Artist Interview: lionheART

A brief interview with Bridgeport-based art collective lionheART.

by Mairead McElroy
DAVAUGHN (detail) – Porter Brando
24×48, 2021 @porterbrando

1) What is lionheART and how did it get started? 

lionheART Bridgeport is an art space in memory of grandparents Bonnie and Richard Bieder. lionheART holds monthly gallery openings, offers weekly painting sessions, and has an arts and social justice library.

2) What’s that art scene like in Connecticut? What’s good about it and what would you change if you could? 

Connecticut has a great local arts scene. Bridgeport in specific has a ton of creative, energetic artists who create a thriving arts community. I wish the state would make it easier to receive grant money! If we could get a grant or two it would make the undertaking much more sustainable long term.

Visions of the Sun – Juliana Harebin
30×40 oil & acrylic on canvas

3) Do you use art to talk about current events and issues? What issues do you think are most pressing for our local community to address?

 My art is apolitical but I am open to featuring other artists who make work that addresses current events and issues. I am most interested supporting BLM and public health safety in COVID days.

You Deserve To Cause A Scene
@agirlcalled672 Jessica Hughes
12×12 2020

4) Where do you want your work to take you and what impact to you want to have on the world? Any advice for aspiring artists?

I’d like my work to be respected and enjoyed by my peers, friends, and family. If it could be a source of some part-time income that’d be nice too. To aspiring artists, I’d say paint what makes you happy and be confident in your work! Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to others. Most of the contacts I’ve made have been by reaching out to other artists over Instagram.

Storm Rider – Jean Benoit @jean_benoit_arts 20×16

Stay up to date about what LionheART is doing though the following links:

Instagram: @lionheartct

Email: lionheartbpt@gmail.com

Facebook: lionheART Bridgeport

Website: lionheartct.com.

Landing On Our Feet: a CT DSA Year in Review

A retrospective on the 2021 efforts of DSA in Connecticut.

by Jason R.

SUMMARY

As the chapter’s secretary, it has been my privilege to record Central Connecticut DSA’s history in the form of hundreds of pages of general assembly, steering committee and working group notes. I believe that in the course of rebuilding and shaping the socialist movement here in the United States, it is incumbent on us as its drivers to also be its historians, for the sake of future socialist generations who would seek to learn from our successes, avoid our failures, and understand the material reasons for acting in the ways that we chose to. What follows is only my perspective, but I hope it can provide some insight into the collective process to which we all contribute.

PERSONAL GROUNDING

I joined DSA in late 2018 after the stunning victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s 14th. As a fellow working class person with a Bronx Puerto Rican side of the family, her upset victory against an incumbent Democrat motivated me to seek out my local Democratic Socialists of America chapter in Central Connecticut, through which I became a founding member of their Bridgeport branch. 

Since then, much has changed. I don’t need to tell anyone that 2020 was a hard, confusing year, but it was a uniquely tumultuous one for Democratic Socialists in Connecticut. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic saw our entire at-large leadership and most administrative officers resign at once, resulting in a near complete turnover of leadership and a loss of experienced organizers that our chapter is still recovering from to this day.

Facing the possibility of having only the two largely inexperienced Bridgeport branch representatives in office, I helped push organizers and members from across the chapter to run for the at-large steering and administrative positions. Along with four others, I was elected for the end of 2020 into the 2021 term. From our election that Summer to the end of the year, we threw ourselves in a dozen different directions, attempting to connect ourselves with the struggles we identified around us, from the pre-existing COVID mutual aid networks to the protests against police brutality and the looming eviction crisis. 

Although we saw some minor successes in these interventions, especially the formation of the Greater New Haven branch and the recruitment of new members, there were also frustrations with our lack of organizing structure and unified theory of change. Mutual aid work that was started with the intention of meeting needs and learning about communities became massive energy expenditures around logistics with little in the way of direct communication with recipients. Car caravans for “#CancelTheRents” to governor Lamont’s two mansions did not move him, and seemed to harden him against the demand. Despite promises like the deletion of the gang databases and the abandonment of ShotSpotter technology made after the Bridgeport Police Department protest encampment in June 2020, none were kept.

As socialists, we are not just in the fight to do good for good’s sake, or to fight losing battles for the sake of having fought them. Without a real plan to build power and win material changes in the lives of working class and oppressed people, any good we were capable of doing would be undone over time, if not as soon as we’d packed up for the day.

ENTERING 2021 & RIGHT TO COUNSEL

As we approached the new year, our chapter’s main area of member engagement was our DSA Housing Justice Project, which had, until that point, been focusing on internal political education at meetings and supporting the Cancel Rent CT coalition in its pressure campaign against governor Lamont. We had also, in early December of 2020, participated in our first eviction protest in my own home town of Stratford, a formative event that I look back on as our first steps towards a more coherent and unified conception of the organizing we wanted to accomplish.

There was a general consensus among the Housing Justice Project’s most involved layer of organizers around the idea of a campaign heading into the 2021 legislative session. Connecticut’s Democrats and governor would be searching for wins, an opening that we felt capable of exploiting.
The initial goal was simple: use the legislative session to push for a Right to Counsel for Evictions in Connecticut, a guaranteed right to a lawyer for any tenant dragged through the legal process by their landlord. We did not expect to win big; getting the bill considered on the floor of the CT General Assembly would have been sufficient. With this broad outline in hand, I set fingers to keyboard and drafted our Housing Justice Priority Resolution days before our December 2020 DSA General Assembly, and collected the necessary signatures. At the meeting it was passed 27 yes to 10 abstentions. 

What followed was a lightning round of a campaign, if I had ever seen one. We produced zines which made their way across the state, practiced our eviction protesting skills again in Hartford, organized over 70 testimonies for the CT General Assembly’s Housing Committee hearing, and my testimony on behalf of Bridgeport Mutual Aid earned me a harassing phone call from the head of a Connecticut landlord’s association. Through our efforts and those of our coalition, we collected more than a thousand signatures for our petition, and ultimately pushed legislators into adopting our Right to Counsel bill with only nominal changes (including a wetlands provision which I still do not understand!). 

Although we saw rapid success in moving our members into action like they had never been before, organizers were also aware how much our campaign relied on individual relationships with left-leaning (on this issue, at least) legislators like Reps. Brandon McGee and David Michel, who carried the bill on the legislature’s floor, as we lacked any DSA member legislators who could advance it themselves. 

The chapter’s Housing Justice Project would reform its internal structures, creating a more focused Tenant Organizing Committee (TOC) to facilitate the HJP’s more focused tenant canvassing going forward. My attention pivoted after May to the looming event on the horizon for all DSA chapters.

DSA’s AUGUST 2021 NATIONAL CONVENTION

With Central Connecticut DSA rapidly growing and developing its work to the point of considering a state-wide restructuring, I took initiative in pushing active members to run for delegates in both the Western and Central CT chapters. Both sent full slates to the convention united by a shared vision of strengthening our ties that had grown through the Housing Justice Project and other work. 

