Free abortions, on demand, without apology!

Abortion rights are under attack, and these attacks are accelerating. Alabama recently signed into law a bill to outlaw all abortions and imprison medical professionals who perform abortions with a sentence of up to 99 years. Georgia has outlawed abortions after six weeks – a window of time so limited that the majority of people wouldn’t be able to tell if they are pregnant until it is too late. Missouri’s Senate passed a bill that would outlaw abortion after eight weeks, with no exceptions for rape or incest, and would imprison medical professionals with a sentence of up to 15 years. Kentucky and Ohio have also signed into law bills outlawing abortion after six weeks, and Louisiana currently has a bill in front of their state senate to the do the same. The effects aren’t just limited to the United States, either. Abortion access is under attack worldwide thanks to the United States pulling aid to humanitarian groups that provide abortions.

Many previous attempts to pass similar bills have failed, even after states have passed them, because the Supreme Court has overturned those decisions on the foundations of Roe v. Wade. However, the possibility of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade now looms closer after the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh, a Trump-appointed anti-choice advocate, thanks in-part to Maine’s own Senator Susan Collins.

Even in Maine, where we have a Democratic majority in both the House and Senate, as well as a Democratic Governor, abortion rights still face obstacles. The Maine legislature recently passed LD820, which requires Mainecare (Maine’s Medicaid program) to fund abortions for all who rely on the program. While this law does help ensure access to abortions for many working Mainers, it grants an exemption that allows employer-based health insurance programs to deny coverage for abortions on “religious” grounds. This demonstrates the limits of private health insurance, which puts workers’ right to healthcare at the whims of employers. As such, many Mainers could still be denied abortions, regardless of a Democratic trifecta.

We in Southern Maine DSA believe in free abortions, on demand, without apology. We stand in solidarity with our comrades in Alabama and Georgia, whose rights are being taken away. We stand in solidarity with our comrades in every state, whose rights are under attack. We stand in solidarity with our comrades in every nation, whose rights are not secured. We stand strongly against this blatant push to overturn Roe v. Wade and strip away the right to abortion.

Upholding Roe v. Wade and keeping abortion legal is only half the battle. The Hyde Amendment, which was passed shortly after Roe v. Wade, prevents federal funding from being used for abortions. This is a huge barrier for low-income people who need abortions, making it so abortion rights are really only protected for those wealthy enough to afford them. We need universal healthcare to even the playing field so that everyone can receive the care they need. Until then, we need abortion funds to help those with immediate medical needs.

Southern Maine DSA raised funds throughout April for the National Network of Abortion Funds. Our members raised awareness of the existence of abortion funds while raising a grand total of $3,030. In addition to fundraising, we hosted two workshops alongside Maine Family Planning. These workshops provided the facts on abortion procedures and the history of abortion advocacy in Maine. Anti-choice activists use misleading information and scare tactics to push their agenda. Understanding how abortions really work is critical in a world where our rights are being attacked by lies. If we are going to fight for bodily autonomy, we need to be armed with the truth.

We must continue to fight against the anti-choice movement. As a socialist organization dedicated to human liberation, Southern Maine DSA is committed to organizing to ensure that all people have their rights to healthcare and bodily autonomy respected, and that includes free abortion, on demand, and without apology.

Response: All we have is our voice.

The editorial board of the Bangor Daily News (BDN) this week joined calls for the working class to be polite and calm while the rich rob us and our politicians fail us. They quoted a post we made on Facebook that poked fun at the Portland City Councilors who voted against the right of their constituents to earn paid sick leave. They decried our lack of “civility,” and even compared us to Trump.

For them and other media outlets, it’s not about substantial issues like whether Trump deserves impeachment; it’s about the swear-word Congresswoman Tlaib used when she called for it. It isn’t about the horrors of the Israeli apartheid against Palestinians; it’s that even mentioning it is somehow anti-semitic. And now it’s not about how denying paid sick leave will affect families struggling to make ends meet; what’s important is that the DSA called these heartless councilors names. In all of this, the media misses the point. And if a lack of civility is all that we, the public, are actually resisting from the Trump administration (and the one percent who hold his puppet strings) we’re missing the point, too. When we focus on how “civil,” “electable” and “well-spoken” a public figure is, we gloss over what really matters: their policies.

