Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Task Before Us – Organize!

Maria SvartNew
Winter has set in. Police have dismantled the Occupy Wall Street encampment in New York and raided encampments around the country. A shiver ran through middle America, as shocking images of police violence used against unarmed students and seniors have spread across the Internet. Obviously, all this merits our condemnation, but let’s not forget that state violence – not simply in the form of police brutality but also policies that cause unemployment and poverty – has always been directed at marginalized communities in the U.S. For people of color, immigrants, and the poor, these are simply facts of life. Still, they have endured, and at certain crucial moments in our history they’ve even won victories in the face of violence and repression.
This is what the Occupy movement must do as well. DSA and our allies need to hunker down for the winter and plan for the long haul. Now is the time to organize! Occupy must sustain its amazing energy, perhaps in a different form, and build toward a spring offensive that will take the fight straight to the 1%.
It won’t be easy, but the consciousness needed to sustain the movement is there. Students on campuses around the country are rising up against tuition hikes and crushing debt; the now-infamous pepper spraying incident at University of California-Davis has only strengthened students’ resolve to resist. Workers are fighting back, spurred on by the knowledge that attacks on the rights of public sector workers are intended to undermine the labor movement as a whole. Seniors are on the move, demanding the right to a retirement with dignity not just for themselves, but for their children and grandchildren.
As democratic socialists, our job is to bring these struggles together under one banner. “Occupy” has already done much of this work, but our role within the movement is to offer a coherent, radical analysis of the interlocking crises of capitalism that threaten the democratic rights and living standards of people around the globe. We need to point the finger at the 1% and expose the political-ideological project that has given cover to three decades of unrestrained class war from above: neoliberalism. This latest phase of capitalism enriches the few through a political program of privatizing public services, deregulating finance, busting unions, and dismantling the social safety net. Its ideological component provides justification for this program; it insists that market values should govern every aspect of our lives, even our most intimate relationships.
The results of this outcome are clear: mass unemployment and poverty, social turmoil, and the displacement of popular sovereignty by bankers and technocrats. It’s little wonder that a favorite slogan of Young Democratic Socialists (YDS) at Occupy actions around the country is “No Future, No Peace!”
DSA will do its part by engaging in a number of activities in the coming months. Locals around the country will fight state and local budget cuts supported by Republicans and far too many Democrats. We will use the 50th anniversary of the publication of Michael Harrington’s classic book The Other America to spark public conversation about the unfinished War on Poverty and the need for a massive public jobs program. We will launch a public education program on the economic crisis to arm activists with the knowledge of how the economy works and how it can and must be transformed. And YDS will host its annual youth conference in New York City on February 17-19 to bring together youth and student activists around the country struggling for an end to tuition hikes and the establishment of free public higher education. Only street heat can force public officials of any party to implement our demands; our job is to stoke it through education, agitation and organization.
It’s time for us to grow our organization and build the movement. I call on every DSAer to take responsibility for recruiting at least one new member, and to participate in whatever Occupy actions might be happening in your community this winter (if there isn’t one, organize it!). Educational and outreach materials can be found on our website: dsausa.org.
I look forward to hearing about your work! v
Maria Svart is the National

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