|Who We Are||Meetings||DSA||Links|
Welcome to DSCO. (Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio). This is the local chapter of the national organization, Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). We are a progressive activist organization made up of people who desire social, economic, and political justice and work to achieve these ends. The DSA is the largest Socialist association in America. The following is a partial statement of principles from the DSA website: http://www.dsausa.org/dsa.html
We are socialists because we reject an international economic order sustained by
private profit, alienated labor, race and gender discrimination, environmental
destruction, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo.
A brief history of our roots would probably start with Eugene Debs, who organized a Socialist party in 1901. Debs endured many hardships because of the courage of his beliefs. In more modern times, Michael Harrington brought together various elements to form the DSA.
Our local chapter has members from different walks of life. We have many activists among our ranks. Some work with the local peace movement, while others work on campaigns of progressive-leaning politicians. Additionally, we work closely with local labor unions. Some are members of the Green Party and attempt to make a difference through a third party focus. Most of us are involved with elected Democrats and are active in the primary elections. Many, if not all, of our members are actively engaged protesting harmful policies and legislation.
We work with other organizations to help to better meet our goal of true reform and social justice. Among these are labor and environmental groups, welfare advocacy organizations, and those who work for change in the criminal justice system. A growing focus of DSCO is our efforts to fight the business practices and misadventures of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club through coordinating with UFCW and other local organizations.
DSCO is a member group of the following organizations: Columbus Jobs with Justice, Central Ohio Peace Network, and the Ohio Conference on Free Trade.
We hope you will consider joining us and strengthening us due to your insights and associations. We very much appreciate your interest and look forward to talking with you. Please join us at our meetings. To find out more contact one of our officers.
|Co-Chairs:----------------------||Simone Morgen firstname.lastname@example.org
|Website Manager:-------||A collective effort by many|
Three Key US Socialists (From DSA)
Democratic socialists from a certain tradition think of themselves as being in the lineage of three socialist leaders: Eugene Debs who founded the Socialist Party of America, Norman Thomas who led it from the 1920s through the 1950s, and Michael Harrington who led a majority of Socialist party members to form the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee in 1973.
Eugene V. Debs announced that he had become a socialist in 1897, when he was
42. Debs had already spent his lifetime as an active trade unionist and
political activist in his home city of Terre Haute, Indiana. He had served six
months in jail as a result of his forceful leadership during the great Pullman
Strike of 1894. Many AFL unions can trace their beginnings to Eugene Debs' early
career. After 1897, his devotion to American socialism and socialist idealism
placed him at the center of many of the political and labor struggles of the
early part of the century, including the founding of the IWW. He ran for
President as the Socialist Party candidate five times, the last time from his
jail cell where he was serving a sentence for encouraging Americans to resist
induction into the Army during World War One.
Graduate of Princeton, Presbyterian minister Norman Thomas became a socialist and a pacifist at the age of 33, as a result of a long and gradual process. Already involved in social justice and political work in New York, Norman Thomas became America's First Socialist, continually advancing the causes of social justice. An inherently public man, his six presidential campaigns and five other attempts at public office were almost incidental to his lifetime of work in civil rights, labor, and peace groups, including the ACLU, NAACP, CORE and SANE. In his later years, Norman Thomas was often called America's Conscience, due to his stirring love of his country and its people. In a famous speech on the steps of the Capitol Building in 1968 Thomas proclaimed, "I come to cleanse the American Flag, not to burn it."
During Michael Harrington's four decades as America's leading socialist thinker, writer and speaker, he contributed to every progressive movement. One of the first of his twenty books, The Other America, is credited with spurring the Great Society anti-poverty programs. From his organizing with the student and civil rights movements in the 50's and 60's, to his leadership of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) and the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) in the 70's and 80's, he consistently urged socialists to reach beyond isolation and build coalitions with labor and progressive groups in day-to-day struggles. As DSOC and DSA's representative to the Socialist International, he earned the respect, and the ear, of socialist leaders throughout the world. His death in 1989 did nothing to silence his thundering denunciation of injustice, for his voice lives on through us.
What is Democratic Socialism?
