, despite no actual change in their circumstances - other than a validation of their prejudices. This was capitalism reinforcing racism, not the other way around.

Racism existed long before capitalism did, and the patriarchy is ancient. But they'll use each other - anti-capitalist campiagners will receive racist and sexist attacks, black campaigners will receive economic attacks, anti-abortion campaigners will receive transphobic attacks. Intersectionality is vital because it helps you understand the weaknesses in your organisation that you refuse to accept, that others can see. Understanding those weaknesses lets you share them, and diffuse them.

Solidarity doesn't have to create a mirror of the existing system, where the strength of the ruling class is replaced by the strength of the workers (and anyone not working is therefore not strong). We can make something new: a system where our vulnerabilities are shared, where we accept our weaknesses and thereby diminish them. A system built on projecting strength cannot accept its weaknesses. We can do better.
posted by Merus at 5:35 AM on July 8 [19 favorites]


I presume no one here is particularly interested in re-running the USSR

Well, depends what you mean by that. Obviously, the USSR's creation and destruction were unique historical events that aren't going to be "re-run" in any meaningful sense. However, every form of social organization has its tradeoffs, and that experienced under the USSR certainly was no exception -- there were benefits to go along with the drawbacks (for instance). Also I would note that the USSR went through many historical phases -- war communism, NEP, collectivization, WWII, glasnost, etc. -- each with its own set of policies, so it is useful to have some more nuance in these discussions of potential future policy options rather than writing off the whole transhistorical experience of the USSR in toto. But given all of the urgent problems that our societies face, the relevance of the dictatorship of the proletariat as a form of governance is very much an open question in my mind. Granted, the DSA doesn't share this opinion, but I, for one, would much rather have a workers' democracy calling the shots than the Koch brothers and their ilk. There is, of course, much more to say about this subject, but I'll leave it there.

The DSA is an anti-capitalist organization

It might be true that some (although certainly not all) of the members of DSA consider themselves anti-capitalist, but the organization itself, so far as I can tell, doesn't have any aspirations of overthrowing capitalism. Rather, they seem to aim to make capitalism more humane, by expanding the welfare state, fighting oppression, etc. In any event, the group has anti-communist origins and has traditionally stood in opposition to groups that had a more radical anti-capitalist vision -- I don't think that has changed.

Marx called the widespread acceptance of the normality of oppression "false consciousness"

Marx never used the term; the concept was popularized later by Lukács and the phrase first used in a letter from Engels to Mehring (which Lukács cites in the linked piece).
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 5:41 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


[One deleted. Let's try and stick with the larger discussion on the DSA rather than dragging it back to "Bernie Bros" etc. Thanks.]
posted by taz (staff) at 6:21 AM on July 8 [2 favorites]


...wait for it ..Socialist Prom.)

We did this back in February! It was a ton of fun and we made a bunch of money to send members to the Labor Notes conference. Rose-infused gin drinks and beer were a big hit.
posted by clavicle at 6:27 AM on July 8 [6 favorites]


Rose infused gin is a ...great idea I need to get ontop of.
posted by The Whelk at 7:26 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


> The DSA is an anti-capitalist organization

It might be true that some (although certainly not all) of the members of DSA consider themselves anti-capitalist, but the organization itself, so far as I can tell, doesn't have any aspirations of overthrowing capitalism. Rather, they seem to aim to make capitalism more humane, by expanding the welfare state, fighting oppression, etc. In any event, the group has anti-communist origins and has traditionally stood in opposition to groups that had a more radical anti-capitalist vision -- I don't think that has changed.

I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression here... the materials on the web site very clearly say that DSA is anticapitalist. For example, “The DSA Vision”:
Socialism as Radical Democracy

Socialists believe that capitalism is fundamentally at odds with democracy. For this reason, anticapitalism lies at the heart of our politics. This crucial perspective is missing from liberal and progressive analyses, and we put it front and center in our work. Yet socialism is a much broader project of liberation. Socialism means the full democratization of all areas of our lives. Whether in the workplace, school, family, politics, neighborhood, or anywhere else, all people should have a voice in decisions that affect their lives. This means that ending racial, gender, sexual, and other forms of oppression that keep people from freely determining the course of their own lives is also at the core of the socialist project.
posted by XMLicious at 7:35 AM on July 8 [7 favorites]


Rose simple syrup is good shit too, makes good cocktails and I did an infused seltzer bar for another fundraiser that was on a Tuesday night in a library, so needed to be not so boozy.

Anyway thanks XMLicious, that pullquote nails what I wanted to say. The original anticommunist stance of the org made sense in its time, but our context is different now. I think most of us would say we’re against authoritarian socialism as in the Cold War, or state capitalism as it manifested in the USSR, and in 2018 that’s not quite the same as being anticommunist. My chapter loves a good A-ANTI-ANTICAPITALISTA chant for marching purposes.
posted by clavicle at 7:56 AM on July 8 [3 favorites]


the strength of the workers (and anyone not working is therefore not strong)
This is never what socialists say. This is not how being working-class functions. It keeps coming up as some sort of bizarre straw-man argument, that socialism is only for people in hi-vis vests. It's for people.
The problem with the ruling class is not that they literally do no work, it's that their work is the exploitation of others.

that of course includes a wide range of people who don't "work" under capitalism and to be even clearer, it includes students and the disabled, or most anyone else. Class is defined by your relationship to the means of production, not by income levels or employment status.
As The Whelk said "none of us own a significant amount of capital". That's the dividing line.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 7:59 AM on July 8 [6 favorites]


I think the idea that a dictatorship of the proletariat would automatically be in any way inherently better than the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie is naive in the extreme.

I've met the proletariat, and I've met the bourgeoisie, and both are just people. Neither group has a lock on compassion, or morality, or honesty, or decency, or wisdom. Each has about the same proportion of wise generous community builders and selfish manipulative reactionary arseholes; most members of both groups are neither. Which group any given individual has ended up in appears to me to be more a matter of luck than anything else.

The focus needs to be on replacing unacceptable practices with better ones, not on shifting power from one bunch of hands to another. Because when it comes right down to it, the hands are all just hands.


You are, of course, right about this; the individuals that make up the bourgeoisie and proletariat classes are all just people, and some are cruel and some are kind.

However, the idea of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" isn't just about swapping the people in power. Marx's vision involved more than that, it involved changing the social relations that underpin the production of resources in the global economy. When Feudalism (the dictatorship of the nobility) fell, the nobleman-serf relationship was replaced by the employer-employee relationship under Capitalism (the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie). A transition to Socialism (the dictatorship of the proletariat) would, in marxist theory, involve the destruction of the employer-employee relationship and replacement with some new and more egalitarian form of economic relationship where the concept of private profit has been eliminated.

As the world hasn't really seen a successful transition to real socialism yet, it's hard to say exactly what that would look like, just as nobody really knew what capitalism would look like at the time that feudalism died.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 11:38 AM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Just an FYI... My computer is having a bizarre intermittent problem connecting to https://www.dsausa.org/ and in case anyone else experiences the same thing, the first go-to workaround is to find what you want to read via the Internet Archive. Here's the home page as of a few days ago or you can pick the date you want to see the recorded home page from, IA list of all saved URLs, IA overview, IA sitemap.
posted by XMLicious at 12:25 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


just as nobody really knew what capitalism would look like at the time that feudalism died.

What? Yes they did. The fact that Adam Smith put it into words didn't change the fact that capitalism existed from time immemorial. It's not like money was invented in Western Europe during the Middle Ages.
posted by schroedinger at 1:01 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Money isn't the only defining aspect of capitalism. Other people in this thread can probably explain it better, but I think the short version is that capitalism is the system that emerges when the people who own the capital (business owners, etc) are the driving force behind the economy. Before that, Europe had feudalism, where money and trade certainly existed but the driving force behind the economy was the nobility (and to a certain extent, the church). Under feudalism, the nobility's relationship to money and to workers was significantly different from the relationship that owners of capital today have to money and workers, which is the distinction being drawn there.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:19 PM on July 8 [8 favorites]


I'm sorry capitalism did not exist from time immemorial. That's...so wrong it's off the scale. Unless you're saying everything exists separate from its physical formulation or discovery, which is some platonic ontological shit that won't be solved in this here thread.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:25 PM on July 8 [8 favorites]


A major policy plank for the DSA is supporting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel as an oppressor of the Palestinian people. It's not a small part, but a big part of what the organization is about. This means this organization is not for me.

As an aside, I really question the wisdom of this anti-Israel position. Already in Illinois, Daniel Biss tried picking a DSA member as a running mate, who he later had to drop, because instead of talking about socialist principles in magazine interviews, he decided to talk about Israel instead. When asked if he could basically put questions regarding Israel aside while helping govern Illinois, he refused.

