Metro DC DSA’s Midsummer 2016 Newsletter: Sanders campaign wind-down; People’s Summit and sustained radical movement; Bastille Day’s lessons for today. And D.C. and Maryland politics, plus of course “Good Reads” for summer socialists and sunshine compatriots…

July 15th, 2016  / Author: woodlanham


Welcome to the Midsummer issue of the Washington Socialist, the free monthly email newsletter of Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America.

Having a midsummer issue is, in one respect, a great excuse to have an issue “dated” on Bastille Day. If you thought you knew it all about the iconic and seismic revolutionary event that day represents, we invite you to take in Kurt Stand’s reconsideration at the head of our offerings this issue.

But saying “midsummer,” of course, always triggers our dreams. That indelible tale of the queen whose ensorcelment with the trappings of power leads her to break the rules (with the connivance of an underemployed spouse) and fall for a donkey (who, also ensorceled, falls for her); the couples rent asunder by magical delusions, mixed and matched by magical interventions and then knit together again by a puckish fellow whose apparently deviant behavior is the engine of reconciliation, the sometimes oafish “rude mechanicals” (working stiffs) whose clumsy attempts at a nostalgic Golden Age tale of heroism and lost love  turn out to be the driving narrative of that crazy juncture of the real and the more-than-real – the temptations to seek echoes of today are all too obvious but the parallels begin to break down as soon as we think about them in the harsh light of waking day. But it’s midsummer, and the dreams are often more fun than the everyday reality. Puck assures us at the denouement that “naught shall go ill,” and wouldn’t it be pretty to think so, at least for a summer reverie?

That contrast with our disappointment of just a few days ago (at this writing) as the Sanders campaign throws in the towel and endorses Hillary Clinton is sharp and bitter, nearly too much so for some of our comrades. We console ourselves that although the presidency is, in essence, a post-monarchist device of capitalists to keep our eyes on the single celebrity as opposed to the gremlins behind the curtain, there is in fact a difference between a Democratic and Republican administration and executive agencies, one that offers radical progressives in turn considerably different levels of leverage in the (increasingly narrow) interval between elections. It can make the difference between constantly having to play defense and being able to be on offense a significant portion of the time. Those with memories of the Reagan years can testify that playing defense all the time has a noble feel to it but causes all too many comrades to tire and retire from the fray.

Whatever enthusiasm Sanders and his surrogates can muster for the Clinton effort, the Vermont senator has already signaled his material interest in pushing success in the down-ballot arena. For some of the more impacted regions of the nation that means trying to oust Republicans with so-so Democrats. It has also manifested itself, outside the Old Confederacy, in some genuine progressives with decent shots at Congress, state legislatures and major urban governing bodies. None of these are speculative; Sanders and his campaign have named many and said they will back them. This is a significant opportunity to continue the political revolution, if we take it.

So the dreams of midsummer, intersecting with reality, appear to have yielded an altered reality despite our candidate’s closely-contested loss. That matters, and offers momentum we can amplify by our continued efforts. A writer recently exhumed a wonderful quote from Tocqueville, repeated by Leon Aron among others, that suggests what the effect of a democratic socialist major-party candidate has been: “Patiently endured so long as it seemed beyond redress, a grievance comes to appear intolerable once the possibility of removing it crosses men’s minds.”
We hope you enjoy the rest of the summer. The next issue of the Washington Socialist will be published on Labor Day, Sept. 5, unless events intervene.


Metro DC DSA plans no regular membership meeting in August. Plans for a picnic are in formation; watch the Meetup site for updates on that.

Socialist Salon Thursday, July 21, 6:30 at Hunan Dynasty, 215 Pennsylvania Ave. SE: Gaza is Not Black or White: The Reality on the Ground Today.  Talk and Power Point presentation by Pam Bailey, freelance writer and social justice activist who lived and worked in the Gaza Strip immediately following the 2008/9 Israeli assault.  She returned to Gaza in April and will go back in August (her writings can be found on her blog).  She is the founder and international director of We Are Not Numbers — a platform that enables young “word artists” from Gaza to speak of the full dimension of life under military occupation.  (See more at:   Pam will be joined by Shelley Fudge (invited) of Jewish Voices for Peace who will speak of the importance of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) to bring justice to the Palestinians.

DCDSA Socialist Book Group meets Sunday, July 24 from 3-5 p.m. at the Kogod Courtyard in the National Portrait Gallery (8th and F Streets; Gallery Place Metrorail station). The book group is reading The Future We Want: Radical Ideas for the New Century by Sarah Leonard and Bhaskar Sunkara – the latter an honorary vice chair of DSA and founding editor of Jacobin. Details at the Meetup listing.

Today in Baltimore from Jonathan Phipps, DSA Baltimore OC…
Some protests and gatherings happening in Baltimore organized by the People’s Power Assembly: HAPPENING TODAY (July 14th) “Drop the charges” protest in front of courthouse to drop charges of protestors:
AND July 14th “remembering Sandra Bland”
Also in Baltimore: August 15th “Justice for Aaron Winston” effort — Aaron Winston court event: Aaron Winston is a 24-year-old father and longshore worker who was brutally beaten by Baltimore City Police at a night club inside of Power Plant Live on Saturday, Feb. 20 of this year and subsequently charged with assault and resisting arrest. More at

July 23 Action: DSA will support and join the Justice First action on behalf of residents in Congress Heights who are being systematically evicted by landlords and their enablers aiming to gentrify the area with a massive new development.  Justice First asks “everyone to join us as we continue to take the fight to the slumlords’ doorsteps. We will be gathering at the Cleveland Park Metro Station and marching to the homes of several slumlords and their enablers on Saturday, July 23. 11:00 a.m. Gather at Cleveland Park Metro Station (Red Line).” RSVP here to join this event. For more information on this complex case of injustice – including possible complicity by the city government – see Andy Feeney’s detailed account in the March issue of this newsletter.

We publish this issue on Bastille Day, a marker for one of the two great eighteenth-century revolutions we tend to think of in parallel. Kurt Stand’s account shows how the “American” and “French” revolutions were both like and unlike one another, and what that has meant for today. Read complete article.

The “People’s Summit” in Chicago in mid-June was a breathing space and staging ground for activists in and around the Sanders campaign to begin building a sustained radical alternative to the two capitalist parties that included potentially transforming one of them. Merrill Miller, one of several Metro DC DSA members who attended, provides a socialist perspective on the Summit and Larry Stafford, executive director of Progressive Maryland, looks at the radical strands that the Summit embraced, echoed and continued. Read Merrill Miller’s complete article  <>  Read Larry Stafford’s complete article

Virginia – even Northern Virginia – is not quite paradise for radicals, but activists in the Sanders campaign came from many different political perspectives to work on the primary effort and then navigate the delegate-selection process with some success and a wealth of experience for future such efforts. Dan Adkins narrates the step-by-step process from the perspective of a Metro DC DSA member who took “leave” to work on the campaign while keeping our organization’s status pristine. Read complete article

The effect of the Sanders phenomenon in US political life and culture will not be seen in full for years. Kurt Stand, in a piece first written for European readers, begins the task of analyzing these effects. Read complete article

It was DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s no good, very bad election, losing several allies and gaining a probably vengeful foe and burr under the saddle in Vince Grey. But she has also hurt herself with heavy-handed and antidemocratic moves on the DC state constitution. Bill Mosley rounds up the political news in DC. Read complete article

Well, it had to happen: The hot new suffix in political discourse is “exit” and it won’t be long before it’s applied to everything including vegan cuisine. Woody Woodruff compounds the offense by labeling the backsliding on progressive policies, once engaged in collectively by Maryland’s local governments, as a “Progrexit.” Read complete article

Midsummer “Good Reads” are of course beach reading as well, as long as you take your computer or other device to the beach. There’s Trump, Brexit, more on the People’s Summit, the new Brit PM, automation and the decline of work, and other surprises. If you are into books, check out our Socialist Book Group (see Calendar, above) and read The Future We Want. It’s actually pretty short. Read complete article

The Washington Socialist encourages submissions on topics that relate to current issues or historical topics.  Authors are asked to keep their submissions to 2,000 words (or less) and to respect the perspectives of democratic socialism, as articulated by the national Democratic Socialists of America. Send submissions to

You can read these as well as past articles in the Washington Socialist on our website where they are archived,

Our readers are our best writers. Join that group and submit an article about activism you are doing or someone else is doing; reviews of important books you have read; think-pieces contributing to the left’s perennial search for a better way to explain our crisis to its victims. You are part of this conversation. Submit contributions to The Washington Socialist at a number of levels — send us nominee for “Good Reads” (they should be available online so send links); send news and notices of activism; submit articles. Send to

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    Celebrating Bastille Day: The French Revolution and American Revolutions

    July 13th, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

    The Washington Socialist <> Midsummer 2016

    By Kurt Stand

    And here were these freemen assembled in the early morning to work on their lord the bishop’s road three days each – gratis … Why it was like reading about France and the French before the ever memorable and blessed Revolution, which swept a thousand years of such villainy away in one swift tidal wave of blood … There were two “Reigns of Terror,” if we would but remember it and consider it; the one wrought murder in hot passion, the other in heartless cold blood; the one lasted mere months, the other had lasted a thousand years; the one inflicted death upon ten thousand persons, the other upon a hundred millions; but our shudders are all for the “horrors” of the minor Terror, the momentary Terror, so to speak; whereas, what is the horror of swift death by the axe, compared with lifelong death from hunger, cold, insult, cruelty and heartbreak?  What is swift death by lightning compared with death by slow fire at the stake?  A city cemetery could contain the coffins filled by that brief Terror which we have all been so diligently taught to shiver at and mourn over; but all France could hardly contain the coffins filled by that older and real Terror – that unspeakably bitter and awful Terror which none of us has been taught to see in its vastness or pity as it deserves.

