February 5, 2021

Santa makes a last minute appearance on Capitol Hill, intercepting white supremacy in DC, and Virginia electoral organizing.

February 5, 2021


  • In Memoriam: John Sweeney
  • Interest Form for MDC DSA’s Political Engagement Committee
  • Special Steering Election results

In Memoriam: John Sweeney

Sweeney, confirmed by DSA’s long-tenured historians as a DSA member during at least part of his rise through the labor movement, died this week at 86. He was AFL-CIO president from 1995 to 2009.

DSA member Harold Meyerson reflects on John in the Prospect:

“If we are to win a brighter future, John Sweeney will have helped get us there.

At a time when his fellow union presidents were spending on average about 3 percent of their unions’ budgets on organizing, Sweeney was spending 30 percent at SEIU. During his tenure, SEIU membership grew from 625,000 to a little more than one million, even as the rest of the union movement continued to hemorrhage members. President of the AFL-CIO from 1995 to 2009, Sweeney’s tenure also coincided with the rise of women and people of color to more labor leadership positions, particularly at the state and local levels. Viewed from the vantage point of 25 years after he assumed the Federation presidency, it’s clear he made the changes that paved the way for young Americans, in the wake of the 2008 financial collapse, the Occupy movement, and Bernie Sanders’s campaigns, to feel more positively about unions than any generation in decades.”

Meyerson’s reflections on Sweeney’s huge role in labor’s gains — despite the stubborn lack of union growth, then and still — are also a useful pocket history of labor’s emergence from the postwar grip of Cold War anticommunism and resistance to wider progressive changes in US society.  

Current AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement on Sweeney’s death:

“John Sweeney was a legend, plain and simple. He was guided into unionism by his Catholic faith, and not a single day passed by when he didn’t put the needs of working people first. The son of Irish immigrants, he used work as a way to directly apply his values, consistently exhibiting grit over flash and pursuing progress instead of posturing. He built SEIU into a powerhouse, doubling its membership, earning respect across the labor movement and in the halls of power. I was proud to join his insurgent ticket in 1995, which recommitted the AFL-CIO to worker organizing and collective power.”

Now Open: Interest Form for Appointments to the Chapter’s Political Engagement Committee

The Metro DC DSA Steering Committee has published a form that chapter members can use to indicate that they are interested in serving on the newly formed Political Engagement Committee. This form will be open from Friday, February 5 until Monday, February 15 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Chapter members voted to create the five-member PEC (three Steering Committee members and two non-Steering members) as part of updates to our chapter’s bylaws at the chapter convention on December 13, 2020. 

The primary purpose of the PEC is to coordinate chapter processes related to the recruitment, vetting, and recommendation of electoral candidates for endorsement by chapter members. The power to endorse or not endorse candidates still rests with the chapter’s general body membership, but the PEC will seek to make the endorsement process as accessible, transparent, and democratic as possible. Members of the PEC will also assist chapter members in supporting endorsed candidates during campaigns and with legislative advocacy of the chapter’s priorities to current elected officials. 

The Steering Committee will vote to appoint PEC members during or immediately following the Steering Committee meeting on March 2. More information about the PEC appointment process is available on the PEC interest form page. For questions about the PEC appointment process, please email steering-all@mdcdsa.org or post your question in the #steering channel on the chapter Slack. 

Report on Special Steering Election

Congratulations to the winner of the special election and newest member of the Steering Committee, Frank Santos Fritz!

Official results here as reported by OpaVote: There [were] 5 candidates competing for 1 seat. The number of voters is 287; there were 287 valid votes and 0 empty votes. Counting votes using Approval Voting — see complete results in #announcements channel in chapter Slack.




AfroSoc Reading Group

The DSA National Political Education Committee is hosting a two-week reading group, the Socialist Legacy of Black Feminism, with Lux Magazine and the DSA AfroSocialist and Socialists of Color Caucus. The reading list includes chapters written by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Leith Mullings, Robin D. G. Kelley, Erik S. McDuffie and Angela Davis.

Week 1: Tuesday, February 16th at 8pm 
Week 2: Tuesday, February 23rd at 8pm

RSVP here.

moveDC Transportation Survey

DDOT is conducting a survey to ensure moveDC, its long-range transportation plan, reflects the needs and priorities of residents and visitors across all eight wards. To determine what DDOT will work toward over the next two decades, input is needed. The survey will be open through Friday, March 5.

Environmental Activism in Prince George’s County

First, the PG County Virtual Environmental Forum takes place Saturday, February 13 from 3:30 to 5:30pm. View the event flyer posted in the #ecosocialism chapter Slack for details on guest speakers and topics of discussion. Register here.

