DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISTS OF AMERICA CONVENE
In a quiet rural Orthodox Christian retreat called Antiochian Village outside Pittsburgh, some 120 activists from across the country gathered together from Nov. 13-15 to discuss how the U.S. can become more democratic and egalitarian. It was the national convention of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), which is the nation’s largest socialist group with 6,500 members.
“Who among us,” DSA National Director Maria Svart asked the convention, “could have imagined even two years ago that the question of capitalism versus socialism as a viable alternative would come up in a mainstream presidential debate? Or that over 700,000 people would donate to an avowed socialist candidate for president?” She said Bernie Sanders is “reframing the debate, reversing the rightward slide of acceptable political discourse in the U.S., and removing the ‘socialist bogeyman’ as a rhetorical weapon of the capitalist class. This is the opportunity of our lives to build the socialist movement.”
On the other hand, she asked, “Who among us could have predicted that we would have a mainstream presidential candidate claiming that our country could ‘humanely’ deport the millions of people without papers who live and work among us? Or that antiunion ‘right-to-work’ (for less) would be the law in 25 states, including labor strongholds like Michigan.”
She noted “even if we elect Bernie Sanders to the White House next year, we will still face a reactionary Congress, corporate Democrats seeking to prevent transformative reforms and Republican control of numerous state houses and governor’s mansions. So gathering our strength during this movement moment is critical, because we’re in it for the long haul.”
DSA has been growing in recent years. The first new full-fledged local chapter in Austin, Texas,doubled in membership within months. Since Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy, eight new DSA organizing committees have formed around the country.
Many of the delegates to the convention were young people. This semester, Young Democratic Socialists (DSA’s youth group) admitted five new chapters which brings the total number of chapters to 20. Three of the new chapters are in colleges and two are in high schools.
There was discussion at the convention of “intersectionality,” which is a sociological analysis of how institutions and social relations are shaped by over lapping and interdependent systems of oppression based upon class, race, gender, age, sexual orientation and other categories.
The convention discussed and voted to adopt a long-range political strategy for our era which is contained in a 60-page document. It had been worked on for two years via an online forum and in monthly small-group conference calls on various strategic issues, such as the future of the labor movement and racial politics.
DSA’s major priority at the moment is working for Bernie Sanders. DSA has an independent Bernie campaign that emphasizes increasing public awareness of the democratic socialist alternative to capitalism. Sanders isn’t a member of DSA but he has had friendly relations with DSA since his days as mayor of Burlington. DSA PAC held fund-raising parties around the country for him when he ran for the Senate seat in 2007. He has addressed DSA conventions a number of times.
Nevertheless, DSAers have criticized him for some foreign policy positions and for not adequately addressing the racial justice issues at the beginning of his campaign. While Sanders doesn’t call for full democratic control of the economy in his campaign, he proposes economic redistribution to fund a Scandinavian-style welfare state. In this country, that is incredibly radical. Public opinion polls show that his radical proposals are supported by a majority of Americans.
— Dave Anderson
TRANSGENDER DAY OF REMEMBRANCE
On April 13, a 21-year-old transgender man waiting for a bus at the 1600 block of 28th Street in Boulder was attacked — his attacker punched the un-named man in the face, then groped his breasts and stomach while yelling transphobic and homophobic slurs.
The young man was able to escape and contact the police, but this is not the case for dozens of transgender individuals across the U.S. every year. According to the National LGBTQ Task Force, there have been at least 23 transgender women and gender nonconforming people murdered thus far in 2015. Not only were these victims women, but the majority were also of color. On a global scale, the death toll is approaching 300.
“I have to stress these are only the people we know of,” says Sara Connell, education and services manager for Out Boulder. “It’s so common for families to use the wrong name and pronouns on a police report to cover it up, or for police themselves to misgender people and cover it up. And then there are the cases that don’t ever get solved or don’t get any attention in the first place, especially when you look at this on a global scale.”
So on Nov. 20, Out Boulder will lead a local Transgender Day of Remembrance march and vigil to honor the memory of those murdered because of transgender discrimination. TDOR is observed annually in recognition of the 1998 murder of Rita Hester, a highly visible member of the transgender community in Boston, who was stabbed 20 times in her apartment. Hester’s murder, like the majority of transgender murders, remains unsolved.
This year’s Day of Remembrance in Boulder will begin at 6:45 p.m. at the old courthouse at 13th and Pearl with speakers from the state and federal government, transgender women of color and allies. Attendees will then take a silent, candlelit march down Pearl Street with banners bearing the names of the North American people who lost their lives this year and last. After the march, a nonreligious ceremony will be held from 8-9 p.m. at First United Methodist Church.
Connell says attendees will read the names of those who lost their lives this year and a moment of silence will be taken for each life.
For Connell, an activist and publically transgender woman, the Day of Remembrance is more than a vigil.
“Every year it’s this very difficult line we have to walk of somber remembrance and honoring the folks that we’ve lost, and also embracing each other in the community and understanding that allyship and community between the transgender community is the only way to survive this level of violence and to survive a culture that is so oppressive and so alienating for a lot of us,” she says.
LOCAL ORGANIZATION STILL SENDING DELEGATES TO UPCOMING CLIMATE SUMMIT IN PARIS
Fear cannot stop the work Boulderbased nonprofit Global Greengrants must do to address global climate change, particularly their attendance at the upcoming U.N summit on climate change in Paris.
The 21st Conference of the Parties, or COP21, is set to begin on Nov. 30 in the French capitol. But in the wake of the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris that left more than 120 people dead, a series of events linked to the conference will be canceled due to security fears.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French radio network RTL that the conference will be “reduced to the negotiation” between countries’ representatives and that “a lot of concerts and festivities will be canceled.”
Leaders and negotiators from more than 190 countries will be gathering in Paris, and organizers expect some 40,000 delegates a day to attend planned events around the city.
Global Greengrants will add 40 some youth, indigenous peoples and grassroots women to this crowd.
Terry Odendahl, president and CEO of Global Greengrants, says she and the rest of the Greengrants team are “grieving for the people who died, and their families, in Paris, Beirut and elsewhere.”
“But it’s important not to succumb to fear because that was the intention of the terrorists,” Odendahl says.
She says it also offers an “unfortunate” opportunity to stress the linkage between global climate change and global security, referencing a number of analyses of the war in Syria and its relationship to climate change.
Global Greengrants is working closely with grassroots campaign 350. org to not only sponsor a number of delegates from around the world, but to also hold a number of presentations before and during the conference. The groups will focus on topics including the role youth play in the global movement for action on climate change; climate justice and women’s rights; and how community leaders can mobilize across generational gaps.
“There are already so many threats to grassroots activism around the world,” Odendahl says, “and among our advisors and grantees, they can’t give up their work because of fear.”