Questions and Answers from the
Democratic Socialists of America
Democratic Socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives. Democracy and socialism go hand in hand. All over the world, wherever the idea of democracy has taken root, the vision of socialism has taken root as well—everywhere but in the United States. Because of this, many false ideas about socialism have developed in the US. With this pamphlet, we hope to answer some of your questions about socialism.
Doesn’t socialism mean that the government will
own and run everything?
Socialists do not want to create an all-powerful government bureaucracy. But we
do not want big corporate bureaucracies to control our society either. Rather,
we believe that social and economic decisions should be made by those whom they
Today, corporate executives who answer only to themselves and a few wealthy stockholders make basic economic decisions affecting millions of people. Resources are used to make money for capitalists rather than to meet human needs. We believe that the workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions should own and control them.
Social ownership could take many forms, such as worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Democratic Socialists favor as much decentralization as possible. While the large concentrations of capital in industries such as energy and steel may necessitate some form of state ownership, many consumer-goods industries might be best run as cooperatives. Democratic Socialists have long rejected the belief that the whole economy should be centrally planned. While we believe that democratic planning can shape major social investments like mass transit, housing, and energy, market mechanisms are needed to determine the demand for many consumer goods.
Hasn’t socialism been discredited by the collapse of
Communism in the USSR and Eastern Europe?
Socialists have been among the harshest
critics of authoritarian Communist states. Just because their bureaucratic
elites called them “socialist” did not make it so; they also called their
regimes “democratic.” We applaud the authentic democratic revolutions that have
transformed the former Communist bloc. We also expect that the socialist parties
that are reemerging in Eastern Europe will be essential in the struggle to
protect workers’ rights, to ensure equality for women, and to promote social
justice. The improvement of people’s lives requires real democracy without
ethnic rivalries and/or new forms of authoritarianism. Democratic Socialists
will continue to play a key role in that struggle throughout the world.
The fall of Communism should not blind us to injustices at home. We cannot allow all radicalism to be dismissed as “Communist.” That suppression of dissent and diversity undermines America’s ability to live up to its promise of equality of opportunity.
Private corporations seem to be a permanent fixture in the US, so why work towards socialism?
In the short term we can’t eliminate private corporations, but we can bring them under greater democratic control. The government could use regulations and tax incentives to encourage companies to act in the public interest and outlaw destructive activities such as exporting jobs to low-wage countries and polluting our environment. Public pressure can also have a critical role to play in the struggle to hold corporations accountable. Most of all, socialists look to unions make private business more responsible.
Won’t socialism be impractical because people will lose their incentive to work?
We don’t agree with the capitalist assumption that starvation or greed are the only reasons people work. People enjoy their work if it is meaningful and enhances their lives. They work out of a sense of responsibility to their community and society. Although a long-term goal of socialism is to eliminate all but the most enjoyable kinds of labor, we recognize that unappealing jobs will long remain. These tasks would be spread among as many people as possible rather than distributed on the basis of class, race, ethnicity, or gender, as they are under capitalism. And this undesirable work should be among the best, not the least, rewarded work within the economy. For now, the burden should be placed on the employer to make work desirable by raising wages, offering benefits and improving the work environment. In short, we believe that a combination of social, economic, and moral incentives will motivate people to work.
Why are there no models of democratic socialism?
Although no country has fully instituted democratic socialism, the socialist parties and labor movements of other countries have won many victories for their people. We can learn from the comprehensive welfare state maintained by the Swedes, from Canada’s national health care system, France’s nationwide childcare program, and Nicaragua’s literacy programs. Lastly, we can learn from efforts initiated right here in the US, such as the community health centers created by the government in the 1960s. They provided high quality family care, with community involvement in decision-making.
But hasn’t the European Social Democratic experiment failed?
For over half a century, the nations of Western Europe have enjoyed both tremendous prosperity and relative economic equality thanks to the policies pursued by social democratic and labor parties. These nations used their relative wealth to insure a high standard of living for their citizens—high wages, health care and subsidized education. Most importantly, these states supported strong labor movements that became central players in economic decision-making. But with the globalization of capitalism, the old social democratic model becomes ever harder to maintain. Stiff competition from low-wage labor markets in developing countries and the constant fear that industry will move to avoid taxes and strong labor regulations has diminished (but not eliminated) the ability of nations to launch ambitious economic reform on their own. Social democratic reform must now happen at the international level. Multinational corporations must be brought under democratic controls, and workers’ organizing efforts must reach across borders. Now, more than ever, socialism is an international movement. As socialists have always known, the welfare of working people in Finland or California depends largely on standards in Italy or Indonesia. As a result, we must envision reforms that can withstand the power of multinationals and global banks, and we must imagine a world order that is not controlled by bankers and bosses.
