We don’t have anything to discuss Jimmy — an open letter from a Queens DSA Co-Chair to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer

An inside look at the war in AOC’s district between socialists and democrats

Jonathan Bailey
Sep 12 · 4 min read

Right now, New York City Democrats are proposing a plan to spend $11 billion on an expansion of the carceral state. This vote will determine the fate of many lives and many political careers. Elected officials are maneuvering behind the scenes. I am sure that is why I recently received my first email from my city council member, Jimmy Van Bramer. I’m not sure how he got my email, but I am sure it has to do with our history of political conflict, the fact that he wants to run for Queens Borough President, and that I was just elected as a Co-Chair of the Queens branch of the Democratic Socialists of America(DSA).

Unfortunately, there has been a history of activists, mostly unintentionally, brokering power with Democrats, who are always trying to see how much they can hurt working-class communities and get away with it. Most of the time, these dealings happen in secret and illustrate how slimy electoral politics can be. Jimmy Van Bramer has already decided to try to lead activists into believing he will fight against the building of the jails. The only reason for him to meet with me is to influence me to support his run for Queens Borough President. If we are to build a movement that is independent of the corporate class and the politicians they have purchased, we can’t be privately brokering power. For this reason, I am writing an open response to the first opportunity of this type I have been offered. Hopefully, transparency helps draw the political lines more explicitly.

(JVB email)

“Jimmy,

I’m glad you recognize socialist values are something to be valued. Feel free to email me about that anytime through the official channels of DSA. By contacting me at queens@socialists.nyc we can both ensure the democratic nature of the organization in the future. I am sure we would hate for DSA leadership to be having private meetings that might compromise their accountability to the organization.

I have been trying to stay off your radar because I was afraid that if you realized that I was the new Co-Chair of Queens DSA it might make it clear how unenthusiastic we are about the idea of endorsing you. I was afraid that this might influence you to backtrack on a decision to vote against the new jails. I know you have been trying to cozy up with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Tiffany Cabán, but that doesn’t make you our comrade. You sold out Queens when you welcomed Amazon’s gentrification as a kickback for your real estate donors. You sold out workers when you failed to support union labor. When Queens Anti-Gentrification Project and others ran a campaign against you to fight the possibility of us being displaced from our homes, you had your staff drive away anyone that would listen to us. Not only have you supported an expansion of the broken windows policing that has hurt my family personally, but also, even while being a member of the LGBT caucus, supported the colonial policing exercised on TGNCNB sex workers. I can’t understand how, after that, you could stand on stage next to Tiffany as if you were somehow any bit anti-colonial. I don’t believe we share any values in common. I think you realize that there has been an increase in peoples class awareness and you are now in a poor situation because you built a political career off of the interests of corporations happy to exploit Queens residents and colonize people of color. There is a systemic and material difference between us. If you have any common values not only will you vote against the $11 billion expansion of NYCs police state but you will use your influence to get the LGBT caucus and other city council members to fight it as well. If you are anything like us socialists, you would tell Corey Johnson that if he doesn’t change course on rallying city council support for the jail construction plan you will make it a personal mission to ensure he doesn’t become mayor. Whatever you choose, you need to stop promising in secret that you are against the jails while refusing to take a public stance.

I am not in a non-profit that you can push into supporting you. Socialists are not interested in your funding, the funding of your donors, or any political kickbacks. We are interested in building a working-class movement to end the exploitation of the capitalist class and the continued colonization of black and brown people. If you are interested in explaining how you plan to help prevent the jails from being built, you can present that plan to me, the entire Queens DSA leadership, and other community activists in a meeting open to those fighting the jails.

All power to the people,

Jonathan Bailey

Co-Chair Queens DSA

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