Notes from a Socialist walking tour


Beast Mode Omar reads the caption over the portrait of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) pasted to the electrical box on a street just outside Washington, D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. There are more like it posted throughout Adams Morgan, as well as portraits of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) with a similar message: Beast Mode AOC.

Across the street from the signs, a group of people is gathering in Rabaut Park around an elderly man wearing a faded Democratic Socialists of America t-shirt. This is Bill Mosley, an amateur historian who’s about to lead today’s DSA-sponsored event, “Radicals in the Hood,” a walking tour of socialist activity in D.C.’s most famous historically black neighborhood.

“This was the character of Adams Morgan: activism, taking charge of your own destiny,” he says as the last stragglers approach him. “There’s still some of that character today, even though all these neighborhoods are undergoing rapid gentrification.”

There are about 20 people circled around Mosely, and most look to be at least a generation younger than him. No wonder. Since the DSA ballooned in size following the 2016 election, it now boasts about 50,000 dues paying members, way up from the roughly 6,000 filling its ranks in 2015. And they’re young, too: The DSA’s median age was 33 in 2017, down from 68 in 2013. Long gone are the ’90s, when Mosely and some friends kept the fire burning at a “DSA commune” in a derelict apartment building across from Meridian Hill Park.

Of course, some growing pains have accompanied the DSA’s sudden success. Despite its flagship members of Congress—representatives Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.) and Ocasio-Cortez—the organization still struggles to appeal to minorities and women.

“DSA is still a heavily white and heavily cis male organization, as have been most socialist groups in the history of the United States. That has not really improved,” Jared Abbott, a member of DSA’s national steering committee, told Vox in 2017. “We’re taking proactive steps to deal with it and do the kinds of work we need to be strong partners and work in solidarity with all underrepresented and oppressed communities. But we have real challenges here.”

Improvement has been slow. Purges, meltdowns, and general discontent have whiplashed DSA chapters around the country attempting to adapt to their newfound prominence in the era of pop socialism. Members in the Philadelphia chapter revolted in late 2018 when leadership suspended a book group focused on educating members in the identity politics of the Combahee River Collective, a black lesbian militant group. After several weeks of in-fighting (much of which played out publicly in the pages of Jacobin and long screeds on Medium), Philadelphia leadership made itself clear: Either ditch identity politics or leave the DSA.

Similarly, the group’s San Francisco East Bay chapter came under fire when it refused to support Cat Brooks, a black activist running for Oakland mayor, because she supported charter school initiatives. After she failed to receive the group’s endorsement, Brooks laid into the East Bay DSA, accusing its members in a speech of being nothing more than white “gentrifiers.” DSA National Political Committee member Jeremy Gong shot back in a Medium post, saying that Brooks was weaponizing the DSA with “race reductionism and liberal guilt politics.”

But internal strife is not the order of today. Mosely is of the DSA’s old guard, more concerned with holding onto the left’s glory days—when “white flight” hollowed out the cities in the late 1960s—than discussing how to unleash socialism onto the 21st century.

His audience is a bit different. In a word, gentrifiers. They’re mostly a group of well-dressed young men (although one wears a t-shirt proclaiming his support of Medicare-for-All). But it’s not entirely Bernie Bros. There are a number of women, and yes, even left-wing parents—pushing their two children in strollers. One of the kids wears a beret.

“But now Adams Morgan is becoming very gentrified,” Mosely says as he starts leading the group down the street. “Housing prices have really skyrocketed in the past few years.”

He pauses for questions. A woman standing directly behind him asks if he’ll be covering the #unmute D.C. crisis. She’s referring to a spat that occurred just south of Meridian Hill Park a few weeks ago. A resident living in a brand new apartment complex called the police after getting annoyed at black employees blasting go-go onto the street down at the local Metro PCS. For the newcomer, it was a disturbance. For the locals, this was a Friday night tradition. The next week, black activists staged a protest in the streets around Adams Morgan, playing go-go as loudly as possible in an anti-gentrification rallying cry.  read more

11 Comments on Notes from a Socialist walking tour

  1. Adams Morgan Black? Not when I was there. I was out of Florida Ave. as a Specials Technician, and Adams Morgan was dirt poor Mexicans and white beatnik-type trash. There were NO negroes there. The mexicans spread all through Cordoza with not a negro in sight.

    But keep telling your lies.

    Adams Morgan is a cesspool full of white drunks and dirt poor latins.

    The P Street fags were also moving north at the time.

  2. That reminds me of an Adams Morgan Nightmare. Some drunk ran over the SAC box that fed most of that shithole. Squashed it. It stayed open for about 2 months because one man couldn’t close it. It was full off green shit and water. My brother and I closed it and thought nothing of it.

    About 3 months later I’m sitting in a meeting minding my own business and Tom, the Super, says, “We’ve had 3 months of DONs (Delayed Order Notices) out of this box (and he looked me right in the eyes) and I need to know why!”

    I said something to the effect that SAC boxes that can’t be closed from the weather are a detriment to the cause.

    Tom said something to the effect that SAC boxes that can’t be opened are a detriment to the cause.

    “Well, now somebody is going to fix it”, was my retort.

  3. After that meeting Tom said, “You never told me…”

    “Tom, I put in a PCR EVERY FUCKING TIME I was in that box.”

    “PCRs get nothing done!”

    “My bother and I got it on the fucking ticket, didn’t we?”

    “Does you brother want to work for Enterprise?”

  4. Due to infighting among Chapters, the DSA can’t agree on a platform, yet they assure disgruntled layabouts that taking over private industries (BAMN) and distributing ownership among the “workers” is the only way these lazy malcontents will ever achieve success.

  5. Gather in enough numbers and you can go take what you want. Oh sure, we’ll babble some line of horseshit about helping the struggling underclass to give what we’re doing a veil of legitimacy but in reality we just want what others have and don’t want to do the work it takes to get it on our own.

  6. @gin blossom June 18, 2019 at 8:43 am

    > in reality we just want what others have and don’t want to do the work it takes to get it on our own

    What do you think

    > Gather in enough numbers and you can go take what you want


  7. In 1990, the Goodwill Games were held in Seattle. A bunch of “activists” wanted to show people what lay below the surface, away for the nice places hand picked by the capitalistic overlords.

    The activists took a group of eastern bloc “journalists” to Yesler Terrace, one of the government housing projects in Seattle. It went something like this:

    “Hey, Dmitri, just look at this place.”

    “Yes, Vladimir. Isn’t this something.”

    “Yeah. What I would give to live in a place like this.”

    “I though you were going to show us where the poor people live. Back home you would have to be a pretty high ranking official to live in a place this nice.”

  8. You are probably right, Crackerbaby. It was important work. What we did mattered. We engineered, built, maintained, and repaired vital lines of communication. And we worked with many excellent people — and we worked with shitbomb people, but they didn’t matter. Then the shitbomb people took over all the ranks, and the excellent people became powerless against the degeneracy.

    Yes, I’m proud of my Bell time. We were the best.

  9. When we cast our minds back to Robert “Bob” Bentsen, Wayne Dotson, Melvin Davis, Cliff “Clifford” Chiles… names that mean nothing to the rest of the world… men who didn’t — couldn’t — stint.

    They were the best and we were the best because of them. My father, grandfathers, uncles, and great-grandfathers taught me how to be a man. These other men taught me how to be a telephone man. (there isn’t any difference except in fine education)

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