Branches

Lower Manhattan

The LoMan April meeting was held on the 22nd, and featured a really spectacular presentation by the branch’s housing working group. With less than nine weeks to go before the rent law expiration, members are working overtime to protect our tenants’ rights and win major concessions from the landlord class.

The Lower Manhattan Healthcare committee, an arm of the Citywide Healthcare Working Group, met on Thursday April 25 to schedule a canvass for May. As of time of writing, details for that event are unavailable but will be posted to the calendar as soon as possible.

The branch’s political education committee will be doing a reading series on Terry Eagleton’s Why Marx Was Right to answer some of the most common questions asked of us like, Is socialism inherently violent? or Do socialists believe in human nature? People new to the left are encouraged to join us, but we welcome members of all levels of knowledge to brush up on the basics. Our reading group will be meeting on Tuesday nights in May. More info will be posted to the calendar shortly.

The next branch meeting will most likely be on May 30, where, among other things, there’ll be a discussion of proposals for the upcoming convention and candidate statements from those running for citywide leadership positions (CLC and SC). Hope to see you there!


Queens

The Queens branch of NYC-DSA has been pulling out all the stops in its efforts to elect public defender and DSA member Tiffany Cabán as Queens District Attorney. Its Electoral Working Group played a key role in the mapping out the campaign’s field strategy, and supplied about 60% of the campaign’s 10,000-plus petition signatures and organized nearly two thirds of the canvasses to date.

The Political Education Working Group is planning a teach-in with the Anti War Working Group on Palestine. The teach-in will be held be Tuesday, May 14, from 7 PM to 9 PM at Church of the Redeemer 30-18 Crescent Street, Astoria. The event is scheduled to commemorate the Nakba, or Catastrophe, when Palestinians were dispossessed off their land by Zionist settlers. Two Palestinian speakers will discuss the, Nakba, BDS, and the Great March of Return.

The Political Education group discussed the ABCs of Capitalism in April, and will discuss “Reform or Revolution” by Rosa Luxemburg, on Wednesday, May 15, from 7 PM to 9 PM at Art House Astoria 23-35 Broadway, Astoria.


Bronx/Upper Manhattan

This month, the Bronx/Upper Manhattan branch continued canvassing for the Save Allen Psych campaign in Inwood and for universal rent control in the Bronx. Branch members joined coalition partners for a rally and March for Housing Justice in Harlem on April 11; they helped prepare for the rally with a phone-banking and sign-making party. The branch's Food Justice Working Group worked on a Little Free Pantry Project, among other initiatives. The Political Education Working Group co-sponsored a screening of "Norma Rae" with The Workmen's Circle and organized reading groups on Emma Goldman, plus a happy hour. The branch formed its first Elections Committee to administer branch-wide elections for the next year. On April 27, there was another new member orientation, followed by a happy hour. At the branch meeting on the 30th, there’ll be a discussion of the citywide policy platform and updates from ongoing campaigns.


Labor

The next Labor Branch general meeting will be Thursday, May 16 from 7-9 PM at the UAW Offices at 256 W 38th St, 12th Fl. Industry breakout groups start at 6 pm, members should reach out to their industry leaders to see if there is a breakout for them to attend. The branch will use this meeting to discuss the upcoming NYC-DSA Convention, which will be June 1. The Labor Branch has 9 delegates, so members wishing to run should fill out Labor Branch questionnaire (to be sent out on May 1!) and write a candidate statement. Candidate statements will be sent out before the May meeting, at which candidates will be asked to read their statements (or have a stand-in read a statement for them if they can’t attend).

The branch will also be holding a Labor Notes Training, restarting at the beginning of their series “Secrets of a Successful Organizer, Beating Apathy.” The training will be Thursday, May 23 from 7-9 PM at the UAW offices at 256 W 38th St, 12th Fl. If you’ve already come to a previous iteration of this training, now’s a great opportunity to share it with a coworker who is new to organizing or to DSA. This is also a great training if you are starting the journey of getting  a Rank and File job and joining a union!


North Brooklyn

At the NBK April branch meeting, there were report backs from several efforts regarding the Universal Rent Control (URC) campaign, and a call for volunteers to canvass for URC and the Tiffany Cabán campaign in Queens. This was followed by citywide convention preparation and delegate nominations and later a lengthy discussion about the citywide policy platform. The four planks of this platform are Labor, Ending the Carceral State, Anti-Discrimination, and Immigration.

Here are some upcoming and past events NBK events:

* April 6: Fear City reading group

* April 8th: NBK Night School - Israel-Palestine.

* April 22nd: NBK Night School - Mass Incarceration.

* April 25th: NBK Branch Meeting, Mayday Space


* April 30th: Policy Platform town hall

* May 4: NBK Fundraiser @ Trans Pecos

 

Central Brooklyn

The next Central Brooklyn branch meeting will be next Tuesday, April 30 at 7 PM at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation at 123 Pierrepont St. The meeting will focus on discussing the proposed citywide policy platform and voting on amendments to branch bylaws, which have been submitted over the course of the month of April. We will also hear from comrades in the Red Rabbits to prepare for May Day.

Ballots are currently out to vote for Central Brooklyn delegates to the citywide convention in June, with voting closing at the end of the day April 30. Eligible members of Central Brooklyn should reach out to the organizing committee at central.brooklyn@socialists.nyc if they haven’t received an email with their ballot. Central Brooklyn members have the opportunity to meet and talk with delegate candidates for convention at a social prior to the branch meeting.

South Brooklyn

South Brooklyn DSA’s April branch meeting was held on Sunday, April 28th, from 1-3 PM at An-Noor, 7114 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY. The branch discussed citywide and branch campaigns, the Policy Platform, and proposed amendments to our bylaws.

On Wednesday, April 24th South Brooklyn DSA's healthcare field team held their first canvass for the NYHA in Bay Ridge, focusing on pressuring Diane Savino and Andrew Gounardes to support single payer for New York.

The Political Education Committee held an ABC’s of Socialism Reading group on April 20th at the Pacific Branch library.

Staten Island

This month’s branch meeting was held on April 25th at CWA Local 1102 in Great Kills. There was a very productive discussion about potential branch involvement in Bernie 2020 work, and co-chair Lauren led the branch through a great introduction to canvassing in preparation for ramping up Medicare for All efforts on the island.

For political education, the branch just wrapped up Jacobin’s ABCs of Socialism. The discussion was so detailed and engaging that a second reading group needed to be scheduled to finish talking about it! Participants gave really good feedback and there’s a lot of excitement around continuing these reading groups in the future!
It was also decided that in place of a usual branch meeting, the branch will hold a pilot canvass for the Medicare for All campaign during the last week of May. Details will be coming soon!

Working Groups

Brooklyn Housing

With less than two months until New York's rent laws expire, The Brooklyn Housing Working Group’s campaign for Universal Rent Control is heating up! They have been working with tenants and housing organizations across the city to pass a rent control platform consisting of 9 unique bills by June 15. To build support for the campaign, the working group has already held citywide events such as a rally, march, and vigil in Harlem, and a direct action at Hudson Yards. They have also been leading canvasses for Universal Rent Control in Central and North Brooklyn.

Their next canvass for URC will be held in Bushwick on Wednesday, May 1. To help, RSVP here. Those who can’t make it need not worry - the working group will be holding canvasses every Monday and Wednesday in North Brooklyn.

On Tuesday, May 14, NYC-DSA members and hundreds of tenants from across the state will flood the Capitol in Albany to demand state legislators support universal rent control. Reserve a FREE spot on the DSA bus here.

Reach them at: bk.housing@socialists.nyc

Brooklyn Electoral

The Bernie Sanders presidential race is gaining full steam on the national level, and the Brooklyn DSA Electoral Working Group is preparing for local mobilization. On Tuesday, May 7th and Wednesday, May 8th they will be holding Bernie Organizing Meetings across Brooklyn to develop a plan of action.  

Sign up for the most convenient meeting below:

May 7th North Brooklyn Meeting - RSVP here

May 7th Central Brooklyn Meeting - RSVP here

May 8th South Brooklyn Meeting - RSVP here

Reach them at: bk.electoral@socialists.nyc

Debt & Finance

The Debt and Finance Working Group’s public banking campaign is gaining momentum! They have been conducting “roadshows” to promote the issue within the local DSA branches, and  working with a team of finance and legal professionals to ensure public banking policy proposals stay aligned to DSA’s priorities.

The working group's credit union subcommittee continues to research the feasibility of creating a credit union that will serve as a financial institution for DSA members and their families, while remaining true to DSA’s socialist principles.

