The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) established a presence in Oxford with the first Butler County branch meeting on Monday night. About a dozen people gathered in Quarter Barrel Brewery and Pub — a group of both students and permanent residents united by their leftism and concern for the future of the country and the world.
The DSA is a national organization that includes a broad range of leftist policy alignments. According to their official website, they believe “both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives.”
Seth Cantwell, a DSA member and Oxford resident who led and helped organize the meeting, defines DSA’s mission more simply.
“The crux of everything is that all of the organizations – businesses, everything – should be democratically controlled by the workers,” he said. “[The] basic premise of democratic socialism is that the workers have the means of production.”
Cantwell said DSA includes everything from social democrats to anarchists and Marxists — none of which are easily defined. The DSA website defines socialists by their rejection of “an international economic order sustained by private profit, alienated labor, race and gender discrimination, environmental destruction, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo,” and their interest in a more equitable social order.
There are more than 150 officially-registered DSA chapters in 46 states and Washington D.C., including four chapters in Ohio. Its membership has risen significantly since November 2016, totaling around 50,000 members.
The Butler County branch is an extension of the Metro Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky DSA chapter. At this stage, it does not technically qualify as a branch because that status requires the signatures of five card-carrying members. There were only three card-carrying members at the meeting.
However, that will likely soon change as the organization grows, and the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky branch can subsidize the cost of membership for those who need it.
Cantwell and other interested members wanted to establish a Butler County branch to make meetings smaller and more accessible to people in the area.
At the informal and unstructured meeting, attendees touched upon local issues they want to focus their future efforts on. These included doing away with the cash-bail system in Butler County which often leaves poor people and people of color stuck in jail, Cantwell said.
Other issues mentioned include the larger opioid crisis within the region and the large Latino population in the Butler County jail, which has a contract with ICE in which the federal government pays for the housing and transportation of illegal immigrant detainees.
Mostly, the efforts of the meeting were focused on how to grow membership and community presence in Butler County, which is predominantly conservative. The best way to do this, the attendees concluded, was to collaborate with leftist groups on Miami’s campus like the College Democrats, the Society for Peace and Justice and F-WORD.
The attendees also mentioned that Charles Campbell, secretary of the Cincinnati DSA branch and a visiting assistant professor in Miami’s department of classics, has expressed interest in establishing a Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) chapter at Miami. Student activists at the meeting said they intended to increase awareness of the organization on campus.
“[Other leftists and I] have been wanting a local DSA for years,” said Bobby Adler, ASG senator and college democrat member. “Hopefully we can get more students at future meetings.”