Although our state’s ten delegates across three chapters did not agree on everything, we took the effort to share deliberative spaces. The Central CT delegation held regular pre-convention meetings to discuss and debate the resolutions, amendments and the National Political Committee candidates we would be considering. Despite the fact our individual political backgrounds and minute beliefs may have had innumerable differences, we were united in our shared commitment to accurately representing the chapter’s politics, areas of work, and democratic decisions up to that point.

To that end, I encouraged our housing organizer delegates to communicate with authors of R20, “Class Power on the Housing Terrain,” as the resolution most closely aligned with our nascent tenant organizing work. Our delegation and Central CT DSA’s Housing Justice Project’s core organizers were skeptical of language around creating a “legal aid wing” of DSA’s national Housing Justice Commission. After a series of discussions with authors were moved to support the intent of the resolution and offer amended language to improve that section. Unfortunately, it was too late in the Convention process to submit it to the floor for consideration.

Despite the fact that R20 failed to pass at convention, we believe that the trajectory of housing and tenant organizing in DSA and the wider socialist movement is heading towards a base building strategy for constructing independent, working-class structures connected to each other and the wider movement for socialism (as we discussed in our chapter’s socialist night school on Swedish tenant unions, cosponsored by DSA’s Housing Justice Commission and the Autonomous Tenants Union Network). The passage of R21, the proposal authored by the Housing Justice Commission’s first (and outgoing) leadership, will ensure that these debates continue to take prominence in DSA as we experiment and reorient ourselves around the fertile organizing terrain of housing in the United States. I look forward to Central Connecticut DSA contributing to and leading in those discussions.

One area that saw movement among our delegation was around the question of R32, “Strengthening YDSA,” which was removed from the consent agenda on the first day of voting and subsequently debated and defeated on the floor. As one of our delegates, Bryan C, a 2021 YDSA Convention delegate argued, the request for up to 1/5th of DSA’s operating budget being reserved for our youth wing was far too much power to centralize within a relatively small subsection of our organization. While our delegation was largely in agreement with the intent behind the proposal, the cost estimate was ultimately too large for the realistically small material impact it would have had on our mission to organize the wider working class, which does not lay dormant in university halls, but in our workplaces, our apartment blocks and the streets. 

Another two major issues at the 2021 convention also saw debate among our delegation – electoral independence from the Democratic Party and the question of socialist internationalism and DSA’s International Committee work. While agreeing in principle with the explicit independence from the Democratic Party that was argued for in other resolutions, our delegation unanimously supported the majority proposal of the National Electoral Committee, R8, “Towards a Mass Party in the United States.” It was our shared belief that DSA’s nascent forays into the electoral arena must be rooted in our organizational independence from the capitalist Democrats, but that it would ultimately be a wasted opportunity to not contest Democratic primaries where it is possible to win them. Class independence does not flow from a separate ballot line for an independent workers party. It flows from the intentionally built and developed socialist politics of our organization, which necessitates working-class independence to truly function as anything more than a political club, and which I believe we are implementing across our organization’s myriad campaigns and projects through trial and (many, many) errors. 

On internationalism, our Central CT DSA delegation was largely uniform in supporting R14, “Commitment to International Solidarity,” due to the widespread support it had from DSA members as the baseline of our socialist internationalism. I look forward to the success of DSA’s International Committee in 2021 continuing into 2022, so that we may have even more meaningful (if equally fraught and tense) debates on DSA’s role in the struggle against global capitalism.

As the convention closed, 1300 delegates submitted ballots to elect our next National Political Committee, the highest decision-making body in DSA outside of the biennial conventions. Our delegation’s focus was primarily on the resolution and bylaw amendments, and as such were afforded little time to discuss the candidates in depth. As I argued in my essay, “Tending Roses: the Case for Re-Electing Incumbents to DSAs NPC,” it was and is my belief that continuity of leadership is vital for the continued growth of DSA as the largest socialist organization in the US. Although I have several political differences with the four candidates I endorsed: Jen McKinney from Eugene, Oregon, Jen Bolen (Jenbo) from San Francisco, Austin Gonzalez from Richmond, Virginia, and Justin Charles from New York City, I view their leadership in their chapters and in our national organization as key elements to our growth towards one hundred thousand members, not for their individual qualities, but for their ability to inspire leadership in others through their organizing and administrative efforts.

Ultimately I am proud that our entire delegation ranked Jen McKinney as #1 on our ballots. She is a tireless organizer who, in her role as the NPC chair at the end of the last term, shepherded us through a tense convention season and numerous political landmines and crises, from hurricanes to abortion bans. I am also happy to have ranked highly the non-incumbent Kara Hall from Las Vegas, who as a chapter leader spoke with Central CT DSA’s steering and electoral committees about the successes and failures of her chapter’s work in Nevada. 

As the new NPC begins the first full year of its term, I believe that it is incumbent upon them to not only step fully in to their roles as political leaders in our organization, interpreting and refining our shared points of unity as determined by past conventions, but also to take on the organizing roles as well. Chapters now more than ever are reaching a point at which coordination from national DSA is not merely an optional add-on, but a vital component of creating a unified struggle against capitalism that breaks localized barriers. I hope to see each of them, even the ones I left off my ballot entirely, take on the challenge of leaving their personal or factional politics by the wayside to embrace the messy, in motion and work-in-progress politics of our rapidly maturing national organization.

BACK ON THE GROUND: CLOSING THOUGHTS

As the convention ended and delegates “returned” to their chapters (as much as one could “return” from a virtual convention), I took the opportunity to step back and reassess my contributions to DSA in Connecticut thus far, and the work of my chapter as a whole. Since entering leadership in the summer of 2020, I had thrown my energy in a thousand different directions, hoping to find the special area of work that was ripe for socialists to recruit from and build off of. From my work with Bridgeport Mutual Aid in the immediate aftermath of the first COVID lockdowns to our struggles against the Bridgeport Police Department in June of 2020, I found that what was lacking was not passion nor principle, but the basic organizing skills which are a fundamental necessity to a successful political project of any kind.

What was missing was how to build and maintain lists, how to have a structured one-on-one conversation which moves a person from inaction to action, how to delegate work democratically but efficiently, how to assess and analyze conditions and the campaigns proposed around them, and so much more that is left unsaid in amateur organizing spaces. Without these skills, the passionate efforts of new socialists will largely be wasted on well-meaning endeavors that apply only half-cures (if even that, as the Bridgeport Police Department protest’s demands were quickly agreed to but never implemented) to individual symptoms of capitalism, rather than contributing towards a strategy to upend the capitalist system altogether.

