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Opening Remarks from our Chapter Convention

Last weekend, on February 24, 2024, Cleveland DSA held its second Chapter Convention. Below are the opening remarks from Chapter Secretary Damion A.

The Cleveland Democratic Socialists of America seeks to facilitate the transition to a truly democratic and socialist society, one in which the means and resources of production are democratically and socially controlled.

Our organization represents one of the only democratic and member-run and funded organizations anywhere. We’re building a multi-tendency political identity in Cleveland that is independent of the capitalist parties that dominate all levels of our present government. Our goal is the self emancipation of the organized working class through a democratic mass socialist movement, not pre-packaged liberation that was handed down from on high by party elites.

We want to make Cleveland DSA our members’ political home, through both our internal democracy and our principled external campaigns for the working class. We want to help our members grow into organizers who can help to shift the balance of power to the working class in their workplaces, unions, and communities.

We are here today to decide on our chapter’s priorities for the year and to make adjustments to our guiding document so that its easier for us to practice democracy. We don’t hold our bylaws document as sacred and untouchable. It’s a practical tool. More importantly, it’s an agreement we form with ourselves so that we can confidently work without worrying that we’re overstepping or taking over. Our exact bylaws probably wouldn’t work well for another chapter elsewhere. The details wouldn’t fit but the general spirit is to be found in each one. And in a few years, after we’ve grown in number and gained more victories, today’s bylaws will be a poor fit. If we haven’t changed them sufficiently along the way then we will have another convention. We welcome this inevitability. The bylaws are an artifact of our democracy and enable our democracy.

A guide to basic parliamentary procedures used to empower members at Convention and our chapter’s General Meetings

Democracy has always been the scarcest resource. We can imagine a capitalist owner sitting in his office and watching his balance sheets increase. He standardized his factory equipment and financial practices. Everything can be easily understood in a nicely formatted report. And then Jacob tells his boss he needs time off for a religious holiday. And Stacy keeps saying her manager calls her by a “dead name”. And Katie says that says the women are paid less than men for the same work. And women of color point out that they make even less than everyone. And another guy says the benefits plan excludes his husband. And that plan that he wants so badly doesn’t cover reproductive health and the copay is enormous. And everyone knows that what they do all day doesn’t really matter anyway. These fictitious people are placeholders for you and me. We’ve all been harmed by capitalism. We all fell into the same grinder when we were born.

In the old days, when the early capitalists wanted undifferentiated compliant drones, they’d send violent young men somewhere far away where it was easy to tell apart the bosses from the laborers using their respective physical differences. When the native workforce spoke up, it was easy to tell who to shoot. The situation for capitalists has gotten more complicated since then. They still send kids with guns to take people over, without a doubt. Where that won’t do, they need other ways to standardize their workforce. They bring the colonial attitude home and start splitting up the workforce by what they see as obvious differences.

So, while the capitalists in charge work on a way to make computers behave like docile emotionally inert humans, there are all these random workers with ancient prejudices that hate the very people who are keeping them from turning a bigger profit. If he looks the other way or wrings his hands in sympathy while they persecute his employees then they’ll be too sick and tired to fight me for a better working conditions. If living in fear for your life reduces the company’s HR overhead then the stockholders will be happy, the boss will be pacified, and the executives will get a bonus. Then they can put you in a job that shortens your life and turns your personal time into a recovery period for your next shift. They will use your health to push units and your emotions to improve productivity.

Once while canvassing for DSA I came across a stray dog. He was a big dog and we didn’t know each other but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He was lost and alone. I used kind words to comfort him and held out my hand with a treat. These actions together, verbal and material, indicated that I was unlikely to harm him. He came over, I gave him a piece of bagel I had in my pocket from earlier, and returned him home. In our work as socialists we need to speak out and contradict repressive misinformation that comes from a variety of sources. We describe the world honestly and rationally amid the constant clatter of advertising, bias, and myth. But we also need to hold out our hand and offer material support. We do as much as we can in the world to make real improvements in the lives of actual working people.

Our chapter has accomplished a great deal, internally and externally, since a few comrades came together in the 2010s to reform a Cleveland local. Mere months ago we joined the successful fight to get abortion rights in the state constitution. In 2022-23 we fought in solidarity with Starbucks Workers to keep union stores going in the long fight for a contract. In 2021 we held our first chapter convention, drafting our chapter’s bylaws together from scratch. From the early days of COVID-19 until late 2022 we mobilized to support tenants facing eviction and spread the message of tenant power. In 2019 we ran Brake Light Clinics to help reduce Clevelanders interactions with the numerous police gangs of Cleveland, and finished a campaign as the key ground force of CLASH securing a city ordinance on lead paint.

