Articles

Build #6 - April 2019

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Download the printable PDF of Build #6 here.

Empire thrives on making us feel alone. The ruling class wants us to believe there is no help when they evict us from our homes. They want us to believe we should feel ashamed of the abuse they inflict on many of us. They have ingrained these types of myths into our consciousness. Capitalism wants us to believe that the only way to live freely is through self-sufficiency.

Some of us work 80-hour weeks, in addition to shouldering domestic responsibilities never meant for a single person, and we are often made to feel guilty for reaching out to our loved ones for support. In many of our roles, we are forced to solve problems individually, rather than collectively. Capitalism locks us into lonely and miserable lives. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 34. Alienation and loneliness are features, not bugs, of capitalism.

As socialists, we know the solution to these structural problems is not individualized. Yelling at individual men will not single-handedly abolish patriarchy. Instead, we focus our energy in implementing policies that lift up women and gendered minorities. Since capitalism profits from making us feel powerless, organizers have one of the greatest tasks of all: showing our communities how powerful we can be through collective action.

When we organize, we are building cultures of care. We are fighting for our neighbors, our coworkers, our families, our friends, and ourselves. Within DSA, we are building structural solutions to the ruling class’ destruction of our communities. We have neighborhood hangouts, craft nights, and beer caucuses to build relationships so that we can fight alongside each other. We fight for tenants unions, learn how to talk to our coworkers about socialism and healthcare, and remind each other that we can be loud together until they can’t ignore us.

The most beautiful part of socialism is that it is impossible to do alone. Socialism is the antidote to the disease of alienation capitalism. We refuse to allow Empire to convince us that we have to go through this dark world alone. When we organize together, we show the deepest type of love to one another: solidarity.

When we do nothing, the same forms of oppression we are trying to fight replicate themselves in the very spaces we hope will foment and facilitate revolution. The first people to get pushed out are typically the most marginalized among us, who are typically doing the draining work of keeping our organizations afloat.

A lack of community care is how movements are destroyed. As organizers, we are constantly on alert and witnessing burnout in our work. Party machines and non-profits view volunteers as transactional. We must reject this approach. Our goal is not to schedule as many people for a phone bank or canvassing shift as possible. This framework that views people as disposable also allows ableism, xenophobia, transphobia, and multiple forms of oppression to thrive.

We all bring skills, gifts, and behaviors that can uplift and support one another. We must harness this potential to revolt against the ways in which capitalism wants us to relate to each other. It will be messy and challenging, but it will be worthwhile. Pour energy and resources into implementing strong harassment policies and community standards; they protect us and hold us accountable.

We want to win, but we cannot win alone. Taking community care seriously and integrating it into all of our organizing is of the utmost importance. We have a responsibility to each other, and developing community care is not only important for our day-to-day survival, it is necessary for our liberation. We engage in the struggle because we have no other option. Our lives depend on it. We organize because we care so much about each other and ourselves. We deserve lives full of laughter.

Sometimes we cry through emails, or while on mute in conference calls. It is so hard to communicate with each other when we all have our unique lived experiences. We study socialism because we know that we can figure out what brings us together and what connect us. By engaging in the struggle, we can discover that the oppression we face is not the only thing linking us together. We also share a deep desire to live in harmony. To bake, to knit, to paint — to live beautiful and wonderful lives together; this is the world we want.

We have seen glimpses of this better world. We have fed each other on the picket line. We have won races that seemed impossible. We have hula-hooped with each others’ kids. We have raised more money for abortion care than we thought was possible. The hell world we live in is engineered to keep us down. But, we are fighting back.

We are lifting each other higher than the ruling class could ever know. We are building something new.

 
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Stomp Out Slumlords

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Metro DC DSA reflects on the highs, lows, and lessons learned

Metro DC DSA is a large chapter, but we sometimes struggle to find our place in the snarl of nonprofits, political institutions, and community organizations at work in the nation’s capital. Stomp Out Slumlords (SOS), a campaign that began as a collaboration between an experienced organizer and a housing lawyer but has since drawn in dozens of DSA members and sympathizers, has quickly become one of our most successful projects. In November 2018, SOS was highlighted when DC Jobs with Justice, a local coalition of labor and community groups, recognized MDC DSA for its local activism. The campaign’s work has only expanded since then, but it hasn’t always been a straightforward process.

