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A Home For White Blackbirds

Rosa Luxemburg once called the clergy and theologians who supported the working class struggle “white blackbirds” a rare species. Today, I feel she would be delighted to see that a once rare species is not so rare in the 21st century. I count myself as one of her “white blackbirds”.

My own road to Socialism has always been founded by my faith. From sermons by Jesuit priests during Occupy, while I was in college, to my own questions of the political economy of the Kingdom of God, to being introduced to Marxism by an Episcopal priest, my road to socialism has always been a journey of faith. My participating in the socialist movement has been the living of my faith. I cannot look at the teachings of Christ without seeing in opposition to Mammon, that is to say capitalism. The history of the Church is replete of episodes of communal life from the Acts church to Benedictine monasticism and beyond. Thus I am proud to find myself in the footsteps of monks, mystics and disciples. For if we truly believe “thy kingdom come...on Earth as it is in Heaven’’, we profess socialism.

I joined the Democratic Socialists of America in July 2016, because I was attracted to how open they were to religious organizing. I have been a member ever since locally in Northern Virginia. In 2018 I had the honor of being the Metro DC’s liaison to the Poor People’s Campaign, attempting to link our organization with a faith based movement. Intellectually, as well as being a scholar of the early church, I have also focused on the attempts to reconcile Marxism and religion. This of course is a wrestling I deal with within myself being both Christian and Marxist. Of course this led me to discover the rich Anglican socialist tradition of the late 19th and early 20th centuries including the work and life of Vida Scudder, who like me tried to reconcile being both a Marxist and a Christian both with her own life and her activism. I also drew within my research to connect what the Social Gospel theologians were doing with what German Marxists, such as Karl Kautsky and Rosa Luxemburg similarly, find an olive branch between religion and socialism.

This Spring I had the opportunity to connect with another Marxist Episcopalian and while at the April 2021 Religious Socialism Conference, the decision was to organize by faith tradition as the best organizing consensus we all could reach. Thus was created the Episcopal Caucus within the National Religious Socialism Working Group of DSA. The basic hope I have for the caucus is to be a home for comrades of the Episcopal faith to represent our own tradition within DSA while also becoming an organizing force within the Episcopal Church. Being a caucus, we are free and fluid to chart our own path. We have discussed so far Scudder, Liberation Theology, the Episcopal Church’s involvement in Indigenous Boarding Schools. Our caucus and its tradition have been mentioned on the socialist Christian podcast The Magnificast. We also have brought in non-Anglican mainliner comrades into the caucus because of my belief to organize the unorganized.

It is my hope that the caucus continues the work of those socialist clergy and lay persons who have gone before us. It is also my hope that more people of faith, in particular clergy, become more comfortable with the socialism label, as the manifestation of the politics of God.

Eric Sommers

Tampa Bay, FL

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