It’s been kind of a wild ride. It started with Victor Martinez, Minneapolis Ward 5 candidate for city council, accusing Twin Cities DSA (TCDSA) of sabotaging the ward’s DFL convention. Next came the disruption of the Ward 10 DFL convention by city council candidate Nasri Warsame and his supporters. This made it impossible for the convention to continue and temporarily denied the DFL endorsement to TCDSA-endorsed candidate, Aisha Chugtai. Nasri falsely accused TCDSA of disruptive behavior, trying to shift blame onto a seemingly easy scapegoat. When TCDSA-endorsed city council candidate Soren Stevenson handily won the Ward 8 DFL endorsement over the incumbent, City Council President Andrea Jenkins, it was the last straw for the ruling class of Minneapolis.
It was time to raise the alarm to the Minneapolis electorate: “The socialists are trying to take over the city.” On Sunday, May 28, the Star Tribune ran a front-page red-baiting article by David Orrick that relied heavily on quotes from Mayor Jacob Frey and City Council President Andrea Jenkins to attack TCDSA. The intention of the article was to sow distrust of DSA and paint us as a group of extreme left-wing activists who could possibly be violent.
The steering committee had to quickly decide whether or not to respond to Orrick’s request for an interview with one of our co-chairs. We decided that, even though this was likely to be an attempt to smear us, we would participate. Our fear was that it would look worse if we were “unavailable for comment.” In fact, we were able to get some good quotes into the article. We also wrote a response to Orrick’s article that was printed side-by-side in the Thursday edition of the Star Tribune with a red-baiting op-ed from Steve Cramer, CEO of the Downtown Council, under the headline “Socialists in Minneapolis.” Cramer is a mouthpiece and strategist for the wealthiest people in Minnesota because the Council represents the interests of corporations, developers, and the DFL in developing the City in a way that is good for “business” (read: profit over people). There in the Star Tribune anyone could read the socialist program for Minneapolis right next to the capitalist program for the city. TCDSA clearly has the attention of the wealthiest Minneapolis residents.
Why has the Star Tribune, Downtown Council and the developer class decided that the socialists must be taken down? It’s because we have been successful. Our DSA Council members have provided exemplary leadership over the past year. Jason Chavez has combined legislative leadership with a strong connection to the mass movement in the East Phillips neighborhood to make an Urban Farm possible, a major defeat for the developer class. Aisha Chugtai has led the way in fighting for strong rent control. Robin Wonsley has helped lead the fight against the rebuilding of the 3rd Precinct and for municipal sidewalk snow plowing. All three have fought for and won budgetary amendments that mean more money for real public safety. They have been a beacon for working class people in the fight for a city that favors workers over corporations and the rich.
Now the Downtown Council and their wealthy friends see socialists poised to win five seats on the council, with the possibility of three more progressives. This could throw a serious wrench into the plans of a city bent to the will of the wealthy.
So what do we do now? Our program of housing justice, environmental justice, workers’ rights, public safety beyond policing and a humane response to our unhoused residents is clearly resonating with broader and broader sections of the working class. The intertwining of our electoral work, mass movement work, union organizing work and mutual aid work will need to continue. Door knocking for our endorsed candidates, building a strong movement for rent control, participating and helping to lead important workers’ struggles and scoring environmental victories like the East Phillips Urban Farm will be key.
We need to be prepared for this new attention from the media. The ruling class is far from done with red-baiting and attempts to smear us. Expect this to intensify as the election season progresses. The op-ed we published in the Star Tribune is a good guide as to how we respond. We are proud of the fact that we are being successful and building power for working people who are normally shut out of political power. We don’t need to be defensive about the fact that our political program is connecting with our neighbors, the everyday residents of the city.
We should also expect this new media attention to bring more people our way, which means our current members have an opportunity to step into leadership roles by serving as mentors on-boarding of these new folks. Our efforts to recruit, intake and retain new members need to be bolstered. The arguments of the ruling class are weak. Ours are strong. The future for our movement looks bright.
By Kip H