It was January, 2011, when I realized that I was attracted to socialism – specifically to democratic socialism. It was not satisfactory to merely affiliate myself with the broad concept of socialism itself, as that has a far too large expatiation into the concept of something undesirable by the general masses. I had to get around the Red Scare and McCarthyist mantra of what socialism was not. Democratic socialism was a breakthough from the slaughtered adaptation that was the Soviet communist system – specifically that of the Marxist–Leninist tendency. The democratic socialist variant is contrasted with those political movements that resort to authoritarian means to achieve a transition to socialism. I was attracted to the concept advocating for the immediate creation of decentralized economic democracy from the grassroots level, undertaken by and for the working class itself.
The question I was faced with was complex in its final execution, “How do I become a part of the democratic socialist movement?” I had recently turned 18-years-old that month, and, thus, the prospect of registering to vote peaked my interest. Of course, the one-party system split into two similar capitalist-influenced factions was not an alternative with which I would want to be affiliated. After an incalculable amount of hours every night analyzing several far left political parties that practiced the tendency of socialism, I had found the answer – the Socialist Party of the United States of America, or more notably referred to as fthe Socialist Party USA.
The Socialist Party USA is a political party based on the kind of socialism I was looking for. Formed in 1973, from the old Socialist Party of America (1901 – 1972), the Socialist Party USA is a multi-tendency party, meaning it recognizes members who are affiliated with or identify with a variety of tendencies relating to socialism. The Party was built on the labor work of Eugene V. Debs, Norman Thomas, and Frank Zeidler.
In March, 2011, I joined the Socialist Party USA. I was the first of my family, intermediate or extended, to join a third party. I come from a family of progressive Democrats. When announcing my registration as a Socialist, my family was ultimately accepted of resolution. Throughout the year, I had read up on several important documents that gave the socialist movement its foundation. When I read Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels’ famous 1848 political and economical document — The Communist Manifesto — I knew this particular tendency of democratic socialism was the way to go. In the final paragraph of the Manifesto, Marx and Engels boldly stated:
“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.”
It was my duty as a part of this centuries-old social movement to refuse to push my outlook on the past and present to the wayside. It would have been impossible for me to conceal my views and aims as I began to see everything in terms of class struggle, authoritarian oppression of the general masses — from the totalitarian style of high school to global political institutions. For approximately eight months, I was only openly declaring my part of the social movement in the form of Internet activism. However, it was not formalized until October, 2011, when I went to the Socialist Party USA National Convention in Los Angeles, California. For three days, I finally met fellow Party members that I had only disused theory and practice with on Facebook and long-night conference calls. At the National Convention, I meet past presidential and vice presidential candidates, political commentators, writers, professors, activists, and other fellow comrades determined to bring about a socialist society where workers control the means of production and distribution. After discussing several aspects of past events relating to revolutions, I came to the conclusion that activism through the means of the Internet was no longer just enough.
During the weeks of October and November in 2011, I participated in the Occupy movement by going to several local committee meetings. These meetings related to worker’s equality, democratizing the work place, and the practice of peaceful resistance. I took part in the Oakland General Strike on November 2nd (the last general strike in the United States was in Oakland in 1946) and the West Coast Port Shutdown on December 12th.
In November, with the assistance of the National Committee of the Socialist Party USA and the State Executive Committee of the Socialist Party of California, I began my plans to create a political local chapter for the Party itself. There was not yet a local established in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Local Executive Committees from other California locals (the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and Ventura) gave me the physical materials and supplies as well as moral support to actually go through with the definite planning.
On December 3rd, 2011 we had our first meeting. I had set the boundary of the local to the nine counties of the San Francisco Bay Area. Seven Party members appeared at the first meeting held in Alameda. We signed the charter declaring a statement of official acknowledgement from the National Committee of the Socialist Party USA. We then created our mission statement, local platform, and constitution. By consensus vote, I was elected Chairperson of the Bay Area Socialists. On January 14, 2012, we held our second meeting in Hayward. Our membership continued to expand.
With the materialization of Bay Area Socialists under a collective leadership, I caught the attention of the Stewart Alexander/Alex Mendoza presidential campaign committee of 2012. I was soon elected as the National Social Media Coordinator. I was to take part of a collective control of the Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Google+ accounts relating to the presidential campaign. To work on an actual presidential campaign was something I had never fathomed before that moment.
