When we chose to run for the National Political Committee last year, we were brought together by a shared desire to train relatively inexperienced new organizers in DSA and develop our base into a political force.
Here are some things we have learned since then.
Ideological factions and caucuses provide a way for DSA members to find one another. We welcome their formations within DSA. However, we've not seen a desire among groups to break through their partitions to work with one another. In fact, the opposite has happened.
Slates like ours—and Momentum's—exacerbated these unnecessary divisions in the organization and muddied the politics into nationwide cliques that have been largely devoid of political engagement for the last year. These enclaves have dug in to rally support from their bases, rather than engage with one another at all. This frustrates rank and file DSA organizers who must read between the lines in order to get to the underlying political lines. We believe it is national's duty to provide the appropriate forums to engage in frontal and open politics. We will prioritize the tools that are accessible to all members, such as the discussion boards and DSA's official publications to engage in our politics with our organizers.
We originally thought the national office ought to facilitate statewide and regional organizing. That's nominally happening through staff and campaign organization, but it tails organic, federated projects among chapters. Our planks on base building and regional organizing have flourished without institutional support and we hope to continue to embed ourselves among the chapters doing that work.
We are not vessels into which "experts" should pour "correct" knowledge. Everyone has something to offer everyone else. Sex workers, people with disabilities, grad students, single parents, etc. each bring experience and useful information into our collective understanding. Our pedagogy must be mutually beneficial to both the teacher and the student. That is how we synthesize our disagreements.
The method we choose for bringing people together matters. There is a deep and necessary connection between our organizing work and more traditional political education that requires an open, flexible approach to pedagogy and method. Political consciousness can't be developed through reading lists and emails alone. We ought to connect real campaigns and struggles to the historical legacy of the Left and as well as the wide range of theoretical and analytical work done from the many traditions that make up the socialist family.
We knew our position on police and prison may not have been popular among our members, let alone in society. We released it anyway and we stood by that position. Socialist demands are rarely popular. We are driven by morality, not by the latest polls or market data.
As socialists, we understand that there is a deep link between US imperial adventures abroad, border policing and mass incarceration. There is a path forward on prison and police abolition through border policing and immigration. The Abolish ICE movement, which uses a wide variety of tactics from occupations and direct actions to legislative and electoral demands has brought the conversation into the mainstream. This is as important an entry point for socialist political action as any of our current national priorities and extends across all of them.
Finally, we’d like to close with a line from our base-building plank from our NPC run:
We (the Left) need an organized constituency of everyday people, a base. This base is the central building block for any successful campaign. In a mass movement, mass comes first. Socialist organizations don’t come with a pre-existing base. We have to organize one, and that work is much deeper than simply recruiting and retaining members.
There are immense challenges for the Left and for DSA but our members and chapters have done heroic work in the last year. We are as committed as ever to the many members we’ve worked with over the last year and to the chapters that have become a second home for many of us.
Labor Day 2018