 I have heard rumors and whispers that the mass resignation of our former leadership at the start of the pandemic resulted in “all the good organizers leaving.” While I imagine that my reasons are different from the source of those complaints, I can’t help but agree. Losing out on our most experienced organizing cadre, with decades of experience between them from labor organizing to electoral politics to street demonstration, was undoubtedly our greatest catastrophe in recent memory, and in many ways, all of our work in rebuilding the chapter and its branches has been in reaction to that event. It has only been our recruitment and development of dedicated socialist organizers, and their willingness to share their knowledge as freely as is possible, that has kept our chapter going through our internal leadership crisis and the constant whirlwind of the United States’s slow motion decline. 

With that in mind, my return to the chapter started with dedicating my time to the organization’s two most active areas of work, to better learn from the organizers involved in our most successful projects and to root myself in what our membership chose as our priorities. I canvassed for our Housing Justice Project’s tenant organizing campaign and in Hamden’s elections for our victorious democratic socialist slate, which saw some of our largest turnout ever for our JAMboree canvassing event. These campaigns, both building on past successes and failures in our chapter, are proof positive to me that the ingredients for a truly new socialist movement can be found where passion meets good practice.

As we exit the first quarter of the new year, 2022, I am filled with hope. Never in my life have I participated in something as meaningful as the Democratic Socialists of America, and it is my daily honor to struggle alongside each and every fellow member as we work to build a new world from the ashes of the old. There will be many failures and much frustration on our path towards liberation, but I take solace in knowing that, to quote abolitionist author and organizer Mariame Kaba, “nothing that we do that is worthwhile is done alone.” Being in DSA means never being the only socialist in town. The next comrade is only one door knock away.

Jason R is on the at-large steering committee of Central Connecticut DSA, where he serves as secretary.

Image credits: the Central CT DSA delegation to DSAs 2021 National Convention.

[to join DSA: https://www.dsausa.org/join

Hitting the Bricks: Thoughts From a New Canvasser

One socialist’s impressions on canvassing and the ongoing challenges facing renters in Connecticut.

by Kate W. Taussig

My first day canvassing for tenants’ rights was a cold, but clear, one. My fellow canvassers and I were bundled up in thick sweaters, corduroy jackets, and winter coats. The sun was so bright that I wore the sunglasses I reserve for driving and hiking, though they fogged up quickly atop my mask. I didn’t care. I was a new socialist, and an even newer canvasser, and a little discomfort was more than a worthy price to try and empower people.

 The lead organizer, Jason, took me and another newbie under his wing for our first ever canvass. Some people were eager to talk to us. We heard about pests, mold, broken heaters, water damage, and a whole host of other things too varied and numerous to name. Some people didn’t want to talk to us at all. I could tell that some were bothered by the disturbance on their Saturday. Some claimed they had no problems at all, then halfheartedly mentioned seeing roaches or mice. One difficulty we had was the number of people with whom we simply could not communicate. We encountered more than a few people who spoke exactly enough English to tell us that they spoke no English at all.

 By the second time I canvassed, I was still greener than springtime, but Jason trusted me to show someone else the ropes. I’ve always been a champion talker, and I love people, so I took it in stride to train someone else. That day sticks in my mind, because we literally walked uphill in the snow. We couldn’t get into most of the buildings, and by the time we found an unlocked entrance, my hands, thighs, and nose were numb with cold. I could barely feel the rap of my knuckles against the doors we tried. On that particular day, only one person was willing to talk to us and give a name and a number for us to call. Many of the problems he listed off, malfunctioning heater, barely working toilet, and too few washing machines, struck me with how important and basic they were. Comfortable home, decent plumbing, and clean clothes are not luxuries, yet his landlord did not care to provide them. Throughout the exchange, he kept mentioning his rent, and how he didn’t want to rock the boat. It was so hard to find a decent place for such a low price. Except, it wasn’t a decent place, not without all the functioning things all people are legally and morally entitled to!

 In the short time I’ve been canvassing, I’ve heard so many of these stories. People claim everything’s fine, they’re happy, and the landlord has never bothered them. Often, with a little gentle nudging, the details come out. People have learned to live in certain conditions, because it could always be worse. I was astonished at the number of landlords who simply don’t fix things. We talked to one woman who had been without heat for a week. She had young children in her home, and the landlord knew she had no heat in freezing temperatures. Nothing had been done. She had called and e-mailed multiple times. She had been promised space heaters which were never delivered. Even if they had been, she would have been expected to pay for their use herself. We spoke to her on a Saturday. No one was working in the office on the weekend, so she would have to wait until Monday to try and contact her landlord again. Until then, she and her family would just have to be cold.

None of the stories I’ve shared surprise me, though they do sadden me. I am a very lucky person. I am not, nor have I ever been, housing insecure. I can afford the rising rent. I have somewhere warm, safe, and well maintained to go if I get evicted. This is the real reason why I canvass. Having a place to lay my head and have a warm meal is considered a luxury. And yet, there are people who own properties by the armful, while so many more can’t even afford to own one place to keep the rain off their heads.

Before I became an official dues paying socialist, I didn’t know what I could do about any of this. I tried my best to help those around me, but I am only one person. One person alone can never do enough. Two people, however, can do something. Ten people can do even more. A whole group dedicated to organizing people for housing justice? That’s a lot of power.

Now, I spend my Saturdays going from apartment to apartment letting people know there’s a whole organization that is both able and willing to empower others. I know I’m in the right spot when I pull up and see Jason’s bright, red DSA hat, a whole bunch of carefully folded orange leaflets, and all the open, honest faces of those who feel the same way I do.

To get involved in canvassing for housing justice in Connecticut, contact us at CTtenantsunion@gmail.com, or join your local Democratic Socialists of America at https://www.dsausa.org 

Kate is a writer, socialist, and avid collector of hobbies. Most Wednesday nights, you can find her running The Written Word, a writing group based out of Milford, CT. More recently, she has begun writing and editing for Garnet Oak Mag, a socialist publication. When not writing, she loom knits, hike at a meandering pace, and drink as much coffee as the human body can unreasonably hold.

Tenant Organizing and the Path to Power: A Personal Reflection on Socialist Organizing in 2021

Building a socialist mass movement depends on understanding our theory of change and critically reflecting on our successes and failures in its pursuit. With this in mind, we reflect on the 2021 tenant union building efforts in Central CT.

by Joe H.

As socialists and Marxists, we have an obligation to record and reflect on our work. Doing so in writing gives us a space to work through the problems we’ve encountered, analyze them, and synthesize conclusions that are useful for moving forward. Perhaps more importantly, it creates a record for future socialists to learn from our successes and failures so that organizing can be more efficient, following the paths that lead to success and avoiding the ones that lead to failure. In that spirit, I’d like to reflect on the collective work that I was a part of in DSA in 2021. Most of this work has been as a part of Central Connecticut DSA’s (CCTDSA) Housing Justice Project (HJP), where we are hard at work to organize tenant unions across the state.

