Sofia Arias: “Because in the US the working class doesn’t have a party of its own, we want to help build it.”
August 13, 2019, New York
Interviewer: ALPKAN BİRELMA
Here is another interview with DSA member Barry Eidlin
A: First begin with some personal information. When did you join the DSA?
S: I was a socialist before the DSA. I identified as one and organized around anti-war issues. Against the war on terror, against police brutality. But I joined the DSA a few months ago.
A: In which chapter are you working?
S: I am in New York chapter, I organize in Brooklyn
A: I guess this is one of the places you guys are most powerful.
S: New York is the largest chapter in the country.
“FIVE YEARS AGO, DSA WAS THE KIND OF ORGANIZATION OF VERY OLD WHITE MEN.”
A: DSA is by far the largest socialist organization in US. The second largest is much smaller compared to it. Why do you think the recent developments supported the growth of DSA particularly, but not the other socialist or anarchist groups? What is your opinion?
S: It’s very funny. No one expected it. DSA used to be nothing. Four, five years ago, DSA was the kind of organization of very old white men. If you would say, DSA would be an organization where a massive socialist movement would come out, people would have laughed at you. I think, it had a lot to do with the rise of Bernie Sanders in 2016. Right now, most DSA members are in their 20-30s. It is a very young membership base. And more are coming from high schools and colleges. We have now 80 chapters in high schools and universities. They are expanding to trade schools and community colleges, historically black colleges as well. I think, the biggest reason is because of Bernie Sanders. Because he identifies as a democratic socialist. He spoke to a serious number of people, who were breaking away from neoliberalism and centrism, who were very angry. Some of us participated in Occupy, Black Rights Matters. All of these different movements that gave the language for Bernie to talk about the one percent, the billionaires who have benefited from the economic crisis. There was a movement for a 15 dollars minimum wage. All these things preceded the election. Bernie gave voice to them. The main issue was Medicare for All. It was a marginal issue and now it becomes mainstream. It really had to do with Bernie. Also, the election of Trump that was a shock for the entire country. Everyone expected Clinton to win, because the mainstream media and polls consistently said that Trump had no chance. The ruling class backed and supported and then she lost. You hear this from a lot of DSA members; when Trump won, they felt the need to join an organization. DSA got its biggest membership boost on three separate occasions. Bernie’s campaign, Trump’s victory and when Alexander Ocasio-Cortez won.
“MORE EXPERIENCED PEOPLE CAN LEARN FROM YOUNGER PEOPLE IN DSA.”
A: Were you a part of another organization before the DSA?
S: I was a member of a smaller, Leninist organization, which no longer exists.
A: Why did it dissolve?
S: There is a number of reasons. A rape coverup and racism. It was extremely rigid, it couldn’t move with the time. And it was very dismissive of DSA.
A: I guess not only new-comers but more experienced people like yourself also join DSA.
S: The more experienced people are still a minority. I think, people had learned a lot of lessons in the last two years. More experienced people can learn from the people in DSA. The point is that a lot of these small groups, like mine, were very dogmatic. When they looked at DSA they were like “this is a social-democratic organization, pro-imperialist. Look at Syriza, they are like Syriza, etc.”
A: Syriza is a very scary example.
S: But it is also very different than what DSA is.
A: Did you join to DSA individually, or with your friends from your previous group?
S: I joined individually, but there were people who eventually did join. I think, because we saw that DSA was not just a social club where you just sit and read books together. DSA members were endorsing, campaigning for these exciting, interesting new candidates who identify with socialism or fighting for social democratic programs. DSA members are also leading unionizing campaigns in very different unorganized places. They are trying to strengthen the existing unions. They fought in New York for stronger protection for tenants, because of the housing prices. They are fighting for housing as a human right, fighting for universal rent control. It is very much a movement that changes and transforms things in a lot of ways. It has an optimism. The main problem that the different socialist groups had with DSA -and still have- is that DSA historically used to be kind of a pressure group, a wing within the Democratic Party. Still, there are some people in it who are influenced by that idea. They haven’t gone away. But there are many others who are trying to shift the organization to become more independent.