Aren’t you a party that’s in competition with the Democratic Party for votes and support?
No, we are not a separate party. Like our friends and allies in the feminist, labor, civil rights, religious, and community organizing movements, many of us have been active in the Democratic Party. We work with those movements to strengthen the party’s left wing, represented by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The process and structure of American elections seriously hurts third party efforts. Winner-take all elections instead of proportional representation, rigorous party qualification requirements that vary from state to state, a presidential instead of a parliamentary system, and the two-party monopoly on political power have doomed third party efforts. Maybe sometime in the future, in coalition with our allies, an alternative national party will be viable. For now, we will continue to support progressives who have a real chance at winning elections, which usually means left-wing Democrats.
If I am going to devote time to politics, why shouldn’t I focus on something more immediate?
Although capitalism will be with us for a long time, reforms we win now—raising the minimum wage, securing a national health plan, and demanding passage of right-to-strike legislation—can bring us closer to socialism. Many democratic socialists actively work in the single-issue organizations that advocate for those reforms. We are visible in the reproductive freedom movement, the fight for student aid, gay and lesbian organizations, anti-racist groups, and the labor movement.
Since the Civil Rights movement of the
1950s, young people have played a critical role in American politics. They have
been a tremendous force for both political and cultural change in this country:
in limiting the US’s options in the war in Vietnam, in forcing corporations to
divest from the racist South African regime, in reforming Universities, and in
bringing issues of sexual orientation and gender discrimination to public
attention. Though none of these struggles were fought by young people alone,
they all featured youth as leaders in multi-generational progressive coalitions.
Young people are needed in today’s struggles as well: for universal health care
and stronger unions, against welfare cuts and irresponsible multinational
Schools, Colleges and Universities are important to American political culture. They are the places where ideas are formulated and policy discussed and developed. Being an active part of that discussion is a critical job for young socialists. We have to work hard to change people’s misconceptions about socialism, to broaden political debate, and to fight the cynicism and apathy all political groups face on campuses today. Off-campus, too, in our daily cultural lives, young people can be turning the tide against racism, sexism and homophobia, as well as the conservative myth of the virtue of greed.
If so many people misunderstand socialism, why continue to use the word?
First, we call ourselves socialists because we are proud of what we are. Second, no matter what we call ourselves, conservatives will use it against us. Anti-socialism has been repeatedly used to attack reforms that shift power to working class people and away from corporate capital. In 1993, national health insurance was attacked as “socialized medicine” and defeated. Liberals are routinely denounced as socialists in order to discredit reform. Until we face, and beat, the stigma attached to the “S word,” politics in America will continue to be stifled and our options limited. We also call ourselves socialists because we are proud of the traditions upon which we are based, of the heritage of the Socialist Party of Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas, and of other struggles for change that have made America more democratic and just. Finally, we call ourselves socialists to remind everyone that we have a vision of a better world.
The following article is a recent publication from the Democratic Socialists of America.
"Towards Freedom: Democratic Socialist Theory and Practice" by Joseph Schwartz and Jason Schulman
Interested in Becoming a member of the Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio? Do you agree with the principles of DSA?
Becoming an official member of the Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio and DSA is rather easy. Annual membership is $45.00. This can be a check made out to "Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio." You can bring it your check to a meeting. Or, you can mail the check to
The Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio
P.O. Box 82588
Columbus, OH 43202-0588
By becoming an official member of DSA and DSCO you will obtain the quarterly publication The Democratic Left in your mailbox, voting abilities at meetings regarding the direction of DSCO and DSA, and most importantly you will be contributing the financial needs of an important organization and movement.
If you have further questions regarding DSA or DSCO that are not answered on our sites, do not hesitate to contact any of the officers listed or attend a meeting to find out more.