We understand that people do have a knee-jerk reaction to name-calling, but as working people, we’re angry that a modest bill, which held so much promise for working people like us, was shot down by those in power. We’re angry and hurt that our city government chose profit over people, labeling us “outsiders” and telling us to “stand down” when we object to this denial of workers’ human rights. The Council’s decision will in no uncertain terms sicken and kill working people and our families. And so we punched up because we can’t afford to respect leaders in business and government who continue to show us none.

The state of politics in this country reflects the level of frustration felt by poor and working people from all political walks. Politicians, financial elites, and their captive media disenfranchise us and belittle us for daring to speak the truth with emotion. Demanding decorum around political discourse is designed to prevent meaningful reform by sanitizing the voices of the oppressed. Most of us don’t have the money to run for office or the free time to organize against oppression. All we have is our voice. The working class is uniting; we will not be silent, we will speak from our lived experience, from every identity that we claim, while rejecting the vocabulary of the ruling class.

We say it’s “uncivil” to force a parent to choose between staying home with their sick kid and making rent, to destroy our planet in search of profit, to tell us what we’re allowed to do with our bodies. On the scale of civility, being rude to elected officials on social media should barely register, and yet the editorial board rushed to their defense. Asking us now to return to a pre-Trump era of false civility is like trying to put a lid on a boiling pot. The pot is already overflowing and heat is on high.

Respectability politics will not solve the problem of wealth inequality. The Democrats have followed these rules for decades and all it got us was Trump. We followed these rules for 18 months while the Council slow-walked this ordinance through two flu seasons, all the while getting chummy with the Chamber of Commerce and the CEOs of Maine’s largest corporations who opposed it. We have been civil while the news media gave preferential treatment to billionaires and refused to even publish Southern Maine DSA’s involvement as a strategic partner in the Keep Portland Healthy coalition.

The BDN’s editorial asks us to make a choice, “will we push back against the slide into gutter politics, or will we be part of it?” Our response recalls a famous quote by American socialist Eugene V. Debs who was sent to prison for speaking out against American imperialism: “while there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” We in the DSA can now add that “while there’s a gutter, we will fight from it.”

If you’re angry that your boss can force you to come in sick, that your landlord can jack your rent, that our schools are underfunded, or that billionaires like Bezos and Zuckerberg make more in a day than most make in a lifetime, join us in the DSA. We fight from the working class, with the working class, and for the working class, because we’re angry too. We’re not concerned about being rude, and we refuse to apologize to our oppressors.

Press Release: SMDSA Releases 2018 Annual Report

For Immediate Release

January 21, 2019

Kate Sykes, Co-Chair

Jon Torsch, Co-Chair

 

Southern Maine DSA Files 2018 Annual Report

PORTLAND, ME – The Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America announced today that it has published its annual report for the calendar year ending December 31, 2018. The full report may be viewed here.

https://bit.ly/2RXpm4y

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is a grassroots, member-led organization whose goal is to build a mass socialist movement. Southern Maine DSA (SMDSA) was incorporated in 2017 and includes DSA members who live and/or work in Maine’s First Congressional District. According to our bylaws, DSA members who live and/or work in Maine’s Second Congressional District are also members by default of SMDSA until a chapter is formed in their area.

2018 was a year of rapid growth for DSA both nationally and in Maine. National membership grew from 32,000 to 55,000, with the number of local chapters increasing from 40 to 181. 2018 also saw the first two DSA members elected to the United States House of Representatives: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13).

Southern Maine DSA started the year with roughly 120 dues-paying members in Cumberland and York Counties, growing to roughly 180 by mid-year. In July, they petitioned National for a complete list of dues-paying members in all of Maine and began outreach to these members for the purpose of organizing statewide. They had roughly 300 members statewide in July, with over 360 by the end of the year.

