Eric Robertson

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Eric Robertson


Eric Robertson lives in Fairburn, Georgia. From Birmingham, Alabama. He is a former Teamsters Union activist and current officer for the Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America.[1] Eric Robertson serves as the Political Director at New Georgia Project Action Fund.

Brother-in-law of Hayley Bergman Turner.

Anarchist and Socialist

Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America Member Spotlight: Eric November 3, 2020.[3]

Growing up in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama in the late 80s, I was drawn to the punk scene’s culture of rebellion – a gateway that led me to the Left.
At the time, Nazi skinheads were the bastard children of the punk scene. They were thoroughly reactionary and racist, and would turn up to shows looking for a fight. They’d get into the pit and start shoving and swinging. Punching them in return was just self-preservation. The Nazis were looking for racist sh*t to do that didn’t stop at being dicks at shows. Fighting back to protect one another turned us kids in the scene into political allies, and opened many up to broader conclusions about what was wrong with society. We probably spent more time getting chased by Nazis than chasing them in the early days, but we didn’t always run, and they didn’t always have the balance of force in their favor.
One of the key moments for me was when the Nazis defaced a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Kelly Ingram Park by spray painting “KKK” on it. A friend told me about a bookstore in Birmingham run by the Socialist Workers Party. It was there I found my first introduction to socialism. The SWP convinced me to organize something to respond to this vandalism. I agreed and they connected me with other leftists and older civil rights organizations. We formed a coalition and planned a rally where I emceed and introduced all kinds of people to speak, including warriors from the “Old Left” and the Civil Rights movement.
I found an ad for the “John Brown Anti Klan Committee” in a punk zine call MaximumRockandRoll where you could order a “Just say No to Nazis Kit”. I ordered it, and we used it to make stickers and connect with a national network of anti-racist youth orgs called Anti Racist Action, as well as anarchist groups coming together across the country. We started an ARA chapter and planning our own actions. At the same time, we became involved in other political causes like escorting at abortion clinics and later protesting the first Gulf War, where I joined the first nationally organized “Black Bloc” at the national anti-war protest in Washington, D.C.
My worldview was expanding while the world was going to sh*t. The deeply absurd imperial pageantry of the Gulf War and the array of colorful dictators graduating from the School of the Americas I learned about from Central America solidarity activists opened my eyes to broader issues. I started thinking more and more deeply about how sick our country is, and what kind of society I wanted to live in. I gravitated to a network of anarchists who were forming a national network organized around a new national anarchist newspaper, Love and Rage.
Later, the anti-racist struggle called me to Minnesota where I moved to join an anti-racist summer project in St Paul run by Love and Rage and Anti Racist Action, but once I arrived I plugged into the anarchist scene there. I found a new community that I completely immersed myself in just in time to participate in the wave of protests and rebellions that shook the country in response to the Rodney King verdict.
I wasn’t arrested for the first time until later that year after I had moved to Chicago after our summer project ended. It was Columbus Day – the quincentenary of the original voyage no less; a celebration on steroids in Chicago – so naturally my anarchist comrades and I went about putting up resistance posters along Chicago’s parade route. We got ourselves arrested, but not for being the subversive anarchists we fancied ourselves. It turns out the Chicago PD were running a dragnet and just arresting everybody as they searched for members of Chicago’s Independista movement – a group of freedom fighters targeted by the FBI in the 90’s for standing up for Puerto Rican self-determination.
In Chicago I continued doing anti-racist work in the streets and at counter protests. Operation Rescue had gone on the offensive against abortion clinics, so physically defending clinics was a big part of our work as well. I punched a few Nazis and included some anti-choice clinic protesters for good measure.
I found myself in a socialist group instead, called Solidarity. They completely rejected the Democratic Party, and they focused their efforts on labor organizing and had a connection to a long history of work in unions that I found attractive.
I left Solidarity pretty quickly because I was on the fast track to a journey for political purity through a series of tiny microsect organizations who were associated with Trotskyist politics. After moving to Detroit I ended up in one that prioritized fighting fascism, a militant approach to workers struggle, and extreme hostility to union leadership.
As we ended the decade, my soon-to-be wife and I – both from the South – decided it was time to come home and find a new life in Atlanta. So I did what any good socialist would do after I found a job at UPS: I joined the union and became active in it immediately. It was a huge local of mostly UPS and freight (traditional trucking) workers. I reconnected with Solidarity due to my new labor work and founded a local chapter. I threw myself into labor organizing, working as a union steward (shop floor representative) and becoming active with the progressive union activists and leaders involved in the Atlanta Labor Council.
I did drive to D.C. to attend an anti-Nazi protest and got to punch one Nazi during this time. My priorities had definitely shifted.
I joined a caucus in my union called Teamsters for a Democratic Union. By 2004, I had convinced a respected rank-and-file member who was also a member of TDU to run for president of Local 728 at the head of a slate of activist members. He won, presiding over a 6,000 member strong group of workers with me by his side as one of the Business Agents and a close confidant.
Solidarity couldn’t avoid electoral politics forever. 2004 was an election year, and at our convention we argued over who to endorse. In 2000, I had voted for Nader, and spent the next four years regretting that decision as Bush proceeded to wreak havoc in as many countries around the world as possible. Faced with another terrible candidate from the Dems – John Kerry – the group didn’t even consider him, or not making an endorsement at all so that those of us who felt like Bush was a dire threat could work against him without bucking the organization. The convention weighed our options between Ralph Nader and the Socialist party’s candidate. To me, after spending so many years moving from one radical Leftist sect to another, it felt like we were arguing over how to be irrelevant. I was done with purity politics. So, I left the organization and began a long period of being an independent leftist for the first time in over a decade.
I read Max Elbaum’s Revolution in the Air and got to meet him when he came to Atlanta on a book tour. He talked about the failings of sectarianism, and made clear what we had to learn from the New Communist Movement. That hit me like a hammer. If the real job of a Leftist is to change the world, you have to be where the people are. I wanted to work with people who could get sh*t done.
Then, millions of people started feeling the Bern.
2016 was a watershed moment for me just like everyone else. Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, militancy in the movement for immigrant rights, and a series of high profile worker fights during the Obama years had thoroughly convinced me that a multi-racial, anti-corporate politics of some type could prevail and deliver many of the big ticket Left populist reforms that had been popularized by Labor and the Left during the Obama presidency, like Medicare for All and a $15 per hour minimum wage. Initially, I had thought Elizabeth Warren was the only candidate with the right mix to win. Then, Bernie Sanders started drawing crowds of thousands to rallies and making televised speeches, and Warren declined to run.
Apparently, working people weren’t afraid of socialism anymore. I started to see members of my union show up to Bernie events. I hadn’t recruited them – they had come to the conclusion on their own that they were socialists, because what Bernie Sanders was saying made sense to them. It was true to their experience. I was in awe to see that when workers’ consciousness changes, it changes radically. This led me to join MADSA because they were playing a leading role in the Bernie campaign, and a number of union activists I was close to around the country were joining because of the Bernie campaign as well. Since then, Trump has won an election, I’ve left my job at Local 728, Black Lives Matter is now a movement of millions and socialists are winning races across the country.