In the pieces below, SOS organizers look at their corners of the project and reflect on the lessons they’ve learned in the past two years. We hope they’ll be useful for other chapters as they work out ways to build working-class power in their own communities.

LEARNING FROM EXPERIENCE
Ray V., project impresario

Our initial project idea in the spring of 2017 was simple: mobilize tenants with eviction cases to flood the landlord-tenant court in an effort to grind the machinery of eviction to a halt.

The numbers initially seemed impressive. We found one person can knock doors for a maximum of about 50 households threatened with eviction in an afternoon. This included time to get into apartment buildings and have worthwhile conversations with the people we contacted. If we turned out 10-20 people every two weeks (canvassing more frequently than that led to burnout) and canvassers worked in pairs (which we always do), we reached about 300-500 households per canvass.

But we’re lucky if a third of those people are home when we knock. At that pace, we can only expect to talk with about one-tenth of the roughly 30,000 households sued in landlord tenant court every year in Washington, DC. Our data analysis suggests that for every ten face-to-face conversations we have, one tenant who would have otherwise missed their court date shows up. Although we were making a positive difference in people’s lives, this effort alone could not create a critical mass of people to drastically alter the court’s daily operations.

Nonetheless, our Know-Your-Rights canvass provides an entrypoint into embryonic struggles breaking out all around us. When we canvass, we meet tenants who have sued their landlord, started petitions about building conditions, or joined a tenant association. A surprising number of tenants we talk with have been sued for deliberately withholding rent in protest. Gradually, we’ve adapted our strategy and oriented our work towards supporting these struggles. We help angry tenants formulate demands to unify their neighbors, foster organization, and plan collective action to take on the landlord. We are also supporting organizing projects in five properties across the city, developing a training program for our cadre who are learning to organize on the fly, and beginning to think about building an umbrella organization to unite militant tenants from different buildings, all while continuing our canvassing and court support programs.

Still, one thing hasn’t changed: our overriding goal from the beginning of the project of connecting with ordinary Washingtonians who aren’t predisposed to come to DSA meetings, helping them unite in collective struggles to transform their material circumstances, and thus gradually rebuilding the working class as a political subject.

ON THE GROUND AT COURT
Allison H.

Landlord-Tenant Court is one of D.C.’s many windows into a failed system. 95% of tenants who attend their hearings do not have a lawyer representing them, while only 5% of landlords arrive unrepresented. Each morning starts at 9AM with roll call. The clerk reads off the names of cases being heard that day. If you do not say you are there, or your name is Trujillo and the clerk does not know how to pronounce it, you receive a losing “default” judgement.

SOS’s bread and butter has always been Know-Your-Rights canvassing, but in 2018 we added court support as a new component. Court support volunteers attended roll call on dates when we knew large sections of tenants we’d canvassed were scheduled to appear. Attending roll call was initially meant to be our final “touch” in the campaign to overload the court. In this last push, we could encourage tenants to speak with the free pro-bono attorneys who staff the court each day, and remind them to opt for consent agreements over highly-constructive consent judgments. (In a consent judgment, a tenant signs away their rights and can be evicted immediately if they fail to hold up their end of the deal.)

This strategy failed for two reasons. First, the U.S. Marshals who work as Landlord-Tenant Court security guards decided organizers distributing legal information flyers was “solicitation” and kicked us out of the building. Nearly every time we go to court, guards force any volunteer who wears something less formal than a suit or is too conspicuous while speaking with a tenant to leave. Second, we misjudged tenants’ frustration with the court’s grim, faceless bureaucracy. Tenants often chose to negotiate directly with their landlord’s attorney rather than wait for hours to get advice from an overworked advocate.

Much as we reworked our initial plan to overload the court, we’ve also had to rework how we connect with tenants while there. Our outreach at court is now much more targeted. We only speak with tenants living in buildings where we are building relationships. This allows us to connect them with ongoing organizing in their building, rather than simply offering to show them where they can wait in line for a lawyer (though we occasionally do that as well). Court support remains one of the more frustrating aspects of our project, and one I hope to spend more time refining in 2019.

