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Current Affairs

A Magazine of Politics and Culture

A Gathering of Comrades

Why the DSA convention filled me with hope…

I do not travel well. I have a tendency to forget where I am going, or even that I am going somewhere. Crucial possessions are frequently left behind in faraway places. Once I sat at an airport gate, looking at a plane out the window. I watched it arrive, disembark, board again, taxi, take off. Only as I watched it sail through the air did I realize I was supposed to have gotten on it. Cate Root, our Current Affairs administrative maven, has taken to preparing a reference document before my trips called “Where Is Nathan Going?” and instructs me to look at it if I fail to remember the answer to that question. Sometimes I lose the document itself. Then all bets are off. 

Two days before it was due to start, I suddenly remembered that I had applied for a press pass to attend the Democratic Socialists of America’s national convention in Atlanta. “I wonder if they ever granted me that credential,” I mused. They had. I swiftly booked a flight—Spirit, my favorite airline, and the only one whose last-minute tickets are under $400—and paid for an incredibly expensive room in the convention center hotel. I packed lightly and erratically—too many pairs of underwear, not enough socks or pants. I neglected to bring a phone charger. And off I went to join my comrades. 

I have written before about the DSA. My position is that I like them. When I am with DSA members, I feel as if I am part of something humane and powerful and useful. Attending their meetings and protests fills me with a sense of optimism and uplift. But I had never been to their biannual convention before, and I had been warned that watching 1000 socialists try to resolve their differences might cause my impression of the organization to sour. (I do not know what the collective noun for a group of socialists is, but the one for seagulls is “a squabble” and I think it should be imported.) 

The DSA convention is held once every two years, and the stakes for this one were high. In recent years, DSA has taken off, and it now has over 50,000 dues-paying members. It has gone from an almost-dormant fringe group to having two members of Congress and nearly 100 state and local officials around the country, including six members of the Chicago city council. Not large as a percentage of the total, of course, and still far short of the 1,000 socialists that once held office in the United States. But nothing to sniff at, especially if we think the socialist wave is just forming rather than cresting. 

Growing so fast creates giant challenges for the organization. How the hell do you coordinate the actions of a group that recently had 10 times fewer members? There are around 200 chapters, all of which have to figure out how to advance “democratic socialism,” an idea with a hotly disputed definition. DSA is a “big tent” organization, which means you have Marxists, anarchists, and Sanders-ish left social democrats all trying to work together. There are differences of both vision and strategy on the left: Should we focus on union organizing or electoral politics? Should we have centralized organizations or decentralized ones? What positions should Democrats have to adopt to secure a socialist endorsement? If we disagree about these things, how can we work together in spite of it?

The DSA is at a critical moment. Conceivably, it could continue to grow, could become a more important force in U.S. politics, and could meaningfully advance the socialist agenda. But we can imagine an alternate scenario, one in which the group is torn apart by infighting and disorganization. The socialists of the early 20th century failed to find a way to unite “reformists” and “revolutionaries,” and their influence disappeared. Will our socialist movement stay marginal, or will it win? The DSA’s convention was an important test, because there is no other socialist organization of its size and influence, and if it appeared shambolic and hopeless, that wouldn’t give much hope for the movement. 

The DSA convention is not a political rally, or a collection of panel discussions like the Socialism conference. It’s more like a congress. Chapters send delegates to debate and resolve questions about the organization itself: its structure, its priorities, its budget. (You might think this would be boring. You would be very wrong.) Because it’s the only time the national membership meets for two years, what happens at the DSA convention can have significant implications for the organization’s fate. I felt that the convention had global implications: If socialists don’t win, radical action on climate change is not going to be taken, and if the DSA can’t hold together, socialists won’t win. The resolutions may be about what percentage of the budget should go to local chapters versus the national, or whether there should be regional bodies as mid-level entities between locals and national, but underlying all of it is the question: Where is DSA going and will it get there?