As a result, they formed an Eastern branch on October 15th covering Penobscot County; and a Midcoast branch on November 12th covering Lincoln, Knox, Sagadahoc, and Waldo Counties.

For more information about the Southern Maine DSA or this press release call 207-331-5373 or contact us by email at: DSA.SouthernMaine@gmail.com

http://southernmainedsa.org/

http://www.dsausa.org/

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.

Press Release: Southern Maine DSA Endorses Yes on Portland Question 2: 42-day Pre-Election Report

Southern Maine DSA Endorses Yes on Portland Question 2: 42 Pre-Election Day Report

PORTLAND, ME – On Monday, October 15, at their general membership meeting, the Southern Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) voted to endorse a charter amendment requiring all Portland municipal candidates to file a 42-day pre-election report disclosing their campaign donors. The referendum, conceived by Maine Citizens for Clean Elections and the League of Women Voters was introduced by Councilor Belinda Ray and passed by the Council on August 13, with only Councilor Kim Cook voting in opposition. A charter amendment requires citizen approval, and will appear to voters as Portland ballot Question 2 on the November 6th ballot.

Municipal candidates are currently required to disclose their donors 11 days before the election. However, by that time many voters have already cast early absentee ballots without the benefit of this information. Question 2 aims to fill this gap by mandating that candidates also disclose their sources of funding 42 days before the election. This additional report would match reporting requirements for state-level candidates.

“An informed electorate is foundational to a functioning democracy. Often it’s not the candidate’s agenda we need to understand, but that of their donors. Lack of transparency at the municipal level in Portland disenfranchises voters from the truth behind councilor votes,” said Kate Sykes, chapter secretary. “It’s time to open the blinds. Passing Question 2 is the first step toward a government that answers to the people of Portland.”

The DSA supports issues that align with its mission of organizing and empowering working class people in Southern Maine to stand together to improve our material and social conditions.

The DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. Its membership includes 35 elected officials around the country. Southern Maine DSA is endorsing six democratic socialists and one ballot question in the upcoming election.

For more information about the Southern Maine DSA, this press release, or its endorsement process, contact DSA.SouthernMaine@Gmail.com.

http://southernmainedsa.org/

http://www.dsausa.org/

 

This is a Rescue Mission

by Todd Blanchette

What is democratic socialism to me? I could go a number of directions with this. I could explain that democratic socialism is my blue-collar, pro-union Pépère who struggled as a train station worker his whole life. Or that it seeped into my consciousness from my mom, an educator whose union fought so her family could enjoy health and dental benefits. But the clearest meaning of what socialism means to me comes from my father.

My dad worked as a photographer for the Bangor Daily News starting in 1977. He was a good employee and didn’t complain that he got Sundays and Tuesdays off, instead of a normal weekend, which meant he only got one actual full day per week with us, his sons, during the school year, and rarely, if ever, got two days off in a row.

In 1992, my father joined the movement to unionize Bangor Daily News employees under the Newspaper Guild, part of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). He got involved in the organizing efforts and did his best to convince people of the benefits that would come from the collective strength of a union. It came to a vote and, though close, the vote failed. In 1995 he took part in a second ill-fated attempt to unionize the paper. This attempt didn’t even get to a vote before falling apart. One year and one day later management let my father go. They could do this without cause, because there was no contract protecting BDN employees.

I witnessed my father, once a solid Democrat, suddenly come face-to-face with the reality that he might not be able to provide for his wife and three sons as well as he wished. He was, and remains, a man instilled with a strong sense of paternal duty. Being without a job caused him a great deal of shame and insecurity. But he swallowed his pride and took a late night job at a call center.

Over the next year or so his anger, and our debt, started to grow. His anger was mostly expressed through verbal outbursts over the smallest perceived infractions, with the rare slap upside the head for whatever annoyance might catch his eye. Then, in 1998, fumbling to regain a sense of control over his life again, he started a  small business fashioning Windsor chairs in our basement and selling them on the burgeoning new internet. He slowly turned from Democrat to avowed Republican, listening to Rush Limbaugh while, covered in sawdust, he toiled in his dim workshop, becoming more vehement in his hatred of Bill Clinton and the terrible liberals for perceived infringements upon his rights and dreams as a business owner.

