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The Red Letter Winter, 2010 - 2011


YDS Marches on DC
The US economy was already in a dangerous place when
President Obama took office in January 2009. Unemployment was rising,
banks were failing, and the country was told the global economy was
teetering on the edge of the abyss. Drastic action was needed to walk us
back from the cliff and both the left and the right were expecting the
president to act. Moderate magazines like Time predicted the new White
House would usher in a second New Deal. Fox News, on the other hand,
claimed that Obama would soon be implementing gulag-style socialism
that would spell the end of our republic.
After two years of the administration none of these visions have
come true. Instead, the Obama administration created a modest stimulus
bill that was designed to slow down our decline, but was not enough to
turn things around. The Republicans denounced this spending increase as
a waste that our grandchildren would be forced to pay off (while they
made sure that their district was included in the bill).
Obama created an economic team comprised of people from the
institutions that created our financial collapse. Treasury Secretary
Timothy Geithner and Chief Economic Advisor Larry Summers, who
were part of the lobby pushing for more deregulation and more exciting
financial instruments, were now the ones in control of our regulatory agencies. Besides
establishing Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a concession that
was itself watered down from the original proposal, there is no indication that the White
House and Congress will pass any real Wall Street regulation. Winter, 2010
This was the stark reality facing participants of the One Nation Working
Together Rally on October 2, 2011. Labor and civil rights groups including the AFL-CIO
and NAACP rallied to support for the Democrats, call for more job spending, and to
YDS Fights For
combat the racist rhetoric of the Tea Party. Progressive groups from across the country Education
endorsed and sent over 100,000 people to the National Mall. Learn about the work YDS has
The Young Democratic Socialists (YDS) and Democratic Socialists of America done as part of the Defend
(DSA) worked to get our activists on buses to show solidarity and demand the change that Education Network.
we voted for. Over sixty YDS activists came to Washington to first march with the Youth 2
Contingent and then with the over 100 strong DSA contingent. YDS cadre came from
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and New York. Where’s the Legitimacy
YDS activists co-organized in the Youth Feeder March, which was a youth-led
call for more education spending. This also allowed YDS activists to meet other students Crisis
that were involved in the Defend Education Network. YDS Co-Chair Amber Frost spoke YDS Activist Editor Chris
to the crowd of several hundred about the YDS’s Activist Agenda item on education. Maisano asks why our
Then YDS members joined DSA marchers near the National Mall to march to the rally government still has legitimacy
together behind an eye-catching banner declaring “Obama’s No Socialist But We Are”.
After the march YDS activists joined DSA for a reception that was headlined by
Representative John Conyers (D-MI). Conyers spoke about his universal health care bill Chapter Reports
and his new full employment bill as well.
The rally was an excellent opportunity for YDS activists to network with other Learn about the exciting work
groups and with DSA activists as well. YDS will be taking this new energy into the year that our chapters are doing
and is ready to continue the fight for real progressive change this country desperately across the country.
needs. 4