Second, a day of action on Valentine’s Day, Sunday, February 14th at 2pm, will demand Prince George’s County Council pass legislation banning the construction of future power plants in the county. This event will have speakers and community members impacted by the power plants to discuss the issue, and there will be time to email/tweet at Councilmembers to encourage them to push legislation through. Registration for the event can be found here.

Supporting workers fighting Walmart

The workers at the GE lightbulb plant in Bucyrus, Ohio are fighting closure of their plant. They make LED lightbulbs exclusively for Walmart, and are demanding Walmart pressure the company into bringing in the union’s proposed outside help to make the plant more efficient. On Saturday, protests around the country at Walmarts will occur, including in DC at the H St NW Walmart. If you’re interested and able, reach out to Elissa (elaitin@gmail.com) to get plugged in (no pun intended).
Additionally, the MDC DSA Labor Speaker Series kicked off last month with APWU member Arion Brown. You can watch the replay here, where he discusses how he got involved in unionizing and how it’s made a difference before and during the pandemic.

Publications Update

A few updates on the Publications Team’s activities over the past month:

  • Our February Washington Socialist went live last week. A strong edition this month outlines happenings in DC and PG County, a review of the insurrection, a recap of what went on in January, and even some movie discussions. 
  • Last month, we quietly released Stories Hub, which organizes articles dating back to 2017 based on issue/topical area. Categorization is incomplete yet — we’ll be uploading all of our 2016 articles over the next month or so. (If interested in helping to arrange our collections, please reach out!)
  • The weekly update continues to perform strong — with weekly opens routinely staying over 3k (!!) a week, with an open rate that hovers in the range of ~35-40%. As always, this space is open to all chapter members and allies. You can always fill out a request on our chapter’s Red Desk to submit a request for entry.
  • Our Linkhub, released two months ago, acts to organize and corral links — allowing us to rapidly redirect interest from social media posts (particularly for Instagram use) to necessary information/events. To get your events/actions on there, please reach out in the #publications channel on Slack.

If you’re interested in getting more involved or connecting, please join our #publications channel on the chapter Slack, or jump on our mailing list to make sure you don’t miss a wire. 


Panelists discuss DC political landscape

On Wednesday, a panel organized by Georgetown’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor discussed political challenges in the coming year. The panel included DSA member Ed Lazere, Makia Green (organizer for DC Working Families and Black Lives Matter DC), Parisa Norouzi (Empower DC), and Maurice Jackson (historian, Georgetown). The panel provides a good census on DC’s local political landscape.



To stay current with MDC DSA events between Updates, check the chapter calendar. Branches may have separate calendars and schedules.

Friday, February 5

7 – 9pm | AfroSoc/POC Monthly Virtual Happy Hour
An informal space for Black, Indigenous and other Socialists of Color to connect — Info and access, register here.

Sunday, February 7

12 – 1pm | EcoSocialist Reading Group Discussion Session
Join the EcoSocialist Reading Group as we discuss the second half of Naomi Klein’s book On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal. RSVP above and join us via Zoom. If you haven’t been able to read the text, feel free to join regardless.

2 – 4:30pm | MoCo Branch February Monthly General Meeting
Please join the Montgomery County branch to hear from speakers on several ecosocialist issues at our next branch meeting this Sunday, Feb. 7! We’ll discuss issues such as bringing utilities into public control, the perils of solar capitalism and more. Follow link for access and info.

7 – 8:45pm | AfroSoc Book Club — Critical Whiteness: Whiteness as Citizenship

Monday, February 8

6 – 8pm | Queer Caucus Happy Hour
The QSC will be having our monthly Happy Hour, for all Queer, Trans, and Nonbinary comrades, as well our allies and accomplices. During this crisis, social connection is vital for our mental and emotional health. Drop in, relax, chat, and (virtually) connect! Public event, DSA membership not required.

Tuesday, February 9

7 – 8:30pm | Special Session on Priority Campaigns Proposals and Budget
Join us for the First Read of Priority Campaigns proposals, in advance of the February GBM where we will get a chance to discuss and vote on our Priority Campaigns for the year.  If approved by membership, Priority Campaigns will become a chapter priority and receive access to additional funding, communications and mobilization.

Thursday, February 11

7 – 8pm | NoVA Member Mobilizers Meeting

Sunday, February 14

3 – 5pm | Metro DC DSA February General Body Meeting
All members are invited. Access info to follow.

Wednesday, February 17

7 – 9pm | PG County DSA Branch General Body Meeting

Saturday, February 20

7 – 8:30pm | NoVA Book Club: David Graeber’s Bullshit Jobs
Access to meeting and readings at link.

Monday, February 22 

6:30 – 8:30pm | Work, Love and Capitalism | Socialist Night School
In her new book Work Won’t Love You Back, Sarah Jaffe, a preeminent voice on labor, inequality and social movements, examines this “labor of love” myth — the idea that certain work is not really work, and therefore should be done out of passion instead of pay. Jaffe reveals how all of us have been tricked into buying into a new tyranny of work. Register for access.