Those of you who have seen threads here having anything to do with Israel and Palestine know that it's impossible to bring up this topic without it swallowing whole any conversation. If you're promoting a socialist agenda, that's great. If you're trying to do that and simultaneously take a hard stand against Israel with demands for international sanctions.... Good luck to you.
posted by xammerboy at 2:01 PM on July 8


anti-Israel position

I guess if it can't be perceived as an anti-current-policy-and-Administration-of-Israel position then that is indeed a problem.
posted by phearlez at 2:18 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


I don't want anyone to get the wrong impression here... the materials on the web site very clearly say that DSA is anticapitalist. For example, “The DSA Vision”:

Scroll to the bottom of that page and you will see: "Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership." That is an individually-signed article in the Democratic Left magazine/blog that can not be taken as an organizational statement of principles.

Indeed, one can find plenty on the Democratic Left blog that reflects a diverse spectrum of opinion. For instance, a vision of socialism as more effective US economic competition with China. Or a perspective that views "The idea of solidarity [extending] beyond humans to include God, who took on human form in order to be with us." Or opposing opinions on the Syrian conflict. Really, I think it's a mistake to take anything on that blog (unless stated otherwise) as official DSA policy.

In any event, the original article is using "anticapitalism" in an idiosyncratic way. The author doesn't really go into what he means by it, but one can get a flavor of what he is proposing by his lauding of the New Deal, etc. and his denigration of "totalitarian communist systems." If "anticapitalism" just means fighting for reforms within capitalism -- which is the DSA's orientation in the main and which this article seems to endorse -- then that's different from what "anticapitalism" has historically meant, which is opposition to capitalism in toto and a desire to see it overthrown (perhaps leading to what the author might impugn as a "totalitarian communist system").
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 2:26 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Happy regards from the NYC Queer Caucus picnicin The shadow of a Trump Tower. Now with rainbow cartoons

Also on July 15th, Central Brooklyn is having a Welcome Picnic For New Members.
posted by The Whelk at 2:38 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


[Greetings friends, this needs to not spin off into a fight about Israel/Palestine issues.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:43 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


Money isn't the only defining aspect of capitalism. Other people in this thread can probably explain it better

A really good introduction to the "transition debates" (i.e. the transition from feudalism to capitalism), which inevitably involves defining both concepts, is Ellen Wood's The Origin of Capitalism, which I would highly recommend to anyone interested.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 3:02 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


See, the point of intersectionality is that the reverse is also true at the same time. For instance, socialist-style healthcare systems in the US were undone by racist attacks on how the state was paying for black people. Quelle horreur.

From the comment you're responding to:

Yet capitalism and its associated power structures propagate these beliefs, because they help capitalism function.

The healthcare example is very much in line with what people mean when they describe racism helping capitalism function.

To my mind the stereotype of the Marxist who doesn't get it on race is that they think of race as "just a dirty trick played to divide people" (when in fact it has well-documented material benefits for white people even within the broader working class) or as something that will be resolved as a side effect after the revolution (instead of a fight that has to be fought in its own right). I think what most socialists I know now believe about race is rather more sophisticated than that, but of course your results may vary.
posted by atoxyl at 3:39 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


I attended the East Bay DSA "intro to DSA" meeting and have just gotten home. I took notes. Overall impression: Pleasant, reasonably welcoming (nothing off-putting, only slightly lacking in specific guidance for shy people), very earnest, no haters. Total attendance: 130-150 people.

Very white. I saw two black women and one black man, and a small handful of maybe-latinx people. About 2/3 male. One tiny baby, attached to one of the hosts; no other children. Most people seemed to be between 25 and 35, although there were some older activists - notably, many of the women were older. All the host/staff women were young-ish and skinny. Felt much more like a Berkeley DSA group than an East Bay DSA group; meeting was held in a park on the Oakland-Berkeley border, and apparently many meetings are held nearby.

They had a few speakers: one going over "What Is Capitalism and also What Is Socialism;" one personal story of How I Got Involved in the DSA, one "Goals and Activism of the DSA," and then we split into smaller groups. (8 groups of 15, which is how I know how many were there - some hosts/staff people weren't part of those groups, and there were a few others outside of the groups.) Groups did introductions with names and pronouns, although about half the people didn't mention their pronouns. One genderfluid person in my group; nobody else who stood out as GNC or androgynous.

Things I noted:
  • I'm not used to hearing "capitalist" used as an epithet.
  • One speaker saying "we knew Hillary was going to win and I have some feelings about that, but at least she's better than Trump."
  • Socialist goals include the abolition of class and collective ownership of all property and business.
  • Some people noted a difference between "leftists" like the DSA, and "liberals" like most Democrats. I didn't ask what the difference was.
  • Discussion of individualism as a kind of disease.
  • Picnic table with water bottles, mini-oranges, potato chips, and two trays of fruit salad with a serving spoon... no napkins, plates, spoons/forks, or bowls. (I made a paper cup out of a flyer from my purse.)
  • Meeting sign-in was done on tablets; they had three or four of them (with red liners/borders) and tried hard to make sure everyone signed in.
  • I met some nice people from a socialist feminist book club, and I am more interested in going to those meetings than EBDSA meetings, although I'm likely to attend both.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:49 PM on July 8 [12 favorites]


Personally I'm not the sort to assert that everything about race or gender can fit into a Marxian material analysis - but I do think there's a fair amount to be seen through that lens.
posted by atoxyl at 3:52 PM on July 8


If "anticapitalism" just means fighting for reforms within capitalism

The second sentence of the DSA Constitution & Bylaws begins,
We are socialists because we reject an economic order based on private profit...
Or, for another example, the post you link to, NPB, about economic competition between the U.S. and China contrasts a democratic socialist U.S. with the present "neoliberal capitalism" and endorses several current political goals because they'll "lead us to our Star Trek future".

The current DSA is constitutionally opposed to capitalism—like, literally—and I think the mistake is to convince oneself otherwise. It's not a reason for people who think differently not to join or not to make common cause with the DSA, and perhaps it could change in the future (for all I know, as a brand-spanking-new member); it's just an important thing to know about the organization's inertia and trajectory and about the rest of the people you're in the big tent with, as is the BDS thing which xammerboy points out.
posted by XMLicious at 4:04 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


I just want to be clear that a big part of my objection to the DSA campaigning to boycott and sanction Israel is that it will effectively blow up their socialist agenda. It will turn away so many people that would otherwise be hugely supportive.
posted by xammerboy at 4:21 PM on July 8 [7 favorites]


Encouraged by the Whelk I recently became a dues paying member of the DSA, just attended my first general body meeting of the DC DSA, and then also went to my first IRL meetup with other mefites. Huzzah!
posted by X-Himy at 5:34 PM on July 8 [7 favorites]


Discussion of individualism as a kind of disease.

Uuuuuuummmmm
posted by schadenfrau at 5:35 PM on July 8


* Discussion of individualism as a kind of disease.
Uuuuuuummmmm


As in, the western concept that individuals are more important than the communities in which they live, that individuals alone determine whether a person is "successful" (merit-based society and/or bootstrap myth), that a person has no obligation to consider their surrounding community when making decisions or policies.

(Just clarifying. Some of that I agree with; some I can see taken too far and turned into "your only value is what the community says it is.")
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:54 PM on July 8 [9 favorites]


Whether I/P turns people away or not, it attracts people who are obsessed with it to the exclusion of any other political agenda. Like, environmental action groups become environmental PLUS PALESTINE groups and queer groups become queer PRO ISRAEL groups. I have seen this happen so many times: it is never good for the group concerned and it always makes them less effective.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:57 PM on July 8 [7 favorites]


This is never what socialists say. This is not how being working-class functions. It keeps coming up as some sort of bizarre straw-man argument, that socialism is only for people in hi-vis vests. It's for people.

My point here was how easily a strength-based argument for the working class can be corrupted if twisted even a little bit. It's no good imagining a better world if it's a world that can be broken with the slightest pressure. (One of the problems with communist revolutions, in practice, is how susceptible they are to subversion. Thankfully, Marx was also wrong about full-tilt revolution being the only way to unseat capitalism - the Internet very nearly did the job on its own.)
posted by Merus at 6:00 PM on July 8


NB, you don't have to reject the concept of money to be a socialist. kliuless has made some interesting posts here about market socialism.
posted by en forme de poire at 6:02 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


From everything I've seen in practice, the DSA is loose tent between two main philosophies—social democracy and democratic socialism. Basically, both can agree that they oppose capitalism as it is right now. Whether it can be humanized or not is up for a future debate after that social democracy stage is achieved. So, unless they're revolutionary democratic socialists, most members of the DSA will see social democracy as either the goal or a gateway to get to the real goal of abolishing private profit. Most are okay with this alliance; I certainly am. We'll argue when it becomes relevant to argue.

In addition, the main paradigms for the DSA involve either electoral politics and direct action. Both are seen as important, but even within the electoral politics, it involves more than supporting or canvasing for a candidate. It can be to drum up a groundswell of support for a DSA policy (for example, Medicare for All) in the hopes that the people will work through the system that is and demand their reps support a policy. Their direct action usually manifests as either protest actions (like blockading ICE buildings and chasing Kirstjen Neilson out of a building) and direct aid (fixing brake lights and helping fight evictions).

