Across the Country, DSA Chapters Shows Solidarity and Support for Victims of Fascist Violence in Charlottesville

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Pittsurgh Rallies in Solidarity with Charlottesville, Photo by Danny Timpona

By Alec Shea

Saturday’s attack on anti-fascist demonstrators in Charlottesville Virginia, which killed Heather Heyer and injured 19 others, inspired a wave of protests and vigils in support of the victims and in opposition to fascism and white supremacy. Fundraisers to cover the medical expenses of the people injured in the attack have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. From Boston Massachusetts to Anchorage Alaska, DSA chapters and members mobilized to show support for those injured and to demonstrate their solidarity with those who risked their lives resisting violent white supremacists in Virginia.

 
DSA’s National Political Committee said on Sunday that “Yesterday’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia are a stark reminder that we must fight for socialism or succumb to the barbarism of white supremacy. We condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the white supremacist, racist, anti-Semitic terrorist attack on our comrades in the DSA, the ISO, IWW, Antifa and all others who joined forces in the streets of Charlottesville, VA yesterday.”

 
In addition to killing Heather Heyer, the violence in Charlottesville injured 19 other people, including two DSA members. As soon as news of the attack broke, Michael Patterson, a co-chair of Anchorage Alaska DSA, and the DSA Veterans Working Group, set up a GoFundMe campaign to cover the medical expenses of those injured. As of Monday morning, the account had raised $151,000. A separate fundraiser for the family of Heather Heyer raised more than $200,000.

 
The two DSA members who were injured in the attack were part of the DSA chapter in Richmond Virginia, which sent a group to join the large protests against the neo-nazi “Unite the Right” rally that was scheduled for Saturday. Austin Gonzalez, a co-chair of Richmond’s DSA chapter, wrote about his experience at the demonstration in the Washington Post, saying “As we marched throughout the city, we were greeted with cheers from locals, Black Lives Matter activists, Industrial Workers of the World members, Showing Up for Racial Justice members — every possible equal rights group one could imagine. Seeing the locals cheer on our Democratic Socialists of America contingent was one of the most inspiring moments of my life and certainly one that I will never forget. But these uplifting moments were quickly followed with some of the worst, most terrifying moments of my entire life.” In a statement, Richmond DSA said “Thousands of counter-protestors put their bodies on the line to defend Charlottesville. We fear that this will not be the last time we will have to stand up to Nazis. But we will continue to fight racism, hatred and violence when we see it.”

 
In the aftermath of the attack, dozens of DSA chapters organized or attended demonstrations aimed at showing solidarity with the victims of fascist violence in Virginia. In Pittsburgh, the local DSA chapter organized a vigil in support of the protesters who had defended Charlottesville that was attended by hundreds of people, including members of DSA, the IWW, the ISO, unions and many other organizers and activists. In cities including Boston, Houston, New York, Washington DC, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Denver, Louisville and Baltimore, DSA chapters lead or participated vigils and demonstrations in support of the victims of the attack.

 
Protestors around Charlottesville have shown that the violence against them will not stop them from confronting fascism. When Matthew Heimbach, a white supremacist and leader of the Traditionalist Workers Party, tried to give a press conference outside the attacker’s bail hearing, protestors chased him away.

 
The NPC’s statement ended by saying ‘Together, we will fight fascism and build the better world we know is possible. Solidarity forever.” Across America, DSA chapters, in association with other groups, have worked hard to give meaning and force to those words.

 

Year in Review: Princeton YDS

By Tess Jacobson and Nicky Steidel

Princeton University’s burgeoning YDS chapter – not unlike many YDS and DSA chapters all around the country – formed in the wake of Donald Trump’s election victory in November of 2016. Started by Princeton undergraduate and graduate students who had been active in DSA’s Central New Jersey chapter, we at YDS Princeton have sought to gain a foothold on a campus that has been long and rightfully viewed as a breeding ground for reaction and Goldman Sachs executives.

Thus our chapter filled a gap in the political vacuum on Princeton’s campus, where politics and philanthropy often go undifferentiated, and issues faced by the immediate community seem either abstract or nonexistent to students and administrators alike. Contrary to the trend of many YDS organizing committees, Princeton’s chapter did not form out of the ashes of a Bernie-for-president campus chapter. Rather, students from a wide array of backgrounds were drawn to the chapter out of a desire for something further left than the Princeton College Democrats and an escape from Princeton’s proclivity towards endless debate instead of any form of concrete action. At our first meeting, we had nearly two dozen people. By the year’s end, our Facebook group contained almost one hundred.

