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Fineberg Tenants Union Holds Rally, Demands to Bargain, as Rents Rise

By Liam MacLean

BOSTON — Tenants and supporters gathered on Saturday outside of an apartment building in Allston-Brighton to protest the refusal of their landlord, Fineberg Management, to engage in collective bargaining with the tenants.  

“We are standing up together because individually, divided, the best we can do is beg. But together, we collectively bargain,” said Dan Albright of the Fineberg Tenants Union (FTU) and DSA.

The protest was organized by the FTU with support from the Greater Boston Tenant Union (GBTU) and called attention to the continuous and arbitrary rent increases imposed by Fineberg on an annual basis. 

“What’s happening to our community is death by a thousand cuts,” continued Dan, noting how the consistent increase of rents by smaller increments is forcing working class residents out of Allston-Brighton. 

Fineberg has recently increased the rent across its properties by around 5% according to FTU, following last year’s increase of around 10-20% according to Dan. As a result of these increases, around 150 Fineberg renters organized with the FTU presented Fineberg Management with a request to bargain, which Fineberg has so far ignored according to FTU. 

Tenants Zak Brustman and Isabella Nuño also noted that Fineberg Management, like many Boston area landlords, have consistently provided units in a state of disrepair, including a rotted kitchen floor and blocked fire escapes.

“When we moved into our apartment, we found that… the kitchen sink had been leaking for so long that it had rusted through the cabinet below it and the floor beneath was rotting and waterlogged, and that access to the fire escape was blocked by metal bars that had been placed over the window,” Zak said. They added that “when someone from maintenance came to fix the issue, he had been instructed by management to cover the rotten and rusted hole with a piece of plastic, to hide the issue, instead of fixing the leak itself.”

Mary, another speaker at the rally, recounted her experiences with another big landlord: Alpha Management. She spoke of living in an apartment with rotten floorboards and how she was later forced to leave in retaliation for attempting to organize tenants in her building.

The protest also had speakers from Boston DSA, City Life/Vida Urbana, and Mass Struggle. All expressed hope that through organizing, tenants would be able to exercise their collective power and rein in high rents and poor living conditions. 

Rental costs are an issue throughout Boston, which has become some of the most expensive in the United States. Even Allston-Brighton, which remains one of the cheapest neighborhoods in Boston, has seen a huge leap in rental costs over the last 10 years. This is even as many tenants continue to complain of major housing code violations that are ignored by the landlord, even when the tenant reaches out to request repairs. 

GBTU has focused much of its work on attempts to build tenant power from below, primarily by creating bargaining units that are capable of collective action against landlords with demands such as necessary repairs or lower rents. The organization grew out of pushes for an eviction moratorium during COVID and has since shifted focus to fighting poor conditions and high rents.

This organizing is often done against enormous odds. Unlike labor organizing, which won some protections during the 20th century, tenants unions have comparatively minimal legal recourse. In one case in 2022, which was ultimately dismissed, a Boston landlord attempted to sue a Tufts student journalist for libel over an article covering a tenant union protest.

The vast majority of existing tenant protection treats the tenant as an individual in a contract with the landlord. That means that it covers individual incidents, such as seized security deposits or major code violations — though often even these cases never get reported as tenants are often afraid of retaliation. Issues related to tenant collective bargaining have almost no legal protection however, meaning that while occasionally a single tenant is able to successfully bring their landlord to justice, on the larger scale there is very little opportunity for tenants to flex their collective power and challenge the property owning classes in major ways. Through organizing and collective bargaining, this power imbalance can be flipped around.

A limited rent control measure from Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has largely stalled in the state legislature. And even if Democrats were to pass this home rule petition, it only caps rent increases at around 10% annually, while doing nothing to address already out-of-control current prices. Wu’s other programs, including more affordable units in new buildings and expanded public housing may help, but have yet to bear much fruit. In either case, they fail to challenge the fundamental issue at the heart of Boston’s housing crisis: as long as homes are a vector for profit-making, these issues will continue.

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Weekly Roundup: May 28, 2024

🌹Tuesday, May 28 (6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.): Environmentalism From Below: How Global People’s Movements Are Leading the Fight for Our Planet (Zoom)

🌹Wednesday, May 29 (7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.): Tenant Organizing Working Group Meeting (In person at 1916 McAllister)

🌹Thursday, May 30 (6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.): Palestine Solidarity Working Group (Zoom)

🌹Thursday, May 30 (7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.): Labor Board Meeting (Zoom)

🌹Friday, May 31 (12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.): Office Hours (In person at 1916 McAllister)

🌹Saturday, June 1 (10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.): Jackie Fielder for D9 Supervisor Mission Mob (Meet in person at Alioto Mini Park)

🌹Saturday, June 1 (11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.): Homelessness Working Group Office Hours (In person at 1916 McAllister)

🌹Saturday, June 1 (1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.): Homelessness Working Group Outreach Training (In person at 1916 McAllister)

🌹Monday, June 3 (6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.): Ecosocialist Monthly Meeting (In person at 1916 McAllister & on Zoom)

🌹Tuesday, June 4 (6:00 pm. – 7:30 p.m.) 📚How to Be an Organizer (Zoom)

🌹Tuesday, June 4 (7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.): Mutual Aid Priority Meeting (Zoom)

🌹Wednesday, June 5 (6:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.): New Member Happy Hour at Zeitgeist (In person at Zeitgeist, 199 Valencia)

🌹Friday, June 7 (6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.): The Battle of Algiers Film Screening (In person at 1916 McAllister)

🌹Saturday, June 8 (1:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.): Homelessness Working Group Platform / Education (In person at 1916 McAllister)

Check out for more events.

Mission Mob! Alioto Mini Park, Saturday, June 1st, 10AM

Join Jackie Fielder’s Campaign Out in the Mission on Saturday!

