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.




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.


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




Heavy Rotation: May Day! May Day!

By Kate Sykes

Every year on May 1st, International Workers Day is celebrated in Europe with massive demonstrations that honor an American labor uprising: the Haymarket strike of 1886, when hundreds of thousands of American workers set down the tools of their trade and took to the streets for better wages and working conditions.

In Episode 33 of Season of the Bitch, writer and labor organizer Jane McAlevey talks about how working conditions leading up to the original May Day strike were remarkably similar to those faced by Amazon warehouse workers today, and how the real aim of labor organizing is building the kind of working class solidarity that makes formerly mild-mannered secretaries plot to abduct their boss and take over the company themselves…. because there’s a better life, and you think about it, don’t you?

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

Press Release: Southern Maine DSA Endorses Betsy Sweet in June primary for Maine State Governor

PORTLAND – The Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) voted on Monday, March 12 to endorse Betsy Sweet for Governor in the June, 2018 primary. Sweet is running as a Democrat in Maine’s first statewide Ranked Choice Voting primary.

“I am very pleased to be receiving the endorsement of the Southern Maine Chapter of the DSA. The people-powered, special-interest-proof coalition we are building is growing by the day. With over 3,500 maine people giving $5, this campaign is about ensuring the Blaine House can’t be bought by the NRA, big Pharma or the banking industry,” Sweet said.

Sweet’s primary campaign focus is getting corporate and special interest money out of politics, something she says is foundational to making progress on other issues. She helped write Maine’s public campaign financing law, the first in the country, and is now running as a Maine Clean Elections candidate. She supports universal healthcare coverage and will work to socialize the cost of that through a more progressive tax structure, while eliminating cost inefficiencies endemic to the current for-profit system. “I believe there is a great opportunity to work in compact with the five New England states to develop a viable single-payer system,” Sweet says.

Sweet is a proponent of Ranked Choice Voting and says she hopes it will bring more civility to Maine politics. Maine is the first state to implement the system in a state-wide election. Under Ranked Choice Voting, voters may rank multiple candidates in order of preference. If no victor emerges from the first-choice round, an instant run-off commences. In the absence of a strong frontrunner, second and third-choice candidates can win a majority of votes, a factor that benefits candidates who campaign to a broad spectrum of voters rather than on divisive issues, or against one another.

“It’s time for a state government that works for the many, not just the few,” Meg Reilly, SMDSA Chair said. “Sweet’s focus on fair representation and diversity, racial and economic justice, living wages, and healthcare as a human right make her an ideal emissary for DSA’s values and goals in Augusta.”

The DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. Its membership includes 35 elected officials around country. Southern Maine DSA is not a political party. The DSA welcomes members and endorses candidates of any party affiliation who share its mission to decrease the influence of money in politics so that ordinary citizens can participate in the many decisions that affect their lives.

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

Press Release: Southern Maine DSA Endorses Zak Ringelstein for US Senate

Southern Maine DSA Endorses Zak Ringelstein for US Senate

PORTLAND, ME – The Southern Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) voted on Monday, March 12 to endorse Zak Ringelstein for US Senate. In August, the National DSA endorsed the campaign, making Ringelstein, the only candidate for US Senate to be endorsed by the organization.

Ringelstein, a DSA member, has pledged to take no money from PACs, corporations, or special interest groups in order to be a true public servant who only answers to voters. He intends to introduce and support legislation to reverse Citizens United, end corporate campaign lobbying, and institute a federal voting holiday to make the polls more accessible to working people.

“As socialists, we are fundamentally opposed to the idea that corporate money has any place in politics, or even a fair and equitable society,” said Meg Reily, SMDSA Chair. “We’re happy to endorse someone who would prioritize reversing Citizens United and increasing voting rights, two issues that go hand-in-hand,” Reilly said.

“As a public school teacher and the son of a social worker, I am blown away by the way the DSA truly fights to increase the power of working Americans. It is not just an honor to receive their endorsement; we are now a mightier force for change because of the hundreds of passionate DSA members at our side who are ready to get money out of politics and unrig the system to create a more free, democratic, and humane society for all,” said Ringelstein.

Ringelstein came to politics from a former career as a public school teacher. As a rank-and-file union member, he helped form and lead PowerToPublic, a teacher-led campaign to expose billionaire Betsy DeVos’s attempts to defund our public schools. He wants to enact democratic socialist reform in Washington, including Medicare for All, public ownership of natural resources, including groundwater, increasing protections on public land, holding corporations accountable for their emissions, and divesting from fossil fuels. He supports medicare for all and full, publicly-funded reproductive healthcare for women, including abortion. He condemns the human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians and the US’s part in funding these actions, and he rejects the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel.

Ringelstein is running unopposed in the Democratic primary and will face off against Independent incumbent Angus King in the Fall. Ringelstein expresses frustration at the lack of accurate media coverage on King’s voting record on gun control, as well as King’s sources of campaign financing. “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 country. Southern Maine DSA is not a political party. The DSA welcomes members and endorses candidates of any party affiliation who share its mission to decrease the influence of money in politics so that ordinary citizens can participate in the many decisions that affect their lives.

*This press release has been update to reflect Zak’s membership status and the endorsement of National DSA.