Joining Up

Hi Readers,

I few months back I decided to join a socialist organization. I was a member of Socialist Alternative in college, and I enjoyed that. This time I’m joining up with the Democratic Socialists of America, which I’m starting to learn seem to get a little flack for not being as focused on revolution as other socialist groups. I haven’t been a member long enough to comment on that, but perhaps it will make for a good episode later on.

Anyway, the point of this post is to share a short article I wrote for the DSA newsletter upon joining, all about why I joined.

Why I Joined the DSA
I’ve considered myself a socialist for years. I starting reading Marx in college, but my participation in organized groups has always been limited. For only one semester, I joined the campus Socialist Alternative group, and now several years later I’ve decided to join up with another organized group, this time the Democratic Socialists of America.

For many leftists in the Millennial generation, mass organizations are intrinsically suspicious – corporations are money sucking con-men, the government drags us into war and bails out banks, churches seem most interested in controlling our beliefs, and our exposure to unions is either non-existent or consists of little more than paying dues. In a certain light it’s no wonder that the young left is sometimes resigned to individualistic sequestered actions: listening to radical rock or hip hop music, watching Democracy Now!, or reading the latest Slavoj Zizek book while never joining up with other leftists in their community.

I’ve made that step outside the walls of my own home to meet with others. To give up a portion of that precious commodity, free time, and joined the DSA. But why? Why now? And what am I expecting to get out of it?

I joined the DSA because, in short, I needed to. It’s been five years since the start of “the Great Recession” and little has been done about the challenges we face. Millions of people are looking for work but are left unemployed, and millions more are employed in jobs that are underpaid and unfulfilling. Because capitalism seeks only to create employment to the extent that it serves to produce average or greater profits for the 1%, it is incapable of putting together the unemployed with our country’s unused capacities (places of work and machines laying idle) in order to meet the great social need that we see all around us. Anyone in the millennial generation knows at least a few people, if not dozens or scores, that are unemployed or (more likely) grossly underemployed – their minds unstimulated by their jobs and their talents not harnessed.

I joined because we’ve had five years of recession and the banks have only gotten bigger than before. Because nothing has happened to change their basic structure or the structure of our economy. Because we’re all still waiting for a bailout for the middle and working class. At the very least we need to start discussing alternatives to a system that kicks people out of houses so they can sit empty, and workers out of jobs so workplaces can gather dust – a system that is prone to crises, that alienates us from the fruits of our labor and from each other, that barrels towards ecological destruction.

What we have is a social problem, a societal problem, a systemic problem, and attempting to solve a problem like this in and individual way is a recipe for frustration and resignation. I joined the DSA because I could not continue to individually read, think, and watch without sharing and talking with others. The first step in any movement or change is to simply talk to others. Without meeting with others we are divided and weak. We are made to feel crazy or like outcasts by the corporate media. The small and simple step of meeting and talking with others has profound psychological implications. Just knowing that you are not alone in your worries, thoughts, and struggles is healing to your psyche.

Of course, we know that while philosophers have interpreted the world, that the point is to change it, but we cannot change anything if we are divided and if we haven’t even taken the time to meet with others to discuss and work cooperatively. Only together can we save the world from the irrationality of capitalism.

-Red Wagner


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3 Responses to Joining Up

  1. Bill Barclay says:

    Great to have you with us. I was on the Political Committee of the New American Movement (NAM), one of the two predecessor organizations that created DSA. Drifted away for a while with kids, work, etc but came back a few years ago for much the same reasons as you mention. We need a socialist organization that understands US capitalism and the fight we are on for our future – DSA is the best thing out there for those purposes.

  2. Theresa Alt says:

    Welcome to DSA, Red. I hope you have both joined the national organization and found a local group to work with – whether that means entering a well-established local or getting together with just a couple of others to get one off the ground. If you haven’t yet, email me at and we’ll figure out whether there’s a local in your area. After all, as you suggest, cameraderie is essential. It brightens the work to be done, which is long and slow.
    Theresa Alt

  3. Hi Theresa. Yes, I’ve joined locally and nationally. Thanks for reaching out!

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