For a mutually supportive self-care culture in the movement

Tags: movement culture organizational culture

The Washington Socialist <> July 2017

 On the recent occasion of a DSA comrade’s taking her own life, a comment by DSA vice-chair Joe Schwartz in {DSA-Activist} online discussion group, June 2017

The movement often is not great about mutual self-care and it’s often not a place where people feel comfortable sharing the personal, emotional and psychological issues we all face. Nor a place which always gives support to folks in regards to their own individual well-being.   

All of the above is a major reason why we have to build a culture of mutual support and of reaching out personally across political and cultural differences. And we need to call people “in” rather than “out” when they may be acting in insensitive or unproductive ways, while always remembering that the people we may disagree with politically are usually folks of good will who deserve our respect and care.

If the movement can’t be a place that provides sustenance for its members, many folks will drift away. No one is compelled to be active in the socialist movement. Many do so out of the oppression they have experienced and in solidarity with injustices faced by others. But if we can’t build a pluralist, diverse, and caring community, why would folks we are trying to recruit to socialism believe that we could build a socialist society that is caring and mutually supportive? 

I’ve been active on the socialist left since joining the IS in high school in 1969 (at the age of 15), then through NAM, DSOC, and DSA. It’s not always the nicest place to be and some of the socialist legacy historically has been the development of a pretty conflictual, often nasty political culture. As Oscar Wilde wrote, “too many socialists love humanity, but no human being in particular.”

…so let’s remember that if we can’t live together as caring individuals in a socialist organization, how could we build a caring, mutually supportive socialist society (in which political and cultural disagreements will continue, I believe, but hopefully they can be tackled in a much more egalitarian and democratic manner than they are under capitalism)?

The Washington Socialist is the newsletter and editorial publication of Metro DC DSA. The views and opinions expressed here may not reflect those of the chapter, and publication of any information should not be considered an endorsement. For our chapter's official statements, please visit the Statements section of our main site.

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