Author discusses ‘The Socialist Manifesto’ with UT students

Mackenzie Dyer

Several dozen UT students, Austinites and volunteer hosts from the local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America gathered on campus Wednesday evening to learn about modern socialism from one of the subject’s most prominent writers.

Bhaskar Sunkara, founding editor of the Marxist magazine Jacobin, visited Patton Hall to speak about the Democratic Socialists of America and his new book, “The Socialist Manifesto: The Case for Radical Politics in an Era of Extreme Inequality.”

“Most of the people in DSA are like me: upwardly mobile citizens who had the chance to go to college and have a steady job,” Sunkara said during the talk. “Other members are downwardly mobile young people who have kind of been thrust into the working class.”

Sunkara said his magazine is a place for socialists to publish stories from across the world and debate proposals for a post-capitalist future. In “The Socialist Manifesto,” which was published in April, Sunkara traces socialism's history and explains why he believes the socialist tradition still matters today. 

“In this movement, Sunkara is something like an ideologue,” Austin DSA member Chris Wood said. "With tech and politics today, a system in which people don't try to control others for personal gain but instead cooperate so everyone can flourish sounds logical."

Sunkara said transforming society is difficult, but socialism as a movement is growing. DSA grew from 8,500 members to over 50,000 members between fall 2016 and fall 2018, according to the DSA’s website.

“Just because America hasn’t been a socialist country doesn’t mean that socialism hasn’t made a difference,” said Madeline Detelich, an Austin DSA volunteer and an environmental and water resources engineering graduate student. “When I think of American history, those who made a difference had socialism in the background.”

Sunkara said U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign is not just about winning the election in 2020, but also about making America more socialist overall.

Sunkara said his endorsement and campaign contributions to Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist, and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are meant to remake America and American politics.

“We were a movement once on life support,” Sunkara said. “Now, we are a movement on bed rest.”