In this episode Heather finally has a long awaited discussion with South Jersey DSA Co-chair Lael Brattan. They drink a little bourbon and discuss socialism, Marx, political engagement, a mutual aid programs.
Heather and Lael met though the Green Party of New Jersey a few years ago. A secret guest in the studio chose not to say anything, but we appreciated her presence.
Lael found his way to socialist organizing in college at Rutgers. He jokes “All those rumors you hear about communist professors is completely true”. He, like many others, activated around the 2016 election. Lael changed his voter registration to Green around that time. He is still a green but these days primarily organizes for the South Jersey Democratic Socialists these, which he currently chairs.
A Neoliberal Hellscape
Lael talks about the difficulty or organizing in the South Jersey “Neoliberal Hellscape”. South Jersey DSA focuses on serving the people who fall through the cracks of the current system. His chapter serve as escorts for clients at the Cherry Hill Women’s Center. Lael prides himself on the chapter’s mutual aid focus instead of electoral politics.
Mutual Aid At Home
Not only does South Jersey DSA serve the community, they empower their own members. Through DSA connections members have learned class consciousness and used their skills to get new jobs, unionize their workplace, and even do strike support. Lael points out our special mystery in studio guest did the work establishing such a great community in their organization.
Shifting From Systemic Change to Personal Responsibility
Next they shift the conversation to talk about how under capitalism the blame for all wrongs is shifted to individuals. Climate change will never be solved by people bringing re-usuable straws. Sure its a great thing to do. But ultimately, the blame lies on the backs of a handful of super wealthy people who make global decisions. Above All, the problems are systemic not individual. Discussing individual responsibility, Lael adds “Its a drop of water in the ocean”.
Local Energy Economy
South Jersey DSA is working in Collingswood NJ to create a local energy economy. They table the Collingswood farmers market and encourage citizens to attend commission meetings. Under this new economy, the community of Collingswood would purchase renewable energy in bulk and residents of the town could opt into that program. As a result, residents would eliminate their electric bill and shift those payments to the town. There are 9 million people in NJ who could shift to local renewable energy. Currently, only property owners can benefit from solar panels and renters have no outlet. This program can transition energy to part of the commons and decomodify the necessities of life.
Socialism By Any Other Name Smells As Sweet
You don’t have to be a Marxist scholar to understand the current system is failing. Lael points out any worker can understand having their wages stolen or sitting in traffic for 2 hours because there is no public transportation. You don’t even have to call this socialism. This doesn’t need to be a philosophical conversation, people have a deep understanding they are hurting. The change we need can never come from above, it must be demanded by the workers. Lael mentions a quote from a Temple University Professor “A strike is great because there is no other circumstance where your boss shows exactly what he thinks of you.” Your boss always thinks you a piece of shit they just never say it.
Lael believes a better future is possible. There are millions of people who see that the change is necessary. They might not be there yet, but they will be. Things are bleak. Climate change is a problem. Fascism is on the rise. Ultimately, we will all take care of each other. We will come together and do what needs to be done. Its just who we are.
Post Interview Updates:
The Collingswood energy program is opt-out instead of opt-in.
The quote about bosses hating you is from Patty Eakin, who’s the PASNAP President & led the 2010 strike at Temple University Hospital