November 2018: Midterms Approach and Fascist Victory in Brazil

After a tough October, we look ahead for signs of hope from new strikes and socialist gains in the midterms.


October was tough. The pipe bombs sent by a fanatical Trump supporter and the anti-Semitic shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh are terrible reminders that our enemies are growing bolder and more dangerous. And as we cover in this issue of our monthly bulletin, the election of a fascist in Brazil underscores that the advance of the Right is hardly limited to the United States.

In DSA, we’re working overtime to build a powerful left-wing alternative that can beat the Right. And we at The Call are trying to make our small contribution to that project. In the last month, we’ve launched a new set of educational podcasts that we’re calling The Call Radio and published the definitive case for DSA’s Medicare for All campaign.

But we’re most excited to be sharing this: our second monthly bulletin. Our hope is that these bulletins will arm DSA members and supporters with the analysis and talking points we need to fulfill our task as “permanent persuaders” — Antonio Gramsci’s apt description of the responsibility of socialist organizers.

Let us know what you think by emailing us at editor [at] socialistcall [dot] com and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. And don’t forget to sign up so you never miss a bulletin!

In solidarity,
The Call editorial team

Midterms Approach

As of October 31, Democrats have a 6 in 7 chance of taking the House but almost no hope of winning a majority in the Senate. Democrats will also likely pick up a handful of gubernatorial mansions. At the state legislative level more than 7,000 seats are up for grabs, though the parties’ fortunes are unclear.

At a national level, the Democratic Party has decided to make the election principally about opposing Trump. But absent an aggressive program for redistribution and social transformation — what we on the Left have been advocating for years — the Democrats’ campaign seems to have failed to inspire the millions of working-class people they’d need to win definitively. Given the lack of a clear program, even if Democrats do as well as predicted — which, as Bernie Sanders astutely warns, is hardly guaranteed — the swing in the House will likely be unremarkable compared to past swings against unpopular presidents.

Nevertheless, as election day grows closer, Bernie Sanders has been on a long, presidential campaign-style tour of the country — in some cases literally marching voters to the polls. This tour is the most significant evidence yet for what we and others have long argued: Sanders is planning to run for president in 2020, and DSA needs to develop a plan immediately for how to relate to his campaign. We can’t afford to wait.

And Sanders and democratic socialists will have the wind at our backs. After election day, the democratic socialist wing in the House of Representatives will likely grow from zero to two with the election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (New York) and Rashida Tlaib (Michigan). But it’s at the state level that democratic socialists are set to make the biggest gains. Julia Salazar (New York), Amy Perruso (Hawaii), Vaughn Stewart (Maryland), Gabriel Acevero (Maryland), Sara Innamorato (Pennsylvania), and Summer Lee (Pennsylvania) (apologies if we’ve forgotten anyone else likely to win! — for those keeping tabs on results on election night the full list of DSA-endorsed candidates is here) will likely join Lee Carter (Virginia), Mike Sylvester (Maine), and a handful of others as DSA-backed state legislators.

Jovanka Beckles (California) and Kristin Seale (Pennsylvania) face closer elections but hopefully will also join them. Beckles recently received Bernie Sanders’s endorsement and because of the unique election system in California is running against corporate Democrat Buffy Wicks in the general election. The race is an important test in the fight between Sanders-style candidates and the Obama-Clinton wing of the party. DSA’s own campaign against Buffy “the Bernie Slayer” Wicks has apparently touched a nerve with this Obama-Clinton team — even former senior Obama staffer David Axelrod felt the need to intervene.

Plenty of important referenda will also be on the ballot on November 6, but none are more exciting than California’s Proposition 10, which would open the door to expanding rent control and blocking evictions. A victory for Prop 10 — recently endorsed by Bernie Sanders and DSA nationally — would be a major advance for the socialist demand that everyone have the right to a home.

Fascist Victory in Brazil

On Sunday, October 28, Brazilians elected fascist candidate Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency with 55% of the vote. The bulk of Bolsonaro’s support came from Brazil’s middle class. The incoming president of the world’s fourth-largest democracy has frequently praised Brazil’s past military dictatorship (especially its torturers) and publicly declared at various points that he would shoot, expel, and imprison members of leftist parties. Part of a global trend of “authoritarian neoliberalism,” Bolsonaro issued a statement praising Trump. Trump quickly reciprocated.