At this convention, we’ll be fiddling with the knobs and levers of our chapter, replacing and cleaning the parts. It may not look exciting to an outside observer but for us it is exhilarating. Democracy doesn’t exist until it happens. It is an activity, not only a state of mind. And here we all are, so different, with so much in common, and we can all speak up and shape the policies that shape our work. And you don’t have to wear a nice suit, or the right clothes for your assigned gender, or wear your hair in a certain way, or speak perfect English. You weren’t appointed to a board by someone who owns a yacht. You didn’t have to muscle your way through a hierarchy for years to force your way into a seat at the table. You didn’t have to prove yourself or flash your credentials to justify being here. We want you here because you are you. We want to know you. The world is a better, more interesting place with you in it and we are lucky that you’ve chosen to spend your time with us. That kind of fellowship is a privilege offered by socialism. One way to consider democracy is that an entire group of people consult with each individual to say “you are important and we won’t go ahead until we hear what you think.” It is the essence of our project. Democracy isn’t about casting votes, specifically. It’s the belief that everyone should be included. Decisions about you should not be made without you. We matter because you matter.

The post Opening Remarks from our Chapter Convention appeared first on Democratic Socialists of America.

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Austin Socialist News BulletinFebruary 2024

by Sara G.. 

Austin Socialist News Bulletin – February 2024

Austin DSA has been hitting the pavement! Every weekend this month, we’ve had at least two canvasses, either for our endorsed candidates or for our Schools for All Campaign. The primary election on March 5th will decide our District Attorney, but we have more work to do campaigning for Mike Siegel for City Council and to support our public schools. We remain committed to doing everything within our power to stop the genocide and provide aid to Gazans, and continue working in coalition with Palestinian and Jewish activist groups in Austin as part of the Austin for Palestine Coalition. 

In the past month…

  • The Democratic primary is on Tuesday, March 5th. We’ve had numerous conversations with voters as part of block walks for District Attorney José Garza.  The Republican money machine has gone into full force behind José’s competitor, with mud-slinging television ads and mailers. Early voter turnout has been low, and large numbers of Republicans are voting in the open democratic primary to try and defeat José. José’s advantage is people power, so we will continue to canvass and phonebank to reelect him in a landslide.

  • At the end of January, the Texas AFL-CIO became the first state labor federation to call for a ceasefire after October 7th. Young Active Labor Leaders (YALL) held a teach-in about Palestine before the vote, and union members did a lot of internal organizing before the vote to activate their fellow members.

  • DSA members participated in the Texas United Against Genocide in Palestine statewide rally, with a special march to the capitol for Texas labor, and later in the Hands Off Rafah rally. We have also continued writing op-eds and contacting every city council meeting to demand a city-wide resolution calling for a ceasefire.

  • We created a pledge for Austin shoppers to sign saying that they won’t buy goods made in Israel. Once we have enough signatures from consumers, we can begin discussions with grocers to remove those items from their shelves.
  • More than 100,000 democratic voters in Michigan cast votes for “uncommitted” in protest of Biden’s persistence in funding the Israeli military. DSA supported the campaign through phone banks and is now launching similar campaigns in WA and MN.

  • We’ve continued to support Starbucks Workers United with a Valentine’s Day sip-in as a teach-in. On February 28th, the union announced that Starbucks has agreed to start discussing a collective bargaining agreement and returning cash tips and other benefits to union members.

  • We joined the line at the Worldwide Flight Attendant day of Action at Austin Bergstrom airport.

The post

Austin Socialist News Bulletin

February 2024
first appeared on Red Fault.

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Maine DSA Joins Palestine Coalition

Since October 2023, a number of groups in Maine have coalesced around one pressing issue: keeping Palestinians alive under Israel’s genocidal apartheid. The killing is bolstered by our own government’s money, weapons, and intelligence services. It is being carried out by a far-right Israeli government seeking total control of the land west of the Jordan River. Solidarity actions have been carried out across the Pine Tree State since Israel launched what is essentially large-scale collective punishment for armed resistance. These actions have included weekly stand-outs and larger marches in the Portland area; frequent protests in Augusta, Bangor, Freeport, Lewiston, and other municipalities; demonstrations at Bath Iron Works and the General Dynamics facility in Saco; and student protests in Portland, Bangor, Brunswick, Farmington, and Orono. Mainers have not been silent as we watch—to our collective horror—a genocide unfold. 

Maine DSA members attended many of these actions and were active in the coalition by endorsing the first large rally in support of Palestinian liberation in October and participating in phone-banking via our national organization. A vote at the chapter’s semi-annual meeting in January unanimously endorsed a motion to join the coalition in an official capacity. The “From The River To The Sea” working group was established as the liaison between the chapter and the local coalition. We are stronger when we stand together for justice and we are prepared to stand with everyone fighting for Palestinian liberation.

Who comprises this coalition? What are some of our goals and tactics? Most importantly, what does Maine DSA have to offer in the stateside fight for Palestinian liberation? 

The guiding principles of our coalition acknowledge that solidarity is the basis of this struggle. We are currently living on stolen Wabanki land while we witness Israel steal land and life from Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. Israel’s government needs continuous American propaganda and financial assistance, and relies on our congressional delegation to vote for said support. Putting pressure on Senators Collins and King and Representatives Pingree and Golden to call for a ceasefire and to divest military expenditures from Israel’s illegal apartheid is the fundamental call of the coalition. Actions throughout the state have specifically targeted our elected officials in many capacities, including phone banks, office sit-ins, local and statehouse protests, and a general public outcry. As the Israeli Defense Forces proceed to bomb civilians every night, our calls for peace feel more urgent. Our representatives would do well to heed our demands—including Rep. Chellie Pingree who has yet to sign on to House Resolution 786 sponsored by Rep. Cori Bush calling for a ceasefire. instead of slathering more blood on their hands.