Additionally, the working group has been developing a proposed plank for DSA, Worker Control of the Economy, which articulates a vision for socializing the financial system and empowering workers to fight economic oppressors. Along with other contributors, they presented the plank to DSA membership at the April 16 Town Hall, and they continue to work with citywide leadership membership to further develop this bold, creative platform.

At the April 2019 general meeting, the Debt & Finance Working Group held a teach-in regarding the impact of the economic sanctions against Venezuela.

Reach them at: debtors@socialists.nyc


Immigrant Justice Working Group

On April 17th, the Office of Court Administration (OCA) announced that they would be barring ICE from arresting people in NY courthouses without a warrant, one of the primary goals of the ICE Out of Courts campaign!

The victory is a testament to the power of organizing. But the ICE Out of Courts campaign continues, as the OCA order doesn't cover the area surrounding the courthouses, which are  also a common location for ICE arrests.

They have also been co-canvassing with the Queens Electoral Working Group for the candidacy of Tiffany Cabán, and the ICE Out campaign, and started a training effort for members interested in sponsoring immigrants seeking asylum.

The next working group meeting is May 13th, at the CUNY Grad Center at 365 5th Ave, room 5414 6:30PM.

Reach them at: immigrant.justice@socialists.nyc

Tech Action

The Tech Action Working Group is currently crafting a federal-level socialist tech platform to help guide the 2020 conversation.

Join the planning process by contacting tech.action@socialists.nyc

#WhyDSA: Active Socialism is Jabari Brisport's Siren Song

by Dallas G

The ebullience of Jabari Brisport is infectious. So is his commitment to Socialism:  a politics of place and people, of identity and class consciousness. In his remarkable 2017 campaign for a seat on the New York City Council for the 35th District — he lost but took a stunning 30 percent of the vote against the sitting Democrat — Brisport’s issues came from the heartbeat of Prospect Heights, the Brooklyn community where he grew up: gentrification, wages, school quality, justice. 

jabari-232.jpg

 Brisport, now 31, has a litany of attributes and accomplishments. He is Black, socialist, activist, Buddhist, and a talented actor with five film credits. He’s a song-and-dance comedian, and oh, yes, a math teacher. He is also the guy who started phone-banking to Iowa for Bernie Sanders in January 2016 and ended up covering six states and co-running Sanders’ Queens operation. He attended prestigious Brooklyn Poly Prep, graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in theatre, and earned a Master’s from Yale Drama. 

 With all the promise of that privileged status, the soul of Brisport’s creativity, he notes, is sparked by flesh-and-blood politics. That’s what excites his imagination. It’s also part of what drew him to DSA: “It’s an “active socialism. . . fresh, new, and exciting. They’re always doing things and making change possible.” 

Brisport’s route to DSA took long detours. Besides running for City Council,  full-bore campaigning for Sanders in ’16 and then for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes in ’18, Brisport has made films, helped found comedy theatre groups, and gotten arrested several times in protest of NYC’s transformation of public properties to luxury housing. Still, he says, “I am constantly haunted by the question “What am I doing to help the world?”

 He continues, “I graduated in 2008 right at the start of the Recession. I had considered myself a Socialist. I saw how the banks had screwed up so much,” but with the onus of starting his acting career, “I didn’t join any organizations.” By 2014, however, “I started listening to Bernie again. He was talking about the things I was thinking about.” 

 When Sanders started to run in 2016, “I had this ‘coming out’ moment, an epiphany, as a socialist. I am queer, so I had a second coming out moment! Bernie’s campaign had folded, and I started thinking of all the links between racism and capitalism. I was thinking about slavery and how another word for property is capital. So, the black people were brought to America as capital, as slaves, and that’s what capitalism is: It’s putting a price tag on things that shouldn’t have a price tag, whether that’s health care, education, or people — it’s all the same thing. It’s immoral.

 “The things that have destroyed the Black community have been tied to white wealth — like share cropping, Jim Crow, red lining, and for-profit prisons. Black wealth has never even returned to the wealth levels of before the Great Recession. I am a Socialist because ‘How could I fight racism without fighting capitalism?’ They’re so linked.” 

Brisport’s political awareness has come in bursts, beginning in his teens.  “It is through identity that I found socialism,” he said, adding, “It’s through [their own sense of] identity that people get fired up about politics.”  Brisport’s route to socialism began evolving from his early struggles as a gay, over-achiever adolescent at Brooklyn’s Poly Prep high school. Through that struggle to be heard as his real self, Brisport saw how everyone is caught up “in their own struggles. There is suffering because we are all connected. So, it [has become] my job to meet people at their identity.” Indeed.

 For Brisport, an unusually thoughtful politician, identity and place are intimates. “Identity and suffering, that’s my Buddhism coming out!” he quips. However, “I have this theory that all deep analyses of the “isms” — nationalism, racism, capitalism, sexism — they’re all connected. They all lead back to propping up property: ‘I’m gonna take it, and you can’t have it!’ or ‘You’re different from me, and I want to keep you different, so I can maintain my own wealth and my own stuff!’”

 He says, “I tell people gentrification is not caused by white people, it’s caused by capitalism. If you de-commodify the land, and you [remove] the profit motive, then we can actually fight against this. My neighborhood, Prospect Heights, was ground zero for gentrification in the aughts, 2000–2009,” he continues. “When it was happening, it was distressing. I was going to NYU, living in the dorms. Every time I’d come home, one of my neighborhood stores was gone.”

 That experience burned such a hole in his imagination that throughout his City Council campaign, Brisport — dubbed “the crazy Green Party Socialist dude” by the New York media — focused on four bold demands: local people must have a say in the budget for the police department; public schools must get the money really necessary to educate their students; NYC’s “affordable housing” programs must be available first for the men and women who already live in those neighborhoods and at costs they can actually afford; and, spectacularly, he insisted that community land trusts be established so that locals, not politicians, are in charge of public lands, properties, and landmarks. 

 It was a brave stance, and DSA backed him and his Green Party candidacy. So did Bernie Sanders and Our Revolution. Beneath the bonhomie of the actor-comedian, a serious reformer was giving voice to the thoughts that real people say, not what political handlers craft. And, he had back up.

The effect was electric for Brooklyn’s 35th — a melting pot of 127,000 ultra-Orthodox Jews, African-Americans, Spanish-, French-, and English-speaking Caribbeans, and a growing colony of gentrifying Millennials. 

 When Brisport discovered DSA, he had already been in Socialist Alternatives, but their approach was too theoretical.  He wanted an “active socialism. DSA, that’s my notion, that’s what I want to do!”  Speaking to The Intercept of his route to Democratic Socialism, Brisport noted, “DSA is multi-tendency. It’s electoral, but it’s also fighting lots of battles: housing, immigrant justice, labor rights, climate. What they’re really great at doing is joining ongoing conflicts and allying themselves with the local community . . . taking a back seat, . . . saying, ‘how can we amplify what you do?’”

 Brisport audibly grins, “We’re re-defining politics! It’s an exciting time, and it’s real. Our generation is going to change it. We’re going to change things!” 



Everyday Antifascism in New York City

By Queens Political Education

Fascism is a petit-bourgeois political manifestation in far-right counter-revolutionary violence; it is meant to subjugate the working class and other vulnerable communities. Defining fascism is tricky because fascists make no effort to create and maintain a systematic political philosophy, but rather use violence to enforce their class politics. There is no fascist tradition in a meaningful sense, no fascist thinkers to reference, no fascist systematics to examine. Fascism is a political malignancy that comes to life when the petit-bourgeoisie loses its ability to maintain its class superiority over the working class, instead reverting to counter-revolutionary violence.

Fascists exploit alienation by scapegoating first and foremost vulnerable and historically oppressed communities, including Jews, Muslims, LGBTQ peoples, immigrants, people of color, the disabled, the poor, the homeless, and others as an avenue to maintain their class superiority. Fascists come from the working class, but they are class traitors who harm the working class on behalf of the ruling class for their own limited class benefit. The class content of fascist organizations in Europe and the US in the first half of the 20th century and in the US today is mostly made up of the lower middle class outside of the major metropolitan centers. Fascism is rooted in white supremacy and looks to demonize the diversity of the working class by exploiting racial animosity among the white working class, harnessing forms of supremacist hatred which infect white society, including eugenics, Social Darwinism, “traditional” family structures, misogyny, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, and homophobia.

