The Socialists of Caltech envision a future in which the economy and community are democratically organized for the benefit of all people, not the profits of a few. Our project is to identify and engage in key areas of struggle to build the solidarity in our communities necessary for the social transformation leading to the just world we imagine.
We have a number of regular events.
• Our monthly general meetings are an opportunity to get updates on all ongoing projects and vote on important decisions.
• The biweekly discussion/reading group is a great option for people looking to develop their politics.
• Monthly movie screenings are a more relaxed way to learn something new and meet other socialists.
Our political organizing activities are scheduled by the working groups, and vary depending on the status of each project and on current events. Refer to "current projects" to find out what our focus is right now, then check the calendar for specific actions and meetings. The best way to get involved is to organize with us!
Most of SoC's activity takes place in its working groups, each one focusing on a different area of either outward-facing political work or internal growth and development as an on-campus organization. At the moment our active working groups are: Anti-imperialism, Education, Housing, and Outreach. We also collaborate extensively with affiliated and partner organizations at the local and national level, most notably Democratic Socialists of America, Science for the People, and the Pasadena Tenants Union.
The Anti-Imperialism Working Group works to provide Socialists of Caltech as well as the wider Caltech community with an explicitly anti-capitalist framework for opposition to American imperialism and the military industrial complex.
Our goal is to interrupt the logic of these systems at the source of knowledge production, and to undertake meaningful actions against them. We will oppose imperialism via a diversity of methods, including political education events, direct action, and institutional pressure.
Caltech is an institution with significant historical ties to both the US military and the American eugenics movement. As socialists at this institution, we recognize that the history of Western science is inextricably tied to colonialism, white supremacy, and military expansion. In the current historical moment, it is especially crucial that science workers recognize the political nature of their labor. The continued militarization and automation of policing is bolstered by weapons and algorithms that we design. Massive surveillance of marginalized communities is enabled by software and technology that we create. Arms dealers sell their wares - the products of our labor - to the most oppressive regimes in the world, including the United States military. It is clear that science plays a significant role in maintaining the power of the ruling class, and that this power is expanded and reproduced globally primarily in the form of American empire. In order to oppose capitalism, it is necessary to oppose imperialism and to fight for a revolutionary science - one which exists not for the production of profit, nor for the destruction of human life and dignity, but for the liberation of all oppressed people.
The Education working group seeks to raise the political consciousness and theoretical understanding of SoC members and the Caltech community at large, in order to guide our organizing and practical action.
As socialists we recognize that our society’s education system, mass media, and cultural norms are products of the existing capitalist order and serve to reproduce it in turn. Together they constitute a "common sense" that naturalizes competition, individualism, and social oppression; erases or distorts beyond recognition the history of our movement; and negates the very possibility of collective action. For us, political education is a continual process of overcoming this ideological indoctrination through both study and active struggle. We draw on a rich vein of theoretical insights bequeathed to us by our forebears, but this body of work is a living one, constantly informed and updated by our own organizing experiences.
The centerpiece of the Education working group's activities is our wide-ranging series of biweekly discussion groups; please see this archive of past topics and readings. In the 2018-19 academic year, our regular discussion groups will alternate with a new reading series on Marxist primary texts (syllabus here). Every week we also distribute a digest of interesting articles and podcasts submitted by members through this form; past digests are compiled here. We've also organized a number of larger workshops oriented to the broader Caltech community, such as What is Socialism? in spring 2018, and look to host more in coordination with other working groups in the near future.
The Housing working group seeks to support and organize struggles for housing justice at Caltech and in the broader Pasadena community.
As is the case for most major cities in the US, Los Angeles is suffering a serious housing crisis. Pasadena is no exception - 57% of Pasadenans are tenants. Rents in Pasadena have gone up more than 50% in the last 6 years (with an increase of ~9.4% in the last year alone), leading to waves of gentrification, eviction and homelessness . Meanwhile, landlords and real estate developers are enjoying enormous profits by continuing to extract rent from working class tenants. The vast majority (88%) of Pasadena's newly constructed rental housing stock is market rate/luxury units. As a result, Pasadena residents (including Caltech students and employees) are experiencing housing crises, longer commutes, fragmented communities, and homelessness. We recognize that these problems are directly linked to issues of racism, patriarchy, police, and environmental degradation - and that these are all inherently tied to capitalism.
