Making Socialist Resolutions:
An Activist’s New Year
by H. Bradford
New Year’s Eve is just around the corner, so I have spent the month doing an audit of my goals and hopes for 2016. While some socialists are known to make revolutions, I am prone to making resolutions. This year I tracked my goals in a small journal, which has provided me with a lot of data on how this year went. I had over 50 New Year’s Resolutions last year and completed around half of them. The goals I didn’t complete are probably more interesting and revealing than the ones that I did. One of the goals on the list was to attend 40 political events. I wrote that goal without any idea of how many events that I actually attend during the year. As of today, I am at over 75 events! Of course, life should be about quality over quantity. However, the number attests to how active I was during this year! With that said, here are some highlights of a year in activism.
- Socialism and a Slice: This is a once a month current event discussion group which meets at Pizza Luce to discuss news from an anti-capitalist perspective. There is a fun group of core people who have been attending. The group tends to focus on local events and the discussions have helped us coordinate and plan things as activists.
- Anti-Rape Protest: Take back the Park: This event was organized in response to a pro-rape meetup that was supposed to happen in Duluth. It is bizarre to think that there are men who actually believe that rape should be legalized and that rape is a legitimate activity within the privacy of their homes. It is scary! It is scary that they wanted to meet up! Dozens of people held a vigil on February 6th, 2016 at Leif Erickson Park to stand against rape and rape culture. It was awesome! To my knowledge, no pro-rape activists showed up.
- AFSCME Meetings/Steward Training: Since June I have been attending monthly AFSCME meetings. I am proud to be one of the 11% of workers who belong to a union. It is also great to connect with other people who are labor activists working in the nonprofit sector. Another highlight was that in November I attended a training to become a steward.
- Homeless Bill of Rights: I have attended some meetings and events as time permits. I was proud that I was able to contribute to the group by getting my union local 3558 to endorse the Homeless Bill of Rights. It is only one of two union locals who endorsed it. Though, the entire Central Labor body endorsed it. I also feel glad that I collected a few pages of signatures for the petition in support of the Homeless Bill of Rights. The City Council may vote on it in February, but the struggle will continue as we try to provide accessible bathrooms for the homeless community.
- Feminist Frolics: This is a new activity which is sponsored by the Twin Ports Women’s Rights Coalition. Once a month we host an outdoor activity combined with an educational presentation. A highlight was researching a feminist history of Halloween, then going on a spooky night time hike to an abandoned cemetery. The point of these events is to build community and raise feminist consciousness.
- Chalk for Choice: This was another new event that the TPWRC sponsored/participated in. This involved creating beautiful art and messages to support the women who work and use services at the Building for Women. We did a few Chalk for Choice events and look forward to doing more in the future.
- 40 Days of Choice: Each Friday during the 40 days of Life, the TPWRC organized two counter protests of the anti-choice vigil outside the building. One of the highlights of the 40 Days for Choice was wearing our Candy Land themed Halloween costumes on the final event. I made protest signs to match our costumes. Keep Abortion Safe, Legal, and Minty!
- Pride: There are some years that I don’t attend the local pride festival at all. This year I didn’t work so I had the opportunity to run in the Hummingbird 5k, table at the festival with Safe Haven, and walk in the pride parade with Grandmother’s for Peace. This made for a fun, vibrant, memorable Pride weekend!
- Radical Cheerleaders: Back in 2010, I organized a radical cheerleading group called the Rah Rah Revolutionaries. The group evaporated when I moved to Mankato for graduate school. This year, I revived the group on a modest scale. Hopefully, it can be a spring/summer project. The Rah Rah Revolutionaries are a modest ad hoc group, but we did contribute to Take Back the Night by welcoming people to the event with our cheers. We also did some cheers and chants at an anti-war picket on the anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. Finally, we appeared at one of the 40 Days of Choice events. It is fun to put on a cheerleading costume and do chants for reproductive rights or against war.
10.Pandemonium: Pandemonium was started up in October and meets once a month for “Bi with Pie.” I have wanted to be a part of a bi+ group for some time, since I think that bisexuality is not a very visible and legitimate sexuality in our society. One of the catalysts for creating the group was attending a vigil for the victims of the Orlando night club massacre last June. I was asked to be interviewed but felt shy because I didn’t feel like I was queer enough. I think that a bi group is important for bisexuals so that they can develop identity and community and better connect with the larger LGBTQ community.
11.Islamophobia Protest: What better way can a person spend Valentine’s Day than with a picket that shows love and support for the Muslim community. The event was organized by Break the Bonds (an Israel divestment group) and Kym Young after Superior Mayor, Bruce Hagen made disparaging remarks about Muslims.
- Hiroshima/Nagasaki Vigil: This event is organized each August by Veterans for Peace and Grandmothers for Peace. It was a beautiful event hosted at the Japanese garden at Enger Tower. This was my first year attending. Oddly enough, they were short on speakers so I was asked to speak (from a script). That was neat. Hiroshima/Nagasaki has always interested/concerned me. When I was in high school, I went to state for a speech on the topic of the atomic bombings. As a student in Korea, I went on a weekend adventure with some fellow students to Hiroshima. It is startling and horrific what our nation did to two civilian populations. Zombie movies have nothing on the grotesque reality of our militant foreign policy.
- Letters for Prisoners: I have only attended two meetings of this group, but wrote my first letters to prisoners. I wrote to Oscar Lopez Rivera and Leonard Peltier, but members of the group can write to any prisoner (famous or not). I wrote Rivera about a trip to Puerto Rico this spring and my impressions of it as a pseudo-colony. I wasn’t sure what to write because I am not very knowledgeable about the Puerto Rican independence movement. I wrote Leonard Peltier about a local picket that Socialist Action hosts on his birthday each year and some local Standing Rock actions that have happened (I have only attended a few Standing Rock events, so I just mentioned my impressions of those events).
- Social Events: Socialist Action hosts a few social events each year. This year we did a “commie con” themed Marxmas Party, which was attended by about 25 people. We also did a Fall of Capitalism Party in October, which included trivia, fall foods, and a visit from Karen Schraufnagel (Socialist Action’s Vice President Candidate). Our final social event was a Bolshevik Bonfire on Wisconsin Point.
- Speaking to a Class: I was invited to speak informally to a class at UMD about domestic violence and working at a shelter. It was a wonderful opportunity and made me feel like my experiences matter and that I have knowledge worth sharing.
This is just a sample from my list of 75 events. Since some of these groups or events happened more than once, it quickly added up to that total. Based upon the list, I would say that I am weak on my participation in racial justice and environmental issues. I have started to attend a few SURJ meetings, so perhaps that can help me become a better ally in the area of racial justice. As for the environment, I attended a documentary last night, but it was focused on marketizing carbon and buying electric cars to solve climate change (which isn’t the anti-capitalist solution I am looking for). As a whole, I am proud of my engagement. This stems from being a socialist. Once a person becomes anti-capitalist, it is hard to see issues in isolation. A person cannot fight sexism without also fighting racism, ableism, and classism. A person cannot promote the interests of workers at the expense of the environment or promote environmentalism without looking at how classism, racism, gender, and ability intersect with environmental issues. War is also an issue of feminism, class, race, and environment. Thus, I am not attending events for the sake of reaching a magical number, but trying to be engaged on many fronts in the war against capitalism. The numbers encourage me and make me feel proud for trying hard to be a “good” activist. Since activism is pretty thankless and misunderstood, I think it is okay to give myself a pat on the back for doing my best this year!