DSA Hurricane Florence Recovery Efforts

It is never the bosses who are forced to pay the piper when the consequences of their decisions come calling.

The devastation caused by Hurricane Florence was no accident: its human impact can be linked directly to centuries of deliberate policy choices. The size and severity of the storm was almost certainly exacerbated by anthropogenic climate change. Further, North Carolina’s past as a slaveholding state was made apparent in which communities in eastern NC were devastated and which stayed dry; richer, whiter communities usually have the higher ground, while Black communities were founded on the cheaper floodplains (including some of the few extant cities born from Emancipation during Reconstruction). The Lumbee tribe of Scotland and Robeson counties, where Hurricane Matthew struck hard in 2016, have now seen their homes flooded twice in two years. The people of those communities now sit under the weight of even more water this time, feeling abandoned and ignored by policymakers.

The environmental toll that will be paid by the working class communities half-drowned in this storm is one levied by decision-makers far away from places like Lumberton and Spring Lake. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are the name of the game that feeds major multinational corporations like Smithfield. In Duplin and Samson counties, they are thick on the ground with pigs and pig shit. These farms, when they aren’t facing a meter of rain falling over less than a week, cause noxious environmental impacts as it is. With the wall of water that was brought by Florence, they turn the floodwaters into county-sized septic tanks, exposing those just trying to survive the storm to disastrous environmental waste.

And then there’s Duke Energy and its thrice-damned coal ash. Already responsible for poisoning the Dan River in northern NC and tainting groundwater in Robeson county, the coal ash did no favors to communities already reeling from the storm. At least two coal ash ponds breached during the storm, adding arsenic and other carcinogens into flood waters spilling their way out to sea in the Cape Fear river…on top of contributing the carbon production that made Hurricane Florence as severe as it was.

We say enough. We say that the people who are hurting the most in the wake of this storm should not be forced to pay the price of it. And we are asking for your help.

NC Piedmont DSA, Charlotte DSA, and Charleston DSA have come together to form the Florence Recovery Working Group. By fundraising and recruiting volunteer labor for service organizations that are working with people in need in the storm zone, we are looking to show that the only answer to such catastrophes is a socialist one. We owe a debt of gratitude to our comrades in Houston DSA, whose admirable and ongoing work in the wake of Hurricane Harvey last year inspired the formation of this effort and have informed our work through the invaluable resources they have shared with us.

To start with, we are working with two service organizations whose principles are compatible with DSA’s: Mutual Aid Carrboro, who helped coordinate air-drops of supplies to the city of Wilmington as it was cut off from land access during the storm, and the North Carolina A. Philip Randolph Institute, a union-affiliated service organization with deep ties to communities of color statewide. We will be operating in an accountable and transparent fashion with any group that chooses to partner with us, and will be distributing the funds we raise with frequency. Money that just sits in an account for months on end while people suffer does no good.

But this is just the start. North Carolina is going to be a long time recovering from this storm and, in the end, the only answer to the current barbarism is socialism.

If you are interested in donating money, you can give via Venmo to @DSAFlorenceRecovery and Square Cash at $DSAFlorenceRecovery. You can also find a list of needed materials and physical locations to donate them to here.

If you are interested in getting involved, there is a volunteer intake form here, and you can contact the Working Group at FlorenceRecovery@dsanc.org.

Solidarity with Activists Who Tore Down Confederate Memorial

Takiyah Thompson, Dante Strobino, Loan Tran, Peter Gilbert, and the rest of our Workers World Party comrades who tore down the racist Confederate memorial in Durham should not face any charges for their actions. We thank them for having the courage to do what Durham should have done long ago, and we will stand in solidarity with them as police, elected officials, and right-wing extremists attempt to intimidate them in response to their heroism.

We Have Everything To Lose

Community, for many people, is real, lived. They can name it and identify countless others who belong to it. They can also name those they don’t belong to. Community, for me, has been abstract or, at best, ephemeral. At its center I have imagined it, ideally, providing stability within which joy is truly possible. That joy motivates most of my pursuits, and while it is an emotional expression for a degree of psychological soundness, it is best visualized by summer camp huddles, house parties, or those aspirational tableaux of spirited, beautiful, sun-lacquered people used to sell anything on Instagram.

We're One Year Old!

It’s been a really busy week in North Carolina and across the nation, but we wanted to take a brief moment to acknowledge our one year anniversary as a DSA chapter! The drive for our chapter to get started began in 2014 with the dedication and tenacity of comrade Neil Ashton. We asked Neil to say a few words on this momentous occasion.

—Amber & Matt (co-chairs)

A year ago this month, a small group of at-large DSA members, Jacobin readers, and Bernie activists met in a living room to sketch ideas for a campaign. This tiny gathering was the first general meeting of the newly chartered NC Piedmont local of DSA.

