Should the United States move towards socialism

Socialists in the USA: "A struggle from the bottom up"

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) are the largest socialist organization in the United States. A conversation about the working class of today.

Together with other organizations, the DSA is organizing the international women's strike on March 8th Photo: ap

taz: Mr. Stephens, you are on the board of the DSA. What do you see as socialist politics in the 21st century?

R. L. Stephens: I have often asked myself the same question. But in the end you can only answer it together, which is why we launched a campaign called Basic Education. We try to invite people who think like us to our local groups and decide together with them what we will deal with. The more diverse this discussion is, the more honest our concept of socialism will be in the end. It has to be a bottom-up process, not the other way around.

Can you give an example?

Stephens: Not only do we come up with a new plan for what health insurance could look like, we also listen to different ideas and bring people together. Together, however, we are developing more than just our concept of health insurance. We let collective countervailing power arise. That too is a class question. The working class is made up of different social milieus and we want to organize ourselves that way from the start. It's about gender and race, but it's also about where people live, whether in cities or in the country, on a campus or in a poor neighborhood.

Ms. Alcazar, you are one of the tens of thousands who joined the DSA last year. Why?

Magally "Maga" Alcazar: I was already interested in the DSA during the Bernie Sanders election campaign, at that time many people joined. But I was still put off, after all, the DSA is an organization for white people from the middle class. I myself come from the working class, my ancestors come from Mexico. I had the feeling that this is not for me.

Who? With 30,000 members (as of October 2017) the DSA is the largest and fastest growing socialist organization in the USA. The members come from all parts of the United States, and their number has quadrupled since the presidential election.

When? The DSA was founded in 1982 and is not officially a party and is not listed in the federal electoral register.

What? They reject the capitalist economic system and campaign for workers' rights, feminism and state health insurance for everyone, among other things.

What has changed then?

Alcazar: I noticed which topics play a role, but also how the DSA members are actually improving people's lives. For example, there is a street watch campaign. A few people watch the streets in slums and react very quickly when the police arrive, for example to clear homeless camps. Or they give workshops in which they explain how to resolve conflicts without calling the police. After all, where I come from, it has far-reaching consequences when the police arrive. At the same time, however, they also have strategic discussions and wonder what role a socialist organization can play in America today. The mixture appealed to me.

Have you been politically active before that?

Alcazar: I've been involved in the rental movement in Los Angeles for a long time. We are really bad about tenant rights, but the anti-gentrification movement is a ray of hope, it is large and very mixed. But I also think that that alone is not enough to really change something. We need to question not only rent, but capitalism as well.

recently joined the DSA. She is active in the rent protests and is one of the organizers of the international women's strike.

An important nationwide action scheduled for March 8th is the international women's strike, which the DSA is helping to organize. How do you go about that?

Alcazar: We are currently organizing a broad alliance of traditional unions, such as teachers' unions. In many communities there are meeting places for workers, many of them are precarious and unorganized, with whom we also work. Organizations like "Pussy Strikes Back" and feminist anti-Trump organizations are, like last year, there again. There are many unorganized women who have been politicized by #metoo who participate, as well as many socialist organizations, groups that fight for a minimum wage, or students.

studied law in Chicago and currently lives in Texas. He sits on the elected board of the DSA and is primarily responsible for a new political strategy.

And what exactly will the strike look like?

Alcazar: 80% of women in America work in precarious jobs. The classic factory strike is therefore no longer applicable. We are thinking about mixed forms of labor and reproduction strikes, boycotts and blockades.

Stephens: Our struggles must reflect our vision of today's working class; and as contradictory as it is, work alone cannot be the unifying factor of a combative class in America today. Simply because so many people can no longer find work today, and most of them are women. That said, work still plays a big role, but the organization can also happen around other issues. LGBTIQ people have different problems than farmers, but they still belong to the oppressed class. We have to be open. A woman sitting at home with her baby needs to be organized in the same way as someone in a call center. Students are really important because most of them now have high debts when they come out of university. Me for example! I owe tens of thousands of dollars.

Do you really want to become a party? A left alternative to the Democrats?

Alcazar: I believe that if the DSA continues to grow, that will be a discussion that we will have to have. It's smoldering, too, but it's not the time for it yet.

Stephens: Personally, I think it's important that the DSA not only remains independent of the Democratic Party, but also independent of parliament itself. I don't believe that a left-wing government is possible under capitalism. Just look at Syriza in Greece. So it will be for everyone!

Why did you actually choose the DSA? There are numerous socialist organizations in the United States that could be changed from within.

Alcazar: We are not the only socialist organization that is growing. This is a common trend across the country!

Stephens: The grassroots democratic structure of the DSA played a major role: It was clear to us that we could build our policy here from below. Many can participate, at the national level in the congregations, at the local level in the local chapters. The DSA is open to non-members to a certain extent. And the membership fee is extremely cheap. You even have to apply to many other groups!

Are you gaining membership in every part of America?

Alcazar: In big cities like New York or Los Angeles there are now numerous groups in every district. Especially after the incidents in Charlottesville, we got a lot of new members who want to do something against the rights. Not just young people. In Charlottesville itself, 60-year-olds showed up and said: "I've had enough! I want to do something! "

Stephens: There are many new members who are not yet organized into groups. I am currently trying to find out what the reasons are, whether they live in remote areas, whether they are inhibited or whether they do not like the topics.

How do you feel about the anti-fascist groups that are being set up all over the country?

Alcazar: I think that's great. We have to deal much more with the politics of the extreme right. In California, for example, there is the Minute Men, a right-wing extremist organization that has been part of local governments in California for years and has enforced that undocumented people, i.e. illegals, can no longer go to the doctor or that their children are not allowed to go to school . We talk about the alt-right like it's a new phenomenon, but we just haven't taken them seriously for too long. You are now also active on a national level.

Have you ever felt hopeless since Trump took office?

Alcazar: Not really. There is enough reason to be hopeful. A few months ago I was with a few comrades from the DSA at an Alt-Right march in Chicano Park, San Diego, and we drove them out. I think it's important and good that Richard Spencer got a nosedive. It is important that we resist and develop new ideas at every level. As bad as it is under Trump, the solidarity is great. Groups that used to be enemies now work together. The mood is not bad. Something is moving. We are moving.