Immediately after the election, we sought to support actions in our surrounding community, most notably on issues of immigration and deportation. Our chapter supported the sanctuary campus efforts of Rutgers University activists in New Brunswick, and we also supported local groups like Cosecha and New Labor in their fight for the city of New Brunswick to become a sanctuary for immigrants.

In January, our chapter attended the YDS national conference in Brooklyn, where we brought one of the largest contingents of any chapter nationwide. Many of our members were introduced to socialist theory and organizing techniques for the first time, and we emerged from the conference a more confident organization with more committed members.  

Coming back from the conference, we realized that YDS Princeton had the potential to be unprecedented force on Princeton’s campus in two important ways. First, the chapter is based upon collaboration across the divide between undergraduate and graduate students. Second, YDS is the first student group at Princeton in over 15 years to show solidarity with workers on campus.

In the last few months of the spring semester, YDS held “worker office hours,” in which YDS members listened to the stories and grievances of campus workers, opening a line of communication that hasn’t existed on our campus since the early 2000s.  Based on these sessions, we knew that we wanted to take action in response to the University’s treatment of campus dining service workers during a snowstorm in March.

Workers who stayed overnight during the blizzard were forced to sleep without privacy in cots in the basement of the student center, while their bosses and managers stayed in hotel rooms paid for by the University administration. Furthermore, the University declared the storm’s end at 5:00p.m. the next day, despite the fact that the snowstorm continued into the night. This meant that the University did not give overtime pay to workers coming in for evening shifts in the midst of emergency weather – in effect an act of wage theft.

With the help of campus workers, we organized a March for Workers’ Rights with two key demands: back-pay for the workers not paid overtime and a promise from the administration to provide humane accommodations for workers – not just their bosses – during emergency weather. Our demands were met with a scramble of reactionary tactics from the University administration, not limited to bosses telling workers they were not allowed to talk to students; misinformation from the University’s Human Resources department, which claimed that they had paid all workers overtime when they had not; and editorials in the student newspaper written by University administrators disputing the accounts of workers.

Our march mobilized over 100 undergraduate students, graduate and service workers, and local community members. The march ended on the shop floor of the student center, where the workers had been forced to stay in cots overnight, and workers came off the job to cheer on the marchers. Although the University has shamefully refused to concede to either of the workers’ demands, we have taken such a setback in stride.

Mobilizing 100 people on a highly reactionary campus is no small feat, and our organizing with service workers has set a precedent of student-worker solidarity at Princeton that should allow us to collaborate further, as the service workers’ union, SEIU Local 175, seeks to renegotiate its contract over the next year.

On top of agitating for a fair contract for SEIU Local 175, we also plan to recruit new activists, support the graduate student unionization effort, and conduct an “alternative tour” of Princeton’s campus, uncovering the unseemly backstories behind the namesakes of monuments and buildings around campus (least of all the legacy of the white supremacist, anti-labor, imperialist Woodrow Wilson).  

Voices: Socialism’s Okie By Me

At its core, my work is not in fact centered around a dog-eared copy of Kapital, it is not following in the footsteps of an activist whose work is renowned the world over – rather, it is grounded in the unshakable conviction that ‘it does not have to be this way.’

Living in Oklahoma for the majority of my life, the shortcomings of the system we live under are intimately apparent. Crumbling infrastructure, bankrupt education, and inaccessible heath care are just some of the many failures that stand stark against a skyline full of gleaming oil company headquarters. Apathy has settled over the state, hanging like a thick smog, driving the people away from politics and organizing – and who can blame them? In a state so hard to survive in, most have to worry about simply making ends meet. Growing up, this wore on me, I was plagued by a sense that there was no way this could be right. Everyone could see the wealth shining out from T.V. screens, and taunting passers-by from the other side of gated communities; but the state government spent all their time crying that the money wasn’t there, while it sat right in front of them.

It was in this setting I started my first leftist club in high school, the NNHS Young Socialists. We didn’t do much in the way of tangible work, it was more a conglomerate of frustrated sixteen-year-olds than any sort of fully formed organizing committee, but it taught me one vital lesson; even in one of the reddest states in the union, leftism, when put in terms that even a high school freshman can understand, is attractive.  