FROM CANVASSING TO ORGANIZING A BUILDING
Sam M., with Stephanie B.

Working with SOS was my first experience with real organizing. Naturally, it was also my first experience with the highs and lows of organizing, its successes and failures. I started canvassing with SOS in October of 2017, and began organizing in a building that December. The newness was certainly conducive to a practical kind of humility! There were missteps and many low moments I could mention. Here, though, I’m going to share a high point. This one stuck with me.

It was our first major meeting after a big victory. The landlord had agreed to change management companies and do serious renovations and exterminations of the building. The turnout was one of our biggest yet: over forty tenants. A city councilmember attended and was promptly asked if he could help with the dog shit in the corridors. (Dearest reader, he could not.)

A parallel victory was that the tenants managed the entire meeting. Two of our lead tenants in the building ran a tight ship, and my fellow organizer and I were only there to help take attendance and minutes. We both spoke just once to answer direct questions. After the councilmember retreated, the question was put: how do we want to be treated by this new management company? This sparked a heated discussion, which flared up when one tenant questioned another tenant’s account of being mistreated by security. Just as the meeting was about to disintegrate into recriminations, one of our core tenants in the building intervened.

She had canvassed with us for several months now, but had been generally hesitant to take the lead talking to to her neighbors, even with a little gentle encouragement. Here, she spoke concisely and without hesitancy. “We can’t fight each other,” she said. “It’s not tenant against tenant, it’s management we need to be directing our anger at. Yeah, it’s not your job to pick up trash, but if you do a little, people will do it too. We do have security, but we have to watch out for each other too.”

The conflict was quashed, and people were feeling it, with later complaints mostly directed against management. After the meeting, she made her way over to us. “I found my voice,” she said, grinning at me, and I beamed back.

“YOU WOULD HAVE ACTUALLY THOUGHT THEY’D LIVED HERE”
Reactions collected by Paul B.

(who swears he couldn’t get them to come up with any constructive criticism)

These are reflections from a group of tenants whose organizing efforts we started supporting and advising on a month and a half ago. They’d just had a very successful turn-the-tide sort of meeting with the building’s owners and management staff.

Marlo:

“What I found useful the most was your input about what our rights were, about how unity would be a huge part of getting a great response. I think the teamwork ethic that you guys have was impeccable. The fact that you guys showed up to do a canvass…was a great gesture on your part.”

Lowell:

“You’ve always been in contact by email. Any questions I have had or that I wrote to you for the group there’s always been a response. You guys always respond in an hour or so. It’s not like the next day. You guys came out and helped us with the canvassing which we were definitely new to and I think we learned a lot from you guys and we became confident with doing it. You’ve been there since the beginning with us.”

Charmaine:

“I think your approach was perfect. All of us were a little uncomfortable going to the tenants knocking on folks doors, even though a lot of the residents you might see in passing, but your presence helped us to be able to accomplish what we set out to do. Not only that but your input, how you guys showed up, how you helped with the baby sitting, suggestions that you made like to offer snacks, things we weren’t even thinking about.”

Charmaine:

“You pretty much prepared us for this which is an excellent thing.”

Lowell:

“Even with the success of our last meeting, I mean, Anna and Mackenzie, you would have actually thought they’d lived here because they were that happy.

THE DATA THAT MAKES IT POSSIBLE
Jasper C. and the SOS Data Team

It was fortunate that in Fall 2017, months after the SOS project began, the DC Superior Court system opened an online court portal to make public court information more easily accessible to the public. In the first few months of the project, SOS volunteers went to the court in person to ask for court records, but now this task could be done from the comfort of one’s own home.

Address pulling and creating walksheets is one of the more essential tasks for our anti-eviction canvassing, but it can quickly turn into dull and repetitive administrative work. Even with the online docket browser, transcribing 600 addresses from PDFs into a spreadsheet by hand can feel overwhelming. And that’s when the DC court website isn’t taking 30 minutes to load a page. We are working on automating parts of this task. First, we’ve gotten better about splitting up transcription work on a shared spreadsheet. A pool of about 30 volunteers chips in 1-5 hours early in the week before a canvass, each picking away at the pile of cases that need information filled in.