“BECAUSE IN THE US THE WORKING CLASS DOESN’T HAVE A PARTY OF ITS OWN, WE WANT TO HELP BUILD IT.”
A: It seems like the last convention strengthened this emphasis on independence.
S: Yes. Because in the US the working class doesn’t have a party of its own, we want to help build it. There is still debate around these questions. And we voted to only support Bernie Sanders. If he doesn’t get the nomination, we won’t endorse anyone else, which is still a controversial issue among progressives in the US. There is always a lot of pressure to just endorse whoever becomes the Democratic candidate. So, DSA took a big leap, and also a big risk in terms of putting that forward. Because the Democratic Party still is a capitalist party, the main question has always been why you are running as a Democrat, why you’re not running as an independent.
A: I read a debate between Eric Blanc from DSA and Charlie Post as a critic. And the biggest question, the biggest dividing line seemed to be about supporting Bernie as a Democratic candidate. Post was saying that in the upcoming election, the chance of Bernie is lower compared to 2016. He argued that socialists should have built a third party.
S: He and other people who make similar arguments, I think, are unable to explain the successes that have happened recently. The idea was always this: “Once you go into the Democratic Party you’ll become more conservative. You abandon your politics, you advocate neoliberalism.” But this time, this is not happening. These people who became Democratic candidates move toward to the left. It’s very strange. This has led to major debates about how far this is gonna go. People like Rashida, Ilhan, even Bernie himself, might have taken more conservative positions before. But now Bernie is pushing further to the left, because he knows that this is his last chance in terms of age. He is pushing for strikes and for free healthcare. I think DSA and this movement have pushed his own horizons. Whereas Bernie would have taken a more liberal position in previous years. So, it’s extremely unclear right now. There is another person who is a DSA member in San Francisco. His name is Shahid Buttar, he is a Muslim, DSA member, a long-time lawyer for civil liberties. He is running for Nancy Pelosi’s seat in the Congress election in 2020. He has been a longtime activist. Whether or not Bernie wins, if Shadid wins, this will be a major seat in Congress. He would be allying himself the radicals in the congress. Alexander Ocasia-Cortez, İlhan Omar, and so on.
A: Is Ilhan Omar the member of DSA?
A: But she is a socialist, right?
S: She doesn’t identify that way, but she also works with YDSA, the youth group of DSA around the student debt cancellation. Because the plan to cancel all student debt is Ilhan Omar’s along with Bernie. So, she is working with YDSA. I would say she is close but she also faces a lot of racism and Islamophobia.
A: Is that true that DSA supported Bernie when he became independent candidate for the Senate in 2005. I am asking this to understand the historic relationship between Sanders and DSA.
S: I am not sure about that. He responded to DSA about our endorsement this year.
“WE CAME OUT VERY WELL FROM OUR LAST CONVENTION.”
A: To become a member of DSA is very easy, which is interesting for me. But it can be also a disadvantage because, right now, so many people join in. And later they can do whatever they want with this important organization. It can turn to the right. But such a thing seems not happening right now. What do you think about this dilemma?
S: I think, the DSA includes a lot of different people with a lot of different tendencies. DSA as an organization has everyone from social democrats, very classical social democrats, Harringtonites, to maybe more liberal people who support Elisabeth Warren, to anarchist, to Maoist, to post-Trotskyists. It is a multi-tendency organization. In this convention people were worried, because they didn’t know what direction DSA was gonna go. I think, in large part we came out very well. This is also because caucuses have formed within the organization to try to put forward a lead. Because things can be all over the place. Some of the most important votes were about class struggle elections, about building a working-class base and rebuilding labor movement through rank and file orientation, not through labor bureaucracy, about provisions against militarization, about a Green New Deal, about Palestine, about open borders for migration. Now we have a leadership that includes a Salvadorian refugee, a Muslim, etc. And in our national political committee every different caucus has a position, which is good.
A: Are you a member of any caucus?
S: I’m from “Emerge”, a local NY based caucus. We just formed a few months ago. We put forward a few proposals in the convention. We have one member in national political committee as well.
A: How many members have NY chapter of DSA?
S: NY city chapter has about 5,000 members on the paper. The number of engaged member is around 800. Or at least 800 of them voted for delegates for the last convention. NY Chapter has around 140 delegates.