Working alongside the Pasadena Tenants Union (PTU) and the Los Angeles chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA-LA), we are engaging our fellow tenants in a collective class struggle for housing justice. Ultimately, we seek to abolish rent—the system by which owners of property extract money from tenants in need of a roof over their head. Instead, we advocate for social ownership of housing, in the form of a public resource for all.
In its current form, this struggle is centered around the fight for rent-control. In 2018, Socialists of Caltech gathered hundreds of signatures in support of rent control. Specifically, we are working closely with two campaigns: 1) a statewide campaign for a ballot measure called Proposition 10, which would repeal a California law severely limiting rent control, and 2) a local campaign, led by the PTU, to get a Pasadena charter amendment securing rent-control and just-cause eviction. We view these campaigns not only as ways of achieving critical protections for tenants, but also as struggles with potential to politicize and organize a mass base of working-class people; from an apartment complex coming together in the face of eviction to a national movement demanding public housing.
Canvasses. Join us at our frequent housing canvasses here in Pasadena. We knock on doors to talk to our neighbors about the ongoing struggle for housing justice. No experience necessary - you'll be paired up with an experienced canvasser!
Pasadena Tenants Union (PTU). Join us at a Pasadena Tenants Union meeting, where we come together as renters to discuss tenant's rights and our local organizing around these issues.
The Outreach working group creates pragramming for the Caltech community and engages the campus in organizing efforts.
Science is and has always been political. Its discourse is distilled through societal norms, its funding is connected to political entities, and its knowledge is defined and guarded behind ivory towers. With a history of affiliation with the military-industrial complex, scientific institutions have been complicit in imperialism, racism, eugenics, and more. The relationship of science with power lies in dialectical balance with the advances it makes possible; this balance highlights the importance of connecting scientists with socialism, particularly at an influential and connected institution like Caltech.
The outreach working group focuses on programming for the Caltech community and on SoC's presence on campus. In addition, we are committed to connecting Caltech to the greater community in Pasadena and beyond, building solidarity as a foundation for effective organizing. Often Outreach will collaborate with other working groups or even other Caltech organizations to put on events, such as: movie nights, educational workshops, flyering, and social gatherings. Examples of workshops include "Socialism 101" in collaboration with the Education working group, and "A People's History of Science" in collaboration with Free Radicals, an LA based activist collective. In addition, Outreach also organizes in response to developments in current events, particularly those impacting the local community. For example, last November in response to proposed taxes on graduate tuition, Outreach organized a student protest in coordination with other universities across the country.
The Permanent Crisis of Housing: a short but powerful introduction to housing as a site of class struggle and a source of universal political demands in all spheres of social life
The Deep, Uniquely American Roots of Our Affordable-Housing Crisis and Meet the Rising New Housing Movement That Wants to Create Homes for All: a pair of pieces in The Nation diving into the legislative and movement history behind low-income and public housing in the United States, with a particular focus on its racialization. The former concentrates mainly on the crisis in LA
SoC maintains an extensive and growing collection of socialist books and periodicals on the 9th floor of Millikan Library. We encourage all our members and everyone in the Caltech community at large to use it, and ask only that you use the clipboard provided there to sign out any item you wish to take home.
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is a "big tent" socialist organization that at over 50,000 members is currently the largest in the United States. SoC is formally affiliated with its youth wing Young Democratic Socialists of America at the level of the local chapter DSA-LA where many of our members are active, particularly in the nascent Pasadena branch. While DSA brings together many tendencies, we at SoC orient ourselves firmly on its left flank and work actively to advance a revolutionary, anti-imperialist, mass base-building perspective.
Science for the People (SftP) is a national organization of scientists and activists seeking to turn STEM to the service of workers and the oppressed, rather than the interests of capital and the imperial state apparatus. It is a revival of the eponymous group which from 1970-89 worked in solidarity with the Black and Third World liberation movements and put forth a boldly anticapitalist, anti-imperialist, antiracist, and feminist analysis of science's role in society. SoC is the LA-area affiliate of the new SftP, which also publishes a quarterly magazine.
The Pasadena Tenants Union (PTU) brings together Pasadena renters in struggle for housing justice in our city. Alongside SoC and DSA-LA, it is campaigning to pass Proposition 10 in November 2018 and mobilizing a coalition for an expanded local rent control measure in 2020. PTU is also beginning to organize Pasadena tenants at the building level amid the largest wave of rent strikes in the history of LA County.