DSA News

DSA National Convention

Delegates met November 13 through 15 in rural Pennsylvania. Of particular interest to Chicago DSA, Peg Strobel was re-elected to the National Political Committee, DSA’s functional equivalent to a board of directors. For more details, see Barbara Joye’s account at Democratic Left. An album of photos from the convention is HERE.

The Young Democratic Socialists will be meeting February 12 through 14 in New York City.

City of Chicago DSA

Chicago DSA covers the Chicago metropolitan area in Chicago, zip codes 600 through 609. It’s a big expanse. While we have had members from DeKalb and Kankakee come to meetings, even serve on the Executive Committee, it’s a long way to come. So we encourage folks to form branches and YDS chapters. The latest branch, in formation, is a branch for the city itself. The first meeting will be on Wednesday, December 16, at the Harold Washington Library. You can get more information and RSVP HERE.

DSA in the News

Elizabeth Whitman at the International Business Times mentioned New York DSA’s debate watching party first in a round-up of such events in New York City.

As a preview to Bernie Sanders’ speech on democratic socialism, WNPR’s Colin McEnroe Show included DSA’s Maria Svart as part of a discussion about the past, present and future of American socialism. In response to the speech, John Nichols mentioned DSA at The Nation: “Can Democratic Socialism Pass the Electability Test?” Harold Meyerson (who “hasn’t been to a DSA meeting in years”) pretty much agrees with Sanders’ definition of socialism at The American Prospect. Georgetown University’s The Hoya carried an account of Sanders’ speech by Toby Hung that included quotes from DSA staff David Duhalde and member Jules Bernstein.

Boulder Weekly posted an account of the DSA National Convention by David Anderson.

Samuel Hux found his former affiliation with DSA and socialism a useful ornamentation for an  ornamental essay at New English Review.

Central New Jersey DSA protested Governor Chris Christie’s bigoted stance toward Syrian refugees with a picket line outside his home and were written up by Lindsay Rittenhouse for nj.com, a web site for several New Jersey newspapers. An account by Charles Kim is posted at Democratic Left.

CBS News New York’s coverage of the Million Student March didn’t actually mention DSA, but it did focus on William Paterson University’s event with quotes from YDS activist Tyler Brenes, who helped organize the protest, and extended shots of the WPU YDS banner.

Democratic Socialism and the Rise of Student Protests in 2015

A statement by the YDS Coordinating Committee begins:

Over the last few weeks, student activism across the country has generated a successful wave of protests over the continuation of micro-aggressions, global White Supremacy, and student debt. The first protests at the University of Missouri ignited when University President Timothy Wolfe presented no action against the racial incidents occurring on their campus, including a swastika drawn on the wall with human feces. Following this, protests at Yale sparked as a result of email threads debating the effects and outcomes of cultural appropriation. At Harvard Law School, students woke up to hate crimes and defacing the portraits of tenured black professors. In addition students, including members of Young Democratic Socialists (YDS), across the country at Ithaca College, the City College of New York, Hamilton College, William Paterson University, UC Riverside and UC Davis among others held demonstrations in solidarity with the racial justice protests occurring, but also to demand an end to student debt. Alongside the student protests, political violence has emerged all over the country in an attempt to impose fear.  In Minneapolis, five BLM organizers were targeted and shot by white supremacists. We live in a time of great crisis.


Socialist International Council

DSA’s affiliation with the Socialist International was a subject for debate at the recent DSA National Convention. For the time being, DSA is still a member. The Socialist International Council met in Luanda, Angola, November 27 and 28. An account of the meeting is (or will be) HERE.

Norvelt: Hope Only in Hard Times?

Episode 58 of Talkin’ Socialism: Chicago DSA’s Peg Strobel in conversation with Margaret Power, co-author with Timothy Kelly and Michael Cary, of Hope in Hard Times: Norvelt and the Struggle for Community During the Great Depression, a discussion the New Deal planned community of Norvelt, Pennsylvania. Margaret Power explains how her personal history intersects with Norvelt and provides some insights as to how and why the politics of this region has changed since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

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Another Rotten Cover-Up

At The Chicago Reporter, Curtis Black outlines what is known about the Chicago Police Department attempt to conceal the execution of Laquan McDonald. Black quotes Jamie Kalven of The Invisible Institute:

“The real issue here is, this terrible thing happened, how did our governmental institutions respond?” Kalven said.  “And from everything we’ve learned, compulsively at every level, from the cops on the scene to the highest levels of government, they responded by circling the wagons and by fabricating a narrative that they knew was completely false.”  To him this response is “part of a systemic problem” and preserves “the underlying conditions that allow abuse and shield abuse.”


Trans Pacific Partnership

Public Citizen has published an initial analysis of the key chapters of the proposed “free trade” agreement. It’s worse than we thought. Read about it HERE. (PDF)

Violence Against Women’s Rights

At Mother Jones, Nina Liss-Schultz writes:

Since the release of the Center for Medical Progress’ videos that purport to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal issue, harassment, threats, and attacks against abortion providers, their staff, and facilities have surged dramatically across the country, according to new numbers from the National Abortion Federation.


