Hi! I’m Jetta Rae. I’m running for the National Political Committee for DSA in 2017.
A Brief Summary That Wasn’t Just Lifted From My OkCupid
I’m a queer trans woman living in Oakland, California.
Yes: I’m the woman with the red bandanna from all those “Battle of Berkeley” pictures circulated by the alt-right.
Why am I running?
I’m a neighborhood organizer. This isn’t contrary to my desires to be on the National Political Committee; one intrinsically informs the other.
DSA should commit itself to tasks with national consequence — single payer for all, dismantling the prisons, disarming the police, ending deportations.
This agenda is best enacted through small, agile chapters actively engaged on the front lines of struggle in solidarity with local organizers.
For me, “power to the locals” isn’t a pithy political precept, but a pragmatism rooted in radical trust. We have to operate with the trust that people engaged in local struggles know what their chains look like and who holds the key.
And in turn, we should work to earn the trust of those communities through political support focused on improving immediate material conditions. If we can’t win over the neighborhoods, we can’t win over the cities.
And we can’t effectively challenge the power of the state if we centralize our movement’s power and resources into an asset to be fought over like the state itself.
My vision for DSA is an octopus with a tentacle in every local struggle.
My Organizing Experience
I was a co-founder of my home chapter (EBDSA)’s Socialist Feminist and Abolition of Prisons and Policing caucuses.
For the last three months, I’ve been involved with Defund OPD, a campaign to end budget increases and rein in the overtime of the Oakland Police Department. Defund OPD is part of the Anti Police-Terror Project, a “group of concerned and committed institutions, organizations, and individuals dedicated to ending state-sanctioned murder and violence perpetuated against Black, Brown and Poor people”.
My involvement with the campaign has included participating in meetings with local politicians, canvassing, documenting City Council meetings, and helping to coordinate opposition research.
This work (which has included collaboration with other EBDSA members as part of the Prison Abolition’s stated objective to provide support to organizations like APTP), has been invaluable in shaping my ideology and tactics.
I think it could be a model for how DSA could plug into local campaigns already engaged in resistance and help them towards their aims. And not for credit or the hope of people joining or cause, but to create the sort of sustained trust and solidarity that will allow all communities to rise together in unstoppable concert.
To be clear: I am saying that we should make “show up for Black and Brown-led coalitions and just do the work they ask us to” a guiding principle for DSA.
What’s your ideology?
I would describe myself as an anarcho-communist. Yeah, I read the dang bread book.
I suppose despite my skepticism towards institutions, I’m at heart an optimist. I believe that if we want people to be better, we need to build a better world for them to be better in, and this involves the abolition of capitalism and the state.
I’m an avowed advocate of leisure and fun as leftist praxis. It’s a little glib and reductive, but this tweet aptly describes my political motivations:
My Stances On:
Identity politics and intersectionality: Intersectionality is an essential analytical tool for facilitating solidarity, often co-opted as a sort of mathematical shorthand for deducing how certain oppressive behavior is actually liberatory.
I think DSA’s policy should be anchored in intersectional understandings of oppression, with a critical awareness for how it’s used to absolve neoliberal (see also: white) agendas.
Diversity/Inclusivity: I think the best way to ensure a diverse movement is for DSA Chapters to set up neighborhood meets where they can learn the issues facing local marginalized communities and what’s needed from us to aid them in their struggles.
We should be willing to do the work of building coalitions to achieve multi-racial class struggle without the promise of a boost in non-white membership.
The March on Washington: Even if we had the full national membership (which would be financially and logistically impossible) at Washington, it would be less than 5% of the showing the Women’s March had, and thus we’d have about a 5% chance of influencing policy the way the Women’s March did (which is, to say, not at all). Our efforts are better spent on coordinating local direct actions where our influence will have more staying power.
Monthly dues: A tenet of local organizing within Food Not Bombs (which I was involved with in 2012–2014) is that the people who rely on your work must be part of the discussion of how your work is organized and carried out.
Based on that experience, I oppose monthly dues, even on a “pay what you can” basis. I believe having a record of who has and hasn’t paid each month, and how much, enables class hierarchy within the organization. Those of us struggling with poverty deserve more than a charitable, conditional admittance in this movement.
Unions: I think they’re great, and everyone should be in one, and that DSA should focus on achieving that through the creation of independent labor- committees instead of trying to imitate union structure and practice.
Antifa: I don’t think we should shy, as a movement, from direct confrontation with alt-right/Neo-Nazi/white supremacist rallies and occupations of public spaces.
Leaving the Socialist International: Screw ’em.
Conflict resolution and grievances: I was a co-creator of my home chapter’s Conflict Resolution Policy. I believe every local should have a policy in place to internally mediate conflicts and grievances within the scope of restorative and transformative justice. For my home chapter, this involves a rotating roster of “on-call” counselors and mediators to resolve conflicts quickly and discreetly.
Similarly, I believe in creating inter-chapter networks for conflict mediation in the event a member has a grievance with members/leadership of a specific chapter.
Getting involved in local elections: I’m in favor of utilizing DSA resources towards victories in local elections (city council, county supervisor, transit and school boards, etc) where the influence and resources of the DNC aren’t necessarily required to win. These gains will allow us to build a solid political base.
It also challenges stereotypes of socialists as “thinkers, not doers”, something I worry efforts to centralize our movement would ultimately confirm.
I’m opposed to working with the DNC at the State or Federal levels without explicit, deliverable concessions.
Where to hit me up if you want to learn more about my background, politics and favorite pinball machines.
I’m on twitter at @jetta_rae and on Facebook at Facebook.com/JettaSmash.
Also, if you’re a wrestling fan, I will definitely talk about the G1 Climax with you.