Poetry Report 10/27/18

By Mike Sylvester

So they’ve taken the White House, the Congress, the Courts

So what the hell are we gonna do now?

There isn’t a magic bean stalk in sight

No golden goose, no milking cow.


There is no handy axe

That lets us climb down off this limb

You may have hoped for Pixar

But this suckers penned by the Brothers Grimm.


All the streets of justice have signs that say STOP

There be monsters, there be sharks.

But comrades, when I see a STOP sign

I instinctively add a question mark.


Who wants us to stop? What is their goal?

Why are they afraid of GO?

Why wouldn’t we march to the place we are dreaming

Just because someone said no?


They (that’s the “royal” they) thinks power

Be paved with the money spent

But I promise you that every cobblestone Is laid with our consent.


How do we consent? How do we empower the politicians

To lie and steal and cheat?

It starts when we trust in folks bought and sold

And hope that the buyers have lost the receipt.


When we make our calls to people whose number

The Corporations own

And then shake our heads when they let us down

Mutter “oh dear, if we’d only known.”


Well, we know now. The lines are drawn

The flags have been unfurled

There is no more time to equivocate

To wring our hands or clutch at pearls


There is no better time

No “if only they, or they, or they.”

We are the ones who must save,

Who must do, must make, the ones who must say.


It is hard. We may lose things

Things we like, things we love and worse

They will tighten the strings on the already tattered

Cloth of our money purse.


They may have us fired or voted out

We may hear hard words from the people we know.

We can’t guess the lengths they’ll travel

So that we nod yes and stop shouting our NO!


So we have to ask ourselves, what will we risk?

If not us who? If not now when?

If they are going to take it all anyway

What good will our comforts do us all then?


We are hanging on by a finger and it looks

Like leaping is all we can do.

Can we hold hands and jump off together, compadres

Because if you can, if we can, then me too.

Get revved up about revolution this October

Happy October, comrades! It’s the month of revolution. So, what better way to spend it than by reading about a historic revolution from Octobers past?

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a major achievement in the socialist movement, a blow against capitalism and its hold over the world. It’s also still hotly debated and dissected today, 101 years later. To help you get through this time in history and the years that followed, the Southern Maine DSA Education Committee has compiled a recommended list of books on the Russian Revolution.

All of these books are available in the Southern Maine DSA library, and you can borrow any of them by filling out this request form, or by requesting one of the books from our chapter librarian, Marc Normandin, at one of our meetings or events.

And, if you would like to learn even more about the Russian Revolution, the Education Committee will be hosting a presentation and discussion of the historic event on October 22, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Community Room in the Reiche Community Center. Todd Chretien, editor of Eyewitnesses to the Russian Revolution, will lead this event.

To wrap up our month of focus on the Russian Revolution, this month’s book club entry is V.I. Lenin’s The State and Revolution. You can find this book in our library, at various booksellers, or for free online at Marxists.org. This book club meeting will be held at Quill Books & Beverage in Westbrook, ME, on November 1 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.


Introducing the 2018 SMDSA Comrades!

The Comrades kicked off the 2018 Casco Bay League Softball season with a rainy 19-12 loss to What’s Up Buttercup on Sunday, May 6th in Portland. The Comrades started off strong with five runs in the first inning, but early pitching challenges allowed the Buttercups to surge ahead. Wet field conditions made things challenging, but the Comrades’ managed to contain the Buttercups’ lead and work on closing the run gap over the next several innings. Todd Chretien’s plate-spanking slide home was one for the record books (and also one for the first aid kit). The game was called in the 6th inning due to time. “I’ve managed a lot of teams, and this one has potential,” said Comrades manager Marc Normandin.

The Comrades face the Raging Thunder Bunts, on Sunday, May 13th at 3:30 pm at Kiely Field.

2018 Roster




Ask a Socialist: “What’s the difference between social democracy and democratic socialism?”

By Jeremy Mele

Social democracy and democratic socialism are both responses to capitalism: an economic system in which a wealthy few owners control the production of goods and services for the many. But production is not the only thing the capitalist class controls; they also control our workplaces…and us in them. The liberation of the working class from authoritarian rule by the capitalist employer class lies at the heart of the distinction between social democracy and democratic socialism.