Mergers and Alliance

National People’s Action, Alliance for a Just Society, and USAction are merging to form a new umbrella organization for consumer, community, and worker center organizations: People’s Action. Your editor doesn’t have any special insight as to the timing or the rationale for the union; the news was included in an email invitation to a reception, a form of bait perhaps. The three organizations already have some overlap in membership. Here in Illinois, Chicago DSA is a member of Citizen Action/Illinois, which is affiliated with USAction. Chicago DSA has a long history with Citizen Action/Illinois, back to when it was called the Illinois Public Action Council. They’re good people, even if we sometimes disagree.

Also in the works is an alliance between eight Chicago-area worker centers, the Raise the Floor Alliance:

Both a shared capacity builder and space for collective action, RTF represents the next step in the worker center movement. Founding members include Arise Chicago, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, Chicago Community & Workers Rights, Chicago Workers Collaborative, Latino Union of Chicago, Restaurant Opportunities Center, Warehouse Workers for Justice and Workers’ Center for Racial Justice.

They’re celebrating the launching of this project on December 9 at the National Mexican Museum of Art. You can get the details HERE.

Democratic Socialism

What Is Democratic Socialism?
For several years either side of the turn of the century, Dissent Magazine became… uncomfortable with the label “socialist”. They haven’t quite gotten over it, but well before even the Great Recession, they began once again to give the matter some serious attention. Apropos the Bernie Sanders campaign, the editors have dug into the archives and pulled out an interesting selection of essays spanning the years 1954 through 2010. You can find it HERE.

The folks at Jacobin provided a similar exercise, but directed specifically at Sander’s speech defining his outlook on democratic socialism. You can find it HERE.

DSA in the News

November 1, 2015 through November 13, 2015

At the History News Network, Lawrence Wittner details the list of prominent Americans who were socialists, mentioning DSA as a rapidly growing contemporary manifestation of democratic socialism. The essay has been picked up elsewhere. At The Nation, John Nichols mentions DSA and Michael Harrington to explain why grassroots Democrats have no problem with democratic socialism. Nicole Blair used DSA to help explain what Bernie Sanders means by democratic socialism at /Slant.

The Sanders campaign at Columbia was the context for mentioning a newly forming YDS chapter in an article by Emma Tueller Stone in the Columbia Daily Spectator.

And who is Bernie Sanders? asks Jessica Geggert at Mic, referring to DSA for a definition of democratic socialism.

At the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Chris Potter wrote up the DSA National Convention.

New Book Announcement

Past Chicago DSA Political Education Officer Bill Pelz has a new book out: A People’s History of Modern Europe. Distributed by the University of Chicago Press, they describe it thus:

The origin of capitalism and modern industrialism – and, not unrelated, the birthplace of Marxism – modern Europe provided the perfect conditions for a great number of political revolutions. From the monarchical terror of the Middle Ages to the mangled Europe of the twenty-first century, A People’s History of Modern Europe tracks the history of the continent through the deeds of those whom mainstream history tries to forget.

Along the way, William A. Pelz examines the German peasant wars of Thomas Müntzer, the bourgeoisie revolutions of the eighteenth century, the rise of the industrial worker in England, the turbulent journey of the Russian Soviets, the role of the European working class throughout the Cold War, and the revolutionary students in 1968. He then brings his story to the present day, where we continue to fight to forge an alternative to a heartless and often barbaric economic system.

As Germany and Greece argue over who owes what, with the very idea of Europe crumbling around them, Pelz’s accessible, provocative history could not be timelier. Sure to resonate with fans of books like Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, this people’s history sweeps away the tired platitudes of the privileged and provides an opportunity to understand the story of Europe from the ground up.

Available June, 2016.

Talkin’ Socialism

Restorative Justice can be individual and it can be social. Restorative Justice addresses the past but it encompasses the future. Bellissima Opera, based in Oak Park, Illinois, has begun a major project celebrating people who transcend racial and political divides.

The Transcendence Triptych is an operatic triple-bill. The first piece is Outside the Ring. It is based on the friendship that developed between two boxers, the German Max Schmeling and the American Joe Louis, after their fights in the 1930s. The second, Reconciliation, highlights an extraordinary act of forgiveness that happened during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in post-apartheid South Africa. Future Perfect draws its inspiration from workshops with Chicagoland youth on themes of diversity, interconnectedness and transcendence.

Richard Pokorny interviews Bellissima Opera Artistic Director Christine Steyer about this work in progress: Its origins, its current state, upcoming events, and how you can become involved. This episode includes the Chicago première performance of the aria “Transcendence.”

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MP3 (36.8 MB) or OGG VORBIS (12.8 MB) (38:21)