The point I'm trying to make is that DSA is very multitendency and if you have the will and you fit into any philosophy/paradigm of action, you belong there. We need the DSA to function if we're going to take back democracy. The plus side is that the vast majority of the chapters and members are very new, less than two years old, which means that those chapters can be infiltrated and made more purposeful under competent hands. Yeah, the DSA is kinda a mess right now because it has very little institutional memory for what it is and how big it is. I plead for the democratic socialists and the social democrats to help make it into an organization worthy of who it is trying to aid.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:02 PM on July 8 [17 favorites]


Also, my favorite form of socialism that can be practiced right now is workplace socialism. We need more co-ops and employee-owned companies. Ideally, workers will have hiring and firing power over managers, but even just 100% employee profit-sharing dramatically changes how workers see themselves. King Arthur Flour Company and W.W. Norton & Co are both examples of this.

This can be a great rebuttal to thoae who say you want the government to take over everything. No, you say, I want private sector socialism, too.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:17 PM on July 8 [24 favorites]


Democracy in the workplace WC! THE iWW also does lot for that.
posted by The Whelk at 6:31 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Some of us MeFites went to the DC general body meeting/picnic today and then had coffee together afterward. The meeting itself was impressive, I thought. It was very formally structured, but everyone was given ample chance to speak (and the bar to speak wasn't dauntingly high), and the whole thing was run very efficiently. We had one small debate (on paying for a workshop on safe direct action) and one fairly large debate (on counter-protests for the Unite the Right II rally that's happening in August) and passed two resolutions, as well as had two newly elected politicians speak, and had status updates on all actions and chapter financial changes since the last meeting. And that was all within something like an hour or an hour and a half and while eating sandwiches together on the grass.

Honestly, I don't agree with all of the DSA's platform or its strategies (most of it, granted, but not all of it), but I do share its overall values. And its focus on direct action rather than solely on politics/campaigns is really refreshing and invigorating. The DSA makes me feel like I not only can but should have a voice that's not SOLELY by proxy through my rep, which is really powerful.

So in the end, I decided to commit to going to general body/chapter meetings and to joining a working group for at least three months straight. Otherwise, I'm never going to get over the hump of discomfort that joining an organization involves. I also did recognize a lot of faces today from the few meetings that I have gone to before, which was heartening. There were a lot of new people there today, but it wasn't all new people by any means.

And having a sort of coffee klatch/debrief with fellow politically-interested MeFites afterward also helped a lot. It made the whole thing feel a lot less anonymous or cut off from the rest of my life, or even cut off from my political life. So thanks again, guys, for coming out :)
posted by rue72 at 6:54 PM on July 8 [21 favorites]


If "anticapitalism" just means fighting for reforms within capitalism -- which is the DSA's orientation in the main and which this article seems to endorse -- then that's different from what "anticapitalism" has historically meant, which is opposition to capitalism in toto and a desire to see it overthrown (perhaps leading to what the author might impugn as a "totalitarian communist system").

I mean, Socialism and Communism, as thrown around in the United States today, are vastly different from what they have "historically meant". I think it's possible for "anti-capitalist" to have evolved in the same way. I've noticed that there are numerous people for whom "capitalist" simply means "rule of society by those who own the most capital, on behalf of those who own the most capital". It's possible for them to be fine with, e.g. private property, market mechanisms, and such while insisting that (just an example someone at my workplace suggested a few weeks ago) all corporations over a certain size should be by law required to be worker-owned, or that extraordinary measures should be taken to keep wealth from influencing political policy. This would fit into "anti-capitalism" in the sense italicized above.

A really good introduction to the "transition debates" (i.e. the transition from feudalism to capitalism), which inevitably involves defining both concepts, is Ellen Wood's The Origin of Capitalism, which I would highly recommend to anyone interested.

I was actually just toying with doing an AskMe looking for books about this. Thanks!

Also, my favorite form of socialism that can be practiced right now is workplace socialism. We need more co-ops and employee-owned companies. Ideally, workers will have hiring and firing power over managers, but even just 100% employee profit-sharing dramatically changes how workers see themselves. King Arthur Flour Company and W.W. Norton & Co are both examples of this.

Yeah, a lot of people are instinctively hostile to the concept of "collective ownership" because they assume it's going to be run through some massive governmental bureaucracy or something. Worker ownership feels different - unsurprisingly, I guess, because it is. I've found its a much better place to begin a conversation. It also has the potential to tap into a very longstanding strain in American ideology that imagines the idea society as made up of individuals each of whom possess a "competency" (in the 1800s imagined as a small farm, or a small artisan business, but I think worker ownership could strike a similar cord) that gives them enough to have a dignified living well above poverty but well below the sort of affluence that is associated with rentiership.*

Thanks again to the folks bringing real-life DSA experiences into the thread - I'm enjoying the side conversation about socialism, etc. but it's always really heartening when people talk about actually doing stuff. The Chattanooga DSA doesn't seem tremendously active, going by their Facebook page, but I'm going to take a look anyway.

*Since we're suggesting books, Richard White's The Republic For Which It Stands talks a bit about this ideal and its evolution and eventual death in the Gilded Age - which is itself somewhat relevant.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:49 PM on July 8 [8 favorites]


SO as a result of the Queer Caucus Picnic I know now I can apply my building to have a NYC Grows/Sustainability Initiative brown box for all food waste to be composted (Free!) and now I just need to convince enough cp-op members to apply and hey guess what's my mission for July (the whole story is of bureaucratic excess, the New York City Housing Authority is gonna be the last to get composting service despite it being the MOST centralized and dense and ideal candidate for mass collection)
posted by The Whelk at 8:59 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Marx was also wrong about full-tilt revolution being the only way to unseat capitalism

Marx specifically called out the United States as a country that might not need revolution to democratically move to communism. One of the reasons was that he was very enamored of America's president at the time... Abraham Lincoln.

From Karl Marx's letter to Lincoln congratulating him on winning the Civil War:
The workingmen of Europe feel sure that, as the American War of Independence initiated a new era of ascendancy for the middle class, so the American Antislavery War will do for the working classes. They consider it an earnest of the epoch to come that it fell to the lot of Abraham Lincoln, the single-minded son of the working class, to lead his country through the matchless struggle for the rescue of an enchained race and the reconstruction of a social world.
posted by xammerboy at 11:16 PM on July 8 [10 favorites]


It’s extremly telling that the entire goal of conservativism in this country is to recreate slavery via mass incarceration or debt peonage.
posted by The Whelk at 6:04 AM on July 9 [15 favorites]


Oh this is neat, Silicon Valley DSA is running a mending class and workshop Direct link
posted by The Whelk at 7:51 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


NB, you don't have to reject the concept of money to be a socialist. kliuless has made some interesting posts here about market socialism.

Market socialism is really interesting to me but can anyone explain this sentence from the wikipedia page:
Market socialism is distinguished from the concept of the mixed economy because unlike the mixed economy, models of market socialism are complete and self-regulating systems.
Because I haven't the faintest idea what it's trying to say. In what way is market socialism complete that a mixed economy is incomplete?
posted by vibratory manner of working at 9:52 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Hooray, my chapter's solidarity fund is live!
posted by clavicle at 10:39 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


I helped launch a Tidewater chapter earlier this year -- we're just waiting for National to get it's act together and recognize us. Anyone in Southeastern VA's Seven Cities should check out TidewaterDSA.org or on Twitter @TidewaterDSA.
posted by daHIFI at 11:50 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


DSA member from the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky chapter here.

I took a very long time to join, but came around once I saw how they took the lead on saving our local downtown public library building from being sold off to a developer. This issue was completely ignored by local progressive and Democratic groups - the only others who made a lot of noise on this was Socialist Alternative. As a librarian (not at the public library), please believe I took note that I'd come home from library hearings about the potential sale and see my "#RESISTANCE" friends posting about the latest outrage on Rachel Maddow, while the only other people Doing The Work of showing up to hearings were socialists and the local people they were organizing.

Our DSA chapter then went on to win a victory for getting a syringe exchange in Northern Kentucky, and has had more women rise up to leadership positions. A few days after the chapter hosted a talk with Elizabeth Catte, I said "fuck it, what am I waiting for?" and finally paid my dues.

I definitely have issues with some of the national organization's platform (including issues raised above in this thread), and my chapter is very, very far from perfect. But it's inspiring to be in a group that is doing a ton of stuff (seriously, I cannot keep up with All The Things our chapter is getting up to), and ENDING MEETINGS ON TIME. After a decade of being in leftist spaces where meetings ROUTINELY run over time, to be in general meetings that end even a couple minutes early is miraculous.

Also, I really love singing Solidarity Forever. I would be sad if it went away.

(ps - if you are a MeFite DSAer attending the Rust Belt DSA conference in Pittsburgh in August, let me know, I'd love to meet you).
posted by mostly vowels at 4:19 PM on July 9 [18 favorites]


Silicon Valley DSA

do the Hamptons have a DSA chapter too
posted by schroedinger at 9:46 PM on July 9


They're focused pretty hard on tech worker unionization and affordable housing from what I can tell.
posted by The Whelk at 9:49 PM on July 9 [10 favorites]


the Hamptons
The Suffolk County Chapter of DSA: Bringing socialism to the suburbs.
(Not editorializing, that is their real tagline)
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:07 PM on July 9 [9 favorites]


Relevant to concerns over DSA's commitment to intersectional solidarity: Joint resignation letter by the Steering Committee of the DSA Disability Working Group.