“WE’RE BUILDING INFRASTRUCTURE EVEN IF BERNIE HIMSELF DOESN’T MAKE IT.”
A: It is interesting why so few members voted for the delegates. Was the voting process online?
S: Yes, it is online, you get the link via email. There are different numbers about how many members DSA actually has. The number of people who voted to endorse Bernie Sanders was 13 thousand. It was an open vote for all DSA members. What’s gonna happen in a couple of next years is interesting, because Bernie will go, if he doesn’t win. But we actually have an organization, we have campaigns. We’re building infrastructure even if Bernie himself doesn’t make it. It’s not gonna go away. We have other DSA members who are running for the congress. I think it’s gonna continue. It’s beyond Bernie. We’re gonna see what else unites us as an organization.
A: You said that you have around 800 active members in NY. How many people show up in a regular DSA meeting in NY?
S: It really depends. There are a lot of different kind of meetings. People go to the ones in their neighborhood, which meet monthly. Then we have working group meetings, depends on which area you work like housing, anti-war, etc. Then there are leadership meetings. For example, we have a media working group, running DSA media. You have electoral work, which has its own thing. We now have people who are asking DSA endorsement. We have candidate recruitment meetings now.
A: Candidates who want your support, right?
S: Yes. We have our own members who run as candidates. But also, people who are not DSA members come and look for endorsement. It really depends on whether their platform aligns with DSA. And there are big debates on this in DSA, on candidate litmus tests. Does a candidate who wants our endorsement have to identify herself as a socialist? This is the question we had a lot of debate about. There was such a resolution in the convention.
TENSIONS BETWEEN DIFFERENT CAUCUSES
A: Did it pass?
S: It didn’t pass. What passed was that DSA would support class-struggle candidates and want to eventually have an independent party. What didn’t pass is very contradictory. What didn’t pass is that, we would ask candidates to call themselves democratic socialists. People said that if we do that, we’ll lose people like Ilhan Omar. There is a lot debate about that. Some said if we had asked Ilhan Omar to identify herself like that, she would identify because she is so close to us. These are the different views of different caucuses. The resolution failed for different reasons. It also has a lot to do with the caucus that put it forward. Even in DSA there is tension and sectarianism. So, if it was a different caucus, maybe it would have passed.
A: Can you elaborate on the tensions between different caucuses?
S: It’s a real concern for a lot of people. There are still debates. Some people say that there is no need for caucuses, that they are undermining the work. I think these people miss an important point. If you don’t have caucuses things move to the right. You have to fight for your politics. You have to put forward your political positions. If you don’t have caucuses things get depoliticized. They become more personal. The older generation of DSA doesn’t like caucuses.
A: Don’t they have a caucus?
S: They do. Everyone knows that they’re older DSA members. They have a caucus, because they stick with a position. But it doesn’t have the energy and politics of the other caucuses. So, I think caucuses are gonna be around. But there are also many people who choose to be independent. There is also a feeling like “Can we have a unity on certain things?” A feeling that caucuses are undermining unity. “Will we split?” is a fear among some people.
“WE DON’T HAVE A BASE YET IN THE WORKING CLASS.”
A: Historically speaking, this is a serious possibility for a socialist organization, what do you think?
S: I think, it will be very unfortunate if DSA splits. For number of reasons. One, it is just beginning to build its politics, to become a force. Only liberals would benefit if a socialist movement collapses. They definitely want it to fail. The other reason is that, DSA membership is not working class. It’s mostly well educated, highly connected, young, predominantly white, downwardly mobile but still having access to social capital, in media and so on. That’s the large majority of DSA members. We don’t have a base yet in the working class. The main thing that brings DSA close to that is Bernie Sanders, who does have a working class base. Top ten donors of Bernie are Walmart workers, teachers, postal workers.
A: So then let’s open a parenthesis to briefly talk about Sanders.