Personal organizing experience and early 2021

I moved to Connecticut in June 2021 after having spent the last few years organizing in DSA and bumping around the Northeast. I spent a few years in Boston DSA, where I worked on various ecosocialist and electoral efforts. From roughly the start of Covid onward, I lived on the New Hampshire and Vermont border and organized as a part of the Upper Valley DSA. My time in the Upper Valley, which stretched into May of this year, was very politically instructive. We worked on a failed initiative to defund the police department in Lebanon, NH. After power mapping local political structures and hundreds of canvassing conversations, we employed a variety of liberal-leaning advocacy techniques (petitions, official proposals, etc.) to reallocate funds from the police to social services.

The failure of our proposed reallocations led to a pivot in organizational strategy. We knew that it was not enough to work within the legislative apparatus. If we wanted to make real change, it would depend on building an agitated base capable of fighting together. From January through April of 2021 UVDSA ran “The People’s Table” where we handed out food and supplies, mostly at hotels in Vermont that were being paid by the state to shelter unhoused people during the winter. Our goal was to use mutual aid to help alleviate the harms of capitalism and build a new political base for our work. We supplemented this work with readings on base-building theory. One article that was of particular influence on me was “Malcolm X Didn’t Dish out Free Bean Pies” which critiques a common configuration of mutual aid politics on the modern left, one that essentially functions as a less-efficient charity or NGO. Too often mutual aid is stripped of its political potential and becomes service-oriented. As the article points out:

The logic behind social-work-as-revolutionary-organizing goes something like this: The masses have real survival needs (food, clothing, housing, etc.). The capitalist-imperialist system, especially with austerity measures and crises, fails to meet those needs. If us revolutionaries meet those needs, the masses will come to trust us and look to us for leadership, especially as crises get sharper and immiseration grows more acute. Since we’ve proven we care about them and shown that we can meet their needs while the system can’t, they’ll join the revolution….

Building a relationship with the masses premised on “we can meet your needs better than the bourgeoisie can” sets up a different form of the same old bourgeois paternalism that has long guided charities.

The critique was evidently applicable to our mutual aid work. It quickly became obvious that we were addressing symptoms of a larger housing problem, not building a movement capable of solving the problem itself. Arguably the most important aspect of our tabling work was social investigation into the housing conditions in New Hampshire and Vermont, learning from people experiencing the violence of the state. Our lack of skill in adequately politicizing the work, as well as the precarity of their situation, made the folks that we were interacting with hard to organize into a political base. As Bronx housing organizer Lisa Ortega said, “people begin to organize more once they have a place to lay their head.”

A Theory of Change

Out of this mutual aid experience came many questions, but two questions  in particular had a profound influence on my work for the rest of the year: (1) what group is in position to be ideologically agitated to fight for socialism and is capable, as a force, of winning it? and (2) what type of political work can be done to reach and agitate those people? Hearing about the growing successes within the tenant movement (in a moment of rupture in the public consciousness created by the eviction moratorium) suggested one possible answer to those two questions. Tenants, due to their structural relation to capital and social production, have the potential to be a revolutionary group (the other, historically emphasized by Marxists is, of course, labor). While labor perhaps has more leverage over capital due to its strategic position in the point of production, tenant organizing is promising because it is another large base for radical organizing in a country where the barriers to labor organizing are often quite high. From this vantage point, agitating for tenant unions is a type of work capable of producing politicized subjects capable of fighting for and helping win socialism.

The framing of “winning socialism” is an essential one. If capitalism is the primary source of housing injustice, then fixing this injustice doesn’t hinge on housing advocacy, it hinges on ending capitalism. If injustice is profitable, be it in housing, energy production, or healthcare, we can only begin to construct a just system by destroying the system that leads to injustice. Only by breaking down the old can we open the space to pursue truly equitable possibilities. We cannot achieve justice by legislating what should be, because the current legislative mechanisms are a means by which capitalism protects itself. Instead, it is crucial that we focus our energy on removing the obstacles that prevent what should be from becoming a reality. To begin the process of justice, we need to build socialism. Tenant and labor organizing are the path towards socialism, precisely because they produce, through the experience of struggle, the political body with both the material interest and the means (in numbers, ideological attitude, knowledge) to remove the obstacles of capital such that a world constructed around use-value, not profit, can flourish.

Organizing in Hartford

In June, I moved to West Hartford and joined CCTDSA. Fortuitously, Right-to-Counsel was passed and the desire to ramp up tenant organizing was already underway. I was able to join and get immediately involved. Judy and Sarah were critical to my onboarding. Judy reached out to me when I mentioned my interest in housing on the CCTDSA orientation call, and Sarah and Dahlia followed up for a meeting in Hartford to get to know me and introduce HJP’s work. Without their relationship building efforts, I would not be as involved as I am now. One of the strongest lessons that I’ve learned this year has been the importance of relationship building and creating an organizational culture that encourages and facilitates building relationships. I’ve seen firsthand how one-on-one discussions agitate us to do work and keep us accountable to each other.

One of the first tasks assigned to me was to attend a tenant “deep canvassing” event in New Haven with the goal of understanding the tactic and bringing the model back to Hartford. From my observations, this “train-and-expand” model has been effective. We continually draw new organizers to canvasses and build their skills. New organizers learn how to solve problems, run a canvass, and can take what they’ve learned to other parts of the state. This model plants the seeds of struggle in new locales and creates accountability without rigid hierarchy, refines shared ideological commitments through practice, and builds problem-solving networks. The model has worked for us in New Haven and Hartford and is expanding to Bridgeport and Middletown!

The DSA deep canvassing project as originally conceived had four goals: 

  1. to grow organizing skills and capacity by having a concrete project
  2. to engage in social investigation of housing conditions in different cities
  3. to build tenant unions
  4. to create a base to defend Right to Counsel and agitate for other statewide reforms

The first Hartford canvassing date was Tuesday, September 14th which means that we’ve been canvassing for about six months. We identified some of the worst landlords in the city and learned how they operate. We logged 200+ tenant interactions at 25+ buildings. We agitated enough tenants that building unions became a natural next step. To that end, we turned out around 14 Hartford tenants to our first Connecticut Tenants Union (CTTU) meeting in December to discuss the process of unionization. Out of these interactions there are at least 5 promising leads for building unions. While these leads are promising, aside from an existing union at a CT DSA member’s building, we have not yet had success in establishing new unions from our canvassing efforts in Hartford.