One volunteer also created a web scraper that moves the process even further along before a human touch is needed. The scraper pulls the tenant’s and landlord’s names off the webpage, and even downloads the docket PDF containing the tenant’s address. The DC Court system runs on an unholy combination of javascript and enterprise server-side software that can’t be automated with simple scraper tools, so we actually use a headless browser to get the website to cough up its secrets. Put plainly, it isn’t just a matter of pointing the computer to the correct URL and siphoning up the HTML data. We must have the computer simulate the whole webpage behind the scenes and click through the interface like it is a “real user” indistinguishable from one of our DSA comrades.

Doing addresses for the SOS campaign is an exercise in not losing the forest (the larger project of shutting down the eviction system) for the trees (which management companies are we looking at this week?). When making walksheets, one must choose walkable clusters of eviction cases while also relying on field reports and institutional knowledge of likely bad actors. Sometimes we go off of tips for badly managed properties, and sometimes we just go after known slumlords. Careful human judgment and streamlined automation work in tandem to prepare our organizers to hit the streets.

BUILDING ORGANIZERS,
NOT JUST ORGANIZING BUILDINGS

Greg A.

When I moved to DC in 2017, I started organizing with Stomp Out Slumlords because it seemed like the kind of campaign you could just slot into: show up, grab a partner and a walksheet, and go. I didn’t realize that the easier a campaign looks on the front end, the more work it takes behind the scenes.

The decisions you make as you’re doing that work cause invisible ripples that can transform the campaign’s entire culture. Early on we thought we could do without meetings; today meetings are a core part of the work, as a venue for political education and an opportunity for the various parts of an increasingly sprawling and specialized project to intersect. We also dealt with burnout by canvassing less often and streamlining our preparations. Recently we’ve focused on building group cohesion, as we’ve come to recognize that people who like and trust each other are more likely to show up and “do the work”—but we try to branch out beyond the traditional happy hour format by organizing museum outings, potlucks, and housing-specific reading groups.

Yet challenges remain. The more tight-knit a subgroup gets, the harder it is for new people to plug in. Worse, the overrepresentation of cis white men can become amplified over time: not everyone feels equally comfortable socializing in a group when they’re distinctly in the minority, as women can be at our large canvasses and social events, though not in our building organizing group.

To survive, we can’t get complacent and take refuge in inertia (“as long as one remains a monk, one goes on tolling the bell”). Nor can we rely on the same people month after month. We’re building for the long haul, which means that sometimes we have to sacrifice immediate efficiency for the sake of training new leaders. Eventually, we hope to organize enough buildings that tenants themselves will take the reins. If we haven’t built an open, flexible organization by then, our efforts will have been wasted. There’s a whole working class out there to organize.


To learn more about Metro DC DSA’s Stomp Out Slumlords campaign, contact the organizers at: tenants@mdcdsa.org

You can also follow Metro DC DSA on…
Facebook:
Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America
Twitter:
@mdc_dsa
Meetup:
meetup.com/mdcdsa
Website:
mdcdsa.org

 
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#BoycottTheTen

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#BoycottTheTen

The Working-class and Homeless Organizing Alliance (WHOA) Boycott & Greensboro DSA

The Working-class and Homeless Organizing Alliance (WHOA) boycott, colloquially referred to as “the boycott” or “#BoycottTheTen,” emerged from a fight over panhandling ordinances in Greensboro, North Carolina. In Spring 2018, Greensboro’s City Council considered amending existing regulations to bar so-called “aggressive panhandling.” During this process, community organizations brought attention to the fact that the existing regulations were unconstitutional due to a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Reed v. Town of Gilbert. In turn, the City Council sought to implement ordinances that would allow police to arrest and push houseless residents out of the downtown area. Our branch, Greensboro DSA, realized we had to take action.

