I attended the convention of the New York City branches of the Democratic Socialists of America yesterday. I was an observer, not a delegate. I sat in the back and marveled at how streamlined they managed to make the whole process for an organization that has increased in size about twelve times over in the past year. The proposals were mostly concise, the discussions swift and lucid, and as the silent voting went on the only sound in the whole place was a happy baby somewhere in the room making happy baby squealing sounds. At around hour 5 I started to get sleepy, so my main suggestion for the process for next year is that the venue be brighter and not kept at a nap-inducing mild warmth. It was not a thrill ride of an event, but I was happy to be there. I was, however, thrilled to see a guy among the delegates who I’d gone to college with, though I hadn’t known him that well. He came up to say hi when I was blearily shuffling to get coffee and donuts from the table in the back, and again in the bar after the convention proper was over.
He’d been more actively engaged in the convention than I was, so I assumed he’d been working with DSA longer than I had and I just hadn’t seen him around. Then he told me he’d joined because of me— that a facebook status I poasted back in January had convinced him to sign up, and that it had gone low-level viral among the alumni community of our school. He encouraged me to share the facebook status so it could be viewed by people who didn’t already know me, and hopefully stir them to action as well. The post follows:
I am a socialist.
I rarely say it directly like that, obvious as it is to anyone who’s paying attention to my poasts. I was recently at a meeting where an aging activist told a story about how even back in the heyday of 1960s activism, when marching in the streets and doing drugs and hating the establishment was a given, being a socialist was still something you would only quietly whisper to your closest confidant for the stigma it carried. Now I can say it, though, and so I will, because I want you to join me.
The events of the first few days of the Trump administration has shown us conclusively that while Republicans are cartoonishly evil, Democrats are a bunch of simpering ineffectual ninnies who will tweet about #TheResistance and then vote for anyone Republicans put forward anyway, even if voting against them would be a purely symbolic gesture that would have no consequences. This is because the Democratic establishment is comprised of a group of people who were apparently grown in vats in an underground lab somewhere within the DC beltway for the express purpose of taking up space and following rules, utterly oblivious to the fact that they actually have to appeal to an electorate to maintain power. In the occasions when they do get power, they do nothing with it because they are so concerned with the aspects of politics that absolutely nobody gives a shit about, such as “civility” and “decorum.”
They are so obsessed with civility and decorum that when a protestor socks a neo-nazi in the jaw, the liberal debate becomes “is it okay to punch a neo-nazi” and not “why is anyone giving neo-nazis a platform in the slightest, like seriously how did MOTHER JONES of all fucking publications give Richard Spencer a platform, what the fuck happened to Mother Jones?” Meanwhile, a right-wing extremist literally shoots a protestor in the gut outside of a Milo Yabbadabbadopolis talk and the liberal democrats hardly acknowledge it.
This is to say simply that the Democrats do not care about you. Liberals do not care about you. Democrats are a capitalist party who will pay lip service to the most shallow version of progressive identity politics but do nothing to economically advance the underclass or the oppressed. Liberals will attend a gay pride parade to get their activist merit badge and then tut-tut the incivility of punching a nazi because their love of law and order outweighs their actual sense of human decency on a macro scale.
These things are short-sighted morally and economically. Liberal morals will have you being polite and debating calmly until your last thought is “but I was so polite” as a gun is put to your head. Liberal economics will have a button pop up at the register to ask if you want to donate a dollar to the children who can’t afford healthcare to turn your activism into another act of consumption as you continue to play into an economic system which will devour the world in its drive for endless growth.
The common argument against socialism is that it would eliminate anyone’s incentive to work for a living. We fear a world of automation because it puts workers out of work. Under capitalism a factory staffed predominantly by robots results in capital flowing solely to the owners as the workers get laid off. Under socialism, with the factory as a worker-owned cooperative, robots mean vacations. Obviously you could still work to increase your quality of life. It doesn’t mean there’s no incentive to work, it means there’s no incentive to work for an awful company or a terrible boss who treats you like shit because the alternative is starving to death on the street. It means there’s no incentive for female servers to put up with lecherous customers for the sake of tips. It means there’s no incentive to destroy the planet for shareholder profit.
The way to get to a better tomorrow is through solidarity and numbers. Unflagging resolve and refusal to capitulate. Believing in and adhering to principles. Not the liberal democrat version of resistance where you buckle at the slightest pressure to avoid conflict. So I am writing this explicitly to recruit you, because I believe resistance to Trump must also be resistance to capitalism. He is capitalism embodied— short sighted and opulent and exploitative and potentially leading to the downfall of humanity and earth.
I do not have an immediate answer to this. I have no illusions about being The Protagonist Of The Resistance because there isn’t any one person. We are in this together. So I encourage you to join the Democratic Socialists of America. The DSA’s membership is surging to the point that the last meeting I went to had to have a secondary overflow meeting across the street. With greater numbers and funding than before they are organizing action committees on the various struggles facing us under the Trump administration, from helping maintain picket lines during strikes to sending aid to the water protectors at Standing Rock.
I do not know where we go from here, but I know we must do it together. There has been some criticism that the DSA has not been very effective in the past, and this is not unwarranted. However, they’ve been around since 1981, and their membership gained over all that time has doubled in the past few months. Let’s keep it up, organize, and actually do the work. There’s chapters all around the country. You can start your own chapter if you’re in an area without one and think there would be enough interest.
It is easy to feel despair. The only thing truly giving me hope since the election has been the spirit of solidarity with my comrades since joining the DSA. I encourage you to stand with us in solidarity, for a better tomorrow, for a world of mercy and generosity, for a world that is not beyond hope.
To cap it off, an excerpt from Rebecca Solnit’s “Hope In The Dark”
I say all this to you because hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. I say this because hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency; because hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal. Hope just means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope. At the beginning of his massive 1930s treatise on hope, the German philosopher Ernst Bloch wrote, ‘The work of this emotion requires people who throw themselves actively into what is becoming, to which they themselves belong.’ To hope is to give yourself to the future, and that commitment to the future makes the present inhabitable.