Learn and discuss the nature and tenets of socialist ideology, organizing, and action. These group discussions allow us to learn, coordinate, build on and discuss organizing a better future for all of us. Past presenters at the Socialist Night School have included Noura Erakat, Vijay Prashad, Grace Blakely, Bill Fletcher, Tim Shorrock, Daniel Denvir, Johanna Fernández and Sarah Jaffe. To contact us with questions or comments, to learn more about Socialist Night School, or to get support for your chapter’s political education, please email us at email@example.com.
DC, Maryland, and Virginia Issues
Over the last several decades, public education has been under attack by corporate and private entities looking to profit from K-12 education. In this session of Socialist Night School, we will explore the tactics and history of the corporate-funded political group Democrats for Education Reform, and the funding, spending, and influence that has allowed them to advance the school privatization project here in DC.
Food lines, PPE lines, supply lines. The lines for mutual aid and other critical services can feel endless, especially during a global pandemic. We’re in them or serving on them because we need resources or want to help our community members access them. But the question of this session, “Why Are We on the Line?” asks something more. Our panelists will ask us to think about the larger political and capitalist forces that create the need for these support lines in the first place. Without critically assessing and actively working to dismantle those systems of oppression, we risk burning out our most precious community leaders. The line is necessary, but the line shouldn’t be forever. What role does mutual aid serve? What is the role for policy change? Why do they need to work together to really get things done?
Come hear the socialist argument for why we need to decriminalize sex work! Join us for Socialist Night School: Sex Work Decriminalization. You will learn first-hand from sex workers and HIPS, a
local harm reduction services, advocacy, and community engagement group, through a Sex Work 101 presentation, a conversation debunking myths about sex work, and a Q&A session.
Come learn more about the War on Drugs, and the socialist arguments for why we need to decriminalize drugs and invest in a harm reduction approach in supporting the health and wellness of people who use drugs! Join in person or online on Wednesday, March 22 from 6:30-8:00 for a Socialist Night School entitled Seize the Means of Consumption: A Harm Reductionist Fight for Drug Decriminalization. You will learn first-hand from advocates and people with lived experience from HIPS and decrimpovertydc through a harm reduction 101 presentation, a conversation debunking myths about drug use and prohibition, and a Q/A session.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the inequalities of capitalism. Nowhere has this been more transparent than the inequalities to vaccine access between the Global North and the Global South. This session features Varsha Gandikota-Nellutla is a member of the Cabinet of Progressive International and leads its policy pillar, Blueprint.
Why is Palestine a socialist issue? This panel contextualized the recent uprisings of Palestinians in response to the escalation of violence and dispossession in Jerusalem, covering the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and what we as socialists can do to support Palestinian freedom, justice, and equality.
The struggle of the Puerto Rican people has its roots in the colonialist relationship it has been forced into by the United States. This is an essential part of the vision the US had when invading in 1898 and its evolution ever since. We will cover important events and of this colonial history and how these have affected Puerto Rico, the internal resistance against imperialism, and the ultimate goal of independence.
On October 30, Brazilians reelected Former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to an unprecedented third term, defeating the far-right extremist incumbent Jair Bolsonaro. Despite an entrenchment of deeply reactionary forces in Brazil’s recent congressional and gubernatorial races, Lula has mounted an epic political comeback, confronting a right-wing onslaught in the world’s fourth-largest democracy. The world looks much different today than it did twenty years ago when Lula was first elected. Brazil faces enormous challenges and opportunities—some old, some new—in the years ahead. With global attention on Brazil as Lula turns to the task of shaping his administration, it is not too soon to ask how he will govern, or what the Brazilian left’s task is moving forward. Sabrina Fernandes and Andre Pagliarini led a conversation about the campaign and its implications, Brazilian history, the left, and possible futures for Latin America’s largest nation.
Policing and Prisons
A brief history of U.S. immigration enforcement leading up the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and ICE. This session examines some contemporary policies and programs intersecting immigration enforcement and the criminal justice system, and discusses some of the relevant data sources.
In the wake of protests against police violence and calls to defund the police, a major obstacle opposing any and all reform or even criticism, are police unions. How do police operate as political actors? What is the role of police unions in preventing reform? How can we address policing when police and their unions wield such power?
In this session, we explore the connections between the criminal punishment system and the immigration enforcement system. Why is this system not ‘broken’ but rather working as designed? How do some pro-immigrant positions end up reinforcing the notion that immigrants are dangerous and undeserving? We discuss the limits of some popular reforms, and how an abolitionist lens can help us identify what sorts of reforms are worth fighting for, what has changed, and what hasn’t, since Democrats took control of the White House. This session was led by Silky Shah, who is the Executive Director of Detention Watch Network, a national coalition building power to abolish immigration detention in the United States. She has worked as an organizer on issues related to immigration detention, the prison industrial complex, and racial and migrant justice for nearly 20 years.
You’re told that if you “do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Whether it’s working for “exposure” and “experience,” or enduring poor treatment in the name of “being part of the family,” all employees are pushed to make sacrifices for the privilege of being able to do what we love.
The Reconstruction era represents America’s first attempt at multiracial democracy. Why did this valiant attempt end so abruptly? What was acheived, and what lessons can we draw from this experience for the 21st century? A session led by Robert Greene II, an Assistant Professor of History at Claflin University.
Ecosocialism is a framework for combining insights from the rich tradition of Marxist social analysis with scientific knowledge of our biosphere. How does ecosocialism help us understand how capitalism and overlapping systems of oppression fuel the kinds of extraction that now undermine basic systems of life on Earth?
Why do we keep trying to solve poverty with technology? A new book by Dan Greene, The Promise of Access, shows why it is so hard to get rid of the idea—which he terms the access doctrine—that the problem of poverty can be solved with the right tools and the right skills. He argues that as libraries and schools pursue technological solutions, they win praise and funding but also marginalize and alienate the populations they serve. Learn more about how this plays out in Washington, DC, where Greene examined organizational change in technology startups, public libraries, and a charter school, and begin thinking about our path forward.
As a five-time presidential candidate, and founding member of both the Socialist Party and Industrial Workers of World, Eugene Debs’s legacy has loomed large over the American socialist movement for over a decade. Jailed for his role in the 1894 Pullman Strike and again for his opposition to US entry into World War I, Debs’s fight for working-class power was not without risk. In a conversation with Jacobin’s Shawn Gude, this Socialist Night School session will explore the life of Debs, his vision of socialism, how it was tied to his commitments to democracy and internationalism, and why it still matters today. Shawn Gude is a senior editor at Jacobin. He is currently writing a book on Eugene Debs, and he also runs the Debs Dispatch, a Substack about all things Eugene Debs.
The Black Power movement, often associated with its iconic spokesmen, derived much of its energy from the work of people whose stories have never been told. Stayed On Freedom brings into focus two unheralded Black Power activists who dedicated their lives to the fight for freedom.
Zoharah Simmons and Michael Simmons fell in love while organizing tenants and workers in the South. Their commitment to each other and to social change took them on a decades-long journey that traversed first the country and then the world. In centering their lives, historian Dan Berger shows how Black Power united the local and the global across organizations and generations.
Based on hundreds of hours of interviews, Stayed On Freedom is a moving and intimate portrait of two people trying to make a life while working to make a better world. Join us for our session on the book Stayed On Freedom: The Long History of Black Power through One Family’s Journey by Dan Berger.
Dan Berger is Professor of Comparative Ethnic Studies and Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Scholarship in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell. He is the co-director of the UWB Labor Studies Colloquium.