The Maine coalition aims to facilitate coordinated community action throughout the state with different ways for all people to engage. Whether we agitate in-person, online, over the phone, in Instagram comments, around kitchen tables, marching in the streets, or through written words and art, we must be certain to center Palestinian people, their voices, their anguished demands, their calls for liberation, and their undeniable humanity. Members of the coalition are in contact with friends and family in Gaza and the West Bank—acknowledging their plight led one activist at a recent protest to exclaim “[Being arrested] can’t be worse than being in Gaza right now.” It is hard to disagree when our social media feeds and news stories are dominated with footage of gunfire, rubble, and blood.

Many groups have been hard at work for months now and Maine DSA is bolstering the effort by officially joining the coalition. Knowing who we are standing alongside at actions and online will deepen our understanding and sow the seeds of solidarity we need to see justice bloom here in Maine and, crucially, in Palestine for Palestinians. 

Maine Voices for Palestinian Rights (MVPR) has worked for over twenty years and is a central hub of current coalition work. Their volunteers are committed to statewide, nonviolent advocacy, evidenced by their teach-ins for all ages, rallies, and lobbying of congressional delegations. They collate and publicize statewide pro-Palestinian events on their calendar and keep tabs on when any actions that are planned for your neck of the woods! If you don’t see anything near you, reach out to change that. Their volunteers are always ready and willing to help organize events. No town is too small.

Activists with Jewish Action have been outspoken in Maine. They hold tight to the progressive Jewish tradition of liberatory struggles in order to build a joyful, beautiful, and life-sustaining world for all. Their work resisting Zionist violence is a manifestation of their commitment to racial justice as much as an act of solidarity with Palestinians. By calling for a permanent ceasefire, they seek to cultivate justice where destruction flourishes and blocks out peace. They know that their Judaism demands they stand up for anyone who is struggling. “Not in our Name” is emblazoned on the protest signs they carry.

Resources for Organizing and Social Change (ROSC) seeks peaceful change through education, activation, and empowerment to improve Maine through grassroots organizing. With particular focus on those “most affected by oppressive systems,” intersectional solidarity beats at the heart of their work as they champion rights for disabled Mainers, Black Mainers, and immigrants new to Maine, all the while advocating for Palestinian justice. 

The Maine chapter of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) has been actively organizing and speaking at many of the actions since October. In their national publication’s statement on October 7, they correctly note that “resistance to apartheid and fascist-type oppression is not a crime!” Their members have willingly listened to the directive to mobilize and demand freedom for Palestine.

The Communist Party of Maine understands that multiracial and multinational unity are prerequisites for the liberation of the working class worldwide, and for the democratic expansion of socialism stateside. By equally decrying both Islamophobia and antisemitism, they support shattering unjust capitalist structures of oppression that harm Palestinian people in occupied lands and Jewish people across the globe. Check out what these comrades are up to on their website.

We cannot overlook the value that students bring to such a protracted fight. Maine Students for Palestine encourages college students to “speak out against Western imperialism” from inside the centers of American empire. Students have carried out actions at universities throughout the state, building bridges between campuses where miniscule distinctions seek to divide. Please check out their resource document for more information.

Maine Labor for Palestine continues the union tradition of organizing to end systems of oppression. The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions called for international union support on October 16th and Maine union members have answered. By supporting the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement, labor can actively impact material conditions in Maine, Israel, and Palestine in ways that uphold life for everyone. Workers of the world unite, indeed! 

The Southern Maine Workers’ Center (SMWC) highlights the role the United States is playing in fueling violence at home and abroad. They acknowledged the role of the U.S. in funding settler colonial projects and exploiting workers to reap outrageous profits.

Healthcare Workers for Palestine (HCW4P) is leveraging the power of healthcare workers “to hold our health systems accountable to the values of human rights.” To date, over 5,600 people have signed onto their statement  that rightly points to the catastrophic collapse of care work in Gaza over the course of the Israeli blockade. A key part of their participation is the belief that all humans are deserving of medical care in Maine, in Israel, and, most urgently, in Palestine.

Since 1982, Peace Action Maine has been calling for global nuclear disarmament and an end to war. They link our insufficient domestic policies and lack of social care to our government’s militaristic foreign policies of violence and control. Cutting U.S. aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) while attempting to send Israel even more money and munitions to carry out their genocidal campaign is absurd, and Peace Action has no problem pointing this out. 

From pine trees to olive branches,  Maine Natural Guard (MNG) approaches Palestinian solidarity from an anti-militaristic, ecological perspective. They remind us of the cost of pollution and fuel consumption when waging war and the devastating, lasting toll on our land and water. With an ever-ballooning “defense” budget, the Pentagon is one of the largest contributors to climate collapse on the planet, and they cannot continue “business as usual.” Locally, MNG has called on Bath Iron Works to “stop building carbon belching war ships and instead build solutions to climate catastrophe,” joining others in Midcoast protests against General Dynamics.