On the train to the convention, I run into Bhaskar Sunkara, editor of Jacobin. He does not look nearly as pleased to see me as I am to see him. Bhaskar and I maintain comradely relations, and he has been tremendously helpful to Current Affairs, but there is no denying that we have very different dispositions. He is serious, professional, even somewhat quiet. I am frivolous, have trouble controlling my volume, and tend to bump into things. It is clear he means Business, while I barely know the meaning of Business. Throughout the weekend, Bhaskar will find himself inadvertently plunged into situations in which he has to make conversation with me against his will. Imagine Karl Marx and Willy Wonka trapped on a riverboat together trying to find topics of common interest, and you will get a rough sense of our strained chat. I suspect he thinks me a dilettante. He is not wrong. Throughout the weekend, I realize that for the editor of a socialist magazine, I am not conversant in the subtleties of internal socialist politics. I find myself issuing idiotic replies to people, like: “Oh, ah, the rank and file labor strategy resolution, no, I haven’t read it but, gosh, it sounds exactly like my sort of thing.”

I arrive at the Westin Peachtree Plaza, which is gigantic and unattractive. It has been booked because it is one of the only unionized hotels in Atlanta. It is 70-something floors tall, with too few elevators, meaning that people will spend much of their weekend stuck waiting in cramped vestibules glaring at buttons. It contains a Starbucks. In the lobby there is a sign pointing the way to something called “the tangent,” but as a man who always stays on course I take care to avoid it. 

My first impression of the convention is that it is impressively well-organized for a left-wing gathering. We might as well be at a conference of dentists. (I mean that as a compliment.) I am given a packet of attractively-designed and well-printed informational material. Socialism has really come up lately in the graphic design department, for which Remeike Forbes of Jacobin probably deserves a good deal of credit. My press pass, with its red lanyard, makes me feel like an authentic member of the United States Press Corps, and gives me a sense of power. “Excuse me—press,” I say several times, enjoying myself thoroughly. There is an Official Press Area behind velvet ropes. (At one point, a reporter from the New York Times is seated next to me in the press box, frantically bashing out what I suspect will be a hit piece, so I deluge him with asinine questions and side-remarks, hoping to distract him from his duties.) Leftists sometimes make fun of centrist wonks as “lanyard-wearers”—my colleague Luke Savage writes of those who “think a lanyard is a talisman that grants wishes and wards off evil”—but I understand where they are coming from. With the lanyard, you are no longer just a person. You are a person with a thing dangling from your neck explaining your significance. I don’t know who I am, frets the brain. You are somebody, replies the lanyard. 

There is a great deal of business to be done at the convention and not much time in which to do it. Delegates must elect a new National Political Committee (NPC), the 16-member board that will govern the DSA for the next two years. They also have 204 pages of proposed Resolutions and 93 pages of proposed Constitution and Bylaw changes to debate. As my colleague Jaya Sundaresh has endeavored to explain, there are a number of factions or tendencies among the DSA delegates. It can be difficult, as an outsider, to understand what these are, because they don’t completely fall along lines that match the usual heuristics for left politics (e.g., “Marxists vs. anarchists,” centralists versus decentralists). You have “Bread & Roses,” “Build,” “Socialist Majority,” “Collective Power Network,” and the “Libertarian Socialist Caucus.” If someone put a gun to my head and asked me to explain the major ideological differences between these groups, I’d tell them they might as well pull the trigger.

That’s not to say that the differences aren’t real or meaningful. Over the weekend there will be major controversies over: whether to create a “litmus test” for DSA-endorsed candidates, whether to create an “anti-fascist working group,” who gets the dues money and how much of it they get, and whether to endorse another candidate if Bernie loses the primary. There will also be more unanimous resolutions, like support for the Green New Deal, the decriminalization of sex work, universal free childcare, and even “open borders.” (Open borders are good.)

The convention mostly takes place in a giant ballroom, where all thousand delegates deliberate together over two-and-a-half days. Outside the ballroom there is a mingling area, where little left publishers are selling books like Marx At The Arcade and Rosa Remix. You can pick up everything from copies of Labor Notes to colorful prophylactics. A man gives me a button with a picture of early 20th-century Dutch communist theorist Anton Pannekoek. “We call him Tony Pancakes,” my benefactor tells me with a wink. Sure enough, the words “Communism / Pancakes” are written on it, and old Anton has been photoshopped to look like a badass. I enjoy the lunacy of this. 