    (Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court)

    Independence Day in the US, Bastille Day in France, are days on the calendar marked off for parades and parties.  As happens all too often with public holidays, however, the content gets stripped out, the meaning lost, the history behind the celebration forgotten amidst the celebration.  For the most part, official speeches are self-congratulatory and ahistorical; all the past leading straight to the speaker’s definition of the present.  It is a conceit which ignores the possibility that a multiple of meanings can be ascribed to each Revolution, marked as they were by contrast, conflict, uncertainty.  More to the point, revolutions by definition are a break from the past with a view toward creating a different possible future.  That break is unseen by those satisfied by the present or whose notion of change lies in returning to a mythical (and oppressive) yesterday.  If, however, we are looking for roots for a change leading to an alternative of greater democracy, genuine equality, and meaningful freedom, it may be worthwhile to recall the French Revolution in something other than the stereotypes that have become received wisdom.

    Such stereotypes call up images of the storming of the Bastille, the Guillotine, Napoleon at Waterloo in a popular historical narrative that presents the French Revolution only as a contrast with the American.  Order versus disorder, impassioned debate versus mob violence, checks and balances versus dictatorship, the images reinforce the notion of American exceptionalism – our revolution unique with an outcome that stands in contrast to all which have come since.  It is a way of seeing that loses sight of the underlying issues that gave rise to and were fought out within the American and French revolutions and on the inner dynamics of each; dynamics that reveal neglected parallels and mutual influences which connect revolutionary events on both sides of the Atlantic in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.  And that leads to a view of the past as process rather than resolution.


    Debates that would lead to the first organized divide amongst those who fought the British – Federalists and Republicans — focused on the nature of the constitutional system being created and whether land distribution, property ownership and political rights would be more or less equal, if the extremes of wealth and poverty, rights and rightlessness that characterized England would be rejected or reproduced.   These debates were similar to those that took place in France as its Revolution moved from the constitutional monarchy created in the wake of 1789 – that granted political rights to citizens while maintaining political and economic divisions based on untouched property relations – to the Jacobin constitution of 1793 ratified by a national plebiscite, which called for land to be divided equally to all peasants, declared social assistance and education a right, and made a popularly elected legislative council supreme.  That soon gave way to the Thermidor reaction which recreated a strong executive, ended all attempts at wealth or property redistribution, and made advocacy of monarchy and advocacy of the 1793 Constitution punishable by death.   Napoleon was to follow.

    Although not as sharply drawn in the US as in France, supporters of the national bank, of legal limitations on press freedoms, and on judicial supremacy over the legislative branch sought to restrict democratic rights in order to keep such democracy from infringing on property rights – an outlook favored by land speculators, financiers, and merchants (and advocated by Hamilton, John Adams, Marshall).  This stood against the perspective of Jefferson, Sam Adams, Benjamin Rush and others who sought a form of popular democracy that would encourage, preserve, and protect a widespread property-ownership they believed would inhibit the large concentrations of wealth responsible for the injustices and poverty of European societies.  This was supported by western agrarian populations (both wealthy and poor) who also favored land expansion at the expense of the Native population, supported by many slave owners in the South as the basis of maintaining agricultural supremacy, and supported in more militant form by small farmers, craftsmen, the urban middle class in communities scattered across the country.  At its extreme, a divide grew between limited and popular democracy.

    This division was expressed by Edmund Burke and Tom Paine, who engaged in a debate over the French revolution that itself was a debate over the character of the American Revolution.  Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France argued the necessity of class and social stratification in order to preserve liberty, a liberty that could not survive unchecked democracy.  He cited as its model England’s Glorious Revolution of 1688 which left the monarchy, common law (as opposed to a Constitution), the established Anglican Church and House of Lords intact as it did the system of large estates and mercantile monopolies.  The system allowed for particular rights, while eliminating the “dangers” of radical upheaval witnessed during Cromwell’s revolution of the previous generation.  Paine’s response to Burke in The Rights of Man argued that popular engagement in the running of a country would prevent the dead hand of inherited wealth, privilege and property from dominating the lives of contemporaries, of holding back future generation’s freedom.  An advocate of the early radicalism of the French, Paine reinforced the democratic egalitarianism within the American Revolution by linking democratic rights, individual liberty, freedom and equality.  John Adams welcomed Burke’s pamphlet, Jefferson welcomed Paine’s.

    Burke’s views became a common world view of dominant Whigs and Democrats in the political alignment that marked the first half of the 19th century (and remains a bulwark of conservative thinking today), even as they were sharply divided in other ways.  Paine’s views, though with little influence in France (where he was jailed as a supporter of the Girondins against the Jacobins) was the principal source for radical trade union and radical agrarian movements in the US and England, including those who – in contrast to the views of Jefferson — came to embrace abolitionism and women’s equality.

    Universal Rights

    Fueling these divides was the assertion of universal rights by American and French revolutionaries, marking a radical break from the particularism of Feudal society.  Even though that universality did not include the majority, the assertion of rights pertaining to all was seized upon by those excluded.  In 1790, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote her critique of Burke, A Vindication of The Rights of Man, as a defense of the French Revolution, and as a defense of the American – interpreting it as a rejection of servility rather than simply a selfish defense of property.  Two years later her A Vindication of the Rights of Women argued that women’s rights were intertwined in revolution, for the one made possible the political expression of the other and enabling other connections.  As feminist historian Sheila Rowbotham put it, “In the French Revolution the feminist aspirations of the privileged and the traditions of collective action of the unprivileged women encountered each other.  They regarded each other uneasily and never really combined.  But each emerged tinged with liberty, equality and fraternity and the memory of revolution.  Things could never be the same” (Women, Resistance & Revolution).

    The actual gains women made were limited, progress in formal rights largely halted in the newly founded United States within a short time after the Constitution was ratified.  The greater gains in France were set back when Napoleon rose to power and even further with the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy in 1815.  But the genie of liberty, let out of the box, could not be completely pushed back again.   Once equality was declared a matter of right, the question of for some or all could never be suppressed. Or as Margaret Fuller wrote in her Woman in the Nineteenth Century (first published in 1855, shortly after her death), “It should be remarked that, as the principle of liberty is better understood, a broader protest is made on behalf of Woman.  As men become aware that few men have had a fair chance, they are inclined to say that no women have had a fair chance.” She then added – with a touch of irony that Twain might have appreciated — “the title [the French Revolution] gave was “citoyen,” “citoyenne,” and it is not unimportant to Woman that even this species of equality was awarded her.  Before she could be condemned to perish on the scaffold for treason, not as a citizen, but as a subject.”  Fuller similarly saw the promise of the American Revolution, yet recognized that the promise was unfulfilled, writing “… though freedom and equality have been proclaimed only to leave room for a monstrous display of slave-dealing and slave-keeping, though the free American so often feels himself free, like the Roman, only to pamper his appetites and his indolence through the misery of his fellow-beings; still it is not in vain that the verbal statement has been made, ‘All men are born free and equal.’ … That which has once been clearly conceived in the intelligence cannot fail, sooner or later, to be acted out.” (my emphasis)

    Division over the meaning of equality and the reality of women’s subordinate status in law and practice was a contradictory legacy of both revolutions, so too was the perpetuation of slavery, as 19th -century feminists and abolitionists like Fuller (and Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Angelika Grimke, Susan B. Anthony and others) recognized.  That failure led to French colonial war, led to the US Civil War.  In a story of many low notes, the high note was achieved in 1791 when slavery was abolished in France itself, and 1792 – at the height of Jacobin power – when slavery was abolished throughout the French empire.  With Robespierre’s downfall, that measure was rescinded, with a wave of repression aimed also at free blacks in France. Hopes aroused, then crushed, was the background of the victorious Haitian Revolution.

    Napoleon’s attempt to restore French rule and slavery failed not only of its immediate purpose, but also failed to extinguish the influence of that attempt to implement the Declaration of the Rights of Man globally.  Gabriel’s conspiracy – one of the most extensive planned slave rebellions in the US — was to have begun on Bastille Day in 1800; and had the uprising been successful the French (along with Quakers and Methodists) white population would have been spared on account of “their being friendly to liberty.”  Despite its fatal compromise with the slave system, the American Revolution was also an inspiration; one of the slaves who took part, in a courtroom prior to execution, said, “I have nothing more to offer than what George Washington would have had to offer had he been taken by the British officers … I have ventured my life in endeavoring to obtain the freedom of my countrymen, and am a willing sacrifice to their cause.”