Seeming to bear out the authors' emphasis on the locals as the locus of change: I have seen social media discussion of this on individual chapters' social media pages, but not a peep thus far from national.
posted by shenderson at 9:22 AM on July 10 [4 favorites]


I don't know the details but National steps in it enough I support a change to regional organisational structure given our size. The Rust Belt coalition and Southern Caucus are signs of this.

All power to the locals.
posted by The Whelk at 9:41 AM on July 10 [5 favorites]


Silicon Valley DSA is very good!
posted by ludwig_van at 10:08 AM on July 10


Longread about the present American socialist intellectual milieu:
They’ve got a double challenge. The first is to convince skeptical Americans that, despite what they may have learned in high school, socialism doesn’t have to mean Stalinism, and it doesn’t lead inexorably to the gulags of Soviet Russia or the starvation of Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela. The second may be even trickier. They must explain how their version of socialism fits, or doesn’t, into the American political system while showing how, specifically, it is distinct from traditional Democratic Party liberalism. In other words, they must not only defend socialism in the twenty-first century; they must define it.
...
There’s no denying that much of what today’s socialists are demanding fits within the liberal tradition of a Ted Kennedy or Paul Wellstone. Advocating something like single-payer health care, but calling yourself a socialist, can look like mere positioning.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 11:19 AM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Seconding the idea of a regional organizational structure change. National is an embarrassment.
posted by odinsdream at 1:15 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Relevant to concerns over DSA's commitment to intersectional solidarity: Joint resignation letter by the Steering Committee of the DSA Disability Working Group.

I think this is the direct .PDF download link, for anyone else who needs it.
posted by XMLicious at 2:28 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]




Interesting. Cynthia Nixon: I’m a democratic socialist.

Of course, not everyone is happy: “'She’s not a socialist. Seriously. The DSA is not the f–king Working Families Party (thank god),' Tiffany Berruti, the DSA rep from CUNY said in a lengthy statement handed out at the meeting.”
posted by shenderson at 6:10 PM on July 10


She hasn’t changed much from her candidate statement to us, but I’m waiting for the nomination forum results from tonight. (Some jerk cut Jen off and then people got up in his face cause he claimed to be a B/PuM member but no one has seen him before)

I’m a soft no just on practical grounds (I don’t like paper nominations, when we nominate someone we should send an army to aide them, like we’re doing for Salazar.) and we don’t have the resources we’d need in places like The Bronx, were she needs to the most support, and it’s too close to the primary. There’s an ideological reason for a no endorsement vote, but I think I’d be less sympathetic to it if we got this ask for nomination 4 months ago.

But we’ve also never gotten a nomination ask from this high an office before and I think it points to the need for a mid level, like support but not endorse option? Maybe? Or we at NYC electoral could stay hardline cause, like Ocasio-Cortez says, people in the safest areas should be the most extreme and uncompromising.

(There’s a few voices on the Coumo is a unique threat and we need a popular front side. I understand it but I’m not swayed, it’s not like Nixon is LACKING endorsements.)

One call is to support the things she supports, like Medicare For All, that we also support. It’s complicated.

(A lot of the drama with the WFP is that became a rubber stamp paper party that ended up backing Coumo- that they broke with Dem orthodoxy recently over Nixon is a good thing.)
posted by The Whelk at 7:14 PM on July 10 [6 favorites]


First off, I think that the DSA should form regional assemblies so there's a level between national and chapter.

Second off, I think there should be criteria for those that seek DSA/chapter endorsement so it's not all ad hoc.
I would say the DSA should endorse and campaign for someone who :
1) identifies as a democratic socialist
2) promotes at least a few policies that DSA supports
3) doesn't promote any game-breaking policies like abortion restrictions
4) seeks the nomination
5) has at least a feasible chance of winning (can capture at least 25% of the vote)

To simply endorse:
1) identifies as a democratic socialist
2) promotes at least one major DSA policy plank
3) doesn't promote any game-breaking policies
4) seeks the nomination

And finally, to support (which means to tell DSA members to vote for a person; people who aren't socialists but are better than the alternative):
1) promotes at least one major DSA policy plank
2) doesn't promote game-breaking policies
3) seeks the nomination

During the 2016 primary, Ta-Nehisi Coates explained that although he didn't endorse Bernie Sanders (because Sanders refused to support reparations), he still would vote for Sanders in the primary, and I think the distinctions between endorse and campaign, endorse, and support allow for that level of nuance and guidance, acknowledging ideology without making the DSA commit stupid decisions. It also tries to harmonize the policies of hundreds of chapters.

So, with that new critera, New York DSA chapters should probably lean to the endorse category without the campaigning. She does identify as a demsoc (although suddenly), but more importantly, her policies are DSA policies and she isn't supporting anything that would make DSA wince.

The positive side of this is that it might form a bridge between Nixon voters and DSA so that some more come into the democratic socialist fold.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 6:57 AM on July 11 [5 favorites]


It is totally unclear to me why the DSA couldn’t campaign for Nixon in the areas where it’s already campaigning for other candidates. I also have...what I’ll call very little patience for “must identify as a socialist” arguments. Like, fix the massive branding and reputation problems socialists have among women and POC first, then maybe you can start making identity requirements?

And, strategically speaking, if the DSA could help move the needle for Nixon in NYC so that she actually puts the fear of God/the left in Cuomo, that itself is a massive win. Cuomo is basically a soulless skin walker, able to shift to into whatever form best suits his ambition. Motherfucker will turn on a dime and support the right things if he thinks it will preserve or further his political career.

This is probably the most critical race for the future of NYS politics in a time when state governments might become the last bulwark against actual Nazis, so...what the actual fuuuuck.
posted by schadenfrau at 7:25 AM on July 11 [14 favorites]


My main critique of campaigning heavily for Cynthia Nixon is that it's probably not going to be a close election and the DSA resources are scarce. I totally agree that DSA should endorse and push for her, best it can. Her campaign is a little unorganized, but 1) her policies are solid, and 2) she's a world better than Cuomo.

I'll talk to some members about this soon. She definitely wants the DSA endorsement and she's checking off the right boxes. I feel like that's what we want? And who knows: maybe the election will surprise us.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:08 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Also from the article shenderson posted:

"Berruti described Nixon as a Hillary Clinton supporter."

Going back to my original post in this thread: the answer to "am I going to have to constantly relitigate my choice of who to support in 2016 if I join the DSA?" seems to be: yeah, and at the weirdest of times.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:27 AM on July 11 [18 favorites]


It is really stupid. I mean, at this point, Nixon has done what we have wanted any democratic socialist candidate to do. Time to throw all in. I don't care who anyone supported in 2016 anymore.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:39 AM on July 11 [5 favorites]


It also smacks of "I was into socialism before it was cool. Do you even Gramsci, bro?"

Which is not a great strategy for attracting new people to your ideology, I feel.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:42 AM on July 11 [10 favorites]


I just talked to my branch of DSA which is another New York State branch. The plan is to wait for NYC DSA to endorse or not because they're the ones that she approached/had a candidate forum with. If NYC DSA endorses, we'll follow soon after. So, the Whelk, this might be up to you guys to start the New York State ball rolling.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 8:51 AM on July 11


Haven't I heard something about "meeting people where they are?" If she's calling herself a democratic socialist and supports a huge chunk of our platform, I'm not seeing any reason not to endorse and throw full support behind her campaign.
posted by contraption at 8:55 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


I support Nixon, but I'm truly ambivalent about whether the DSA should support her. I don't think it would be bad if they did, but timing-wise it certainly feels like "oh wait, these guys can actually help people win? Well now I'll seek their support!" I can see the benefits of having a higher bar and sticking with people who've used the 's-word' from the beginning of their current campaigns.

But since Cuomo both 1) sucks and 2) is sensitive to organized criticism from the left because he wants to be President, I would also not be upset if they did endorse and campaign for her.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:24 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


By the way, for those outside the NY political realm - there's a good reason both Cuomo and Crowley were challenged by total outsider candidates. The whole 'machine politics' thing has traditionally meant "if you primary me, not only will you lose, but YOU'LL NEVER POLITICS IN THIS TOWN AGAIN." So the only people willing to challenge them were people who weren't trying to succeed within the established political order - and clearly, neither one of their opponents was even slightly prepared to be challenged.

No matter what happens with Nixon, that's a lesson for all NYC lefties to take forward. Especially because in 2021, due to term limit extensions which were later reversed, over 70% of the New York City Council will be term-limited out of office, as will Mayor Bill de Blasio. That represents a chance to deal a major blow to the machines and completely remake the political fabric of NYC.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:27 AM on July 11 [9 favorites]


Also from the article shenderson posted:

"Berruti described Nixon as a Hillary Clinton supporter."


I mean.

Yeah. There is a problem here. My main question for the feminist socialist working group is what they’re doing to make the DSA itself welcoming to women.

But if the culture of the organization is still very much blind to the role that misogyny played on the left in the primaries — to the extent that it’s a purity test now for the only credible candidate for Governor with socialist policies who oh just happens to be a lady — I don't have a whole lot of hope, and that is seriously, seriously disheartening.