Mainers in the Veterans for Peace (VFP) make clear they understand what IDF leaders mean by their “rules of engagement.” They implore us to acknowledge the harm American “aid” and “intervention” have caused, are causing, and will continue to cause if we cannot alter the course of spending. Finding American support of violent solutions untenable, they advocate for conscientious and life-affirming peace. The risk of escalation grows every day we do nothing, and veterans acutely know what horrors await a world engulfed in bloodshed.

Maine DSA is proud to stand with the aforementioned groups and the countless individuals who demand to see injustice abolished and peace upheld for everyone. The Palestinian people have been struggling for a very long time, demanding to be listened to on a global scale. Mainers have not stood idly by while an ethnic cleansing is carried out with American support, and we will continue to agitate for dignity, health, and happiness. Join us however and whenever you can. If your organization is interested in joining, please fill out this form to get involved. Spreading solidarity can lead to a better world—so let’s go! We have a world to win! 

(If organizations were unintentionally neglected from this piece or coalition members would like to make any additions or corrections, please contact [email protected].)

Tyler Eaves is a non-binary member of Maine DSA. They can be found frolicking in the forests around Sanford with their spouse, dogs, cat, and rabbit. 

Photo credit Maine Coalition for Palestine

The post Maine DSA Joins Palestine Coalition appeared first on Pine & Roses.

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GND Campaign Commission January & Febuary 2024 Recap

January and February were the Months of Training here at the Green New Deal Campaign Commission! Part of our mandate is to train, coach, and workshop strategic campaigns oriented around our Building for Power principles. Here’s how we did that this winter.

Strategic Trainings

We re-upped our 3-session Strategic Campaign Training with DSA’s Growth and Development Committee. Multiple GNDCC members and Rashad X from the Growth and Development Committee trained over 50 comrades on planning a strategic campaign, using real case studies from NYC, Cleveland, and more. 

Watch and share the training and materials here:

Our fave bit of feedback: someone was unsure about staying in DSA but was so motivated by the trainings, they re-upped their dues!

Collaborative COaching

Our commission also works in close collaboration with chapters. We held dedicated sessions with Twin Ports; and Boston + Charlottesville + Denver in January. Chapters may be in different stages of campaign ideation but there is always something to learn or get refreshed on.

And finally, we held our monthly Campaign Huddles as usual, and February’s was something special. Zeth S. and Natsuki N. from Bozeman DSA walked through their Social Housing campaign and how it built internal leadership, made inroads with labor, and more. While we don’t have a recording, you can get the slides here.

Zeth is one of our Building for Power Coaches. Coaches are experienced leaders whom we connect with our campaigns to facilitate their growth and success. Through our Commission they’ve logged hundreds of hours of one-on-ons, meetings, workshops, and more!

If your chapter is ready to Build for Power and get dedicated trainings and support, fill out our interest form and come to our March huddle where we’ll be training on what’s on everyone’s mind these days: fundraising!

Chapter Campaigns

One such campaign is Louisville DSA’s “Get on the Bus” campaign to fund TARC buses. Last year we were able to donate to Louisville’s campaign so they could design and print stickers with QR codes that direct riders to a survey, sign up link, and campaign website at bus stops on key routes. They kicked off stickering in Jaunary and dozens of people have responded.

Donate now to support work like this:

Solidarity together

Whether you’re a new to DSA or a ride-or-die lifer, now more than ever we need all members to support the organization. Tap below to join thousands of members in giving 1% of your yearly income as dues.

The post GND Campaign Commission January & Febuary 2024 Recap appeared first on Building for Power.
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2024-2025 NPEC Applications are open

The National Political Committee is looking for nominees to serve on the National Political Education Committee from May 2024 through April 2025! As the DSA committee charged with providing a socialist political education to its members and the public, NPEC welcomes members with substantial roots in diverse areas of DSA. We are asking chapters and official national committees, working groups, and caucuses for nominations (specifically, formally recognized caucuses such as Afrosocialists and Socialists of Color Caucus, not ideological caucuses).

Nominees should be prepared to devote 8 hours a month minimum to committee business and contribute to substantive discussion on the content of political education material as well as contribute to its implementation. This implementation can take place in (but is not limited to) any of NPEC’s four principal areas of organizing:

  • Chapter Support, which holds regular workshops to support local political education programs, develop DSA members’ skill base, and connect chapters with experienced mentors
  • Events and Speakers, which hosts national political education events year-round on basic socialist ideas and critical issues in our current movement
  • Curriculum, which develops an expanding library of ready-to-use political education materials
  • Communications, which broadcasts and furthers our committee’s work through social media, our podcast, and our newsletter

Chapters, national committees and working groups, and caucus steering committees (or equivalent) must email their nominee’s contact information (name, email address, and phone number) to [email protected] by 3/24. All DSA members interested in joining NPEC, whether nominated by a DSA body or applying as an individual, must apply via this form by Tuesday, 4/9 [extended by one week!]. Appointments by the NPC will be announced by 4/30 to begin their terms on 5/1.

If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to the Political Education Committee at [email protected] or RSVP here to join us for one of two information sessions:

Sunday, March 10th 2-3pm PT/5-6pm ET
Tuesday, March 19th 5-6pm PT/8-9pm ET

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Abstention is Justified When the Crime is Genocide

by Jean Allen

The following article is opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of Rochester DSA.