    Phillis Wheatley, born in Africa, captured and raised as a slave in New England, earned her freedom through her poetry, winning the praise of Voltaire, the respect of Washington (whom she met) and racist criticism by Jefferson.  She noted the contradiction of American liberty by carefully connecting oppressions.  In 1771 when the colonists (Britons in the poem) were chafing under the king’s misrule, she wrote:

      From Native clime, when seeming cruel fate
    Me snatch’d from Afric’s fancy’d happy Seat
    Impetuous. – Ah! What bitter pangs molest,
    What sorrows labour’d in the Parent breast!
    That more than Stone, ne’er Soft compassion mov’d
    Who from its Father Seiz’d his much belov’d.
    Such once my Case. – Thus I deplore the day
    When Britons weep beneath Tyrannick sway.

    It was the same outlook which motivated the free black David Walker in his Appeal for slave insurrection, Denmark Vesey in his attempted slave rebellion, and John Brown who, prior to the raid on Harper’s Ferry organized a convention of black and white to make explicit that the Republic they aimed to bring into being could tolerate neither slavery nor racial discrimination if it were to be true to principles of the Declaration of Independence. Slave owners, conversely, routinely denounced abolitionism as Jacobinism, and the Confederate States in their act of secession specifically disavowed the American Revolution’s pronouncement that “all men are created equal.”


    The re-imposition of slavery and attempt to re-establish the colonial empire marked the victory of the party of business and order in France, while Napoleon’s defeat in Haiti helped seal his defeat in Europe.  And the failure to abolish slavery ended any possibility of Jeffersonian democracy; the Republican victors in the political struggle with the Federalists were the losers in the battle over the country’s future.  Inequality of wealth and rights triumphed in large part because the advocates for popular democracy compromised their vision by their complicity in slavery.  Yet the alternative persisted, expressed in a popular radicalism which legitimated its claim for the rights of labor by asserting the centrality of the concept of equality to democracy and the promise of the American Revolution.  It was an understanding found in the writings of Thoreau and Melville (each of whose fathers fought in the Revolution), and in the 1830s organizing of labor radicals like Thomas Skidmore and Frances Wright who advocated a combination of smallholding agrarian rights and union rights as an expression of Jeffersonian principles.  Wright, a feminist and abolitionist, even wrote to an elderly Jefferson asking him for support for her plans for abolition.  It was a politics that came to see the need for a different economic system; like Fuller after her, Wright was an advocate of French utopian socialist Fourier’s ideas.

    In France, the last gasp of the Revolution lay in the failed uprising of the Conspiracy of Equals led by Gracchus Babeuf against the Thermidor reaction in 1796.  It was the precursor of the revolutionary tradition which later found expression in the Revolutions of 1830, 1848 and eventually in the Paris Commune of 1871.  In each, the cause of justice advanced, was defeated, yet the ground lost was never as much as the ground gained – and so all form part of the legacy of democratic rights upon which we continue to build.

    Jean Jaures, in his Socialist History of the French Revolution – a defense of the Jacobins and the Constitution of 1793 — approvingly quotes Robespierre:  “When will the interests of the rich become one with the people?  Never.”  Juares, a socialist leader who never wavered in his defense of democratic rights or in his opposition to war (he was assassinated in 1914 by a right-wing nationalist, later acquitted by a French court) was not an advocate of violence or intolerance, rather he saw such intolerance and violence as stemming from those who deny people the right to freedom, who allow hunger to reign even when food is plentiful.

    Twain’s quote above was meant as a reminder of that truth, of the past that lay behind the French Revolution.  It also stood at the time of his writing as a warning that the democratic gains of the American Revolution were threatened because the co-existing worlds of privilege and poverty that marked monarchial society was becoming replicated in our Gilded Age (the late 19th century when the Robber Barons made their fortunes exploiting labor and corrupting politics).  So today we find another Gilded Age in the US, as in Europe and in much of the world.  The righting of the injustice found in a society where wealth and power are concentrated in the hands of the 1% recalls one of the legacies contained within both the American and French revolutions and helps form a part of the usable past as we seek to remake the future, to continue the “political revolution.”

    In trying to build that future it is wise to understand how steps toward creating a genuine democracy of equality flows from one part of the legacy of the American and French Revolutions. Of course, so do other legacies that rest upon and reinforce oppressions equally rooted in that past.  Here it may do well to end with Babeuf’s defense to the Court before his execution, an execution not from the Terror, but rather an execution of one who refused to close his eyes on those whose lives were cut short by poverty and hunger, the people with whom Twain sympathized:

    “Republic” is not just a word, a meaningless phrase.  The slogan of liberty and equality … had a certain charm in the early days of the Revolution, because you believed it contained real meaning.  Today this slogan means nothing to you anymore; it is only an empty rhetorical flourish.  But we must repeat again and again that this slogan, notwithstanding all our recent painful experiences, can and should connote something of deep significance for the masses …

    The aim of the Revolution … is to realize the happiness of the majority.  If, therefore, this aim is not fulfilled, if the people do not succeed in attaining the better life which was the object of their struggle, then the Revolution is not over.  There may be those whose only concern is to substitute their own rule for that of the monarchy, but it makes no difference what such people say or want.  If the Revolution is brought to an end mid-passage, it will be judged by history as little more than a catalogue of bloody crimes.” (The Defense of Gracchus Babeuf)

    So indeed, today we should celebrate and enjoy a happy respite– even in times such as these where the news is ever grim – and celebrate with an eye to the happiness that should be shared by all.


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      Bernie Sanders Didn’t Carry This Movement—This Movement Carried Bernie Sanders: A People’s Summit Recap

      July 13th, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

      The Washington Socialist <> Midsummer 2016

      By Merrill Miller

      “What’s after the Bernie Sanders campaign?” This is a question that progressive friends both within and outside DSA have been asking me in the past few weeks. Hillary Clinton appears to be clinching the Democratic nomination at the end of July, but Bernie Sanders still has not stopped his call for political revolution. What does the political revolution look like post-Sanders campaign? How can progressives continue to mobilize and energize activists and supporters without the figure of Bernie Sanders as a rallying point?

      These are questions that the People’s Summit June 17-19, in Chicago, attempted to answer.  Fully fleshing out these answers will require many more meetings and coordinated activities of local Leftist groups around the country in the coming months. The People’s Summit, a meeting of thousands of Bernie supporters, was organized by the National Nurses United and sponsored by Democratic Socialists of America (among many other progressive groups). The workshops, panel discussions and plenary sessions  were all centered on the goals of assisting networking and brainstorming between Bernie activists dedicated to carrying out the political revolution beyond this election cycle to create a sustained and the resilient Left movement. At the end of the weekend, my overall impression was a profound optimism that the Left will continue to mobilize around the values underpinning the Sanders campaign: economic justice, worker’s rights, racial equity, environmental sustainability, and the whole other host of issues centered on making America a country that works for all of us and not just the wealthy few.

      My optimism stemmed partly from the tremendous success of the Sanders campaign, which many people thought wouldn’t even last past December but is now going until the Democratic National Convention to push for a progressive agenda within the Democratic Party. But I believe that there is even greater cause for optimism for the Left based on one central theme of the Summit: Bernie Sanders did not create the progressive movement; rather, the progressive movement allowed for the success of Bernie Sanders. The only reason why Bernie Sanders was able to gain so much popularity was because there was already a foundation of activists organizing around the progressive issues that Bernie Sanders was able to articulate in his rhetoric against Wall Street and economic inequality. Bernie Sanders brought together organizations and individuals who were already agitating for fundamental and systemic changes to the American economic and political system, whether by calling for campaign finance reform, demanding an end to student debt, organizing against climate change or advocating for single-payer healthcare. While some activists have criticized the People’s Summit for failing to put forth a concrete agenda for the Left, the strength of the event was its ability to united diverse groups of people working on separate issues that all shared the same progressive values of rectifying inequality and creating a more sustainable and just economic system. Bernie Sanders was able to united progressives in this way, and if we are to continue our momentum after his campaign, we must continue to united, network, brainstorm and share our experiences. The People’s Summit was the first step in continuing the unity that coalesced around the Sanders campaign.