People are handing out flyers promoting both after-parties and bylaw amendments. A great deal of informal lobbying will take place in the mingle-space, with groups handing out circulars headed “VOTE FOR RESOLUTION 31” or “SUGGESTED NPC SLATE.” There are free copies of Democratic Left, the DSA’s in-house periodical, with a special issue on Medicare For All and another on war and imperialism. A representative from the “Build” group gives me a copy of their odd little magazine, which contains recipes and poetry. You can get a pamphlet on “Why Socialists Should Care About Animal Liberation,” or pick up a 20-page “Local Infrastructure Report,” which overflows with charts and data on the financial situation of chapters. There is lots of literature from the Ecosocialists on why a Green New Deal is needed and what it should consist of. (The Ecosocialists warn: “The Oceans Are Rising And So Are We!”) You can pick up guides on how to practice good active listening and how to meaningfully obtain sexual consent. The Libertarian Socialists are handing out brochures explaining their theory of “dual power,” which is a strategy to “build counter-institutions that serve as alternatives to the institutions currently governing production, investment, and social life” and “confederating these institutions to build up a base of grassroots counter-power.” It is related to a system they call “municipalist syndicalism,” which I like the sound of very much but am not quite sure I understand.

The convention debates themselves are a remarkable blend of procedural tedium and lively argument. Robert’s Rules of Order, a curse on humanity that should guarantee Mr. Robert a permanent spot among History’s Greatest Monsters, govern the proceedings. This guarantees complicated moments in which the group debates whether to continue debating whether to continue debate. (“Would now be a good time to add amendments to the amendment?” someone asks at one point. “No,” replies the Chair.) In a room of 1000 people, anyone can hop up to the microphone at any point to make a “Point of Personal Privilege” or “Point of Inquiry.” Inevitably, people abuse their Personal Privilege and make Inquisitions out of their Inquiries. Everyone becomes frustrated with the direction in which Robert’s Rules take the convention, and there are occasional outbursts of angry hissing when someone feels compelled to interrupt the proceedings to make a motion to suspend the rules to amend the agenda to move the amendment. At one point, a man got up to declaim that too much time was being spent “voting on whether we’re going to vote about voting,” not realizing that he was wasting time complaining about wasting time. (The frustration is occasionally relieved by humor. A quote from the Chair: “Could someone get a mic to the comrade in the jean jacket…of which there are many.”)

It does not help that certain people seem to be very good with Robert’s Rules, and know what requires a simple majority and what requires a two-thirds, and know all the little technicalities you can use to stall or advance the proceedings to get your favored legislation through. (Some asshole threw a bomb into the Saturday discussion by issuing a “Call For The Orders Of The Day” in the middle of somebody else’s speech, and there was much murmuring as people tried to figure out what the hell that was. I will hate the person who did this until the day I die.) I met many delightful socialists over the weekend, and have love for those in all caucuses and factions, but I will never call “comrade” anyone who enjoys complicating people’s lives with these things. 

Actually, though, on the whole the debates run fairly smoothly, considering that you have a squabble of differently-minded socialists from all 50 states trying to determine their organization’s future together. There were some unnecessary call-outs, some passionate disagreements, and I have no doubt that some people had a miserable time at the convention. But there was also a real spirit of “participatory democracy” to the whole thing. Take the debate over whether the group should be “Bernie or bust.” Some people thought it made sense, since Bernie is the only “democratic socialist” in the race, for the DSA to make it clear that he was the only candidate they could support. Others thought it didn’t make sense to completely foreclose the possibility of endorsing, say, an Elizabeth Warren candidacy, further down the line. That’s a reasonable dispute for a left group to have, and it got worked out through public discourse in which some people spoke for, some people spoke against, and then everyone voted.

At a time when people have so little political agency, and there isn’t a culture of participation in governance, there was something very fulfilling about seeing lively public debates among ordinary people about the issues that mattered to them. It offers a glimpse at what it might be like to live in a world where people agreed on matters of basic principle and hashed out the remaining tensions in an egalitarian fashion. It made me look forward to the day when we’ll have a randomly selected Congress comprised of endless different types of socialists. It will be an exasperating beautiful mess. 

Of course, sometimes the arguments got unfriendly, and the disputes were bitter. The proposal for an “anti-fascist working group” was deeply divisive. Proponents thought it was obvious that the DSA, as a group that was against fascism, should devote resources to figuring out how to stop fascism. Opponents believed it tied DSA too closely to the specific anti-fascist tendency known as Antifa, which could cause negative legal and safety consequences for DSA. In the event, it passed by a small margin. I spoke to one member who was pissed about the resolution, because he was trying to organize in a very conservative area, where Antifa are regarded as literal terrorists. He could sell Bernie Sanders’ socialism to these people, he thought. He could not sell the idea of marauding black blocs. But then: I spoke to another member who was equally pissed in the other direction. How could anti-fascism be controversial in the age of Trump? And I spoke to a third member who felt conflicted: He had voted for the resolution, but then fellow DSAers had changed his mind over it, and he had tried to get it “reconsidered” so it could be voted on the other way. He said he made a lot of people angry when he made his reconsideration motion (it failed), and he slunk away from the conference dejected. 