I am writing on Sunday the 25th of February, having arrived home from a walk. Before that walk, I saw a poll that showed majority support for a ceasefire within both Muslim American and Jewish American communities. Along that walk I saw a dozen signs put up by organizations who’s names I have never heard of, charging President Biden with genocide and calling for a ceasefire. And as I get home I see news that Aaron Bushnell has self-immolated in front of the Israeli embassy.

I write this to say that the movement for a ceasefire, and the split that it is creating within the Democratic base—young people, people of color, and union members—is not being brought into existence by some outside actor. It is a natural response to the horror unfolding before our very eyes. As Neil Meyer notes in his Substack, nearly 30 million young voters are expressing disdain and distrust toward the Biden administration for supporting Israel’s genocide morally and materially, and that was three months ago. The movement to fight for a ceasefire exists regardless of our actions, and it is beginning to express itself in an explicit movement to vote ‘Uncommitted’ in Michigan’s Democratic primary. I think that DSA should take this call and run with it—that we as an organization must call on our members not to vote for Biden so long as he perpetuates the war in Gaza, a framing called “No Votes For Genocide.” This is the best way for our organization to move forward, and is the best use of our collective vote.

Every election cycle these sorts of discussions about voting occur, and they are almost always posed in a liberal-individualist way, where voting is akin to making a consumer purchase. Sure, we’ll criticize Biden; but when we’re in the voting booth we’ll pull the right lever, right? But that individual vote is really a small show of power. I personally have not voted for a Democrat for president since 2012, and wrote in the name of the chapter chair for the 2020 election. But that does not matter since we live in upstate New York—a state where if my vote in the presidential election “matters” in any way, Biden has already lost. So if our individual, private votes do not matter, it is only through collective action that they have power, which reveals the real purpose of the “won’t you vote for Biden” conversation: it’s asking us not to criticize in any way that really matters. If that wasn’t the case, why are we being browbeaten now, nine months before the election? Because ultimately it is our collective vote, our ability to influence others, that matters so much more.

Protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. (Credit: Los Angeles Times)

I think that in this election we’re choosing between two people who are worse than fascists, they’re US presidents. We have lived through four years of Trump and four years of Biden, and during both administrations we have seen rights scaled back, minorities attacked, militarism retrenched, and now a genocide unfolding in front of our eyes—a genocide that most Americans do not want and who are seeking a way to voice their opposition. I think that we should be that voice, that we should take the head of the movement and call on people to withhold their votes so long as Gaza burns.

To those who think that the presidential election, or Gaza is some form of distraction, that we should just put our nose to the grindstone and organize while taking an agnostic position on the election, I disagree on pragmatic grounds (alongside the obvious ethical grounds: it is cowardice and tacit support for Biden’s foreign policy). The movement for a ceasefire exists and commands tens of thousands of activists and millions of people’s imaginations, and the state’s reaction to pro-peace protests will define the work that all of us do. If we choose to stand on the sidelines and hope to be hailed as leaders, that is taking a position, but not a ‘pragmatic’ one. DSA should take the lead in calling to use our votes in the most effective manner; particularly, holding them ransom against the Biden administration.

To those who think that this will prompt attacks on DSA and cause a full break from the Biden administration—I agree, and I think this is good. To be attacked for having the correct position is a good thing, and the idea that supporting the Biden administration ‘gets’ us anything rests on mistaken premises. Because although I think ransoming our vote in exchange for a ceasefire is the best route available to us as a socialist organization to get one, I harbor no illusions concerning the Biden administration’s commitment to Zionism. I think that Biden will continue funding and arming the Israeli army despite the crisis of legitimacy these actions are causing. So the ultimate question is not “who do we want to be president,” or even “how do we make sure that the ceasefire occurs,” it is how we organize the people opposed to this war; how we cohere the oppressed and exploited. That can only be done by taking an oppositional stance to the imperial state that is aiding and abetting this genocide and doing all it can to avoid listening to the people.

The Biden administration has clearly demonstrated its position to the left: they have no intent on changing their minds, no desire for the votes from the left, and nothing to offer besides the threat of a Trump presidency. Biden’s presidency has been one of the solidification of every Trump policy, down to the acceptance of Trump’s chauvinistic migrant policy as a part of an idiotic ‘gotcha’ campaign, and because of that the Biden administration is the least popular presidential administration since the beginning of modern polling. They have made their bed, and it is not our job to support them in it. It is our job, as socialists, to unite the working class under a policy that articulates and acts upon these grievances. We can do that only through full support of the ‘Uncommitted’ campaign.

The post Abstention is Justified When the Crime is Genocide first appeared on Rochester Red Star.

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Madison Area DSA’s 2024 Chapter Convention

It’s time once again for our annual Madison Area DSA Chapter Convention, happening on Saturday, March 23 from 10 AM to 5 PM at the Goodman Community Center. Please RSVP as soon as possible! This year, we’re excited to move back to an in-person convention (masks will be required and provided).

At Convention, members in good standing are invited to take a look back at the past year and make important decisions about the direction of the upcoming year. Here’s what you can expect at the MADSA Convention: getting to know your comrades and team building, political discussion, voting on exec positions, working group charters, chapter campaigns, and lunch. 