      As evidenced by the People’s Summit, the progressive movement will remain long after the Bernie Sanders campaign has disbanded, and in fact, because of the Sanders campaign, they will not only continue but thrive. National Nurses United brought together an array of convening and sponsoring organizations, including Democratic Socialists of America, as well as People’s Action, Progressive Democrats of America, Labor for Bernie, United Working Families, and Citizen Action, among many others. Numerous attendees were particularly interested in Democratic Socialists of America. While tabling for DSA, I interacted with many people who wanted to know how they could get involved in or even start a chapter in their communities. Some people even signed up as DSA members on the spot! Individuals from other organizations wanted to know how they could work with DSA and coordinate with DSA chapters in their cities. DSA also hosted a panel on electing socialists to public office—a tactic that many people at the Summit were enthusiastic about in order to implement progressive policies. John Nichols, writer for The Nation, also gave a talk in which he advocated a similar strategy of advancing socialism to change America’s political landscape. He pointed to the ways in which socialist movements had influenced the creation of the New Deal, Social Security and Medicare. By continuing to put forward a socialist agenda that includes a robust social safety net, we can and will create political and economic change that will benefit ordinary Americans, not just the wealthy few.

      In bringing so many activists together in one space for a weekend, the People’s Summit allowed for the communication necessary to build connections and relationships that will sustain the Left long after the Bernie Sanders campaign. The seeds for political revolution were already present before the Sanders campaign. Bernie may have watered and nurtured them, but they will continue to grow and flourish well beyond his campaign.

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        The People’s Summit and Continuing the Political Revolution in Maryland

        July 13th, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

        The Washington Socialist <> Midsummer 2016

        By Larry Stafford

        In 2011 I joined thousands of community organizers, activists, and others who had never engaged in politics before but were fed up with what they saw in their communities and within their own lives. Many of the moments I spent during the freezing cold nights in McPherson Square during the Occupy DC protests will stick with me for the rest of my life. The Occupy Wall Street Movement was full of moments as well as memorable chants that gave me hope and inspiration which continue to drive my work as an organizer.

        “We are unstoppable/
        a better world is possible!”

        This chant in particular was a bold declaration of our strength that we felt marching through the streets in the thousands while facing police in riot gear. It also spoke to the hope that we all carried with us, that while perhaps the world was not yet what we desired it to be, it could in fact be transformed. We were an inevitable rolling tide that would eventually change the landscape of the shores on which we crashed.

        A week ago I joined 3,000-plus participants at the People’s Summit, an event called together by many of the supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders’s race for the Democratic presidential nomination. Both the Sanders campaign and the summit gave me flashbacks to moments during the Occupy movement. I could almost hear the chant again as I walked into the convention center. “We are unstoppable/ a better world is possible!” The setting had certainly changed, the tattered tents had been replaced by organizational booths and registration tables, but the spirit was the same. After the Occupy protesters were forced to leave the parks, many had said the movement was over and was merely a passing fad. However the Sanders campaign represented an evolution of the movement which now took the form of a political campaign. After Sanders’s eventual, hard-fought loss in the Democratic primaries the People’s Summit made it clear that the movement that propelled Sanders’s campaign from a fringe candidacy to a viable challenge to the Democratic establishment would not end with the election.

        A major theme of the summit was continuing the political revolution. During the event, Sen. Sanders issued an online call to his supporters to run for local, state, and federal office. Almost immediately over 7,000 people took the pledge to run or to work on campaigns for candidates committed to continuing the political revolution. Summit participants were asked to keep up the fight to transform not only the political system, but our economic system as well by fighting for policies like universal health care, a living wage, and even for a fundamental change in the nature and structure of our economic system itself. Beyond these specific calls to action the summit called on everyone to no longer accept the status quo and to realize that we have the power to change our country and our communities.

        Sanders’s call for political revolution was never merely a call to elect him to office, but instead a call for all of us to claim power over our government and to take responsibility for changing the system.

        Progressive Maryland is committed to working with our allies in the movement to continue the political revolution here in Maryland. The summit had a strong delegation from Maryland that met during a state breakout session. Together we discussed the challenges in Maryland and committed to working towards building and taking power in our state. With the election of Larry Hogan it has become clear that our state is heading in the wrong direction. Beyond our problems with a Republican governor, we also have many Democrats who are more in line with the interests of the wealthy and powerful than the working class. We are therefore committed to looking beyond the labels of the traditional two-party system to elect candidates who represent our values and a progressive world view.

        Our state is in dire need of a political revolution. Far too many in our state live in poverty as they work jobs that pay substandard wages. Too many Black and Brown youth find themselves more likely to be pushed into jail than empowered to go to college. College itself remains unaffordable for too many in our state and when we are able to attend and graduate from college, we are burdened under crippling debt. These things among many other issues in our state highlight the urgency that exists to ensure that Maryland is run with the interests of the working class in mind. We call on supporters of a political revolution to get organized as members of Progressive Maryland and join a fight to transform our society.

        Larry Stafford is executive director of Progressive Maryland. A version of this article appeared June 27 on the Progressive Maryland PM BlogSpace.

        Readers of the Washington Socialist in Maryland – or with a regional-action bent – can make submissions to the PM BlogSpace through the blog’s moderator at



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          Organizing Arlington for Bernie

          July 13th, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

          The Washington Socialist <> Midsummer 2016

           By Daniel Adkins

          Getting Organized
          Many frustrated voters who self-identify as progressives or as democratic socialists joined Bernie Sanders’s campaign in Arlington, Virginia.  Their motivations were economic as well as political.   A strong DSA member and others had been organizing Northern Virginia for Bernie since last summer.  This meant that there was already a regional Facebook page and Google Listserve that we could use for sharing political news and analysis as well as messaging.  Northern Virginia for Bernie was being led by a democratic socialist who is a Democratic Party officer along with others having a history of working together. I took a sabbatical from DSA DC to work directly for Bernie so as not to jeopardize DSA’s tax status.  I was able to join with a politically motivated woman and start the Arlington countywide group.  The best way to aid Bernie’s chances was to directly aid his campaign and learn about Bernie’s campaign and platform within the Democratic Party.

          One of the motivations for supporting Bernie is that he talks about starting a revolution, which also means starting a political movement.  Many Bernie supporters are in for the long haul.  We found a national democratic delegate for Bernie and her partner who had a combined $300,000 in college debt.  She wanted Bernie’s program NOW.  The neoliberal policy of solving all problems by creating a markets and profit centers for the rich was not working for them and they saw the needed changes.  We found many interested in Bernie’s ideas from several walks of life.

          The Ground Game
          Bernie’s software allowed volunteers to organize many events such as phone banks, canvassing, meetings, and barnstorming events.  In my previous organizing we used popular PC tools that were several generations behind Bernie’s new software.  We not only could organize events, but also identify the organizers and attendees, which allowed us to expand our group.  Hopefully, current and future progressive movements and groups will utilize Bernie’s software.

          Many of our Bernie supporters saw the merit of phone banking and canvassing.  The most ardent Bernie supporters each organized more than six phone banks and the Bernie headquarters saw the results via their software.  We deferred to the regional Bernie organizers almost always except for one instance.  In the final days of canvassing before the primary, a Bernie operative wanted us to lead canvassing from a far northern part of Arlington that was only accessible by car.  We said OK but informed them that we were also opening two other staging areas to better cover the county.  One site was in the Metro corridor where many Bernie supporters do not have cars.  The other site was in the south where there are more minorities.  Coming from Vermont, the organizer could not know the terrain or our capabilities.

          Our organizing meetings were able to share information and get into discussions of Bernie’s politics.  A few self-identified democratic socialists joined us including DSA members.  Sometimes democratic socialists would lecture minorities about the political challenges we faced.  The links between ideas and process were limited.  Knowing the “right idea” does not make you an empathetic communicator.  It is clear we missed chances linking up with minorities. We hope to do better as we become more mature politically.

          Our local Democrats, members of the Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC), are well organized, so we were able to list coming events on Bernie’s calendar and also on the local ACDC calendar. This allowed new people to find us.  Bernie’s software did not provide a database that we could use to organize our county group. Facebook was fine as a catalogue for notes, articles, news, and education. We were stuck with using Excel as a database and entering names from event sign-in sheets.

          The Primary
          The ACDC analyzed the primary results carefully and it became clear that some Arlingtonians gamed the system.  Others call it “voting strategically.”  The result was that many Democrats voted Republican in order to minimize Trump who came in third in Arlington.  Bernie got a third of the Virginia Democratic votes.  We were disappointed in the Bernie vote but did not have time to sit around and mope as we now had a regional and state convention to organize.  We did not know it at the time but our organizing efforts in Northern Virginia may have led the national Bernie people to allot us a generous share of national delegates.

          The Conventions
          There needs to be structure when you are electing convention delegates, who impact convention process, the party platform, and the national presidential choice.  The frustration for us Bernie supporters was our new and the somewhat opaque structures.  The committees we faced are for rules, resolutions, and credentials.  To be on the committees you needed to be in the Democratic Party for years and play an active role in the Democratic Party.

          Having lived in Arlington for 23 years and having attended ACDC events allowed me to identify ACDC leaders and coordinators.  They volunteered to help Bernie supporters get educated on the primary, the delegate selection process, and the resolutions committees.  They offered help even though most were Hillary supporters.

