Above is a very interesting, thoughtful discussion of The Socialist Awakening, a new book by John Judis, a leftwing jounalist, at right in the video. It’s well worth spending an hour to watch. Judis and Peter Dreier, at left, make great points about socialist history and theory, the weaknessss of the New Left generation they were part of, and some of the strengths of the new generation of leftists. Judis offers important advice about the importance of reaching out beyond the East and West Coasts, major cities and college towns, and of finding a way to talk to more Americans in ways that aren’t alienating.
Yet I was dismayed by the sharp difference between this discussion and The Struggle or the Sidelines: DSA and the 2020 Elections, a webinar that DSA’s Socialist Majority Caucus hosted Sunday night.
The Struggle or the Sidelines was an interview with historian Barbara Ransby and labor movement veteran Jose La Luz. Like Judis and Dreier, both are what MC Abdullah Younnous called “OG,” or older generation. But Ransby is African American, La Luz is Puerto Rican and a long-time DSA leader. Dreier and John Judis are both white Jewish men; Dreier a long-time DSA member; Judis I think is a former member.
The Struggle or the Sidelines discussion is here.
Theories of racial capitalism and colonialism are central to Ransby and La Luz’s talks on why it’s crucial reasons to be engaged in the struggle against Trump and Trumpism and for socialism. They called for a multiracial movement that is antiracist and anticolonial. Deier and Judis barely mentioned racism and colonialism, and then onliquely in discussing immigration and protests against racist policing.
Dreier, a professor of Politics and Urban Policy, notes that while his own generation read Marcuse, his students read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Neither he nor Judis noted that their generation included SNCC, not just SDS; neither noted, as Ransby and La Luz did, that the recent protests sparked by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and others were the largest protest in American history—and remarkable for the large share of young whites participating.
I firmly believe that Peter Dreier and John Judis are anti racist and anti imperialist, AND I think their virtually omitting racism and colonialism from the discussion is typical of white leftists of their generation, who I grew up with. I sometimes make the same omissions myself.
The younger Socialists I know, white, black, Latinx and Asian, seldom do. They clearly prefer the vision and and analysis that Ransby and La Luz articulated. I do, too. Many of us old white leftists haven't listened enough, or absorbed deeply enough, the perspectives of our comrades of color. I’m glad the younger generation, whites as well as POC, seems to be doing better.
Miriam Jean Bensman