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By any reasonable definition, the American left did not exist before 2015. The Occupy movement had fizzled out, leaving a smattering of disconnected local groups across the country. The once vibrant Socialist and Communist parties of the early 20th century had been hollowed out by decades of repression and infighting, leaving behind empty shells and a trail of sects more focused on internal strife than organizing. The storied CIO of old no longer existed and union density was at its lowest point in decades. The dual faces of left electoralism were the Green Party, regarded more as a joke than a serious effort, and a constellation of progressive NGOs more focused on extracting concessions from moderate Democrats than building any real power of their own. The bright star of the socialist left was Kshama Sawant, a single Seattle City Councilor elected by Socialist Alternative.

But that was then. Fast forward six years—through Bernie 2016 and Bernie 2020, the teachers strike wave, BLM, and AOC. Through President Trump, airport protests, and police crackdowns. Through tenants unions, mutual aid networks, and ballot initiatives. It doesn’t take a visionary to realize that things have changed since the lean days. But is the left of 2021 really in better shape than it was in the 2010s? Well, yes and no. Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has grown ten-fold, with dozens of thriving chapters across the country doing work that has concrete outcomes. The Chicago City Council and New York State Assembly have full-fledged socialist caucuses, and hundreds of DSA members are in elected office at all levels of government. Socialism is both more popular now than it’s been in decades and doesn't appear to show any signs of losing momentum. But it’s not all positive: union density remains perilously low, DSA(although now the largest socialist organization in United States history)still pales in comparison to even the Communist Party at the height of its power, moderates maintain a strong grip on the Democratic Party, and any glimpse of a mass working-class party on the horizon is overshadowed by the looming threat of climate change. And given the relative success of groups like Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats, one wouldn't be amiss to question the value of organizing as a socialist rather than focusing on electing and pressuring solid progressives to improve our government.

Of course, that isn't the goal for many of us. Instead, each victory, each tenant organized, each strike won, each socialist elected, each and every concession we claw from the capitalist class is not an end of itself, but a small step in our collective effort towards socialism. More than merely informing our strategy, this outlook does something to us. Call it hope or call it solidarity, there's something deeply transformative about organizing as a socialist: a thread that ties each and every one of us not just to each other, but to the striking miners of Harlan County, grape pickers in the Central Valley, and Amazon workers in Bessemer. Organizing as a socialist—whether you're standing with hospital workers striking for higher pay or out on the streets demanding we defund the police—sweeps you into a fight that has been ongoing for hundreds of years: the fight between the working class and the capitalist class.

That's why I'm proud to be a DSA member. Not just because of what we've accomplished, but because of what we can accomplish. Because in every door we knock with the Greater Boston Tenants Union, every call we make for Eve Seitchik, and every new organizer we involve lies the seeds of a struggle that inextricably links workers across the world. Because for better or worse, we're the only chance we have.