Democratic Socialists Convene in Atlanta for Annual Convention
(APN) ATLANTA — The Democratic Socialists of America are convening in Atlanta for their 2007 Annual Convention, from Friday, November 09, to Sunday, November 11, 2007. On the first night of the Convention, DSA members and local activists convened at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Hall for dinner and to hear a keynote speech by US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
“We’re not radical. You know who’s radical? George W. Bush,” Sanders said in his remarks. “Bush says we can’t afford money for food stamps… but we can afford $10 billion a month in Iraq, we can afford to repeal the estate tax. If anybody tells you we can’t afford health care for all or getting all children out of poverty… you look them in the eye and say Bernie Sanders is on the Budget Committee and it just ain’t so.”
Sanders is officially registered as an Independent Member of Congress, yet subscribes to the principles of Democratic Socialism. After serving several years in the US House, he recently was elected to the US Senate and is believed to be the first Democratic Socialist in the Senate in US history.
When asked if Bush should be impeached, however, Sanders told Atlanta Progressive News he didn’t think so. “I think it will be a mistake right now. If you look at what happened in the House last week [with Kucinich’s effort to force a debate on impeachment Vice President Cheney], the Republicans want it. It will work for Republicans,” Sanders said.
It was the first annual Frederick Douglas and Eugene V. Debs Dinner, organized by the fairly new Metro Atlanta chapter of DSA. Milton Tambor organized the chapter about one and a half years ago.
“We did a fundraiser for Sanders [last year]. There were 500 people in Georgia on his [campaign] mailing list. We used that as a base to send invitations to the dinner [last year]. We raised $5,200 in Georgia. The DSA raised $60,000 for him nationally,” Tambor told Atlanta Progressive News.
The DSA is not a political party, Tambor said. “We will take positions on issues and occasionally endorse candidates,” he said, adding that the Metro Atlanta DSA had not yet endorsed a local candidate in any race. The local Metro Atlanta DSA now has about 100 members.
“The objective is to move the Democratic Party to the left, and help build social movements to put pressure on officials for social justice,” Tambor said.
“We have an economic justice platform which includes making taxes fairer, health care and public goods, the employee free choice act, and fair trade,” Tambor said.
The Metro Atlanta DSA holds monthly meetings where forums are held on important issues like universal health care, public transportation, immigrant rights, gentrification in Atlanta, economic justice and Wal-Mart, minimum wage, and others.
At the Douglas and Debs Dinner, awards were presented to Charlie Flemming, Georgia President of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and Alice Lovelace, who organized the first US Social Forum this year. Tambor also received a surprise award. Rev. Timothy McDonald of the First Iconium Baptist Church gave introductory remarks.
Local public officials in attendance included State Sens. Nan Orrock and Vincent Fort, and State Rep. “Able” Mable Thomas.
Union organizer Nancy Lenk recalled in an interview how Atlanta previously had a DSA chapter in 1983, when she served as Co-chair.
“We spent a lot of time talking about multiple issues, like education, movements in Central America. We organized educational programs. We had a Southern Socialist Conference, which included Barbara Ehrenreich,” Lenk told Atlanta Progressive News.
“We had a regular newsletter. There was an active core of people. It wasn’t very big. There was such a diversity of interests, it was a little too vague for anyone to put our hands around,” Lenk recalled. The group kind of disintegrated because people were interested in a variety of different things, she said.
US Sen. Sanders discussed the economy in his remarks.
“Greed should not be the dominant factor in our society today. People can come together to create a different world. We have a moral obligation to pass this vision on to our kids,” Sanders said.
“There is a war going on, a war that doesn’t get discussed in the corporate media. That is, a war against the middle class and working families. It’s time we raise this to the level is deserves,” Sanders said.
“I’m on the Budget Committee and every month or so, someone will come from the Bush Administration to tell us how well the country is doing. They’re right when saying the economy is doing very well… for the richest one percent. In fact, we have to acknowledge that for the millionaires and billionaires the economy is doing better today than in the 1920’s,” Sanders said.
“The top 1% earn more than the bottom 50%. That means, the top 300,000 people earn more than the bottom 150 million people,” Sanders said, “That gap is growing wider.”
“The US has the dubious distinction of having the most unfair distribution of wealth and income than any country in the world. People across the country are struggling. In my state [Vermont], people have two or three jobs, while five million more Americans have slipped into poverty,” Sanders said.
“Last year, 400 Americans increased their incomes by $290 billion [each], for a total of $1.54 trillion. We have the highest rate of child poverty in the world of any major country. 35 million people go hungry each year. Since Bush took office, 8.6 million people have lost their health care, 3 million people have lost manufacturing jobs, and another 3 million lost their pensions,” Sanders said.
Many European and Scandinavian countries do provide health care for all and free college education, Sanders said.
“What role I want to play in the Senate is to force a debate on these issues,” Sanders said.
The Convention will continue this weekend at the IBEW Union Hall.
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Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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