Tuesday, February 23

6 – 7:15pm | Energy Justice Virtual Town Hall
Working-class Washingtonians are struggling to pay their electricity bills as Pepco pulls in huge profits despite the pandemic. Join us on Tuesday, February 23 at 6pm for an interactive town hall about energy justice. We’ll hear from partner organizations and DC residents about utility debt, shutoffs and what a Pepco-free DC focused on clean energy and good jobs for all could look like.

Thursday, February 25

7 – 8:30pm | NoVA DSA Monthly Organizing Meeting

Weekly or regularly recurring MDC DSA events

Thursdays, 7 – 9pm | Grrlz Night/Happy Hour
A happy hour space for those who identify as womxn, non-binary people, or those of marginalized genders. We ask that men do not participate at this time. Nonmembers welcome; access at link.

Wednesdays, 5 – 6pm (new time!!) | NoVA Tenant Organizing Planning Meeting

Wednesdays, 8 – 9pm | New Member Orientation
New to DSA? New-ish? Joined a while back and want to get involved again? Find out how we can build a brighter socialist future together! We’ll talk about our working groups and how you can get involved in building real power with your fellow comrades.

Saturdays, 1pm | NoVA Anti-Eviction Canvass
Join the NoVA Tenant Organizing Group on their next anti-eviction canvass in Alexandria on Saturday February 13th!

Sundays, 5 – 6pm | Medicare 4 ALL (#M4A) Workgroup


Friday, February 5 | 8pm EST
YDSA Winter Conference: Cancel ALL Student Debt w/ Astra Taylor
This is a preview event for the 2021 YDSA Online Winter Conference. Biden has the power to cancel ALL student debt with a stroke of his pen, but he won’t do it without a movement to force his hand. Join us on Friday, February 5 at 8pm. More at link.

Saturday, February 6 | 3pm EST
DSA, BDS, and Palestine Solidarity: A Panel Discussion
Palestinian liberation and solidarity is not only a humanitarian issue, nor is it only a Palestinian issue. Palestine is a political issue with serious consequences at stake for both Palestinians and average US residents. As socialists, we recognize the interconnectedness of our struggles under capitalism. In solidarity with Palestinian civil society’s nonviolent struggle for equality. More at link.

Sunday, February 7 | 2pm EST
Domestic Worker Organizing in Times of Crisis: Perspectives from the US and Latin America
Domestic workers have been hard hit by the global pandemic, forced to choose between losing their jobs and livelihoods to protect their health or to continue to go to work while risking exposure to the virus in the homes they work in and in the public transportation they use to get to their workplaces. More at link.

Sunday, February 7 | 4pm EST
DSA4USPS: The Postal Service and the Green New Deal
In our third educational webinar, DSA4USPS will explore the Postal Service’s potential within the Green New Deal. With its fleet of carriers who operate on foot, the US Postal Service is a very green federal agency, and plenty of people are organizing to make it, and its foreign counterparts, even more so. More at link.

Tuesday, February 16 | 7:30pm EST
Ballad of an American: What does Paul Robeson’s life teach us?
Paul Robeson was the preeminent Black, left-wing figure of US popular culture during the 1930s-’40s. Concert singer, film actor and public personality, his “Ballad for Americans” was heard by millions of radio listeners. Idolized across large parts of Europe, his records heard widely in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, Robeson was struck down by McCarthyism. … More at link.

Tuesday, February 16 & 23 | 8pm EST
Reading Group: Socialist Legacy of Black Feminism
The National Political Education Committee is hosting a two-week reading group, the Socialist Legacy of Black Feminism, with Lux Magazine and the DSA AfroSocialist and Socialists of Color Caucus. View complete reading list here.

Monday, February 22 | 9pm EST
DSA Q&A feat. Medicare for All
Interested in DSA but haven’t joined yet? Looking to get involved in the fights to stop evictions, win Medicare for All, or defund the police, but unsure how to get started? Frustrated with the limited possibilities of national, top-down politics and looking for an alternative? Join DSA leaders from across the country to talk about … More at link.

Tuesday, February 23 | 7:30pm EST
Rediscovering Earth, Reclaiming Our Lives: A Conversation with Kim Stanley Robinson
Kim Stanley Robinson has been called one of the greatest science fiction writers of our age and has shown a pronounced focus on the environment throughout his work. In this webinar, he talks with philosopher Anders Dunker about what it will take to re-imagine and achieve a new relationship to the Earth and to each other … More at link. And read our review of Robinson’s newest novel, Ministry for the Future.