A lot has changed. Today we’re a federation of groups in four cities with a total of over three hundred registered members. We’ve been joined by new organizing committees in Asheville and Charlotte and new YDS groups in schools around the state.

We’re floored that so many of you who’ve been stirred into action by the present crisis have decided to make us your comrades—and we look forward to another year of growth in mutual struggle toward a North Carolina of freedom, equality, and solidarity.

—Neil Ashton

A Coup in Carolina

In case there was any remaining doubt, the Republican majority in the NC General Assembly have now made perfectly clear their gleeful contempt for democracy. The measures pushed through in this latest special session are a naked power grab with the specific and unmistakable intent of nullifying last month’s election.

To be sure, the bills that were passed contain a few provisions that are not inherently anti-democratic. Eliminating partisan control in the state and county Boards of Elections would be a laudable reform. Unfortunately, the change that was adopted merely erects a veneer of “bi-partisanship” without establishing truly independent, non-partisan oversight of our elections. Likewise, while stripping the incoming Governor’s authority over appointments reeks of partisan manipulation, that doesn’t mean that the existing allocation of appointment authority is sacrosanct.

Regardless of the merits, these are not matters that should have been resolved in a hasty special session. These are significant changes to the structure of state government, with potentially far-ranging implications. And there was no pressing emergency, save for the inconvenient fact that the people of North Carolina have elected Democrat Roy Cooper to replace Republican Pat McCrory in the Governor’s mansion.

The fact is that the Republicans, having gerrymandered the General Assembly to give them veto-proof control, can and will pass whatever bills they want. Some of the more egregious over-reaches may eventually be invalidated in court (at no small expense, financial and reputational, to this state). That they opted to move these bills in a cloak and dagger fashion, rather than waiting until the regular term, only shows that they feel some residual pang of shame.

This may be the last best hope for the people of North Carolina–Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike–who want a state government that actually represents us and addresses our needs. We need to raise our voices, on the phone and in the street, and let the General Assembly know that we will not stand for legislation by ambush.

(This is an updated version of a post by NC Piedmont DSA’s political education director, Eric Fink, for Yes! Weekly.)

From North Carolina to North Dakota: Stop the Pipelines, Respect Native People, Protect Clean Water

Since the spring, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Native Americans from nearby tribes, and allied activists have been gathered at Sacred Stone Camp to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. Their efforts, as well as the militarized police response to their peaceful protests—which has includedwater cannons, rubber bullets, mace, and more—have made national news.

But the fight to protect Native land and clean water is not limited to North Dakota.

As the Bismarck Tribune and others have pointed out, the original Dakota Access Pipeline route led through Bismarck, North Dakota, but was moved citing dangers to the area’s drinking water, among other things. Residents of the Standing Rock reservation are being forced to accept health hazards North Dakota’s whiter, wealthier residents can avoid.

That dynamic has governed the relationship between the United States and Native peoples since the days of Columbus. It also governs the relationship between the rich and the poor of more generally across the capitalist world. It’s simply the way capitalism works: to improve the lives of the rich, the poor are forced to accept dangerous, unhealthy conditions.

Given how widespread these forms of oppression are, it shouldn’t surprise us that the same issues motivating the protests at Sacred Stone Camp are coming to North Carolina. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which will span six hundred miles through West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina, could begin construction as early as fall 2017, according to WNCN. The pipeline will carry natural gas that has been collected through fracking, and the communities who live along the pipeline’s proposed route will face the well-known environmental dangers of fracking and gas leaks.

Mac Legerton, who led a protest against the pipeline the weekend before Thanksgiving, made clear that the people who are forced to suffer these risks are those who have already suffered most from capitalist development: people of color and the poor.

“We feel very strongly that this is being done because this is the poorest part of the state. We always seem to get the waste that other people want to get rid of and the dirtiest economic plans,” he told WNCN. The pipeline’s route also goes through tribal land in North Carolina, and many native people participated in Legerton’s protest.

The North Carolina chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America stands with Standing Rock and the Native and poor peoples of North Carolina. We believe that all people should have clean water and a say in how their community’s land should be used. We believe that we must build a new economy on clean, reusable energy to avoid the devastation of climate change and ecological catastrophe—disasters that most affect those least responsible for them.

Legerton announced another protest against the Atlantic Coast Pipeline in early March. Watch for further announcements from the Center for Community Action and EcoRobeson. In addition, the US Army Corps of Engineers said that it will close Sacred Stone Camp on December 5, and that any protesters remaining will be subject to arrest. The Huffington Post compiled a list of ways to support Standing Rock, including ways to donate to the tribe, to a legal defense fund, and to provide supplies.