Solidarity with mass movements across the globe means being anti-imperialist at home. The United States is the world imperial hegemon, and as socialists we have a duty to oppose US imperialism vigorously. The Renewal slate believes that DSA can and must play a crucial role in the struggle against imperialism. Meaningfully engaging DSA chapters to take on anti-imperialist work is important in building up our organizational capacity for effective response to imperial actions by the US state. As US imperial strength is in apparent decline, the possibilities of increasingly hostile actions by the US state is likely to increase, based on historic trends.
There is much to learn from socialists abroad, especially those who organize in the most difficult conditions, and we should dedicate significant energy to observing, analyzing, and applying tactics and strategies that have been proven successful to our own conditions. DSA has long held a reputation of not sincerely engaging with the global anti-imperialist movement. With our growth as an organization, we have the opportunity to change that. We strongly support Resolution #14 Committing to International Socialist Solidarity which will help us continue to build toward those goals.
Some of the most exciting developments in socialist mass movements in the past two decades have emerged from the Americas. From Cuba’s ongoing progress toward a truly equitable and free society even under the thumb of the violent US blockade, to the Bolivian people’s overthrow of the US-backed coup-installed government to return MAS to power, to the socialist movement of Chile organizing to successfully eject its neoliberal constitution. The working class of the Americas are inextricably tied together through shared history and shared struggle. Developing, maintaining, and deepening our ties to mass movements throughout the Americas is essential to DSA’s development into a mass working class movement itself.
The restructuring of the International Committee in 2020 has proven wildly successful. Not only has the International Committee grown considerably, it has quickly engaged mass movements across the globe to develop closer ties with socialists abroad. Educational events, fundraising, and successfully sending DSA delegations to observe elections in Peru and attending a major congreso of socialist movements in Venezuela have given us opportunities to expand our membership’s understanding of internationalism, learn directly from our international comrades about their successes and challenges in pushing back against imperialism, and better-engaging immigrant communities here in the US. Renewal believes that these steps are key to building a mass movement and that DSA must continue to facilitate the International Committee’s growth and success. Intentional recruitment, leadership development, and further facilitation of organizing efforts in the committee are part of this path forward.
The Renewal slate recognizes the importance of political education for incoming and current DSA members. We will work to build a uniform and comprehensive cross-tendency-based national political education curriculum that can be utilized by local chapters across the country. While leaving room for chapters to shape the curriculum as they see appropriate, we must facilitate some standardization so that chapters without the capacity or resources to build their own political education curriculum can successfully educate their members. This work should have a high focus on practical, organizing skills members need in order to grow their work, alongside historical and ideological education. Political education is an integral infrastructure project for DSA’s organization and the NPC should be actively engaged in building it out.
2020 saw DSA grow considerably, with nearly 40,000 members recruited into the organization across the year. This growth happened in spite of the unfortunate end of the Bernie Sanders campaign and a global pandemic. The reason DSA grew at such a rate, despite the circumstances, was largely a result of the #DSA100k campaign, which created a national program for recruiting new members. This was a big step in the right direction for intentional recruitment, with DSA not only growing in size but also in its diversity. The NPC must work to build off of this initial success. The Growth and Development Committee has made great strides in developing internal education and discussion around intentional development, and now it must be put into practice. Developing guidance and resources for intentional recruitment for chapters—meaning recruitment specifically from marginalized communities—is a logical next step to sustaining DSA’s growth.
Intentional recruitment does not only mean recruiting new members, but also recruiting current DSA members into local and national leadership, national bodies and committees, and national campaigns is an aspect of recruitment that the organization has not prioritized or even analyzed significantly. Creating and implementing training and internal systems that incentivize the recruitment of members into our existing institutions and work is integral to making sure that DSA retains its membership, avoids fatigue and burnout, builds new leaders at every level, and has leadership that represents the diversity of the working class that we are a part of.
Increasingly, DSA is prioritizing national campaigns. Our Medicare for All, Save the USPS, DSA for Bernie, and the PRO Act campaigns have all seen members from across our organization take up organizing efforts. National campaigns are good for building our organization by helping chapters prioritize their resources into clearly articulated organizing channels. DSA is strengthened by its flexibility and the relative autonomy of our local chapters, but we currently lack the national infrastructure to efficiently and effectively bring our chapters into national work and truly function as a mass movement. As members of the NPC, Renewal will work to actively build out national infrastructure that will streamline, strengthen, and scale up our national mobilization for whatever fights we will undertake in the future. National mobilization can and should grow our membership, train new leaders in our movement, empower local chapters with the skills to take on their own campaigns fearlessly, and win!