Come join this exciting democratic socialist movement by knocking on doors and stacking voter IDs! We’ll be meeting up at Alioto Mini Park this Saturday, June 1st at 10 a.m.

Can’t come Saturday? You can door-knock any day of the week! We also have phone banking sessions at the campaign office every Wednesday, and we’re at the Mission Community Market every Thursday. If you’re interested in helping out, stop by Jackie’s campaign office at 3389 26th St. between 12:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, or from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. You can also call or text Sasha, Jackie’s campaign manager, at 502-930-9500 to learn more.

Extreme Dean Mobilization This Sunday, June 2nd

Join the Dean Preston campaign this upcoming Sunday, June 2nd at 10 a.m. at Jefferson Square Park at the corner of Laguna and Turk. With our opposition’s campaign kicking into gear, we’re ready to meet our neighbors in D5 and prove that socialists can stand together to beat back billionaire trash. Come on out and do some door-knocking with us!

Battle of Algiers, Friday, June 7th. Starts at 6:00 p.m., 1916 McAllister St. RSVP:

Chapter Movie Night: The Battle of Algiers 🍿

On Friday, June 7, join us for a film screening of Battle of Algiers. Battle of Algiers isn’t just a re-enactment of historical events but a powerful portrayal of the struggle for independence and the resilience of the occupied fighting against the occupier. It focuses on Algerian revolutionary fighter Ali La Ponte and his fight against the French occupation forces in Algiers, the capital city of Algeria, from 1954 to 1957 during the Algerian War of Independence. This film showing is as timely as ever as the fight for liberation continues in Palestine. This film was directed by an Italian communist who led the anti-fascist resistance against Nazi Germany and also had an actual FLN leader play as one of the characters, making this one of the most classic anti-imperialist films to date.

Food and drinks will be provided. Masks are highly recommended.

DSA SF endorses The Community Transit Act ballot measure for MUNI funding.

Signatures for ComMUNIty Transit Act

DSA SF is endorsing the ComMUNIty Transit Act, a ballot measure to tax Uber and Lyft to fund Muni! Transportation should be a human right – not a way for corporations to profit by harming workers and the planet. Help us gather signatures to get the ComMUNIty Transit Act on the ballot.

DSA SF Convention 2024 Bake Sale, 10AM-4PM, Local 2 @ 209 Golden Gate Ave. Saturday, June 15th, 2024

DSA SF Convention Bake Sale

Calling all DSA SF bakers! Chapter convention is coming up fast, and we’ll be having a bake sale on the first day of convention (Saturday, June 15th). Sign up to contribute to the bake sale here and show off your best baked goods!

The 2024 Chapter Convention is Coming Soon!

It’s all hands on deck as we prepare for the 2024 Chapter Convention this June 15th and 16th (just a few weeks away)! Here are some handy reminders for the next few weeks to help you get ready.

  • June 15th and 16th – Chapter Convention!
    • Elections for Steering and Grievance Officers
    • Reportbacks from outgoing chapter priorities
    • Annual reportbacks from all chapter bodies
    • Vote on 2024-2025 Chapter priorities
    • Vote on proposed bylaws amendments
    • Ratify chapter body charters and body-elected co-chairs
    • Elections for priorities and all chapter bodies (except CCC)
    • Nominations open for CCC co-chairs
  • July 10th – July Chapter Meeting
    • Elect Priority Leads, CCC Co-Chairs, and all other chapter-elected co-chairs and board members

DSA SF Social: Oakland Ballers Game at Raimondi Field

Come root for the Oakland Ballers Friday, June 28th at 6 p.m. as they take on the Northern Colorado Owlz. The Oakland Ballers, nicknamed the Oakland B’s, are an independent baseball team that will play in the Pioneer League in 2024, which is not affiliated with Major League Baseball but is an MLB Partner League.

Please RSVP by June 10 so we have an accurate headcount for buying tickets!

The Chapter Coordination Committee (CCC) regularly rotates duties among chapter members. This allows us to train new members in key duties that help keep the chapter running like organizing chapter meetings, keeping records updated, office cleanup, updating the DSA SF website and newsletter, etc. Members can view current CCC rotations.

Questions? Feedback? Something to add?

We welcome your feedback. If you have comments or suggestions, send a message to the #newsletter channel on Slack.

For information on how to add content, check out the Newsletter Q&A thread.

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Ocasio-Cortez is Committed to the Democratic Party, Not DSA

There is currently a debate within DSA over whether or not to re-endorse AOC in her 2024 reelection campaign. This article argues against endorsement, you can find the article supporting it here

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one of the most prominent politicians in the United States and perhaps the most well-known, self-identified democratic-socialist next to Bernie Sanders. She has a social media following of millions. She is also one of the most well-resourced. According to OpenSecrets, she has over $6 million cash on hand, putting her in the top ten of the 435 members of the House of Representatives. She consistently ranks among the top 20 leading fundraisers for House incumbents. She has risen to Vice Ranking Member of the Oversight Committee. Finally, she also occupies one of the safest seats for a member of Congress on the Left. She doesn’t suffer from recurring threats of serious primaries, like many of her fellow “Squad” members. 

Ocasio-Cortez has a lot of power and influence, yet her actions show that her focus is on using this power for the benefit of the Democratic Party over the independent left. Ocasio-Cortez’s recent donation to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) while left-wing organizations face financial peril is the biggest red flag we have to date. In addition, her moderate position on Palestine and Israel has isolated herself from the rapidly growing Palestinian liberation movement as well as fellow DSA-endorsed Representatives, Rashida Tlaib and Cori Bush. As DSA enters a period of discussion to examine our potential endorsement of Ocasio-Cortez, her unwavering loyalty to the Democratic Party and its institutions and current leadership, as well as her overarching support of Israel, its “right to exist” and its defense subsidies, make her candidacy undeserving of a DSA endorsement. 

