The prospect of a mass socialist organization achieving political power for the working class in LA is within closer reach today than ever before. At the present moment, the consensus among working class Angelenos is that elected leaders are not adequately responding to the crisis of the pandemic, allow for and even facilitate indiscriminate gouging of rental and home prices, and fail to protect, let alone expand, the social safety nets we as California’s workers need. The frustration with our present conditions is palpable and the necessary policies and protections for poor, working class, and marginalized Angelenos cannot be achieved except by the strategic transformation of power and politics in our county.
National policymaking has been weakened by decades of a shift from universal national programs and safety nets to a focus on state and local government as the means to provide social programs. The results are disparities both across and within states in key policies like minimum wages, healthcare coverage, tenant rights, access to quality education, and more. Indeed, in the national electoral arena, the last few years demonstrate a severe conservative shift toward a White Supremacist republic with intense hostility to the growing multiracial plurality. These changes are reflected in an economic restructuring as well—exemplified in the erosion of worker rights at the expense of so-called innovations in the tech world and sectors of finance and real estate that push more and more Americans into precarity.
In California, we have experienced these demographic, social, and political economic structural changes before. We saw an infamous anti-immigrant ballot initiative, Proposition 187, pass with a safe margin. We also saw the elimination of affirmative action. The state’s economy was built on the military industrial complex, the oil industry, and on the backs of low-wage workers, from farm laborers in rural areas to factory workers in the urbanized cores. We experienced the violent police repression of Black and Brown people protesting in anger against economic exclusion and police violence, which intensified in the 1990s and continues into the present.
Out of the roots of Republican history in the twentieth century and through the tumultuous period of the 1990s, California emerged as a leader in “progressive” policy. Yet, most Angelenos have no direct experience or historical memory of these struggles that shape our political and economic arena today. As a multiracial and diverse working class, we find ourselves in struggle against the “progressive” policies of ruling elites. We fight against neoliberal policies that feign social progress while sacrificing our wellbeing, privacy, and natural environment for massive profits for the few—evidenced by the number of billionaires (189) that call California home.
It is in this context that DSA-LA organizes to take power in the region. We organize in our workplaces, neighborhoods, schools, and buildings to transition LA toward a democratic socialist region. DSA-LA, DSA’s largest chapter in the West Coast, was reborn in January 2017. Our chapter was rooted in Jewish, Black, and Mexican struggles as well as former Communists, Anarchists, and Social Democrats organizing collectively, and was founded and inspired by the great Dorothy Ray Healey, a long time labor and left organizer in California. We have a proud history to lean on as we engage in fighting for implementation of this Program.