On the official website of the Democratic Socialists of America, the organization writes that they believe that though they “are unlikely to see an immediate end to capitalism tomorrow, DSA fights for reforms today that will weaken the power of corporations and increase the power of working people.” “We are socialists because we reject an international economic order sustained by private profit, alienated labor, race and gender discrimination, environmental destruction, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo.”(LA Times: Democratic Socialism)
Following the election of Donald Trump, hundreds of thousands were spurred into a movement of resistance. Some joined the ACLU and other liberal organizations that worked to protest the policies of the Trump administration. However, to many, Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump was proof that the Democratic was party was broken and it’s centrist, neoliberal policies were no longer reaching the masses. Thousands of these people joined the Democratic Socialists of America, which has more than tripled their membership. According to their official website, The Democratic Socialists of America is a far-left organization that seeks to put power back into the hands of the working class by decreasing “the influence of money in politics”, legitimizing “ordinary people in workplaces and the economy”, and reconstructing “gender and cultural relationships to be more equitable.” Read more about their platform here. This organization is pro-feminist, anti-racist, and actively works to dismantle oppressive systems (i.e. capitalism).
Although, this country has had a spotted history with Socialism, close to 50% of people under 30 have a favorable view of socialism, and that number seems to continuously increase. When American industrialization began to flourish, workers believed it was their right to an eight hour work day, safe and sanitary work conditions, and fair pay. The late 19th century and early 20th century were marked by labor union strikes and the government’s subsequent crackdown, often violent, of these unions. You can see an illustrated storytelling of America’s history with socialism here. But in the early 20th century Eugene V. Debs founded the Socialist Party of America and though he was never successful at winning the presidency, his pro-working class and anti-war stance have been the catalyst for future socialist movements (Black Panther Party, DSA, etc.) for many years to come. And though the US Government, especially during the First and Second Red Scare, has attempted to silence socialists it has done little to dampen their spirit and activity. In recent years, Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist, became the senator for Vermont in 2005 and placed second in the Democratic Party primary in 2016(don’t even get me started on how the DNC chose their winner).
So, what do I like so much about the Democratic Socialists of America? Well, the 2016 election left me somewhat disillusioned, to say the least. I was tired of politicians that preached social equality but orchestrated the bombing of innocents in Syria or mass deportations of the undocumented. DSA Praxis, a chapter of the DSA, notes that “Patriarchy and White Supremacy work in tandem with capitalism to subjugate people based on race, gender, and class.”(DSA Praxis: About Us) Chapters like DSA Praxis understand that gender, race, sexuality, and class play a key role in an individual’s experience. Racist and Patriarchal societies consist of social hierarchy, just like capitalism (US Capitalism Perpetuates Gender Inequality). These institutions depend on the subjugation and oppression of the lower classes. We must do more than simply denounce racism and sexism. We must actively work to dismantle the systems that allow these social injustices to exist. MLK, like many other civil rights activists at this time, was conscious of the correlation between capitalism and systemic racism. One of my favorite Martin Luther King quotes states:
“Capitalism does not permit an even flow of resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich without conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That’s the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to change the system.”
So, the DSA starts small. No, they may not win a presidential win, but they recognize the importance of building their movement from the ground up. Often times, members of the DSA work to win local offices to build their influence. For example, Chokwe Lumumba, who has been endorsed by both the Working Families Party and the DSA, became mayor of Jackson, Mississippi. The DSA also has a complete dedication to keeping Big Money out of politics. Our government isn’t run by politicians, but billionaires and special interests groups. These groups ensure that the government works in their favor and ignores the needs of working class people(i.e. a livable wage, universal health care.) We have to work to make sure that campaign finance rules are enforced effectively. In his 2016 bid for the presidency, Bernie Sanders’ campaign made millions solely from supporters’ donations and without the need of Super PACs, which allows corporations and billionaires to donate endless amounts of money to a campaign. At this time, the Republicans nor the Democrats have the interests of the working class at heart. Both these parties have been bought by interest groups.
Now, I consider myself a new Democratic Socialist. After researching materials, books, and listening to other self-proclaimed socialists I have a learned a great deal not only about my own political views but about a movement that truly cares about us ordinary people.