Ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, Brooklyn, NY’s Personal Space shared a few of the human rights issues they’ve become more familiar with since joining the organization the Democratic Socialists of America—or DSA.
Personal Space’s upcoming LP A Lifetime of Leisure offers up critiques of upperclass people who pretend to be “woke” for clout, how media has affected the different generations, hustle culture and more. The LP is inspired by the band’s time working in NYC-area DSA circles.
Take Action: COLLiDE invites readers to click and read the various links provided in Personal Space’s activism guide below.
While we’re no fans of Joe Biden, it’s safe to say that his win is a welcome respite from the vile and chaotic Trump years. But, we still have a lot to do to make sure that the Biden administration doesn’t just give us another business-as-usual Democratic administration—something that would be a total disaster for our country, our future, and our whole planet.
So, for those of us who don’t want to live in a Waterworld-like hellscape, it’s time to start thinking about what we can do to advance progressive causes!
To get you started, here’s our (brief) guide to activism in the Biden era: a catalogue of causes we have some experience working on, why we think they’re relevant and strategic, and where to look if you want to get involved.
Members of Personal Space have been organizing with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) for a number of years, and we’ve found it to be, by far, the best entry point for those who want to get involved with left politics or think that they might be socialists. DSA has grown by leaps and bounds during the Trump years, and is now a serious force for change in cities and states across the country.
Even though the presidential election is over, there are still plenty of opportunities to get involved with electoral work. In fact, working on local and state races (sometimes called “down ballot”) can bring you a lot closer to the action and have a bigger impact in your local communities when you unseat heinous corporate bootlickers!
If you felt inspired by Bernie and AOC’s campaigns, this is probably a great place for you to plug in. Volunteering for a local campaign helps you work on important organizing skills too, like how to speak effectively on issues you care about to your community, which you can then use on all kinds of future activism.
And from the veto-proof Democratic majority in New York state, to Nithya Raman’s election to LA’s powerful city council, to socialist blocs in Chicago’s city council and Pennsylvania’s state house, there’ve been plenty of successful local races in recent years to draw inspiration from.
2021 is just starting to shape up, but there are sure to be some exciting races this year. You can follow your local DSA to see if they’re endorsing any candidates this year, and also check out places like DSA’s National Endorsement Committee to see who’s being endorsed at that level.
Medicare for All
Medicare for All (M4A) is a great fight to get involved with because healthcare is a basic need that’s shared by all—everyone’s born with a body that gets messed up at some point, right?
Even though all of our peer countries guarantee health care to everyone, the US is stuck with half measures like the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) that still leave too many uninsured and underinsured. In fact, one of the major lessons of the COVID-19 crisis in this country has been that our healthcare system is absolutely terrible.
We love the campaign for M4A because it makes a simple demand (comprehensive health care for everyone, now) and is relevant to every person in this country. Another plus is that it lets us talk shit about the universally-loathed health insurance and pharmaceutical companies.
Just like our healthcare system, the COVID crisis has exposed how shitty our housing system is in the US. Again, we have a basic demand: everyone should be able to afford housing where they live without having to work numerous full time jobs or live with way more people than their housing was designed to hold.
Socialists have a lot of good ideas for how this can be accomplished, from enacting rent control, to funding social housing and homeless services, creating land trusts, and resisting gentrification and disruptive rezoning.
This fight is going to be more important than ever heading into 2021 with so many people out of work and simply unable to pay for housing. Congress and state governments, whose elected representatives get millions of dollars from the real estate lobby every year, probably will not be very helpful.
Fortunately there’s been some recent successes to build on, like an historic statewide rent control measure in Oregon, new tenant protections in New York, and a reauthorization of existing rent control in DC.
Tax the Rich
If you decide you’re a socialist and start telling people that you are, one thing your annoying uncle will constantly ask you is: “so where do we get the money to pay for all of this?” One quick answer might be, we should stop spending literal billions of dollars on dumbass, vertically-landing (why?) fighter jets that we don’t need and that don’t work.
But we at PSpace, LLC. are partial to another answer: Tax the Rich!
Did you know that US billionaires have gained $1 trillion since the pandemic started? It’s like a couple hundred people ate the economy of the Netherlands in less than a year. These people were already billionaires! It’s obscene!
If you’re as incensed about this as we are, you might think about joining a campaign like NYC-DSA’s Tax the Rich initiative. There are also lots of good bills kicking around different state legislatures to address this issue. For example, new millionaire taxes in NJ and California, and a stock transfer tax in New York.
These initiatives will need a huge groundswell of support to have any shot at becoming law, because greedy, rich people will try to crush them with money and access to power. Put simply, the 1% got the cash that the 99% needs, and we need to take it back!
Organizing the workplace is some of the most direct, effective and exciting work you can do to materially improve people’s lives, particularly when it’s with strong progressive unions in key strategic fields like healthcare, logistics, and education—industries that are very difficult for owners to “innovate” away or ship overseas.
Whether it’s for higher wages, better benefits, safer work environments or simply having more of a say in what you work on and how you do it, there’s always a worthy issue to rally people around. So much of our lives are spent on the job, and it’s that simple fact that makes labor activism so important.
Here a few examples of unions doing good work in those key industries:
- United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), who were leaders in the massive 2019 LA teachers strike to protect public school funding.
- National Nurses United, who are doing incredible work protecting healthcare workers and patients during COVID. They’re also longtime supporters of M4A.
- Communications Workers of America (CWA), who led the successful 2016 strike against Verizon.
- Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), a grassroots union movement “based on a vision of democratic participation and social justice”—they organize a lot of logistics and delivery workers.
If you’re curious about what it takes to organize your own workplace, Labor Notes is a wonderful resource. Subscribing to their newsletter is also a great way to stay informed on grassroots labor organizing in your area.
One last special shoutout to the new Union of Musicians and Allied Workers (UMAW). If you work in music, or are just curious about the intersection of music-making and politics, be sure to check them out, particularly their inspiring campaign against Spotify’s exploitative payment model.
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