The Red Letter Winter, 2010 - 2011

YDS Fights to Defend Public Education
On likely that this trend will continue.
October 7th, YDS Rising costs and declining federal funding has pushed more and
participated in a more students to take on private loans to pay for school. The amount of
national day of debt that students are amassing is rising due to this shift in funding. The
action to Defend most recent numbers show that a student who graduated in 2009 carried
Education. The an average of $24,000 in student loan debt, up six percent from the
Defend Education previous year.
Coalition, a network YDS will continue to stand with those that are working to
of organizations defend higher education and work to make it more affordable and
including YDS and available to more people. We cannot allow the class system to
activists fighting determine who will be able to go to college. All qualified students
rising tuition, should be allowed the opportunity, regardless of their ability to
shrinking budgets, pay. YDS stands for free higher education for all, so that all people can
and the privatization not only attend college, but also focus on their studies rather than
Wichita State YDS protest student debt
of state universities, worrying about how they will fund their next semester.
organized the day’s events.
Many of our chapters participated in this day of action in a variety Become a Member of DSA/YDS
of ways. This has been a great year for YDS so far. We’ve participated in
• The William Paterson Chapter organized 100 students walk-out two national events, expanded to new campuses, and will soon
of over 100 students. They then held a protest in front of their hold an awesome national conference in March 2011. As YDS
administration building and read off their list of demands. continues to grow we want to expand our organizing capacity as
• University of Pennsylvania students held a speak-in to discuss well. We want to be able to offer better materials, better
the rise in college costs and the privatization of public campaigns, and ideally more staff, but if we’re going to meet
education. They distributed over 1,000 flyers about higher these goals we need your help.
• The University of Wichita chapter held a protest and passed a The best way to help is to become a member of DSA/YDS.
resolution in student government about the importance of Membership dues support the organization and help us grow.
public education. Support a real voice for change in these desperate times by going
• The Kansas University chapter tabled about the importance of to ydsusa.org and click the “Join” button.
higher education and our Free Higher Education campaign.
• The College of Wooster had a public display where people
could write how much student debt they had, which was then
used in a later event about student debt.
• The Los Angeles Coalition participated in the SDS-organized
rally, which was held to protest the quickly rising costs of the
University of California system.
Access to college has been decreasing while the need to attend has
been rising. Every year more than 400,000 students who are qualified for
higher education cannot attend college because of rising costs. If this rate
continues after a decade more than 4 million people, who are qualified,
will not attend college. One of the main reasons for this change is the
YDS and DSA Plan for the Future
decline in public funding for higher education. In the 70’s Pell Grants, In the beginning of November former YDS National Organizer,
the main federal funding for low-income students, covered 84% of costs. David Duhalde, created a DSA Activist list serve where DSA and
In the 2007-2008 academic year Pell grants only covered 32%. With the YDS members from across the country can discuss cotemporary
Republican gains in Congress and rising talk of austerity for the US, it is political issues with an eye towards organizing. Currently the list
serve has 72 members, and topics range from Social Security to
assessing the national and local strength of Progressive Democrats of
America. According to David "The DSA and YDS leadership felt it
was time for a listserv to connect grassroots socialist activists spread
around the country. We wanted a venue where core DSA activists
could talk in between our new and successful quarterly conference
calls.” This new list serve is a great way for members to make
Another great aspect of this list serve is that it helps members
exchange ideas top support effective organizing. This open forum
promotes critical thought and heated discussions. David says that,
“The list focuses only on activism relating to DSA and YDS,
allowing the leadership and rank-and-file to bounce ideas and
strategies off each other in an egalitarian fashion." The ultimate goal
of this list serve is to have an active dialogue that encompasses active
members within DSA and YDS.
William Patterson’s flyer advertising their walk-out


The Red Letter Winter, 2010 - 2011

Where’s The Legitimacy Crisis?