Following the Money

What someone is willing to fund is a much stronger indicator of what they support than any statement they make, and Ocasio-Cortez has made it clear that her allegiances are with the Democratic Party over the Left. It’s no secret that organizations on the Left have experienced financial crises under the Biden administration. Sierra Club and Justice Democrats, as well as left media like The Intercept, have all faced financial woes. Justice Democrats notably laid off 12 of its 20 staffers. 

While budget shortfalls have plagued many organizations on the Left, Ocasio-Cortez has opted to direct her considerable resources to the Democratic establishment instead. On April 12, Ocasio-Cortez announced she would donate $260,000 to the DCCC. This is the first time Ocasio-Cortez has paid dues as an elected official. According to an April 13 TeamAOC fundraising email the money will be used “to protect every vote in every state from the MAGA movement actively trying to overturn our democracy this November.” In the New York Times story that broke this donation, Ocasio-Cortez notes that the new elections of House Democratic leadership are a signal to “assert our influence in larger institutions.” This payment and these claims contradict much of her earlier rhetoric about the DCCC. She has an extensive history since 2017 of criticizing the DCCC. In her 2018 campaign debut video “The Courage to Change”, she states, “This race is about people vs. money. We’ve got people, they’ve got money.” 

Despite this messaging from Ocasio-Cortez’s team, the DCCC has made no indications that it’s responding to any leftward pressure. Recent leadership changes placed Hakeem Jeffries in the House Minority Leader position. Jeffries is an ardent Zionist whose top donor is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Ocasio-Cortez’s team provides no concrete evidence to support their claims that the money will truly aid in voter protection or that paying dues at all will aid progressive causes, much less socialist ones. In fact, there is considerable evidence that the DCCC will support right-wing candidates over left-wing challengers to the Democratic Party’s establishment — or even MAGA candidates in Republican primaries. In 2022, the DCCC spent $435,000 helping far-right, election denier John Gibbs win the GOP congressional primary in Michigan. This was part of a $43 million tranche dedicated to helping far-right Republicans win primary elections so that Democrats could have better chances in the general election. 

Even more, these dues are optional. Many House Democrats routinely do not pay dues. According to March 2023 figures from the DCCC Member Dues report, 78 members of the 216-member Democratic delegation paid less than 24% of the dues they owe. There were 65 members who paid nothing at all. This group includes Bush and Tlaib, and other progressives like Representatives Jamaal Bowman and Summer Lee. There is exactly one non-leadership member of the Democratic delegation that has paid these dues in full. Ocasio-Cortez would be the second member to do so with her most recent payment. 

Now it is likely that Ocasio-Cortez stands to personally gain through her financial participation in the system that values money over people. A 2019 Intercept article documents how, effectively, everything in Democratic Party politics is for sale. “Members of Congress who pay their dues and hit their [fundraising] targets are rewarded with better committee assignments in the future, and more favorable treatment of legislation they author, than members who shirk their dues.” Moreover, congressional rankings and the advancement of legislation are functionally determined by the highest bidder. “Members who don’t pay, for instance, are less likely to have their bills or amendments get a floor or committee vote”, The Intercept also notes. Ocasio-Cortez seems to have decided to compete in the capitalist winner-take-all system rather than maintain a commitment to the working class.

Weak(ening) Commitments on Palestine

Further, Ocasio-Cortez’s realignment closer with Democratic establishment is not just limited to monetary gifts to secure advancements within Congress. Her positions have been increasingly closer to Democratic Party positions and out of alignment with the Left. Just eight days after her DCCC donation, Ocasio-Cortez released a statement with 18 other members of Congress in support of Israel’s Iron Dome. The issue enjoys supermajority support across Democrats and Republicans.  The April 20 press release affirms this shared position among progressives in the Democratic Party, stating: “We believe strongly in Israel’s right to self-defense and have joined colleagues previously in affirming our shared commitment.” It fails to recognize that Palestinians are an occupied people and that their land is occupied by Israel. There is no right to “self-defense” Israel can claim against a territory it occupies. 

The press release goes on to say, “all of us support strengthening the Iron Dome and other defense systems and we are committed to a sovereign, safe, and secure future for Israel.” The press release fails to acknowledge how Palestinians need defense from Israel. A report from the UN and World Bank notes that 62% of all homes in Gaza and 84% of health facilities have been “damaged or destroyed.” Israel also assassinates aid workers and blocks UN food and supplies in order to starve Palestinians to death. These are all a consequence of the actions from the Israeli military, but there is no equivalent press release calling for a Palestinian “Iron Dome.” Only Israel needs defending. 

Ocasio-Cortez’s positioning on Palestine has always been shaky at best, but what’s worse is that her effective understanding of the issue has failed to develop since her first term and in some ways has deteriorated. A 2018 Jacobin article covers her first blunder on Palestine. On the PBS show, Firing Line, host Margaret Hoover interviewed Ocasio-Cortez for a deeper look into her stance on Israel. Both of Hoover’s questions caused Ocasio-Cortez to capitulate on her positions on Palestine. She responds to a question on the massacre of Palestinians with the affirmation of Israel’s right to exist and a canned reply of a two-state solution. When asked about occupation, she simply means that settlements cause “difficulty” for Palestinians to return to their homes. 

Jacobin underscores the issues with Ocasio-Cortez’s statements clearly:

Prompted about her use of the word “massacre,” Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t stay with the experience of the Palestinians. Instead, she goes immediately to an affirmation of Israel’s right to exist, as if Israelis were the first order of concern here, and affirming that right were the necessary ticket to saying anything about Palestine.

Further, when asked about the occupation of Palestine, Ocasio-Cortez is described as wandering “into a thicket of abstractions about access to housing” and going immediately to “platitudes” about a two-state solution.