The initial drive for aggressive panhandling ordinances came from a covert lobbying effort. The main backers were Downtown Greensboro Inc. (DGI), a local organization that administers our Business Improvement District (BID), and the local developer class. Through its connections to commercial landlords within the BID, DGI petitioned local downtown businesses to contact the City Council to demand more anti-panhandling ordinances in response to a growing “aggressive panhandling crisis.” In turn, businesses asked employees to come forward with sexual harassment or misogynistic behavior by houseless Greensboro folks in the downtown area. This was an abhorrent attempt to paint all houseless neighbors and panhandlers as abusers in order to sweep them out of public spaces.

Greensboro’s City Council and mayor are all “progressive” Democrats; yet, the local developer class heavily influences our elected officials, to the tune of $90k in campaign contributions in 2017 alone. Through public records requests, our friends and comrades in the Homeless Union of Greensboro (HUG) uncovered DGI’s lobbying campaign.

These records included emails from businesses to the City Council containing horrid characterizations of houseless people. Nonetheless, in hearings on the ordinances, the Mayor and City Council members consistently fell back on businesses owners’ requests to justify the ordinances. We realized we were in a tough spot; five of the nine City Council members supported the ordinances and we needed to do more than just speak out at City Council meetings. We could not boycott DGI or the developers, as they did not sell things we could buy. That left the businesses organized by DGI to pressure the City Council, so we started discussing boycotting these businesses.

Members of our chapter did not unanimously support this approach at first. While these businesses had said truly awful things about the houseless, they were still local businesses. People viewed them far more favorably than say Marty Kotis, Greensboro developer and noted reactionary. We also knew the coalition of community groups opposing these ordinances, such as DSA, HUG, and other organizations, was running out of leverage to push any of the 5 pro-ordinance City Council members.

Our chapter’s housing working group started planning a boycott, and other organizations soon noticed. We formed a separate organization to house the boycott so community members across the left could help with planning. Thus, the WHOA was born. We created a list of the ten businesses that had directly asked the City Council to pass the ordinances. We then drafted a set of demands these businesses had to agree to in order to be removed from the boycott. These demands included renouncing the ordinances, calling for their repeal, and calling on the City Council to support reforms such as increased spending for social services and passing a homeless bill of rights. We had two weeks until the vote on the new ordinances. If they passed, WHOA would launch the boycott.

We planned to cut up turf, canvass, and reach out to workers at the boycotted businesses to get their support, but word came in that the vote was being moved up. The threat of litigation pushed the City Council to pass a temporary bill through an emergency session. We had to move or we wouldn’t be able to garner the attention needed for the boycott to succeed. Consequently, we launched our petition, started pushing our networks to support the boycott, and began the campaign with an announcement at the City Council meeting where the vote took place. Pushback against our efforts was swift. The City Council condemned our campaign and owners of the boycotted businesses flooded WHOA’s social media inboxes with angry statements about how they had always supported the houseless, despite backing what amounted to state violence against them.

With a small cadre of organizers committed to canvassing, we formalized our petition’s demands and hit the streets. We started with canvassing downtown pedestrians. Considering the nature and targets of the aggressive solicitation ordinances, starting here made the most sense. WHOA canvassers quickly detected a racial dynamic in who supported the boycott and who dismissed it. The average white downtown resident was not interested in supporting the homeless struggle, and many were actively hostile to the boycott effort. In contrast, most black downtown residents supported the boycott and signed the petition. Greensboro is a deeply unequal city, with high levels of gentrification and eviction that primarily affect black, working-class neighborhoods. We should have expected that many people we engaged with would be agents of the very gentrification process we were fighting.

This dynamic highlighted that the fight against anti-homeless discrimination is a fight for racial justice and centering it was key in building public support for the boycott. Most importantly, through our canvassing and on the ground work, we engaged with those suffering from homelessness. We connected with people in the downtown area, who faced the biggest brunt of gentrification and over-policing, and directly used those conversations to inform and shape the boycott’s demands.