          I was surprised that less than 50% of the elected delegates were involved in the ground game of getting votes for Bernie.  The rest were activists interested in politics and active elsewhere.  One delegate was a retired diplomat who was a knowledgeable Bernie supporter.  My hope for him was that he could defuse potential conflicts.  It turned out that none of our national delegates played a major role in the ground game, but contributed elsewhere.

          The conventions at the congressional and state level were new to us.  As delegates at the regional and state level we could vote for the delegates going to the national convention as well as influence the state party platform.  The “Berniecrats” got heavily involved in the resolutions process.  The Hilary / Bernie difference created a crisis at the congressional district convention between the convention chair’s aides and Bernie supporters on resolutions.  The Congressional District chair played a significant role in making a compromise that avoided exacerbating the protest by Bernie supporters.

          The state convention included many speeches and several elections.  The state resolution committee needed to combine resolutions from all congressional districts.  Bernie supporters had a bigger impact than their numbers.  At the state convention Bernie had only 35% of the elected delegate seats.  However Bernie supporters were more motivated and more of us showed up thus making up 42% of the convention delegates in attendance.  Arlington ended up having three national delegates to the Philadelphia convention and one member of the Democratic National Committee.  The Bernie caucus ended the state convention with the goal of getting involved in politics at all levels and having helped pass the most progressive Democratic platform in Virginia’s history.

          Bernie is just starting a revolution and it will take time for his supporters to run for office, support candidates, and move into Democratic Party structures.  Trump has shown that a major party can be taken over.  Bernie has shown that you do not need the one percent’s money.  Bernie supporters are getting involved in ACDC and a Virginia state senator thinks we have important positions on issues and has volunteered to mentor our future candidates.

          If you think that Bernie will be the last democratic socialist for president, just remember that Elizabeth Warren is in the wings and may have her own plans.  We now have the group Brand New Congress organizing to get Berniecrats elected.  Neoliberalism will not die without a fight but must die if we are to be a democracy.  We are in a new era where the old lies are not believed and much of the population realizes they are being victimized.  At least, we are headed at least for a new New Deal.

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            Sanders and Change

            July 13th, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

             The Washington Socialist <> Midsummer 2016

            By Kurt Stand

            Within certain circles of the US business and political establishment Hillary Clinton has been a figure to abuse and revile.  This began during Bill Clinton’s first term of office, when she was targeted in response to her health care reform advocacy.  Attacks on both Clintons by Republicans and right-wing hate groups intensified thereafter as part of a concerted effort to prevent passage of progressive legislation during the years 1992 – 2000.  It was a precursor to the more vicious attacks on Barack Obama, pursued with a similar purpose of inhibiting even the mildest progressive legislation.

            Yet Hillary Clinton is very much a part of the political establishment with close business and personal ties to the corporate world.  The Clintons have supported militarist foreign policy, repressive criminal justice, anti-worker trade agreements, and welfare restrictions that have had a devastating impact on poor women.  More to the point, every reform measure either has advocated points away from universal social insurance programs in favor of market-based public-private initiatives consistent with neoliberal ideology.  Although the corporate right condemns Hillary Clinton, she is supported by centers of power from Wall Street, the high tech, media and retail industries – and important elements of the Pentagon and US foreign policy apparatus.

            The predominant leadership of labor, of women’s groups, civil rights and immigrant rights organizations also support Hillary Clinton, proclaiming her as an ally even though Sanders has been a more consistent supporter of social justice struggles.  Partially this reflects the extent to which such groups function within the framework of institutional politics and are unwilling or unable to imagine a challenge to the limits of contemporary political discourse permitted by corporate neo-liberalism.  Being part of the system, some recoil at a challenge to the system.

            Such reformism, however, has a broad base of popular support; the widespread support for Sanders has not dislodged the widespread belief that radical politics will inevitably fail.   The loss of stable jobs and the weakening of the social safety net have left millions feeling insecure and powerless.  Conservative assaults on previously existing rights – be it a woman’s right to control her own body, the right of an immigrant to live in peace or the right of an African-American youth to live without fear of police violence – alongside government assaults on civil liberties and corporate attacks on unions lead many to prefer the comparative safety of a limited Democratic liberalism as compared to the dangers of reaction if a progressive agenda is pushed too strongly.

            Those fears are particularly strong in the black community and help explain why Hillary Clinton has done exceptionally well among voters whose needs are greatest.  The language of the Republican primaries, and the emergence of Donald Trump as the presumptive nominee, give weight to such concerns.  In addition, there is a section of people who experienced – up close or at a distance — the radical movements of the 1960s and ‘70s and believe that the internecine war within activist circles at the close of that era not only destroyed the possibility of progressive change, it also led to the country’s right-wing turn.  Thus the preference for Clinton as against pushing forward with an agenda that might open the wounds of difference.

            Though not everyone accepts such self-limitation.  Those who have come to support Bernie Sanders have done so because of the clarity of his political principles and because of the vision that lies behind that clarity.  His call for universal health insurance confronts the reality that access to medical care for working people and the poor remains expensive or out of reach; his call for free college education confronts the reality that those who graduate from universities face substantial debt alongside uncertain employment prospects; and his support for a living wage confronts the reality that the jobs that have been created are low-paid, part-time and precarious.  And Sanders’s opposition to neo-liberal “free” trade agreements and his insistence that climate change is the principal national security issue facing the United States stand as an indirect critique of militarism and proactively address the existential crisis facing humanity if corporate greed ever and again outweighs human need.

            Tying these issues together is Wall Street power – power made visible when the Supreme Court decision equating money with speech allowed for unlimited corporate spending on elections.  Sanders’s denunciation of big banks and the inequality that inevitably grows from the massive transfer of wealth from working people to the “1%,” grows out of and reflects the continuing dynamism of the Occupy movement – and speaks to a legacy of the American Revolution (albeit one generally ignored or suppressed) which insists that democracy, freedom and equality are interdependent.  All are needed if any is to flourish.  That is the same equation central to the socialist tradition, which has deeper roots in US history than is generally apparent.  Sanders’s willingness to proclaim that socialism openly is more important than the narrow definition he gives it because of his accompanying message: a more inclusive society will be possible only when power is taken from the plutocracy and returned to the people.

            The notion that economic justice and political democracy will enable people to find a place in an otherwise uncaring and unfeeling world is the vision that has animated Sanders supporters beyond his program.  His call for a “political revolution” is particularly appealing to the young who have less to lose and thus feel less vulnerable (or perhaps are less fearful of their vulnerability) than many of their elders who are supporting Clinton.  But it would be wrong to view the divide between Sanders or Clinton supporters only in generational terms for it is a divide within the women’s movement, immigrant communities, amongst African-Americans, and other groupings.

            This internal contest is perhaps nowhere as sharply drawn as within the labor movement – for as much as Sanders’s campaign has appealed to young people, Sanders has also attracted the engagement of militant unionists on an almost unprecedented scale.  This stems from the active support Sanders has always provided unions, be it during strikes, organizing drives, campaigns to stop plant closings, legislative battles over workplace and union rights.  So while it is true that more unions are supporting Clinton than Sanders, it is also true that many locals and rank-and-file groups have taken an independent stand and are actively organizing as “Labor for Bernie.”

            Moreover the unions that have officially endorsed Sanders embody his campaign’s linkages.  The United Electrical Workers and the West Coast longshore union are two survivors of Cold War anti-Communism and have never abandoned their militancy or their broader progressive and anti-war programs.  The Postal Workers and two transit worker unions are engaged in struggles for increased government social investment that Sanders has championed as part of their defense of members jobs and wages.  The National Nurses Union is one of the most engaged campaign supporters, based on a shared commitment to universal health care; the NNU has also taken leadership of building a broad movement for democracy and social justice to continue after the elections no matter who wins.  So too is the Communication Workers – now [at the time] on strike against Verizon, the largest work stoppage to take place in the US for many years.  CWA is in the forefront of support for formations such as Jobs with Justice and the Working Families Party and other labor-community initiatives.  The extent of such activism is the reason the AFL-CIO itself has remained neutral between Clinton and Sanders.

            And yet it is not enough.  Sanders’s broad support notwithstanding, millions support Clinton, millions support Trump, millions remain on the sidelines convinced that elections are irrelevant to their needs.  All this matters because, as Sanders himself makes clear, change won’t be won by his election, won’t be achieved through congressional compromise.  He insists that only mass mobilizations can force neo-liberal Democrats and Republicans to bend to the popular will.  That, however, presupposes a wider, deeper level of public engagement than has been achieved.  Sanders’s strength in focusing on corporate power and the growth of inequality as measured between the rich and working people as a whole – true and principled and radical as it is – will fall short unless the need to establish economic justice and social security for all working people is joined to the movement against particular forms of injustice which cause some segments of working people to suffer relative to others.   The call for jobs should include speaking against mass incarceration’s impact on unemployment amongst blacks and Latinos, the demand for universal health should include the demand for measures to protect women’s reproductive health, advocacy of free college tuition should include proposals to ensure that poor children from communities of color receive an adequate primary education.