I have to try. But this is just...such an own goal.
posted by schadenfrau at 9:33 AM on July 11 [14 favorites]


Among people I know in my branch of NYC-DSA (Bronx/Upper Manhattan), the plurality position seems to be that everyone should vote for Nixon against Cuomo, but we should not officially endorse her. That's my position, too, and not on grounds of "she's not a real socialist"—Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate, *is* a "real socialist," and I don't think we should endorse him either.

As I understand it, when our chapter endorses a candidate, it's not just a stamp of approval, it's a decision about how to allocate our (scarce, volunteer-only) resources. It means that our members are going to be working for that candidate as one of the on-the-ground campaigns organized by our electoral working group. It's a big material commitment, and we should only do it if we think the payoff will be worth it. In particular, we should only do it if we think the payoff will be worth it *even if the candidate loses.* A good policy platform is a necessary but not sufficient condition.

At the branch meeting where we discussed whether to endorse Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, many of the same criticisms that are now being directed at Cynthia Nixon were directed at AOC—she's not a real socialist, etc. At the time, I assumed (like just about everyone) that AOC would almost certainly lose, but I voted for the endorsement because I thought that the campaign itself would advance our goals, regardless of the outcome. Even if AOC had lost, we would have increased our profile and strengthened our base in parts of the city where we haven't had much presence, notably in the Bronx.

In my opinion, AOC's surprise victory* has changed the calculus, but not in the way a lot of people seem to think. I hear people saying "AOC shows that democratic socialists can win elections, so DSA should jump into electoral work with both feet." In my view, AOC shows that democratic socialists can win elections, so we should be extra-strategic about which candidates we choose to endorse and campaign for. Her victory is a proof-of-concept, which means we don't need to prove it again.

The question for me is not "Is Nixon way better than Cuomo?" but "Would DSA's resources be put to better use canvassing for Nixon than, say, campaigning for the New York Health Act, tenant organizing or universal rent control?" Saying "why not both!" seems to presume that we have unlimited time and money to devote to these things, which is...not the case.

* It surprised us, too—a week and a half before the election, I went canvassing for AOC in the Bronx, and when I said to my canvassing partner (someone much more involved in electoral work than I am) "You know, I feel like she might actually *win* this thing," he replied "She definitely won't."
posted by DaDaDaDave at 9:42 AM on July 11 [13 favorites]


Thank you for so clearly explaining the issues at hand, DaDaDaDave.
posted by tofu_crouton at 9:49 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Yeah for me it comes down to resources, I strongly, strongly advocate voting for Nixon in the primary but we’re running more than one campaign at the same time and none of us are getting paid to do it.
posted by The Whelk at 9:53 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


How would campaigning for Nixon in the districts in which the DSA is already campaigning for Salazar or whoever strain those resources?
posted by schadenfrau at 9:55 AM on July 11


What The Whelk said. Folks, please do not make assumptions that it would be trivially easy to just....campaign for both people! It is not.
posted by lalex at 10:01 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


I went canvassing for Salazar yesterday. It absolutely would have been trivially easy to also talk to people about Nixon, especially considering the similarity in platforms. One more packet of lit wouldn’t have added considerably to my clipboard burden.

I still don’t understand why you think this would be an undue strain.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:09 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Canvassing - it’s exhuasting, time consuming work when it’s just one congressional district let alone an entire city, asking our volunteers to do 4x the amount of work while working on other campaigns is asking too much. Plus, the areas of the city we’d need to focus on, like the Bronx, are places we have the least amount of members and manpower in. A statewide campaign like this needs more planning time.

This presents a unique problem and I’m anticipating a measured response to the tune of “we cannot formally endorse due to resource limitations but we encourage members to support the primary challenge.”
posted by The Whelk at 10:14 AM on July 11 [3 favorites]


I didn't say it would be an undue strain, I said it would not be trivially easy. That's not to say it can't be done (not my decision to make), and if it is done we will make it work. But it will definitely consume resources at the DSA level and/or at the campaign level.

It may not be apparent to you, but there is a ton of work - data analysis, lit preparation, neighborhood targeting, script creation and adjustment, and more - that goes into the materials you were handed when you showed up to canvass. And there's so much more.

It's also not clear to me (I'm not a DSA member) that the DSA is interested in doing the half-assed job of Nixon support that "giving someone an extra piece of lit as you leave" would represent. This could potentially dilute the power of their endorsement.

I love Nixon and plan to vote for her, but I understand why it's not a clear-cut choice. There have been many smart points put forth in this thread in support of an endorsement, and none of them are arguments I haven't heard from actual DSA people. There are pros, there are cons, that's why there's a process.
posted by lalex at 10:20 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Right, none of that applies to “campaign for Nixon in the districts in which the DSA is already campaigning

Nor is “hand people an extra bit of lit” a fair characterization of what I said, and I think you kind of know that — literally the entire experience of canvassing is engaging people in persuasive conversation that you tailor to each individual as you find them (if you’re any good anyway) and then leaving them materials (at least the times I’ve done it). This is something I’m actually good at! I was a broker, I was in a sorority, for chrissake, I freaking know how to rush. And what I said was that given the similarities of the platforms, adding Nixon to those conversations is natural and easy.

I cannot speak to Nixon’s organization. But I can say that coming out publicly in support of her might go a long way to signaling that the DSA is welcoming to women and is not interested in relitigating the primaries. That seems to be like a pretty big strategic gain. If that’s not what people want, well, that’s something else.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:29 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]




Right, none of that applies to “campaign for Nixon in the districts in which the DSA is already campaigning“

I am literally, right this second, working on a DSA campaign in a district where Nixon would also be campaigning. I am speaking to my own experience as it literally applies to "campaign for Nixon in the districts in which the DSA is already campaigning“.

I am not saying it's undoable. In fact I lean towards wanting to see it done! But it would consume resources, full stop. Especially if you're not talking about just handing people an extra piece of lit.

There is much, MUCH more work that goes into running a hardcore canvassing ground game than just handing volunteers some talking points and literature. And then there's so much more OTHER work besides canvassing.

These campaigns are exhausting. Almost nobody's getting paid. We run on the fumes of a volunteer army to an extent that's frankly humbling. What The Whelk is talking about is trying to be mindful of resources, because they are not infinite.
posted by lalex at 10:41 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Without wanting to comment too much on the specifics of another local's business or a race in which I'm not a constituent -- it's important to understand that there's a lot that goes into an endorsement decision beyond deciding which candidate is best in a given race.

As has been touched on above, resources are limited. Endorsing a campaign means allocating resources to that campaign, and that means taking away resources from other work. And an endorsement is also politically meaningful, or should be. It's a victory that our endorsements are being sought out, but that means they're beginning to carry weight. I agree that we want to be inclusive and welcoming, but it's also important to remain principled.

The potential benefits of electoral work are mostly pretty apparent, but many on the left are skeptical of electoral work in general, and of working within the Democratic party in particular, and for good reason. The Democratic party has a history of co-opting and neutering left populist movements; some would say that is their raison d'etre in large part over the last several decades. I'm not sure if this has already been linked in the thread, but the DSA National Electoral Committee's strategy document is a pretty good read, and covers some of this ground. However, this governs national endorsements; locals can determine their own electoral strategy.

Here's a co-chair of a (non-New York) DSA chapter on twitter today expressing a sentiment that I think is pretty common:
The instinctual skepticism of candidates doesn’t come from “irony poisoning” or whatever the fuck. It comes from seeing all the hard work being put in by chapter members every single day and the fear of having all of that derailed for someone who will eventually betray us anyway
In DSA SF, we chose not to make any endorsement in our recent mayoral election because none of the candidates running met our endorsement criteria. However, it was no secret that many of our most active members supported Jane Kim for mayor, and even worked directly for her campaign; they just didn't do so in their capacity as DSA SF. I personally hung literature for Jane Kim for Mayor on lots of doors at the same time as I was hanging literature for our (DSA SF-endorsed) Yes on Prop F and No On Prop H campaigns. But that was my own choice, and it was a secondary concern. Nobody instructed me to do it or stopped me from doing it.

Also, there are tons of ways that DSA can be welcoming to women and supportive of women's issues beyond endorsing a given candidate. Our chapter raised funds for abortion access with a bowl-a-thon; we showed up to protest the "Walk for Life" when they came to SF; we distributed period packs to our unhoused neighbors; and lots more.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:43 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


that's great but I don't think it's ever been clearer that we need more women holding actual legislative and executive power in this country.
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:55 AM on July 11


of course, and we’re all in for Julia Salazar’s campaign now.
posted by The Whelk at 10:57 AM on July 11 [9 favorites]


And let's not forget that AOC still has a general election coming up.
posted by lalex at 10:57 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Re: canvassing for Nixon and Salazar at the same time, I defer to more experienced canvassers on this, but what I've heard is that pushing two candidates at the same door at the same time is a no-no. Based on my limited experience, that makes sense. The aim of the canvass is to get a clear response to a single question: "Can we count on your support for Candidate X for Position Y in the election on Date Z?" Turning that into two questions could dilute the ask. (And that's not even getting into the added work for the canvassers—I'm in a cold sweat just thinking about entering two sets of responses into MiniVAN at the same time...)