This interview is not the only time Ocasio-Cortez fails to stand her ground on Palestine. In 2021, Ocasio-Cortez would switch her vote from “No” to “Present” on the standalone Iron Dome bill. She released a letter explaining her vote, stating, “I want to be clear with our community that I am opposed to this bill, but ultimately cast a PRESENT vote.” She does not, however, explain why she switched from her vote to “present” in spite of her stated opposition.

Two years later, Ocasio-Cortez’s position on Israel’s defense developed for the worse. In an October 2023 CNN interview with Abby Phillip, Ocasio-Cortez was asked about her previous position on Iron Dome. She replied that Israel’s defense systems are “absolutely legitimate.” When pressed further if she would vote “Yes” on Iron Dome today, she stated “I absolutely think there’s an openness. For sure.” One month later, House Rep. Michael Lawler, a Republican from New York, introduced House Resolution 888. The title of the bill was “Reaffirming the State of Israel’s right to exist,” but the text of the bill largely reaffirms staunch support for Zionist settler-colonialism. Ocasio-Cortez voted in favor of this resolution, and further, her staff defended the action. National Political Committee (NPC) member, Ahmed, was part of an ad-hoc Federal Socialists-in-Office body with other NPC members and Ocasio-Cortez staffers. Ahmed confirmed that in the aftermath of the vote, Ocasio-Cortez’s staff defended the vote on the basis that this resolution wouldn’t codify anything into law. Further, in a March 2024 CNN interview Ocasio-Cortez affirmed that the United States and Israel have “a right to go after Hamas” without similarly acknowledging the Palestinian right to defend against occupation. Ocasio-Cortez consistently affirms the rights of Israel to carry out its project while denying the same rights to Palestinians. 

No Ally in AOC

Ocasio-Cortez’s increasing commitment to and ingratiation of herself with the Democratic Party creates major contradictions and blocks the political independence many in DSA are seeking to achieve. In one instance, Ocasio-Cortez charged the Biden administration with “sidestepping the entire US Congress to unconditionally back the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza.” Yet in another, she’s grinning, ecstatic, in a sketch with the very same man responsible for funding the genocide, Biden. In her first instance of describing Israel’s genocide this March she stated, “It is against United States law to transfer weapons to any force blocking US humanitarian assistance.” Yet in another, she commits to “strengthening the Iron Dome and other defense systems.” How do these positions pair up? While Ocasio-Cortez is one of the few members of Congress to call for a ceasefire and has a better record on the issue than most, these facts do not make her an automatic ally of Palestinian liberation. Every instance of support for Palestinians has been marred by her overarching support for the Zionist project. 

We should treat Ocasio-Cortez as a capable actor, more than halfway through her third term in her current position. Her actions aren’t mistakes and it is not out of some blissful ignorance that she carries them out. She professes that she, or some other number of factors, have successfully changed the face of the Democratic Party – even as it marches in lockstep with supporting infinite arms for genocide. When Ocasio-Cortez affirms the Iron Dome and repeats the line that Israel has a right to exist, she does so as one of the most influential people in Congress. 

As I write this, Israeli tanks surround Rafah, airstrikes land in Gaza, and Biden is set to approve another $1 billion to fund the ammunition. We must not fool ourselves with illusions that Ocasio-Cortez shares a political home with DSA members. She has chosen the president she has resolved to endorse, no matter what atrocities he commits, no matter her own critiques of his actions, and it is with the Democratic Party that she can work with to boost her political ambitions. An endorsement is not just undeserved, it’s unwarranted.

The post Ocasio-Cortez is Committed to the Democratic Party, Not DSA appeared first on Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

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DSA Should Re-Endorse AOC as a Rallying Point for Democratic Socialism

There is currently a debate within DSA over whether or not to re-endorse AOC in her 2024 reelection campaign. This article argues in favor of endorsement, you can find the opposing article here

For millions of Americans and thousands of current and potential future DSA members, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the face of democratic socialism. At a time of weakness for DSA as an organization and a time of precarity in the role of “democratic socialism” as a rallying point against the ascendent threat of fascism in the United States, it would be a serious mistake for DSA to withhold a national endorsement.

The materialist analysis for re-endorsing AOC is supported by both her status as a “floating signifier” for the national base of democratic socialists that DSA has not yet absorbed, and because she represents democratic socialism in the coalitions that are necessary to stop the Right.

Jonathan Smucker’s book, Hegemony How To, looks at how our politics can become the “common sense” of the majority of Americans. He discusses floating signifiers in the context of Occupy Wall Street: 

“When a challenger social movement hits upon such a catalyzing symbol, it’s like striking gold. One might even argue that broad political alignments are constituted in the act of finding their floating signifier. Hitherto disparate groups suddenly congeal into a powerful aligned force. Momentum is on their side and things that seemed impossible only yesterday became visible on the horizon.”

DSA’s “big tent,” largely undefined commitment to “democratic socialism,” (especially as expressed by Bernie Sanders) was a sort of floating signifier — and a key ingredient in making DSA the landing place for thousands of organizers. 

Two distinguishing features of the Left in the last decade are: the mobilization of millions of people around broad signifiers like Black Lives Matter or defund the police, both Bernie Sanders campaigns, immigrant defense campaigns against the Trump administration, the Green New Deal, or Ceasefire in Gaza, and the failure of any organization to durably organize the vast majority of those mobilized into sustained political action.

Most people’s politics on the Left are informed by identification with these big amorphous movement demands. The figures who emerged from these campaigns as popular public figures — mostly elected officials and occasionally labor leaders — represent an opportunity to cohere and continue these campaigns.

AOC, Cori Bush, Rashida Tlaib, Greg Casar, and Jamaal Bowman are among the only popular, powerful leaders on the Left with a base of support in the millions. The presence of members of Congress calling for a ceasefire from the earliest days of the Israeli offensive was a catalyst for the immense popularity that demand has achieved since, and was unthinkable before the rise of the Squad. For millions of Americans, the demand for Palestinian liberation was not a part of their politics until it was articulated by leaders whose views they identify with on other issues.