At this time, I didn’t know DSA existed. I didn’t know leftist politics were something that could be acted on outside the reach of philosophy departments and campus salons. This all changed with the 2016 election cycle. While Bernie Sanders doesn’t have perfect politics, there is something that myself and many other young people around the nation can credit him for: Bernie put socialism on the national stage. Not as a joke, nor as a reference to a nefarious boogie man, but as real, tangible politics – and it worked. Socialism as real policy, presented in honest terms to a national audience, won over millions across the nation. Bernie Sanders won Oklahoma. Never forget that.

But leftism is more than a primary election campaign, and the only way to achieve a better world is to keep working towards it. On November 9th of 2016, I joined DSA. Two weeks later I was in the process of cofounding a YDS chapter on my campus. The fight ahead of us is daunting, but it is a good fight. We can and we will win. Leftism works for the people, it is for the tired, the poor, the yearning masses. It is for the many, not for the few. It is for cries of solidarity forever, and every other struggle for equality that has played out across the stage of history. These slogans move people because these policies are for the people. It is not enough to say this nation is great as is. It is not enough to say, “vote for me because at lease I’m not that guy.” Our nation, our world, is ripe for real, tangible change that will happen when we have material policy to fight for. This is why I am apart of YDS. It doesn’t have to be this way any longer.

Aubrey Crynes studies International and Area Studies at Oklahoma University where she was a co-founder of the university’s YDS chapter. Her favorite moment in socialist history is the entire existence of the Oklahoma Socialist Party. 

In Rochester, DSA Pushes for Police Accountability

By Peter Simpson

In 2013, Benny Warr, a disabled African-American man was waiting at the bus stop after Rochester NY police had told everyone in the vicinity to leave in an effort to “clear the block.” According to Mr. Warr, after informing the two officers he was only waiting for the bus so he could leave, one screamed , “I said fucking move!” Warr was then maced and his electric scooter was pushed over, sending him flying onto the street. He was then kicked, punched, and received a downward elbow strike, an “untrained technique” in the Rochester Police Department (RPD). He was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest while receiving care in the hospital.

This shocking incident helped spur the formation of Enough is Enough, a Rochester-area organization pushing for police accountability and reform. Today, their primary agenda is pushing for a truly independent Police Accountability Board (PAB) in Rochester, a proposal that recently earned the support of Rochester DSA.

“With the visibility of Benny’s case, other people started coming to us, who’d been beaten,” said Teddy Forsyth, one of the two main architects of Enough is Enough’s proposal for a Police Accountability Board. “What we started to do is walk with them through the process: Show support, bring supporters … [to] advocate for defendants with their lawyers, and foster a relationship with the public defender’s office.”

The Police Accountability Board would replace Rochester’s current Civilian Review Board, which is heavily dependent on the RPD, unrepresentative of the community as a whole, and has a rate of sustaining complaints of excessive use of force against officers at 5 percent over the last 15 years, dipping dangerously close to Chicago’s infamous 2 percent. Syracuse, NY, by comparison, has instituted an independent Citizen Review Board similar to the proposed one, and has had a 31 percent sustenance rate since the new board was put in place.

The key pillars of the PAB proposal revolve around separating it from the RPD and its budgetary process and creating a democratically-elected board with the power to issue subpoenas and ultimately override the Chief of Police on administering discipline to officers.

All of this and more was put out in a manifesto published by Enough is Enough members Ted Forsyth and Barbara Lacker-Ware in February. Ted said the idea grew out of “a long history, and a long demand for real justice, not just the perception of justice.” “I had heard that Rochester had a review board with real power back in the 60s. But no one could name it. No one knew what it was.” Rochester’s original Police Accountability Board, dismantled in 1970 as a result of efforts by the local police union, provided a roadmap for how to fix the troubles ailing Rochester today.

Chris Amato, Rochester DSA’s liason to Enough is Enough, was instrumental in pushing the issue within his chapter. Amato says the decision grew out of a desire to “earnestly address” the issues of all communities in Rochester. He said he sees this proposal as not only in line with the democratic values of the DSA, but also key to building solidarity across the city. “The PAB feeds into what the DSA wants to do in terms of a more democratic society. On this issue you can get behind it without being a socialist.”

Amato believes that the PAB “gives us an immediate, actionable goal.” He sees PAB as something that would shift the currently imbalanced power dynamic between the police and citizens. “We go into every public space we can where know that the people that are affected by this are, and say ‘you can have power over the government forces that are continually around your neighborhood, they will be more accountable’ That’s something I don’t think anyone in the city would be against.”

