The Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) State Their Case
By Suresh Sathyendra Hanubal
In the wake of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Campaign for President in the Democratic primary and especially in the aftermath of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-NY) election to the United States Congress, Democratic Socialism is seeming to enjoy its moment in the sun. The DSA has seen a huge upsurge in support for its ideals and a sharp increase in membership over the past year. Even at Fordham, a Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) chapter was formed at the beginning of this semester.
On Apr. 11, 2019 I sat down with a member of the YDSA, Jack McClatchy, in order to find out more information on the organization and its beliefs straight from the source. Below is a list of questions I asked during this meeting and the YDSA’s (through intermediary McClatchy) response to them:
When did the YDSA chapter at Fordham begin?
The YDSA chapter at Fordham began this semester. It’s official Club Advisor is Annika Hinze, an associate professor in the school’s Political Science department. However, the club does not have official club status with the school as of yet, despite the fact that it submitted an application to OSI in late February/ early March. It was started by Jack Dailey, Gavin Ross, Luke DeMonico, and Hannah Truelson, all Rose Hill juniors.
What does the membership of the YDSA look like, is their significant diversity, be it racial, gender, sexual, etc… ?
There are about 15 active members of the YDSA, and they are mainly Rose Hill Juniors and Sophomores. There is a good mix of Male and Female members, however, 12 of the 15 members are white. Two are Hispanic, and one hails from Turkey. The organization recognizes that its membership is fairly homogeneous, and is working on that issue.
Why did your membership see the establishment of a YDSA chapter at this school as necessary, especially as there is already a College Democrats organization on campus? Most of the YDSA members saw the College Democrats as too moderate in its aims and goals. Jack specifically stated that he found the College Dems. “clintonian”. The membership of the club sees the YDSA as providing another option for left-leaning students and as widening dialogue on campus.
What are the aims of this specific chapter? What do you hope to accomplish at Fordham?
The YDSA chapter at this school aims to participate in various forms of student activism, educate students as to what Democratic Socialism is, and be a force for positive change. The group is working on a NarCan initiative, planning on publishing a literary magazine called “The Goose Quill” and is working with PRIDE alliance to offer an LGBT+ ILC in O’Hare hall.
You stated that you were working on a NarCan initiative, expand on what that entails?
This involves getting YDSA members and others certified with EMT training so that they can administer NarCan in cases of drug overdoses.
Speak to your “Goose Quill” initiative. Why is another publication necessary in a school that already boasts “The Fordham Ram” , “the paper” , “The Pamphlet” , “The Rival” etc… What new message will this publication bring that these other publications are not already stating?
The “Goose Quill” will bring an objectively socialist point of view that is not represented through the other publications listed. Jack further stated that it could be seen as a kind of leftist counterbalance to “The Pamphlet”.
Why did your group settle on the name “The Goose Quill”; it is rather unorthodox to say the least.
The name derives from the first student publication at Fordham, which was active in the 19th century. Through further research “the paper” found that the original “Goose Quill” was published under the pseudonym “Ham”. In addition, a Fordham Ram article from the mid-twentieth century described the original publication as “short lived and barely tolerated”
What will the organization of the “Goose Quill” look like and when will it be published?
The “Goose Quill” will be composed of student submissions and edited in a style similar to that of the socialist publication “Jacobin Magazine”. Jack specifically stated that they hope to publish a “French essay on the male gaze”. YDSA hopes to get the publication published by May 1st, a day important in the socialist movement due to its affiliation with the Haymarket affair; the aftermath of a bombing that took place at a labor demonstration on May 4, 1886, at Haymarket Square in Chicago .
Is it true that you call each other “comrade”?
To an extent, however we use it somewhat ironically. The usage is more in engaging with right wing criticism of the socialist movement.
What does a typical YDSA meeting look like?
There is a general discussion on the issues at hand (i.e Goose Quill, NarCan etc… ) and the discussion devolves into various working groups
What is a “working group” ?
It is when one member or more wants to focus on a specific topic area and work towards progress in that area. For example, some “working groups” include Medicare For All, LGBT+ activism etc…
I attended one of your meetings, and noticed that you passed around a tip jar to raise money. What is the purpose of this tip jar?
The “tip jar” you are referring to is used to raise money for purchasing activist materials. When the author of this piece attended a YDSA meeting the stated purpose of the “tip jar” at the time was to raise money “for enacting Medicare for All”.
How do you believe that the aims of the YDSA line up with Fordham’s Jesuit mission?
The Catholic Church has a long history of supporting social activism.
What do you have to say to critics who say that the YDSA represents “Champagne Socialism”( a phrase used to describe self-identified socialists, whose comfortable upper middle-class lifestyles are thought to contradict their political convictions; this is typified by their supposed consumption of the luxury drink Champagne. It is a popular epithet that implies a degree of hypocrisy)? These critics would say this is doubly true to your chapter, as Fordhams’ student body’s overall quite wealthy and as you stated your club is rather racially homogenous?
The YDSA chapter at Fordham is working on community outreach to all marginalized communities as stated. Mr. McClatchy could not point to a specific “working group” or initiative that addressed diversity or ethnic minorities. However, this could have been an oversight on his part.
What do you have to say to detractors of socialism who point to its numerous failures in the USSR, Venezuela, Cuba etc… . ?
Jack stated that the problem is the Marxist-Leninist strain of socialism and not the ideology overall. Specifically addressing the case of Cuba, he stated the education, health, and living standards within that country are quite good and in some ways better than those in The United States. McClatchy did not address the other two case studies brought up, the USSR and Venezuela. In conducting further research, the paper discovered that although education and healthcare is free within the island country, both have been described as providing as abysmal services to residents. In addition, Human Rights Watch has described the situation within the country as rife with the repression of dissidents .
When and where do meetings take place?
The location changes place every week but they take place every Thursday at 9:30 PM.
Disclaimer: Although I did engage in an interview with YDSA member Jack McClatchy, his responses and our questions did not occur in the manner as stated above. Both questions and his responses were edited for clarity. In addition, I am unaware as to whether or not Mr. McClatchy’s responses constitute his own views or the views of the YDSA organization overall. The author of this piece also attended one YDSA meeting in March of this year.