S: Like many among the left I also had doubts about him in 2016 elections, but Bernie has shifted so much in the last two years. For example, in foreign policy. Around Palestine he has become more critical about Netanyahu. He also spoke out against the killings in Gaza during the Great Return March. Many of the Palestinian left has had conversations with Bernie and talked to him in office. The Yemeni community is mobilizing around him. DSA works with Yemeni Alliance Committee, which organizes for an end to US support for the Saudi war in Yemen. He has also spoken out in favor of peace talks between South and North Korea. Which was a big thing, because the majority of Democratic Party was against that. Bernie was the only one who said “Actually we don’t want a nuclear war, we want peace talks.” That was really because Korean activists spoke with him. And he has spoken out against authoritarianism of course. Against Modi, the far right in Europe, Bolsanaro in Brazil and Netanyahu and so on.
“DSA IS JUST BEGINNING TO TRY TO BUILD A BASE WITHIN THE WORKING CLASS.”
A: That was a good summarize, thanks. Let’s get back to DSA’s relationship with the working class.
S: The problem with DSA is it’s just beginning to try to build that base within the working class. We are trying to be more implanted in the labor movement. Getting rank-and-file union jobs. We are encouraging people who are working in non-profits, in NGOs to try to work in strategic industries.
A: I read about this debate in DSA on how to organize the working class, on the so-called rank-and-file strategy. And I really liked it. However, to ask a member to find a job in a specific industry for the organization is not easy. It is a very difficult task. We used to call this “class suicide.” I wonder about if you have such a devoted membership base? Because in these debates the writers seem like assuming this. Or are we simply saying that “instead of becoming an NGO worker, try to be a public teacher, because this is also a strategic industry,” which is a less difficult sacrifice.
S: There are divisions around this issue. One caucus says that we have to organize everywhere, including NGOs. We’re seeing people unionizing in the museums, in the media, in the academy and so on. The other caucus, which refers to their position as the rank-and-file strategy, has said that there are strategic industries that matter more for capitalism. For example, in NY we’re orienting around five industries: teachers, nurses, logistics workers, municipal city workers, and construction workers. So, the idea was to look at nationally and to find out which industries would be strategic.
A: Are there any DSA members for example in the logistics industry?
S: That is a harder one. In NY, we have members among construction workers, teachers and some among nurses. The plan is that over the next year we’ll begin to think about strategic industries around the country. Logistics will be one of them of course. Teachers, because there have been mass strikes of teachers. Probably also nurses. We’ll see. We don’t have that many resources, we are still a young organization. We have to train people on how to work and organize a workplace. In NY, we have more of that because unions are relatively strong in this city. NY has one of the highest percentages of unionized workers in a city in the country. Around 35 percent.
“DSA HAS BUILT UP CONFIDENCE AROUND ELECTIONS, WE CAN’T THROW THAT AWAY.”
A: Many people keep saying that DSA is OK, but it is too much focused on elections. All the other activities we discussed so far are kind of in the making or seem to be secondary. What would you say about this criticism?
S: DSA has been and can be very election focused. There are debates about this. Some say, “look, maybe we are election based, but elections cause our membership base to grow. Whereas other small socialist groups who don’t do election work haven’t grown.” It has built up membership, because people see Ocasio-Cortez winning. They say I wanna join this organization, which helps to build radical ideas, make Medicare for All a popular issue, talk about student debt cancellation. All of these things bring that excitement to join. DSA has built up confidence around elections. People are like “we can’t throw that away, because it gives us a power.” But yes, we shouldn’t just depend on that. There are debates about where to go, but we ultimately think that it’s not gonna be just politicians who can implement those. It is gonna take working class people. And the real debate is how does DSA become something that working class people will join. Some people say DSA is too white. Most of the working class is brown or black, holds different jobs and don’t have the time to come all these meetings. These are things middle class people can afford to do. This is the first time that the left has become popular in this country in a generation. We used to be seen as the crazy people. Now it is sort of like the other way around. We have to build a base. One of our candidates, Julia Salazar won in Brooklyn and became a state senator. She ran and defeated this guy who has major connections with real estate industry in NY. She won because, with DSA’s backing, legislation could be passed around undocumented immigrants’ drivers’ licenses and universal rent control, and protections which made the real estate lobby very scared. It is important for us that DSA pushes for something different than these neoliberals. It is fighting for socialist programs. Electoral politics is the main way Americans politicize. But it’s not the only way. We also see teachers’ strikes, unionization rates are slowly climbing. 70 percent of the people under the age of 33 support unionization. We believe that it’s gonna be more of that, and we need DSA to prioritize organizing in the workplace. Because that’s where our power lies. But there are tensions. Some people who just want to do electoral stuff. Other people in DSA say that we cannot change much if people are not organizing themselves.
