Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Philly Socialists Show How To Organize

From an article about Philly Socialists:
Could a socialist pitch catch on in Philly? In one sense, a vision of an economy that isn’t controlled by private profit-seeking is tailor-made for big cities, where the built environment itself is an illustration of class inequality. But cities also feed the idea — faulty though it may be — that the upper classes are permeable, that a lower-class person can join them if he is clever enough or hard-working enough, which works against the kind of class solidarity that socialists rely on. (And what about the suburbs? Joseph Schwartz, a political science professor at Temple and vice chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, noted that some of the more affluent suburbs are run like European social democracies, with world-class schools and public parks paid for with high local taxes.)

If socialists are going to build a local movement, let alone win a seat or two on City Council, they’ll need a big tent. The audience in the meeting last week was made up mostly of white people, and the Bernie Sanders campaign failed to make serious inroads in black communities. Asa Khalif, founder of the Black Lives Matter chapter for Pennsylvania, told me that he’d helped organize a rally with some Sanders supporters during the Democratic National Convention. Some of their goals overlap — inequality disproportionately hurts people of color, for example — but Khalif said they’re focused on different issues.

“We are first and foremost about the liberation of black and brown people, period,” he said.

So far, socialist groups are focused on issues like raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, abolishing the School Reform Commission and getting local control of the schools, protecting immigrants’ rights, reforming the police department, and creating affordable housing. David Thompson, of the Philly Socialists, told me that group is hoping to build support for a “just cause” tenancy law, which would bar landlords from evicting month-to-month renters without a good reason, like chronically missing rent payments.

And the local socialist groups have different strategies. The Democratic Socialists of America is trying to build momentum by keeping pressure on the left wing of the Democratic Party with candidates like Bernie Sanders. Socialist Alternative doesn’t believe the Democratic Party is a realistic vehicle for leftist politics, and wants to build a viable third party. (There’s also been quiet rumblings in that group about challenging a district Council seat, perhaps in North Philly, where the possibility of a Temple football stadium has sparked neighborhood opposition — though, as former Philadelphia journalist Dan Denvir wrote in Salon, Council President Darrell Clarke hasn’t really played the part of the bad guy in that fight.) And the Philly Socialists are trying to build support by offering free English classes and organizing a tenants-rights groups.

Read the entire article here.

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