Organizing in a Red State

by Krzysz Novosiltsov

When I first started to organize a YDS Chapter in Wichita, Kansas I expected a lot of positive and negative things to happen; while not knowing what to expect at all. Through my time organizing, I’ve learned more about Socialism and people than I could have any other way. Hopefully this will help others trying to start chapters in Red States to know what to expect and how to get started.

I initially expected a lot of negative feedback because of the campus’s general view on politics. (The largest political group is the College Republicans, which are also the most active.) The College Democrats had mostly disbanded, and there was no leadership among the left-leaning students. There had been a pro-life rally that went on for days, multiple army recruiters that were well received, and many Republicans handing out Bibles on campus. I expected a strong opposition to any Democratic group that was to form on campus. Only some of these fantasies would become reality though. As I started spreading the word through posters, chalking, and contacting other group leaders, I was able to gain much support for what I was trying to start, and was able to pick up some momentum.

My first step in organizing was finding a way to achieve some kind of unity. Being in a Red State generally means few Socialists, and a small group of similar people in descent. I first contacted the African-American Student Association to try and gain support; since then we’ve agreed to work together during Black History Month to raise awareness of African-American civil rights movements and history. I reached out to FOCUS (Feminists On Campus Uniting Student Interests) to gain support for Pro-Choice rallies that we will hold in the spring. We were able to reach out to the College Democrats and planned on working together for three rallies; one on Women’s Rights, another for Immigrant’s Rights, and one on the War in Iraq. While we do not agree on everything, we understand we can only move forward together. I found that the only way to make an impact was to work with others on things we agreed on and issues that could bring people of all backgrounds together to work for positive change. The reactions I received from people in these groups were nothing but hope and support.

After being recognized as a true organization on campus, I then went to some professors to gain support; which can be some of the best help one could hope to receive. I first went to teachers that were openly Democratic. I was able to find two Socialist professors on campus that have since aided me completely and actually united me with other students on campus that shared my same ideas. Many of these students thought they were alone in their views on our campus. Together we have raised awareness on campus through tabling, putting up posters, handing out flyers, chalking, and talking to anyone, of any group, that wants to speak. I have gone with students to Libertarian and Democrat meetings to help them decide where they stand politically.

What I hope to achieve through this group is helping others come together on causes where like-views are shared. In places where we cannot be the party with the most members, there will always be people we can work with on certain issues, and maybe by working with them on certain ideas, we will be able to find more things we share in common with other groups; or maybe people will realize more about their own beliefs.

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