His income hovered between the red and black, and our family’s economic security could rarely be predicted for more than a couple months at a time.We could never play hockey because the equipment was too much money. If we wanted to learn music, we had to settle for sharing one trumpet between the three of us, with no budget for us to choose a different instrument. We all had to forego the popular name-brand clothes our friends had. All three of us attended state university because of the tuition deal my mother received as an educator in the system. If not for that, I don’t know how, or if, we could have afforded the decent college education we were lucky to receive.

I began to resent my father. His anger disturbed me, his close-mindedness bothered me, and his income insecurity led my brothers and I to feel like we missed out on opportunities our friends were getting. And, all along, I felt like our struggles were my parents’ fault. In my immaturity I took all of this to mean that they were out of touch with what I wanted.

It was in high school, and again in college, that I started reading Marx, then Gramsci, then Marcuse and Lukacs. I started to see the injustices of the capitalist system reflected in my father’s trajectory. I had always been upset at my dad. A quick-tempered conservative filled with subtle racism and homophobia; a man who made sexist jokes at dinner and had taken up a false class consciousness, identifying with the capitalist class, unable to see how he was its casualty. It became easy for me to dislike him.

It has only been in the last ten years or so that my understanding of socialism and socialist theories has evolved, and with that evolution my dad has stopped appearing to me as the cold, angry, uncaring man I had seen him as since I was a teen. When I actually tried to understand his choices, I saw him for who he was: a person who had been lied to and manipulated. A person who had devoted his career to a private system that would betray him simply because he had dared ask that he and his coworkers be treated better. A man who wrapped himself in the myth of the nuclear family and chauvinism, not consciously, but because that’s what American media and education had taught him to believe. Underneath all the bursts of anger, what drove my father all along was a desperate concern for his family. Underneath this union supporter-turned ultra-conservative lay a fragile human doing what he thought was necessary to see a roof over our heads, food in our mouths, oil in our furnace, and healthcare when we ailed.

I see my father in lots of struggling, working people today. People who harbor angry or racist or sexist thoughts not because they’re inherently bad people, but because they’re afraid. Afraid for the social standing and stability of their families and themselves. Afraid because they live under a sprawling economic system that encourages a dog-eat-dog mentality and says that if you’re not rich, it’s your fault and you’re the failure.

Todd Blanchette with his family.

I don’t dislike my father anymore; and every day I try to remind myself that I don’t dislike these other misled people, either. I love them. I love my dad. And I’m involved with DSA in the hope that some day, working together toward a more just, classless society, we can help people shed their false consciousness, their economic insecurity and hate, so they can reclaim their lives. This is a rescue mission motivated by love and understanding.

That’s what democratic socialism means to me.

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.

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.

Solidarity!

Press Release: US Senate Candidate Zak Ringelstein Arrested outside McAllen, TX Child Internment Camp

For Immediate Release
June 22, 2018
Meg Reilly, Chair
US Senate Candidate Zak Ringelstein Arrested outside McAllen, TX Child Internment Camp

Portland, ME — Zak Ringelstein, the Maine Democratic Candidate for U.S. Senate running against incumbent Angus King, was arrested this morning outside a detention center in McAllen, Texas, where immigrant children are being held. Ringelstein, who is endorsed by the Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) was attempting to deliver food, water, toys, blankets, and books to the children imprisoned there when he was detained by border patrol agents for blocking the delivery of new prisoners. “We have wiped out the entire bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy for these children, forcing them into trauma. These are thousands of people who will have… human rights violation stories from America,” said Ringelstein,the father of two young children and a former public school teacher. In a Facebook video posted to his website, Ringelstein can be seen sitting on the tailgate of a pick-up truck loaded with supplies while an agent questions him about what he is doing. “Americans have a right to know what is happening in these detention facilities,” Ringelstein says, adding that “America is becoming a brutal authoritarian dictatorship.”