Fascist groups, however, grow not from leftist philosophy, but as a result of nationalist panic and imperial defeat. In such times they can become a national threat. This has always been the case. The origins of the current wave of fascism can be located in the retreat of U.S. imperialism, beginning with the partial defeat of the US in Vietnam and the decline of US dominance in the world including its misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By the definition of fascism above – petit-bourgeois right-wing violence meant to suppress working class and marginalized communities of color with the aid of white supremacists – most of contemporary civil society has latent or proto-fascist tendencies. Low-level everyday fascism is like a low-level fever in all advanced capitalist societies. Even when it is not a direct threat at a national level, these fascists can act at any time as goon squads for the capitalist class by enforcing the ideology of nationalism.

Nationalism, the incubator of fascism, is accepted by a great proportion of capitalist ideologists. In the US the whole of the Republican Party and much of the Democratic Party accept nationalism. Nationalism is a constant continuous threat. In fact, when it justifies imperialist violence, it will lead to the destruction of hundreds of thousands of lives, as in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya and perhaps Venezuela.

Liberal politics has a fatal weakness in its inability to confront fascism and cannot be counted on to keep the working class safe. Liberal ideology is the conceptual underpinning of capitalism, and as such, it is too debauched to confront the horrors of fascism. Like the capitalist state, liberal institutions depend on the profit motive for their viability. If racism and fascism are profitable, liberal institutions will never silence them. I.G. Farben sold canisters of Zyklon B for profit, while Lockheed Martin, a purveyor of deadly missiles, is a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. Liberalism’s support for the police, military imperialism, the prison industrial complex, and racist religious institutions renders it too weak to confront genocidal violence against minorities. Liberalism supports nationalism which is in turn accepted by capitalist ideologists.

New York City, with its massive population of immigrants and people of color, media attention, and political ambition is a focus for both fascism and anti-fascist struggle. The city and state political infrastructure, controlled by Democrats, is a fascist terrorist threat to immigrant communities. While NYC is a ‘sanctuary city’ in name, in practice the NYPD is in full collaboration with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). If an undocumented person is in custody in New York City, ICE is known to take them into custody and deport them. ICE also operates in the New York City courts, including family courts*. Outside of the state, the Neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn in Astoria have attempted to organize themselves in the Greek community. In the fall of 2018, a riot broke out when Gavin McInnis gave a speech at the Republican Club on the Upper East Side and a group of his Proud Boys gang attacked protestors while the police stood by as passive accomplices. In April, a group of “Polish Nationalists” rallied in downtown Manhattan to support Holocaust denialism and anti-semitism. These are only a few of countless examples of how state and non-state actors allow fascism to fester in New York City.  

Anti-fascist resistance, however, is as beautiful and multitudinous as the working class itself. The overriding goal of socialists must be to protect the marginalized communities most at risk of fascist violence. Socialists can only fight fascism by putting organized and self-conscious militant worker organizations in the forefront of their struggle. Such organizations, like militant rank and file unions, have the potential institutional power to avoid repression from the police while they are organizing resistance to fascist attacks. Such anti-fascist working class organizations must be integrated with a leadership made up of people of color and women and they must unite behind them African-Americans, Muslims, Jews, LGBTQ, indigenous people, and all allies who support the left. The working-class is multiracial and it is the only group with the social power to fight fascism effectively.

Groups like the New Sanctuary Coalition attempt to protect immigrants from ICE. Outlive Them NYC, a Jewish anti-fascist group, protested the Polish Nationalist rally and also provided security to a synagogue when swastikas were spray painted in Brooklyn, among other activities. As May Day approaches, comrades should follow the tips provided by MACC or by emailing wewilloutlivethem@protonmail.com if you see fascist activity in your community and want to report it safely. Never collaborate with the police. Anti-fascism takes many other forms in immigrant communities and in communities of color. Groups like Cop Watch practice resistance to police brutality, and all communities practice self defense in some form to maintain their dignity in the face of fascist’s attempts to annihilate them.  

Anti fascism is self defense of the multi-racial communities of color that are most vulnerable to fascist violence. As the largest socialist organization in New York City, the Democratic Socialists of America (NYC-DSA) has a unique responsibility to fight the rise of far-right violence and fascism in our city. With many thousands of members across the boroughs, NYC-DSA has the numbers necessary to confront fascism across multiple neighborhoods. To do this, however, NYC-DSA must begin to think of itself anew. Much of the work NYC-DSA does is implicitly antifascist, including tenant organizing, labor organizing (fascists hate unions), mutual aid, disaster relief, and much more. The DSA attempts to be multi-racial and nonbinary (although not always with full success). Since our work is implicitly antifascist, we will naturally attract the attention and ire of fascists.

NYC-DSA must make what is implicit, explicit: by creating a citywide network of anti-fascist agents who are able to fight fascism throughout the city quickly and at different levels of entry. This network must act with a coalition of anti-fascist agents, including organizations such as Outlive Them NYC, MACC, UARF, NYC Antifa among others. Given its size, NYC-DSA should be a hub of communication and logistical support for cells of anti-fascists to confront and thwart fascists wherever they exist in our community. The endpoint of fascism is genocide. As socialists we must practice anti fascism to protect ourselves and the multi-racial communities we purport to support. NYC-DSA cannot escape fascist anger and we must welcome fascist hatred. Working with committed working class, multi-racial anti-fascist agents, NYC-DSA can help destroy fascism forever in our city.  

Follow Queens Political Education on Twitter

*note: a recent court decision placed limits on the ability of ICE to operate inside courthouses.


Rank and File: Hilton Houseman Pedro on the Hotel Trade Council

By Pedro

What is your occupation? (You don’t need to specify the company if you prefer not to.)

I'm a housekeeping houseman at a Hilton family brand  hotel. Housemen maintain the hotels public spaces and support and or assist room attendants.


What union are you a member of?

I'm a member of the Hotel Trade Council  (HTC) Local 6


How long have you been a member? How would you characterize your involvement with the union?

I've been a member of HTC since November, 1987 - almost 32 years. I started at the Pierre Hotel but my union involvement took off when I started working at the Waldorf Astoria in 1995. The Waldorf seemed like "ground zero" for the union. The Waldorf was the Hilton company's flagship hotel and the union's de facto flagship shop. The Waldorf was one of the oldest hotels in the world and arguably the most famous with over 1,700 union members. I became a housekeeping delegate (Shop Steward) in 2002 representing more than 300 room attendants.  After the battle for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in 2006, I was invited to join the union staff as a RFO/RFR - rank and file organizer/representative in 2007. I was an RFO/RFR for five years. I equate it to being drafted into the military and serving your country. So let's just say that I "served" my union for five years. And I learned a lot.

What do you feel are the major issues your union is focused on right now?

Maintaining density. That is, continuing to organize hotels so that we represent the majority of hotel workers in the city and maintain our influence over the industry.

Growing the union also means building our political power and making sure that the local government supports our communities and concerns.

Condominium conversions - hotels closing and becoming luxury condominiums - is an example of a threat to our union that the union has done a lot to regulate. It must be noted the when a hotel does close - whether it's for good or for renovations - the union has negotiated the largest severance packages in our 80 plus years history. The average Waldorf severance package was $190,000 for 20 years of service. And the recent announcement of the closing of the Grand Hyatt, members will received 31 days of severance for every year of employment and the average Hyatt member worked 25 years. Plus our union has a “hiring  office” exclusively for unemployed members.


What is/has been the attitude of your employer toward the union?

The hotel that I currently work for respects and is somewhat fearful of the union, however every hotel is different. It  always depends on the union members because the union and its delegates are only as the strong as the people they represent. The Waldorf was an unbelievably strong shop but not every hotel is the Waldorf. Since the Waldorf closed for renovations last year, many of my former colleagues are finding that out.


Discuss the ways your union has advocated for the interests of its members.

Extending our CBA to 2024 was brilliant and unheard of. There are many other unions working with a weak contract or without a contract. We got ours extended for an additional six years in the middle of a six year contract. And in addition to that, we got 4% raises and more protections than we had in the previous contract. That’s unbelievable! And the way our union keeps growing with the additions of casinos, and hotels in upstate NY and NJ can only benefit all members more because we have middle class wages, job security and even more power at the bargaining table.


Are there issues you feel your union should organize around that are not currently being addressed?

Absolutely. We desperately need delegate training and we need to educate our members on the unique power of being a HTC member and the basics of the CBA. Every hotel has different practices, different room quotas for room attendants and different special pays and side deals. The more educated the members are of their rights, the stronger our members will be. And we must never forget that it is the members of our union - and not the union staff - that are in fact -THE union.

Even though we’re fortunate to have our leadership of strong and passionate leaders, it's never a good idea to have a whole delegation of "Yes men" that agrees with everything leadership promotes. Just look at the Trump administration. I believe in building consensus, however there is nothing wrong with having diverse opinions and healthy debates.  

Thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts on an organization that I have been a part of for more than half of my life.