The bad feelings and motion sickness that arose during the formal debate sessions were relieved by the presence of guest speakers and panelists. The obvious highlight among these was Sara Nelson of the flight attendants union. I knew of Nelson thanks to her role in pressuring Trump during the government shutdown (the New York Times ran a good profile). What I did not know was that she was an authentic labor radical of a kind not seen for about a century. Nelson is deceptive; she looks, well, like a typical flight attendant. She has a boring name. But when she spoke, she channeled the spirit of Emma Goldman and Mother Jones. Wearing a dress covered with red roses, she praised “our democratic socialist heroes Eugene Victor Debs and Lucy Gonzalez Parsons” and called for a return to the “militant rank and file organizing approach that built the early labor movement.” 

Nelson began her speech talking about a strike of washerwomen in 1880s Atlanta, former slaves who refused to settle for pitiful pay. She teared up while telling the story. “The law wasn’t on the side of these women, the economy wasn’t. But they were smart, creative, and fearless.” She related how, as a young flight attendant, she realized the power the airline had over her, and how she discovered a power of her own by joining a union. She talked of the meaning of solidarity, the strength of picket lines, and said: “The labor movement belongs to all working people. Women, people of color, young people: Join unions and run unions.” Nelson ended the speech by asking everyone to stand and turn to their neighbor, promising them “I’ve got your back.” The crowd began chanting “I’VE GOT YOUR BACK” over and over, and then spontaneously burst into the final lines of “Solidarity Forever.” I’ll confess, I was in tears. It’s hard to know sometimes whether people are “the real deal” or just speaking in crowd-pleasing platitudes. Nelson’s speech showed that she has a serious grounding in labor history and is a radical to her core. I can’t wait to see what she does next.

The most incredible thing I saw, then, was a socialist flight attendant wearing red roses getting a thousand people to promise they’d always stand by one another in the struggle. A close second, however, was the Elected Officials Press Conference. 

It was much more low-key, the press conference. Nobody chanted or sang. It was just a short period, in a windowless room, where DSA-backed elected officials gathered to take questions from the media. And yet it was during those 45 minutes that I really felt something special was going on at the DSA National Convention, something that might very well affect the contours of history.

I’m not sure what it was that affected me so much. I think it was just that there were so many of them, and they were so different from one another, and they were from all over the place. They were of all races and genders. All of them socialists, and all serving in public office. A city councilor in Knoxville, Seema Singh. Other city council members and aldermen from Olympia, Billings, Somerville, Providence. A member of the flood control board for Sacramento. State representatives, township trustees, judges. The first nonbinary elected official in the country, Brandy Fortson of the Corvallis, OR, school board. The DSA handed out a document profiling the socialist elected officials in attendance. It ran seven pages, and the ones who came are just a fraction of the total elected socialists in the U.S. 

The press conference of socialist elected officials. Photocredit: Dave Weigel, used with permission. Main photo: DSA delegates overwhelmingly passing a resolution to prioritize an ecosocialist Green New Deal. Chicago delegation visible in front. Courtesy of Sean Estelle.

There were so many that they couldn’t all speak, but Mik Pappas, a Pennsylvania District Judge, talked about his successful efforts to reduce eviction rates and all but eliminate cash bail in his courtroom, and khalid kamau, of the South Fulton, Georgia city council, talked about his plans for community land trusts. Ruth Buffalo, of the North Dakota state legislature, has an incredible story. A Native woman, she ousted the Republican who sponsored the state voter ID law that controversially impacted Native Americans, and she beat him in a Republican-majority district. Now she has, according to her DSA-provided bio, “passed 7 bills through a Republican super-majority state house, including bills to support Native American rights and address the situation of missing and murdered indigenous women.” I was amazed at how much “red state” representation there was in the room, considering the media talking point that socialism can’t win outside Queens. I asked the candidates how they went about persuading people in hostile territory.