These days, I continue my work for the movement at Jobs with Justice (and MADSA, of course). I don’t get to punch as many Nazis as I used to, but I’ll happily share what I learned about the power of labor organizing to make real change – and some of the Nazi-punching stories, if you really want. Hopefully as you read this, we are beginning a new page of history in a Trump-free America.

DSA Members Organizing Against Trump

DSA Members Organizing Against Trump was a letter released early October 2010 to shore up Democratic Socialists of America support for Joe Biden.

Signatories included Eric Robertson, Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America.

Socialism and Unions: A MADSA roundtable

In this panel, members of Metro Atlanta DSA's labor working group and local organizers will discuss the relationship between socialism and labor. We'll explain what unions are, the state of organized labor in America, and make the case that labor organizing and unions are the most important part of a socialist organization.

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Moderator Kat, panellists Eric Robertson (Atlanta Jobs with Justice), Brandyn Buchanan, Ashley Dixon, Alan Woodall (DSA).

OU Editorial Advisors

The Organizing Upgrade Editorial Advisors, April 2020:

Calvin Cheung-Miaw, Stina Janssen, Bob Wing, Kim Diehl, Harmony Goldberg, Maria Poblet, Eric Robertson.[4]

Socialist Majority Caucus

DSA's Socialist Majority Caucus signatories list as of April 25 2019 included Eric Robertson of Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America.

Celebrating at the 11th Annual Douglass-Debs Awards Dinner

Eric Robertson attended Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America's "Celebrating at the 11th Annual Douglass-Debs Awards Dinner" in November 2017. Keynote speaker Sarah Jaffe. Other attendees included Shelley Elise Berlin, Daniel Hanley, Mawuli Davis, Milt Tambor, Khalid Kamau, Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America officer, and Teamster Local 728’s Eric Robertson. There was a table for the Communication Workers of America.[5]

John Lewis connection

Facebook, June 2016

Revolutionary Strategies to Beat the Rising Right Wing

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Revolutionary Strategies to Beat the Rising Right Wing, was a nationwide conference call organized by Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Sunday October 30, 2016.

What's the nature of this right-wing threat? What has this election cycle changed about the political terrain we're fighting on? How do we need to prepare for whats coming after the election? Hear about these crucial questions from our panel of top political strategists, including Nelini Stamp, Bill Fletcher, Jr., Linda Burnham, and Sendolo Diaminah.

Those indicating interest in attending, on Facebook included Eric Robertson.[6]

Now What? Defying Trump and the Left's Way Forward

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Now What? Defying Trump and the Left's Way Forward was a phone in webinar organized by Freedom Road Socialist Organization in the wake of the 2016 election.

Now what? We’re all asking ourselves that question in the wake of Trump’s victory. We’ve got urgent strategizing and work to do, together. Join Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson of the Movement for Black Lives and Freedom Road, Calvin Cheung-Miaw, Jodeen Olguin-Taylor of Mijente and WFP, Joe Schwartz of the Democratic Socialists of America, and Sendolo Diaminah of Freedom Road for a discussion of what happened, and what we should be doing to build mass defiance. And above all, how do we build the Left in this, which we know is the only solution to the crises we face?

