Red River Valley Democratic Socialists of America

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Red River Valley Democratic Socialists of America is based around the Fargo/Moorehead area of North Dakota, and into neighboring Minnesota.

Leaders

In April 2017 Zac Echola and Courtney Schaff were organizers for the Red River Valley Democratic Socialists of America .[1]

Comrades

Red River Valley Democratic Socialists of America comrades April 2019.

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Mario H. Solis, Jacob Chalupnik, Jack Albrecht, Tracey Wilkie, Jake Mullin, Angel Melanie, Courtney Schaff, Dana Bisignani.

Front second from left Andrea Denault, Dakota Rhodes, front right Candace Anderson, Jay Scott.

RRVDSA socialist feminists

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Back left Andrea Denault, back right Angel Melanie

Front third from left Tracey Wilkie, Dakota Rhodes, Courtney Schaff, Candace Anderson, bottom right Dana Bisignani.

2018 endorsements

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Red River Valley Democratic Socialists of America 2018 endorsements Kara Gloe, Ruth Anna Buffalo.

Spreading socialism

Socialists play softball, though that may seem out of left field.

They also help organize annual fundraisers to pay off student lunch debt. And they serve locally in the North Dakota Legislature and on Moorhead's city council and school board.

Red River Valley Democratic Socialists of America formed in 2017 as a local chapter of the national socialist group, and since then it's been active in Fargo-Moorhead in fighting for fair wages, affordable housing and election reform.

"We are working on improving the lives of the folks in our community, but we're also having fun, hanging out. We're your neighbors. We're people with children and jobs. We’re not scary radicals," said Kara Gloe, a member of the local socialist chapter who's on the Moorhead School Board.

Gloe was one of eight socialists to first join the chapter. Now there are 120 members paying dues, though more attend events and protests. Their regular gathering spot, Red Raven Espresso Parlor, recently expanded its meeting space to accommodate the growing crowd.

More socialist groups are forming across the region, too, in Grand Forks, Bismarck and Bemidji, Minn. This growth is reflective of the national democratic socialist movement, with membership now surpassing 60,000 as the 2020 presidential election draws near.

"I definitely think it indicates pretty strongly that people are tired of the inequities in our society and looking for positive change," Gloe said.

Due to the growth in local membership, the socialist chapter here decided to form a softball team, the Red Ravens.

Every Wednesday night, socialist players sport red jerseys with "For The Union Makes Us Strong" on the back. It's the only political team in the Fargo Park District's coed league, while competitors are often from construction companies and restaurants.

It's not about winning on the ballfield, though the chapter has chalked up several recent political wins with some of its members getting elected — including Gloe, Rep. Ruth Anna Buffalo, D-Fargo, and Moorhead Councilwoman Shelly Dahlquist. The group also successfully campaigned for passage of approval voting in Fargo, which became the first U.S. city to adopt the voting method that lets voters pick any number of candidates in a given race.

Zac Echola, who helped start the local chapter and is now serving on the national Democratic Socialists of America steering committee, said forming the softball team was another way of raising visibility and connecting with the community.

Arguably the most attention recently given to the local chapter was when member and former North Dakota State Bison football player Jack Albrecht wore a socialist pin during his visit to the White House with teammates.

"We want people to know we are here. We are regular people who live in this community, and we have a vision of what our community should be," he said. "We're normal people who like to play softball, not some big scary group. We're just saying the S-word out loud."

Andrea Denault, a local chapter member, said she's always identified as a socialist. She was heavily involved with Occupy Wall Street while living in Denver and spent more than four months at Standing Rock during the DAPL pipeline protest. She grew up in Larimore, N.D., where he father served as mayor for nearly her entire childhood.

"The political bug bit me at a pretty young age," she said. "He was a union welder, but he didn't identify as a socialist. He was populist and believed in equality, the strength in numbers and people's rights over the rights of the wealthy."

Denault said the local democratic socialist chapter has been trying to "rebrand socialism in the community to make it a lot more palatable and approachable and normalized," she said.

"We're just people who want everyone to be taken care of. That's all this is. It's very simple. No need for the stigma," she said.

Dana Bisignani, a local professor and socialist member, said the word socialism has been "demonized" similar to how feminism has been, but she attributes that to misunderstanding.