If we intend to build a durable base within the working class, we must be within the movements that find leadership, articulation, and support in these figures. For the millions yet to be organized, where will they find their home? Not in an organization that proudly claims not to represent them or the figures they identify with on most issues. This is as true for new leaders we may seek to recruit in the future. What rising democratic socialist would want to be endorsed by the organization that booted AOC?

But AOC is more than a floating signifier operating separately from DSA. People who identify with her as an expression of their political goals have grounds to do so. She has actively and powerfully participated in dozens of major campaigns, using her position to advance our aims. The list includes the No Amazon campaign, Defund the Police, Tax The Rich, New York’s Build Public Renewables Act, helping launch COVID Relief 2020 mutual aid networks, backing more than twenty NYC-DSA candidates, Good Cause protections from evictions, the 2019 rent laws, and contributing to the ousting of Governor Andrew Cuomo. On May 20, as the controversy over the national endorsement raged on, AOC endorsed the Not On Our Dime Act, a bill stripping tax-exempt status from New York charities complicit in illegal Israeli settlements sponsored by DSA State Assembly member Zohran Mamdani and DSA State Senator Jabari Brisport.

This is why NYC-DSA, those best positioned to evaluate AOC, have chosen to re-endorse her. It would be unwise for the national organization to substitute its judgment for people on the ground in her district. 

Furthermore, AOC is key to supporting the growing block of Left electeds in Congress, defending Rashida Tlaib against censure for her support of Palestine, fundraising for Left elected campaigns, and more. It would be a disservice to the other Left electeds we support in Congress to terminate support for AOC. 

If you don’t believe that AOC and the other members of the Squad  are key pillars of Left power in the United States, ask our enemies. They take their threat so seriously that AIPAC and other right-wing groups are spending millions to remove the Squad from congress. This is not a miscalculation by the Right.

This observation brings us to a core part of a materialist analysis: determining the “primary contradiction” at the current conjuncture. In other words: what conflict at a given moment has the greatest likelihood of changing the balance of forces if resolved, and which conflicts may be “in play,” but secondary? Coalitions are the essential key to power in a complex society, and we must form coalitions based on the shape of the primary contradiction. 

Right now, the primary contradiction in US politics is between a resurgent fascist Right and the collective front of forces, including the Left, the progressive wing of the Democratic party, and its corporate wing. It is a conflict between two futures: one in which the Left has conditions favorable to securing power through organized labor, community organizing, and electoral campaigns, and one in which we are on the defensive where gains will become difficult or impossible. Within the conjuncture, there are secondary contradictions which also need to be fought out, but we must engage those secondary fights in a way that “wins the advanced over to socialism, influences the intermediate, and isolates the backwards.” AOC and the base she represents cannot be objectively called the “backwards” of this coalition.

DSA is not the protagonist of history, we are a part of a Left ecosystem and a coalition. AOC is part of our coalition and part of coalitions we are not. Until and unless the residents of AOC’s district are so organized by DSA that their demands and ours are one and the same, AOC and all electeds navigate a relationship to DSA that includes conflict.

Although AOC may not be a fully disciplined cadre of our organization, we still have a responsibility to recognize her symbolic and material significance to democratic socialists around the country and act accordingly. There is too much at stake for an adventurist, disloyal, or defeatist path. The only way through is to organize with the army we have — including AOC and her base. 

The post DSA Should Re-Endorse AOC as a Rallying Point for Democratic Socialism appeared first on Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

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Building Playgrounds for the Rich and Jails for the Poor

Building Playgrounds for the Rich and Jails for the Poor*

by Gregory Lebens-Higgins

Who says that government can’t give us nice things? Just this week, Monroe County approved $4.3 million in tax exemptions for the latest sports fad, Topgolf, to come to CityGate. While its proponents tout jobs, tourism, and reinvestment in the local economy, without a doubt there exist more beneficial means of achieving these goals. This is just the latest insult by a political class demonstrating who they work for—not the working class, but the idle rich.

The end game is best exemplified by the aborted business improvement district (or “BID”) planned for downtown. County Executive Adam Bello and his cronies presented the BID as an opportunity to revitalize downtown. But in reality this would have been a playground for the rich, coming in from outer suburbs or riding down the elevators of their luxury condos to enjoy boat rides on the Genesee River overseen by a certified harbormaster, concerts on a floating stage, other shows and high-end shopping. The BID would be operated by and for property owners, passing inflated costs on to consumers and renters, and enhancing police presence to limit the access of “undesirables” into the space.

Thankfully, the BID was halted by a group of dedicated organizers. But the political class continues its efforts to secure its position alongside their rich donors. For them, power exists only for its own propagation, cementing lives of luxury paid for by the labor of the poor. Government, to them, is not about providing for and protecting the community, but a tool to enforce order and guarantee profit.

This status quo is protected by the unrestrained violence of the state. While there is never enough money to fully fund social services, there is always more room in the budget for police. Last May, the Monroe County Sheriff received $7 million from the County for more positions. This month, the state directed another $24 million toward police departments across the County. This is on top of the Sheriff’s $197 million allotted for 2024, up $20.5 million from 2023. Police are employed to maintain order by occupying poor neighborhoods and securing white spaces—the sanitized playgrounds of the rich. Anyone who does not fit in with their vision is slated for exile behind the prison walls.

We must organize to change this status quo. These are our dollars being invested in these hare-brained schemes and failing police policies. We demand accountability, transparency, and equity in funding decisions. These public dollars must be made available to all, rather than being funneled into increasingly privatized spaces. We need public squares where everyone can comfortably congregate, and entertainment venues that are open to all. We need housing, healthcare, education—and relief from predatory utilities like RG&E. We must be free of the burdens of our toil, so that we can play and enjoy life too.