Thursday, February 11 | 5 – 6:30pm
The Ballot and Community Control Over Police
Explores the Movement for Black Lives Policy Table 2016 platform that intervenes in this political moment, advances a more radical Black-centered policy vision, and addresses the systemic devaluing and destruction of Black lives. Join IPS ally Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership for a forum about the platform’s call for “community control over police” as a means of shifting power, enforcing democracy, deconstructing the historic relationship between the police and the Black community, and re-imagining a social force designed to actually protect and serve. Register here.


Saturday, February 13 | 3:30 – 5:30pm
Prince George’s County Virtual Environmental Forum


Thursday, February 18 | 7:30pm
Aesthetic and political strategies of contemporary Mapuche Art
Love + Solidarity Collective, Unidos DMV
Presented in both Spanish and English, this workshop will cover how Mapuche artists have generated strategies of decolonization through art. The creation of contemporary Mapuche art will be contextualized through the history of different periods of colonization, the problems with the Chilean state and Mapuche resistance.


Publications ScheduleUpdates in February will be sent Fridays, February 12 and 19, and the March issue of the Washington Socialist is scheduled for Friday, February 26 with an article deadline of February 20. Send submissions to thesocialist@mdcdsa.org.

What’s there to write about? Well, everything — we are socialists, after all, and part of our task is to trace the connections between what appear to be our disconnected lives. But nitty gritty discussion on what’s hot and what to write about is on the #publications Slack channel; get into the mix there.


  • Our local comrade Jules Bernstein shows in The American Prospect the rich variety of impeachable offenses embedded in the charges against Trump coming up in the Senate.

  • The parallel development of direct democracy and representative democracy is often discussed as a unique feature of Italian communism and rooted in the work of Antonio Gramsci. On the PCI’s centenary, the discussion goes on.

  • When vaccines are funded entirely with public money from beginning of development to injection into recipients, aren’t they owned by the public, not Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna? The Nation has a discussion, touted by our comrade Dave R.

  • A history of organized Black power in Washington DC — mapped between 1961 and 1998 — by historian George Derek Musgrove. Compiled with extraordinary detail.

  • The enablers, in two acts: The NYT developed this “tik-tok” timeline for the January 6 assault on the Capitol. It demonstrates what we probably already knew in our guts — there was a collection of knowing and (often) skilled enablers spearheaded by Trump that built the event into an inevitability. The political model has been perfected for many years by an even more moneyed and skilled influence machine, the collective practices of the alleged rugged individualists at the commanding heights of the economy. Robert Reich recounts in “Sedition by other Means” how this push-button marvel of influence mechanics swings into action whenever corporate America needs to get its political puppets twitching in the same capitalist direction. Our comrade Dave R touted the Reich companion piece here.

  • Regarding vaccine rollout — one of the problems with allowing hospital centers to distribute the vaccine rather than state and local health agencies: “The troubled rollout came after Mr. Cuomo declined to use the longstanding vaccination plans that the State Department of Health had developed in recent years in coordination with local health departments. Mr. Cuomo instead adopted an approach that relied on large hospital systems to coordinate vaccinations not only of their own staffs, but also of much of the population.” View the NYT article, highlighted by our local M4A working group.

  • The distinct failures of the scattershot local and national vaccine rollouts (looking at you, Larry Hogan) highlight a problem that preceded Trump and persists now, Robert Kuttner argues in the Prospect: “Government needs to restore the competence of public systems and not wait for crises.”

  • For otherwise allied folks who are horrified at the possible off-putting impact of the slogan “Abolish ICE,” here is your answer: It’s ICE “where the gung-ho culture has long favored the get-tough policies that Mr. Trump embraced. … a department that was unmatched in how closely it aligned with Mr. Trump.

  • Prepared by a Metro DSA member — How to Make Joe Biden’s Budget Better — and published in the Center for Economic and Policy Research’s website. Good accounting of how something like a Green New Deal would (and could!) be financed.

  • In 730DCDoes ‘Meaning’ Substitute for Money? — a Georgetown graduate in month 10 of the job hunt examines what concessions nonprofit workers are willing to make in time and wages in order to feel a sense of purpose in their jobs. With DC’s high concentration of nonprofits burning out its well-intentioned workforce, she reminds us that “nonprofits exist in a for-profit system that leaves them struggling for resources” and advocates unionizing as “a way to make purpose-driven work pay fairly and empower employees.” She closes with these words from the late Toni Morrison: “You are not the work you do; you are the person you are.” 

Ages have come and gone, kingdoms and powers and dynasties have risen and fallen, old glories and ancient wisdoms have been turned into dust, heroes and sages have been forgotten and many a mighty and fearsome god has been hurled into the lightless chasms of oblivion.

But ye, Plebs, Populace, People, Rabble, Mob, Proletariat, live and abide forever.
Arturo Giovannitti