A Statement from the Brooklyn Branch of the International Socialist Organization
September 13, 2018
Over the past five weeks, we have witnessed a nightmarish series of attacks on Julia Salazar, the Democratic Socialists of America candidate for New York State Senator representing District 18 in North Brooklyn, against 17- year incumbent Martin Malavé Dilan. We believe the steady and vicious smear campaign drummed up by both liberal and right wing media outlets and timed to coincide with the last weeks before the primaries, are a product of the threat that New York real estate developers, landlords, and Zionist organizations feel her candidacy poses, and their attempt to sow doubt and distrust in socialist candidates.
Salazar is running on a platform to reverse gentrification and the mass displacement of working class New Yorkers that has taken place through rent hikes, vacancy decontrol, upzoning, landlord harassment and racial discrimination. She is running to repeal the Taylor Law that bans public sector workers from striking in the state with the highest concentration of unionized workers in the country, amidst a national upsurge in mass strikes. Her campaign is one of the first in the nation to advocate for the rights of sex workers to work free of police harassment and criminalization. This is in opposition to national bipartisan support for legislation like SESTA-FOSTA, that disproportionately targets Black and immigrant sex workers. Salazar is also pledging to expand abortion rights in New York and to remove abortion from the state’s criminal code, at a moment when Roe v. Wade is all but guaranteed to be repealed by the current Supreme Court. Salazar’s platform also calls for an end to broken windows policing and cash bail, and for shutting down Rikers Island. She has pledged to reverse tax breaks for tech companies, to support the right of tech workers to organize in the workplace, and to challenge collaboration between law enforcement and social media companies. Her platform has been shaped by activists and organizers in many of these struggles. And she has maintained her defense of the rights of the Palestinian people, and has not backed down on her support for the BDS movement. If elected, she would be a pro-BDS political representative in a state marked by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s two year effort to blacklist any organizations that boycott apartheid Israel.
It is therefore little wonder that the political establishment has spent months using every weapon at their disposal to force a retreat on this kind of socialist platform. We should be clear that every attack on Salazar is towards this objective.
Salazar has been accused of being a Republican, of not really being Jewish, of being a gentrifier and of organizing at the behest of a “national organization” because she is a member of DSA. All these attacks have one thing in common. They raise the specter of the outside agitator: a classic attack levelled against radical movements for change, and socialists in particular. From Ferguson, Missouri to Brooklyn, New York, it is always radicals who are claimed to be stirring up trouble, while the ongoing struggles of working class people fighting for their homes, children and communities is ignored and repressed. Socialists fighting to expand rent control and end evictions of long term low income residents in Bushwick, Greenpoint and Williamsburg are being accused of gentrification. Meanwhile, the drivers of gentrification– the real estate firms and the landlord associations– fuel speculation and market driven evictions, and Dilan continues to accept hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from their lobbyists, earning his status as one of the real estate lobbyists’ favorite Democrats in Albany.
Armin Rosen’s article in Tablet questioning Salazar’s identity and attempting to weaponize her history of college activism was a transparent attack against supporters of the movement to boycott, divest and sanction apartheid Israel. Zionists have never been squeamish about filling their ranks with all sort of anti-Semites who support Israel and think Jews should go to hell. Had Salazar been a Zionist Democrat or Republican running on a platform to criminalize the BDS movement, her life and identity would never have been an issue for her detractors. We recognize the ways in which millions of people have shifted their positions after witnessing Palestinians resisting occupation, and that Julia Salazar is part of the movement because of the self-determination and resilience of the Palestinian people. We stand with her, and defend her against every attack on her background, identity and life, especially those that claim to speak about the limits of identity politics, while supporting the repression of the BDS movement, and Arab and Muslim activists in particular. And we are completely outraged to hear of Salazar’s experience being sexually assaulted by David Keyes, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s spokesperson to foreign media, and that she was outed without her consent.
We do not wish to subject Salazar’s personal life and identity to further microscopic treatment in this statement. But ignoring or entertaining these attacks on Salazar will ultimately undermine a confident socialist movement and Left. We address this statement as well to those progressive allies who continue to dissect Salazar’s background, and we urge you not to equivocate, but to stand firmly on the side of solidarity, so that one of our own does not pay such a high price for standing up for all of us. Rather than treat her break from anti-abortion activism with suspicion, we should understand that it is positive proof that we can win millions more people to defending the right to bodily autonomy for women and trans people. We don’t need to know Salazar personally to know that anti-communism and conservatism have dominated South Florida’s Cuban diaspora community for decades, and this influence has waned since the 2008 economic crisis, with a more leftward turn of young Latinx Florida Millennials. This should be a nonissue. We recognize the immense courage and strength it takes for any person shaped by conservative environments to break from right wing political beliefs, and to commit to a life of building socialism. We know what is required is a mass feminist movement organizing in the streets, that can shift people’s ideas. Salazar’s personal evolution and campaign is a hopeful and positive sign that this new socialist movement can achieve free abortion on demand in the United States within our lifetime. That movement will not be built from persuading Democratic and Republican politicians who vote to confirm anti-abortion Supreme Court Justices like Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, but through persuading people to defend our clinics and rights, and to make abortion coverage an indispensable part of the Medicare for All fight. We should welcome every single person who comes forward, because that’s how we’ll begin to reverse the forty year war on reproductive rights.
The political establishment’s disturbing campaign against Salazar is meant to divide us and make us retreat from a confident unapologetic defense of our side. There are millions more of us who break from right wing ideas, question the priorities of a capitalist society built on profit, and come to left wing politics, out of our material experiences and the influence of mass social movements. There are millions more of us who are weighed down by the brutal toll of oppression, who fight for our lives and dignity against racism, misogyny and sexual assault, and who are forced to face the courts and the police, in order to clear our records and names in a highly policed and surveilled and unfree world. Socialists believe that it’s not what class you’re from and what arbitrarily inherited privileges you were born with, but what class you’re for and what political positions you hold that matters. The more we can begin to articulate that the attacks on Salazar represent all kinds of attacks against the complicated, lived experiences of millions of working class and oppressed people in the United States, the better equipped we will be to challenge a narrative that is attempting to assert itself right now: that only those with the most polished, “unimpeachable” backgrounds are fit to run as representatives for the socialist movement. In reality, no such representative of working class interests exists. That narrative exists to discipline and shame our class into silence and retreat.
We look forward to organizing in solidarity and struggle with Julia Salazar and DSA in the defense of our abortion clinics and and the BDS movement, and in the fight for universal rent control, single payer health care and the repeal of the Taylor Law. We will continue to defend our comrades against these and other baseless, right wing attacks on activists and the movement.
International Socialist Organization – Brooklyn Branch