“WE SEE JULIA SALAZAR AS AN EQUAL DSA MEMBER.”
A: If you guys have almost 800 activists in NY. How many of them are focusing on electoral politics? How many are focusing on workplace organizing?
S: There are many people who are not doing any of those. They organize, for example, around immigration, against expansion of prisons, etc. So, there are many other issues and social movements they are organized around. Those issues, electoral politics and working class organizing, are maybe the two main debates, but not everybody is in them. There are other DSA members who are on and off. They may be doing other things, like organizing political education, etc. However, it is certain that electoral work does tend to mobilize more members. Even if you are not an active member, if there is an actual campaign, you go out and you knock on doors for the candidates. That is one of the main ways to mobilize our base. We hadn’t had a strike yet to see its possible mobilizing effect, because a strike can create a similar mobilization. We are trying to build strike solidarity committees, and we hope we may mobilize people in the same way we do around the elections.
A: Did your close friends work for Julia’s campaign?
S: No, but it was one of the largest campaigns for DSA. She was attacked a lot by the media. She is a DSA member before running.
A: Was it an organizational decision?
S: Yes. She is very different than for example Ocasio-Cortez. AOC is not a DSA member. She joined, but she is not like Julia. Julia attended meetings, and organized strike solidarity fund raisers, etc. When DSA members ask Julia to come their meetings, she will come. Julia has DSA members in her staff in her office in the Senate. Those are members who have relationships with other DSA members. People see her as an equal DSA member. She sees herself that way. AOC asked for the endorsement of the DSA and joined as a member, but she is not really accountable in the same way. She has her own staff. The people who asked her to run are called Justice Democrats. For DSA to endorse a candidate, it involves a much more complex process. You have to go to the chapter, convince them, the chapter members vote on that. You have to fill out a candidate questionnaire, go to meetings and explain your platform.
“IN SOME WAYS, OCASIO-CORTEZ REPRESENTS THE BEST OF THE MOMENT.”
A: For some reason, I thought AOC is an engaged DSA member.
S: No. She is her own figure. In some ways, she represents the best of the moment. She can be sometimes more to the left. It is only when she called the immigration detention centers concentration camps, that there was a wider movement to mobilize against them. The right wing and Trump attacked her because she said that. She mobilized, she went down to the camps, and testified about what she saw there. She pushed for the Green New Deal. She is very ambitious and she is also part of the radicalization. She lost her family home during the economic crisis in 2008. She is Puerto Rican. She has several Muslim staff numbers. She represents a very diverse working class district. So, those are the pulls and pushes that represent her radicalization. But she doesn’t always say that she is socialist.
A: She seems to me as explicitly social democrat.
S: Maybe we can say that. She won’t identify as a DSA member.
“IN THE NEXT COUPLE OF YEARS, WE WILL HAVE PEOPLE IN OFFICE WHO CAN BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE TO THE ORGANIZATION.”
A: I wonder if Julia come to the convention.
S: No, Julia was in Colombia on holiday. You know, now, she is an elected official. She has responsibilities, but she is actually speaking tomorrow in Brooklyn in a fundraiser event for Yemen. If you want to meet her, you can come. Anyways, I would say people like Julia Salazar, Shahid Buttar in San Francisco are actual DSA members. Heidi Sloan as well. She is running in Texas for another congress seat. She was at the convention. So, these are the more actual DSA members. They are not like other candidates who want DSA endorsement and we support. I think, that’s gonna be an important difference in the next couple of years, because you will have people who can be held accountable in some ways to the organizations they are part of. So far, the problem in DSA has been that we elect people, they might do great things, but they are not actively building the organization.
A: This was one of my questions. How will we trust those people we send to the offices? Because it’s so difficult, so much pressure. The state is very powerful. It usually changes the people we send to the offices to change it.
