by Alec Hudson
Afternoon everyone. You all know why we are here. The American political system has given us one of the most depraved, corrupt, and bigoted leaders in our lifetime.
While there is no escaping this far-right reality that is ahead of us, the sight of all of us out here in the streets standing up for justice and liberation for black and brown people, working people, women, lgbtq people, immigrants, and all oppressed communities gives us reason to hope. No matter how bleak the future seems we all have a vision of a society beyond the evils of racism, capitalism, misogyny, colonialism, and white supremacy. Our visions may not look exactly the same, but it does not matter. We who believe in progress must remember that an injury to one is an injury to all, that we cannot have true liberation from economic oppression without liberation for all communities suffering from the evils of racism, capitalism, colonialism, and white supremacy.
We in Democratic Socialists of America are willing to work and struggle with anyone who has a vision of a future beyond these evils. We want to organize with those who do not care about loyalty to a party, particularly a party that talks progress but brings privatization to our public schools and black sites to our police departments. We want to organize for a system that cares about human need more than profit or property rights. There is much work to be done, but if we continue to stand and organize we will not only defeat the far-right but the very system of American capitalism, racism, homophobia, and oppression. We hope to see you in the streets. Thank you so much.
by Alec Hudson
When it comes to Hollywood and the Civil War, sentimentality and white saviour mentality are pervasive. Whether it is the 1989 film “Glory” or the melodramatic “Gods and Generals,” there’s always the classic trope of great men in history who dictate its conditions. “The Free State of Jones” is no exception, depicting the anti-Confederate insurgency in Jones County, Mississippi led by a poor white Confederate deserter Newton Knight, played by Matthew McConaughey.
The film attempts to show racial and economic solidarity between poor whites and runaway slaves attempting to usurp the power of the slave-owning aristocracy. The insurgency begins with Knight protecting neighbors against Confederate Home Guard soldiers who attempt to take a large portion of their crops, an act that leads to him living with runaway slaves in the swamps of Jones County where Confederate troops have a harder time catching them. As more whites desert the Confederate Army in Jones County the band of runaways and deserters grows large enough to carry out full-scale guerrilla raids against Confederate troops, eventually leading to the insurgency’s control of most of Jones County and neighboring counties with limited aid from the Union Army.
The first two acts, concerning the rise of the insurgency, showcase film’s the weakness and clichéd nature. While the film does have wonderful performances by black actors, particularly the performances of Mahershala Ali and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, the focus on Knight and his relationships combined with clichéd morals of tolerance makes the film little different in its white savior mentality. McConaughey, though a talented actor, gives a by-the-book performance that makes Knight a romanticized hero rather than a complex man from rural Mississippi whose attitude on race evolved. Added to this is the oddly framed story shift with Knight’s biracial son on trial in the 1950s for marrying a white woman in Mississippi, a background story that does not serve much of a purpose to the overall story’s narrative.
However, the film truly does shine in its third act depiction of Reconstruction. Very few films have depicted the essential re-enslavement of black Americans following the war, as well as the attempts at political and educational empowerment through defending voting rights, establishing free schools, and organizing Union Leagues to promote political empowerment and self-determination. The greatest depictions were in particular showing the attempts at registering former slaves to vote, the rigged nature of local elections, and the new “apprenticeship” system of sharecropping where free black free black people essential became property once again for plantation owners. Underlying the conditions depicted in the film is also the broken promise of economic compensation for former slaves, embodied in General Sherman’s Special Field Orders Number 15 which gave rise to the notion of freed slaves receiving forty acres and a mule. The lack of economic aid and the permission of plantation owners by the Federal government to reclaim property seized by Union forces do vividly show a microcosm of how the pre-war slave-owning aristocracy was allowed to maintain both its economic and political control on the South as well as politically and economically disenfranchise black people.
“The Free State of Jones” is a part of the Hollywood canon of romanticized American Civil War films focusing on the feats of male, white heroes against the evils of slavery. At the same time it contains one of the greatest depictions of the Reconstruction Era ever put to screen and does leave one hopeful for more films that use such brutal honesty to portray that era. With the reality of police violence against communities of color, we need more popular culture that analyzes the causes of Jim Crow and segregation. This film is, as Eileen Jones of Jacobin Magazine puts it “continuing the vital work of getting the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction right.”
by Alec Hudson
With the presidential primaries approaching and with Bernie Sanders gaining an edge over Hillary Clinton in the first primary and caucus states, the January 23rd March for Bernie was an embodiment of the enthusiasm for Sanders and his campaign. Over a thousand marchers arrived in front of the Daley Center and marched to the Chicago Board of Trade building, chanting slogans supporting Bernie and claiming “banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” In such an electric atmosphere people of all backgrounds spoke out against the inequality and lack of social services plaguing our nation, the state of Illinois, and the City of Chicago. The March was planned in coordination on social media with other marches supporting Sanders around the country.
The Chicago March was organized primarily by Movement4Bernie, a group created by Socialist Alternative to garner support for Bernie outside of the Democratic Party. Our participation was welcomed by Socialist Alternative, and perhaps will foster further cooperation with them in the future as their support for Bernie continues. Beyond Socialist Alternative members of organizations like the Chicago Teachers Union, National Nurses United, as well as delegates for Bernie to the Democratic Party National Convention were all in attendance as were elected officials like Alderwoman Susan Garza. Chicago DSA’s attendance was great, with about a dozen DSA members from our City and Oak Park branches marching along with members from DuPage county. There was a solid turnout for our city branch which has been steadily growing since our first meeting in December.
So far major media has chosen to ignore the March and the other marches around the country, but there is no doubt in the minds of progressive and left-wing voters that something is happening in this country when hundreds and thousands of people are marching for a social democratic candidate like Bernie. With the involvement of DSA in rallies like these as well as our own #WeNeedBernie campaign we are helping to build a movement that will go beyond this election and move our politics more into the realm of socialist thought and action.