One of the most successful aspects of the Stewart Alexander/Alex Mendoza presidential campaign was that of social media. The campaign committee utilized social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to further spread the democratic socialist message of the Socialist Party USA. The campaign’s official Facebook Page, Stewart Alexander/Alex Mendoza 2012 – Socialist Party USA, had exactly 1,567 likes for that page by the time of the election on November 6, 2012, this continuous upward trend of likes was also true for other Facebook Pages affiliated with the Socialist Party USA. The presidential campaign’s Twitter account, @Socialists_2012, had exactly 267 followers on election night. Out of all the leftist parties in the United States, we had the most feedback and updates. These new “likes” and “re-tweets” were not simply statistics to be graphed or charted; but they were examples of people, new and old alike, who wanted to gain more education about the growing socialist movement. This was quite evident through the numerous questions and comments the administrators of the campaign Facebook Page received: questions concerning ballot access, how to get involved in the campaign and join the Party, and even simpler questions on the basic understanding of what democratic socialism is all about. Social media is how new concepts can turn to organizing, and, thus, action can occur (i.e. the Occupy movement, WikiLeaks, Anonymous, etc.) and Socialists of the 21st century must turn to social media, as it serves as another means to push revolution forward. I helped push forward a grassroots campaign for the presidency, and I had not even been an “out” Socialist for more than a few years.
With ending of the presidential election of 2012, the Stewart Alexander / Alex Mendoza presidential campaign earned a respectable 4,430 votes on a total of 3 state ballots and several write–in votes from various other states. We had beaten our showings from the 1988 and 1992 elections respectively. From a campaign committee that had little experience on national campaign, we learned plenty on how to tackle major issues facing third parties. Out of election night, the Socialist Party USA expanded its currently elected public office holders from one to two. Joining Matt Erard of Detroit’s Downtown District Citizens’ District Council, was then 19-year-old Patrick “Pat” Noble, who was elected as a member of the Red Bank Regional High School Board of Education. Seeing someone my age elected to public office gave me the encouragement to slowly, yet surely, laying out a plan to run for the Governing Board of the Alameda Unified School District in 2016.
As surely as I thought it would be another 2-4 years before tackling on electoral politics again, it was July of 2013 when a certain anti–war activist announced that she would run for Governor of California during the 2014 gubernatorial election. Cindy Sheehan has always been one to catch the eye of the national and international media. After her son, Casey Austin Sheehan, was killed by enemy action during the Iraq War in 2004, Cindy held an anti–war protest and created a makeshift camp outside President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch only a year later. Sheehan ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2008 against then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. She has also been a vocal critic of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy. Fast forward to 2013, Cindy had just received the nomination of the California based Peace and Freedom Party, a democratic socialist influenced political party. Using what knowledge and education I had earned from being the National Social Media Coordinator from the Socialist Party USA’s presidential campaign, I volunteered for Cindy’s campaign for Governor. On July 30th, I became a coordinator on the State Social Media Committee. The Facebook page Cindy Sheehan for California State Governor 2014 was only created on July 29th and as a week later; the page has already over 700 likes with a vibrant community already forming. While the election is not until November 4th, 2014, I have a feeling that this campaign is already entering into high gear. The Peace and Freedom Party, of which I became a member in August of 2013, manage to reach 92,637 votes for Governor in 2010. I think Cindy will beat that and make an impact in this election.
Here I am, in August of 2013, only short two years later, and I am only getting started. I will continue to support every revolutionary movement against the existing political, economical, and social order of the status quo. I will work for a worker’s democracy based on equality and social justice. I will force the ruling classes to tremble at a people’s revolution. We have nothing to lose but our chains. We have a world to win!
Zac Goldstein is an aspiring socialist filmmaker and currently attends Ex’pression College for Digital Arts, Emeryville. Having registered with the Socialist Party USA in 2011, Zac fights for a just world where democracy and social justice rank supreme. Along with Karl Marx and Eugene V. Debs, Zac finds inspiration from science fiction writer and activist Gene Roddenberry, film screenwriter and director Oliver Stone, and his South American comrades of the Leftist Pink Tide. “You Say You Want A Revolution? Yes, Next Question” is a personal narrative essay that examines the beginning of Zac Goldstein’s turn to the political Left and his first tastes of socialist activism.