We believe that DSA must stop treating YDSA as if it’s a completely separate organization. High schools and colleges are both a fertile recruiting ground and an under-supported site of struggle for the working class. Student body organizations are literally encouraged at most schools, and therefore YDSA chapters should be well-supported by National so they can rapidly train organizers (given their natural turnover) and offer a pipeline into local DSA work upon graduation. Additionally, we need a dedicated campaign to specifically organize community colleges, HBCUs, and trade schools, where student bodies are more broadly representative of the working class, organizing workers with the education and resources necessary to lead us into the next phase of the struggle.
The local and National DSA connection is far too fragile for a mass movement organization that seeks to win power against the global hegemon. Locals feel disconnected from National and vice versa. The 2019-2021 NPC made a lot of progress in building better connections between locals and National, but the day-to-day work of the National organization still has very little impact on locals and locals have very little impact on national. With an extremely small field staff and a relatively small national leadership body, this means that in many chapters, the relationship with National is extremely low-touch, mostly taking the shape of occasional phone calls and emails. Closing this gulf will be a critical goal of this incoming NPC.
Article IX of the DSA Constitution allows for the NPC to convene a “National Advisory Committee” to be a consultative body the NPC can call on. The guidelines for how this body is selected and operated is more or less left to the NPC to decide. We believe that reconvening the NAC should be a top priority for this coming NPC to begin to build out the connective tissue between national and locals. If elected, the Renewal Slate would work to establish the NAC as a standing body and work to divest some decision-making power from the NPC into this more broadly representative body. The NAC should include representation from national campaigns as well as membership. To help ensure this body is representative of the whole membership (both in locals and at-large/OCs) we would like locals to elect delegates through state and regional organizations.
A strong NAC would help create more coherence across the organization overall, allow for more consolidation nationally, and give all members a stake in the work of the national organization, while also building a resource pipeline wherein individual chapters no longer feel like disconnected islands, but rather a part of a larger organization, one that can be easily accessed for training, assistance, and camaraderie. Starting with the NAC, and working simultaneously to assist chapters in developing state and regional organizations, then gradually giving the body more authority and power as it becomes more representative, will allow for stable and logical growth. This gradual process will allow the membership to review the progress of the NAC and codify and formalize it at the 2023 National Convention.
All DSA members share the goal of engaging 100% of our membership. We all recognize that unlocking the potential and creative energies of each and every member, from leadership to paper-only is vital to our goal of building a mass movement for socialism. We also all tend to agree that our movement can’t be successful in the long term if we are only building a serious political force in large urban areas or only in coastal cities. We must be organizing and building out power in all regions—urban, suburban, and rural communities. But despite this general agreement, many of our smaller and medium-sized chapters often don’t get the support they need and many of our thousands of at-large members have no relationship to the national organization whatsoever.
We believe an NPC that is proactively supporting the creation of state & regional organizations is critical to closing these gaps. State & regional organizations would cover a much wider jurisdiction than any one local and would enfranchise many more members who simply don’t have chapters or OCs they can engage in. These formations will allow us to pool resources among chapters and make space for outreach into communities that have previously been unreachable at scale. Regional formations also create a simple line of communication within the organization, from National to locals and vice versa, and increase the ease and consistency of these communications, thereby giving members more of a say in the day-to-day work of National and a more reliable means of organizational support.
Small chapters frequently exist in places where organizing is also incredibly important for potential long-term disruption of capital: places of resource extraction and cultivation, places where prisons or other carceral industries are the only source of jobs, and places where billionaires hoard wealth in land holdings. We see this when these areas become flashpoints of struggle, such as the Dakota Access Pipeline through the Standing Rock Reservation in the Dakotas or the Amazon union drive in Bessemer, AL. However, for these same reasons chapters in these isolated places are less likely to contain a large density of members who have organizing experience of their own.
It is crucial that these chapters be well-resourced with robust training on organizing tactics, usable and modular written and digital materials, hands-on assistance in setting up bank accounts and incorporation documents, and extensive mentorship. “Small chapter” should always be addressed as a temporary state, not a defining factor or trait; all chapters can and should be resourced in ways that allow them to become large chapters.
Our burgeoning internationalist and immigrant-focused work of the past few years has reminded us over and over again how important the cultural elements of a left movement are. From baseball and fútbol matches to leftist art, music, and poetry to scouting programs for children, cultural work is crucial for building community and comradeliness, as well as reaching people in new ways. At the national, regional, and local levels, cultural work should be supported, encouraged, and even prioritized. The Renewal Slate will seek to find new ways to support locals and national bodies in creating and engaging opportunities for creative and cultural work.
