Young Democratic Socialists define socialism on the border
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When the 2016 presidential elections came to a close, over two million millennials—those under the age of 30—voted for Bernie Sanders. Statistics from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement concluded this was more than the number of millennials who voted for Trump and Clinton combined.
Despite Sanders’ loss, UTEP’s Young Democratic Socialists were among those inspired by Sander’s message for change.
YDS is a youth chapter of Democratic Socialists of America. UTEP’S chapter has been established for two years now, but has experienced a revival this January.
The political organization aims not just disseminate democratic socialist ideals, but also build a united front working toward economic and racial justice.
“What we’re trying to do is continue that political revolution through self-education, community involvement and having group discussions about these issues,” said Dominic Chacon, YDS member and senior environmental science major.
Gabriel Solis, an active YDS member and history graduate student, wants students to be aware of the radical movements in U.S. history to understand the stigma behind socialism.
“In this country, labor has always been extremely racialized and exploited and there’s a long history of that. I think when we got to the industrial revolution a lot of workers of color tried to organize, and farmworkers they were always met with resistance,” Solis said.
Chacon and Solis also said democratic socialism is just a niche in that spectrum of socialism.
“I think we all liked Bernie Sanders and I think we all believed in that message of equality, and that he sort of empowered millennials to realize we have the opportunity to really change the way this world is working,” Chacon said.
Solis said he wants students to become involved in movements that are already happening, such as Black Lives Matter or stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“We could sit around for hours and read (Karl) Marx and philosophers, but I think I think the best political education is activism itself,” Solis said.
YDS is currently working with other organizations to form a coalition that will make UTEP a “sanctuary campus” to protect undocumented immigrants on campus from getting deported.
“We want to focus our message on education and not deportation,” Chacon said. “If there’s any UT school that needs to be at the forefront of this debate and this conversation, it’s the one school that’s on the border.”
Chacon said they are working to educate students about the rights they have.
“We are absolutely opposed to any students being deported. Most of us are opposed to the system of deportation and the militarization of the border,” Solis said.
YDS wants to reach out to the Office of International Programs to make sure students have legal protection.
Chacon says intersectionality is a topic YDS also wants to address. Intersectionality is the theory that oppressive groups find common ground at one place or another.
“For example, one cause that we’re trying to back up is the downtown arena in Durangito,” Chacon said. “We’re trying to give a voice to (the residents).”
YDS has created a movement called People before Profit, which does not agree with using eminent domain to displace residents in Durangito, which is located near the Union Plaza downtown, for the proposed multi-million dollar multi-purpose arena.
In four days, YDS helped Paso Del Sur, a local organization that works for the rights of residents in El Paso’s barrios, collect 200 signatures at Leech Grove on the UTEP campus in support of saving the Union Plaza neighborhood.
“Whether you’re a woman that deals with misogyny, LGBTQ, Muslim, immigrant, anything, all these forms of oppression intersect at some point or another,” Chacon said. “So we’re trying to build coalitions with BSU (Black Student Union), ARISE (Academic Revival of Indigenous Studies and Education), Arab Student Association, we’re trying to get these people included in the conversation and also be part of the political revolution.
They also want to reach out to the Queer Student Alliance.
Chacon attended the Young Democratic Socialists Summer Conference in Washington DC this past summer. He said it was important for El Paso to be represented at the conference.
“There were a lot of liberal elites, people who are from a higher class and come from a wealthier background,” Chacon said. “It was very different. We were like that token minority, but it was empowering because we had a voice, we had a perspective that was unique–from El Paso, our heritage, our culture–that hadn’t been spoken before.”
Chacon said some Young Democratic Socialists spoke about discovering socialism as a theory from books or a philosopher, but oppression could be seen first hand in El Paso.
The next YDS meeting will be held at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 24, in the River View room on the first floor of Union East Building. This meeting is for any students interested in joining YDS.