*Acknowledgement to Political Organizer and Professor Sekou Franklin, whose use of this phrase in reference to Nashville, I came upon after writing the piece:

“Nashville is being built like a playground for the rich and a prison for the poor.”

The post Building Playgrounds for the Rich and Jails for the Poor first appeared on Rochester Red Star.

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Erich Fromm and the Freedom to Create a Just Future

Every dominant ideology creates an environment which helps shape the attitudes that foster its growth and continuation. Capitalism is no different. To identify the foundation for the attitudes of everyday individuals in capitalism, I believe the seminal work by Erich Fromm on the Social Character provides an informative perspective.

Erich Fromm was a German social psychologist and psychoanalyst who had ties with the Frankfurt School of critical theory. He is credited with developing the idea of the ‘social character’ which gives a different method to understanding individuals from what is commonly practiced today in psychotherapy. According to Fromm, as humans we can only live as social beings, embedded in a specific context, with our economic and social surroundings having the most influence on what we identify as our inherent needs. This specific context in most countries on the planet is shaped by the dominant ideology of capitalism.

No one who takes a set of economics classes is spared the famous quote by Adam Smith: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect dinner but from their regard to their own interest.” This has become a sort of common sense. For quite a long time, self-interest, often masked as self-love, has been held up as the most valuable virtue by all kinds of celebrities and social media gurus that influence popular culture. Fromm tells us that our self-interest does not originate solely from a core source of truth within each one of us but is highly influenced by what our society deems as desirable and worthy. In some sense negating the ‘self’ part of the word and leaving just interest, interest which is often shaped in the image of the agendas that help corporations to maximize their profits.

Erich Fromm wrote on the concept of social character in an appendix to his 1941 book Escape from Freedom.
Erich Fromm wrote on the concept of social character in an appendix to his 1941 book Escape from Freedom.

Each society creates a shared social character which lives in each individual. In a capitalist system the shared character has to promote an acquisitive, individualistic, expansionist and materialistic attitude towards the world, other people and, by extension, to ourselves. I believe that this is at the root of why, faced with widespread alienation, ecological crises, precipitating levels of inequality and an increase in geopolitical conflicts, the most routine reaction is one of indifference. Apathy is a useful tool for materialist capitalism to continue its domination. We have come to believe that it is human nature to be disconnected from community, to have an insatiable appetite for consumer products, to be irresponsible towards the ecological destruction caused by running our economies unsustainably and to have possessive attitudes towards each other and the planet’s resources. This is not our nature. Fromm emphasized that individuals like to behave the way they have to according to economic and social requirements and expectations. What might seem so natural to us today is undoubtedly shaped by what capitalism requires of us for it to continue surviving. This is cause for great optimism, something that is also lacking in today’s world. This social character is not an unchanging fact of history. We can change and, in turn, create a drastically different world, by imagining a different story for ourselves as individuals, for society and for the planet. In the next few paragraphs, we will explore exactly what kind of attitudes capitalism promotes and examine ourselves to see how we manifest the same attitudes in our relations to other human beings and to nature.

Since the economic and social contexts carry the most weight according to Fromm’s ‘Social Character’ let us explore two key characteristics of these contexts in America. A key trait of today’s economic context is an overbearing sense of scarcity. American GDP hit a record high at $27.3 trillion in 2023 and a new billionaire was minted every 30 hours during the covid pandemic in 2020. At the same time about 37.9 million Americans are in poverty with more than 60% of Americans living from paycheck-to-paycheck. This hints at a crisis of extreme inequality that is not being talked about by the political class or given the airtime that it deserves on mass media — because inequality looks amazing from the top. This crisis of inequality will get precipitously worse as home ownership rates among Gen Z and Millennials collapse due to the cost of buying a house now standing at a median value of $400,000. This price tag combined with the current mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages hovering at around 7 percent make the cost of owning a house beyond being attainable for a majority of Americans who do not come from really wealthy families. As most people will be forced to spend ever increasing amounts of their income on rents to the rich, inequality will get even worse. Faced with this financial insecurity a lot of people internalize it as a failure on their part, making them resentful of themselves, and alienated from society.

The social context under capitalism regards the individual as the only thing of worth and dedicates all available resources to gratifying individual needs. This creates a self-reinforcing loop between this individual and the arbiters of capitalism — read corporations — who create new needs by the day and promise the individual that meeting these needs would palliate the deep sense of alienation and loneliness within them. They cannot. Only being embedded in a community that shares interests beyond individual ones and that is striving to create something meaningful can satisfy such needs. As a result of the false solutions offered by capitalism, the individual is stuck in a loop of over-consumption because of the deep sense of frustration resulting from the fleeting sense of fulfillment derived from consuming cheap consumer goods. This creates individuals that are dependent on the system to cater to the fabricated needs created by it but that have now been internalized as true needs. This dependency all but assures the continuation of capitalism.

During these times of crises, there might seem like there’s great reason to despair, but new systems of living and understanding our relationship to each other and to the planet often rise and take hold of the population during crises. Just look into the history of any revolution. The ground is fecund. We just need to imagine a better future and call other people into it. Through joining initiatives such as the mutual aid committee of a local DSA chapter we get to relearn what it feels like to care for the needs of people requiring our assistance and to be part of a group that is using their agency to create a world that centers a sense of concern for thy neighbor. This is a great antidote to cure the apathy and sense of alienation that defines capitalism when faced with injustice. Engaging with the DSA’s international work should be stressed as well. It’s important to create a new social character that has a global identity because it puts a person in their proper context, not simply as an individual but as a part of the web of life that connects them and their actions to the lives of all other human beings across the planet. Creating this global identity is also one of the most effective ways of removing the constraint on our empathy which often is restrained by national identities that make it easier to look away when extreme violence is being visited on our brothers and sisters abroad.