If our organizing is not accessible to the full scope of the working class, it is not socialist organizing. This includes disability justice, language justice, safety for those with marginalized identities, and accessibility for people who represent the full scope of the working class: parents, seniors, people who work odd or intense hours, and people with transportation access issues. It is incumbent upon the national organization to assist chapters in creating accessible organizing spaces and finding new ways to reach people for whom current spaces are inaccessible.
Language accessibility, like so many other forms of accessibility, is critical to organizing the working class. All national print materials (including website resources and printables) should continue to be offered in English and Spanish, at least, and additional languages should be explored for professional-level translation at the national level. Captioning should also be available for live-streamed events, including meetings and trainings. Additionally, resources must be developed to assist chapters in translating their materials and offering interpretation services at live events. A library of pre-translated modular documents (fliers, trifold brochures, web language, etc.) should be developed for small-chapter use (with input from small-chapter organizers on what would be useful) and national should assist in negotiating group rates on behalf of medium and large chapters who’d like to use external vendors for translation. The Renewal Slate will also work to develop a National Translation Committee to translate internationalist statements and documents into English, giving our membership access to the tremendous wisdom of the international left.
Further, every mass-party socialist movement that has gained any significant power in history has developed a literacy program. Though our present organizing conditions in the US are quite different than many of these, we still see widespread literacy and numeracy struggles among working-class adults due to segregation and underfunding of the public school system. There is also a broad gap in accessible ESL/ESOL education for adults—programs that exist are largely NGO-based, require paperwork/documentation for enrollment, and take place at hours that are difficult for day laborers. DSA is well-positioned to create an ESOL and adult ed one-to-one or small-class tutoring program utilizing online and in-person tools and volunteer labor from within our ranks. This program has potential to both offer us significant inroads into a largely-unorganized but organization-ready community, offer a true mutual aid—not charity—project that replicates well in most locations, offers a way to tap at-large members into work, and in many cases, can be a source of reciprocal training for monolingual members in a location-strategic language.
Failure to develop DSA into a welcoming space for all members of the working class has the potential to doom our shared political project. In order to do this we must reform our grievance process. Resembling the socialists who came before us, interpersonal harms have the potential to drastically change, alter, and outright destroy our movement’s work. In order to move forward towards a just and safe society, we must not replicate the harms that exist in our current culture of punishment: disenfranchising survivors, expressing uneven and unjust ways to approach the harms, and sometimes not handling the issues at all. Nationally, our organization has at times fumbled with dealing with issues at varying degrees from abuse and harassment to political disagreements. Members of Renewal have co-authored Resolution #28: Building Transformative Justice through a National Committee of Grievance Officers—this resolution strives to ensure that our grievance process is improved. In building this NCGO, the Renewal Slate will work closely with local chapters and members to reinforce the intentions of Resolution 33, bridging the gaps to create a better internal culture within DSA.
This reformed process should place greater priority on protecting and supporting survivors—as well the health and safety of the general membership and the organization as a whole. We must also recognize that not every conflict is a grievance. Our members come from an array of backgrounds and experiences. In order to create a healthy culture of conflict resolution—outside of the grievance process—we need to understand that there are many ways to deal with conflict, each informed by a person’s race, class background, gender, age, neurodiversity, disability, and countless other factors. Without recognizing these factors—and committing to healthy and direct discussion of conflict and disagreements—fixing the grievance process will only go so far, and we must prioritize building a culture of warmth, welcome, and inclusivity at every level.
Today’s DSA is radically different from the organization that existed 5 years ago—the structures, processes and bylaws we have inherited no longer effectively serve our organization, nor do they adequately describe the reality of how we operate currently. Tweaks and alterations to our national bylaws every 2 years at the national convention are not enough to orient and restructure our organization in the direction of becoming a mass political organization, and because of the nature of these conventions, most big-picture reforms tend to fail. As elected NPC members, we would explore the possibility of a Constitutional Convention—a process by which members, chapters and national leadership would work together to synthesize a strong organizational model for DSA in a long form, highly consultative, bottom up process.
DSA used to hold a national “Activist Conference” every off-year between conventions as a place for cross-chapter discussion. These conferences did not vote on anything but were about building relationships across the organization and the broader socialist left. Given DSA’s current size we should be having a more open style conference in the fashion of a Labor Notes or Socialism conference where comrades both in and outside of DSA can come together to discuss the struggle and learn from each other. As an NPC we would explore the potential for such a conference to be held, potentially as soon as 2022.