Working Groups

Brooklyn Housing

With rent laws set to expire in June, the Brooklyn Housing Working Group has been heating up its Universal Rent Control campaign and needs all hands on deck!

The group will be holding two upcoming canvass events in Brooklyn for Universal Rent Control:

Saturday, March 30, 11am in North Brooklyn - Register Here

Saturday, April 6, 11am in Central Brooklyn - Register Here

There will also be a tenant march on Thursday, April 11th, at 5:30pm at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.

For people interested in getting involved, email bk.housing@socialists.nyc

Brooklyn Electoral

On Wednesday, April 11th, the Brooklyn Electoral Working group will be hosting “How The Left Was Won,” a comedy show in support of the NYC-DSA PAC. The event will feature Eudora Peterson, Lorelei Ramirez, Peter Smith, Arti Gollapudi, and Emmy Blotnick. RSVP here.

The next monthly working group meeting will occur on Thursday, April 11th at the First Unitarian Church in Downtown Brooklyn. These meetings are a great place for anyone new to the electoral working group to learn more about future work planned by our different sub-committees (like Bernie2020). RSVP here.

Debt & Finance

In March, The Debt & Finance Working held elections to fill two open seats on its organizing committee. Congratulations to Jenny Z and Glenna G!

The working group is making progress in its push for public banking, both by promoting the issue internally within DSA and by making the project a reality in New York. Within DSA, the working group has held several meetings to discuss public banking, and has begun its "roadshow" to promote the issue within the branches. Debt & Finance has also been working with legislators and community leaders (including the Public Bank NYC Coalition), and is optimistic in making public banking a reality in New York this year. Debt & Finance has been researching public banking to ensure that the policy proposals included (e.g., accountability to the public, ethical investment mandates, etc.) are in line with DSA’s priorities.

The Debt and Finance Working Group credit union subcommittee is working to create a financial institution that will serve DSA and finance worker co-ops. The subcommittee is currently developing a member survey and white paper, and is continuing research and dialogue with existing co-ops.

Debt & Finance’s next general meeting will be on Thursday, April 11 at 7:00 pm at 256 W 38th Street, 12th floor, in Manhattan. For more information, contact debtors@socialists.nyc.

Healthcare

The Healthcare working group’s interim organizing committee, which has successfully launched the citywide pressure campaign and brought NYC into the national Medicare for All campaign, will be stepping down this month to welcome a newly elected organizing committee.

As part of the ongoing Medicare for All pressure campaign, the working group has met with a number of local representatives, asking them to either support single-payer or sign a pledge that states that they support single-payer and nothing less. They are now phasing into canvassing, as winning single-payer will require a mass movement that invites all of the working class to become involved.

On March 11th, Healthcare held a town hall meeting that featured single-payer champion Michael Lighty. The town hall provided not only a moment to discuss the political fight for Medicare For All and the ways in which it’ll transform lives, but also a chance to stand in solidarity with the New York State Nurses Association during their ongoing contract negations for safe staffing ratios in our hospitals.

Healthcare is currently in the process of developing Medicare for All canvassing field leads in a number of branches. Please check the DSA calendar and facebook for updates in the coming weeks on both canvasses and public facing educational events.


Immigrant Justice

On March, 20th,The Immigrant Justice Working Group partnered with the Queens Electoral Working Group to canvass for Tiffany Cabán's Queens District Attorney candidacy and the passage of the Protect Our Courts Act in the New York state legislature, which bars ICE from making arrests in New York courthouses.

As part of the ongoing ICE Out of the Courts campaign, Immigrant Justice will be starting a calling campaign to support passage of the Protect Our Courts Act, starting with DSA members in the districts of three NYC state senators and one assemblymember's district.

The next working group meeting will be on Monday, April 8, 6:30PM at the CUNY Grad Center, 365 5th Ave, Room 5409.

Socialist Feminist

The Socialist Feminist Working Group recently elected a new organizing committee, and are excited that the majority of the new OC is made up of new members, which bodes well for leadership development within the group.

The working group is partnering with comrades in the Labor Branch to organize strike support for NY nurses if they strike in early April. They are also in conversation with the newly formed Staten Island branch to try and help support their development, and possibly help them connect with citywide socialist feminist campaigns.

Their Socialist Feminist trivia night was a big success, and they are hoping to build on it with future trivia and game nights.


Media

The Media Working Group, humble producers of this email and online publication, are excited to host their first meeting of the year, on April 2nd from 7-9 at the Sixth Street Community Center, (638 E 6th St.) Guest speakers will be hosting a discussion on workplace & freelance organizing for media workers, and what the future of digital media looks like in a rapidly changing world. There will be breakout group discussions by discipline, as well as for Red Letter and RPM, so all who are interested in contributing their writing/web/art/digital media skills are welcome to attend and hear about the multitude of projects we’re working on!

Branches

Queens

The Queens branch has pulled out all the stops in its effort to elect public defender and DSA member Tiffany Cabán as Queens District Attorney. In the first 3.5 weeks of petitioning to get Cabán on the ballot, 143 volunteers worked a total of 278 shifts at subway stops, green markets, and other public events, as well as door to door. Eight new field leads have directed an average of 25 petitioning events each week, which have included DSA members from all over the city and nearby suburbs.

On April 1, the persuasion phase of the campaign will begin. The Queens Electoral Working Group encourages everyone to join in. Momentum for this campaign has been building, with endorsements rolling in from Queens, citywide, and national organizations, including the Real Justice PAC, which will organize volunteers from around the country to text Queens voters.   

Meanwhile, the Queens Housing Working Group is planning to convert its successful fight against Amazon to other anti-gentrification work, while continuing to table with tenant rights information.

The Queens Political Education branch is hosting an event titled “Everyday Antifascism: History and Practice” in collaboration with Outlive Them NYC on Saturday, March 30, from 1 to 4 p.m. at 30-18 Crescent Street. The event will include a panel and workshop; presenters will include comrades from Boston DSA, MACC, Red Bloom, a Communist Collective, NYC DSA Socialist Feminist and the Afro socialists and Socialists of Color Caucus. RSVP to everydayantifascism@protonmail.com with your name, pronouns and any affiliation.

In April, Queens Political Education will host a reading series, the ABCs of Capitalism. Email queenspoliticaleducation@gmail.com to get location details and the readings.

Labor

The NYC-DSA’s Labor Branch will be celebrating the fight that nurses are taking on by holding a strike kick-off party on Monday, April 1 from 7-10 pm. (This is the rescheduled and updated event that was originally going to take place March 19!) There will be speakers from NYSNA members (in both the private and public sector) about the upcoming NYSNA Private Sector Nurses’ Strike. The branch will also be fundraising for their strike fund and making signs to use on the picket lines.

This will all take place at Verso Books at 20 Jay St in DUMBO. All proceeds of raffle ticket sales will go to nurses going on strike, and there will be a cash bar, with snacks and appetizers by donation. Come out, support nurses, and learn about their struggle! Find up-to-date details on the Facebook event page—Otherwise, reach out to any Labor Branch OC member you’ve been in touch with!

The next regular Labor Branch Meeting will be Thursday, April 9, from 7-9 pm with breakouts before. Location TBD.

We’ll also have a public event on Thursday, April 25th, where we will delve into what the Rank-and-File Resolution means for DSA, and why it is gaining such popularity as a strategy for reinvigorating the labor movement.

Bronx/Upper Manhattan

This month, the Bronx/Upper Manhattan branch hosted a series of neighborhood potlucks designed to get new and returning members together in an informal setting to get to know one another and the branch better. Other B/UM opportunities for discussion included the Political Education WG’s series of reading groups on libertarianism and the branch’s new member orientation, followed by a happy hour. The branch also continued canvassing for the Save Allen Psych campaign in Inwood and Universal Rent Control in the Bronx.

B/UM voted to adopt the bylaws put forth by the bylaws committee as well as a number of amendments proposed by members. At their upcoming branch meeting in Central Harlem, there will be a presentation on network mapping and proposals on energy rights from the Ecosocialist Working Group. The branch will also hold Mobilizer Training on March 30th, which also serves as excellent organizer training for anyone looking to sharpen their skills. Finally, the branch meeting in the Bronx will be on April 30th!

North Brooklyn

NBK had about 20 of their members participate this month in NYSNA’s informational picket. At the NBK March branch meeting, updates were presented from the public banking, energy justice, and mutual aid disaster relief committees, followed by further discussion of those campaigns in breakout groups. Membership also voted to ratify new bylaws, including one that broadened the definition of membership in the branch.