The 2024 About the MADSA Convention Guide has everything you know about Convention, what to submit, what to expect, voting procedures, and more. Please bookmark it. 

We’re asking members to submit the following things by March 15th: Nominate yourself or someone else for the executive committee! The executive committee is responsible for day-to-day chapter operations and making decisions between membership meetings.

Nominate yourself or someone else for the Community Accountability Committee!. The CAC members help with community accountability.

Working group report and charter: Do you want to recharter your working group? Does your charter need to change? Do you have an idea for a new working group? This year, all Working Group charters will need 5 chapter members to sign on before submission.

Chapter priority campaign proposals: What should the chapter work together on? We’ll be collecting campaign proposals and voting on one. If you have a campaign idea, please complete the Strategic Campaigns Proposal Worksheet, linked in the 2024 Convention Guide, and take a look at the slides from the 2/18 Strategic Campaigns Training.  All campaign proposals will need at least 5 chapter members to sign on before submission.
More information on all of these items can be found in the 2024 Convention Guide

Solidarity, Madison Area DSA Convention Committee 

Upcoming Convention Events

DSA Leadership Intensive
Sat and Sun March 2&3 12-5pm┃RSVP 
This two-day training, led by DSA’s national Growth and Development Committee (GDC), is meant for chapter leaders (or prospective chapter leaders) of all experience levels to come together, learn from one another, and return to organizing with a greater understanding of what it takes to build DSA into a mass organization of working people across diverse backgrounds. We will cover everything from how to cohere your chapter around shared projects to the basic, day-to-day work of chapter officers. 
Executive Committee Q&A
Monday March 4 7-8pm ┃Zoom┃Passcode 371739
Anyone considering a role on the Executive Committee is encouraged to attend!
March General Membership Meeting
Tuesday March 12 7-8:00pm┃Social Justice Center & Zoom 
The official Convention Agenda will be presented and discussed, along with other important convention updates. 
Convention RSVP Form, Campaign proposals, Working Group submissions and officer nominations DUE
Friday March 15 @ Midnight 
Convention Compendium Available ┃ March 16th
A convention guide including campaign proposals, working group submission and officer statements will be shared with all members.
2024 MADSA Convention
Saturday March 23 10am-5pm
Goodman Center Ironworks, Grace Room

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Coakley, Healey Pocketed Donations From Steward Executives As AGO Enabled Private Equity Looting Of Hospital Non-Profit

As Steward Health Care Faces Acute Crisis, A Pattern of Favorable Regulatory Rulings and Large Campaign Contributions to the Attorney General’s Office Raises Optics Of Quid-Pro-Quo

By Henry De Groot

Steward Health Care in Crisis

When Steward Health Care announced in early December that it would close New England Sinai Hospital in Stoughton, Massachusetts in the spring of 2024, it was not immediately obvious that the closure would be part of something bigger. But then a mid-January expose in the Boston Globe raised the threat of a full-blown crisis, highlighting the company’s closure of one of its hospitals in San Antonio, Texas in May of 2023 with only two months’ notice, and the company’s $50 million debt to its landlord for late rent payments.

Then in late January Steward announced it would close its hospital in Beaumont, Texas with only one week’s notice, seemingly confirming that the company was in fact in financial crisis. Since then additional reports from vendors have come out showing that the hospital network has failed to pay its bills. The crisis has disrupted the network’s ability to keep services operational, and led to the suspension of construction at its Norwood facility. 

At least one death has been attributed by the Boston Globe to the company’s financial issues. In October of last year, a patient experienced internal bleeding the day after giving birth to a child at St. Elizabeth’s in Brighton. When surgeons sought to use an embolism coil to induce a blood clot to stop the patient’s bleeding, the staff found that the hospital’s supply of the devices had been repossessed by the supplier because of nonpayment.

Additionally, the fate of 16,000 union and non-union Steward employees in Massachusetts and the hundreds of thousands of patients they serve remains precarious and uncertain, as the company may at best sell off or at worst close down some or all of its facilities. Steward employs thousands of union workers affiliated with SEIU 1199 and Massachusetts Nurses Association.

The hospital network is the largest physician-owned for-profit hospital network in the country with 33 hospitals across several states. Steward operates 9 hospitals in Massachusetts, including St. Elizabeths in Brighton, Carney Hospital in Dorchester, and 7 other hospitals in Eastern Massachusetts which largely serve working class communities including Fall River and the Merrimack Valley. In addition to its hospital division, the company also operates a primary care network and a specialty provider network, as well as a Steward Health Choice, a Masshealth insurance plan. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner is one of its 7 board members.

In contrast to his struggling hospital system, CEO Dr. Torre has been living his best life. After highlighting the CEO’s $40 million yacht, Aramal, which is currently moored in the Galapagos Islands, Globe columnist Brian McGrory had to issue a correction, having missed the CEO’s other yacht, a custom built, $15 million, 90 foot long sportfishing vessel, Jeraco, which some have called the “most ambitious sportfish boat ever built.”