While the bill is currently being reviewed by the city council, the Rochester DSA, Enough is Enough, and other groups agitating for this bill are looking to make it a key issue in the city’s Democratic primary for the mayoral race and the city council election. Ted Forsyth stressed the organizations strategy of “whoever you vote for, you’re going to push them to pass the PAB.”

Rochester DSA’s efforts might provide a model for other chapters around the country. Chris Amato, summarizing what he thinks can be learned from DSA’s efforts in Rochester said, “Rochester is the classic example of a rust belt city that is heavily, heavily, segregated. You can go a mile or two away and the interactions people have, the culture, even the sense of danger completely changes. If you put democratic control over what the police are doing in these neighborhoods they will begin to see that you can’t see your  neighborhood as a war zone. You can’t view the people you’re supposed to be serving as this deterrent or this antagonistic force between you and getting home. It can’t be like that. And that’s present everywhere. It’s important for every chapter to go after what the specific problems are in their city, [regardless of] whatever DSA national is saying…. If there’s any chapters in cities like this, especially rust belt chapters, it is imperative to make police reform, police accountability, democratic control… a top priority if they want to engage the base that will drive a movement that will win.”

Year in Review: University of Oregon YDS

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated to reflect the fact that Oregon is not Oklahoma. 

The UO YDS chapter had a great year, with the rise in leftist energy since the general election, we have been kicking the political revolution on our campus into high gear. This winter term, we worked with the Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network (the local chapter of Jobs With Justice) to hold resistance trainings, designed to equip activists with effective tools for nonviolent direct action. We also organized a campus-wide Catharsis Against Capitalism, where everyone present was invited to stand up and speak about how they had been feeling since the presidential election. We ate pizza, made posters and vented pent-up emotions about the current political climate.

The most attended meeting of our winter term featured a video with Richard Wolff titled “Marxism 101: How Capitalism is Killing Itself” with a discussion afterward. For International Women’s Day our co-chair, Elaina Colussi, led a discussion about socialist feminism in which we talked about the collusion of patriarchy and capitalism, and what we as a chapter can do to fight these two institutions simultaneously. We found that having these education/discussion meetings alternate with the business meetings where we break out into working groups gave our chapter a great dynamic where we could be productive without burning out, and at the same time foster leftist discourse and educate ourselves as activists.

In response to airstrikes in Syria, we organized a die-in protest. We brought together thirty students to block traffic in the heart of campus. The event had significant press coverage: a news station and an article in the school newspaper. Later, when the UO Board of Trustees voted to increase tuition by $945 for next year (a 10.6% increase for in-state students), we organized a sizable protest which began with a rally outside the administration building, then a march to the Board meeting, where we gave testimonies. The event was covered on two TV stations.

We had an educational series held every Monday night, where we explored topics like: socialist feminism; personal, private and intellectual property; capitalism and the environment; and labor. One of these education events fell on May Day, so we formed a panel for a discussion on the past, present, and future of the labor movement, consisting of the presidents of three union locals, the chair of the local Jobs For Justice chapter, and our Political Education coordinator, Max Hoots, who is a member of our campus’ Student Labor Action Project. In honor of May Day, our co-chair Xander Berenstein introduced the panel by talking about the Haymarket Massacre, the event which May Day commemorates. For the Socialist Feminism meeting, we had a guest speaker come in and give a terrific talk on sex workers’ rights. Also in spring term we created working groups for topics like Socialist Feminism, Anti-War, Environmental, and Labor.

Over the course of the year, we’ve formed coalitions with labor groups on campus like the Student Labor Action Project, the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, and the Radical Organizing and Activism Resource Center. Next year, we are looking at expanding our coalitions to include the Women’s Center, Men’s Center, Black Student Union, Arab Student Union, Muslim Student Association, and the LGBTQIA community.

As education came under attack in our state we helped found coalitions to protect it. Prioritizing Education Equity and Labor bonded student groups and labor unions on campus to work with each other, not against. The UO Student Collective was started as a broad based student advocacy group.

We’ve also been working closely with our new DSA counterpart, DSA Eugene, to hold a number of different events. We are very excited by their newly recognized chapter status, and look forward to working with them on campaigns on campus and in the community.

Elaina Colussi is a co-chair of Oregon University YDS. 

In North-Central West Virginia, a New Wave of Socialist Organizing

 

By: Michael Mochaidean

It’s a hot summer day in Morgantown when Travis Boothe begins his canvassing route to the major apartment complexes in and around the town. He’s traveling with members of a newly-formed local coalition, Morgantown Socialists, to speak with tenants about the biggest challenges they face dealing with their landlords.  In almost every interview Travis conducts that day, one common theme emerges – an utter lack of concern for renters.

