Joseph M. Schwartz
2017 NPC Candidate
Local Chapter: Philadelphia
I teach radical political thought and US politics at Temple University, where I’m an elected rank-and-file leader of the 2800 member AFT union (adjuncts included). Scores of former students of mine are active in DSA. I grew up in a multi-racial working class neighborhood in the Bronx and got involved on the left as a high school activist in the anti-Vietnam war movement. Later I served as DSA’s first campus organizer (1979-1981) and played a major role in the US anti-apartheid movement. Subsequently I’ve been active in the movements for single-payer health insurance and for affordable housing and equitable public education. I write frequently for In These Times, Jacobin, and Dissent, and have represented DSA in interviews with MSNBC, the BBC, Huffington Post and PBS News Hour. I also have written two books in radical and socialist theory. I’m partnered with DSA socialist-feminist activist Michele Rossi and our three year old daughter Leah Rossi-Schwartz will be attending her second DSA convention. I also have a twenty-five year old son, Michael Migiel-Schwartz, who is a labor researcher and organizer and DSA member.
Why I'm Running
I bring to the NPC an understanding of US and global politics and a skill for positioning DSA to take advantage of political opportunities. I have always effectively brought people together across political tendencies; we can have distinct political analyses but unite around common projects. I am strongly committed to increasing DSA’s racial justice coalition work and grassroots labor support work with organizations rooted in working-class communities of color. As an active local elected trade union activist, I will work diligently to rebuild the Labor Commission. I bring valuable institutional memory and connections to DSAers across generations, particularly with fellow activists in the labor movement.
I am also running because I can help orient new members to the NPC’s multiple and complex roles. Moreover, I will work to sustain the best of DSA’s practices—an open, comradely, “big tent” atmosphere—and to help the large influx of talented organizers take ownership of the organization, while also building ties across the generations and tendencies within DSA. From my wide travels on behalf of the organization and my close ties to every generation of YDS, I know more new and veteran activists than probably any other rank-and-file activist in the organization (I have been a resource person/speaker at every YDS winter and summer conference since 1978).
Finally, as someone who has been an active, engaged parent for 25 years of DSA activism, I am very committed to working with others to fill DSA’s huge generation gap – people and parents between the age of 35 and 60. As I move towards senior status (I’m 62) I will also work to organize seniors within DSA to fight for high-quality public pensions, elder care, etc. The right wants to divide Millennials from Baby Boomers in regards to the distribution of public goods. As socialists, we want all people to have full access to those goods necessary to lead a fulfilling life.
My Previous Political Work
My main work in DSA as an NPC member since 1983 has been in shaping national projects and carrying out political education, budgeting, and administrative work. I chaired Boston DSA from 1986-88 and Philadelphia DSA from 1990-1993, and have remained active in local work since, having always served on my local’s steering committee. I have also mentored DSA’s youth section, having been a resource person and speaker at every YDS conference since 1979. Examples of my organizing experience: ● As a full-time volunteer, over three months I organized a 300-person “Socialist Caucus” at the July 2016 DNC meeting. Over 100 DSA Sanders delegates attended, as well as close to 100 non-DSA Sanders delegates. The event garnered national media attention (Wall Street JL, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Mother Jones) that greatly boosted DSA’s national visibility. ● Played major role in creating “Political Revolution 101” training modules for DSA chapters to recruit people out of the Sanders campaign. ● Co-authored DSA’s “Intro to Democratic Socialism” webinar, which has engaged over 1500 individuals in the last year. ● Organized numerous political education events and organizing trainings over the years, including at the two past People’s Summits ; have also authored and/or edited many of DSA’s outreach materials and NPC statements, including the comprehensive DSA history for this year’s convention delegates. ● Helped organize a “single payer tour” that brought Canadian doctors and healthcare providers to speak at DSA locals’ events in fall 1992—something I would like to work on again. ● Helped lead DSA’s work in the anti-apartheid and anti-intervention movements, as well as DSA’s work in Jesse Jackson’s 1988 presidential campaign. ● Use my academic travel to meet with core chapter activists and give public talks for DSA. Have done over 150 DSA and YDS chapter visits over past 30 years and will continue this work.
My Vision for DSA
DSA faces two related, but distinct tasks: building the mass resistance to Trump and the nativist Republican agenda, while also staunchly opposing the neoliberal politics of corporate Democrats. DSA does that best at every level through an “inside-outside” strategy, engaging with social movements and electoral politics.
That is, DSA’s major political task should be to build democratic social movements sufficiently powerful to disrupt society and force politicians to respond. But we must also develop, in coalition with other progressive forces, the ability to defeat Republican rule (which in many states denies basic reproductive, voting, and labor rights, as well as guts social services), while also primarying neoliberal Democratic candidates and incumbents. Only if we build a left in the streets and at the ballot box can we win the “transformative” reforms that DSA supports.
DSA resources are limited, so in terms of social movement work I favor a national focus on single-payer work; but I also support the national providing educational and organizing resources to locals committed to labor work, socialist-feminsit organizing, and most crucially, racial justice work. We likewise have to pick our electoral battles carefully, only backing truly left candidates – preferably open socialist candidates – where our person power can make a difference.
I have considerable experience doing single-payer organizing in both the 1990s and in opposition to Obama’s ACA in 2008. If we develop the strength and credibility for a DSA-led, coalition-supported (particularly among left labor) March on Washington, I would work to build it and have the experience to do so, having served as DSA’s lead staffer on two large, successful DC demonstrations: our 50,000 March 22, 1980 anti-draft march and our April 1987 100,000 person march against US intervention in Central America and against US support for apartheid.
Unless we can broaden out the post-Sanders anti-corporate trend by working in coalition with organizations rooted in communities of color, the left will remain as segregated as US society. Until we convince more people in our communities that a divided working class is a defeated working class, we won’t be able to build a democratic majority for socialist transformation. That is our task.