If that's right, then even if our Nixon canvassing only happens in places where we're already canvassing for Salazar, it wouldn't just be a matter of adding to our existing materials, we'd have to coordinate a whole different set of canvasses. People with time for one canvass per weekend would have to decide whether to devote it to Nixon or Salazar. It would divide our efforts in a very concrete way.
posted by DaDaDaDave at 11:42 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Reading that article again (it's poorly written) it looks like the journalist probably just picked out the most inflamatory statement made by one of what I assume were several reps at the meeting.

"When we endorse we put in significant resources, and we do not have the resources at this time, so we are declining to endorse" may have been said by 99% of the meeting attendees, for all I know. Which, fine. I do get that. That's a real thing. "She doesn't even go here, and also $hillary" is not a real thing.
posted by soren_lorensen at 11:52 AM on July 11 [5 favorites]


Just want to back up what others have said about canvassing. There's so much work going behind the scenes to work up to the point of producing the literature and choosing the houses you go to (the houses that you'd go to for Salazar aren't necessarily the same you'd target for Nixon. Sure there'd be overlap, but those calculations would need to be redone). It's not impossible but it would stretch paid and volunteer campaign workers who are already being stretched.
posted by schroedinger at 12:39 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]



Reading that article again (it's poorly written) it looks like the journalist probably just picked out the most inflamatory statement made by one of what I assume were several reps at the meeting. . . . "She doesn't even go here, and also $hillary" is not a real thing.


How do you know it's not a real thing?
posted by schroedinger at 12:42 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I was being glib, but "real thing" as defined as something a serious political organization should state publicly w/r/t to their endorsement positions. I think the discussion above about resource allocation and what an endorsement can and should mean in a boots-on-the-ground way is interesting and serious and a legitimate issue. Beefing with the Working Families Party and Hillary (who, in the year 2018, is still being talked about for reasons) is not.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:28 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


the fear of having all of that derailed for someone who will eventually betray us anyway

Man I can really live without this sort of framing in politics, ever, on several levels. It's defeatist/self-fulfilling by presuming an inevitability, it digs in on a black & white structure of betrayal which just is so permanent, and it digs in on a all/nothing test for a politician versus the way more common reality that you usually have to deal with someone who might get you some things you want while failing to get you everything you want. And if you want to get back to that whole "owning" yuck from upthread I'd call this the fertilizer for that sort of thing.

You want to say you don't want to endorse someone who hasn't demonstrated in word and action that they're going to follow through on forwarding the ideals you share? You'd rather use limited resources to support people who you think are really in line with your values? Sure. Well I'm not doing anything for someone who's surely going to stab me in the back, ugh. That person may end up in office and you'll want them to go your way. Why say before we're even at that point that they'll never live up to your ideals? And when you frame this stuff as betrayal how do you ever line up behind that person again if you need them for something later?
posted by phearlez at 1:53 PM on July 11 [9 favorites]


I think it's a totally reasonable historical materialist analysis of electoral politics, but it's certainly something that seems worthy of a healthy debate within a local electoral committee.
posted by ludwig_van at 2:26 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


My main question for the feminist socialist working group is what they’re doing to make the DSA itself welcoming to women.

I can’t tell you what the national SFWG is up to but I can tell you about mine. We wrote a resolution against SESTA/FOSTA and in solidarity with sex workers which passed overwhelmingly among our full chapter membership. (This does not change the world, but affirms that taking action to support sex workers is a priority for us, and to sex workers locally it conveys that we’re safe to work with.) For Mother’s Day, we had a fundraiser the week before and sent the proceeds to our local bail fund to pay cash bail for incarcerated mothers. We back each other up in meetings. We pay attention to division of labor. We’re good at onboarding new people. We hang out together, we have a reading group. This week we did a presentation to our whole chapter about a foundational Black socialist feminist text and had discussions about how we can apply what’s in it to our organizing. We’re a big presence in the chapter and we are nearly all women; besides us, our chapter has women in other leadership positions too, including the required non-man co-chair.

That’s just one local, but these ideas are all free for the taking.
posted by clavicle at 5:28 PM on July 11 [9 favorites]


Coming from a chapter that has been very reluctant to get into electoral politics, I feel like I have to put in a good word for why some chapters actively avoid electoral politics, or have set a very high bar for what it would take to endorse or campaign for someone.

It is critical that we don't just elect decent progressives to office, but that we as people build a better society that even a Congress full of progressives could not manage to pass simply through legislation and regulation. Brake light clinic work, abortion bowl-a-thons, support for teacher strikes, and the other non-electoral work that many chapters engage in are critical to building the kind of world that many of us in DSA want to live in.

Part of the ethos of DSA that I find really compelling is that it's not just enough to elect politicians even if they are actively good stewards of socialist politics. There is a lot to be said for seeing up close and personal how you and your local community can help deliver the goods. It is incredibly empowering to see the kind of issues that will never, ever appear on a ballot, but that you can learn how to organize and fight for. It's about building local community connections many of us are starving for, and to build a socialist community that isn't based on the rhythms of election cycles.

I think there is enough space nationwide for electoral politics, organizing on local issues that will never be on a ballot, and mutual aid. But frankly, I will say that the latter two make me feel far more empowered and invested in my community than knocking on doors. I'll always turn out to vote, and I'll even canvass for candidates I like even if my chapter stays on the sidelines. But positioning this as "DSA should do THIS because without a progressive Congress nothing else matters" is, in my humble opinion, missing the point of why so many people are joining DSA in the first place.
posted by mostly vowels at 6:01 PM on July 11 [22 favorites]


Like I like to say over and over, electoral work is but one aspect of the movement. Being big and not just multi-tendency but also multi-tactic keeps us nimble and growing. I think about it as six broad paths to work with:

ELECTORAL- voting in sympathetic people, getting your people in power, pushing the Overton window
MUTUAL AID - intervention in people’s lives to replace failing social services, from fixing brake lights to having free breakfasts to disaster relief
TRADE UNIONISM - collective action and bargaining, organizing around labor and the means of production
SOLIDARITY - an injury to one is an injury to all, intersectionality, supporting anyone oppressed or injured by the top
DIRECT ACTION - protests, boycotts, mass organized strikes, marches
POLITICAL EDUCATION - consciousness raising, bringing the message to people, education and arguments, straight up PR
posted by The Whelk at 7:59 PM on July 11 [24 favorites]


also, for future conversations

"What's the difference between Social democracy and democratic socialism?"

tl;dr: while they share a lot of the same goals it comes down to who has the power and is involved in decision making in the workplace.

Also., in depth interview with AOC about grassroots organizing, movement politics, and big ideas.

posted by The Whelk at 8:12 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


This is just pure fluff and not important, but I'm excited enough I wanted to share. Ocasio-Cortez is coming to Wichita to speak and support James Thompson, the Democratic candidate for the 4th Congressional District. Bernie is also coming so, between these two, there should be a decent crowd. Socialism getting represented in the heartland. I'm kinda thrilled.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 3:18 PM on July 13 [12 favorites]


So, this Saturday, I met with two other people in my DSA to help formulate a strategy for a small city that doesn't have a lot of DSA participation. The city is dealing with long-term urban decay while now grappling with gentrification and people being priced out of their homes. We decided that a branch of the regional DSA should support or lead the following efforts in the near and long term:

-canvasing at the local colleges and trying to make the DSA membership larger, darker, and more female
-creating a brake light repair clinic pronto
-helping another organization with tenant rights/protections
-establishing firmer dialogues with the local LGBTQ+ center and BLM
-working with business that are unionized and helping promote them to both workers and customers
-with several other organizations, help create a land trust to buy up properties, sell them, rent them, and establish some as community spaces. This is really the big one that's super expensive, but which I believe could have the greatest quality of life increase for this city.

I also mentioned some of the concerns that people have raised in this thread: lack of diversity in membership, overlooking harmed populations, and overusing Bernie Sanders which might carry some unintended chill to membership.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 7:11 AM on July 16 [9 favorites]


AOC is catching some flak, even from supporters, for her statements about Israel/Palestine in a recent PBS interview
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 2:23 PM on July 16


Interesting re those statements, Ocasio-Cortez, the Left, and the Future of Palestine. Jacobin seems hopeful though. Haaretz also has an article, but I'm not sure what the critique is.

As this line refers to "I’m confident that those folks are talking to her now about getting a better line on this, and I’m more than confident that she has the political skills to get it."

It's part of the political education side of things. Humanitarian issues are integral, but an understanding of Imperialism alone, which should be part of any socialist party program, will lead to a strong stance on Palestine.

Personally I'm a little less hopeful that OC is not just heading right on this, but it's too soon to be sure.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 8:32 PM on July 16


My impression is that AOC is a young person new to politics, and she's making some mis-steps. That's not the end of the world.

