On January 6th, Kentucky’s DSA chapters joined together for their first ever statewide meeting. It was the first time they had all been in the same room together. However, just hours before the meeting began, fascists stormed the nation’s capitol in an attempt to keep Donald Trump in office. It was a stark contrast, and furthered Lexington DSA’s conviction: it is more important than ever for us to organize.
Times are dire in America. It’s now 2021, but we are still living in the midst of a global pandemic and economic catastrophe. And while the fascist right is in the crosshairs of the American state, they are far from gone. Kentucky finds itself at a unique intersection: do we continue to cede ground to the right? Or do we build a vibrant left by fighting for bold progressive change that has the potential to unify the working class across demographic lines?
Kentucky lies at a very unique crossroads of politics. While typically referred to as a “red” state, Kentucky has a vibrant history of working class struggle. As Bernie Sanders recently reminded Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor during the stimulus odyssey, “…10 out of the poorest 25 counties in the United States of America are located in Kentucky. So maybe my colleague, the majority leader, might want to get on the phone and start talking to working families in Kentucky and find out how they feel about the need for immediate help…” Kentuckians want better lives for them and their families, not empty platitudes or appeals to “going back to normal.”
The Democratic Party is hellbent on continuing its mission of refusing to address people’s needs, while running as far to the right as possible. This is a costly mistake. Instead of taking bold moves to fight for the working class and running on a working class agenda, they attempt to make themselves palatable to the right by running as close to the center-right as they can. As Louisville DSA member and school board member Chris Kolb wrote for the Courier-Journal in November, “No one has any idea what Democrats stand for. Democrats don’t seem to be fighting for anything in particular. Democrats offer no vision of a better Kentucky. But according to the Democrats, it’s always the voters who fail them as opposed to the other way around.”
The key? The working class of Kentucky is in this struggle together. From the hoods of the cities to the hollers of Eastern Kentucky, we need to organize for a better Kentucky
This fact was starkly illustrated in the Amy McGrath versus Mitch McConnell race in November. McGrath branded herself as attempting to “drain Mitch McConnell’s swamp,” borrowing campaign slogans from Donald Trump himself. The results were disastrous. After narrowly beating insurgent candidate Charles Booker, McGrath went on to lose to McConnell… badly. Mcgrath lost by close to 400,000 votes.
Fascism preys on the working class by fooling them into a politics of reaction. Running to the center-right does not fool the working class. In order to combat fascism in the country, we will need to create a politics that fights for people’s needs. It’s not enough to just vapidly claim to working people that we’re an alternative. We need to actually be an alternative by fighting for things like housing, healthcare, and education. Understanding the dynamics of oppression without including the dynamics of class struggle will inevitably lead us in circles. We need to boldly fight for people’s needs and not yield ground to the right. Not doing so allows us to be circled from both the left and the right.
Booker’s message of “from the hood to the holler” proved to resonate and create a shared struggle across demographic lines. The key? The working class of Kentucky is in this struggle together. From the hoods of the cities to the hollers of Eastern Kentucky, we need to organize for a better Kentucky, and a better America. Now is not the time for caution, or to retreat into “safe” centrist politics. Trumpism and Fascism will not be vanquished by a Biden administration and Democratic Senate and House. Nor will climate change, or the economic fallout of the pandemic. Nor will the plight of millions of Kentuckians who suffered before this whole mess even began. We need radical change more than ever.
Exciting things are happening in Kentucky. Lexington DSA’s membership has doubled in the last six months. We’ve been organizing on multiple fronts, from helping build the Lexington Tenants Union to running Socialists for office in the city. Kentucky’s DSA chapters are coordinating, looking ahead, and getting ready for the long road ahead of us.
Will you join us?