Here are some upcoming NBK events:

Central Brooklyn

At the last branch meeting, 10 working groups and caucuses held breakout discussions centering around current campaigns and issues close to their work and offering opportunities to get plugged in. After the discussions, a quick poll showed nearly half of those in attendance had found something new to get involved with!

The CBK Base Building committee met this month to explore ways to connect Central Brooklyn residents with the DSA's mission through engaging with our shared material needs. Representatives from Red Bloom and Silk City Socialists were invited to share their methods and experiences.

Central Brooklyn is also setting up a text banking system to mobilize members for upcoming events, namely the upcoming NYSNA strike.

Central Brooklyn is beginning to draft updates to its branch bylaws. Throughout April, a special bylaws committee will facilitate discussion, culminating in a vote at the end of the month. The current bylaws are available here. Members are invited to submit comments, amendments or additions to the bylaws using this form; submitted comments will be circulated to inform the discussion and vote. Join the Bylaws Committee here.

South Brooklyn

South Brooklyn DSA’s March branch meeting will be on Monday, March 25th, from 7- 9 PM at Park Slope United Methodist Church. Representatives of NYC-DSA's Labor Branch will be doing a presentation on the Rank-and-File strategy, highlighting the connection between the labor movement and socialism as well as providing members a pathway into rank-and-file jobs.

On March 27th, there will be a New Member Orientation at Cherry Tree Bar in Park Slope.

Staten Island

Some really exciting news: this month Staten Island was officially approved as a branch of NYC-DSA, meaning the NYC chapter now covers the whole city!

In the middle of March, the branch held its first SI DSA Karaoke Night which went extremely well, advancing the important message that socialists know how to have a good time. The night featured some very on-brand choices, such as “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” and revered working-class anthem, Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5.”

In another first for the now-legit SI branch, it will held its inaugural reading group on Saturday 3/23, discussing the Jacobin pamphlet “The ABCs of Socialism.” The hope is that this kickoff event will lay the foundation for ongoing political education and new member orientations in the branch.

The March branch meeting will be held on Wednesday 3/27 from 7-9PM at Hub17, 73 Wave Street in Stapleton, about a 5 minute walk from the train station. The branch will be holding a Medicare for All 101 session in preparation for local work as part of the Healthcare Working Group’s citywide campaign.

Branch meetings are held on the last week of the month on Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday nights, alternating between North Shore and South Shore locations. For those in other boroughs, it is a trek to get here, but Brooklyn comrades report that the pizza is worth the trip.

Lower Manhattan

The Lower Manhattan branch had a really fantastic meeting last month where they hosted a panel on the Green New Deal featuring Nancy Romer, Kate Aronoff, and Patrick Robbins. LoMan members got to ask important questions about what a transition away from fossil fuels will look like and what likely obstacles will stand in the way, along with various means of overcoming them.

With the 2020 election taking shape, New Yorkers will be looking for concrete answers to massive problems and LoMan is committed not only to striving to make socialism a plausible solution, but a necessary and understandable one. The branch aims to help develop members' knowledge and communication skills as they put forth demands for a more just, equitable, and sustainable society.

One of their ways of doing that is through their political education reading series. The next series will take place during April and will cover the book, Why Marx Was Right by Terry Eagleton. It's a highly enjoyable and digestible introduction to Marxism that provides answers to many of the persisting questions we often hear regarding the socialist worldview. Meeting information will be coming shortly on the NYC-DSA calendar and Facebook page.

The next LoMan branch meeting will continue the branch's efforts to demystify and explicate on the Sanders' 2020 campaign platform by exploring both why socialists want to break up the banks and fight for public financing. It will take place at the Sixth Street Community Center from 7-9 pm on March 28th.


YES!

By Ella Mahony

This post originally appeared in the DSA Weekly on March 2nd.

Bernie Sanders has announced his run for the presidency of the United States in the midst of a decades-long assault from above on the international, multi-racial working class.

A ruthless campaign of upward redistribution of wealth has resulted in the top 1 percent of the United States owning 40 percent of U.S. wealth; the top 1 percent of the world’s population owning half the world’s wealth; and the bottom half of the world’s population owning the same amount as the world’s richest eight people.

Unions in the United States have gone from wielding the power of 30% of workers to less than 11% today. The vast majority of workers here have no protection against the authoritarian setup of the American workplace and can be put out onto the street at any time, for no reason. Our immigration enforcement system additionally works as the most terrifying and effective union-busting tool bosses have.

Meanwhile, the political reforms and social progress won in the twentieth century are becoming increasingly unstable. Abortion rights seem ready to be wiped off the map. The voting rights won in the Civil Rights Movement are under constant attack. Affirmative action is likely just as threatened as Roe v Wade under the new Supreme Court. The social rights that seemed ascendant in the Obama era now appear profoundly vulnerable.

At the same time, the vehicles for the working class to arrest these setbacks and get back on the offensive have almost completely broken down.

The mass parties that emerged in the twentieth century and collectively engaged hundreds of millions of people to fight to better their conditions, have all but collapsed. Some, like PASOK in Greece or the French Socialist Party, have been completely wiped off the electoral map after betraying their programs and imposing austerity on their own base.

Others, like the Workers Party in Brazil, are still fighting but have been deeply weakened. And the flash of revival we saw in the Middle East with the Arab Spring has been thoroughly, violently, and autocratically repressed.

This has generated a deep crisis of representation for working people across the world. In most countries, there is no meaningful political force speaking to workers’ needs, saying that their misery is not their own fault, and laying out a plan to win an alternative. There are very few forces that can credibly say, “We can protect your reproductive rights. We can protect LGBTQ rights. We can protect your civil rights.”

And this is the context in which the far Right is winning, both by breaking through into popular sectors by being the only ones talking about people’s pain and not blaming it on them, and because a large number of people have given up on change and their abstention allows the Right’s  relatively minoritarian coalitions to have a disproportionate impact.

In addition, the Right uses the power it has accumulated in the state, such as the Supreme Court, the military, and enforcement apparatuses  to ram through their proposals.

In the United States, the problem is compounded because we’ve never had a mass workers’ or socialist party. People here have very few reference points for what political representation of working-class people really means.

That said, we are at the beginning of a process that might reverse this deep defeat. And the Sanders campaign will be a key vehicle for socialists to further that process.

The ideological stranglehold of neoliberalism has been broken. The financial crisis and the movements it catalyzed destroyed the idea that capitalism and the rapid growth of profits at the top could generate any gains for ordinary people. And these movements created a new consensus about who was hurt by the status quo—the 99%—and who benefits—the 1%.

But there was still a profound malaise in the country because even though people were convinced that the status quo was wrong, they couldn’t perceive a viable alternative or a path to reach it.

What constituted the organized Left was forever on the defensive, mobilizing in silos against the worst excesses of the ruling class, such as the Iraq War or the post-recession bank bailouts. Sometimes we won; more often, we lost. More significantly, we couldn’t get on the offensive in a way that allowed us to change the rules of the game instead of just reacting to individual attacks.

That’s why Bernie Sanders’s campaign in 2016 was so important. It offered a positive program, one ambitious enough that people could actually get excited about it. He offered a blueprint for a different United States.

And in so doing, helped reverse-engineer working-class aspirations from within a howling vacuum of union disorganization and movement setbacks. This is very hard to do in a country where unlivable wages, mass displacement from urban areas, and means-testing in our few public programs keep many of us, particularly the poor, from staying in one place to build relationships and organization and to see one another through the lens of solidarity, not resentment.

Now, the teachers’ movement, thanks to a years-long effort from below to transform educators’ unions, has taken advantage of those raised expectations to demonstrate what the diverse working class can do when it sets a goal and unites to achieve it. And by not just fighting for their own wages, but for nurses in every school, for the end of racist police searches of their students, for sanctuary schools, they have demonstrated that labor is not only for itself. It is not a special interest or only for older white men. They’ve shown that labor is for humanity.

The combination of the Sanders campaign and the teachers’ strike wave has made our job as socialists so much easier. Now, we can go into our campuses or workplaces and find people willing to identify not just as union activists or as socially conscious but as democratic socialists.

Via these simple demands such as Medicare for All or the Green New Deal, we can help people to see beyond their workplace or their industry to the political sphere. We can move people to seeing themselves as political subjects: in other words, not as someone that things are done to, but as someone who can have a say in their own destiny.

It is our duty to take full advantage of this moment and run out the radicalizing processes happening in the formal political sphere, in labor, and in society as far as they can go.

Whatever the details of his program may mean to us, to the rest of the world, the Bernie Sanders campaign will be a referendum on socialist politics in the United States. It is a litmus test about whether a left program can be a viable project in this country.