In a later column McGrory continued his exposure of Torre’s lavish lifestyle, highlighting Torre’s travel in the Steward-owned Bombardier Global 6000. The plane costs $62 million new, and is the same model used, controversially, by popstar Taylor Swift. Steward also operates a Dassault Falcon 2000LX. McGrory reports that he tracked the Bombardier Global 6000 to “Santorini, Corfu, Athens, Naples (Italy, not Florida, but Florida, too), Madrid, Rome, Croatia, and the French Riviera,” as well as “the Bahamas, St. Kitts, Cabo San Lucas, Providenciales, Montego Bay, St. Maarten, and Antigua.” According to McGrory, both planes have been listed for sale in the past week.

MA Politicians Put Pressure On Steward

As the crisis has developed, Steward has faced increasing pressure from public officials. In a mid-February statement Governor Maura Healey expressed concerns that the crisis could lead to potential closures, layoffs, and disruption of healthcare services in the Commonwealth. Last week, Healey escalated her pressure in an additional statement, demanding financial disclosures and that the hospital exit the state; the governor also opined that “we don’t have enough [information] to know what they’ve done, whether it’s criminal or illegal, but to me it really smells, it raises a lot of questions.” The hospital network has confirmed it intends to transfer ownership of its Massachusetts hospitals. 

The Commonwealth’s entire all-Democratic congressional delegation issued a letter earlier this month to Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm which established Steward Health Care as a for-profit entity in 2011 before selling its stake, to inquire about how much profit the firm made from its involvement in Steward. 

The Looting of Caritas Christie and the Birth of Steward Health

The Boston Globe and other outlets have already explored the role played by private equity looters in the formation of the crisis, but it is worth summarizing here.

Although now headquartered in Dallas, Steward has its roots in Massachusetts in the Catholic-owned Caritas Christie hospital network, which was previously New England’s second largest hospital network. After the financial crisis of 2008, Caritas Christie faced financial insolvency, and was apparently unable to secure acquisition by a non-profit or larger Catholic-run hospital network. 

Instead, Caritas Christie CEO Dr. Ralph de la Torre organized a $246 million buyout of the Catholic hospital network by Cerberus Capital Management, a multi-billion dollar private equity company with a broad set of investments, with Shaws, Star Market, Safeway, and Albertsons being among the best-known.

Cerberus secured regulatory approval for its 2010 buyout of Caritas Christie, and then, as pre-approved by government regulators, revoked its non-profit charter and converted the hospital chain into a for-profit subsidiary, changing the name to Steward Healthcare but keeping Dr. Torre on as CEO of the new for-profit entity. Cain Brothers, the advisory firm brought on by Caritas Christie to facilitate the buyout, was awarded a Deal of the Year Award by Investment Dealers’ Digest (IDD), “the insiders guide to investment banking and capital markets.” Reviewing the deal in an article “Nonprofit? Not Anymore,” IDD highlighted that “a not-for-profit hospital system had never before gone through a conversion and been sold to a private-equity firm.”

Cerberus secured Steward’s first profitable year of operation in 2015, and in 2017 began expanding around the country, for a time holding the mantle of the largest for-profit hospital corporation. 

According to physicians familiar with the practices of Steward Health hospitals, the chain began operating on an “eat what you kill” model based on “relative value units,” in which physicians receive only a nominal salary and instead receive the majority of their compensation based on the number and type of procedures which they perform. According to some, this commission-based compensation system can lead to physicians focusing on profitable procedures rather than the best interests of their patients. Indeed, in 2022 Steward Health was ordered to pay $4.7 million for violations of the False Claims Act as part of a pay-for-referral scheme, and the US Attorney’s Office issued an additional complaint at the end of 2023 for separate violations of the Physicians Self-Referral Law related to over-billing of Medicare patients at St Elizabeth’s.

An insurance administrator involved in the development of Steward Health Care’s insurance offering, MassHealth plan Steward Health Choice, opined to Working Mass that the product was essentially a vanity project for Steward’s leadership.

As private equity firms tend to do, Cerberus then sought to engineer its profitable exit from Steward. It began this process in 2016 by selling off its hospital buildings to a real estate company, Medical Properties Trust, for $1.2 billion, which then leased the facilities back to Steward. These transactions allowed Cerberus to pay off the debt it had acquired from the initial $246 million buyout of Caritas Christie, although in doing so saddling Steward with a new rent burden.

Cerberus then finalized its exit in 2020 by selling its ownership stake to Steward’s physicians, converting Steward into a physician-owned hospital (POH) network. Although a POH network may seem like a more equitable and appropriate ownership structure than a ownership by a private equity firm, it is possible that Steward physicians were sold a bad deal on the vision of becoming collective owners, “holding the bag” after Cerberus had looted the network by liquidating its real estate. The doctor-owners were left with a company which now had to pay rent to use its own facilities, undoubtedly weighing on the companies financial health.

How The Attorney General’s Office Empowered The Rise of Steward Health

While the capitalist conversion (read: looting) of the non-profit Caritas Christie into the for-profit Steward Healthcare summarized above has been thoroughly explored in other outlets, what has not been explored is the role of Massachusetts Democrats – and particularly those associated with the Attorney General’s Office including Martha Coakley and now-governor Maura Healey – in facilitating this looting, and pocketing donations from Steward executives..