S: I think, this is the biggest question. We don’t yet have a formulated answer to this. DSA can be all over the place. It doesn’t have infrastructure, we are trying to get to that. Right now, it’s the momentum of socialism, which helps to move things to left in the US. But it could easily change, because we don’t know what DSA is gonna do? Also, DSA has benefited from a tight labor market, we just have been lucky. There is less unemployment under Trump. More workers have been confident enough to go on strikes and unionize. That window is not gonna be open forever. There is gonna be a recession maybe in a couple of years. We don’t know what DSA will have to face. Right now, most members have a lot of confidence. We are like “we’re gonna fight back.” We are building relationships with people like the president of flight attendants union, Sara Nelson. She came to the convention and spoke. She identifies as a democratic socialist. She is not a member, but very friendly. She is potentially going to run for the top position of AFL-CIO. This is the big news, because she is looking to DSA to build the labor movement.
“SARA NELSON CAME TO OUR CONVENTION AND SPOKE.”
A: Does she have any chance?
S: I think she has a good chance. Because she represents a real, radical revival of labor movement. She talks a lot about striking, solidarity on the shop floor. She has been trying to build solidarity with other unions. We’ll see. She has the backing of a section of the labor left like DSA. If she wins, we may have an interesting relationship with the AFL-CIO. These are all very important horizons for DSA. And everyone is watching what we’ll do in the next few years. As I said, we are trying build things as much as possible. We don’t know how things are gonna go with global economy, with authoritarian presidents coming to power around the world. And US is standing at the one end in that sense. If Trump wins again, who knows what’s gonna happen next. So, the expectation for Bernie and for what we can do is really great.
A: Sofia how do you make a living?
S: I do a lot of freelance work at the moment. I do translation work, a lot of different gigs.
A: How much time you dedicate for DSA? I’m asking this to understand the level of activism of a more engaged DSA member.
S: It’s like a part time job. People put in sometimes 15-20 hours a week, sometimes more. I am lucky to be in a caucus that is organized.
A: So, you’re saying that you guys are internally well-organized, so you work more efficiently.
S: Yes, and people work in different areas in our caucus. They run a podcast, they organize meetings, they organize political education.
“IN CHICAGO, THEY HAVE A NUMBER OF SOCIALISTS IN THE CITY COUNCIL NOW.”
A: But you said your caucus is a rather new one? How was it possible to become so well-organized in such a short time?
S: Many members of my caucus are DSA members who’ve been around for a while, but the caucus itself has formed more recently. It formed because it felt a need to help the direction of the organization. And so, as a caucus, we have really focused on a few things. One of them is the political education around defending open borders against economic nationalism and protectionism. Why socialists have to advocate open borders? Why we have to be internationalist? Why we have to have an actual program for defending immigrants in this country, given the way the far right and neoliberals have invested in borders and militarization to keep immigrants out around the world. So, we feel very strong that this is an important socialist principle we have to defend. The other one is working on running a socialist slate for the New York city council. In Chicago, they have a number of socialists in the city council now, who are for example allying with teachers’ union. It’s the first time since the 1930s, the socialists have been as concentrated in the city council of Chicago. We try to do the same in New York, because the New York City Council has the power to cut police budgets, to stop real estate expansion and to control land use for the public good. Also in New York the City Council is historically very pro-Israel. Having City Council that will start to support Palestinians will be very important. So, we do different things, trying to balance things out. We don’t just want electoral work. But DSA is still going to have an electoral focus. We have to be realistic. We can’t be just sectarian leftists, who are like “we don’t wanna do electoral work.”
HOW WILL “BERNIE OR BUST” WORK?
A: Let’s talk about the coming elections, are you hopeful about Bernie’s nomination?
