Socialist Night School

An approachable but rigorous series of ideological discussions.

In recent years, socialist has reemerged as a central framework in discussions of the ongoing political, econimic, and social crises facing Americans. With this resurgence comes an expanding need for education detached from the dominant for-profit model and rooted in the political struggles of working people. Scroll down for our current semester's sessions.

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    Night School: Nordic Social Democracy

    Golkin Room, Houston Hall

    The Nordic countries, particularly Sweden, where social democratic politics have been hegemonic since the 1930s, are often presented as an egalitarian utopia, attributed to either their enlightened political beliefs or cultural uniqueness. This picture is woefully simplistic, but the Nordic countries can boast low poverty, low inequality, a generous welfare state, and greater gender equality than almost anywhere in the world. These are the achievements of generations of socialists and labor militants, and have endured even after a significant neoliberal shift beginning in the 1980s. What do the successes and failures of Nordic social democracy (both as a movement and in government) tell us about socialist strategy and economic policy in liberal democracies? And conversely, how much of the success of social democracy can be explained by specifically Nordic conditions? Join Philly DSA night school as we look back on one of history’s longest experiments of the left in government.


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    Night School: Winning a Green New Deal

    Golkin Room, Houston Hall

    The Green New Deal (GND), articulated in most detail and most robustly by the Sanders campaign’s $16 trillion proposal, has captured the imagination of the climate movement and the broader left. The vision is clear; what has yet to emerge is a credible strategy to win it. While GND advocates put a “just transition” for labor at the center of their plan, many living-and-breathing labor unions are rightfully skeptical of empty promises. Not just this, but, as Naomi Klein points out, an effective climate justice movement must be a mass movement—it must be able to win primarily economic victories, something that major social movements of the past decades have struggled to do. How do we move past the advocacy and litigation-based model of climate activism to a mass movement rooted in working class institutions? Join Philly DSA as we debate what social and political forces will be needed to win a Green New Deal.


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    Night School: Labor

    Golkin Room, Houston Hall

    The labor movement has long been the centerpiece of Leftist politics. For more than a century, unions were at the core of the socialist movement, a fact confirmed by the many ways capitalists attacked worker-based movements and persecuted organizers. Even so, some commentators have suggested that we focus elsewhere, given the rise of information-based economies and decline of unionized workforce in the United States. In this session, Philly DSA will ask: should the labor movement still be central to socialist theory and politics? If so, what avenues are left for such organizing?


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    Night School: The Russian Revolution

    G7, Irvine Auditorium

    The Russian Revolution was the first victorious socialist revolution in history, accomplishing what the Paris Commune could have only dreamed of. In the century-plus since then, the meaning of October 1917 has been debated endlessly by scholars and activists, Communists and anti-Communists. Did Bolshevism contain the germs of Stalinism within it from the beginning, as liberals, as well as Lenin’s left-wing critics, contend? As democratic socialists, how can we reconcile the upsurge of popular democracy that marked the revolution with the bureaucratic and oppressive reality of the later Soviet state? Join Philly DSA night school as we look back on a watershed moment in the history of socialism, drawing from both historians and Lenin’s own writings on spontaneity and the revolutionary party.


    * Background: Entry on Bolshevism (Bottomore - Dictionary of Marxist Thought)

    * Smith - The Russian Revolution - A Very Short Introduction (Chapter 1)

    * Lenin, Lih, & Draper on Bolshevism 

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    Night School: Bernie Sanders

    Golkin Room, Houston Hall

    In the personality-obsessed universe of U.S. presidential politics, “Not Me, Us” is an unlikely slogan. Bernie Sanders repeatedly insists that winning power will require even more than the presidential office—it will require a political revolution that mobilizes millions of working people at the ballot box, in their workplaces, and in their neighborhoods. The campaign has used its vast listserv to turn out supporters for picket lines and support undocumented immigrants who are living under siege from ICE raids. Along the way, the campaign has built a social movement of a sort not seen in the U.S. for decades.

    Bernie Sanders's bid for political office presents an unprecedented opportunity for socialists. Join Philly DSA to talk about his campaign and how we can win power.


    Nancy Fraser, “From Progressive Neoliberalism to Trump and Beyond

    Jedediah Britton-Purdy, “A World to Make: Eleven Theses for the Bernie Sanders Generation

    Luke Savage, “Bernie Sanders Has a Plan — But He’s Also Building a Movement


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    Night School: What is Capitalism?

    Golkin Room, Houston Hall


    We all know what we're up against: capitalism! But what exactly is capitalism? Is it a thing, a system, or something else? And, why does it persist in spite of the fact that it promotes so much instability, crisis, and suffering? There are different ways to understand the political economy, not all of which are compatible. Figuring out exactly what we’re up against is crucial if our goal is to change it.

Looking for another semester of the night school?

2019 Summer School

2018-2019 Semester

2017-2018 Semester

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