My Socialist Roots

By Ken Bailey

My parents were children of the Great Depression, living on government cheese and powdered eggs. Dad was a WWII vet who worked in the Post Office. Mom was a nurse who started as a Nurse’s Aide and went to night school at Bellevue Hospital in New York City to complete her R.N. degree. Dad was a rank and file member of the fledgling U.S. Postal Workers Union, and Mom worked with the Hospital Workers Union in the early 1960’s. In my neighborhood, the Pullman Porters Union had three members within a block of my house. They voted for Democrats, except when they voted for Eisenhower in 1952.

It was the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War which made me see the necessity of an alternative to the Democratic Party. People like W.E.B. Dubois, founder of the NAACP, and A. Philip Randolph, President of the Pullman Porters Union, were Socialist. And I read about Eugene Debs in college. They convinced me that the Democrats were too compromised to advance the country.

Ken Baily speaks at an anti-war demonstration in Columbus Ohio, 1970

I learned about the Veteran Bonus Marchers of the 1930’s and how they were beaten by soldiers and trampled by mounted police. The Republic Steel Strike Massacre of 1937: 10 dead, 30 wounded by police gunfire, all white. The Civil Rights workers, killed in the 1960’s: black and white comrades, martyrs for a better America. It became clear to me that the working class, white and black, had the same class enemy.

We have to unite – whether it’s at the border in Texas, at the Keystone Pipeline, around women’s choice, gay rights, or Black Lives Matter. It is the same corporate forces aligned against our interests.

I want to leave you with a quote from a fallen comrade named Fred Hampton, Deputy Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, who was murdered by the Chicago police:

“You don’t fight fire with fire. You fight fire with water…We’re gonna fight racism with solidarity. We’re gonna fight capitalism with socialism. Socialism is the people. If you’re afraid of socialism, you’re afraid of yourself.”

Every month, we ask a member to share their story of what Democratic Socialism means to them. If you’re interested in telling yours, please email the chair.