New Haven’s activist community expanded Sunday, when the central Connecticut chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America held its first open member meeting.
Nearly 70 New Haven community members and Yale affiliates filled the Bradley Room of the United Church on the Green to discuss organizing strategies and visions for the group. New Haven’s chapter is the first DSA chapter in Connecticut that is not affiliated with a university or high school, as both Yale and Wesleyan University have student chapters. The idea for the group originated in November after the presidential election, according to Will Bloom LAW ’17, one of the group’s six lead organizers. He said the chapter will serve as a platform for activists to connect and work together on a wide range of issues.
“What is really powerful about a DSA chapter is that it can be a space for folks on the left involved in struggles to come together and find support and solidarity and to connect various forms of oppression and name the overarching cause,” Bloom said, citing racism, the patriarchy and capitalism as modern sources of oppression.
During the meeting, attendees gathered in small groups to discuss what they considered the value of socialism to be as well as more logistical questions for the organization, such as membership and voting rules. Themes of equality, climate change and hope for a more democratic society emerged throughout the meeting. Although the group often cited capitalism as a systemic problem, change was discussed in the context of local elections and grass-roots activism.
Organizer Asli Bashir LAW ’17 said the chapter is not currently taking membership dues, but that dues are required to join the national organization.
Since several of the group’s head organizers are students graduating from Yale this year, Bashir added that organizers hope to create a sustainable movement and attract people who will continue to build the group once they leave.
Organizer Puya Gerami GRD ’21 said in addition to action-oriented activities, the group also wants to host educational activities such as teach-ins and speakers for both members and the larger New Haven public.
Spencer Brown, a member of the Wesleyan Democratic Socialists and a co-chair of the national Young Democratic Socialists, said he believes socialists should organize “as socialists” and not hide their political beliefs.
“I think people want to have control over their own lives,” Brown said. “You can’t do that when you are working 40 or 60 hours a week and worrying about rent and food. True control over [one’s] life and real freedom can only happen under socialism.”
Isaac Kirk-Davidoff ’18, a facilitator for Yale Democratic Socialists, said he was pleased by the energy at the meeting and is hopeful that the DSA will serve as an organization that will truly speak on behalf of the working class and promote the cause of socialism.
Including YDS, the DSA currently has 117 registered chapters across the country.