This event will take place Tuesday November 15, 2016 at 9pm Eastern/8pm Central/6pm Pacific.

Those invited, on Facebook included Eric Robertson.[7]

National Conference delegates

Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America elected a full slate of 13 delegates and 2 alternates to represent the group in August 2017 at the Democratic Socialists of America's National Convention! The delegates: Jeb Boone, Adam Cardo, Scott Douglas, Anat Fintzi, Chad Floyd, Daniel Hanley, Barbara Joye, Brad Lathem, Erin Parks, Eric Robertson, Maxwell Ruppersburg, Ron Spears, and Matthew Wolfsen, and alternates Reid Jenkins and Tom Ladendorf.[8]

Democratic Socialists of America Unity

Eric Robertson supported the Democratic Socialists of America Unity grouping, established for the 2017 Democratic Socialists of America National Convention in Chicago.[9]

Charleston DSA closed Facebook group

Members of the Charleston Democratic Socialists of America closed Facebook group members as of April 2017 included Eric Robertson;[10]

New leadership

Metro Atlanta Democratic Socialists of America new officers elected at Sept. 16, 2017 membership meeting They were: Chair - Adam Cardo; Membership Secretary - Michael Lavender; Recording Secretary - Jeb Boone; Treasurer - Seth Ellingson; At-large (3) - Anat Fintzi, Erin Parks, Eric Robertson. [11]

Socialist Punk Caucus

Members of Democratic Socialists of America's Socialist Punk Caucus closed Facebook group, accessed November 24, 2017, included Eric Robertson.[12]

DSA North Star Online Conference

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DSA North Star Online Conference Sunday September 16, 2018:

Part 1. Introduction and National Perspectives 40 minutes Introduction. What is North Star about? What do we wish to accomplish? How do we do it? We’ll begin this meet up by hearing from DSA members active in governing, electoral politics, and organizing. How have DSA members successfully organized around electoral politics?

Speakers:

New Georgia Project Action Fund

Eric Robertson October 9:

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Kicking off canvassing in Norcross! — with Michelle Sanchez at New Georgia Project Action Fund Norcross Office.

DSA North Star

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In 2018 Eric Robertson was an original signatory of the DSA North Star founding principles statement.

National Party Building Conference

National Party Building Conference Hosted by Communist Party USA and People's World.

Saturday, November 11, 2017 at 12 PM – 6 PM EST

Join Communist Party activists and members in a national conference. You can register here https://tinyurl.com/ycdouk3y

The conference will take place November 11th to 12th to plan our work in the fight against the Trump Administration and its white supremacist ruling class backers. Find information here about how to participate. http://www.cpusa.org/2017-national-party-building-conference-resist-organize-vote-grow/

The conference will be streamed from Chicago to regional meetings in New Haven, Los Angeles, and Orlando. Whether you’re on the East Coast, West Coast, in the MIdwest or the South, you’ll be able to participate.[13]

Those invited on Facebook included Eric Robertson.

Attacking Biden

Organizing Upgrade "Sanders and Warren: The need for a progressive front" September 25, 2019 by The Organizing Upgrade Editorial Collective.

We urge all left-progressive forces to take seriously what will be required to create a united progressive front capable of defeating Biden and going on to expand its influence even as we unite in an even broader coalition to defeat Trump. And to remember that we not only need cooperation on the electoral battlefront, but cooperation at scale in building mass direct action, revitalizing the trade union movement, and organizing large numbers on a host of urgent issues. After all, even if Sanders or Warren wins the presidency and the GOP loses control of both houses of Congress, it will take massive pressure from below to win a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, end mass incarceration, close the border concentration camps, change US foreign policy and begin the new cycle of progressive advance that is an existential imperative for the world’s most vulnerable and the entire human race.
We have to quickly establish sufficient political unity to uphold a progressive front, so that we may develop the technical capacities and infrastructure to allow this progressive front to work together (regardless of whether they have endorsed Sanders or Warren). Though preserving space for constructive debate over left electoral strategy and tactics will be critical, we urge doing so in a way that does not detract from the important task of reaching outward, engaging the unconvinced and unorganized social forces we will need to win.

To that end, Organizing Upgrade will be publishing a number of pieces in the coming week from left organizers of varied perspectives that discuss the WFP endorsement, the DSA’s “Bernie or Bust” resolution, and other developments related to the 2020 elections. Our goal is to continue engaging left organizers in strategic dialogue during a pivotal moment in history and we welcome you to join the conversation. The stakes could not be higher.

The Organizing Upgrade Editorial Collective.

Rishi Awatramani, Calvin Cheung-Miaw, Julie Chinitz, Kim Diehl, Max Elbaum, Harmony Goldberg, Maria Poblet, Eric Robertson, Stina Rose Marie, Jacob Swenson-Lengyel, Claire Tran, and Bob Wing.

References