When you take a job, you submit to the will of your employer; if you don’t, you will not be employed for long. Every day, workers everywhere are faced with a choice of submitting to the boss or starving, which means the individual worker doesn’t have much of a say in her workplace. Decisions, though they often affect her, are not made by her and her fellow workers. Rather, the boss has virtually unilateral power to make decisions, even decisions that have a negative impact on the lives of the workers. Under the authoritarian rule of the workplace, workers are powerless to stop a boss from changing our schedules, controlling our speech, changing the nature of our work, sending us to work at another location, or even closing up shop altogether and moving production to somewhere that is cheaper for them. Profit is what motivates decisions and changes, not the well being of the workers. Capitalism leaves workers powerless because it gives us little choice but to work for capitalists. Again, it is work or starve.

Both social democracy and democratic socialism recognize the inhumanity of capitalism, but the former is much more muted in its response. Social Democracy’s solution to the powerlessness of the working class is mostly to tackle the limited choices caused by the “work or starve” paradigm, while ignoring the problem of class-based power relations in the workplace. Social Democrats call for an increase in social safety policies funded by taxes levied against the capitalist employer class. These social safety policies include such things as universal healthcare, low-cost or even tuition free college education, and paid family leave–policies which substantially improve living conditions for the working class, and provide workers more choices in the work that we want to pursue. Fear of starvation is greatly alleviated when we don’t have to worry about the cost of healthcare and other basic necessities, so we are freer to explore the jobs that are available, rather than simply take the first gig that pays slightly more than starvation wages.

The gains of social democracy are not insignificant, and they often represent positive, and progressive, steps forward for the societies that enact them. However, social democracy on its own is not enough to secure workers’ well being and freedom. Though the social safety foundation is much firmer and expansive than in a capitalist state, social democracies still maintain the power-imbalances of the capitalist workplace: workers submit to the will of employers, with little explicit say in the decisions made in the workplace. Such power imbalances have implications for the well being of workers, especially those without certain privileges. Sexual harassment, racial discrimination, bigotry towards members of the LGBT+ community, and more harmful practices are protected in capitalist workplaces when perpetuated by bosses and employers because workers will fear being reprimanded and/or fired for speaking up.

The solution to workplace harassment cannot be found in social democracy. To really protect workers from such abuses, workers need a voice in their workplace. This is the democratic socialist project: to spread democracy to the workplace. We do not disagree with the social safety policies of the social democrats; in fact, we love them! We understand, however, that the abuses of capitalism will not come to an end until capitalism comes to an end.

Democratic Socialism, in contrast to capitalism (even capitalism tempered by social democracy), advocates for workers controlling their workplace. This means decisions are made democratically by the workers and are based on the workers’ needs, not employers’ greed. Your job won’t suddenly disappear because desperate workers elsewhere can be exploited to do it more cheaply, because you and your fellow workers will not allow it.

The United States prides itself on being a democracy, on being the “home of the free.” Unfortunately, that democracy and freedom stops at the door of our workplaces. Capitalism says, “work as the capitalist orders or starve.” Social democracy is a regulated capitalism that says, “work as the capitalist orders or starve, but have some needs secured either way.” The reason Democratic Socialists are not Social Democrats rests on the fact that we recognize that no form of capitalism, even regulated capitalism, offers workers what they really need to prevent abuse: democratic control over our places of work.

Have a question for Ask a Socialist? Email it to: DSA.PortlandMaine@gmail.com

Heavy Rotation: Labor in the Time of Trump

Southern Maine DSA recently presented Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 play “It Can’t Happen Here,” which asked audiences if European fascism could take hold in America. The question is still relevant today, but it contains another more practical question: What can we do to stop it?

California labor historian Fred Glass believes that labor history provides a doorway for ordinary working people who want to fight the rise of fascism in contemporary America. Sacramento DSA and the Sacramento Central Labor Council recently co-hosted Glass for this discussion about labor in the time of Trump.

Fred Glass is the author of  “From Mission to Microchip: A History of the California Labor Movement.”

Ask a Socialist: “Do socialists really think that no one should work?”

