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The primary win of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in NY City has revived media attention to democratic socialism as it was revealed that she is a member of Democratic Socialists of America. She’s in the Mission District today, being hosted by SF’s chapter of DSA. I was active in that chapter about 26 years ago as part of a motley crew of an organization which seemed like it was on the decline following Michael Harrington’s death. Harrington had been the organization’s primary media spokesperson, though there were numerous other celebs who were members, including Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, then Congressman Ron Dellums, Dorothy Healey, actors Richard Dreyfuss and Ed Asner, union leaders like William Wimpisinger and Dolores Huerta, and old Lincoln Brigaders including the retired Longshoremen activist Bill Bailey.

I had been active with them in Santa Cruz as we had a student chapter there and then Mayor Michael Roetkin and some other professors were members. At most, we had maybe 10,000 members nationwide. I recently read an article that their numbers have soared to over 40,000.

So I’m just going to summarize the organization’s history and what it stands for and note what it doesn’t. First, it’s not a political party. It’s an organizing organization which has been one of the few “hybrid” efforts of what historians refer to as “old left” and “new left,” both of which probably have little application to modern politics. In election work, their strategy has been primarily to work within the Democratic Party.

By the way, no, Bernie Sanders is not a member. DSA members have supported his campaigns over the decades, but he’s had an uneasy relationship with DSA. I don’t know all the details, but I remember a DSA member in the 1980s as describing him as “obsessively independent” and not wanting to be confined by an organizational discipline, probably rooted in resistance to the “Old left’s” history of authoritarianism.

But DSA isn’t governed by the principle of “democratic centralism” which runs Leninist organizations. As a member you aren’t bound to the organizations platforms. The organization has had members who don’t fit into all of the left’s agenda. The Progressive Zionists have operated within the organization. There have been members who support some forms of nuclear power as part of addressing climate change mitigation. There was a faction which supported the first Gulf War arguing that progressives should not support the erasing of a UN member state when Hussein ordered the invasion of Kuwait.

However, most of the members fit comfortably within the framework of what Harrington called “the left wing of the possible.” They are at the left end of those who believe that progressive change can be achieved within the electoral system.
The history of the organization dates back to the Kautsky/Lenin split of the Second Socialist International. In the US, this amounted to the breakoff from the Socialist Party (then under the leadership of Eugene Debs) during World War 1 by two factions which would argue than merge into what would eventually become the Communist Party of the USA. The Socialist Party would run Debs and then perennially run Norman Thomas until after WWII. During the 1930s a Trotskyist faction broke away from the CPUSA and formed the Socialist Workers Party. In kind of a strange alliance I’ve never understood, the SWP merged with the Socialist Party. It would fall apart, but Max Shachtman, a Trostkyist, would remain in the Socialist Party and freak out over the revelations about Stalin’s reign of terror and become what would be referred to as a “cold warrior socialist.” He supported the Bay of Pigs invasion and was booed at UC Berkeley and vowed to never return to the campus.

He had a protégé in Michael Harrington who participated in the meeting at Port Huron which resulted in the creation of Students for a Democratic Society and billed himself as a more conservative representative of the New Left. Norman Thomas passed away and the Socialist Party would change its name to Social Democrats USA and they stopped running third party candidates. The “Shachtmanites” would prevail however and SDUSA would break from the peace movement as Vietnam raged, join with Irving Kristol and what would be terms “neo-conservatism” in supporting the war in Vietnam. In 1972 some members would refuse to support McGovern and a few even supported Nixon. At some point a faction would break off and recreate the Socialist Party which would reclaim the third party approach, but Harrington would lead a breakoff faction to support McGovern and create the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee.

Meanwhile, SDS fell apart as the Vietnam War came to an end and a breakoff would call itself the New American Movement (NAM) and organize the “Peoples Bicentennial Commission” to present a left wing interpretation of the American Revolution and work within the Democratic Party. DSOC and NAM would hold talks and merge under the joint-chair leadership of Michael Harrington and Barbara Ehrenreich.

They worked hard on local elections and members were elected in NYC, Portland, and college towns around the country. They had two members in Congress – Dellums and Major Owens. But they always seemed like a top-heavy organization – lots of writers and union leaders, but the rank and file being students who were in and out of the organization. Often they were just a mailing list of people who would hold meetings to join rallies. By the time I was working with them in SF there were maybe a dozen members, who didn’t really get along with each other.5

I continued to pay dues for a few years after I moved to Humboldt County, but I haven’t really heard much from them until recently. I think they’ve moved to the left as the old NY Intellectual and professor class has been dying off and younger activists like Ocasio-Cortez have taken over. They pulled out of the Second International a couple of years ago. But they still believe in the model which differs from the perennial third party runs of other left organizations and I met a member recently who updated Harrington’s motto and said he wanted to be a part of “the left wing of the relevant.”

