Austin Democratic Socialists of America

Ashkan Jahangiri

Do you self-identify as a man?: Yes

Do you self-identify as a person from a traditionally marginalized group?: Yes

Please describe your involvement in Austin DSA:

My first Austin DSA meeting was in July 2017.

I have been most active recently with the Housing Committee. From March to November 2018, I played a major organizing role in both phases of the successful Affordable Housing Bond Campaign, including the push for the City of Austin to vote on a $300M bond and the subsequent intensive door-to-door canvassing campaign for Proposition A, the $250M Affordable Housing Bond. I coordinated logistics and drove DSA member turn out to several City Council public hearings, press conferences, and, from September to November 2018, weekly canvassing actions.*

From November 2017 to February 2018, I played a major organizing role in the Paid Sick Days / Medicare For All Campaign as a founding member of the Health Justice Committee. Within the committee, myself and other members coordinated and executed a strategy for Austin DSA to force elected officials to pass a robust Paid Sick Days policy. I organized and attended phone banks that reached every single one of Austin DSA’s approximately one thousand members. This led to one of our biggest demonstration of organized socialist power thus far: the 75-member Canvass Kickoff and other public demonstrations and that successfully pressured Austin City Council to pass a robust Paid Sick Days policy. In April 2018, I attended a Houston DSA Medicare For All Event to give an invited talk, “Austin DSA’s Role in Winning Paid Sick Days.”

I played contributing roles in the victorious Austin Police Contract and Renaming White Supremacist Street Names efforts, regularly attended Feminist Action Committee meetings until late 2018, and have remained an active participant of the Medicare For All Canvassing Campaign. In November 2018, I was arrested along with seven other DSA member socialist feminists for blocking a roadway in protest of the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

As a member of the leadership committee, I organized a successful Picnic Fundraiser in June 2018, coordinated and wrote press releases and various chapter communications, managed a few minor crises, and helped construct General Body Meeting agendas.

*In addition to my work through DSA on the Affordable Housing Bond campaign, I worked full-time on the campaign by Keep Austin Affordable to pass Proposition A.

What strengths would you bring to the leadership committee?:

An exemplary Leadership Committee member, in my view, should have first and foremost the requisite time available. Especially considering that LC duties are necessarily in addition to other DSA work, serving on the LC entails an incredible time commitment. It is definitely manageable if one is working a full-time schedule and has other duties, but this is dependent on one’s own situation—in which every breath is taken under the squeeze of capitalism, so it sometimes cannot work out. I am strongly motivated by the prospect of a socialist society, and thus my involvement in Austin DSA is and has been my top priority after ensuring my basic needs are met. I have been fortunate to secure a lifestyle that affords me the time to properly dedicate to serving on the LC in 2019!

Otherwise, an LC member should be a socialist who can work well with other people, perform basic administrative tasks, and be flexible enough to handle the odd responsibilities that can pop up. This work is often hidden or thankless and can at times be emotionally taxing. An LC member should be able to keep a cool head and quiet tongue in any disputes, and should aim to either preclude or rapidly resolve conflicts. I have and am developing all of these traits!

I see it as an additional strength that I regularly read and critically discuss current and classic leftist theory. These studies demonstrably contribute to my praxis and understanding of how to build socialism with Austin DSA. LC members and DSA members should generally strive to be ambassadors of socialism wherever appropriate, and reading aids in being able to attractively articulate socialist principles and engage in meaningful discussion.

If elected, what would be your priorities be for the leadership committee and Austin DSA?:

I believe that the 2019 LC should consider whether it is reasonable and appropriate to set a goal of securing several thousand dollars in monthly contributions in order to hire a full time Austin DSA Socialist Organizer (thriving wage, with benefits). I would explore and pursue this as a priority for the 2019 LC. I also hope the 2019 LC can critically restructure our outward-facing communications (website, emails, twitter, press releases, etc.) to (1) maximally attract and activate new or inactive DSA members and to (2) systematize and institutionalize best practices thereof.

My priorities for Austin DSA are:
(1) preparing for and maximally leveraging the 2020 Bernie Sanders Presidential Campaign so as to bring in the greatest number of new socialist organizers;
(2) Pursuing the major leftist public policy goals that are on or almost-on the table nationally: Medicare For All and a Green New Deal. I will refrain from extolling the virtues of these truly non-reformist reforms in this setting.
(3) Attracting more socialists through all of our work, and facilitating that in my roles on the LC and otherwise within the chapter, but also,
(3.5) helping to equip Austin DSA members with socialist and political education. Finally,
(4) the leading candidate for the revolutionary agent to negate capitalist society is the international working class. Austin DSA has twice successfully engaged in traditional working class projects—the labor reform of Paid Sick Days and supporting the formation of the BookPeople United union—and we must always continue explicit labor-oriented organizing in building socialism locally. We should be especially prepared to support any major strikes, including a teachers strike, public sector strike, or, if we’re lucky, a General Strike.

What is your approach to resolving conflict and achieving consensus among differing viewpoints?:

I like what Mark Fisher said in Exiting the Vampire Castle. “We need to learn, or re-learn, how to build comradeship and solidarity instead of doing capital’s work for it by condemning and abusing each other. This doesn’t mean, of course, that we must always agree – on the contrary, we must create conditions where disagreement can take place without fear of exclusion and excommunication.”

Austin DSA exists to attract socialists, internet revolutionaries, and the disaffected, disenfranchised working class to join us in pursuing the socialist project. We must get together and work to increase our numbers. We shall accomplish this by winning reforms that demonstrate the power of socialist organizing to bring material gains for the working class. Operating on this shared and reinforced understanding should mitigate interpersonal conflicts, but it would be naive to simply say that people should not fight. Nonetheless, I generally do not find the disputes that have occurred within Austin DSA over the last year to have had very much to do with what I see as the primary work of Austin DSA, which is to demonstrate the power of collective organization to win reforms and thereby inspire others to join the socialist movement.

Hashing out differing viewpoints in an inclusive setting is critical for the positive advancement of democratic socialism. I am, however, uninterested in personal conflicts and am especially wary of the tendency for such conflict to interfere with organizing. Austin DSA members do not have to all be best friends, but loud, ugly disputes can turn others off from socialist organizing, which is the exact opposite of our mission. To the extent these arise and I am in a mediating role, I will pursue mediation in a timely (immediate) manner.

Do you identify with any caucus or political tendency, either within DSA or in general?: Socialist

Is there anything else you’d like to add?: Feel free to ask me any questions or to reach out to chat over coffee at [email protected]