Renting is big business in Morgantown, home to the state’s flagship college – West Virginia University. In 2015, for example, over 22% of a median renter’s household income went into paying monthly rent, compared to 19% for the state and just over 20% for the country. In the town itself, 37% of housing units are renting households, compared to just 27% in the state.

One of the biggest factors explaining this disparity is the sprawling nature of Morgantown and its reliance on the university to keep the town economically stable. The population of Morgantown fluctuates from 31,000 in the summer months to over 60,000 during the fall and spring semester. Morgantown is also one of the few towns in West Virginia that has maintained a steady, positive growth in the population over the past decade. When WVU joined the Big 12 in 2012, one of the stipulations for joining the new conference was an increase in student population by roughly 10,000 students over the next decade. The University Board of Governors acted swiftly to build accommodations for these new students. In 2012, WVU spent $14.5 million to purchase massive portions of land in the congested Sunnyside neighborhood near campus. Small homes were torn down and in their stead large, expensive sky rise apartment complexes – an oddity for the town – were built.

Travis’ interviews reveal an underlying sentiment of tenant discontent, but one that has long lacked any tangible possibilities for effecting change. In last year’s city council election, local landlords banded together to pump thousands of dollars into the Republican nominees in the hopes of maintaining hegemony over the local city ordinances governing rental agreements. Luckily, their hopes were dashed with the help of the progressive group – Mountaineers for Progress – which was able to get progressive Democrats elected from all seven wards.

Travis, however, is not as optimistic about the recent electoral victory. For him, a reliance on electoral politics allows power to remain in the hands of the few. Rather than relying solely on elected officials to enact change, he has taken charge to see it through himself. Utilizing direct action politics, which he and other members of the Morgantown Socialists learned from activists with Philly Socialists, the Morgantown Tenants Union (MTU) was born. Taking the lead from the Philadelphia Tenants Union, Travis stated that the goal of the MTU is to focus on dual power and work on institutions outside mainstream capitalist politics. In their first meeting on July 15th, there was no talk about the philosophical differences each member had with one another. The big-tent group that grew in the wake of the Sanders campaign is less concerned with striving for left unity and more on working-class unity.

Speaking to the long-term mission of the MTU, Boothe stated that, “Our primary mission is to organize the unorganized.” Too often, leftist groups work within themselves in an insular fashion, cutting off others who may otherwise support your cause but who are, as of yet, unaffiliated. For Travis, the MTU can draw in a broad progressive base of unorganized, working-class tenants and then “help them to break the mold of what it means to be political.” In this sense, Travis is less concerned with working with other local activist groups than he is with making connections with everyday residents.

The MTU hopes to achieve these goals in much the same way that the Philadelphia Tenants Union has achieved theirs: publicize grievances against landlords, maintain a registry of complaints, stage a picket in key locations and in front of landlord buildings, organize a rent strike, and push the city council to enact some form of rent control. Throughout this process, Travis hopes that the group will increase the level of class consciousness in the area.

While Travis works to develop the central goals and organizing tactics of the MTU, on the other side of town, the newly chartered North Central West Virginia DSA chapter is holding its monthly meeting. Jeff Ryan – chair of the local chapter – is sitting down with members to develop a community outreach program centered on education. At first glance, this emphasis on education might seem strange to the outside observer, given Morgantown’s proximity to the university. Ryan, however, is helping to develop an educational program to teach local citizens how to spot “fake news.” His outreach is not intended to target college students, but instead the poor, working-class families living in Monongalia county and the surrounding regions – many of whom pass by the university daily, but will never attend it.

Unlike the MTU, the North Central West Virginia DSA is focused on the small towns on the periphery of Morgantown. “In fact, when we were working on the title for our chapter, we didn’t want it to have the name ‘Morgantown’ in it,” Ryan stated, referring to the chapter’s submission for approval in March. “We wanted it to be more all-encompassing of the region.” The DSA title matches the chapter’s outreach. For example, the local is working on writing resume workshops and its “fake news” media educational program through the county’s libraries where they believe they can best impact lower-income, working-class families.