By Jeremy Mele

There’s a common misconception that socialists are “lazy” and that we only want “free stuff,” that we are “moochers.” If that’s the case, we must be really bad at those things, because volunteering for socialist organizations, campaigning for working class power, and running donation drives where we actively give away goods to folks in need are certainly funny ways to be lazy moochers.
Socialists are not anti-work; we respect the value of an honest day of labor as much as anyone else. What we are against is work as it exists in a capitalist context. Not everyone is able or wants to own their own business; therefore, under capitalism, most of us must labor for a capitalist if we want to live. We need to put ourselves in the service of the wealthy in order to afford the necessities of life. That means that the only work we will be doing for the majority of our life—40 hours per week until we retire, or, as retirement is becoming less and less affordable, die—is work that capitalists deem profitable. No matter what our actual interests are, we must labor as the wealthy dictate, often in work that is demeaning, unhealthy, and limits our potential.
Socialists do far more work than capitalists do. Capitalists merely chase profit, hiring only as many people as are strictly needed, and letting everyone else starve, for all they care! Many do no work at all, profiting only by letting their money grow at the hands of their portfolio managers, often in off-shore accounts that rob our nation of tax revenue that would help fix our roads, fund innovation, and educate the next generation of workers.
Socialists want to work, but we don’t want our labor exploited by a system that concentrates wealth and power at the top. Socialists fight for a world where everyone can work, where the value of our work benefits the workers, not just employers, and where everyone can work on our own terms.

Have a question for Ask a Socialist?

Email it to: DSA.PortlandMaine@gmail.com

Heavy Rotation: “A Change is Gonna Come”

As long as rich people are defining what’s good for the rest of us, it’s not going to be good for the rest of us.  – Peter Kellman

Side A – Interview with Peter Kellman

This week our A-side is a reflection of our A-game. Peter Kellman is a lifelong activist, labor historian and living legend of the Maine labor movement. At our December meeting, Peter, along with Maine AFL-CIO President Cynthia Phinney, led us in a thought-provoking discussion on how labor unions and socialists can work together to build solidarity for the coming revolution. In this December 14, 2017 interview on WMPG radio’s Community Voices for Change, Peter talks with host Richard Rudolf about the history of working class struggle in the United States and tells us what we can do now. So tune in, turn on, and join up!

Side B – Indomitable – Winner: Best Music Video, 2017 Native American Music Awards

Watch the official video for DJ Shrub’s “Indomitable” which features a sample from Northern Cree’s “Young and Free,” composed by Conan Yellowbird for the group’s Ewipihcihk album. Ewipihcihk was released by Canyon Records and “Young and Free” is published by DMG Arizona (ASCAP).

The Southern Maine DSA’s Heavy Rotation blog curates the best in leftist news, music, art, film and beyond.

What’s in your heavy rotation? Email your favorite listens to us at: DSA.PortlandMaine@gmail.com




Ask a Socialist: “Can I be a socialist and still enjoy shopping?”

By Jeremy Mele

So here’s something fun about me: I have more books than I think I will ever read, yet I still, regularly, visit Amazon or, preferably, a local bookstore to buy more. I could stop myself, but I choose not to; I like buying books! Maybe I’m hardwired that way, or maybe it’s a part of human nature (though I think the concept is very overrated). Whatever the case, shopping for and buying things like books (and comic books and video games) is something I enjoy doing.

Unfortunately, there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism. As a socialist, I recognize that at some, if not every, level of the production of the things that humans sell, buy, and consume there is going to be exploitation. The exploitation of workers—who are coerced into selling their labor for a fraction of the value they produce—the exploitation of animals, and the exploitation of the environment are all baked into capitalism’s DNA. As long as it exists, various systems of exploitation will be maintained and reinforced by capitalism and its relentless drive for profit: a drive that seeks to pay workers as little as possible, to keep animals in cruel, yet cost effective, spaces, and to strip the environment for all it is worth, destroying its beauty in the process. And this, of course, is done to create the products that capitalists can sell to us to turn a profit.

That’s why, as socialists, we must tirelessly fight for a better world; a world where capitalist exploitation of human, animal, and nature is a thing of the past. Will there ever be a utopia free of all violence and exploitation? I do not know. I hope so, but even if that is never the case, that does not mean we can stop striving. A better, fairer world is possible, even if not perfect. We need to fight for it to free the workers. We need to fight for it to save the planet. We need to fight for it to end exploitation.

