SPUSA Comrade Spotlight: David Robbins
“I think I was always kind of predisposed towards radical politics,” stated David Robbins self described Anarcho-communist with Marxist Leninist Maoist inspirations who resides in Redding, California. “Between playing games like Final Fantasy 7, and watching shows like Captain Planet as a kid, listening to punk rock and hip hop as a teen, and going to anti-war demos with my dad back in 02-04.” Like David, I too got my feet wet with politics by attending anti-war demonstrations and listening to punk rock, and like myself, David’s interest in politics only continued to grow. David recalled, “In high school I got suspended for wearing a “Bush International Terrorist t-shirt.” David had a continued interest in socialism and revolution through out high school, but due to living in a very reactionary area he “sort-of became dormant.” That all changed in 2014-2015 when “I saw what was going on in Ferguson.” David was struck by the injustice of “black people being murdered by police with no consequence.” Also the events of Standing Rock, with “over militarized police and oil companies ravaging the plant and oppressing our First Nations” struck a radicalizing chord with David. In 2016 he put his outrage into action and volunteered for the Bernie Sanders campaign and joined Our Revolution, where he served on the steering committee for the local branch.
Like many volunteers and supporters of the Sanders campaign, David’s hope and inspiration turned into frustration with the Democratic Party. “After seeing how the DNC robbed him (Bernie) of the nomination by revoking the credentials of delegates who would’ve delivered it for him, and how speaker Rendon in California struck down the universal health care bill, I radicalized, and looked for openly socialist organizations to join.” After doing some research he decided to join the Socialist Party USA because “ they are their own political party and ran independent candidates unlike DSA.” Another contributing factor for joining was “they were more accessible online than Socialist Alternative, though I was and still am a huge Kshama Sawant fan.” David came to the conclusion that “enough people were working on trying to push Dems to the left, and not enough people were out trying to organize their communities and revive the labor movement.”
Upon joining the SPUSA David feels that his local and comrades are more like a family than a political party. That is not to say that there are not challenges in organizing and building socialism. “There are no shortage of ideas but definitely a shortage of boots on the ground.” “We attempted to do a summer long homeless outreach once a month.” Like, many cities across the U.S., Redding has disastrous homeless polices, only one homeless shelter, anti-homeless hysteria and a severe lack of mental health services. “We wanted to do regular supply drops, we did one, which was successful.” David’s local had collected a variety of necessities for the homeless population such as feminine hygiene products and “surveyed the residents at the South City Park food needs and fulfilled them.” The trouble began in managing the volunteers and working around people’s schedules to find time to serve the community. Another problem was acquiring the appropriate funds in order to purchase supplies for the residents at the park. Despite the setbacks David and his local were able to help some people, overall “the experience was illuminating to see where we can improve.” David is also active in the SPUSA’s Eco-Socialist campaign sowing the Seeds of Socialism. He explained that the campaign is a “seed distribution and survey campaign, that would get people to start talking about their relationship between food and power, and see how ready people are for socialism and revolution.”
All organizing is not without its fair share of challenges, one of the biggest challenges is changing the way people view capitalism and socialism. As radical socialists we face an uphill battle challenging a lifetime of anti-socialist propaganda that is drilled into most Americans heads since birth. As David explained most people have an “internalized acceptance of capitalism.” It does not help “operating in a heavily reactionary area while still fighting for the people.” The influence of the “homophobic and transphobic Bethel mega church” plays a major role in David’s community. In fact, the Bethel mega church gave “500 thousand to the city, for the police department, 25 thousand to the police for drones.” When it comes to organizing for socialism, challenging people’s preconceived notions of socialism and capitalism, and fighting against reactionary influences with deep pockets can prove to be quite the challenge. I asked David how he has overcome obstacles and what keeps him motivated to stay in the fight for socialism.
“I’m definitely motivated to keep going because I have children, and the time clock for reversing the damage we’ve done to the Earth is 12 years or so.” He continued, “I feel compelled to act and organize, like it’s not really a choice.” “What motivates me to keep pressing on, trying to radicalize liberals, progressives and conservatives is that I feel many will join us eventually, when more shit hits the fan.” Unfortunately, the shit will hit the proverbial fan far more quickly than any of us would like. Even though “the crisis we face is very real,” David is hopeful. Hopeful that “the correct way, socialism, will become more and more apparent to more people.” Socialism “will eventually override the propaganda and false consciousness, and if I keep trying to build relationships with people and the community, I will wake people up out of their false consciousness.” Admittedly, “it is a very frustrating and slow process at times.”
Although the process may be frustrating and slow, David tries to overcome false consciousness by “engaging with people and keeping my door open so to speak.” The Black Panther’s community activism serves as a great inspiration for David. However, it is difficult to juggle community activism while also “going to school, caring for my partner and kids, sometimes I wish I could do more, especially given the time clock we have hanging over us.” “ I try stay positive and have hope, I need to convey that hope to others, I don’t want people feeling as down and overwhelmed as I do sometimes. I guess in a way it takes some sort of faith, belief and conviction.”
Anyone who is active in organizing and building socialism certainly has moments when they feel overwhelmed or hopeless. We should be open and honest with our comrades, partners and friends when these feelings arise. Providing compassion and sympathy to those who feel hopeless or overwhelmed can lay the base foundations, at least the emotional foundations, of what we want our socialist society to be built upon. To quote Che Guevara,“At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.” As revolutionary socialists, we should strive for a society built around compassion, love and sympathy for our fellow humans and for the Earth. These basic narratives help to reach people who may not be familiar with socialism. I asked David how he describes socialism to those unfamiliar with the term, and how he tailors his conversation according to his audience.
“I try to break Socialism down depending on who I’m addressing, but some things are universal. I will talk about the concept of economic democracy; explaining how our workplaces are dictatorships and how can we expect people to know how to run a political democracy if the place they spend most of their lives isn’t one. I also talk about community and worker controlled means of production, the reforms that would be apart of everyday life in Socialism. Such as, free universal healthcare, free daycare, free education from pre K up to college for all.”
David will also mention the importance of prison abolition and the abolition of the police. He also fine-tunes his argument accordingly, “if they’re interested in constitutional basis for these things, I’ll relate that to socialism, and convince them of the constitutionality of these things.” If he is speaking to a conservative or libertarian he will mention “our party’s pro-gun stance, talk about self determination, and some of the more anarchist angles of socialism.” If his audience is liberal or progressive, David will try to “radicalize them and show them the ineffectiveness of the Democrats and how their record reflects they do not care about the marginalized or the working class.” I think David provides an interesting and useful basis to remember when we are organizing in our communities. We should remember that not everyone is born a revolutionary or radical, and we have more than a decade’s worth of Red Scare propaganda to reverse and counter. We can tailor our arguments depending on whom we are speaking to without compromising on our principles.
In closing, David recommends “don’t stop reaching out to liberals, conservatives, libertarians. Try to reach them using their language. I know personally that it can be very difficult, especially when you’re ‘all in’, and you feel socialism with all of your heart and being, but just remember that radicalization is a process and sometimes it’s slow and painful, but stick with it.” Also “keep meeting people where they’re at, you can never go wrong by feeding people, clothing them, or otherwise filling their needs and use that as a segue into conversations about socialism.”