At the time, the buy-out of a non-profit hospital by a private equity company was unprecedented, and required approval from the Attorney General’s office. Then-AG Martha Coakley approved the transaction in 2010, finding in a report that all potential conflicts of interest had been sufficiently addressed, including by noting that “in light of his potential future employment by, and board service with Steward, Dr. de la Torre, Caritas’ President and Chief Executive Officer, abstained from the March 19, 2010 vote by the Board to approve the Transaction.” 

It should be obvious that a CEO who actively organizes and campaigns for a buyout does little to negate this impact by abstaining from a final vote. And with hindsight it is also obvious that doctor, CEO, and yacht-enthusiast Torre has benefited tremendously from securing the buyout of Caritas Christie. The combination of the current financial crisis at Steward and the financial fortunes of Dr. Torre seriously calls into question whether the Attorney General’s Office met their requirement to defend the public interest in approving the 2010 transaction.

Coakley further extended her grace to Steward Health the following year, allowing them to buy out an additional two hospitals in Taunton and Quincy. Although Coakley’s approval came with an agreement that Steward would not close either hospital for at least 10 years, Steward announced it would close the Quincy facility in 2014 just days after the 2014 election in which Coakley lost her bid for governor while Healey won her bid for Attorney General. In January 2015, while still in office, AG Coakley waived the state’s right to sue, instead negotiating that Steward would keep open the hospital’s emergency facility for an additional year, and enter into a monitoring agreement. As Healey was already AG-elect, it is not clear whether Healey or Coakley was the decision maker in this third sweetheart deal. Either way, just one year later in 2016, despite being under this monitoring agreement overseen by Maura Healey’s AGO, Steward was allowed to sell its properties, including the Quincy and Fall River properties, to Medical Properties Trust, undermining the hospital network’s financial position and thereby healthcare services in the Commonwealth, and obviously laying the foundation for the current financial crisis.

Steward Executive Were Major Donors to Coakley, Healey

But even more concerning is the appearance that not only did Cerberus and Torre benefit from the Attorney General’s Office’s decision, but also that the Coakley and her associates, including her mentee Maura Healey, benefitted from the support of Torre and co. Public records available on the Office of Campaign and Political Finance website reveal a number of donations which raise serious questions. 

Following the August 2009 death of Senator Ted Kennedy, Attorney General Coakley declared her candidacy for the open senate seat in September. On October 28, 2009, Ralph de la Torre donated $5,000 to the Democratic State Committee, MA, money which helped fund the Democratic Party’s support for Coakley against Republican candidate Scott Brown. Torre received his first favorable ruling the following year.

Ralph continued his financial contributions to Democrats. He contributed maximum donations to both Coakley and her primary rival Warren Tolman in their 2014 bids for governor. Just months after the AG office, in January of 2015, declined to enforce its 2011 no-close agreement at Quincy Medical Center, Torre contributed a maxxed-out donation to the new AG, Maura Healey, presumably to help her pay off campaign debt. He continued to make maximum contributions to Healey in her 2018 re-election bid and her 2022 bid for governor.

Some of these donations were matched on the same day by donations from his wife, and possibly also other de la Torre family members from out of state. These donations from Ralph were also echoed, often on the same day, by maxed-out contributions to Coakley and then Healey by other higher-ups at Steward Health, including by the hospital chain’s president, vice-presidents, board members, multiple of its attorneys, and members of its executive team.

According to data available at, 14 donations from only 10 employees of Steward Health, all of whom are in leadership, were collectively the 10th largest donor group by employer to Healey’s 2018 re-election campaign. And combining all her campaigns, Steward Health executives have been the 20th biggest supporters of Healey when grouping donations by employer.

Coakley’s approval of the Cerberus buyout of Caritas Christie and later empowerment of Steward’s expansion, and Steward’s significant contributions to Coakley and Healey are hardly new or unique. Rather, they are part of a larger embrace by Democrats of neoliberal policies to privatize public goods and generally to profit off of public office. Indeed, after leaving office Coakley served as a government affairs officer for Juul Labs from 2019 to 2022. Democratic governor Deval Patrick, who served from 2007 to 2015 during the time of Steward’s rise, took a position at Bain Capital. But considering the timing of substantial donations which often occurred closely before or after favorable regulatory rulings by the AGO, and when considering that the initial ruling which empowered Cerberus’s buyout was unprecedented at the time, they certainly present the optics of quid-pro-quo and raise questions. 

To be clear, evidence of substantial contributions from Steward Health executives is not proof of a quid-pro-quo relationship or legal malfeasance. But any resident would be right to conclude that the difference between explicit quid-pro-quo and a wink and nod agreement is a mere technicality; either way, both Steward Executives and politicians at the AGO profited from the mutually beneficial relationship.

Perhaps the friendly history of the AGO with Steward executives explains why Healey has taken such a strong and public stance against Steward in the current crisis, in order to head off potential criticism. But Governor Healey cannot hide her history with Steward by blustering political statements. Instead, she must answer questions about her role in the making of this tragic – but entirely predictable and preventable – crisis in the Commonwealth.

Henry De Groot is an editor of Working Mass.