By Susan Stevens
We grow and create new life through connections. America cannot thrive in a US-centric vacuum. Early social democrats understood this well and were founding members of the worldwide organization, the Socialist International. Then, over time, succeeding leaders went in different directions, left SDUSA and allowed its membership in the SI to lapse.
In our new century, SDUSA’s big-tent vision for authentic democracy that unites in power the working class, poor and otherwise-marginalized people has inspired and brought together a new group of social democrats to take up the torch. In part, this meant contacting SI leadership and learn what steps we should take to reunite with this amazing global organization.
When we received, in October, their thrilling invitation to attend their Congress the following month in Madrid, three out of our group of four delegates had to apply for expedited passports. As the Kansas delegate, I got mine uncomfortably close to departure time, yet this stressful circumstance granted me a firsthand glimpse of the benefits of living in a representative democracy when your rep takes her duties to her constituents seriously.
Our National Chair, Patty Friend, urged me to contact my Congresswoman Sharice Davids, and when I did, her Senior Constituent Services Representative, Outreach Representative and Veteran Coordinator Michael Williams promptly got back with me and got things moving. This experience bore immediate fruit on our very first night in Madrid, when I got to meet a dear online friend — an immigrant who’d been there for 20 years– and learn of her current struggles with unemployment and with government agencies. When she learned how my Rep’s office went to bat for me regarding my passport, she wondered what the Spanish equivalent was for the US House of Representatives, but we weren’t able to find anything conclusive online.
The next day, the first day of the SI Congress gifted me with another seeming setback that ended up being an answer to my prayer for some information for my friend. We were browsing around in the lobby and I joined my gregarious comrade, SDUSA’s Vice Chair Michael Mottern, who’d struck up a lively conversation with the young people manning the merchandise table. It turned out they were Spanish government employees, and when I told them about my friend’s plight, one of them looked up her location and was able to give me the address and hours of the specific office where she should go. Soon after that, we were warmly ushered into the session, and I went in so happy to be there, yet even happier about the divine delay that provided a supportive connecting-point for my friend.
Last but not least, I was honored to get to room with and grow closer to my fellow-female delegate Carolyn Delvecchio Hoffman, a victorious SDUSA endorsee and a young elected Democratic legislator in New York’s Monroe County. Carolyn has the same outgoing spirit as Michael Mottern, unhesitatingly springing forward to meet and strike up conversations with every new person who crosses her path. Many of Carolyn’s constituents are Black Americans or more recent immigrants from Africa, and I got the impression that coming to this event in a location so close to the African continent, and getting to meet so many laborers for social democracy from various African nations, has been a sort of homecoming and home-expanding act for her, a way to intertwine her political roots with those approaching freedom and opportunities for economic growth in fresh new ways. I look forward to seeing how this experience shapes her ongoing service to her constituents!
And I look forward to experiencing ever-warmer and closer ties with all my comrades. The only way forward is towards one another. In solidarity forever, unity without end, amen.