A Miracle in the State of Pennsylvania

State of Pennsylvania

An American Babushka in Moscow:  A Miracle in the State of Pennsylvania, U.S.A. – four socialists backed by the Democratic Socialists of America win primary seats.

I am exhilarated today, not because it is a beautiful day in Moscow, nor because of anything Putin has done, but because of what has happened in the State of Pennsylvania.  Not one, not two, not three but four house candidates backed by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) won their primaries,  And it gets better than that – all four of the candidates are women and one of them is African American

Pittsburgh DSA campaigned heavily for two Democrats: Summer Lee, an African-American attorney and labor organizer running in Pennsylvania House District 34, and Sara Innamorato, a founder of the women’s advocacy group She Runs Southwestern PA running in Pennsylvania House District 21.

On the other side of the state, in Philadelphia, America’s first capital and the place where Americans make patriotic pilgrimages to visit Independence Hall, the building where the Declaration of Independence was signed,

Elizabeth Fiedlerand Kristin Seale,  won their primaries.  Fiedler, a former public radio reporter, defeated Jonathan Rowan and lacks a Republican opponent in the general election. Seale, an executive at an energy conservation nonprofit, is due to challenge incumbent Rep. Christopher Quinn.

According to Arielle Cohen, co-chair of Pittsburgh DSA, their victory portends a revival of the socialist-leaning economic left in the wake of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) 2016 presidential bid.“It feels like a monumental shift,” Cohen said. “We won on popular demands that were deemed impossible. We won on health care for all; we won on free education.”

“We’re turning the state the right shade of red tonight,” she added

There was a great revolutionary leader of the people, whose name escapes me (and if anyone can remind me I would be so grateful) who said “optimismin deed and pessimism in thought.”  And I think, particularly now that I am an old woman who has seen revolutionary movements come and go, morph and become other than revolutionary – I do live in the former Soviet Union after all- it is really quite unwise of me to be so excited.  After all, Bernie Sanders was not the first “socialist” to run for President of the U.S.   Long before him, in 1920, that great spokesman of the working class and member of the Socialist Party, Eugene Debs ran for that office and won nearly one million votes”. And before these four women won seats in the house, two socialist men had been elected.  Victor Berger was elected five times, but barred by House resolutions from taking his seat the first two times.   Let me repeat that, because he was a socialist the House of Representatives barred him from taking the office to which he had been democratically elected.  So much for the myth of democracy.The second was Meyer London who represented New York and won three out of five elections.   Socialists had also held other offices. For example, Milwaukee had several socialist mayors in the past (Frank Zeidler, Emil Seidel and Daniel Hoan). Yet even in its heyday at the turn of the century, Socialism never captured the hearts and minds of the American people, never had the appeal that it has had in Europe.  However, as Griffin Fariello points out (Red Scare: Memories of the American Inquisition) neither has any country in Europe persecuted socialists and communists with America’s focused fierceness.  American anarchists, socialists and union organizers were brutalized and murdered in America by the police, and by private agencies such as the Pinkerton Guards

But none the less, I am pleased and I am proud of what has happened in Pennsylvania, not just because I am a Marxist/feminist, but because I spent my early years in the Pennsylvania, a state, not unlike other states, with untold but proud history of labor struggles. It was in Pennsylvania that the International Workers of the World foughtbloody battles for the right of workers to organize in the steel industry, in coal mining, on the railroads and in the factories.  It was there that the great industrial unions found fertile ground.

My Grandmother’s first husband had been recruited from Eastern Europe to come and work as a coalminer in the promised land of America.   He died in the mine from a cave in.  As my grandmother told the story, two men carried the body through the streets, knocked at her door and when my grandmother answered, put his body on the floor before her and walked away.  She was left with three children and, because she lived in a company house, would soon become homeless.  She then would tell the story of what happened after my grandfather’s long process of dying from black lung.  She received benefits from the United Mine Workers: enough money to bury him, enough money to help her through hard times.  She would tell the story of how the miners struggled to unionize.  She would tell this story at the dinner table, surrounded by her 7 remaining children and their spouses and their children, but it was told to me, as I was her oldest grandchild, the one she has taken and raised.  Then all eyes would turn to me and my grandmother would ask me the question: “Will you work for a union when you grow up?”  “Yes, of course,” I would answer.  But over the course of my lifetime, I would watch unions become systematically dismembered and destroyed by the Red Scare, by the migration of jobs to other parts of the world, but the rise of new methods of management such as the human relations school, which brainwashed workers into believing that they didn’t really need unions.  It was hard to fulfill my promise to my grandmother, but at the age of 59, when I was hired by a small college in New Jersey, I  finallybecame a proud member of The United Federation of Teachers.

So perhaps, just as I lived and worked long enough to finally become a union member, I will live long enough to see the rise of socialism in America, in the state of Pennsylvania, in the city that was once the great the great steel capital of the world, Pittsburgh, and in Philadelphia, where the capitalist state was born.

Mary Metzger is a 72 year old retired teacher who has lived in Moscow for the past ten years. She studied Women’s Studies under Barbara Eherenreich and Deidre English at S.U.N.Y. Old Westerbury. She did her graduate work at New York University under Bertell Ollman where she studied Marx, Hegel and the Dialectic. She went on to teach at Kean University, Rutgers University, N.Y.U., and most recenly, at The Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology where she taught the Philosophy of Science. Her particular area of interest is the dialectic of nature, and she is currently working on a history of the dialectic. She is the mother of three, the gradmother of five, and the great grandmother of 2.


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