Postmaster: If undeliverable, send Form 3579 to The Texas Observer, 600 W. 7th, Austin, Texas 78701 n25 A word in edgewise Austin A year ago this month a group of people from across the country met in Houston to talk about the malaise of progressive politics that later preoccupied many contributors to the Observer’s 25th anniversary issue \(Obs., vention of socialistsmore.precisely, of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, an organizatiOn now some seven years old, with more than 3,000 members nationwide \(including chapters in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, and HousThey are democratic socialists because they believe that no form of economic oligarchy, capitalist or statist, should be tolerated; that democracy is of the essence of a rightly conceived socialism; that only a mass movement for economic democracy can challenge corporate domination of our politics. They are not a third party, because they believe also that only within the Democratic Party can this movement develop. The heart of their argument is that the liberal prescription for curing the ills of corporate capitalism has not worked. Government intervention in the economy by and large has followed corporate priorities, buttressing the corporate oligarchy, even as we have moved toward a welfare state. Economic stagnation has now put in jeopardy even the reforms of the ’30s and ’60s. The clamor from the corporate sector for deregulation, the call for cutbacks in social programs, the retreat of many erstwhile liberals under pressure from business lobbyists and political action committees are all tokens of the failure of the traditional liberal approach to reform. The democratic socialists contend that liberals with the courage of their convictions must admit the need for a radically different economic structure. Redistribution of wealth, help for the poor, for minorities, for working people, public ownership of energy resourcesthese goals on the liberal agenda cannnot be achieved any other way. One reason the democratic socialists met in Houston was to emphasize that drastic economic changes such as the corporate migration to the Sunbelt are already occurring in any event and are leading us still further away from the liberal tradition. In the cities the corporations leave behind, social services decline and unemployment rises. In the cities to which they flee, local officials point to the influx of corporate employers as proof that lack of generosity toward the needy is a virtue. The immediate task of countering the new corporate militancy has fallen to the Southern labor movement, and many of the best labor organizers in the Sunbelt states were at the Houston DSOC meet ing. A labor organizer from Milwaukee told them, “If you don’t win in the South, we’re done for in the North.” Being practical people, they are not given to optimism about their chances, and most are convinced that talking up socialism is no way to talk union in their states. “You’re not going to win by calling yourself a socialist in Houston, Texas,” said one. The best hope, argued another, is to “talk as a socialist but not of socialism.” I think these labor organizers are right about what is possible in their situation. What the rest of us, the writers and readers of publications like the Observer, should do is a different matter. We can talk of socialism, and we should. As Peter Steinfels wrote last year in his Neoconservatives, a critique of the conservative intellectual revival, “when people repeat that politics is the art of the possible, the temptation is . . . to forget the crucial role that thinkers and writers and artists have in defining, for practical men, just what is possible.” In the national political debate and in the dialogue about the future begun in the Observer’s 25th anniversary issue, it is time to take up explicitly the possibility of democratic socialism. It is time for democratic socialism to get more than a word in edgewise. E.H. our evening at Shenanigans. For starters, join us for one half price on all drinks served Mon. thru Fri. 4 to 7, Mon. thru Thurs. 10 to 12 mid night, or Fri. & Sat. 12 midnight til closing. Or come over for Chicken Cordon Bleu, Beer Batter Shrimp, Braised Sirloin Tips on Rice, Alaskan King Crab, & our famous Canadian Cheese Soup. Serving dinner daily at 5:30. A great way to tip off, or top off your evening. SUENAMGANS Barton Springs at S. First, Austin, Texas, 512/476-4838 24 FEBRUARY 29, 1980
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