“One of the tenets of the DSA is that capitalism is failing working people,” kamau replied, “and nowhere is that more evident than in the South. Many of us are from states where our legislatures have foregone expanding Medicaid. In Georgia, we’ve had 11 hospitals close in rural areas, there are several more that are slated to close. [Many of us come from states that] struggle with educational outcomes. We’re still suffering from Jim Crow and the legacy of separate but unequal school systems… After Reconstruction, the Klan didn’t just target black folks in our states, they targeted union members. So we have a history of anti-unionism, and workers don’t have the rights and protections that they have in other places. So I think those of us that are winning in red states, I think these red state legislatures have really done the work for us, and we just highlight that these are all the ways that the system is failing.”

Buffalo tells me: 

“So I’m born and raised in North Dakota, and we’re a trifecta state. And as an indigeneous woman, and a mother, going door-to-door this past summer, visiting people and meeting them exactly where they’re at, on their front doorstep, and having a conversation [about] what issues matter most to them, what we know and what we’ve found is that throughout North Dakota, which is basically a rural community… issues that communities face in places such as Standing Rock or at family farms are all the same. Everybody wants a safe community, everyone wants clean drinking water. We want a better future, a more prosperous future for generations to come… People are finding hope and getting back to the nuts and bolts of grassroots organizing. We just celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the state Bank of North Dakota, we have a movement of really getting back to our roots and embracing who we are with people-centered policies. We have an opportunity for improving health outcomes and improving the quality of life through good policy.”

The DSA politicians explain socialism as a matter of simple values, ones with the potential for widespread appeal among working people. Mike Sylvester, a Maine State Representative, says that when people ask him what socialism means: 

“I tell them, it means that your government doesn’t have to explain to you why they helped you, because you had a piece in not only coming up with the idea, but in creating the policy behind it, and in implementing it. People tell me: ‘That’s common sense!’ And I say, exactly, that’s socialism.”

It’s not exactly the seizure of the means of production, to be sure. But nor is it vacuous: There is a difference between a government in which people participate in decision-making and one in which they do not. The socialists are offering a kind of hope that consists of more than just the word “HOPE” on a poster. It consists of a clear vision of what politics should look like: People like them, a diverse group of regular workers, should be the ones in government. The state should provide people the services they need, rather than leaving them to a callously indifferent free market. Hospitals and schools shouldn’t be shuttered, people should have good healthcare. The socialists are the only ones who seem seriously committed to making all of this happen, so it shouldn’t be hard to get people to vote for the socialists. 

I am convinced, then, that we could be at the beginning of something extraordinary. Throughout the weekend, I keep meeting dynamic, brilliant, committed people who are running for office or organizing, like Shahid Buttar, Daniel Lockwood, and Rebecca Parson. They are almost all young, and they have “fire in the belly.” I start to ask myself: If they can win one Republican seat in North Dakota, why not two? Why not five? Things change fast. As Lauren Gambino of the Guardian noted, at the time of the previous DSA convention, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was still “serving tacos and cocktails at a bar in Manhattan.” Now she’s one of the most visible members of Congress.

I suspect there are socialists all over the place who dare not show themselves. At one point, a man I have been talking to off and on all weekend comes up to me and asks gravely: “Can I tell you something I’ve never told anyone?” I say of course, and he confesses he is a high-ranking staff person on a major presidential candidate’s campaign. The candidate in question is one any socialist would be embarrassed at being affiliated with. He says he needed the job and took it out of desperation. “Even my family doesn’t know.” 

“What do they think you do?”

“They think I’m unemployed.” 

There is some hostility and suspicion on the debate floor, but everyone I meet in the mingling chamber is downright lovely. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that there are many Current Affairs readers among the attendees, and Current Affairs readers are statistically likely to be real sweethearts. But there’s just something that feels good about a place where everyone calls you comrade. Online differences melt away into the air. Kate Wagner of McMansion Hell finds me and gives me a big hug. We have never met before, but have clashed on the internet before over whether Brutalism is good. (She believes, incorrectly, that it is.) In person, we easily become friends. It is like a variation on Heaven: You find yourself in a place where everyone from the internet comes alive… and they’re not fighting. I talk to Ugo Okere, whose aldermanic campaign I followed, and Ben Burgis, whose leftist philosophy book I have reviewed. Everyone is just cool. Sam Natale of Kansas tells me that, when the Republican government sold off school buses for the price of scrap metal, his chapter bought a bus and painted it bright red. They plan to use it to drive rural people to polling stations, and they’ve just brought it all the way to Atlanta. They seem like great people. 