The approach doesn’t see the Democratic Party as “a political party in the European sense” to quote Irving Howe. They see the Party as a forum and platform within which to organize. It’s not likely that Ocasio-Cortez or any of the others who have been elected over the past couple of years are going to break away and run third party. However, there are talks within DSA of “strategic third-party voting” in elections in which the DP candidate veers too far right, but the primary focus will be in winning primaries. Ocasio-Cortez’s success is currently validating that strategy and she’s on tour supporting progressive Democratic Party candidates.

I’m thinking I may send them a check – for the first time since the 1990s, although I think pulling out of the Second International was ahistorical and myopic.

This will be the first Eureka election following the passage of ward voting – there are five wards and each ward chooses their own Council representative.  And there is a citywide Mayor’s race with new candidates as Frank Jager is termed out.

Here are the candidates of which I am aware.  Please let me know if I’m missing anyone.

Mayor:  Susan Seaman (she’s jumped right out of the gate – came by my house over the weekend).  Current Council Member Heidi Messner had already announced, as has “Take Back Eureka” candidate Michelle Costantine.

Okay, for some reason I’m not able to access the Lost Coast Outpost articles, so I will link them later.  But here’s what I have for the races.

Ward 1 – Leslie Castellano and Anthony Mantova

Ward 3 – Natalie Arroyo, John Fullerton, and Jeannie Breslin

Ward 5 – Kim Bergel and Joe Bonino

I’m not sure what the deadline is, but I don’t think it’s passed, so it’s possible we may see another candidate or two.  However, usually there are rumors as potential candidates test the waters, and I haven’t heard any.

Addendum:  Someone brought two additional Ward 1 potential candidates to my attention.  Hailey Lamb and Caroline Brooks.  That’s four candidates for one ward!  If it happens, would that be a local record?  It’s wide open as there is no incumbent.


Obviously he knew about the Trump Tower meeting and obviously the meeting was to discuss collusion.

His rambling bizarre tweets yesterday – I mean seriously, what is it going to take?

Footage has been leaked!

Our galaxy used to have a big sister galaxy called M32p – a nice elliptical galaxy with lots of young stars. But another damn galaxy ate it! The Andromeda Galaxy, an asshole galaxy, as it turns out, devoured big sis about 2 billion years ago. Andromeda is a serial galaxy killer, having swallowed hundreds of other smaller victim galaxies over the eons.
But the story isn’t over. I remember learning as a kid that while most galaxies are red-shifted – meaning they are moving away from us as the universe continues to expand, Andromeda is actually blue-shifted from our perspective. I learned this in Mr. Hill’s sixth grade science class at Cunha in the mid-1970s. It’s coming for us!!
“As dramatic as the Andromeda-M32p collision likely was, something much bigger is on the horizon. About 4 billion years from now, the Milky Way and Andromeda will come together in an epic crash that will shake up the Local Group. The merger will spark some pretty impressive star-formation fireworks in Earth’s night sky, if anyone’s still around to see it.”


Seriously.  Re his attorney Cohen, Trump asks, “What kind of attorney would tape a client?”

One who never learned the meaning of the word “fiduciary” – regardless of whether you’re in a state which does not make such non-consensual recordings illegal.

But to answer the President’s question, probably the kind of attorney who would be hired by someone who would hire Roy Cohn.

For personal reasons, I’ve tried to stay out of the controversies, but it’s not going to get any better until there is some serious discussion.

There’s a Citizens Advisory Board meeting tomorrow evening.  Because there is no Board of Directors, the CAB has really been the only means of public expression and so far the objection to the firing of Katie Whiteside has been unanimous – every single speaker expressing anger or disappointment.

No, they can’t talk about personnel issues, but usually when someone that popular is fired everybody knows why.  It’s really confusing to everyone else who feel that the station’s leadership is acting secretive and wondering if the lack of communication is obscuring an agenda.  Maybe there’s a plan for public discussion, but so far nothing.

And now it’s really blowing up.  The Mad River Union has the latest.

CAB meeting is tomorrow night at the Behavioral Science Building on campus.

Anthony Mantova brings it back into political discourse and fails to answer the question Hank Sims has been asking for years – “What would it carry?”

Pot?  Almonds?  Please!

A reasonable answer might even change my mind on the issue.  Maybe.

Chuck Rogers will join me on All Things Reconsidered tonight to discuss…well,… treason. 7:00 as always.



July 2018