Ringelstein won the Democratic Party nomination in June and will face off against the Corporatist incumbent, Angus King, in November. Ringelstein has been outspoken about the need to abolish ICE. He expresses frustration at the lack of accurate media coverage on King’s voting record on gun control and bank deregulation, as well as his numerous corporate and special interest campaign funding sources. “One of the reasons I’m running is to force those conversations into the open,” Ringelstein said.

The DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. Its membership includes 35 elected officials around the country.

For more information about the Southern Maine DSA or its endorsed candidates, contact us at DSA.SouthernMaine@Gmail.com

Democratic Socialism is Love

By Jon Torsch

My name is Jon, and my pronouns are he/him/his. I’m an engineer, atheist, millennial, cat-dad, and democratic socialist. There, the labels are out there.

Every month, when the Southern Maine chapter of Democratic Socialists of America meets, we reserve a few minutes for a member to speak on what democratic socialism is to them. This may not be expected from an engineer, but at the risk of rolling eyes, the short answer for me is that democratic socialism is love. For the longer answer, I’ll give you some backstory on who I am and how I came to that conclusion. I’m from central Maine, which is both relatively conservative and very working class.

My father was a mechanic and my mother worked in customer service. Neither are well-paying jobs, and so my family struggled economically. In addition, in my family I’ve borne witness to struggles with addiction, sectarian evangelism, and a misdiagnosis that led to untreated cancer. As a child in primary school, I was both an advanced learner and vehemently (and actively) anti-authority, neither of which my public schools were prepared to handle. This led to truancy, suspensions, and almost failing out. When I applied to the University of Maine in my senior year of high school, I was rejected.

I dove fully into working multiple part-time jobs. I bounced back and forth between them, cumulatively working sixty hours a week, all on low wages with no benefits to fall back on. I eventually landed a management position with Blockbuster, but then a few years later they went bankrupt and I found myself laid off in my early twenties.

That’s a cliff-notes version, but these experiences all have direct ties to the issues that we discuss and assemble action around in our chapter and in our organization: unlivable wages, poor medical treatment, a lack of acceptance and treatment around addiction, under-funded and archaically structured public education, inherited poverty on a mass scale, and a lack of true labor protections. There a lot of parallels, and I’m sure I’m not alone in my chapter, my city, or my state in having lived through them.

Now I can’t earnestly insist that it was all bad. I started taking college classes a few weeks after the layoff and went on to get my A.A.S. in Electrical and Automation Technology at Eastern Maine Community College in Bangor and my B.S. in Electrical Engineering Technology at the University of Maine in Orono. I volunteer at my alma maters and at public STEM events, and I’ll tell anyone who will listen that my proudest accomplishment to date is having completed all of that with a 4.0 GPA.

But in telling that story, I make it clear that I don’t point to that as validation of self. To me, that success represents that even kids from homes with addiction, poverty, medical calamity, and other struggles have invaluable potential, the obstacles to which are primarily set by a society that allows capitalism to take root.

Capitalism retrenches funding for public education, rerouting it to privatized education. Capitalism spikes health care costs so that affordable care isn’t quality and quality care isn’t affordable. Capitalism diminishes the quality of life of the working class by stagnating wages down to unlivable swarf. Capitalism fights unions, guaranteed benefits, and other worker protections with no concern for humanity. The do all of these things for one reason and one reason only: Profit.

I realized that in life, these weren’t hardships that I was facing by chance, luck, or omen. These are all features of a capitalist economy that seeks to infinitely increase profit with finite resources, and they’re exacerbated by a government that at worst props that system up and at best thinks it can be “reformed.”

It’s just self-preservation to identify the blockades put in one’s own path. It’s something else entirely to break those blockades down.

That’s what Democratic Socialism is. Breaking down those barriers and replacing these capitalist “features” in with equitable, shared solutions that provide for all members of society. What do you call investing yourself in ensuring that others reach their fullest potential and happiness? I cannot honestly think of a better word than love.

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.

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