On the other hand, barring anything really unusual, she'll be taking office in six months, and she needs to get in gear.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:15 PM on July 16 [9 favorites]


PRI's The World interviewed Joan Baez about protest songs yesterday (at about 40:55, direct .mp3 link.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:47 AM on July 18






Ocasio-Cortez draws ire from Democrats: ‘Meteors fizz out’

meteors also kill dinosaurs, motherfucker
posted by entropicamericana at 6:16 AM on July 18 [16 favorites]


Quick update on the fluff I posted earlier. The rally with AOC & Bernie in Wichita has been moved to a bigger auditorium. Their original hall was full and the overflow hall was also full. Hope Tammy Duckworth noticed. Socialism (or at least social democracy) is playing very well in the midwest.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 7:03 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


They're explaining us on NPR and it's pretty good! They went to a West Virginia chapter and got a soundbite from a member who namechecks Jesus, great choice.
posted by clavicle at 10:21 AM on July 19 [3 favorites]




Haven't seen it posted, so here are results of the NYC DSA non-binding online vote re Cynthia and Jumaane endorsements.
posted by lalex at 11:13 AM on July 19






"They stage ridiculous scenes to get media attention and advance their socialist propaganda. But we must remember that the policies they are proposing threaten every neighborhood in America."

I'd try and satirise that article but it's so absurdly hyperbolic that there's nothing I could add.


"By definition, a socialist forcibly denies an individual’s rights, property, and the money in his or her wallet in favor of the group."
"If these self-described socialists had their way, we would have no immigration laws and our borders would be meaningless."

So... you bring your own definition of socialism and then a little bit later imply that these people are not actually socialists only "self-described" socialists.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:04 AM on July 20


I read the Mitch McConnell article, and my takeaway is this: Fuck Mitch McConnell.
posted by JohnFromGR at 7:28 AM on July 20 [3 favorites]




I feel like we just got seen by a 100 year old IWW cartoon

That might have been the "Is This a _________?" meme of its day.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:45 AM on July 20


Judge orders landlord to pay the residents of #85Bowery

We were a small part of this but , direct action gets the goods
posted by The Whelk at 9:04 AM on July 20 [4 favorites]


Also, last night:

Relative on the phone : so what your saying is your politics is like, everyone is a family
Me, biting my knuckle: yes, we are all in this together
posted by The Whelk at 9:51 AM on July 20 [11 favorites]




ALSO

does your branch or chaoter or leftist tendacy have a sticker? I’m collecting them for a collage , get in touch and send me your anfifa or pro union or IWW stickers.
posted by The Whelk at 12:56 PM on July 20 [2 favorites]


One of the things I especially appreciate about DSA is that it helps channel people into working on local issues, which is more important than ever.

I am increasingly frustrated by how many folks I know - and quite frankly, the POTUS45 thread - are descending into RUSSIA-RUSSIA-RUSSIA tunnel vision that even precludes looking at what many federal agencies are doing (the worst thing about Scott Pruitt leaving EPA is the stuff coming out of there is just as bad, but his replacement seems "normal" so it's very under-reported), let alone what is happening in our own backyards by local and state politicians and regulators that have zero relationship to Washington.
posted by mostly vowels at 4:29 PM on July 20 [5 favorites]


NYC DSA non-binding online vote re Cynthia and Jumaane endorsements.

What is the difference between endorsement and commitment? Is the latter doing canvassing work, and the former just "sure, you seem like you share our politics"?
posted by mostly vowels at 4:31 PM on July 20


The difference is basically what we’re going to decide soon.

I think it’s actuslly pretty good we have to have these conversations and debates, we will end up stronger , but I submitted by own Member Report to my local to be included in the voting documents (I am extremly Libra and Diplomatic about it)

But the non binding is basically a straw poll to test the waters, actual voting happens at the local chapters and then at City Leadership.

And every other NYS chaoter has thier own chance to vote on endorsement.
posted by The Whelk at 5:25 PM on July 20 [1 favorite]


We have T W E L V E candidates for assorted offices, some local ones and one big one, asking for our chapter's endorsement. Four hours blocked off for the meeting to discuss and vote, we're lowkey calling it Endorsapalooza.
posted by clavicle at 8:25 PM on July 20 [3 favorites]




Sunday! Queens DSA holds a new member picnic in Qnsbroro bridge park!
posted by The Whelk at 12:59 PM on July 21


Democratic Socialists Gain Momentum, and Lose Their Way

This article is really a jumble. It seems to be complaining that the DSA is both insufficiently socialist but also pushing too hard? It sounds like the author knew Harrington personally, but the way he keeps saying what Harrington would have thought about current stuff is both unconvincing and not necessarily relevant either.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:21 PM on July 21 [5 favorites]


My girlfriend and I went to a Boston DSA general meeting for the first time yesterday and it was very cool! It took place in a church, with everyone sitting in the pews. They had a projector set up, and they were live streaming the whole thing. They started with an intro to socialism presentation for new members, and then held two debates and votes over whether or not to endorse two local state house candidates who’d sought their endorsement. It was a very lively discussion. They used Robert’s Rules of Order, giving time to speakers for the ‘For’ and ‘Against’ sides.

During the intro they’d stressed that the DSA is a ‘big tent’ style party, and that was on full display here. Some of the more moderate members were talking about getting these candidates elected as an incremental improvement to the local legislature, making it more likely that socialist policy would even make it to the table. One person felt that we should only endorse candidates who have come from the DSA or other socialist organizations. Another gave a fiery speech about how electoralism is a waste of time: because the electoral system’s primary purpose is to serve as a release valve for pressure, it will never bring us the world we want to see.

In the end, neither candidate received our endorsement. It mainly came down to the fact that both candidates were not sufficiently on board with the Boston DSA’s significant work on sex workers’ rights.

At one point the meeting was briefly interrupted when a small group of fascists called “Resist Marxism” (lol) started protesting outside the church. The Boston DSA has a small security and de-escalation force that was able to disperse them before the end of the meeting, so most attendees never even saw them.

We got to talk with a few long-term DSA members there and they were very nice, chill people. We both felt very comfortable there, and it seemed like their politics and priorities were on point. It was a diverse crowd and the leadership seemed to be majority women, so it thankfully didn’t fall into the stereotypical all-white-male demographic you always hear about with leftist groups.

It was a good time! We intend to keep getting more involved. I'm considering joining their Political Education Working Group.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 9:27 AM on July 23 [7 favorites]




Democratic socialism isn't just stupid, it conflicts with the Constitution

A serious and well-intentioned critique from the helpful folks at the, uh, Dobson Family Institute.
posted by contraption at 1:56 PM on July 24


Not only that, it's actually basing its objections on the claim that Democratic Socialism is too democratic to be compatible with the Constitution. This is some serious “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength” stuff.
posted by XMLicious at 2:01 PM on July 24


Joe Leiberman, James Comey, The Daily Caller, Dobson's organization... seems like we're getting well beyond "Then they laugh at you" and into "Then they fight you" territory, at least on the right.
posted by contraption at 2:27 PM on July 24 [4 favorites]


Oh yeah, democratic socialism has the right shook. They're almost as afraid of us as centrist democrats are.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 2:33 PM on July 24 [5 favorites]




This Union Busting Manual From Office Depot is Really Something.
As always, be careful in the Kinja Comments.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 1:18 PM on July 25 [2 favorites]


As always, be careful in the Kinja Comments.

Come on, they feature someone with the word "contrarian" in their user name arguing the laissez-faire position! It's gold!
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:46 PM on July 25 [3 favorites]


As always, be careful in the Kinja Comments.

Except for the notable capitalist true believer, the vast majority of the comments are actually rather sympathetic to workers or mocking of management, so that's nice.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 2:00 PM on July 25


WP: Democratic socialists stage a summertime comeback
There’s not much mystery about whom DSA members want to fulfill that role [of a Democrat in the white house]. In 2015, the organization officially endorsed Sanders for president, a decision that sparked its surge of relevance. Since the start of the year, the greater Sanders organization has hired some of DSA’s best-known activists, starting with David Duhalde, a D.C.-based organizer who left the group to become field organizer for Our Revolution, Sanders’s political operation.
The author may be surprised by the content of this discussion!
posted by vibratory manner of working at 9:12 PM on July 25




Josh Marshall:
A friend w a Twitter following noted recently that her first time at a DSA meeting was a revelation: community, humanism, affirmation. She joined. Until then, based on Red Rose Twitter, she had thought that democratic socialism was a movement of hyper-aggressive broish cockheads.
I haven't been to an in-person DSA meeting, but from hearing people talk about them, that's kind of the vibe I've been getting, too. As usual, Twitter amplifies the worst people (and the worst IN people).
posted by Chrysostom at 12:39 PM on July 26 [6 favorites]






Lol same same. And also yeah rose emoji twitter is pretty awful.

I love the rose emoji because it encapsulates such a great quote by Rose Schneiderman: "The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too."

It's such a glorious sentiment, that workers should not be shamed for buying steaks with EBT cards, that the poor of this world deserves more than just basic subsistence. They deserve beauty and culture and comfort, too.

