Councilwoman Kendra Lara on being a socialist: ‘My politics is my philosophy in action’

Boston District 6 Councilwoman Kendra Lara will deliver her first speech on socialism to council at its Wednesday meeting. Lara answered questions from Jamaica Plain News about socialism, how it can help its constituents, and more.

Councilwoman Kendra Lara for District 6 (Mayor’s office photo by Jeremiah Robinson)

Lara was elected as Kendra Hicks, but has since changed her last name to Lara.

Q: You have declared that you are a socialist. Do you consider yourself a socialist philosophically, politically, or both? How did your personal life experiences lead you to embrace socialism?

Laura: There is no reason to separate the two; my policy is my philosophy in action. Coming from a black working class immigrant family, I knew early on that our economic system was extractive and only benefited a small group of people. I knew we had to realign all of our systems – economic, political and interpersonal – to center the needs of people around the common good. Socialism has given me a vision centered on racial justice, a more livable planet, affordable housing, fair wages, safe communities, strong public education, vibrant cultural expressions, and the time and space to imagine the world we deserve. Coming from a marginalized community, I voluntarily take on the task of building a freer world, for the love of our people and our communities, for our planet and our survival.

Q: Why are you registered with the Democratic Party? If you had the opportunity to register for a political party, which party would you want to be a member of?

Laura: Of all the tactics we use as organizers, electoral politics can be one of the many levers we pull to bring us closer to the world we want to see. Unfortunately, we live in a country with a rigid two-party system. In this context, it makes sense to position ourselves within the party most in line with our vision. There is a regional, national and national movement to move the Democratic Party towards socialism. I consider myself part of this movement. Many Democrats want to see the party come up with policies that support working people. Too often, the party does not keep its promises. Despite my ideological disagreements with the Democratic Party, I believe our immediate task is – as part of a broader movement strategy – to continue to build a wing of the Democratic Party that better reflects the material circumstances workers face each day.

Q: From a granular perspective, how do you view socialism as it relates to city government and voter services? Specifically, how can a socialist agenda be used to help voters?

Laura: Socialism in municipal government does not have to look one way. Rather than thinking of socialism as a prescriptive set of policies or ways of governing, I see it as a series of questions that, when asked, bring us closer to our collective vision. When we think about politics, we have to ask ourselves: does it transfer power to the people? Are we building a deeper democracy by expanding who can make decisions? How to move from top-down capitalism to a solidarity economy? And ultimately, are we reckoning with the history of anti-black racism in this country and pushing toward redress?

Socialism makes it clear that we have a responsibility to meet the basic needs of our people. To serve the residents of District 6, we need a robust, proactive, and well-resourced voter services operation that can meet these basic needs, answer questions, and engage our residents more in the process. democratic. Socialism is not just a matter of policies and abstract resolutions. It’s safe roads, well-lit and accessible parks, helping a neighbor with the permitting process, connecting voters to resources, and more. We think that’s one of the central functions of our office, to create an ease around the little things so that we can work collaboratively with our people on the big things.

Q: In your adolescence, particular texts informed you about socialism. What texts resonated with you and do you think would help people better understand how you view socialism and why it would benefit individuals and society?

Laura: We all need to understand how resources are produced, distributed and consumed. We should know who is at the center, who is pushed to the fringes, and how these divisions break down by race, gender, and class. There is an endless amount of critical thinking to explore. Three texts that have helped me anchor my understanding of socialism are Women, race and class by Angela Davis, Combahee River Collective Statement by the Combahee River collective and, Ujamaa: the basis of African socialism by Julius Nyerere. These thinkers helped provide a framework that I could use to understand my own life experiences. People’s Guide to Capitalism by Hadas Their is a more contemporary book that explains the economics behind socialism and serves as an introductory guide for people who want to learn more.

Q: For many people in the United States, socialism invokes fear. What do you think about socialism that scares people? Do you believe there is a misconception about socialism and its effect on people’s lives?

Laura: Socialism benefits the vast majority of us. There are a few – those who profit from the oppression and exploitation of others – who, from a narrow perspective, stand to lose something in a just and egalitarian society. Not surprisingly, these are the people who often shape the public narrative. Whether through decades-long propaganda campaigns by the US government or political mailings like those sent by my opponent, they have succeeded in convincing our neighbors and ourselves that socialism is a threat. But a threat for what? And to whom?

When I am in conversation with people who have apprehensions about socialism, I ask them to consider who stands to gain from maintaining the status quo. Who wins when workers are exploited? Who benefits if we cannot afford health care? Who benefits when housing is unaffordable? I hope that by deeply questioning the circumstances in which we find ourselves, people will discover that a system where ordinary people have an authentic voice in our workplaces, our neighborhoods and our society is beautiful and should not make us fear.

Q: Your campaign ideas have been embraced with passion inside and outside of District 6. What do you think your campaign has touched people? Whether they know it or not, are there any socialist themes that people have embraced in your campaign?

Laura: From the beginning, our campaign aimed to create a collective vision. When we built our policy platform, we spoke to those who are most directly affected by the issues, the stakeholders, those who could benefit from these policies. Together we created a roadmap for a better Boston. Collective governance and power sharing are central tenets of socialism because they engage those most directly affected. The people of the neighborhood and the city adopted these ideas because they were not mine alone; they were ours.

You don’t have to be a socialist to want a safe and affordable roof over your head.

You don’t have to be a socialist to want well-resourced public schools.

You don’t have to be a socialist to want to breathe clean air.

People haven’t adopted our platform because it had socialist themes. They embraced a shared vision of a city where we all thrive.