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We next took the petition to neighborhood blocks surrounding the area, canvassed on college campuses, and visited the City Council at least once a month to keep pressure on its members. We acquired over 700 signatures of people pledging to honor the boycott within a few months. Proof that our agitating was becoming effective came just before the holidays, when council member Michelle Kennedy formed a campaign with five of the anti-homeless businesses listed in the boycott, as well as others, called “Givesboro.” The Givesboro campaign sold discount cards to benefit Kennedy’s Interactive Resource Center (IRC). This was an obvious attempt to repair their tarnished anti-homeless image while still turning a profit. We launched a counter campaign named “Greedsboro,” and while we successfully fought back with flyering and agit-prop posters, the bulk of our organizing energy was about to be redirected into a movement of related struggle.

On September 8th, 2018, the police murdered Marcus Deon Smith, a black homeless man experiencing a mental health crisis. The police hogtied Smith, and he asphyxiated. In a press release, Greensboro Police Chief Wayne Scott lied about the details of Marcus’ death, claiming he was suicidal and collapsed. WHOA’s work on the boycott was pushed to the backburner as we began working with a broad coalition to demand an end to police brutality in Greensboro and justice for Marcus Smith.

A critical mistake we made was not engaging the public better outside of the petition. Instead of inviting those who pledged to the boycott to join us directly in canvassing, thereby amassing “people power,” we focused on inviting them to WHOA meetings and events. Creating a deeper engagement with the community that focused on building the movement through shared work — versus being mediated through organizational channels — would have made the boycott stronger. Knowing the pitfalls from our original petition/boycott efforts, we have folded those experiences into our present work.

While the boycott work is now dormant and the fight against the anti-homeless ordinances remains, we do not see #BoycottTheTen as a loss. WHOA is now being recognized in other ways, and it is a permanent and active fixture among the left organizations in Greensboro. We have built an effective organization that can continue to struggle against anti-homeless and anti-worker efforts locally. #BoycottTheTen was the first fight in a long struggle, and we’re more determined than ever to win that fight.

La Lutte Continue!


To learn more about Greensboro DSA’s work, contact them at: gsodsa@gmail.com

Follow them on…
Facebook:
Greensboro DSA
Twitter:
@gso_dsa
Instagram:
@gso_dsa
Website:
dsanc.org

You can also follow WHOA on Twitter:
@gsowhoa

Political Education: Reading Group

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Political Education:

Reading Group

Morning. We assemble in the College of DuPage’s empty cafeteria. David, the co-organizer, arrives first. A few pink post-it notes stick out from his copy of Frantz Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, on the horrors of colonialism and the psychology of the oppressed. Ken, a Green, arrives second, always with coffee.

The rest file in from the parking lot. Barry, a veteran of the Communist Party and Amazon warehouse worker, now diligent organizer of the West Suburban chapter’s labor group, walks in talking to Giselle, a former Trotskyist. Nick arrives, then Tim. William, who is not a member of the DSA, but discovered the event through the Facebook page, drove all the way from Chicago to attend today’s meeting. The commute was rough, he says. Ken offers solidarity and banana chips.

The group has met monthly since we founded it one year ago. Four people attended our first meeting to discuss the Communist Manifesto. It is now common for twelve people to attend, although usually the number averages at eight to ten, weather depending. This is ideal. We’ve found larger study groups to be unwieldy, with too many opinions and not enough time to discuss how the material connects to the individual, which is vital.

The atmosphere is less than academic by design.

As moderator of the group, I depend on a reading group model resembling a Socratic circle rather than an academic lecture. Having experienced a trial by fire in my personal introduction to Marxism (where a list of books was presented to me, and when I read all fifty, only then would I be considered a Marxist) I understand the value of a kinder approach to people unfamiliar with the language of theory. After all, with minor exception, most of us have only been with DSA no more than two years. Rather than any member feigning absolute authority on the topics of socialism, the reading group evolves and grows with the contributions of each member. We’ve found enormous success in adopting this model and encourage other chapters to consider something similar.

We typically use two hours to discuss material no longer than two hundred pages in length, one hour being devoted to a summary of the book itself, the other hour reserved for asking how this can be applied to our current reality. How would Fanon analyze the unfolding situation in Venezuela? How has DSA organized around anti-imperialism? The reading is always topical. We vacillate between the classic and contemporary, depending on the mood of our members. Our meetings are a lightning storm of opinion, but everyone affords a tremendous amount of respect and love for each other. This prevailing attitude of respect, where every person is permitted to toy with enormous ideas without being chided or dismissed, is critical to allow thoughtful discussion, but it must be intentionally cultivated.

