In recent years, socialist has reemerged as a central framework in discussions of the ongoing political, economic, 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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As socialists, we always talk about building a movement of and for the working class. But, who is the working class? How do we understand class more broadly? In public discourse, class is often portrayed as a composite of cultural markers: the working class wear overalls and drive pickup trucks; the middle class have office jobs and New Yorker subscriptions. It doesn’t take much to see that this is hopelessly wrong, but understanding class as a social relationship requires some thinking.
Who is working class in an era of deindustrialization and precarious employment? How should socialists think about the middle class—who it encompasses and its politics? What are some of the barriers that prevent the vast majority of society from organizing collectively? Despite significant transformations in the economy, why are workers still the only class best poised to lead the fight for political transformation? Join Philly DSA for a class on class.
Our Super Tuesday Night School will focus on the hot button issue of electoral politics.
Despite decades of neoliberal onslaught, election campaigns are still the form of political activity that everyday Americans engage with the most and any attempt by socialists to mobilize millions of Americans will require using the ballot box.
Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign has demonstrated the immense potential of electoral insurgencies in building a working class base that can sustain the democratic socialist project beyond the present political moment. Bernie has used his primary run to expose the fundamental inequality in society—the vast divide between the millionaires and the billionaires and the working class in this country—and to organize around wildly popular policy programs such as universal healthcare, a Green New Deal, and free, high quality public education. Though Bernie’s bid marks a sea change in politics, elections cannot be the exclusive avenue for building a movement for democratic socialism.
As one of the only roads to power within the current capitalist state, the electoral arena has helped leftists implement major social reforms. But this path is limited by constraints in both the electoral sphere and the political economy at large. Join us to discuss.
Matt Karp, Is This the Future Liberals Want
David Broder, The State We Need
In recent years, socialism has reemerged as a central framework in discussions of the ongoing political, economic, and social crises facing Americans. DSA has exponentially grown in size since 2015, its ranks swelling with activists interested in building a better world. With this growth comes an expanding need for education detached from the dominant for-profit model and rooted in the political struggles of working people.
PHL DSA’s Night School helps reinvigorate a climate of political discussion, comradely debate, and shared understanding. Along the way, we’ll discuss key concepts in political theory, central figures on the left, from Karl Marx to A. Philip Randolph, the role of socialism in struggles for racial justice, labor rights, education, and a more sustainable future. Whether you’re curious about socialist theory, a longtime activist, or an expert Marxologist, come join us!
Please join us for an approachable but rigorous series of ideological discussions.
In recent years, socialism has reemerged as a central framework in discussions of the ongoing political, economic, and social crises facing Americans. DSA has exponentially grown in size since 2015, its ranks swelling with activists interested in building a better world. Though “democratic socialism” has reentered public discourse, there remains much debate about what the term actually means.
This session of the Night School is centered around three questions: Why should we oppose capitalism—a system hostile to both democracy and freedom? How would a socialist society organize complicated systems of production and distribution in a more just way than capitalism? And most urgently, what should democratic socialists be doing to get us beyond our present conditions?
Join us to discuss democratic socialism and what DSA wants to accomplish as an organization.
Erik Olin Wright, "At Least Capitalism is Free & Democratic, Right?"
Sam Gindin "Socialism for Realists"
Bhaskar Sunkara & Joseph Schwartz, "What Should Socialists Do?"
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.
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.
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?
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
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”
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.
2019 Summer School
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