One reason we don’t yet have a union is that, frankly, it was not our immediate focus. We focused on building organizer skills and capacity, and wanted to be selective with our unionization efforts, choosing the buildings that were in the best position to be organized. However, from November onwards, we made attempts to organize the most promising of canvassed buildings and have not yet succeeded. Some of our mistakes:

  1. A lack of leadership development among our canvassers. When we divided up our canvassed buildings and assigned them to canvassers to follow-up with tenants, we hadn’t prepared them properly for the work of building a union. Even the leadership layer of CTTU is new to this process! While we did a great job training people on how to canvass, we underemphasized both general organizing skills and the theoretical aspects of political education necessary to assist tenants in building unions. It’s important to remember that a strong understanding of socialism and housing politics makes all other aspects of our organizing easier. When you understand the political orientation and ideological underpinnings of the work, agitating tenants, answering their questions, and building movement-oriented unions becomes easier.
  2. Miscommunication and a lack of structure tests. For example, at Building A, our initial meetings with tenants were clunky. We didn’t do a good job calling tenants to confirm dates (always call the day before or the morning of!) and people flaked. Too many calls and texts didn’t have a specific ask. We both failed to develop a set of concrete steps to give to tenants interested in unionizing, as well as to develop their leadership potential.
  3. Working with DSA organizing tools. At Building A we failed to get creative about what processes and tools might work best for tenants. Our work in buildings will probably look different than the Signal chats, Zoom calls, and rigid Google Doc agendas that dominate CCTDSA’s internal organizing. We need to ask tenants what works best for communicating and iterating quickly so that we can seize momentum while it’s there. We shouldn’t be afraid to try new tools. Both “technical tools” (Signal, Zoom, GDocs) and “process tools” (meeting structures, communication hierarchies, political education), should fit the context and needs of a building. A concrete example: texting is slow and messy, Signal is too complicated, but lots of folks at some of our buildings use WhatsApp. Why not try using it? One thing to think about on this point is how we can teach flexibility and build a culture of flexibility without becoming disorganized. Perhaps we can lean on our newly developed organizing tree to keep a diversity of tactics under strategic alignment.
  4. Letting tenants come to us. There are already agitated tenants interested in unionizing and it’s worth increasing our propaganda efforts (social media, flyering, etc.) to find them. Canvassing is a great project for social investigation, skill development, agitating tenants, and finding leads. It is also, oftentimes, slow. Political agitation takes time and connecting with those that are already agitated will allow us to grow our movement more quickly.

Despite some mistakes, I don’t think we lost energy we can’t get back through proper follow-up and agitation. There is no shortage of tenants that would benefit from a union. I look forward to correcting our mistakes and building our first tenant unions here in Hartford. It is my hope that building our first unions will allow others to spring up quickly as we learn to better deploy successful tactics at new buildings and harness the momentum created by winning.

Horizons and Challenges

Deep canvassing has given us an ongoing organizing project that is capable of training new socialist organizers and building our understanding of the city. We need to continue to strengthen and expand our organizing cadre and establish unions engaged in active struggle. In order for these unions to grow in power, we will need to establish solidarity between them, especially in instances of a shared landlord. CTTU gives us a space to network these unions and connect them in struggle. Should we be successful in doing that, interesting new horizons begin to present themselves. First and foremost is using such a movement to push for social housing at the city or state level. Another possibility is the establishment of “truly mutual” mutual aid. Whether it’s food delivery, car sharing, healthcare clinics, or child watch programs, we should not shy away from experimenting with prefigurative politics and possible paths towards dual power to build a political body capable of dismantling other types of social injustice. Similarly, we should always be seeking out ways to connect housing struggles to intersecting labor struggles, immigrant rights movements, and abolitionist work.

As we look to grow our organizing, we also need to recognize potential pitfalls and safeguard against them. From my perspective, the largest risk to our work is the bifurcation between “DSA organizers” and building-level organizers. We should take care to erase this distinction both in the interest of being equitable and in the interest of winning. It is imperative that we bring our tenants into the socialist cause and begin removing artificial distinctions between the organizing and the organized. It’s not enough to preach a commitment to this. We must learn from others’ failures and experiment with fruitful strategies from those that have succeeded in sublimating socioeconomic and cultural divides into a self-aware unity of class-consciousness. Doing this depends on being honest in self-criticism of our subjective observations, as well as using quantitative metrics, to make sure that we are building diverse leadership capable of waging the struggle against capital.

There are also pressing tactical questions. How do we better develop leaders to improve democracy and reduce burnout? How do we maintain unity and momentum during both good times and bad? How do we engage in productive coalition-building while safeguarding against non-profit infiltration and “reformist reforms?” And there is the pressing threat of security. What skills do we need to defend ourselves against landlords, reactionaries, and the state with its power to evict?

Conclusion

I am awed by the work done in Central Connecticut’s HJP this year. I am especially thankful to the canvassers that sacrificed evenings and Saturdays in the interest of waging class struggle and fighting for justice in housing. Tenant organizing has been the most rewarding organizing experience of my life and in it I see the massive potential to build anti-racist, feminist, working-class power. To my comrades in the Upper Valley, I also extend heartfelt gratitude. Our learning and countless late-night discussions provided a critical foundation for the work I am helping to carry out here in Connecticut. I have been lucky to learn from and work with an amazing group of comrades across many chapters of DSA. In struggling with you all, I have found in myself a level of discipline and commitment that I didn’t know was there. The opportunities with this work are not boundless, being subject to the same cruel laws of material circumstance as everything else, but I couldn’t be more excited to see how the possibilities unfold.

Solidarity forever!

Joe H is an organizer with Connecticut DSA’s Housing Justice Project and serves on the steering committee representing the Hartford branch.

Image credit: Construction by Gustavs Klucis

Private Developer Seeks to Further Gentrify New Britain

A luxury apartment building is in the works in downtown New Britain. Local government and media present this as a good thing that will improve the community, but the fact is this is just further gentrification of a city home to many poor people.

by Princess Patoine

It’s no secret that society hates poor people. We are ignored, pushed aside, mocked, and driven out of our communities to free space for wealthier individuals. Time and time again impoverished cities and towns are given a “make-over” under the guise of trying to improve life for residents, but the truth is that these changes are made to attract wealthy (mostly white) people. 

Avner Krohn speaking at the groundbreaking.

At a groundbreaking ceremony in downtown New Britain on Tuesday, October 5, 2021, chairman and CEO of Jasko Development, Avner Krohn, unveiled his plans to build a lavish apartment building that will stretch up Main Street and along Bank Street. The building—tragically dubbed “The Brit”—contains six stories, over 100 apartment units, and is set to cost between 15 to 20 million dollars. According to the Hartford Courant, it will be marketed to young tenants who are seeking “amenities and flair”. These amenities include a first-floor restaurant with outdoor seating, further outdoor dining space along the edges of the building, a 5,000-square-foot open-air courtyard with space for tenants to grill and have picnics, and a 5th floor terrace. Krohn says that the CTfastrak located nearby will aid in attracting tenants, and envisions most of them being 20 to 30-year-olds “seeking homes with a sense of community and energy”.

Downtown District Executive Director Gerry Amodio said, “This project will ultimately produce over $2 million in taxes and local spending per year because everybody who lives in this building will spend about 40 percent of their disposable income within a mile to two miles.” As a lifelong resident of New Britain, my first thought is: Who can afford this? Who has that much disposable income in a city with a poverty rate around 21.7%? The answer to that is wealthier, and most likely white, folk who either hear about “The Brit”, or catch a glimpse of the ostentatious building while passing through. These people are the target audience, not the mostly poor people who live here and are struggling just to make ends meet. Not families, like mine, who rely on food stamps and Section Eight to remain housed and fed. No, this isn’t for people like us. This isn’t about the community. This is about money, and “cleaning up” the city of the impoverished. This is gentrification.