S: I think they’ll not allow it, they’ll find a way to block his nomination. As DSA we don’t yet have a plan. Bernie or Bust is the plan we just voted on. I think people still have an expectation that he could win. I don’t wanna be the person who is negative. I wanna and will fight for him to win. There are two different ways this could go. It could be Elizabeth Warren. Liberals push hard for her. And my theory is that in DSA there are also some people who can concede to this and not fight enough for Bernie. This is also something I fear. The Democratic Party will do their best to restrict people during the elections and the polls. They’ve done it before. The media already attacks Bernie relentlessly. They’ll not say his name. They’ll make him look like he’s about to lose. While actually he’s the second candidate after Joe Biden. I’m working around “DSA for Bernie.” This summer DSA has been committed to registering voters for Democratic Party election. We want to make sure people don’t get turned away. We wanna make sure to build out his base among new voters. New York makes it really hard to register people. They don’t have same day registration, so we want to make sure that people register earlier. There is a lot of barriers to voting in United States. New York has lowest voter turnouts in the country. For the last couple of months, we tried to build support for Bernie. I’m working on it because I’m committed. It’s the part of our work and we have to fight as much as we can. But I worry he won’t get it.
My hope is that DSA can be seen as the people fighting for the actual class struggle candidate. Whatever happens with the DNC (Democratic National Convention), people will know that DSA fought for that and they join DSA. We will experience hopefully a boom in our membership, if we stay committed to our positions. If Bernie loses, I want Shahid Buttar to win. He will be one more DSA member in congress that can help to block Trump’s power. Congress election will also be held in the next year. If Shahid wins, we also have Ilhan Omar and Rashida. Regardless of whether Bernie wins or not we wanna retain and fight for those politics. DSA members are still organizing around Medicare for All. They’re trying to push every Democrat to sign. If they don’t, the threat is gonna be that we’ll replace them with candidates endorsed by DSA. That’s the plan. For Medicare for All, my preference is the DSA should mobilize nurses and doctors to go on strike. This will be much more effective than to get a politician to sign on to a bill. Pharmaceutical industry and health insurance industry are gonna fight and they have the power to influence these politicians to water down any bill. I would like to have more workers go out and strike for things like health care. Maybe that’s gonna happen. DSA has to invest in this work. We have a law in NY that bans public sector workers to go on strike. We are also trying to build a campaign to change that. These are the things that are ongoing regardless. Either we win or lose this or that election, our main goal is to build a movement. We want people to see DSA as a movement to join to keep fighting. That’s my hope for DSA. I’m hopeful.
“IF ECONOMY FAILS AND SOCIALISTS DON’T HAVE AN ANSWER GIVING HOPE AND CHALLENGING RACISM, THINGS ARE GONNA BE REALLY BAD.”
I’m just worried as anyone else. I think for me the biggest question is, when things get harder, DSA is gonna have to face bigger questions. The recession is gonna come, it’ll be worse than the last recession. Because other countries that avoided the recession last time like Canada and China are gonna all be impacted. Having someone like Bernie who can say that “we are not gonna bail out the banks, we are also gonna cancel student debts, these are the thing we’ll do for economy to work for ordinary people” will be great. That is what we are really talking about. But if we fail, I fear that far right is gonna grow more in the US. It already is growing because of Trump and just like fascism is growing around the world. Especially if economy fails and socialists don’t have an answer to that, that is about taxing the rich, that is about occupying our work places, that is about giving hope and challenging racism, things are gonna be really bad. For me what DSA does really matters. It is also why I stopped paying attention to anyone who is sectarian and negative. Because they don’t offer anything and they’re not doing anything for working people.
A: Thanks a lot Sofia, this conversation was great. I wanted to talk about Muslim activism in the US, but we’re out of time.
S: What I can say shortly is that feminism and Black Lives Matter have been the two biggest issues on the Muslim community across every level, even among women who are more traditional. Muslim women are more highly educated than Muslim men in this country. Most visible Muslim activists are women. Whether it is Yemen organizing, whether it is Black Lives Matter, whether it is Palestine.
A: I saw on DSA NY website something called Electoral Candidate Forum, which is tomorrow. What happens there?
S: Yes, I’ll be there. We’ve people running and asking for our endorsement. We ask them questions, we look at their resumes, backgrounds, activity records. I can’t tell you, it’s crazy. Literally everyone does want our endorsement now.
A: This shows that you’ve a real political power, right?
S: It’s so funny, because we’re a young organization. It feels like this is the very beginning of a political party. We’ll see.