            Failure to make linkages led to George McGovern’s defeat in 1972 by Richard Nixon’s “law-and-order” racist appeal to white workers – and was followed by Jimmy Carter’s retreat from labor-backed economic policy and the collapse of reform Democratic Party politics.  Bill Clinton later used the language of social equality to mask the substantive inequality produced by his neo-liberalism – and stood as a repudiation of the linkages between social justice communities developed within Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988.  Clinton’s retreats created the basis for today’s Republican congressional ascendancy.  Ralph Nader’s one-dimensional presidential campaign failed as an alternative, unable to build linkages due to independence not only from Democrats but also from social justice movements.  Unresolved contradictions from the past culminated in the loss of opportunity to bring about the substantive change briefly possible when Obama was first elected as he prioritized placating Republicans and corporate Democrats over mobilizing his base.

            Today, addressing economic justice alone provides space for the racist demagoguery of people like Donald Trump who speak to class anger for whites only.  Addressing class inequality abstractly enables Wall Street liberals like Clinton to separate the struggle against particular forms of social injustice from economic injustice.  Only when discrimination and exploitation are attacked in their specificity and their linkages can the opportunities created through Sanders’s campaign be grasped.

            Shortly before his 1973 assassination, Amilcar Cabral, the leader of the liberation movement in Guinea and the Cape Verde Islands, remarked to a group of Howard University students in Washington DC that the United States, is “… still forging a nation – it is not yet not completed … Several things have contributed to the forming and changing of this country, such as the Vietnam War, though unfortunately at the expense of the Vietnamese people.”  That is to say, the disparate communities in the US, held together by bonds of oppression and inequality as well as by bonds of shared history and development, can develop an organic unity only through a mutual struggle for justice.  Opposition to the fragmented, imperial country the United States has become is the path socialism needs to take to overcome division and realize the egalitarian promise of what the nation could be.

            Sanders’s campaign used the Simon & Garfunkel song, “America” to great effect in an early campaign video – a wistful song that expresses a yearning for society to make sense, a yearning for meaning.  The challenge is to build upon that yearning during the rest of this election cycle and in the months and years ahead.


            So I looked at the scenery,
            She read her magazine;
            And the moon rose over an open field.
            “Kathy, I’m lost”, I said,
            Though I knew she was sleeping.
            “I’m empty and aching and
            I don’t know why.”

            Counting the cars
            On the New Jersey Turnpike
            They’ve all come
            To look for America,
            All come to look for America,
            All come to look for America.


            A version of this article appeared in Ossietzky magazine (#13) in June.

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              Mayor Bowser’s (Mostly) Awful June: Three Lost Council Allies and an Unloved Constitution

              July 13th, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

              The Washington Socialist <> Midsummer 2016

              By Bill Mosley

              The Green Team, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s attempt to establish a DC political machine that would bring the levers of local government under her control, suffered a derailment in June more shattering than anything the tottering Metrorail system could have imagined.  Bowser went into the June 14 Democratic primary with four of her Council allies running for re-election, and all but one fell to insurgents who promise to meet the mayor’s proposals with a critical eye rather than a rubber stamp.

              Trying to determine how the results of the primary play for progressives is as slippery as many of the candidates, both winners and losers.  Vincent Orange, for instance, the at-large councilmember who lost to challenger Robert White, lately had tacked to the left and picked up the Metro Council AFL-CIO’s endorsement, in part because of his backing of a $15 local minimum wage.  But over the past two decades in and out of elective office, Orange has slipped and slid all over the political map, an opportunist who has been challenged over ethical lapses, although not fatally until now.

              If the defeat of one Bowser ally might have moved the council to the left, it would have been Jack Evans, Ward 2 councilmember and the most developer-friendly politician in the District.  Alas, Evans ran unopposed, and with at most only token opposition in the general election will extend his 25-year run as longest-serving DC councilmember.

              Indeed, there can be found hardly a DC elected official who is not eager to be considered “progressive” – even Evans – to please the liberal-to-left center of gravity of the DC electorate.  Unlike states in which Republicans make themselves easy targets for the left, in Democrat-dominated DC one must watch what officeholders do rather than what they say – such as the deals they cut for developers and other big-money interests, and exactly how hard they are willing to fight for workers or DC statehood or the homeless, or to champion other issues to which they give such sincere-sounding lip service.

              Elections, then, are often fought out more on the grounds of personality or low-level retail politicking than on substantive differences over issues.  Shoe leather and a personal touch were factors in Trayon White’s upset of short-time Ward 8 incumbent and Bowser ally LaRuby May, avenging May’s defeat of him in last year’s special election to succeed Marion Barry in this ward that has long suffered among DC’s highest crime and poverty rates.  May lost by eight percentage points despite a large fundraising advantage, and if her alliance with Bowser wasn’t at the forefront of most voters’ minds, it certainly didn’t help.

              Nor did Bowser’s support for Ward 7 member Yvette Alexander protect her from being swamped in the Vince Gray landslide.  Voters in the ward, which like 8 is plagued by poverty, crime and underdevelopment, looked at what Alexander had done for them in her nine years in office and found her wanting.  Whether Gray did any more for the ward during his years as its councilmember, then council chair and mayor, was doubtful, but many voters had faith that Gray’s name and notoriety would be more useful to them than Alexander’s genial fecklessness.  They were willing to overlook the campaign finance scandal that sent several of his aides to prison although Gray himself improbably escaped indictment.  Gray on the Council will be Bowser’s worst nightmare; the two politicians have been adversaries since Gray defeated Bowser’s mentor Adrian Fenty for Mayor, and it would surprise no one if Gray ran for mayor in 2018 to avenge his loss to Bowser two years ago.

              Even Brandon Todd, the one Bowser ally to be re-elected (and her protégé as she was Fenty’s), won by a surprisingly narrow nine-point margin in Ward 4 against lightly regarded competition.  The lesson of June 14 for Bowser was just how little clout she really has.

              Bowser Constitution Brings Out the Critics

              If Bowser thought that her proposed constitution for “New Columbia” – the name the District would acquire if it becomes a state – would be met with the public acclaim that her favored Council candidates did not, she was greatly disappointed.  In a series of public meetings, as well as on-line comments, the draft constitution written by the Bowser-chaired DC Statehood Commission came under criticism on a variety of fronts.

              At the culminating event of the public-input process, a two day “constitutional convention” at Wilson High School in the Tenleytown neighborhood, few of the dozens of DC residents who testified had unqualified praise for the document.   The draft essentially enshrined the current structure of the city government while converting the mayor into a “governor” and the 13 councilmembers into “delegates,” and adopting the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution as its “Bill of Rights.”  A number of commenters thought a 13-member legislature too small for a state; there was criticism that it would be too hard to make amendments; and some thought that the legislature should be bicameral rather than a single chamber as DC has now and would still have under the document.   But most of the criticism was over the top-down process – that it was undemocratic and not a real “convention,” compared to the 1982 meeting in which delegates were elected by DC voters and collaboratively drafted the document that was put before voters later that year.  Anise Jenkins, executive director of the Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition (Free DC), expressed concern that most voters weren’t aware of the constitution and that it should not go before the voters until more of them were aware of its contents.

              But a seldom-raised complaint was why the District should even be discussing a constitution at this point.  A constitution is necessary for admission as a state, and Bowser is eager to have a current voter-approved document should the political climate be propitious next year – anticipating that the malignant Donald Trump might bring the Republicans to ruin and result in Democratic dominance of the government, which would then be more receptive to statehood.  But why push activists through a rushed process before the election is even held?  Should the results of the election not be as definitive as Democrats hope, people will feel they have wasted their time, and the end result will only be alienation.

              Nevertheless, Bowser and company are barreling ahead to place the constitution on the fall ballot.  Many activists are steamed that their participation and comments will be only advisory – the Statehood Commission will write the constitution, which will be submitted to the mayor and Council for further changes.  Only then will it go to the voters on a take it or leave it basis.

              Sanders’ Loss is Bowser’s Gain

              On the plus side for Bowser, Hillary Clinton, whom she endorsed on the presidential line of the June 14 primary, coasted to a landslide win over Bernie Sanders, 79 to 21 percent, in the final contest of the race for the nomination.  Sanders gave the DC contest his best shot, holding a well-attended rally at the DC Armory on June 9 (at which Metro-DC DSA made the rounds with the local’s literature).  But DC from the beginning was fertile Hillary territory with its minority-majority population combined with a substantial corps of Democratic Party and Hill staffers who tend to support the establishment.  Bowser and most DC councilmembers were already plumping for Clinton, and the media line following the California primary that Clinton had clinched the nomination (as debatable as that was) served as the final nail in Sanders’ coffin, despite local DSA members’ flyering at several polling stations on primary day.  Bowser’s support had only a minimal effect on Clinton’s voter support, but she’ll take her victories where she can find them.

              Fight for $15 Wins – Mostly

              At the end of June, Bowser signed a bill bringing to reality one of her priorities:  raising the minimum wage in DC to $15 an hour over four years, with increases beyond that tied to inflation.  The bill appears to forestall an initiative for a $15 wage that labor and other advocates planned to put on the ballot this November.

