Cool Things Wit Cool People is a monthly column by Akeem Dixon focusing on community development. To ask a question, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or reach out @akeemdixon.
A new year means so much to so many of us.
It can offer a clean canvas to paint our wildest dreams and hopeful new beginnings, and a chance to try something new and challenge yourself to infuse something exciting and rewarding into your life.
For community development-centric folks, the new year brings a new opportunity to devote time, energy and passion to implementing innovative ideas that make their little piece of the world a better place — something that for many has been even more of a priority since 2016, with Donald Trump’s election and the call for social justice reaching deafening volumes.
Philly Socialists, founded in 2011, offers a home for doers to unite and take on community-related issues with the goal of empowering its members to change the systems we exist in as Americans — a complicated task that this group tackles head on by learning (its members hope) from the mistakes made by our current political and economic systems.
I’d heard socialism was rising in popularity across the country, including in Philadelphia and especially among young people. So, in the spirit of the new year, I decided to learn more. Here, Director of Communications and Design Andrew Joung walks us through Philly Socialists 101: what it is, who it represents, what it’s accomplished and what’s next.
AD: What is Philly Socialists and what is the group’s purpose?
AJ: Philly Socialists is a multi-tendency, socialist base-building organization. That’s a mouthful, so let me try and break-down what that means. We are, first and foremost, socialists. That means that we believe that the fundamental root of our society’s problem is capitalism and solving the most important issues of today (e.g., police brutality, mass incarceration, poverty, homelessness) cannot be solved by directly dealing with a system that organizes itself around profit rather than need.
But unlike a lot of other socialist organizations, we are not centered on theory. What that means for us is that we are driven by ideas that work, not an attachment to a specific socialist dogma. We pull from the best aspects of three great socialist traditions: social democracy, anarchism and communism. We believe above all that a respect for difference in experience and thought is absolutely essential.
[Editor’s note: One other local socialist group is Democratic Socialists of America, a national group with a Philly chapter.]
AD: Does your group think of itself as a community development organization? How so, or why not?