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.

Resist Anti-Immigrant Bigotry in North Carolina

Donald Trump won the presidency by stoking and exploiting racist and xenophobic fears, and Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison is promising to help Trump spread that fear in the Triangle.

Harrison told ABC11 that his department will willingly share information on Triangle residents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Though Harrison, like Trump, is claiming that he will focus on supposed criminals, he made clear that he will use ICE to target residents when he wants to remove them from the area, but doesn’t have evidence that they committed any crimes.

“Hey, we don’t have enough to charge him, but you [ICE] might want to look into him, he’s undocumented, or she’s undocumented, and let’s just get him out of our neighborhood,” he told ABC11.

By circumventing due process, Harrison is playing to stereotypes of immigrants—and our Latinx neighbors more generally—as criminals, treating them as inferior citizens who are not worthy of constitutional protections. Harrison’s comments make clear that immigrants’ rights are secondary to the comfort of others—others who we know to be wealthy, white citizens.

This kind of oppression is not new in North Carolina. The same sentiment lies behind House Bill 318, which Governor Pat McCrory signed last year. At a press conference, McCrory and Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes both justified the bill as a way to preserve law and order. In reality, it’s just a way to ensure undocumented immigrants—and anyone assumed to be an undocumented immigrant—have onerous bureaucratic hoops to jump through to prove their right to take part in our local communities.

We must fight back against Trump, Harrison, Barnes, and McCrory’s bigotry. We must ensure that our friends, family, and neighbors who are immigrants are safe in North Carolina, regardless of their immigration status.

To help resist anti-immigrant policies in the Triangle, we urge you to:

  1. Attend the public ICE 287(g) program steering committee meeting that will take place at 1 p.m. on December 12 at the Wake County Detention Center. The 287(g) program allows ICE to deport undocumented immigrants, and the meeting allows public comment so you can speak against the way it is used to oppress Triangle residents.

  2. Support efforts to create sanctuaries for immigrants the Triangle. Though Governor McCrory signed a bill last year outlawing sanctuary cities, movements have started at Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and elsewhere to create protections for undocumented immigrants at those institutions. Join the protests, petitions, and other actions in your area.

  3. Volunteer with refugee and immigrant groups in the Triangle, including El Centro HispanoEl PuebloChurch World Service.

  4. Donate to organizations who are on the frontlines of these battles, including the ACLUNational Immigration Law Center, and American Immigration Council.

What now? Socialism!

On Tuesday, over 47 percent of voters chose a racist, billionaire demagogue to lead the country. It was a victory for nativism, bigotry, regressive economic theories, anti-LGBTQ identity politics, and antichoice policies. But it was not a repudiation of radical progressive programs.

In fact, the time is ripe for common-sense socialism to make concrete gains across the country–and it’s needed now more than ever.

It’s impossible to understand Donald Trump’s victory without recognizing a stunning shift in the Democratic Party’s voters. Writing in Jacobin, Jedediah Purdy showed that Hillary Clinton fared much worse with voters who make under $50,000 a year than Barack Obama did, while doing much better with those who make over $100,000. In other words, the Democratic Party’s base has shifted from the working class to the elites.

Trump saw that shift, and he took advantage of it. He repeatedly criticized Clinton for being out of touch with common people, tapping into the widespread disdain the public has for politicians. And it worked. His rightwing populism resonated with many voters.

With secretive trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the growing influence of dark money after Citizens United, and the pervasive use of gerrymandering to limit public influence, it didn’t take much to turn these voters away from the Democrats.

Of course, Trump’s populism is a clearly sham. He’s just the kind of elite he claimed to oppose, as his list of potential cabinet members proves. But more importantly, his politics thrives on a hateful approach that turns people against each other, ensuring that those who have power stay in power and that those who are oppressed will only be more oppressed.

Certainly, that hateful rhetoric appeals to dedicated racists, who in turn helped fuel Trump’s rise. But it’s a mistake to write off all of Trump’s voters as unrepentant racists who can’t be convinced to see his bigotry for what it is: a moral failure and a political dead-end. It’s also a mistake to forget about the 45 percent of eligible voters who did not vote at all, many of whom did so because they don’t believe anyone in Washington will work for them, whatever their party. If we present those two groups another political program, one that addresses their justified disillusionment with politics while fostering solidarity among all peoples, we can start building a world based on justice and equality.

That political program is socialism.

Bernie Sanders’s primary campaign showed that there is a widespread interest in a working-class politics, especially among young people. Building from that, we must show those who are disillusioned by the status quo that there is a better way. But we also must stand explicitly against Trump’s bigotry, ensuring that antiracism, antisexism, LBGTQ rights, and immigrant rights are central tenets to our movement.

We can only do those things by uniting all working people into one political party. But that’s exactly what a socialist politics does. With it, we can fight back against both the Democratic Party’s elitism and the Republican Party’s regressive nativism.