The struggle to bring any form of socialism requires constant political education, debate, reflection, and good old face-to-face dialogue with people for developing a vision for an alternative political economic system.
Because consciousness building concerning the validity of socialism remains extremely low if not nonexistent on the media radar most people, my friend and comrade, Carl Pinkston and I decided about a year ago to host an online audio podcast titled, Socialist Visions, hosted on BlogTalk Radio.
This podcast grew out of monthly soirées we had with two or three other veteran activists in which we would spend a couple of hours discussing issues related to socialism, current political news, and our past participation in various political left movements and organizations.
After over a year of these gatherings, it dawned on me that our rich monthly discussions should be shared beyond the table at Jos Jarritos restaurant.
I perviously had some experience with the online podcast hosting platform, BlogTalk Radio, which a is a relatively easy and accessible tool to start a podcast without significant investment in technology and preparation time. The platform simply requires creating a podcast show, setting the times and description for show episodes, and calling into the your private studio using your phone or desktop microphone.
We chose the name Socialist Visions simply because we felt that most people blinded by decades neoliberal politics and ideology lack visions for an alternative political and economic model to capitalism. Even most left media, including Democracy Now, have little or no discussions about the possibilities and objectives of modern socialism or any alternatives to capitalism. There is plenty of much-needed criticisms of capitalism, but there is very little talk and understanding of how socialism can be a better political system for organizing and managing resources and labor, and developing a much richer and meaningful life for all people.
Socialist Visions began several months before Bernie Sanders announced his run for the presidency. Before his announcement, our show topics included an overview of the history of socialism, an explanation of dialectical materialism (which garnered over 500 archive downloads), Martin Luther King’s views of democratic socialism, dismantling institutionalized racism, work and leisure under modern socialism, and “A Vision of Justice: from Palestine to Ferguson.”
Our first dozen or so shows were based on the free 30 minute BlogTalk platform. But we realized that the short format would not be useful for conducting interviews with other activists and political authors. Thus, a few months before Sanders announced his run, we decided to pony up for the longer premium format ($40 per month), which now allows us to do a weekly 90-minute show. (Note: there are cheaper ways to do podcasts, but we stay with this platform because it’s ease of use.)
With a longer show format and the popular emergence of the Sanders campaign, Socialist Visions gets between 300 and 500 weekly downloads depending upon the topic and how we promote it. While those numbers are very low compared to of course corporate media and commercial podcasts, we are certainly reaching more people online than we would have time to physically reach on a local campus or community venue.
Because of my experience with social media, I also realized that we would never be heard by more than a few dozen people if we did not make use of social media spaces. Neither Carl or I have much time to do work in social media, but I started using a few online automation tools that keep our Socialist Visions Twitter stream populated on nearly an hourly basis during the day and evenings.
But I don't just rely on the automation tools, I also do the important work of engaging with my Twitter followers — retweeting their tweets, manually posting tweets about the Bernie campaign, Black Lives Matter, the fight for 15, and other related issues. Our Twitter peeps, some of them advocates of socialism, share and favor are past and new shows, and other content we share about capitalism and socialism. I view posting tweets much like passing out flyers on the college campus and rallies.
Of course since last August, we have used many of our shows (59 episodes so far) to discuss issues related to the Sanders campaign, including an ongoing show series in which we select and discuss one of the platform issues outlined on BernieSanders.com. Bernie’s brand of democratic socialism makes for a grand opportunity to hold a much needed discussions and analysis of wealth inequality, racial injustice, women’s rights, the environment, single-payer Medicare, and US foreign policy. We have used our show to read through his platform issues and explain how they are relevant to both democratic socialism and revolutionary socialism. And because we’re not politicians or super pac, we can well beyond what Bernie can say in his speeches.
At the same time we have invited authors and political activists to share and even debate their views of the campaign, and in each show we provide further insight about visions for a socialist economic and political model.
One one of our most recently most downloaded shows includes an interview with Portia A. Boulger of Women4Bernie.us, a well organized nationwide Sanders support group that fundraises and hold local Meetups related to the campaign. The group has a Twitter following of over 24,000 people.
While it is difficult to determine if Sanders can win the Democratic nomination (I think he will by a slim margin), Carl and I view his campaign is a rare opportunity for the left to build upon his platform, on both local and nationwide levels. Because Sanders unequivocally advocates democratic socialism, a young generation of voters don't have to feel timid about using the word socialism or promoting its objectives, and neither should we on the left.
We want to encourage other left activists to use online media such as Blogtalk and other platforms, as well as face-to-face activism, to engage people about a socialist alternative. We are no longer stymied by corporate media, or limited to venues on college campuses or local community centers. We can use online resources and social media to reach people across the Internet without a huge investment of time and money.
If you’re interested in working with us or being a guest on the show, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Bakari Chavanu
Bakari Chavanu is a full-time freelance writer, blogger, and co-host of Socialist Visions.