We cannot annihilate the social character but only create different economic and social contexts that nurture a sane one. People have tremendous capacities for change. If anything this is the most human of all traits. We have to learn to reach across the isles of division that promote antagonism between, for example, the climate activist and the coal miner who is against a plant that is her only source of livelihood from being closed down. We also have to reach across the international borders that constrict our empathy. As long as a child in Congo is being exploited to mine cobalt for Tesla’s electric batteries, then the childhood of the American child cannot be secure. After all, forms of exploitation practiced by corporations abroad are in variation eventually visited upon their native populations. In order to dismantle materialist capitalism, we need an international movement centered on not just critiquing what’s wrong with the current system but also creating an alternative story for humanity that allows people to imagine a different world and to move into it.

The post Erich Fromm and the Freedom to Create a Just Future appeared first on Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

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Socialism Wins in the South — Your National Political Committee newsletter

Enjoy your May National Political Committee (NPC) newsletter! Our NPC is an elected 18-person body (including two YDSA members who share a vote) which functions as the board of directors of DSA. This month, celebrate DSA electoral wins, support striking workers, stand up against genocide in Palestine, and more!

And to make sure you get our newsletters in your inbox, sign up here! Each one features action alerts, upcoming events, political education, and more.

From the National Political Committee — Socialism Wins in the South!

Tuesday night was a huge night for socialists in the south, with two major electoral primary wins for DSA chapters in states that have long been considered hostile territory for socialist electoral work. Both campaigns were run almost entirely by the chapters themselves, and both candidates are long-time active DSA member-organizers — “cadre candidates,” as we like to call them, and we can’t wait to see what they’re able to do when they take office.

In Louisville, KY, former Louisville DSA Co-Chair JP Lyninger took home an overwhelming win with nearly 50% of the vote in a three-way primary race for Louisville Metro Council District 6. This is a major win for a chapter that has been developing an electoral program for years and was hugely galvanized by the Access for All Kentucky reproductive justice campaign, which JP chaired and which won abortion protections across the state.

In Smyrna, GA — a working-class majority-minority suburb of Atlanta and part of Atlanta DSA’s catchment — Gabriel Sanchez beat an incumbent moderate Democrat (and a number of heavy-hitting establishment endorsements and the money that accompanies them) by 14 points in his campaign for Georgia House District 42. Gabriel is a long-time chapter organizer, and was a field lead for the Stop Cop City campaign. His DSA-led campaign replicated the tireless sidewalk-pounding canvass-heavy strategy the chapter developed during that campaign.

That’s a huge part of the DSA Difference: we aren’t just running electoral campaigns in a vacuum. We’re building a mass movement of the working class, which means we need to meet our fellow members of the working class where they are: on the shop floor, in our apartment buildings and mobile home parks, at our PTA and library board meetings, in marches for reproductive freedom and in protests against police brutality and in encampments for Palestinian liberation. And we take the skills we learn, we mobilize the formations we’ve built, and we empower the organizers we’ve developed, and we just keep winning bigger, and transferring more and more power from the ruling class to the working class. 

DSA’s power as an independent organization is especially important in a national election year, where we can show how we organize for the power we deserve against a political system stacked for the ruling class. Our member-led organizing is strengthened with collective resources that help us punch way above our weight. Just this month, DSA passed a milestone of over 2,500 solidarity dues payers, giving 1% of their annual income for the 99%! If you haven’t made the switch yet, we encourage you to become a solidarity dues payer — organized people and organized money get the goods. And join us for our last Solidarity Dues Call-a-Thon phonebanks this month on Sunday 5/26 and Tuesday 5/28! We keep having great conversations with fellow DSA members across the country about how we are building for the long haul. 

We have a world to win and we’re doing it together! Check out the happenings in your local chapter and check out the offerings below for other ways to get involved!

Tonight, Thursday 5/23 — Join Our UAW 4811 Strike Support Call!

The academic workers of UAW 4811 are going on an unprecedented strike to protect their rights to free speech, protest, and collective action. The University of California system allowed counter-protestors to assault peaceful demonstrations against genocide in Palestine, and called riot cops on its students and workers. That’s why UAW 4811 members have voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike over the violation of basic workplace rights like safety. Campus by campus, UAW 4811 workers will be standing up and walking out.

Join us tonight, Thursday 5/23 at 7pm PT/6pm CT/5 pm MT/4pm PT for a mass call featuring academic workers from the University of California system! On this call, you’ll hear how the strike is going and how DSA members can ramp up support. This call is co-sponsored by DSA’s National Labor Commission and Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA).

Give to the UAW 4811 Hardship Fund

Donate now to support striking University of California workers standing up for Palestine! For the rest of this month, for every dollar donated to the UAW 4811 Hardship Fund, DSA will be matching the amount in the form of grants to chapters doing picket support. Upload a screenshot of your donation receipt here for it to be matched. Our goal is $5,000 of support from DSA members!

RSVP for Thursday 5/30 Electoral Call — How We Won in the South

Join DSA’s National Electoral Commission Thursday 5/30 at 8pm ET/7pm CT/6pm MT/5pm PT. On this call, you’ll hear Louisville DSA and Atlanta DSA members debriefing, discussing, and celebrating their recent electoral wins: JP Lyninger for Louisville Metro Council and Gabriel Sanchez for Georgia State House!

Member Feedback Requested: Should the NPC Re-Endorse AOC?

Recently, the NPC passed a resolution soliciting feedback from members on whether to re-endorse Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14). We encourage members to share their thoughts on this question in 250 words or less using this form by Thursday 6/6. Please also share this form with other members of your chapter, as we would like to hear from as much of the membership as possible.

Apply for the International Committee’s Brazil/USA Political Education Exchange Course! Deadline Monday 6/3

Democratic-socialist political movements in Brazil and the US are focused on fighting neo-fascist political projects, and at the same time, seeking to better represent the multi-racial, multi-gendered working class in large, complex countries marked by the legacies of settler colonialism and slavery.