If we fail, if we cannot win the 13 million Bernie votes of 2016 and go beyond them, this unique historical window will close. The name Bernie Sanders will be used like Ralph Nader’s: as an invocation of why left-wing politics are fundamentally unsuited to Americans.

By participating in the Bernie movement, we can multiply our forces, meet and build relationships with people who can run as socialist candidates at every level, plug into Labor For Bernie work to overcome the separation between labor and socialists, and transform DSA into something rooted in neighborhoods and workplaces of all kinds.

Finally, the divisions it will generate between Bernie and the Democratic establishment will be very useful as a popular education tool about why the differences between the Left and the center matter.

But, of course, the challenges ahead are immense. There is a chance that Bernie Sanders might actually become president of the United States. Wild, right?

We know how capital mobilizes when the Left gets into power. Especially if the Left  makes the mistake of confusing formal power with real power.

Sanders himself posed this problem in the CBS interview where he announced his run for president. “We have a corrupt political system in which billionaires can contribute unlimited sums of money. That’s the power of the top 1% and the billionaire class,” he said. “So somebody could come before you and say ‘Look, I wanna do A and I wanna do B’ … but at the end of the day, the only way that real change takes place is when millions of people stand up, fight back.”

Sanders is talking about the elite opposition that even moderate politicians encounter when they want to implement reforms. Because capitalists have so much power over our economy and politics, they can hold our system hostage until politicians do what they want.

One tool they have for this is the capital strike. Just as workers can strike, so can capitalists. They can take their immense investment power and put it somewhere else. If they don’t want President Sanders and his allies to implement a Green New Deal, or if they simply believe that the United States is no longer a favorable investment climate because of it, they can take their money elsewhere and crash our economy in the process. Millions of people will be hurt and could blame socialists for their misery.

This is the primary reason why leftist politicians and parties have, once in office, reversed their programs or even imposed the Right’s policies.

The only way we can fight back against this class warfare from above, and save our democratic socialist program, is through a movement of millions in the streets, shutting down key production points and reproductive sectors like education, and disciplining politicians who cave to the billionaires’ pressure.

That might make you think that this is the wrong time for Bernie Sanders to be running at all. It doesn’t feel as if we’re strong enough now to weather that battle.

There are two things I would say to this. First, Bernie Sanders is the only candidate who can beat Donald Trump (or another Trump-esque) figure in 2020. Four more years of a Trump presidency might guarantee permanent defeat for the working class. A Sanders campaign is urgent in this moment.

Second, as students of Marx we know that we socialists do not get to choose the historical circumstances in which we organize. Marx wrote in 1852, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already.” Already, in a shockingly short span of time, organizers have taken advantage of the political environment since 2016 to build a powerful strike wave from practically nothing.

Bernie Sanders is running for president, and he might actually win. What we can do—what we must do—is use the organizing opportunity of the Sanders campaign to reach millions of people when they are most open to politics—and socialist politics particularly! We have to convert them into committed fighters for the democratic socialist program, and make sure they don’t recede into pessimism or inactivity after the presidential election is over.

We can do that through an independent DSA campaign for Bernie Sanders that focuses on converting the electoral energy of 2020 into durable social movement and labor organization.

In Bernie Sanders’ launch video, he features a news clip hailing a wage hike at Disney as a “victory for Bernie Sanders.” A voiceover from Bernie corrects the record: “It’s a victory for all of us.” That is the attitude we must take up as well. Our “north star” is not one person. It is, instead, this historic opportunity to build the confidence and ability of the working class to collectively win its own liberation.

Ella Mahony has been a member of DSA’s National Political Committee since 2017.


NO!

By Dan La Botz

This post originally appeared in the DSA Weekly on March 2nd.

Sanders 2016 revived the progressive left and turned DSA into the largest socialist organization in America in seventy years. Flooded with young people angry at the Democratic Party, DSA became a radical, activist organization projecting the need for a total socialist transformation of America. Sanders 2020 will not have the same effect.  Bernie will not appear to be much different than other progressive Democrats and his campaign threatens to lead DSA deep into the Democratic Party.

Sanders 2020 poses the question of political subordination to a capitalist party or political independence. And, though it may not seem so at first, it poses the historic question of reform and revolution. Yes, we may recruit thousands more, but to what kind of an organization will we be recruiting them? An adjunct of the Democratic Party or an independent socialist organization rooted in the social and labor movements?

Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign for the Democratic Party nomination had a tremendously positive effect on American politics in general and on the Democratic Socialist of America (DSA) in particular. Disappointed by Barack Obama and disgusted by Hillary Clinton, millions rallied to Bernie’s progressive platform. Many others identified not only with Bernie’s program but also found his socialism attractive. Some had never voted, never supported a Democratic candidate before, other had voted or Obama and been burned. When Bernie lost the nomination, largely because of the Democratic Party’s unfair practices, thousands turned in anger from the Democratic Party to DSA.  

We should remember that what has made DSA so exciting in 2016 and up until today has in large measure been that initial anger at Clinton and at the Democratic National Committee. The Bernie Bump folks, the ten or twenty thousand members who joined in 2016, were really angry. Anger at the Democrats gave the new DSA its edge, breaking with the organization’s long subservience to liberal Democrats.

Then, with Donald Trump’s inauguration, DSA grew by another twenty thousand members or so, flooded with people afraid of what the new racist, misogynist, authoritarian president might do. Fear was countered by the hope that DSA might be able to help stop Trump, and that led to support for progressive Democrats. DSA even ran its own candidates, mostly in the Democratic Party, but often now running as open socialists.

This is where we are now, in a moment of tension between immersion in the Democratic Party and the possibility of mass social movements and independent socialist campaigns. We are divided between reformist opportunities and revolutionary aspirations. Bernie 2020 raises the question of whether or not DSA will turn back to its position of subordination to the Democratic Party or go forward to build the radical social movements and eventually an independent, working class, socialist political party.

Bernie 2020 will not be like 2016.

What attracted people to Bernie in 2016 was that he had been a political independent. He appeared—as did Trump on the right—as a break with the corrupt and corporate-controlled Republican and Democratic parties. But Sanders is no longer—if he ever was—really an independent. He has spent the last two years largely campaigning for Democrats and preparing for a 2020 campaign in the Democratic Party. Sanders is today the leading progressive in the Democratic Party, not an independent. And, as we all know, he is not really a socialist. He is a New Deal liberal.

Socialism means the democratic socialization of the banks and corporations, of industry and agriculture, of the media and culture. Historically this idea has presumed the creation of a working class party, the destruction of the capitalist state, and the creation of a new more democratic government, the nationalization, municipalization, or the cooperitivization of the economy, the democratic elaboration of a national economic plan, and within that plan widespread community control and workers’ power in the workplace. This is not Bernie.

Bernie has often said that he looks back to Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal” for his political model. In fact, FDR’s New Deal of the 1930s–and more important the economic expansion of World War II—established the social compact that saved capitalism. Then, updated in the 1960s by Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society,” it stabilized an increasingly crisis-ridden capitalism for another couple of decades until the Great Recession of 2008. The New Deal and Great Society, of course, were made possible by America’s global economic, political, and military dominance and hegemony by imperialism. The New Deal’s social Keynesianism morphed into military Keynesianism, which underlay much of American prosperity. That is the essential fact of the original New Deal.

There was also the all-important New Deal Coalition that saved the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party’s role in American society—as the lesser of two evils—is to periodically reform the political and economic system just enough so that it can incorporate and absorb those who begin to turn away from capitalism. When the Great Depression led to the left-led working class upheaval of the 1930s, FRD’s New Deal Coalition made concessions to labor that brought the new industrial unions, as well s the old craft unions, into the Democratic Party. And those movements died there.

FRD’s New Deal Coalition provided the model for successive generations of Democratic Party leaders. In the 1960s and 1970s the African American Civil Rights Movement threatened to move in an independent direction, but Democrats John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B . Johnson succeeded in passing reforms that kept black people in the Democratic Party and brought some of them into leading positions in government and the corporations. The radical Women’s Liberation movement of the 1970s similarly won significant reforms that were limited and compromised by subordination to the Democrats. The Civil Rights Movement and the Women’s Liberation Movement also died in the Democratic Party.

The Great Recession of 2008 created new dissident and restive elements in our society—from Occupy Wall Street to #BlackLives Matter to #MeToo—and the question for the ruling elites became how to keep those elements from turning their social movements into new political forces, into a new political party of the left? This is not a conspiracy but it is the party’s functional role. The Democratic Party offers social movements a potential way to win immediate reforms, but at the cost of strengthening the system and also becoming part of it. And, it should be noted, the Democratic Party often fails to deliver the very reforms it promised, as happened with labor law reform, immigration reform, and environmental reform from Jimmy Carter, to Clinton, to Obama.