Everyone is heard. Highbrow elitism is not permitted and theory is not used as a cudgel against newer members. We learn together. At the end, we always finish the same way. First, five minutes are dedicated to selecting the next reading. Second, a joke. Then we part ways until we meet again next month.

Our reading group has been an enormous success in providing a space where our community can discuss radical ideas and members can develop their own politics. Despite what our ruling class would have us believe, most Americans have an appetite for radical solutions to the crises of capitalism. The effective reading group is not an echo chamber, it is active outreach. Beyond developing our membership into more informed socialists, the objective of a reading group is to expand the imagination of what is possible in our time.

By reading, we draw from the well of lessons and mistakes made by the great luminaries of human liberation, their trials and errors, and their achievements. More than just a meditation on what has been done, reading is an examination of what can be done, and what there is to do. There is tremendous power in this.

Some closing wisdom for chapters developing Marxist reading groups of their own: levity, levity, levity. Avoid becoming overly didactic. Facilitate a space where people can express their principles and reservations honestly and openly. Bring babka. Forgive. Give space for people to disagree, and meet them where they are. Avoid becoming tangled unnecessarily in the leftist squabbles of yesteryear. Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg had drastically conflicting tactics for realizing socialism. Read both. Never start with Das Kapital. Theory in service of people, not people in service of theory. Be the group that anyone could walk off the street and be a part of. Be the reading group you needed when you first began your journey.

Socialists across history have valued their reading groups, and for good reason. The work of the Marxist reading group may not put anyone on a poster, but it can be a powerful force in an organization slowly discovering the potency of a revolutionary socialist message.

A reading group can be an immeasurably rewarding experience. To paraphrase a bearded weirdo, the purpose of philosophy is not just to interpret the world, but to change it. Do the good work, and happy reading, comrades!


To learn more about West Suburban Illinois DSA, contact them at: info@westsuburbsildsa.org

You can also follow them on…
Facebook:
West Suburban IL Democratic Socialists of America
Twitter:
@WestSuburbILDSA
Website:
westsuburbsildsa.org

Recipe: Elizabeth's Carlota de Limon

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Communist Cookbook

Elizabeth’s Carlota de Limon

This recipe means so much to me. My mom made it for me and my siblings for almost every special occasion growing up. I learned the recipe about ten years ago and have continued the tradition for my family. This past holiday season, I made it to share with my comrades for the first time. I was delighted they loved it as much as my family. Making and sharing food is such a beautiful way to share our history, culture, and nostalgia with new friends and comrades. I’m so excited to share this with you all. I hope you enjoy making, sharing, and eating this too.

P.S. It goes great with coffee!


EQUIPMENT

  • 13x9” cake pan

  • Large mixing bowl

  • Something to mix with: sturdy whisk, blender, hand mixer, standing mixer

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 oz package cream cheese, room temperature

  • 10 oz sweetened condensed milk

  • 1 cup evaporated milk

  • 2 packet of Maria’s Cookies (or any dry, thin, vanilla biscuit)

  • 1 cup lime juice (4-6 limes)*

  • 12 oz canned peaches

  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

  • I like mine very tart. I suggest taste testing as you add lime juice.

SUBSTITUTIONS

  • Walnuts or coconut flakes instead of pecans

  • Fresh or canned pineapple instead of peaches

  • Fresh berries


DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine the room temperature cream cheese, evaporated milk, and sweetened condensed milk. If using electric mixer, use medium setting. Mix until smooth. Mixture will be runny.

  2. Slowly add lime juice, turning electric mixers to the lowest setting. Mixture will start to thicken as you add juice. Be careful not to overmix or mixture will become runny again.

  3. Cover the bottom of a 13x9” pan with a single layer of cookies. Scoop 1/3 of the cream mixture and spread evenly. Add 1/3 of the peach slices and sprinkle 1/4 cup walnuts evenly. Repeat once.

  4. Add one more layer of cookies and cream. Use remaining fruit and nuts to decorate the top.

  5. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.

  6. Enjoy!