              Everybody’s happy, right?  Not exactly.  The bill omits one significant class of workers from the $15 minimum:  tipped workers, mostly servers in restaurants.  While the initiative would have applied the $15 to everyone, the Bowser/Council bill would raise the minimum for tipped workers only to $5.55 from the current $2.77.  The local restaurant lobby brought heavy pressure to bear to ensure the lower tipped-worker wage.  Meanwhile, the Restaurant Opportunities Center, which represents many tipped workers in the District, was not on board with the deal cut between local labor and councilmembers, led by Orange, to secure a $15 wage for everyone but their members.

              So Bowser can walk away from this June with a few little victories to salve the debacle of the Council election.  But she clearly needs more successes under her belt, for the specter of 2018 looms ahead.



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                Region cohesion losing ground – it’s a Progrexit

                July 13th, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

                The Washington Socialist <> Midsummer 2016

                By Woody Woodruff

                Two years ago, three jurisdictions with common borders, similar political orientations and a diverse population showed some signs of the kind of solidarity that could collectively make them leaders not only in progressive political action and policy, but in reaping the results, in reduction of inequality and improvement of the lives of all their constituents, with thriving economies to boot.

                The District of Columbia, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County elected officials acted in unison to raise the minimum wage, showing the clear benefits of working together as opposed to the ruinous beggar-thy-neighbor competition that would have had each one submitting the lowest (and worst!) bid to keep hypothetically fickle businesses from vacating. It was a rare instance of local governments escaping the sway of their capitalist underlayment.

                They acted on the strength of their combined power as a bustling urban conglomerate that businesses could not ignore or leave. This regional solidarity brought a flicker of hope that the benefits of collective action on big, central components of the regional economy would be pursued, as with the original promise of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

                That was then. Now the signs of “progressive exit” and remorse are turning up in each jurisdiction, with timidity and fear overtaking the genuine spirit of winning the future. The “brief shining moment” when a raise in the minimum wage in that city-state conglomerate would be followed by a requirement for paid sick leave and other moves to bring an underemployed and poorly housed working population into full participation in a more thriving regional economy is cracking apart everywhere we look.

                For the fourth year in a row the General Assembly failed to pass statewide paid sick leave. Prince George’s, whose craven Council used the prospect of state action as an excuse for tabling its own sick leave proposal, now has lost that cover but doesn’t appear to be trying to revive its county-level version. Montgomery County is unilaterally moving toward the even higher goal of a $15 minimum wage but appears to be leaving behind the perennially shorted category of tipped workers. The District just last week actually approved a climb to an eventual $15/hr minimum wage but in doing so forestalled a November referendum question that would have included tipped workers in the advance, “fiercely opposed by the city’s powerful restaurant industry lobby” as the WaPo blandly reported. And, though Montgomery passed a paid sick leave ordinance, Council members are already talking about rolling back some of its provisions to satisfy its own restive business sector.

                The dismal state of the Metrorail system is a more long-term piece of evidence that most of the spirit of collaboration has been missing for a long time in local governments. Nearly alone among major systems Metro has no dedicated, tax-based source of funding because the jurisdictions involved, state and local, have never come close to making such a move. COG, of course, was one of the most influential institutional voices calling for that coordinated transportation plan – COG is still the designated MPO, or Metropolitan Planning Organization, that is supposed to be the conduit for regional action. The fact that COG has declined to near-zero in power and influence – how many people have heard of it? – is another index of the low spark of regionalism in a metropolitan area divided among two states and a colony.

                The COG was once an engine of informed progressive action by local governments in concert, supported as a vibrant think tank for change and a place where trust could be built and regional cohesion strengthened. Now, alas, it’s an afterthought, made moot by the insular behavior of suspicious local governments competing with one another for the crumbs of the business cartel.

                This pullback from the progressive promise is nothing less than (apologizing in advance) the Progrexit. And, like the Brexit, it’s a failure of nerve. Short-term political gain and too close an ear to the whines of the so-called business community (read: cartel) prevailed over the strong evidence that a better-paid, better-housed and better-educated working class is the key to healthier local communities.

                How do rollbacks like this start? When nobody’s looking, we begin to get tribal again, to pull back into our little enclaves and be systematically suspicious of unfamiliar ideas or people. Trump (and his Trumpism) are symptoms as much as a cause of that. We haven’t sufficiently emerged from the Great Recession to be permanently confident about the future, despite the opportunities that are there to be grasped. Local officials are seeking safety (and re-election) instead. Mouthpieces for the business cartel whine in their ears about the need for “certainty” – meaning, mainly, assurance that they will almost always get all they ask for This slow-rolling collapse of resolve is how various kinds of malfeasance and misery become the new normal, and should be resisted.

                Meanwhile, between Maryland legislative sessions, a business-beholden Republican administration working behind the smiling face of a supposedly nice-guy, popular governor is dismantling long-standing progressive initiatives through its control of executive agencies and decision-making boards. Sometimes they get caught. Last year, the Larry Hogan administration’s Department of Environmental Regulation casually reversed protections against dirty power plants put in place by the administration of former Gov. Martin O’Malley, despite outcries and informed testimony from affected citizens and environmental activists. This week the federal EPA debunked the newly complaisant state DER’s assurance that the plant’s emissions were “clean enough.” But that hasn’t stopped state officials from colluding with business interests to roll back health protections for people and for the Chesapeake Bay. State ag officials are listening to the boo-hoos of farmers and sewer plant operators who claim they are still not able to comply with a 2012 rule on Bay cleanup that they’ve had four years to get ready for. Hogan’s activism on the “business-friendly front” is happening in all of his agencies.

                We don’t say much here about Virginia because, as progressive as some Northern Virginia governments sometimes can be, the knuckle-dragging GOP mob in the Richmond state house keeps them securely isolated and broadly powerless.

                In all their weasel maneuverings, elected officials have bucked strong evidence of public support. Unlike the stunning vote in the UK, no large public voted for this pullback from progress. If anyone, it was finance capitalists sitting around tables in expensive restaurants, “voting” among themselves, and then calling their favorite (and favored with campaign contributions) local and state officials. Those officials, in turn, either by omission or commission began, and continue, to dismantle this early promise of a better life for everyday folks in their jurisdictions. The Progrexit is under way, and should certainly be out in the light of day in hopes that it can be slowed or stopped. Elected officials should be held accountable for the loss of a collaborative public ethic of regionalism that could make the DC metro area a progressive powerhouse rather than what one expert in another context called a “pitiful, helpless giant.”

                A version of this article appeared July 6 on the BlogSpace of Progressive Maryland.

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                  July 13th, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

                  The Washington Socialist <> Midsummer 2016

                  One of many responses to the “Brexit” vote, this one from the Irish Times recommended by Dave Richardson: Fintan O’Toole opines that “neither Trump nor the Brexit leaders have ever believed for one moment that any of these promises are real.”

                  Brit Labour leader Corbyn has been getting flak for his lukewarm support for “remain.” Here “A Greek leftist on why British socialists shouldn’t shy away from rejecting the European Union,” from Jacobin.

                  Paul Krugman with the help of Larry Mishel and EPI unmasks Trump’s duplicitous appeal to workers on trade issues as a screen for an anti-labor, corporatist agenda. Yes, Paul Krugman!

                  A world without work considered: wasteland, dystopia or….?

                  After the Brexit vote debacle, Laurie Penny in the New Statesman put the fork in the degraded neofascist sentiments that propelled the “leave” vote … an awesome piece of Brit invective and a critical lesson for US voters who are equally ready to give up on the idea of global community and retreat to our tribal dugout. The ed. sincerely hopes that all our readers will have already seen this in some virally sizzling environment.

                  Bill Boteler recommends this debate in which “economists Robert Pollin and Peter Victor discuss whether ecological sustainability and economic growth can be achieved simultaneously” in Real News…


                  The discussion of a universal basic income that would complement the gradual automation of most jobs is given a good airing-out by one of the more imaginative economics columnists around, the NYT’s Eduardo Porter:

                  Seen via Portside, this Huffpost Politics review by Dean Baker examines an important book on the global aspects of inequality, itself an ebbing and flowing force across national borders.

                  Cornel West interviewed in Alternet on the direction revolutionary change might tip in the US. Hint: not to the left.

                  Here’s Naomi Klein in CommonDreams on next steps on environmental activism.

                  Jacobin founding editor and DSA honorary vice chair Bhaskar Sunkara on the People’s Summit:

                  States all over the US are failing to implement laws that expand access to voter registration. An article in The American Prospect (via Portside) anatomizes the opportunities that can be pursued with Motor Voter and public assistance registration access requirements, benefiting millions of eligible voters.

                  A profile of the new British PM that appeared in the WaPo on the day she was installed. This women would be a raving radical in US politics, despite her rugged immigration stance – one suspects Obama has deported far more people than she has even dreamed of. The Brits may have lucked out far better than they have deserved for their nativism. Sebastian Mallaby, always a mild social-democratic presence on the WaPo edit board back when it was worthwhile, contributes from Blighty.