Today Sanders and the Democrats threaten to once again corral the rising radical opposition to the system. He has called for very progressive reforms–$15 minimum wage, health care for all, free public higher education—but, as he has repeated, he opposes the nationalization and socialization of the banks and corporations. He is about making capitalism more humane—that is his great attraction. But he is not about ending capitalism, which is our overriding necessity today if we want to prevent environmental catastrophe, end imperialism and foreign regime-change wars, and win justice for working people and the oppressed.

Sanders has become a supporter of DSA member Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s campaign for a “Green New Deal.” Like the historic New Deal, it appears to be predicated upon massive government intervention to reform the capitalist system in the face of catastrophic climate chnge. While we absolutely need to find away to stop global warming, the Green New Deal proposal suggests it can be done within the framework of capitalism. Contemporary capitalism, driven by profit and completely intertwined with the carbon energy systems of coal and oil, is highly unlikely to be able to undertake the total economic transformation that is necessary to prevent a climate catastrophe. And neither Sanders nor AOC propose such a total transformation. Politically, AOC’s Green New Deal movement will serve to capture and incorporate the independent environmental movement into a Democratic Party strategy.

DSA leaders have also linked the Bernie campaign to the West Virginia teachers’ strikes, as if a Democratic Party reform campaign had the same thrust and destination as a radical worker strike movement organized from below. Though Bernie gives his support to the unions and the teachers strikes, in the long run, these two phenomena are diametrically opposed. One is about workers’ power with the potential to destroy capitalism and the other about reforming and thereby strengthening the capitalist system, which cannot exist without labor exploitation. If the teachers’ strikes should through reform-minded union leaders—or perhaps through DSA members—become linked to Bernie, we would watch the movement be captured and neutralized by the Democratic Party. This would be a practically literal reenactment of part of FDR’s New Deal.

Moments such as these always create the mirage that we socialists could somehow significantly influence or capture the Democratic Party. The idea is more than a hundred years old, has been tried as many times without success. The Republican and Democratic parties—even in the age of Trump and Bernie—remain controlled by leading bankers and corporate executives, with strong ties to media moguls, to the military top brass, and with every other elite element of the society. Progressives—many of whom are actually neoliberals—may be able to win office, but they will be forced by the party’s structure and its corporate owners to govern for those who rule.

Those who would have us endorse Bernie have to explain how, after Bernie loses to someone like the liberal Sherrod Brown or Kamala Harris, they will be able to keep DSA members from either flowing into their campaigns for president or becoming disillusioned, embittered, and cynical following Bernie’s second defeat. Should we not be saying to our members now that a Bernie Sanders campaign very likely leads to a campaign by Kamala Harris or Sherrod Brown, and that that in turn leads DSA back to its 1980s strategy of trying to capture the Democrats?

Yes, if we throw ourselves into the Bernie 2020 campaign, we may be able to recruit more members, perhaps thousands. We have to ask ourselves, however, what sort of an organization will we be recruiting them to? The Bernie 2020 campaign will have a profound influence on DSA, emphasizing political work over building the social movements. We will find that we have created an organizational culture dominated by illusions of influencing or capturing the Democratic Party, rather than developing strategies for the destruction of the two-party system and the overthrow of capitalism. We will find that we have not only mobilized the organization for a campaign but have also transformed it for the future into a social democratic organization.

We in DSA should be building the rank-and-file labor movements, building the social movements against racism, sexism, and homophobia. We should also be running independent and socialist candidates at the local level and even for Congress. Many of our members may want to work for Bernie, let them. But as an organization, this time we should not. Supporting Bernie 2020 means jeopardizing our future as an organization angry at the Democratic Party, furious at the two-party system, and hating capitalism and imperialism. Let’s keep our hope, but let’s also keep our anger.

Dan La Botz is a member of the Central Brooklyn Branch of the New York City Chapter of DSA and involved in various working groups and national committees. He worked on the Bernie 2016 campaign while remaining registered as a Green Party voter.


Branches

NYU-YDSA

NYU-YDSA just got back from an incredible weekend at the 2019 YDSA National Convention in Berkeley, California. Eight NYU-YDSA members, along with 14 members of CUNY YDSA, attended (and, in some cases, facilitated) workshops and plenaries on issues of urgent importance to the Left today, including Medicare for All, College for All, Building a Mass Organization, and Fighting the Far Right on Campus. Members practiced vital organizing skills, shared out experiences with student socialists from around the country, and stood in solidarity with Oakland teachers as they prepared to strike.

Now NYU-YDSA members stand ready to put everything they’re learned into action! They’ll be kicking off their campus Bernie Sanders campaign with canvassing in dorms, and gearing up for a Medicare for All Town Hall with Michael Lighty on campus (March 13, 4-6pm, 60 Washington Square South). The crew has also been dropping some dank memes in the NYU Students for Bernie 2020 Facebook group (join us!), and building up the hype on campus for what’s shaping up to be an incredibly important class struggle campaign. There’s a lot of work ahead of us this semester, but NYU-YDSA is beyond excited to build this movement!

Queens

Queens branch celebrated victory over Amazon in February. Just a few days after two dozen DSA members took part in a 100-person coalition canvassing effort, Amazon withdrew from its plan to build a massive second headquarters in Long Island City. The Queens Housing Working Group and field organizers joined the victory press conference that afternoon at Gordon Triangle, danced and shouted at a rally in Jackson Heights that evening, and rallied again the following Sunday in Long Island City.

The branch’s February general meeting included a panel discussion on the Amazon campaign. The team would like to find ways to continue resisting tech capitalism by organizing with comrades and allies at Amazon locations across the country. For now, however, the No Amazon field operation is plugging into the Cabán for Queens campaign, the Housing Working Group's campaign for universal rent control, and resisting the Sunnyside Yards development and tenant organizing.

The Queens branch voted in January in favor of the resolution to endorse Bernie, but right now, its electoral efforts are focused on primarily on electing Tiffany Cabán to be the next Queens District Attorney.


Bronx/Upper Manhattan

This month, B/UM members canvassed in the Bronx for universal rent control and in Harlem to fight NYC schools' racist suspension practices. Members also picketed at Milstein and Allen Hospitals (New York Presbyterian) in solidarity with NYSNA nurses as they fight for a fair new contract. The branch held a New Member Orientation to welcome new comrades, followed by a happy hour. The B/UM Political Education Working Group co-sponsored a Valentine's Day screening of Ken Loach's Bread & Roses with The Workmen's Circle and organized a set of reading groups on Gramsci. At the February 26th branch meeting, members will vote on new branch bylaws, hear from the Healthcare and Racial Justice Working Groups about their campaigns, and have a breakout period where members can talk to representatives from various working groups and find out about all the work that’s going on.


Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan had a great start to the year, beginning with a debate and vote on recommending NYC-DSA’s Bernie 2020 plan. The branch ultimately voted in favor. LoMan also restarted its political education work with the ABC’s of Capitalism pamphlets from Jacobin+Catalyst, with very encouraging responses. The branch aims to continue to offer both highly accessible introductory-level material as well as more advanced content for members.

LoMan held a new member social on Feb 20 to introduce the organization and demystify DSA politics to curious residents in our district. At the monthly meeting on February 28th, in addition to discussing proposals put forward by our membership, there’ll be a panel discussion on the Green New Deal, featuring eco-socialists Kate Aronoff and Nancy Romer. Members will have a fantastic opportunity to ask questions and think through what a transition to a more sustainable, equitable society will concretely look like.

North Brooklyn

North Brooklyn held its first "Comrade's Basement" open social at Starr Bar on February 4th, co-hosted by the Organizing Committee and their Rose Buds new members' engagement committee. The NBK bi-weekly Night School continues every second Monday at Mayday Space thanks to the NBK Political Education Committee. Recent sessions included "Socialists and the Working Class" and "Poor People's Movements.” The next upcoming session for February 25 is "Unions and the Labor Movement." All are welcome to learn with at NBK Night School!

The NBK Tenants' Committee continues to fight for Universal Rent Control and to support tenant organizing in North Brooklyn. NBK is piloting a new program to encourage hyperlocal organizing called we’re calling neighborhood councils and held a kick-off meeting on February 9. Finally, North Brooklyn members turned out on February 13 to support NYSNA nurses at Mt Sinai Hospital on Madison Ave during their informational picket for safe staffing!


