New York Magazine

Pinkos Have More Fun

It’s the Friday after Valentine’s Day. The radical publishing house Verso Books is throwing its annual Red Party, an anti-romance-radi-themed banger. Like a lot of the best lefty parties, it takes place in Verso’s book-lined Jay Street loft, ten stories above cobble-stoned Dumbo. The view of the East River is splendid, the DJ is good, and the beers cost three bucks.

The roster tonight is heavy on extremely online political-media types. The pod-caster and performer Katie Halper tells me she’s a fourth-generation socialist from the Upper West Side who used to attend a summer camp once affiliated with a communist organization called the International Workers Order. The hosts of the leftist podcast Chapo Trap House are not here, but Eli Valley, the gonzo artist who illustrated their book, is, as is Dave Klion, a ubiquitous Twitter pundit recently seen feuding with CNN’s Jake Tapper. Nearby, Sarah Leonard, who, at 30, is a veteran of the lefty-journalism orbit, tells me she’s launching a Marxist-feminist glossy called Lux, named for Rosa Luxemburg.

The guests of honor tonight are the creators of Red Yenta, a new DIY dating platform form: Marissa Brostoff, 33, a grad student at CUNY, and Mindy Isser, 28, an organizer in Philly. “I was complaining about how socialist men don’t date socialist women and it really bothers me,” Isser says. Online, there wasn’t a good way to filter for someone’s politics. Sample bio: “Labor activist and aspiring historian/sci-fi writer looking for friends/open relationships. Tell me about your student debt and let’s cry together.”

An hour into the party, Isser and Brostoff stage a version of The Dating Game—one bachelorette, four suitors—to promote Red Yenta. Friend-of-the-app Natasha Lennard, a columnist at the Intercept, yells for quiet. “There is a service—a communal service—that is better than a Tinder, or the last hurrahsof an OKCupid,” she announces. Who wants to slog through a few bad dates only “to find out that someone is a liberal?” Brostoff takes the mic. Pins and posters are available for purchase, she says, and donations are of course welcome. “That’s how we became capitalists,” she jokes. “And that’s what you call irony. Or dialectics.”

The bachelorette, Arielle Cohen—30, former co-chair of the Pittsburgh chapter of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)—asks her suitors a question. “Now that Amazon has been banished from New York”—triumphant shouting here—“you’re the one who gets free rein to build something ungodly in Queens: What are you building?” Some answers ring out—guillotine, public housing—but the invocation of Amazon is all it takes to get the party going.

A day earlier, Amazon had stunned the city by scrapping plans to build a new head-quarters in Queens. Polls said a majority of New Yorkers, including Queens residents, favored Amazon’s arrival. As did the mayor, the governor, and the editorial pages of the New York Times and the Daily News. The grassroots opposition, which included DSA, had the backing of some new Democratic muscle in Albany and, crucially, the vocal support of socialist superhero Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose district abuts the proposed building site. Ocasio-Cortez was offended not only by the tax break that greased the deal but by the company’s corporate makeup: monopolistic, anti-union, run by literally the richest man in the world. Amazon was the face of modern American capitalism, and that was disqualifying enough. (An illustration of the growing divergence between the liberal and left wings of the Democratic Party: Amazon’s head of global PR is Jay Carney, the former Obama White House press secretary.) Led by the 29-year-old congresswoman, the deal’s opponents cranked up a relentless online noise machine and booed the company away. Democratic socialism secured its first big victory.

Until very recently, it wasn’t that socialism was toxic in a red-scare way. It was irrelevant, in a dustbin-of-history way. But then came Bernie Sanders’s 2016 candidacy, then the membership boom of DSA, then the proliferation of socialist cultural products like Chapo, and then, finally, the spectacular rise of Ocasio-Cortez.

The politics of the socialism that they helped revive isn’t always clear. Stripped of its Soviet context and cynically repurposed by conservative partisans, the word had lost its meaning by the time it got hot again. For some DSA grandees, like NYC chapter co-chair Bianca Cunningham, socialism means a planned economy that replaces market capitalism. “It means we own the means of production. It means we get to run our workplaces and our own government,” she says. But that is unusual. For Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders, and most of their devotees, it’s closer to a robust version of New Deal liberalism—or, perhaps, Northern

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