Avner Krohn and New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart.

Unsurprisingly, Mayor Erin Stewart—who works closely with Krohn—fully supports this project. In the Hartford Courant she states Jasko is the kind of developer the city wants to work with, since they’ve been active in the city for 15 years and have a track record of quality projects. She went on to say, “Developers come and go, they buy properties, they sell them five years later, they make their money and leave. There’s something to be said for someone who genuinely cares about a community and chooses to stay there.” The problem with this is developers like Jasko don’t care about the community, just the money they can make from it. They keep coming back because city officials keep wanting to build and reconstruct buildings, not because they want to help the residents out.

Jasko Development is a privately-owned real estate company based in downtown New Britain. According to their website they are “focused on developing, owning, and managing a diverse portfolio of properties throughout the Northeast”. They also claim to be “trailblazers in the development of build-to-suit retail, turnkey healthcare, multifamily, commercial and historic/mixed-use facilities”. They have worked on a number of projects in Connecticut and New York, where CEO Avner Krohn lives. Another article from the Hartford Courant states that Krohn has no relatives or family business in CT, and still resides in Long Island. He says he spends more time here than he does at home. One could interpret this as him being passionate about his work and helping out communities, but simply scratch the surface, and that façade starts to fall away.

Krohn’s bio on the Jasko website says that he has a track record of civic engagement, having “[served] many years on downtown development boards and streetscape committees”. “Civic engagement” here is used to mean “community involvement”, however it really means “government involvement”. A developer serving on a zoning board or any government entity that decides what gets built where, is a huge conflict of interest.

It also says he “[advised] municipal officials of the benefits and logistics of Tax Increment Financing”. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is, to put it simply, a tool local governments use to finance qualifying developments or redevelopments using taxpayer money. This often leads to increases in real-estate value, which causes the cost of living to go up, and makes it so people in the “project area” can’t afford to live there anymore and are forced to relocate. This creates opportunity for more gentrification, more displacement, and the cycle repeats. To make matters even worse, legally, if the local government wanted to, they could claim that certain buildings don’t fit within the development plan. They could then evict residents and condemn their homes, as was the case with Kelo v. City of New London. Construction of “The Brit” is being paid for using TIF, as authorized by Mayor Erin Stewart on behalf of the city.

In the Hartford Courant article mentioned above, it’s stated that Krohn is “serious about making [his projects] profitable”. He himself says, “I’m numbers-driven, too. As many times as towns have great ideas, if the economics don’t work then they don’t work.” He continues, “As much as I have a vision and a plan, I always start with the numbers.” The article goes on to say that when a community hesitates, he walks away.

As of November 2021, Krohn’s plan is to finish “The Brit” by fall 2022 and to build 400 more buildings and 20,000 square feet of retail space within the next 36 to 48 months. He says, “Right now we’re in development or pre-development for over 700 units. I wouldn’t be surprised if in eight weeks from now that gets up to 1,000. It’s not wild or eccentric. I know exactly what we’re doing, what we’re building, why we’re doing it.” 

What they’re doing is attempting to completely recreate the city. The Hartford Business Journal quotes Krohn: “We’re looking at it as a blank canvas and we’re saying, ‘How do we create the new New Britain?’ I’m thinking about, ‘How do I make this city a better place?’ Mayor Stewart and city officials understand it’s a long-term vision. As a developer, you want to piggyback on the fact that you have a mayor and officials who understand your vision.” Apparently, his idea of making the city a better place includes building a grossly expensive apartment complex to bring in wealthy outsiders, paying for it with taxpayer money, and raising property taxes. All the while having the mayor and other city officials in his back pocket, patting him on the back and enabling him with his “vision” to essentially take over most of the city.

He claims to care about the communities he occupies, but his actions and his own words prove otherwise. What have Jasko and Avner Krohn done for New Britain—or any other community—out of the kindness of their hearts? What have they done other than help gentrify poor cities and line their pockets? This “urban oasis”, as Krohn called it, is just another cash grab and attempt to drive out what people like him consider to be the “real” eyesores: poor people.

I am not an expert on this topic, I am simply a New Britain resident, and tenant, speaking out about the construction of this unnecessary and disgustingly overpriced apartment building. I do not know how to prevent this from happening, but I do know we need to push back. A great start to this would be to talk to people within the community and have them address their issues and concerns with this project. A group has more influence than an individual. Maybe have meetings every week to discuss your next moves, or, if possible, join a tenant’s union. Another good idea is to reach out to our elected officials like Mayor Erin Stewart and demand that a certain amount of units in these new buildings (or even whole buildings themselves) be used for affordable housing or encourage them to support community land trusts. This is not an exhaustive list, but should these steps be taken, we could get the ball rolling on ensuring that these new buildings will be useful to the existing residents of New Britain. 

We as a community should not let our officials and wealthy outsiders steamroll us. This is our city, our home, and if we don’t nip this in the bud eventually we will be drained of what little money most of us have, and displaced. Maybe not next year, maybe not in the next five years, but if things keep going the way they are it will happen sooner than we think and we’ll be blindsided. Let’s take back our power, take back our city.

Solidarity.

CT First in Country to Pass Baby Bond Program

 In July 2021, Connecticut became the first state in the country to pass a statewide baby bond program. It has many strings attached but is ultimately a step forward.

by Mick Theebs

It is a rare thing for Connecticut to blaze the trail. Even in “progressive” New England, Connecticut has long been one of the most conservative of the blue states due in no small part to our home being a hub for the insurance and finance industries. However, despite this reputation of being a follower, Connecticut became the first state in the union to put in place a Baby Bond Program this past July

At the most general level, a baby bond program is one where the government gives some or all babies born in an area some money, usually in the form of a savings bond or a cash deposit into a trust, that cannot be accessed until the child turns 18 years old. Several people and countries have proposed different versions of this idea to varying degrees of success and seriousness ranging from Hillary Clinton and Cory Booker to the British government and the country of Hungary. 

Connecticut’s baby bond program is revolutionary by virtue of being the first statewide program of its kind to exist. However,  is not as simple as the state depositing money into an account for a child when they are born. For starters, only babies born after July 1, 2021 that are covered by Medicaid or HUSKY are eligible to participate. Those who fall under this relatively narrow umbrella get $3,200 deposited into an interest-bearing trust that gets invested by the state treasurer’s office and cannot be accessed until the child is between the ages of 18 and 30.

In addition to those requirements, beneficiaries cannot access this money until they’ve completed a “financial education” class and they cannot spend that money on anything but “education, a down payment on a home in Connecticut, investment in an entrepreneurial pursuit or Connecticut business, or as a contribution toward retirement savings.” 