By Chris Maisano, masses. If things were that straightforward, we’d be living in
Scandinavia West by now.
An interesting study on Americans’ attitudes regarding
inequality and wealth distribution has been making the rounds recently. At this moment, the prospects for attacking the ideology
It highlights once again the ideology problem that plagues any attempt problem don’t look very good. Even if large majorities of Americans
to reconstruct left/social democratic/socialist/whatever politics in the hold progressive positions on a range of policy questions, it’s not like
U.S. there’s a mass-based organization out there that could potentially
mobilize such opinion (paging the labor movement!). Nor is there a
The researchers asked survey respondents to choose between three vehicle for representing these views in the electoral system, especially
unlabeled pie charts representing the social structures of three different when the Democratic leadership seems to have read the midterm
societies – a fictional society with wealth equally distributed between
election results as its cue to destroy public education and the last
five quintiles; the actual wealth distribution in the U.S., the most vestiges of the New Deal. In one of those ironies of history, the
unequal country in the industrialized world; and the actual income starting point for a left in a time of budget cuts and “catfood”
distribution in Sweden, the most egalitarian country in the industrialized commissions might be the adoption of a Tea Party cri de coeur that
world (the researchers used Sweden’s income distribution because it perfectly captures the schizophrenia of American politics – “keep your
represented a clearer contrast with the wealth distributions in the fully government hands off my Medicare!” There’s more wisdom in it than
equal society as well as the U.S.; Sweden’s wealth distribution is we first thought.
heavily tilted in favor of the top quintiles as well). Overall, 92% of
respondents chose Sweden as their ideal distribution, an overwhelming Chris Maisano is the editor of The Activist | theactivist.org
preference that was prevalent in every demographic group, including
the rich and self-identified Republicans.
Their Crisis, Our Pain: The Democratic
Respondents were also asked to estimate their perception of the Socialist Response to the Great
current wealth distribution in the U.S., and unsurprisingly, they thought
that it is much more egalitarian than it actually is. They estimated that the
top quintile receives 59% of the wealth rather than the 84% it actually On the weekend of March 18th, 2011 YDS will be hosting its annual
claims. They also reported a desire to see the top quintile receive only winter conference called, Their Crisis, Our Pain: The Democratic
32% of society’s wealth, and that the wealth that they currently control Socialist Response to the Great Recession. Dr. Cornel West will be a
should be redistributed to the lower quintiles of the income distribution. featured speaker as well as many exciting radicals and activists such as
Frances Fox Piven, Bertha Lewis, and Mark Engler. The conference
It would be tempting to read these results and conclude that will feature plenaries and workshops on feminism, anti-racist work, the
Americans really do want to live in a social democracy, and that all we
environment, student debt, and many other subjects. Make sure you
have to do is go out there and organize them. If only it were so simple. As
save the date, because you won’t want to miss it.
the researchers note, just because a huge majority of Americans might
respond favorably to wealth redistribution when asked to respond to a
limited survey doesn’t mean that they will actually be disposed to do
anything to actually make it happen. People might be operating under false
assumptions as to the sources of wealth inequality and the best ways to
deal with it – I wouldn’t be surprised if a significant portion of Americans
thought that we could have a Swedish-style wealth distribution if only all
of those poor, lazy slobs out there got off the couch and worked for it.
In the language of academic political science, Americans tend to You can find more information on our website www.ydsusa.org
be ideologically conservative and operationally liberal. As has been long
observed, there is a massive disconnect between Americans’ conservative
assumptions about how society works (or should work) in an abstract
sense, and their fairly liberal attitudes toward specific questions of public
policy, especially on domestic issues. The $64,000 question for those of us
who don’t want to live in a country where the top 1% of society sucks up
almost all of the spoils is how – and even whether – we can break that
deadlock. As I’m inclined to believe that ideological commitment almost The Activist is in need of writers to submit original
always trumps even the most incontrovertible wonkery, we’re not exactly content on a variety of issues, including labor and student
operating from a position of strength. Millions of Americans are motivated movements, theory, and popular culture. We are also in need of
by bone-deep, bedrock beliefs about the world that tend to be immune to individuals who would like to help advertise (both online and in the
even their own specific policy preferences in all but the most peculiar streets), compile information from other sources and provide
political situations. The right is operating on an inherently more favorable technical support.
terrain in which their ideological categories – the market, the work ethic, We seek to represent the disparate voices of the Young
individualism and all the rest of it – resonate with many Americans’ Democratic Socialists and democratic Left. We invite you to lend
instinctual understandings of the ways of the world in a manner that many your unique voice to our blog, especially if your view needs more
of our categories simply do not. I’m not saying it’s impossible for the left representation. Women, people of color, and other historically
to gain a hearing for its vision, because in certain periods in the past – the under-represented groups are especially invited to participate.
1930s and the long 1960s specifically -it has done so. I just become For more information please contact:
uneasy when poll data is marshaled to argue that we can have a better Admin@theactivist.org
society if we just go out there and organize the latently social democratic