* * * *

Of course, none of the warmth and optimism will make its way into the FOX News take on the convention. I was surprised, after coming home, to find that conservatives have seized on a few short clips of the convention, in order to portray attendees as ludicrous lefty snowflakes. Not surprised at conservative mendacity, but surprised because I’d barely noticed the things they singled out: a moment in which someone said “guys” was gendered language, and asked that we stick to “comrade,” a request for the crowd to refrain from clapping, booing, and cheering, and a request to avoid pungent fragrances. All this was evidence of hypersensitivity. 

Personally, I was fine with the anti-clapping injunction. They ask for this during televised presidential debates too, because it distracts from the discussion, takes up time, can drown people out, and creates a circus atmosphere. Even with the rule, the DSA debates sometimes came to seem like British parliamentary sessions, with grunts and boos, claps and whoops. For someone unused to public speaking, participating would be incredibly intimidating, because the moment you said something that annoyed the crowd, it would begin hissing at you. I was pleased that this was discouraged. 

I suppose one can critique the way the anti-clapping policy was promoted as an accommodation of a particular disability. And I do think it was unwise to enforce it for plenary speeches and panels—during Sara Nelson’s barn burner, for instance, it was a little eerie to see a crowd of people simply wiggling their fingers at the obvious “applause moments” of the speech. But also: Some people don’t find it easy to be in loud, chaotic environments, and I find it strange that conservatives object so angrily to fairly mild inclusivity measures. And it’s clear that the objection was to the atmosphere clapping creates, rather than noise itself, since the entire conference ended in a giant noisy sing-a-long. 

Besides, those who dwelled on these moments of leftishness got a completely distorted understanding of the convention. YouTube commenters saw the clips as proof the socialists couldn’t get their act together, but they are wrong. Reason’s Robby Soave, one of the slightly less asinine libertarian critics of the left, pointed out that “of all the various factions of progressive activism, the DSA is by far the most organized, and the least likely to be derailed by culturally woke signaling.” The New York Times reporter in attendance came away impressed by the sophistication and determination of the socialists, concluding “it was plain that D.S.A. constitutes a true movement, and of some mass” and “the contrast with Occupy Wall Street’s general assemblies, which sought to establish consensus rather than decisive victors and losers, was unmistakable.” 

I felt the same. I had put a lot of hope in DSA, and was worried the convention would reveal them to be held together with band-aids and duct tape. Instead, it felt like a movement in the ascendant. There were about five MAGA hat-wearing protesters outside, with signs that said “Socialism Sucks” and “Socialism is Poverty and Death,” but they seemed only half-committed. (Bhaskar, once again inadvertently saddled with me during a coffee run, convinced them to pose for a photo.) Inside, people were getting organized. They were making plans, and there was evidence those plans might succeed. There were factions, yes, but they were soft factions, not giant looming schisms. 

It was emotional at times. How could it not be? Lives are at stake in whether the socialists win or lose. The El Paso shooting happened during the convention, and the local delegates gave a moving statement on the urgency of the fight against white supremacy. A Latina delegate wearing a shirt that said “FUCK LA MIGRA” became choked up as she said to me “I’m just so tired of my people being killed.” Tensions often ran high, but everyone came together at the end. It felt incredible when, at the moment the convention adjourned, a thousand people sangSolidarity Forever” like they meant it, and the whole room shouted the “ORGANIZE AND FIGHT” line on the second verse as loud as they could. For me, those lyrics never lose their power:

When the union’s inspiration
Through the workers’ blood shall run
There can be no power greater
Anywhere beneath the sun
Yet what force on earth is weaker
Than the feeble strength of one?
But the union makes us strong
Solidarity forever
Solidarity forever
Solidarity forever
For the union makes us strong

Coming out of the airport back in New Orleans, I felt aglow. In the taxi on the way back to the French Quarter, the radio was playing “Pennies From Heaven” for Louis Armstrong’s birthday. I found myself bursting into laughter, and unable to stop smiling. I kept running over the extraordinary things I had just seen. My God, I thought, they are actually going to win. I couldn’t believe it. But I really think they will. We will. We’ve got each other’s backs. Solidarity forever. 

I am currently interviewing DSA members for academic research and future articles. If you are in DSA and would be interested in being interviewed please email [email protected]

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