So, it’s far from a free-for-all or even really “free money” as there are many barriers to entry for the program and many strings attached to the money once it is deposited into each child’s account.  Though this should not be surprising, as from its very inception this program was not designed to be universal. Rather, it is one of many efforts to close Connecticut’s massive racial wealth gap, as the people who meet the criteria for eligibility into this program are disproportionately Black or Latinx. 

There is no doubt that this effort is coming from a place of kindness and genuine concern. There is also no denying that this is a step toward real progress and a literal material investment in the future of some of the most vulnerable populations in this state. It is still difficult to overlook the red tape and the many roadblocks that come with this program, but in the end, it is a step toward a better, more equitable future for the state of Connecticut. After all, Connecticut is a relatively conservative state and it’s a rare thing for us to be leading the pack. 

Hopefully, this program will pave the way for other states to implement even bolder programs. Things like a universal basic income or reparations for every person who has been impacted by America’s disgusting history of slavery and exploitation. Perhaps there will even be states who trust their people enough to spend their own money however they see fit and not require them to take classes to learn how. But then again, perhaps it’s best to not let perfect be the enemy of good with this groundbreaking new program. Overall, this is a step forward and we should take the very few wins we are handed whenever we get them.

CT Media Deliberately Ignoring Palestine

Connecticut media outlets ignored widespread demonstrations for ending the apartheid of the Palestinian people. This was due in no small part to Connecticut’s arms industries and the lucrative contracts they have with the state of Israel.

by Stanley Heller

On May 15, over a thousand people rallied in Hartford for Palestinian human rights. They took to the streets and marched from the Federal Building to the State Capitol to listen to speakers. A week later in New Haven, there was an even bigger crowd. The protesters rented a truck to carry large Palestinian flags, signs, and sound equipment. There were hundreds of signs and banners. These marchers, too, poured into the streets, several times sitting down at intersections near Yale. Their efforts went on for three hours. Other protests took place in Stamford and two other cities. Yet, the Connecticut corporate media covered none of this. 

Speaking of Yale, its student government, the Yale College Council voted a harsh condemnation of recent Israeli oppression. In addition, the group 100 Jews at Yale issued a strong statement: 

“As a concerned group of Jewish Yalies, we call upon our peers to speak out against the atrocities committed against the Palestinian people supposedly on our behalf and in the name of our faith. …We implore the American Jewish establishment to stop conflating Jewish identity with the state of Israel.

“We also direct our demand toward the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale, a place where most of us have felt unwelcome since noting its display of the Israeli flag on Wall Street [New Haven]. We unequivocally reject its culture of silence around Palestine.”

100 Jews at Yale

The letter also affirmed support for BDS.

The only action the Connecticut corporate media noted was the May 19 demonstration calling out President Biden in New London when he spoke at the Coast Guard Academy. Protesters held signs denouncing Biden’s wall-to-wall support for the Israeli government.

It’s not that the story of Israelis and Palestinians is not in the international news. In May, two hundred sixty Palestinians were killed. 15 families were wiped out with three generations gone. Ten Israelis and two Thai workers were killed via rockets sent by Palestinians. Tens of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes. Mobs of Jewish and Palestinian citizens attacked each other. On May 18, a general strike of Palestinians that extended from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea was effective with hundreds of thousands taking part. 

It’s not that Connecticut isn’t involved in what goes on in the area. Connecticut teacher and state employee pension funds have at least $85 million in State of Israel Bonds as well as other Israeli stocks and currency. The nutmeg state’s military companies do at least $26 million in business with Israel (as of 2015). Pratt and Whitney engines power Israeli F-16 aircraft, planes that savaged Gaza in May. 

Then there’s the matter of Sturm Ruger. The Sturm Ruger company of Fairfield is the biggest gunmaker in the United States. It sells Israel .22 caliber rifles, which its military uses for “crowd control”. Their soldiers literally shoot lead bullets at protesters to break up demonstrations. They shoot demonstration leaders (which the Israel Defense Force calls “inciters”) or just randomly. They have a curious way of justifying this brutal practice. They say the Ruger is “less lethal” than other firearms and so it’s proper. By that logic, a mugger punching someone in the head is justified because it’s “less lethal” than being hit with a 2’X 4’.

Generally, Rugers are less lethal than other military rifles. They do kill, but more often the .22 bullets wound. This is not as nice as it sounds. Sometimes the wounds are gruesome and cause permanent damage to victims. In the Gaza Strip, these wounds are so prevalent they have a special race only for amputees.

A coalition of over 20 organizations has formed to try to put a stop to this. [Note: two groups I work for are part of the coalition.] The coalition’s research, using mostly Israeli sources, has documented at least 32 killed and 240 wounded by Rugers. That’s just what can be easily documented. The coalition believes the true number is far higher. To break up the Great March of Return, Israeli soldiers (2018-2019) shot dead over 200 and injured 36,000. Likely thousands of those injuries were from Rugers. 

Ruger executives refuse to speak to the coalition. To knowingly or recklessly participate in hurting a large number of civilians is to be part of crimes against humanity. The coalition has repeatedly written to Ruger telling them that corporate officers may be in legal jeopardy and that possible fines could harm the corporate bottom line. If these matters are of concern to Ruger management, they show no sign of it. An attempt has been made to reach the Board of Selectmen of Fairfield. Letters have been written to town officials to ask them to contact Sturm Ruger to have them account for the extent of weapons and bullets it has shipped to Israel, to ask if Sturm Ruger monitors whether its weapons are being used recklessly or illegally, and to call for the company to stop selling weapons to Israel. Certainly, political leaders have a responsibility to know if corporations based in the town are engaged in unethical or criminal activity. So far, the Board has not taken any action regarding Ruger. A coalition letter from September 8, 2021 concluded with this statement: “Fairfield justifiably prides itself on its homes, its schools and parks. It should not become infamous because its civic leaders take tax money from Ruger and say nothing about its activities.”

Will the Opioid Settlement Money be Hijacked Just Like the Tobacco Settlement Dollars?

The state of Connecticut is going to receive $300 million to help combat opioid addiction as part of a national $26 billion settlement with opioid manufacturers. Can our representatives be trusted to use that money for what it’s intended?

by Lou Ann Villani

Near the end of July 2021, it was announced that Connecticut would receive $300 million over 18 years as part of the $26 billion settlement with some of the giant companies that produced and distributed opioids.  State Commissioner of Addictive Services Nancy Navarretta said, “This settlement will provide us with the resources to continue combatting the long-lasting and destructive ripple effects of this epidemic.”  Great news.  About the money Governor Lamont said, “It’s not going to be siphoned off,” Lamont said. “Our job is to make sure this money is properly invested.”

But will this actually happen? It sure didn’t with the much larger tobacco settlement monies that have been sent to our state.