                  Send your suggested submissions for the next issue’s “Good Reads” to They should be online (even if originally in print) and have safe links.

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                    Metro DC DSA’s June 2016 Newsletter: Victory against Verizon; Politics in DC and Md. through a radical lens; How elites sunk Flint, Mich.; Trump’s NY past as prologue; Uncharming new charm on Oprah’s bracelet and other diversions in the Summer of the Bern…

                    June 2nd, 2016  / Author: woodlanham

                    The_Washington_Socialist1346533384Welcome to the June issue of the Washington Socialist, the free monthly email newsletter of Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America.
                    June is the last regular monthly issue until September – in the interim our (potentially) award-winning Midsummer Washington Socialist will be published as usual on Bastille Day, July 14.
                    Meanwhile, what we did (prospectively) on our summer vacation: lots of places to go in an anything-but-sleepy summer. The People’s Summit in Chicago (middle of this month; see below) aims to sustain the progressive surge from the Sanders campaign, win or not. Some plan to go to Cleveland for the GOP convention July 18-21 and keep the heat on the Trumpoids. Some plan to go to {for us, much closer) Philadelphia to keep the heat on the Democratic establishment at the DNC July 25-28.

                    ON THE LOCAL CALENDAR
                    Monday, June 6 — Maria Svart, DSA National Director: “Bernie Blew Off the Lid. What’s Next?” 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Hunan Dynasty Restaurant, 215 Pennsylvania Ave. SE , Washington, DC (edit map)
                    Bernie Sanders has unleashed massive new energy and the billionaire class can’t put the lid back on! Join DSA’s National Director Maria Svart for an introductory discussion of democratic socialism, why it’s a game changer that Bernie is a proud democratic socialist, and how we can continue building the political revolution at the grassroots level.
                    Sunday, June 12 — Metro DC DSA regular membership meeting, 1:30 p.m. LOCATION UPDATE   Southwest Library, 900 Wesley Place Southwest, Washington D.C., — the closest Metrorail station is Waterfront (Green Line), about two blocks.
                    Tuesday, June 14 — Feel the Bern on DC Primary Day!
                    Help push Bernie Sanders to the primary finish line by volunteering to hand out literature at the polls on DC Primary Day – Tuesday, June 14 – for DSA’s independent “We Need Bernie” campaign.  We’ll provide the literature; the rest is up to you (don’t forget water!)  You can leaflet at your polling place or pick another voting site in DC.  Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.; you can do all or part of a day (early mornings and late afternoon/evening tend to be the busiest times).  Contact if you can help; let us know which polling place you plan to cover, the hours you are available and where to deliver the literature.
                    Thursday, June 16 – the Socialist Salon, 6:30 p.m. at Hunan Dynasty Restaurant, 215 Pennsylvania Ave. SE , Washington, DC (edit map)
                    Sunday, June 19 —  Socialist Book Group, reading Atkinson: Inequality: What Can Be Done? 3 to 5 p.m., at Kogod Courtyard (at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery) 8th and F Streets, Washington, DC. Gallery Place Metrorail station, Yellow/Green and Red lines.
                    Wednesday, June 29DSA Happy Hour 6:30 p.m.  Luna Grille and Diner 1301 Connecticut Ave. N.W., (map)

                    Find the latest information on our activities, time or location changes etc. at our Meetup site.

                    GROWTH OF DSA: Here is the map of chapters and organizing committees. The decontamination of the S-word has been going apace, and along with new chapters and OCs there are reading groups and other “clubs” springing up alongside traditional forms.

                    ON THE CALENDAR, NATIONALLY
                    The feminist working group, national call June 8
                    New Member Orientation national call evening of June 15
                    Introduction to socialist feminism national call evening of June 28
                    The National Political Committee of DSA has published “talking points on electoral work” that include supporting the Sanders campaign through the Democratic Convention; organizing against a Trump victory and preparing for socialist critique of the next administration, regardless of who is elected president.

                    DSA AT THE PEOPLE’S SUMMIT
                    The People’s Summit in Chicago June 17-19 joins DSA members with others from left-of-center organizations involved in the Sanders campaign. Instead of keying on the still-unknown outcome of the Democratic Convention, the “thousands of participants will network and work to build a People’s Platform, a unifying political statement that can used to hold elected officials accountable,” says David Duhalde, national DSA Deputy Director (and an active member of our local).
                    In his Democratic Left  article Duhalde recounts the post-campaign history of the 1980 Democratic Agenda push to nominate Edward M. Kennedy over the incumbent Jimmy Carter and the 1984 and 1988 primary campaigns of Jesse L. Jackson. All were campaigns in which DSA (in 1980, DSOC) had a role, and in the case of both candidates an effort to create a sustained left movement after the campaigns were over did not live up to their promise.

                    The lessons learned are being applied to the Sanders-spurred movement for a “political revolution,” Duhalde says, because “we do have a limited window of opportunity to capitalize on the fact that millions of Americans have both campaigned and voted for a socialist” – a factor that neither the Kennedy or Jackson campaigns included. The People’s Summit includes many organizations with which DSA has been and is allied. “DSA will be the organized democratic socialist voice at the People’s Summit,” Duhalde says. “The gathering will bring together thousands of activists, many of whom not only support Bernie Sanders but—whether he wins or not—want to see new progressive unity emerge out of his campaign. We encourage DSA members and our allies to mobilize and to participate.”
                    IN THIS ISSUE

                    >>The victory by Communication Workers of America and IBEW over Verizon after 44 days on the line demonstrated a new willingness to fight back by labor and workers, Kurt Stand says – highlighting other ongoing fights as well that “look hopeless until they are won.” Read complete article

                    >>In an era when an open socialist is running for a major-party presidential nomination, factual material on socialism itself can still be hard to find (and easy to be misled about) in today’s web-heavy information environment. Metro DC DSA held a face to face “Socialism 101” get-together in May, and Jessie Mannisto, who put it together, provides the details and invites interest in a repeat. Read complete article

                    >>The DC Council primary June 14 can’t compete with the presidential fireworks, with non-radical candidates enjoying — or lacking — the patronage of the powerful, including the Mayor. But Bill Mosley reminds us of some of the issues and the Mayor’s curious attempt to revive a constitutional referendum as a spur to statehood. Read complete article

                    >>Though Maryland’s legislative session ended in April, a flurry of signings and vetoes at the end of May put a full stop on the narrative while ensuring some overrides next spring. Gov. Larry Hogan also got push-back from 76 legislators on his mean-spirited rejection of refugees, and Prince George’s was the unlikely site of environmental racism in a power plant siting. Woody Woodruff rounds up some highlights and lowlights of Maryland politics. Read complete article

                    >>Oprah Winfrey is something of a paragon of female independence and toughness in her relationships with business. So her new engagement (as the OWN, or Oprah Winfrey Network) with Discovery Communications is a bit of a puzzle. As Carolyn Byerly details, Discovery is run by an all-male board of directors and is not known as a safe harbor for women’s sensibilities – their most popular output is “guy stuff” like Shark Week and The Deadliest Catch. How the relationship will pan out is anyone’s guess, but it looks unpromising. Read complete article

                    >>The Donald Trump phenomenon has its roots in Trump’s roots – his father’s legacy of profiteering on segregated multifamily housing and racist policies and associations. His appeal to the disaffected victims of capitalism – particularly the white working-class, fearing exclusion in a newly diverse nation – has power of spectacle despite his policy vacuum. And he stands for a more general social weakness, Kurt Stand details, that means defeating him won’t keep similar authoritarian figures from posing similar dangers in the future. Read complete article

                    >>From the homes of DC’s lesser known but titanic African American historical figures to the far-flung statuary sites of labor leaders in capitalist Washington to the now-vanished hangouts of lefties in the latter part of the last century, Bill Mosley takes Washington Socialist readers on a tour of the off-the-guidebook radical historical sites of our town, with photos to boot. Read complete article.

                    .>>IN DEPTH: The inner workings of capitalism are in many ways better illustrated at different levels of US governance than on the financial books – who owes what to whom and how they discharge the obligations in what’s supposed to be a pro-people democratic process. Lauren Roberts shows how today’s poly sci theory of elites interrogates the capitalist distortion of democratic governance, specifically illustrated in the roots of and responses to the catastrophic poisoning of public water supply in Flint, Mich. Read complete article

                    >>In Good Reads: An old lefty bookstore, new lefty views on Bernie, a control board for Puerto Rico?, and recent pieces from Democratic Left, DSA’s national publication and blog. Read complete article

                    The Washington Socialist encourages submissions on topics that relate to current issues or historical topics.  Authors are asked to keep their submissions to 2,000 words (or less) and to respect the perspectives of democratic socialism, as articulated by the national Democratic Socialists of America. Send submissions to

                    You can read these as well as past articles in the Washington Socialist on our website where they are archived,

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