The Red Letter Winter, 2010 - 2011

YDS Chapter Reports

College of Wooster (Ohio) - This semester, the College of with other student organizations that focuses on community
Wooster chapter of YDS has been involved with several activities outreach in Paterson. Finally, they plan on debating the newly
and campaigns on and off campus. They sent delegations to the formed Tea Party Club first thing spring semester.
October 2nd Washington, DC rally organized by One Nation
Working Together, and the School of Americas protest in Fort Hendrix (Arkansas) - The Chapter regularly visits homeless
Benning, Georgia in November. WDS has been working to shelters, partakes in Habitat for Humanity builds, writes letters with
finalize the school's affiliation with the Worker Rights Amnesty International, and plans on sponsoring a Paint Reptiles
Consortium. They have had several student debt related events, with Democratic Socialists of Hendrix event to further the
including a documentary showing, a workshop featuring faculty understanding of democratic socialism in our community.
and staff members, and an art installation in the student union. The
group, along with the campaign for the Socialist Party candidate Kansas University OC - KU YDS flyered around campus and
for US Senate in Ohio Dan Labotz, organized a statewide tabled in the Union to recruit. The chapter is holding regular
conference of student progressive activists in Columbus last meetings with 5-10 regulars attending. The group has focused on
month, which will be the beginning of a coalition of groups that internal education by discussing pieces such as "Towards a Socialist
will be maintained in coming years. Theory of Racism" by Cornel West. Their last meeting of the
semester was Dec 7th and to watch and discuss “Capitalism: A
Los Angeles - The Los Angeles Love Story”.
Coalition YDS participated in a moving
protest at the University of California, Penn State - The Penn State Chapter has
Los Angeles for the October 7th been organizing a coalition with Penn
National Day of Action to Defend NAACP, Student Government, Black
Education. They have also gone into Caucus, and the College Republicans to call
talks with the LA ISO and the re- for lower tuition at Penn State. In the next
forming Socialist Party USA - Los semester they are looking to hold a walkout
Angeles Local in regards for future with two thousand students.
actions and cooperation. YDS
participated in several electoral action Michigan State University - MSU YDS
conferences and sponsored events. has organized a series of weekly "Free &
Currently, are working on coalition Radical" public seminars to stimulate
building for further actions. For future OUYDS Protest John Yoo critical discussion, both on- and off-
events, they are in the midst of planning campus. The October seminars began
a socialist-educational exhibition and intend to hold a city- with the showing and discussion of "College Inc.", a Frontline
wide outreach event for 2011. segment about the failures of exploitative for-profit colleges. In
the following weeks, Professor Austin Jackson and Professor
Temple (Philadelphia, PA) – TDS has helped organize, with Estrella Torrez of the Residential College in Arts and Humanities,
Temple Platypus, a presentation of a film based on the life of Rosa and Dr. David Green of the Detroit DSA led seminars. Torrez
Luxemburg as well as a panel discussion discussing the left's view collaborated with the MSU Radical Educators Collective in a
on the Israeli-Palestine conflict and the history the left has had in discussion that centered primarily on radical education models
the Middle East. TDS has also helped and supported the group and the difference between education and schooling.
Temple for a Dream holding a rally and panel discussion. To close
out the semester TDS is holding a panel discussion on Student University of Pennsylvania – TheConsectetuer:
UPenn chapter began the year
Debt and the connection between the Left and the Arts. with a talk with DSA Vice Chair and Temple Prof. Joseph Schwartz
and National Organizer Andrew Porter. They have since held a
William Paterson (New Jersey) - The semester began with discussion on higher education and will be holding a debate with
helping Rutgers YDS get on their feet, plus joining YDS chapters their local Tea Party.
across the nation in Washington D.C. for the Oct. 2nd rally. They
presented a list of demands for Oct. 7th, and WPU’s new Ohio University – OUYDS held several events this semester. They
president has met one of them, who is willing to have a dialogue participated in the 10.2.10 March on Washington, protested John
with the group about the others. They are ending the semester Yoo’s speech at their school, and participated in the Dan Labotz
with a chess tournament; which will hopefully bring out new campaign. The group was also featured in the student paper several
students interested in YDS. They are also part of a WPU coalition times this semester.

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