"I mean the root word of socialism is social. We believe in collective well-being and that's what we want to see for all of our communities," she said, adding that people of opposing political views often care about the same issues. "I think sometimes that's a radical notion to people these days because our media and public interactions, everything is so polarized. Lots of people feel that tension in our nation right now and it sucks. How are you supposed to actually get to know anybody in that environment?"

But democratic socialists point to existing aspects of socialism, nationally and locally. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 created the 40-hour work week and ended child labor. Roads and bridges, the military, police and fire departments, public education and transportation, libraries, parks, Medicare all have socialist roots.

Echola said a hundred years ago a "bunch of socialists got together, won power in North Dakota and created the state bank." The Bank of North Dakota is the only state-owned bank in the country, and the state also has a state-owned mill and grain elevator.

"Even Republicans use socialist systems," he said. "It's not about government control, it's about controlling our own lives."

Another initiative endorsed by the local democratic socialist chapter was approval voting. Fargo became the first city in the country to adopt the voting system that results in a more accurate reflection of support for each candidate. Denault led efforts to pass the new voting method last year.

"It was tough to sell something that no other city in the U.S. has ever tried before," she said. "Even though socialists worked on this campaign it doesn't actually make it easier for socialist to win elections unless that socialist campaigns really well."

Denault said the reality here in North Dakota, an overwhelmingly red state, is that it doesn't matter who folks vote for president because the electoral college "is going to annihilate whoever we pick".

"However, I do think it's worth it to still campaign and get people that hope," she said. "Down-ticket wins for local races, that motivates me to get behind whoever is going to help us win the most down-ticket wins locally."[2]

DSA pin protest

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Jack Albrecht looked like just another football player when he and his North Dakota State teammates visited President Trump in the White House March 2018. But with a closer look, Albrecht stood out for reasons unrelated to his 6-foot-5, 286-pound frame. Albrecht, a backup offensive lineman, wore a small Democratic Socialists of America pin affixed to the lapel of his jacket, a gesture that drew particular attention in the presence of a chief executive who has railed against socialism in recent weeks.

Albrecht’s goal wasn’t to steal his teammates’ thunder as the Bison celebrated their Football Championship Subdivision title. Rather, he “wanted to make a quiet statement,” Zac Echola, treasurer of the Red River Valley Democratic Socialists of America, said.

“We had an opportunity,” Echola said. “We had a football player, and [he] wanted to quietly protest and wear a pin. We gave him one.”

It was, Echola said, “a media stunt” conceived when the team’s trip to Washington was announced, and one the Red River Valley DSA chapter announced while the Bison were en route to the District.

“We know there’s a ton of excitement around the team,” Echola said. “It’s a fantastic, winning program. We knew there was going to be a ton of media attention as well, so we figured if Jack wants to do this, we’ll give him a pin. We didn’t want to take away from that celebration. With any other president, we probably would still have done the pin thing, but I don’t know if it would have caused as much of a ruckus.”

The idea, according to Echola, came directly from Albrecht, one of 120 members of the Red River Valley chapter.

“I can’t really speak to his motivation, but he wanted to make a statement,” Echola said. “I think he said something very powerful to us once at a meeting. ‘Staying home doesn’t actually say anything, right?’ He also didn’t want to disrupt things for his teammates, so the pin was a quiet protest.”[3]

School board victory

On November 7, 2017, Kara Gloe, Red River Valley Democratic Socialists of America organizer, comfortably won a thirteen-person field to win a seat on the Moorhead School board.[4]

Building a Progressive Democracy Together

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Red River Valley Democratic Socialists of America shared an event, June 5 2018.

We're teaming up with the Dem-Npl Hispanic Caucus of North Dakota, the New Nonpartisan League, Our Revolution, Ruth Anna Buffalo, and others to share some food and camaraderie on Thursday. Come on out and join us.

THU, JUN 7

Building a Progressive Democracy Together.

Demystifying Democracy

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Demystifying Democracy: Making Change through Dem-NPL Reorg

Public · Hosted by Red River Valley Democratic Socialists of America

Saturday, March 4 at 12 PM - 12:45 PM CST

Ben Franklin Middle School 1420 8th St N, Fargo, North Dakota 58102

Join the Red River Valley Democratic Socialists of America as we explore the organizational strucutres of the North Dakota Dem-NPL, Cass County Dem-NPL, and your legislative district. We'll talk about how you can get involved and why participation in your legislative district today lays the foundation for progressive change tomorrow.

Invited on Facebook

Interested

Went

References