When asked why the local was spending much more of its time and effort on the more rural parts of the county, Ryan replied that, “There needs to be a greater outreach educationally to small towns outside of the so-called blue centers.” The ‘blue centers’ refer to demographically condensed areas that tend to vote Democrat and have a higher median income, which Morgantown is slowly becoming . Many of the surrounding towns, where Ryan is trying to shift the focus of the local DSA, are “living without capitalism already.” While there has been much written about the experiences of urban poverty – food deserts and accessibility, chief among them – there is not much outreach into the types of rural poverty witnessed in the state, according to Ryan. As such, the effort to increase educational accessibility in towns with a population below 200 are increasingly more important for the North Central West Virginia DSA than are issues of singular, town-specific poverty.

What is being witnessed in Northern West Virginia, then, can be seen as an experiment in socialist praxis writ large. Morgantown Socialists is experimenting with big-tent socialist politics in their attempt to ameliorate working-class poverty of student and non-student renters. Engaging with unorganized tenants in the specific confines of the town allows them and their newly formed tenants union to draw a direct line between renters and landlords. The issue-specific nature of their cause also prevents fracturing on socialist ideology, while allowing observers to participate in their own economic liberation in a cooperative, direct manner.

The North Central West Virginia DSA chapter, on the other hand, is shifting their focus to more rural areas of poverty where the dislocation between accessibility and services is greatest. These areas are known to be traditional conservative enclaves and the dispersed nature of these towns makes local organizing difficult for local leftists. Nevertheless, Ryan and the local chapter understand the need to bridge this metaphorical divide with what Michael Harrington described as “The Other America,” rather than writing them off as a lost cause.

In a sense, both strategies are necessary for the development of twenty-first century class-consciousness. The narrow focus of the MTU provides issue-specific solidarity that transcends political party or ideology, whereas the broader focus on community outreach championed by the local DSA chapter dismantles traditional center-periphery relationships between large and small towns. 

Most importantly, this strategy can benefit other new locals, concerned with their long-term goals. The MTU and the DSA chapter are not affiliated with one another, and yet both socialist groups have found ways of impacting their community without overindulging one particular issue. It is yet to be seen what the long-term efficacy of these groups will be, and if they will one day work closer with one another on issue-specific projects. For now, however, West Virginia is a case study in socialism-in-process.

Voices: Snowflake Doctrine

By: Julian Epp

This article appears in the print issue of The Activist, which will be distributed at the DSA Convention in Chicago from August 3-6 and will be distributed as part of YDS’ fall recruitment push. 

A few months before my 7th birthday, I watched as my diabetic father was dragged from our car and beaten by four officers who thought he was driving drunk. In reality, he was having a hypoglycemic episode and needed to raise his blood sugar. Instead of protecting and serving, they threw him headfirst onto the pavement and told him that he was resisting arrest. I saw it all from the passenger seat.

This is not why I became a socialist.

I have been on Medicaid, used food stamps, and was on the free lunch program at my school. My grandmother told me that people on welfare are deadbeats, and my classmates have said that all poor people deserve to die. I am uninsured and rarely visit the doctor or dentist, even when it is evident I need to, because I know I won’t be able to afford it. I lost one of my front teeth over a year ago, and will likely not get it fixed without begging online through a GoFundMe.

This is not why I became a socialist.

For most of my life, I was raised by a single mother who worked long nights as a waitress. She struggled to go back to college because of the financial strain and time it would take, and eventually gave up. Even though she is continually the hardest working person I know, we never saw the upward mobility we were promised. I was lucky enough to be able to attend Indiana University through a scholarship, but only with her help.

This is not why I became a socialist.

There is not just one reason why I became a socialist. Likewise, it is never a single straw that breaks a camel’s back, or an individual snowflake that causes an avalanche. It is only through the combined, collective force of these life experiences and others, including those that might never see the page, that drove me to becoming a socialist. The things I have seen firsthand were the catalyst, but socialism isn’t just about improving my own conditions. I have seen family, friends, and strangers left behind through no fault of their own, and there are those in the U.S. and abroad with struggles similar or, more often, far worse. They are the ones that keep me motivated to fight for a better world, where your needs are met and you don’t have to live in fear.

When I first talked to members of DSA and YDS, I felt understood. My feelings about the state of our world, as well as my own experiences, were validated and echoed. Even though we all do not have the same struggles, we understand that everyone’s struggle matters. We do not ignore racial justice for economic justice, or vice versa, because we know it will take both to truly transform our society. We know that many of the people most affected by these issues will not be able to fight, so we fight for them. That is why I am a socialist, and that is why I am in YDS. By joining DSA, we are working to start an avalanche of our own.