So often socialism has been reduced to dreary drudgery like plowing fields in some Soviet commune, but those rose emoji reminds me that socialism is a zesty life worthy fighting for. It's a beautiful symbol that I'm legitimately happy was adopted as the DSA icon.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 1:53 PM on July 26 [10 favorites]


Oh, I had thought these people were backing the House of Lancaster.
posted by Chrysostom at 2:03 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]


Black Socialists of America met with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (BSA is not DSA affiliated, but they're adjacent, and they're a really good Twitter follow.) In short, they think she's great, but would like for her to push farther left than social democracy. An example, I think, of the two groups taking notice of each other, in a constructive way.
posted by clavicle at 2:17 PM on July 26 [6 favorites]


That BSA statement is fantastic, and it explained the concept of "non-reformist reforms" in a way that actually makes a lot of sense to me.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 2:39 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


The results of the chapter Nixon endorsement vote are stressing me out!

But it looks like it’s going to CLC (city Leadership committee) for a final vote. Big takeaways 1- the straw poll of all members leaned heavily toward yes, the chapter level votes leaned no, the three chapters not running campaigns went Yes, the three chapters with ongoing campaigns said No.
posted by The Whelk at 6:56 PM on July 26


The endorsement decision is really a tough one and very easy for me to be sympathetic to whichever choice is made.
posted by lalex at 7:51 PM on July 26 [1 favorite]


Yeah I flipped from soft no to soft yes like four times.

Having like an hour of in person debate and then a big stream of speakers giving pro and con notes AND written member opinions at the chapter meeting was ...interesting.
posted by The Whelk at 8:36 PM on July 26 [2 favorites]


I love the rose emoji because it encapsulates such a great quote by Rose Schneiderman: "The worker must have bread, but she must have roses, too."

It's such a glorious sentiment, that workers should not be shamed for buying steaks with EBT cards, that the poor of this world deserves more than just basic subsistence. They deserve beauty and culture and comfort, too.
I agree 😎
posted by ludwig_van at 11:16 PM on July 26 [8 favorites]


I also always think about the Bread and Roses number in PRIDE

Like there's a reason my design for the poster for the Socialist Semi-Formal is roses and wheat stalks. It's why I call including one theory or political work with one lighthearted or pleasant book on the free shelf 'bread and roses' work and why I always donated luxury items to occupy camps.

Mere subsistence isn't enough. A human life has human needs, like beauty, joy, comfort, and culture. As Hayworth tells us "Nothing is too good for the working class." Abundance over Austerity.
posted by The Whelk at 11:25 PM on July 26 [5 favorites]


I was surprised the BSA statement didn't address racism. Capitalism may be the dominating force in American public life, but it's capitalism modified by race: racists will sacrifice their economic interests in order to preserve the racial hierarchy.

The Jewish experience in Europe showed that subordinating Jewish needs to socialist universalism meant that the fight against antisemitism was ignored or redefined out of existence; it would be naive to think that a similar thing wouldn't happen to anti-racist efforts in the US. In fact, it already has: Black emancipation was subordinated to the fight for female suffrage; FDR reportedly suppressed anti-lynching legislation in order to gain passage of other, more generally advantageous bills; Blacks effectively were excluded from many benefits under the GI Bill.

Obviously the BSA themselves are hardly likely to be racist, but being tacitly anti-racist isn't necessarily enough. It's not just this statement; I didn't see it addressed on their website either. I appreciate that they're very opposed to "liberal" amelioration of social ills that don't address (what they perceive to be) the fundamental problem of capitalist society, but (a) one thing doesn't preclude the other; and (b) what if they're wrong?
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:27 AM on July 27


I've been following the BSA twitter account for a while and, based on their posts there, they don't subscribe to the kind of race-blind, class-reductionist socialism that you, correctly, identified as being problematic. Just glancing over the last couple dozen posts on their TL, I see a link to the article "The Capitalism/Racism Partnership," a link to a Bayard Rustin speech, and a tweet quoting a man imprisoned for 25 years (framed by COINTELPRO) on the topic of police brutality.

The BSA's statement to AOC is best understood as a part of the ongoing, mostly intra-leftist, debate over issues like electoralism and the distinction between social democracy and democractic socialism. How (or whether!) leftists engage with race is orthogonal to the specific issues that they're raising with AOC.

Meta-comment: I can understand why people assume, by default, that any given socialist won't have the most informed views on racial justice, won't give the topic of racism its due weight in conversations, etc. I myself, much to my frustration, have encountered some socialists that embody the "no war but the class war" stereotype, I'm very receptive to those criticisms.

But when you have people unwilling to give the Black Socialists of America, of all people, the benefit of the doubt, I start to think that people's views about socialists' weaknesses on race/gender/lgbtq issues can drift all too easily from a good faith intervention in the discourse to mere bias.
posted by davedave at 1:41 AM on July 27 [10 favorites]


*gasp* ludwig_van your tattoos rule

The rose emoji, specifically, has come to signify something a bit different to many of us extremely online people, it’s true. I’m not down with ceding the rose emoji to rose emoji twitter. Or am I rose emoji twitter? It depends who you ask! Regardless, “bread and roses” means a lot to me too. I have this hanging in my living room.
posted by clavicle at 7:44 AM on July 27 [2 favorites]


I like to submit my own twitter account as an example of Good Rose Emoji twitter considering most of what 8 do is retweet good articles, talk about policy and Utopianism, and live tweet movie watching that slowly become Marxist readings.
posted by The Whelk at 9:11 AM on July 27 [4 favorites]


Interesting Corey Robin on the "democracy" part of social democracy.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:14 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]




@Michael Cavadias:
The Citywide Leadership Committee has voted and we voted yes 23 to 11.

@nycDSA endorses @CynthiaNixon for Governor and
@JumaaneWilliams for Lt Governor!

Watch out @NYGovCuomo, we’re coming for you!!

❤️🌹❤️🌹
posted by lalex at 12:00 PM on July 29 [6 favorites]


Everyone go vote Coumo out of office and tell your friends and relatives to do so as well.

Vote for IDC challengers, vote Teachout for DA, and if you’re in her district, vote Julia Salazar.

New York deserves better then what we’re getting.
posted by The Whelk at 1:08 PM on July 29 [7 favorites]


Also uh if you ever thought about donating some time or money to NYC DSA, we’ve got a lot of projects going on right now...
posted by The Whelk at 1:57 PM on July 29


Guardian: Socialism is no longer a dirty word in the US – and that’s scary for some | Since Trump took power, membership of the Democratic Socialists of America has leapt from 6,000 to 47,000 – and even conservatives are struggling to articulate what is so bad about free education and healthcare
posted by Chrysostom at 5:25 PM on July 29 [7 favorites]






The Whelk: "Who's Afraid Of Ocasio-Cortez?"

That article seems to be as much about Jill Stein and the Green Party as about Ocasio-Cortez and really, I never want to hear anything about Stein unless is about her indictment.
posted by octothorpe at 4:29 AM on August 1 [4 favorites]


Jacobin's Meagan Day with a Vox explainer on just what is this democratic socialism stuff, anyway.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:55 AM on August 1 [2 favorites]


I got to attend an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fundraiser event in SF last night along with a small group of DSA members (and a crowd of 800). I think this coverage is a reasonable reflection of the event. (We were the ones chanting.)
posted by ludwig_van at 3:20 PM on August 1






Where Is the Left Wing’s Foreign Policy?

I don't see how articulating a detailed foreign policy at present can be in the interests of the DSA or the Left generally. The movement is coherent with respect to economic and social policy and (despite a century of anti-socialist propaganda) voters seem to be receptive. The right has painted itself into an ideological corner when it attacks minimum wages or universal health care: their best argument is that “it just wouldn't work”, which is not a position that can be maintained indefinitely in the face of the evidence. And it looks as though many voters would want more socialist policies anyway, so opposing socialism makes Republican spokespeople look vicious as well as confused.

In contrast, constructing a coherent left-wing foreign policy is a hard problem. Most voters are predisposed to think that Republicans are "tougher" and that strong leaders protect the USA with "tougher" foreign policies. That's not true, of course: the USA is undoubtedly safer when its allies and non-aligned nations are friends rather than subjects. Even that's not a genuinely left-wing foreign policy, though, because it's based on national amity rather than class solidarity. I don't even know what an internationalist foreign policy might look like, though, or how it would play with the voters.

Luckily, Trump's administration has notoriously been worse at foreign policy than at anything else. There's no need to let the Right set the terms of the debate. I hope a left-wing government would promptly appoint ambassadors (professional ones!) to the countries that have been neglected; reassure the US' allies and treaty partners that the US will honour its commitments; vigorously defend its electronic borders; and behave with compassion towards irregular migrants. That's enough to distinguish the Democrats from the Republicans, and it forces them to defend Trump's egregious acting-out in the face of their own recorded criticisms.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:48 PM on August 1




An interesting place to start would be international trade agreements. As presently constituted they're designed entirely to protect the rights of capital, but they don't have to be that way. Erik Loomis has talked about this some. Rather than protecting intellectual property, can we protect the rights of laborers in the production chain? Can we hold companies liable for conditions in their factories in other countries?

There's something powerful there if we can build it.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:30 PM on August 2 [5 favorites]


New Yorker: How the Democratic Socialists of America Learned to Love Cynthia Nixon and Electoral Politics
posted by Chrysostom at 2:12 PM on August 2


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