Back in 1998, the big tobacco companies agreed to send $246 billion to states in the first 25 years of an ongoing agreement.  A clause in the agreement said it “will achieve for the Settling States and their citizens significant funding for the advancement of public health, the implementation of important tobacco-related public health measures.”   The money started coming to Connecticut in 2000, starting around $100 million a year.  A study by the Yankee Institute in 2009 reported that a total of $1.3 billion had been sent to Connecticut as of that year. 

That should have been great news, but by and large the legislature and the governors didn’t spend the money on tobacco prevention or remediation.  $1.1 billion of that money was just put into the General Fund.  That means it was spent on whatever the politicians wanted.

A few years earlier, in 2006, I had written an opinion piece for the New Haven Register.  In it I wrote, “The Center for Disease Control recommends that a state the size of Connecticut spend at least $21 million a year on tobacco prevention programs.  However, the amount of money being spent by our legislature for prevention programs was small to start with and grows less and less each year.  This year it was just $40,000.  Last December Attorney General Blumenthal said that CT ranks virtually last in the amount it spends to discourage children from smoking.”

I had hoped to create a storm of public anger, but in the 15 years since 2006 Connecticut spending with the tobacco nest egg has only gotten worse.  There’s a great site, Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids.  It produced this color-coded map to show by what percentage states are meeting CDC recommendations on tobacco education spending.  Seven states are over 50%.  Eight states spend between 25% and 49%.  Connecticut and one other state are colored in red. They spend NOTHING at all on tobacco prevention.  That number has been zero for the last five years.

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Have you ever seen TV ads paid for by the state of Connecticut warning about smoking or praising the good life of young people who don’t smoke?  Have your kids brought home materials from school against smoking paid for by our state government? I haven’t.  What about vaping? The Food and Drug Administration calls it an epidemic. The FDA says, “disposable e-cigarette use among high school students increased from 2.4 percent in 2019 to 26.5 percent in 2020.” The American Medical Association reports on 1,000 lung injuries from e-cigarettes.  So when has the state of Connecticut used its ample tobacco settlement funds to warn young people of the dangers of smoking?  Never, as far as I know.

My questions.   The intent of the settlement is to help fight addiction, but reading details of the national settlement it appears that states are only required to publicly report on whatever they spend of this money that doesn’t go to remediation.  So they report it, big deal.  I don’t see any penalty if they spend the money on roads, state police, raises for elected officials, or anything else. 

If the state is going to send $45 million to Connecticut’s towns and cities will they be required to spend the money on opioid remediation or will it just be an open-ended handout?

We can’t trust the politicians with the opioid money.  There should be an oversight board in charge of the use of the funds led by health professionals and members of families harmed by opioid addiction.   And we shouldn’t give up on the tobacco money.  There should be a special commission set up to study the negligence of the politicians in refusing to spend money on tobacco education.  It should name names and recommend how tobacco money should be spent.


LouAnn Villani is a retired nurse living in Danbury.  Her mother, a long-time smoker, died of lung cancer in 1999.

Socialist Horoscopes: Your Advice For This Libra Season

The symbol associated with Libra is the scales, which represent justice, balance, and fairness. As leftists, these things are important to us and what we believe in, which makes this season perfect for the work we do.

By Princess Patoine


Aries – Don’t doubt yourself, Aries. With some practice, you will soon be able to write the perfect diss track about your anti-vax sister.

Taurus – Take a step back, Taurus. Make some time to do things you really enjoy, like painting, reading, or training a parrot to call your cop neighbor a “pig-faced bastard”.

Gemini – It seems like you could use some entertainment, Gemini. The next time a conservative man starts an argument with you, just tell him he’s being too emotional and watch him completely lose his shit.

Cancer – It’s time to take matters into your own hands, Cancer. The government isn’t going to take action against climate change. You have to assume the responsibility and repair the ozone layer with duct-tape. It won’t hold forever, but it might buy us some time.

Leo – Make your choice, Leo. Are you going to boost people’s mutual aid funds, or are you going to be a loser? You have 30 seconds.

Virgo – There is no time to waste, Virgo. The socialist initiation ritual is starting soon, are you ready to kill your first nazi?

Libra – It’s your time to shine, Libra! Dazzle the masses by sticking it to the bourgeoisie. Show up to an event full of the disgustingly wealthy wearing a statement piece with an anti-rich slogan. #girlboss

Scorpio – Do you feel that, Scorpio? It’s the feeling of dread. Something horrible is approaching. Something foul, something that feels neither sympathy or empathy. Something that- oh. It’s just Jeff Bezos.

Sagittarius – Think before you act, Sagittarius. Do you really think it’s necessary to summon the spirit of Marx to read theory to you instead of just reading it yourself?

Capricorn – Brace yourself, Capricorn. Leftists have started forcibly vaccinating everyone from children to elders. It’s only a matter of time before they get to- *muffled screaming*

Aquarius – You know what you have to do, Aquarius. It isn’t a pleasant task, but it’s a necessary one. You’re going to have to register as a Democrat if you want to vote in local elections.

Pisces – Put your words into action, Pisces. If you say you’re going to take a shit on your landlord’s doorstep, you better do it.

Socialist Horoscopes: How to Make the Most of This Virgo Season

Virgo season is a time for planning, productivity, and focusing on the details. It is also, like every season, a time to make waves and create change.

By Princess Patoine


Aries – It’s time for a wake-up call, Aries. You need to let your uncle know that, while they make good music, posting System of a Down songs on Facebook is actually not a form of activism.

Taurus – You need to stand your ground, Taurus. If your boss refuses to give you paid time off, fuck their wife.

Gemini – Now is not the time to give up, Gemini. If you try hard enough, eventually you can bully your dad into tipping food service workers.

Cancer – It seems like you need a break, Cancer. Take the day off to start a Twitter argument with a Libertarian. You’ve earned it.

Leo – Your time in the spotlight has come to an end, Leo. Don’t worry, you can still manage to capture everyone’s attention by getting your friends together and radicalizing them.

Virgo – It’s your season, Virgo! With all eyes on you now, you might feel the need to do something big and important, but one person can’t do it all. Collective action is the most effective way to get things done. Gather your comrades and tear down that Christopher Columbus statue, as a team. ❤

Libra – Every day might seem the same to you, Libra. Why not spice it up? Find your nearest billionaire and punch them right in the mouth.

Scorpio – Direct your anger into something productive, Scorpio. Join DSA and become an active member of your local chapter. There’s something for everyone.

Sagittarius – The time has come for a new project, Sagittarius. Tap into your artistic abilities and paint a detailed phallus on the door of your racist grandmother’s garage.

Capricorn – “Hard working” is your middle name, Capricorn. Reward yourself for your efforts by heckling a local right-wing politician at Walmart.

Aquarius – Time is running out, Aquarius. You need to hurry up and renew your ANTIFA membership before it’s too late. Seriously, we’re waiting.

Pisces – Something needs to change, Pisces. Influence your local representatives to make that change by sending them a message via raven to highlight the importance of pressing issues, while simultaneously making them fear you. They shall not refuse.