FAQ

When does the DSSL meet?

We meet all the time! During the COVID-19 pandemic, DSSL has shifted fully to online meetings and events. The easiest way to see when we next meet is to look at the DSSL events page. DSSL has a monthly General Meeting that is meant to be the most informative and broad topic meeting of each month. We often discuss committee work, new business, and voting issues at the General Meeting.


Who runs the DSSL?

DSSL is run by its members! The DSSL elects members to handle internal organization and needs. Anyone in the DSSL can propose new actions or workgroups and direct resources towards building socialism in Utah. All issues are decided on democratically through elections and voting.


What issues are important to the DSSL?

As socialists, DSSL members understand the intersectionality of working class issues. We are just as much affected by feminist issues as we are by housing and ecological issues. If an issue affects the working class, the DSSL is committed to examining them through a socialist lens and providing a solution that protects the working class.


Is the DSSL open to Utahns who don’t live in Salt Lake City?

Yes! The DSSL is currently the only chapter of the DSA in Utah. Our committee and general meetings are always available online through services like Zoom, so no matter where you are you can organize with like minded people in your state! If there is a way the DSSL can be more inclusive to all Utahns, please contact the DSSL Coordinating Committee or an HGO with ideas and concerns!


What is the DSSL’s stance on racial discrimination?

We recognize that there can be no liberation if systemic racism exists. Democratic Socialism directly opposes forces of systemic racism and we know we must dismantle racism in order to build an equitable society for all. If there is a way the DSSL can be more inclusive to all Utahns, please contact the DSSL Coordinating Committee or an HGO with ideas and concerns!


Does the DSSL support LGBT+ causes?

Yes! Socialist recognize that there is no liberation if the working class is divided by archaic and hierarchical conceptions of gender and sex. Our organization strives to be an inclusive space made up of all working class Utahns that fights for LGBT+ causes from a socialist perspective. If there is a way the DSSL can be more inclusive to all Utahns, please contact the DSSL Coordinating Committee or an HGO with ideas and concerns!


Is the DSSL accessible to people with disabilities?

Yes! DSSL is an organization that fights for all working class issues. We are constantly trying to make our organization accessible to everyone and everybody. All meetings may be attended virtually through services like Zoom if any event can not be attended in person. If there is a way the DSSL can be more inclusive to all Utahns, please contact the DSSL Coordinating Committee or an HGO with ideas and concerns!


Is the DSSL for all ages?

Yes! DSSL is open to people of all ages. If you are a student attending a Utah school or university, you may form a YDSA chapter in addition to being a DSSL member! Click here for a list of chapters. If there is a way the DSSL can be more inclusive to all Utahns, please contact the DSSL Coordinating Committee or an HGO with ideas and concerns!


How will my membership dues be used?

The DSSL is a nonprofit organization. Our funding is drawn from membership dues and donations. All funding decisions are made democratically by the membership body through monthly votes. We only use funds to support chapter business, our various working groups, and to support working class causes within our community!


What is democratic socialism?

Democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives.

Democracy and socialism go hand in hand. All over the world, wherever the idea of democracy has taken root, the vision of socialism has taken root as well—everywhere but in the United States. Because of this, many false ideas about socialism have developed in the US.

Join DSA to further the cause of democratic socialism in your town and across the nation.


Doesn’t socialism mean that the government will own and run everything?

Democratic socialists do not want to create an all-powerful government bureaucracy. But we do not want big corporate bureaucracies to control our society either. Rather, we believe that social and economic decisions should be made by those whom they most affect.

Today, corporate executives who answer only to themselves and a few wealthy stockholders make basic economic decisions affecting millions of people. Resources are used to make money for capitalists rather than to meet human needs. We believe that the workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions should own and control them.

Social ownership could take many forms, such as worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Democratic socialists favor as much decentralization as possible. While the large concentrations of capital in industries such as energy and steel may necessitate some form of state ownership, many consumer-goods industries might be best run as cooperatives.

Democratic socialists have long rejected the belief that the whole economy should be centrally planned. While we believe that democratic planning can shape major social investments like mass transit, housing, and energy, market mechanisms are needed to determine the demand for many consumer goods.


Hasn’t socialism been discredited by the collapse of Communism in the USSR and Eastern Europe?

Socialists have been among the harshest critics of authoritarian Communist states. Just because their bureaucratic elites called them “socialist” did not make it so; they also called their regimes “democratic.” Democratic socialists always opposed the ruling party-states of those societies, just as we oppose the ruling classes of capitalist societies. We applaud the democratic revolutions that have transformed the former Communist bloc. However, the improvement of people’s lives requires real democracy without ethnic rivalries and/or new forms of authoritarianism. Democratic socialists will continue to play a key role in that struggle throughout the world.

Moreover, the fall of Communism should not blind us to injustices at home. We cannot allow all radicalism to be dismissed as “Communist.” That suppression of dissent and diversity undermines America’s ability to live up to its promise of equality of opportunity, not to mention the freedoms of speech and assembly.


Private corporations seem to be a permanent fixture in the US, so why work towards socialism?

In the short term we can’t eliminate private corporations, but we can bring them under greater democratic control. The government could use regulations and tax incentives to encourage companies to act in the public interest and outlaw destructive activities such as exporting jobs to low-wage countries and polluting our environment. Public pressure can also have a critical role to play in the struggle to hold corporations accountable. Most of all, socialists look to unions to make private business more accountable.


Won’t socialism be impractical because people will lose their incentive to work?