Central Brooklyn

During last month’s branch meeting at CBK’s beautiful new space at the First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn Heights, members had the opportunity to discuss and vote on several proposals to be brought to the CLC in February. The Membership Development and Mobilization Committee hosted the monthly new member social at Cherry Tree Bar, offering a great opportunity for new and prospective members to learn more about organizing work and meet new comrades. The Base Building Committee has begun organizing comrades interested in running for community board or attending meetings to connect with other organizations and members of the community. At the upcoming Central Brooklyn branch meeting, members will get the opportunity to break out into groups led by working group representatives, discuss their work and find campaigns they may be interested in. Starting on the 26th, there is a CBK reading group for the ABC’s of Capitalism series at the Brooklyn Free School.

South Brooklyn

In February, South Brooklyn hosted several events: First was a New Member Orientation that drew in 30+ people new to DSA, where participants and organizers engaged in small group discussions around the question “What is (or is not) Democratic Socialism to you?” New and prospective members also had the opportunity to meet working group representatives.

The Political Economy of Welfare, a talk by Social Work Professor Joel Blau, went extremely well. Organizers of the event reported that most of the attendees were active social workers with little familiarity with DSA, leading to highly fruitful discussions. The branch also hosted its first-ever fundraiser, themed around Valentine’s Day, titled Why Can’t I Touch it (the Means of Production), which far exceeded its projected fundraising goal. Looking ahead, an ABC’s of Socialism reading group at Carroll Gardens library will meet on the 23rd. The SBK February branch meeting will be held on the 24th, featuring presentations and discussions from both the Housing and Healthcare working groups.

Labor

Read the article titled “Critical Mass” in this month’s issue for updates on the Labor Branch’s resolution to focus on influencing rank and file of targeted industry unions to become more militant.

The prison-abolition movement needs a DA Cabán to put policies into action

By Emma C

DSA’s prison-abolition position is consistent with an endorsement of DA candidate Tiffany Cabán, because it represents concrete steps we can take to counter mass incarceration.  In my work with hundreds of incarcerated people, it was rather shocking how hostile nearly all of them were to the idea of prison abolition. Upset, they demanded to know how dare I, safe on the outside, suggest the violent people they were around on the inside should be let out of prison? It made me seriously self-reflect on what abolition meant and how to achieve it. For me, abolition was framed in entirely negative terms: ending cages, tearing down prisons, and stopping new prisons from being built. In politics you need a positive vision to garner popular support - the obvious follow up to a policy of not-incarcerating is “Well, what should we do?”

Luckily there have recently been plenty of examples to get us past a limited, negative idea of abolition. These positive examples have been led by Black Liberation groups and those most impacted by mass incarceration, and unsurprisingly their perspective has focused on the material realities of the powers behind the prison industrial complex. The first example is the #ByeAnita campaign to defeat Anita Alvarez in the district attorney race for Cook County, led by prison abolition group Assata’s Daughters in Chicago.  Kim Foxx, Alvarez’s opponent, was not nearly as progressive as any of our comrades would like, but as Assata’s Daughters explained, quoting Ella Baker: “The major job was getting people to understand that they had something within their power that they could use, and it could only be used if they understood what was happening and how group action could counter violence.” That’s exactly what we want to do with Cabán’s campaign: show the most criminalized people in Queens that people power is stronger than the Queens political machine that supported DA Brown and his policies of locking up people of color and the working class.

The second example is the policies enacted by DA Larry Krasner in Philadelphia. An independent study recently verified, using statistics from DA Krasner’s time in office during which cash bail was eliminated for non-violent offenses, that the cash bail system is nothing but an additional punishment on working class people and its elimination would have no effect on crime rates, recidivism, or people showing up to court. The evidence from implementing the components of a prison-abolitionist vision is exponentially more compelling than any essay or speech. Advocates will be using this example to push against cash bail in their own counties and states for at least the next decade.

Of course, electing a progressive DA does not achieve abolition, nor does it absolve the need for grassroots actions like civil disobedience and protest. It does provide a platform to criticize and question pervasive criminalization and introduce these fringe ideas of abolition to the mainstream discourse. Cabán has stated her support for the No New Jails movement, and her election would give us a key elected official to work with as we continue to push for community solutions to closing Rikers (rather than simply moving the incarcerated elsewhere). Cabán’s strong stance against prosecuting sex work is a good fit with the policies promoted by recently elected NYC-DSA State Senator Julia Salazar. Cabán’s unprecedented stance against criminalizing poverty through welfare “fraud” crimes is a timely position that can use media attention on the Jazmine Headley case to promote prison-abolitionist ideas. All of these, among Cabán’s many other radical positions, would significantly decrease harm to Black and Latinx people, a group that DSA has too often neglected in our campaigns and demands.

Jazmine Headley’s recent testimony to the New York City Council about her experience being arrested while trying to navigate the cumbersome welfare system speaks to my last argument for endorsing Cabán: “It’s not just the fact that I was arrested,” she said, “It was the harsh way that I was treated by people who are supposed to help me.” As democratic socialists, we want a government by and for the people, not a government that arrests working class Black women for the “crime” of trying to survive, as DA Brown did over and over. As a FDCPA* litigator, I have seen landlords look at civil penalties as merely a cost of doing business, and consequently not changing their abusive behavior even after being sued over it dozens of times. The power of the state can help us combat the overwhelming power of corporations (which are the political force behind policies like welfare criminalization) and challenge the idea that governments exist to protect profits rather than people. Cabán’s pledge to prosecute tenant abuse and wage theft can hold corporations accountable in a way that civil law cannot.

Endorsing Cabán was the right decision because it will introduce prison abolition through action and not just words to the public.  Cabán is now collecting petition signatures to get on the ballot - it is imperative for all of us to join her campaign to put our prison abolition values into action, to keep working class people and people of color out of prison, to wipe the smirks off the faces of unrepentant predatory bosses and landlords, and to challenge the stranglehold that corporations have over governmental power.

*FDCPA: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act


We must be against participation in the carceral system in any form

by Evan G (SBK)

By all accounts, Tiffany Cabán is an excellent public defender, an active DSA member, and a good candidate for Queen’s District Attorney (DA). Despite the arguments made below, I believe that now that NYC-DSA has endorsed her, it is best for the organization that Cabán wins. The argument made below is an argument against DSA endorsing any candidate for DA.

The police and the DA are inseparable institutions. The police arrest, and the DA prosecutes. Both are essential elements of the carceral state, which exists to maintain our unjust society. The U.S. carceral state was created after the Civil War to reinforce a racist unequal class society. It carries on this purpose by continuing to arrest and imprison black and brown people at disproportionately high rates.

Even if the carceral system were not thoroughly racist, Socialists should oppose participating in it. The police exist to maintain public order, enforce a state monopoly on violence, and maintain capitalist property relations. In other words, they enforce the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Within the legal system, DAs represent the interests of the police. They decide what charges to bring against a suspect, they recommend what bail to set, they pressure suspects to take deals and confess to crimes. They provide legal justifications for the repressive role of the police in society. In the simplest sense, the DA is essentially a police person with a law degree.

The argument in favor of endorsing a DA is that a “good” DA can reduce harm by, choosing not to enforce laws harshly, declining to prosecute, and not recommending punitive bail or sentences. But the case of Larry Krasner in Philadelphia shows that even a “good” DA’s job is to punish and enforce the law. They are structurally bound to play their part in the carceral state. A “good” DA will still necessarily do the job of a prosecutor, representing the interests of the police in court, and ruin people’s lives by sending them to prison. A “good” DA will still enforce bourgeois property relations, through enforcement of property laws. This dynamic is clearly demonstrated in the way that Larry Krasner has chose to fight the appeal of political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, despite Mumia’s worsening health. Under capitalism, there cannot be a “good” DA.

As socialists, we understand the horror of life under capitalism and sympathize with all who suffer under it. We also understand that the only way to end the horror is to transform society: to fundamentally alter its logic and end the dictatorship of capital. In DSA, we generally understand that despite its drawbacks, electoral and legislative action is part of a larger strategy to transform society. But electing a DA does not fit into this strategy for transformation because DAs have no power to legislate. DAs cannot change the laws that help define the structure of capitalist society, they can only choose how to enforce them in a limited way for a relatively short period of time. Once “good” DAs leave office, their successors can resume enforcing the law in all its harshness and inhumanity.

In fact, participating in a DA election could strengthen the status quo. By choosing to participate in the election of a DA, socialists give legitimacy to this fundamentally undemocratic office and signal support for the repressive work of the DA once in office. Endorsing a DA shows support for the idea that DAs can be good, if the right people are elected.  

But the police apparatus of the capitalist state is thoroughly rotten. It cannot be reformed. It must be totally torn down and replaced by a system that actually offers justice for all. There cannot be a good DA. Participating in the election of a DA makes us complicit in the operation of the carceral state.