Join DSA’s International Committee and Fundação Perseu Abramo for this six-module political education course aimed at providing new tools and strategies to a cohort of local and national leaders of US and Brazil socialist currents. The application deadline is Monday 6/3.

DSA is Hiring!

Join our team as an Operations Director or a Development Director! If you are passionate about making a difference and have the skills and experience to thrive in these roles, we encourage you to apply. For more details and to submit your application, please visit our Careers Page.

The post Socialism Wins in the South — Your National Political Committee newsletter appeared first on Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

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BU Commencement Picketed for Labor and Palestine

By Vanessa Bartlett

Graduate workers from BUGWU, Residence Life workers, and graduates from the class of 2024 picketed BU’s commencement ceremony on Sunday.

Boston University’s 151st all-school commencement ceremony was disrupted by a walkout and picket organized in concert by both the Boston University Graduate Workers Union (BUGWU, SEIU-509) and the BU chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (BU SJP). 

The class of 2024 has been through their fair share of trials. In 2020, they came into college during the height of COVID-19 pandemic precautions. This year, they were affected by (and participated in) the wave of pro-Palestine actions at universities across the country. And at BU, they navigated their last semester without the help of graduate workers who typically grade and teach their classes.

This semester, BU administrators blustered through dealing with both issues. Ahead of the commencement protest, BU announced in a mass email that students were not allowed to bring “Placards, banners, bullhorns, noise makers…and full-sized flags.” The email also instructed students to “Refrain from disruptive behavior so all attendees can enjoy the festivities as they are entitled. Persistent heckling, shouting or other interference with an invited speaker is not permissible. Individuals who do not comply with this request will be subject to removal from the field.”

Throughout the spring semester, the university sent mass emails to undergraduate students regarding disruptions to classes caused by the grad union strike, intended to chill student sentiment towards striking workers. These emails did not deter BU community members from continuing to vocally support the grad workers

This email about commencement decorum was just as ineffective at deterring students from protesting for Palestine. Ultimately, about 100 students participated in a walkout following the end of the commencement speech by David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon

“I reject the idea that the administration should have some sort of monopoly over the proceedings of the commencement. If this is supposed to be the day for the graduating seniors, then we should have some say over how it goes,” said Michael Walsh, a graduating senior who participated in the walkout. 

Ruofei Shang, a third-year Anthropology undergrad and member of BU SJP said that the prevailing feeling among graduates ahead of their walkout was anxiety. “It was definitely pretty nerve wracking. But once it got started, and people started moving, and people started chanting and dropping the banners, the energy was definitely really high,” said Shang. 

As the newly graduated students walked out of Nickerson and towards the picket line waving flags, wearing keffiyehs and carrying banners, cheers erupted from those waiting on the picket line. Shang said that many parents and families passing by shared words of encouragement and support for the students who walked out. 

Second-year English PhD student Meiya Sparks Lin said the mood on the picket line was “celebratory.” 

“We’re all incredibly proud of our students, and, you know, are proud of them, not only for graduating, but also for graduating during a semester when many of their courses were interrupted by our strike,” Lin said. 

When will BU learn to listen?

One year ago, writers from WGA East collaborated with BU students and union members to picket and disrupt the commencement ceremony for BU’s class of 2023. The commencement speaker, CEO of Warner Bros-Discovery David Zaslav, was interrupted by constant booing and chanting from students.

This year, another class of BU graduates had to come to terms with their relationship with the university they leave behind. For nine months, the university stonewalled the BUGWU bargaining team, and kept workers on the picket line through the end of the spring semester.

This university has also never addressed BU SJP’s demands, which include disclosure and divestment from investments in Israel, an end to campus-sponsored trips to Israel, and for the university to call for a permanent, unconditional ceasefire.

Graduating senior Walsh said BU should know that these protests and issues are inextricably linked.  “Students do not want their tuition money invested in genocide, instead they would like it to fund the workers and facilities of the university… The grad workers protest and the Palestine protest are really part of that same idea, that we as students and as workers should have a seat at the table when it comes to how the university functions.”

BUGWU Stays On the Picket Line

According to Lin, BUGWU actually offered a solution to BU’s worries about disruptions to graduation: if BU had agreed to give graduate workers a living wage tied to the cost of living in Boston, the ceremony would go on without a picket line outside. 

“BU showed no interest in bargaining over that before commencement. So we went through with it, but you know… this picket line was a celebration of the fact that many students have graduated despite BU, not because of it,” said Lin. 

Looking ahead to the summer, Lin said that BUGWU will continue to strike, but things will look a little different. Rather than daily picketing, the union will focus on fundraising to support members who have lost pay, and hosting community building events. 

“We’re working on throwing sort of like good vibes events for the summer where anyone can stop by, eat food, and just really have an atmosphere of support and community while making sure that we’re organizing and ready for the fall,” Lin said. 

With regard to BU’s continued heel-dragging and consistently poor labor relations, Lin said there’s clearly a pattern. “BU cares much more about profit than about its workers and about workers in general.”

“The way it interacts with, you know, labor unions more broadly. We see that across campus, we’ve got the staff, union ResLife workers, the lecturers union, all fighting for a living wage, and BU has repeatedly failed all of its workers on campus,” said Lin. “The bottom line is that we are prepared to go through the summer, we’re prepared to go through the fall, we are going to strike as long as it takes to make enough to live in the city where we work.”

BUGWU is continuing to raise funds for grad workers on strike experiencing hardship. Of the $155k raised so far, $140k has been disbursed to members who need help paying rent and buying groceries. BUGWU asks that community supporters continue to share their stories and donate to their fund here:

Vanessa Bartlett is a staff organizer for UAW, an editor of Working Mass, and a member of Boston DSA. She has a background in print and radio journalism, but please don’t hold that against her.