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Speaker: Don’t confuse socialists with communists

Published: Sun, September 25, 2011 @ 12:05 a.m.

By David Skolnick



Growing up in Poland, Andrew Porter said one of his great interests was history.

As he got older, Porter, 26, said, “I was motivated by people who made the world a better place. I developed a deep love for democracy. I had these interests in high school, but I really didn’t know what do with it.”

While at the College of Wooster, Porter figured out what to do with that “deep love for democracy.”

He became a socialist.

Today, Porter, a 2005 graduate of Poland Seminary High School, is the national organizer for the Young Democratic Socialists, the youth arm of the Democratic Socialists of America, the largest socialist organization in the country with about 6,500 members.

Porter said his brand of socialism shouldn’t be confused with Cold War Soviet communists.

“That is the biggest misconception people have of socialism,” he said. “The DSA has strong opposition to the former USSR’s totalitarianism. That was terrible.”

The goals of Democratic Socialists, Porter said, are to expand democracy; work to make sure everyone has a chance to fulfill their potential despite their race, class, gender or sexual orientation; and to stop government and businesses from controlling society.

Though some Republicans accuse Barack Obama of being a socialist, Porter said he’s “disappointed” the president is too moderate to be a socialist.

“I’d be real happy if Obama was a socialist,” Porter said.

Porter said he’s a realist who knows “there isn’t this magic, perfect world” of a socialist “utopia.”

Rather, socialists “have to be long-distance runners. We won’t see immediate changes. We have to be in it for the long haul. We have to be OK with things gradually getting better. Some things have gotten better.”

Porter said he’s pleased that more states are legalizing gay marriages, the federal government ended “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military, and the Obama administration no longer is defending the Defense of Marriage Act.

As YDS’ national organizer, Porter primarily is responsible for creating new chapters and working with established chapters on college campuses.

Nationally, Porter said, there are about seven strong chapters, 10 solid chapters, 10 that just began and about six or seven potential new chapters. The membership in the chapters is five to 10 core members and up to 30 others, he said.

Among the solid chapters, he said, is Youngstown State University’s Students for Social Justice.

Students for Social Justice is affiliated with YDS and other social-justice groups, said Dan Buckler, its president and a high-school friend of Porter’s. The two also attended the College of Wooster together.

“Andrew is very passionate, and it comes out when speaking with him,” said Buckler, a postgraduate student. “All you have to do is look at his accomplishments as national organizer.”

Porter was on the YSU campus Wednesday speaking to a group of nine students at an event sponsored by Students for Social Justice. Porter spoke about YDS and urged people to vote against Issue 2 on the November ballot that, if approved, would remove most collective-bargaining rights from public employees.

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