…And we need to fight for it so that we can go shopping without feeling guilty.

Have a question for Ask a Socialist? Email it to: DSA.PortlandMaine@gmail.com

What we achieved cannot be measured in votes (yet).

An open letter to our candidates, volunteers and community partners.

Brothers and Sisters,

When I took on the assignment of running our “Get Out the Working Class Vote” campaign several months ago, I did it because I believed in our endorsed candidates and ballot issues and because, as the chairperson of the Community Outreach and Education Committee, I saw it as an opportunity to reach out to members of our community with a message of working class power.

Despite the recent swell of support for democratic socialism among millennials and Bernie Sanders voters, the “s”-word is still a dirty one to many. It has been my goal during this campaign to raise awareness for and correct the public perception of socialism by papering the town red with our flyers and forcing mainstream media outlets to print the word “socialism” as many times as possible in the context of working class solidarity and participatory democracy. Every letter-to-the-editor we wrote, every friendly greeting on every doorstep, every phone call, conversation, and email message has brought us one step closer to showing people that the aim of socialism is not state power, but rather people power. It’s about ordinary citizens working together to decide how our government, economy, environment, and society are run.

Many voters are still leery of the “s”-word, but the results of this election prove that they’re not scared of socialism, itself. Passing Medicaid expansion is socialism! Defeating a casino license mercenary who would sell our state referendum process to the highest bidder is socialism! Demanding that our public schools receive funding is socialism! Sending a message to wealthy donors, political elites, and developers that money cannot buy a seat on Portland City Council is socialism! Around the country yesterday, DSA won 15 elections. That is socialism!

Together we hand-delivered 3,000 Southern Maine DSA palm cards to voters in Portland. The hours and hours our members spent working on the Fair Rent, Joey Brunelle, and Marpheen Chann campaigns, the support of our leadership team, and the assistance of our community partners made this possible. I would like to thank all of you who came together to help, and express my deepest gratitude for your knowledge, humor and support along the way.

Together, we spread a message of hope for a better, fairer, and more equitable society, and we did it in the name of democratic socialism. The Southern Maine DSA is grateful to have such hardworking, honest, and kind folks in our fold. We may not have achieved everything we wanted to with this election, but this is just the beginning. Capitalism is a cruel, overbearing system. It and its defenders, are powerful…and we wounded them. We showed the power that the working class has when we come together, and, next time, we will use the lessons of this election to achieve even more. A better world is possible, and we now know that we have the numbers and the will to bring that possibility about.

With any power struggle worth undertaking, there are tremendous risks involved, and we should never underestimate or undersell those risks, nor dismiss the hurt that many of our brothers and sisters are feeling today. That is why this message of thanks is also a call to action: now is the time for those of you who have been holding our flank to push to the front of the line so that we can tend to our wounded, assess our losses, and regain our strength. Electoral politics is only one small part of organizing for power, and there are many more battles to be won.

In solidarity,

Kate Sykes

Heavy Rotation: What’s love got to do with it?

Hello and welcome to the inaugural edition of Heavy Rotation, the blog that curates the best of the Left in new media, brought to you by the Southern Maine DSA.

This week we’re spinning two radio interviews by author and Left Business Observer founder Doug Henwood that demand to be heard side-by-side:


Especially in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, VA, this June 8, 2017 interview with Angela Nagle on her book, Kill All Normies, offers chilling insight into the psychology of the alt-right, suggesting that male sexual competition under capitalism, and the resulting sexual inequality that parallels the wealth gap in the US may account for the rise in the alt-right movement’s popularity among young white men. Nagle’s interview begins about 20 minutes in.


Doug’s August 17, 2017 discussion uncovers new findings about sex under socialism. Guest Kristin Ghodsee, talks about her Opinion Piece in the New York Times, which looks at social relationships in the former Soviet block, specifically sexual ones. Nagle’s research suggests that state investments in education, generous maternity leave allowances, and free child care gave women more sexual freedom than their capitalist contemporaries.

What’s in your heavy rotation? Email your favorite listens to us at: DSA.PortlandMaine@gmail.com