As we watch developments in Brazil closely, socialists in the United States must work to build stronger connections with Brazil’s Party of Socialism and Freedom (PSOL) and the united front against Bolsonaro currently being organized. Already, DSA has put out a strong statement in solidarity with the Brazilian people and protested Bolsonaro’s victory.

Labor’s Next Steps

More than 8,000 Marriott hotel workers — all members of UNITE HERE — are on an indefinite strike across the country. The union’s slogan, “one job should be enough,” is a sentiment shared by millions of workers forced into working several low-wage jobs to make ends meet. Workers are also demanding an end to a policy that forces employees off company health insurance in the off-season.

The Teamsters — led by James Hoffa and his team — have ratified a national contract with UPS full of concessions to the extremely profitable company. The contract covers almost a quarter of a million workers. The contract was signed despite a 54 to 46% vote by the membership against accepting it — reaffirming once again the case made by Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a rank-and-file caucus in the union, that the boss-friendly Hoffa leadership must go. But 8,500 UPS workers in Teamsters Local 705 in Chicago may go on strike in early November anyway. The local, which bargains separately from the national negotiations, appears less willing than the international union to make concessions to UPS.

A similar rotten deal may be in the works in New York, where the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) reached a tentative agreement with the city four months before the expiration of the current contract. If ratified, the contract — which covers more than 100,000 workers and 50,000 retirees — would offer the city significant concessions on healthcare costs and keep raises below the rate of inflation. The UFT’s rank-and-file caucus, the Movement of Rank and File Educators (MORE), is attempting to organize a “no” vote to reject the contract after being blindsided by the announcement of an early settlement.

DSA in the News

DSA National Director Maria Svart announced plans to hold regional unity conferences for DSA next spring in the run up to the 2019 national convention. These conferences will prepare members for the convention and help build a wide consensus about DSA’s strategy going forward. In Chicago, DSA members are gearing up for municipal elections in February. Chicago DSA members Carlos Rosa and Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez will be running for City Council. Rodriguez-Sanchez recently sat down for an especially good interview with Jacobin.

DSA’s Medicare for All campaign put out its first regular newsletter and wrapped up a hugely successful speaking tour across the South with Michael Lighty. In Philly, DSA activists helped win new regulations requiring employers to give workers their schedules ahead of time. And the date has been set for a big conference in New York City on socialist politics — “Socialism in Our Time” — that will bring together activists, organizers, and scholars to debate the future of the Left.

Meanwhile, busy activists in the Young Democratic Socialists of America organized their first national College for All Day of Action, a major strike solidarity effort at UC Berkeley, and sent a delegation of students from CUNY to meet with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other NYC-DSA members.

At Jacobin, Mike Davis urged socialists to be frank about the failings of authoritarian socialist experiments, but never to forget the atrocities of capitalist regimes around the world either. Charlie Post responded critically to our case in The Call for why socialists should support a Bernie 2020 campaign. And in case anyone wanted another perspective on this socialism business, the Trump White House released what can only be described as a bizarre and deeply inaccurate report on socialism.

If you have news from your chapter you’d like us to include next month, email us at editor [at] socialistcall [dot] com.

Socialism Around the World

Thanks to Donald Trump’s characteristically unhinged attacks, national attention in the U.S. has been partially focused on the caravan of economic refugees marching towards the U.S. border. As socialists, we believe these refugees should be welcomed into the United States — and that ultimately we need to work to build a world without borders. Despite the awful presidential election results, socialists made important advances in Brazil’s congressional elections. Bernie Sanders called for a new internationalism. Ireland re-elected its far left president Michael Higgins. And the left-wing Quebec Solidaire made major gains in regional elections.

Finally the popular uprising in Nicaragua against President Daniel Ortega — which was initially sparked by Ortega’s gutting of workers’ pensions — is evolving into a broader movement against the oppressive regime despite state repression and reports that the government is torturing dissidents. Ortega was part of the left-wing Sandinista movement in the 1970s and 1980s and scandalously still has the support of some on the international Left, but he and his party have been thoroughly incorporated into the neoliberal global order. As socialists we stand in solidarity with the popular rebellion.

The Call is a publication of DSA's Bread & Roses caucus.