Key to strengthening DSA’s ability to engage in the labor struggle is restructuring the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission. If we recognize labor as the primary field of struggle for socialists we must create a DSLC that matches our ambitions—a DSLC that engages all members and chapters as well as effectively develops and advances strategic campaigns. By developing bylaws for the DSLC, opening it up to general membership engagement, and tasking it with supporting and analysing successful local union drives, campaigns, and structures—and then refining these successes and victories for adoption by locals across all organizing terrains—we will be able to further embed ourselves within the wider labor struggle. We must also take special care to ensure that the strategies and campaigns we undertake are applicable to chapters in the South and right-to-work strongholds generally. Focusing on strategies that vast swaths of our membership are unable to participate in—to the exclusion of others—should be rejected. The DSLC and DSA’s labor work overall should be something all members and all chapters can meaningfully participate in.
DSA has shown over the past two years that electoral campaigns are a critical arena for building working-class power, and the US has elected more socialists to office than at any point in the last 50 years or more. We must expand upon these victories and build a working-class party apparatus independent of the Democratic party establishment that is capable of winning elections at the local, state, and federal level. This means providing the National Electoral Committee with the resources it needs to support electoral work across the organization and establishing state and regional organizations that can build the capacity of local chapters to run electoral campaigns and to win.
DSA Chapters around the country mobilized in the summer of 2020 in solidarity with the nationwide uprising against racial injustice following the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department. Many chapters ran campaigns to defund the police departments in their local communities. The Renewal slate believes that building a socialist society and abolishing the carceral state are inseparable goals, that abolitionist campaigns are a critical terrain of mass struggle, and that DSA needs to expand its infrastructure to support local chapters in running campaigns with abolitionist demands. We believe that by forming coalitions with organizations performing abolition work, DSA can expand its base in historically marginalized and over-policed communities.
We support Resolution #3, Empowering DSA’s Mass Abolition Work, which directs the DSA Nation Abolition Working Group to facilitate mass work in local chapters with the goal of abolishing the structures of criminalization, policing, and incarceration. As NPC members we will support the Abolition WG, which we believe must be proactive in recruiting and onboarding new members and connecting chapters running active abolitionist campaigns with each other to collaborate on strategy.
Changes to the characteristics of capitalism—100%+ annual turnover rate at companies like Amazon, an increase in work-from-home employment as well as the increasingly speculative nature of housing and real estate—means our organization must be able to adapt to be able to organize the working class where it exists and where the struggle would be most advantageous. This increasingly means organizing tenants at the site of social reproduction—in rental homes, apartments, duplexes and trailer parks. The strongest socialist movements of Latin America recognize the need to organize at the neighborhood level, especially around the housing struggle. By connecting the struggle to the often-taken-for-granted fact of where the working class actually lives, we will be better able to recruit from sections of the population that are underrepresented within DSA currently.
To do so we will encourage the development of education, trainings, and organizational structures that will prepare chapters to take power from landlords at the local level and that will support chapters to work together at the state and national level to win increased tenants’ rights and social housing initiatives. These resources will not be exclusively focused on dense urban settings, but should include assistance in organizing within suburban, small-town, and rural districts, which have been broadly under-developed in the housing justice canon.
It is vital to the health of our planet and our movement for socialism that we continue to be firm advocates for climate justice. We believe socialists have a unique role to play in the climate justice movement. As a multi-issue organization, we can help tie together the issues of climate, racial justice, workers rights, and internationalism just to name a few. As Marxists, we understand that these struggles are not in competition with one another, but are instead intersectional and require an intersectional approach. DSA’s recent PRO Act campaign helped demonstrate, both in theory and in action, how we can tie together the issues facing the planet and facing workers and how these two fights can help build one another.
True Eco-Socialism must be international. Climate change does not exist only within the boundaries of the nation-state. This fight exists on a global scale and can only be truly challenged on that basis. Climate change poses fundamental questions about how our society and economy are organized. We will not be able to make fundamental changes to our carbon footprint and transition to renewable models while our economy is held hostage by the billionaire class. The capitalist drive to war and nationalist competition is deeply connected to the climate crisis as well. We should point to models for social development within actually existing socialist projects such as Buen Vivir in Bolivia and Equador which aims for democratization of the state and decolonization of the economy as part of a biocentric project of growth. We support the calls of the International Committee for a Global Green New Deal and want to see that continue to be a high priority for the organization going forward.