2017 NPC Candidate
Local Chapter: New York City
As those who know me will tell you, I’m the most stereotypical New Yorker you’re likely to meet. My parents met at Columbia, my mom still lives in a ridiculous rent stabilized apartment and I live in the same zip code I grew up in. Most importantly: I don’t know how to drive. Yes, really. The neo-liberal gutting of public services is destroying my beloved subways so, who knows, maybe that will have to change. Like, maybe I’ll get a bicycle or something.
I’m also proud to be a Red Diaper Baby: my parents are lifelong socialists. I was plenty rebellious as a teenager but I keep coming back to Marx as the most rigorous analyst of the fundamental structuring force in our world : capitalism. The tradition that extends from his work provides a moral as well as a practical guide to fighting the eternal human struggle for freedom and justice. I’ll be honest, raised the way I was, I forget sometimes that folks don’t always know about the intimate relationship between Socialism and the anti colonial and anti-imperial struggles of the last century. Socialism is the norm in the rest of the world. Its what all decent people believe: everyone should be safe and healthy and have the maximum autonomy and freedom to live their lives and participate in democratic decision-making. This requires first the limitation and then the elimination of the power of capital, whether in a plantation economy or in a post-industrial one. The immense effort to keep that consensus from taking power throughout the Global South- whether through outright coups, economic destabilization, supporting criminals like the Taliban and so on- is a testament to the human yearning for freedom.
That’s what my bedtime stories were about; that’s what’s motivated me my whole life; and that’s what brought me to DSA.
Why I'm Running
I’m running for DSA’s National Political Committee on the Praxis slate with Allie Cohn (Knoxville TN) Leslie Driskill (Oklahoma City OK) Celeste Earley (Anchorage AK) Zac Echola (Red River Valley, ND & MN) Michael Patterson (Anchorage AK) and R.L. Stephens (Chicago IL). We’ve put together a website (dsapraxis.org) to share our thoughts and have been expanding on them regularly on our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/dsapraxis/).
We are joined by a shared sense that socialism has a unique contribution to the many visionary struggles already in motion in our neighborhoods and around the world. Our ability to build power, expand, and gain transformative wins depends completely on how we integrate our new members into the organization and position ourselves as a platform for meaningful people-led change. The task before us is to channel that energy, organize that membership and continue to build momentum and power, and to transition from an organization that represents a very particular subsection of the working class to one that is deeply rooted and respected within the many diverse communities of the working class. That means changing how we organize and with whom.
To the Praxis slate, that looks like a mass movement of versatile member-organizers. In place of the narrow, staff-capacity-limited power of the institutional progressives, we see the development of a massive, constantly growing nationwide community of committed member-organizers as critical to fighting for transformative reforms, for worker power, and for democratic socialism.
My Previous Political Work
I have the rare pleasure of belonging to a relatively un-embarassing socialist lineage, both as a lifelong fellow traveler and as a communist student organizer for two years at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. Let me offer up some potted history: the Left Front in India is the coalition of Communist parties that seeks to hold the line on the socialism that was once the norm in India and push it forward wherever possible, especially as neo-liberalism has gotten its hooks into the economy through the failures of social democratic parties and the onslaughts of the right wing. Here are some further experiences that I hold dear: the Left Front- and its main party the Communist Party of India (Marxist)- is a mass party with over a million members at last count. It contests elections at every level of government. We had the first elected Communist government in Kerala in 1956. We had the longest running elected Communist government in the world in West Bengal. Walking the line between a visionary anti-capitalism and the practicalities of electability has been the Left Front’s fundamental balancing act. We in DSA can learn much from this situation. I could go on at some length about the CPM’s political education strategy, how they break down class privilege with a thorough and at times brutal cadre development process, their abhorrence of formalized tendencies and how they fight in every sector of society from industrial labor to agricultural workers to feminist campaigns to the cultural front of movies, plays and music.
Like a lot of people, I was drawn to the energy and passion of Occupy and deeply disappointed in its ability to coalesce into a force that could win material gains for poor and working people. It also reinforced my sense that Socialism was the way to go and that anarchism, for all its romantic appeal, has severe limitations as a strategy for building power, which is the one thing that we need to overthrow capitalism. A diffuse and unfocused anti-capitalism just isn’t enough.
Finally, in my day to day life, I am a former proud member of UAW Local 2110 when I was a secretary at my current workplace. After being kicked upstairs to management, I’m proud to report that not only have I fought off any attempts to take jobs out of the union, I’ve actually been able to add a union position. My department remains the only overwhelmingly union staffed area of my workplace. So, you can definitely be a labor activist even when you’re not in a union.
My Vision for DSA
If DSA is serious about building the power of working people of whatever race, gender, citizen status or region, we must re-build the spine of the Left to be both strong and flexible. For that reason we have put together a series of interlinking proposals that you can read in detail on our website: dsapraxis.org.
We believe that DSA must commit to building on our expansion into new states across the country, in particular places that the Democratic establishment have long since abandoned.
We believe that every member should be able to learn robust practical and theoretical skills.
We believe that National should support chapters in developing new initiatives and engaging in base-building to continually grow our organization.
We believe that organizing through relationships builds the trust and commitment to carry our work forward.
We believe that we must organize an intersectional, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-national, multi-gender US working class, as a class.
We believe that the incoming NPC must be pragmatic, methodical and responsible in its stewardship of our member’s resources of time and money.
We believe that, to fight Capitalism, we must be in the struggle against imperialism and mass incarceration as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-defense against state repression and in order to fund the new structures through which we will advance the struggle for socialism.
If we want to exercise power nationally, we need a region-specific strategy to build our strength outside the traditional progressive enclaves on the coasts. If we want to confront the state-level political power of the right, while also confronting the neoliberals in the Democratic Party and the non-electoral organized power of the capitalist class in the economy, we need to build strong state level infrastructure of organized and active members capable of winning effective and visionary local campaigns.