We don’t agree with the capitalist assumption that starvation or greed are the only reasons people work. People enjoy their work if it is meaningful and enhances their lives. They work out of a sense of responsibility to their community and society. Although a long-term goal of socialism is to eliminate all but the most enjoyable kinds of labor, we recognize that unappealing jobs will long remain. These tasks would be spread among as many people as possible rather than distributed on the basis of class, race, ethnicity, or gender, as they are under capitalism. And this undesirable work should be among the best, not the least, rewarded work within the economy. For now, the burden should be placed on the employer to make work desirable by raising wages, offering benefits and improving the work environment. In short, we believe that a combination of social, economic, and moral incentives will motivate people to work.


Why are there no models of democratic socialism?

Although no country has fully instituted democratic socialism, the socialist parties and labor movements of other countries have won many victories for their people. We can learn from the comprehensive welfare state maintained by the Swedes, from Canada’s national health care system, France’s nationwide childcare program, and Nicaragua’s literacy programs. Lastly, we can learn from efforts initiated right here in the US, such as the community health centers created by the government in the 1960s. They provided high quality family care, with community involvement in decision-making.


But hasn’t the European Social Democratic experiment failed?

Many northern European countries enjoy tremendous prosperity and relative economic equality thanks to the policies pursued by social democratic parties. These nations used their relative wealth to insure a high standard of living for their citizens—high wages, health care and subsidized education. Most importantly, social democratic parties supported strong labor movements that became central players in economic decision-making.

But with the globalization of capitalism, the old social democratic model becomes ever harder to maintain. Stiff competition from low-wage labor markets in developing countries and the constant fear that industry will move to avoid taxes and strong labor regulations has diminished (but not eliminated) the ability of nations to launch ambitious economic reform on their own. Social democratic reform must now happen at the international level. Multinational corporations must be brought under democratic controls, and workers’ organizing efforts must reach across borders.

Now, more than ever, socialism is an international movement. As socialists have always known, the welfare of working people in Finland or California depends largely on standards in Italy or Indonesia. As a result, we must work towards reforms that can withstand the power of multinationals and global banks, and we must fight for a world order that is not controlled by bankers and bosses.


Aren’t you a party that’s in competition with the Democratic Party for votes and support?

No, we are not a separate party. Like our friends and allies in the feminist, labor, civil rights, religious, and community organizing movements, many of us have been active in the Democratic Party. We work with those movements to strengthen the party’s left wing, represented by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

The process and structure of American elections seriously hurts third party efforts. Winner-take-all elections instead of proportional representation, rigorous party qualification requirements that vary from state to state, a presidential instead of a parliamentary system, and the two-party monopoly on political power have doomed third party efforts. We hope that at some point in the future, in coalition with our allies, an alternative national party will be viable. For now, we will continue to support progressives who have a real chance at winning elections, which usually means left-wing Democrats.


If I am going to devote time to politics, why shouldn’t I focus on something more immediate?

Although capitalism will be with us for a long time, reforms we win now—raising the minimum wage, securing a national health plan, and demanding passage of right-to-strike legislation—can bring us closer to socialism. Many democratic socialists actively work in the single-issue organizations that advocate for those reforms. We are visible in the reproductive freedom movement, the fight for student aid, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender organizations, anti-racist groups, and the labor movement.

It is precisely our socialist vision that informs and inspires our day-to-day activism for social justice. As socialists we bring a sense of the interdependence of all struggles for justice. No single-issue organization can truly challenge the capitalist system or adequately secure its particular demands. In fact, unless we are all collectively working to win a world without oppression, each fight for reforms will be disconnected, maybe even self-defeating.


What can young people do to move the US towards socialism?

Since the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s, young people have played a critical role in American politics. They have been a tremendous force for both political and cultural change in this country: in limiting the US’s options in the war in Vietnam, in forcing corporations to divest from the racist South African regime, in reforming universities, and in bringing issues of sexual orientation and gender discrimination to public attention. Though none of these struggles were fought by young people alone, they all featured youth as leaders in multi-generational progressive coalitions. Young people are needed in today’s struggles as well: for universal health care and stronger unions, against welfare cuts and predatory multinational corporations.

Schools, colleges and universities are important to American political culture. They are the places where ideas are formulated and policy discussed and developed. Being an active part of that discussion is a critical job for young socialists. We have to work hard to change people’s misconceptions about socialism, to broaden political debate, and to overcome many students’ lack of interest in engaging in political action. Off-campus, too, in our daily cultural lives, young people can be turning the tide against racism, sexism and homophobia, as well as the conservative myth of the virtue of “free” markets.

Join our student section, Young Democratic Socialists of America!


If so many people misunderstand socialism, why continue to use the word?

First, we call ourselves socialists because we are proud of what we are. Second, no matter what we call ourselves, conservatives will use it against us. Anti-socialism has been repeatedly used to attack reforms that shift power to working class people and away from corporate capital. In 1993, national health insurance was attacked as “socialized medicine” and defeated. Liberals are routinely denounced as socialists in order to discredit reform. Until we face, and beat, the stigma attached to the “S word,” politics in America will continue to be stifled and our options limited.

We also call ourselves socialists because we are proud of the traditions upon which we are based, of the heritage of the Socialist Party of Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas, and of other struggles for change that have made America more democratic and just. Finally, we call ourselves socialists to remind everyone that we have a vision of a better world.


*Answers to questions 10-20 taken from DSA national page


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