This explainer goes through the proposed resolutions and by-law amendments for the 2021 DSA Convention that the Tempest Collective’s DSA Committee is supporting or opposing. It includes short, to the point explanations. We look forward to discussing, debating, and ultimately voting on these proposals at the August convention. Our vision is for a DSA that is a mass, membership-based, democratic, socialist organization; a vision which informs our positions in the lead up to the convention.
Proposals Tempest SUPPORTS
- R38 Socialist Horizon (Tempest proposal)
- This proposal says that it is still our intention to build independently of the Democratic Party and to form an independent working class party — this is the same as the resolution that was already passed in 2019. R38 adds some stipulations to what you need to be nationally-endorsed (it doesn’t change anything about local endorsements).To get a national endorsement from DSA, candidates would need to 1) be open socialists; 2) use their office to organize apart from the capitalist parties; 3) use the campaign to organize extra-electorally; 4) fight oppression; 5) refuse to vote for budgets that increase funding for law enforcement; 6) refuse support from real estate interests, pro-police organizations, the Chambers of Commerce, etc. This proposal does not say that the organization must have only one approach to elections, but rather that we should hold our candidates to some basic expectations and criteria as candidates of a socialist organization.
- C2 National Referendum (Tempest proposal)
- This proposal establishes a national referendum that can be called by rank and file members, chapters, or the NPC. The vote would be binding, so that it gives members a direct vote on questions that come up (policy, in/action, organization, etc). Currently, we only have an advisory poll with a bar too high to use.
- C5 For a Leadership Elected By and Accountable To the Members (Tempest proposal)
- This bylaw amendment establishes that vacancies on the NPC would be filled by elections (currently they are appointed by the sitting NPC); that NPC members would be subject to recall by membership (a norm in the socialist movement historically); and establish some basic protocols for reporting meetings and decisions to the membership (without information, we can’t have democracy).
- R15 Structure of the IC’s Steering Committee
- This proposal brings elected representatives from each of the International Committee’s subcommittees onto the IC Steering Committee. It creates basic democratic governance of the International Committee, made up of people chosen from the various geographic subcommittees while still maintaining the direction from the NPC.
- R16 Subcommittee Leadership in the International Committee
- This proposal gives members more ability to shape the work of the IC by opening up membership in subcommittees to any member in good standing of the organization. Currently you have to be approved by the International Committee SC to join a subcommittee. It would also move towards an elected leadership of the subcommittee co-chairs. As the proposal states: “internal participatory democracy and direct representation are absolutely necessary for a socialist organization.”
- R17 Internationalist Principles, Political Education and Solidarity
- R17 has a strong foundation of internationalism and emphasizes political education and solidarity with workers and democratic struggles: ”Whereas we have an obligation to first and foremost oppose US imperialism, the US ruling class and its state are, however, not the only enemies of the world’s workers and oppressed peoples. We therefore stand in solidarity not with Washington’s rivals and their ruling classes and states, but with the working classes and oppressed in those countries as part of our common struggle for socialism.”
- R6 Tribunes of the People & Democratic Discipline
- We agree that candidates should be responsible for representing the collective priorities and politics of the organization. We don’t think it makes sense to mandate that all campaign staff should also be DSA members, as the proposal states. That said, we support the spirit of this resolution which would move us towards establishing more accountability, coherence, and purpose to our electoral strategy as it relates to our goals of building a stronger socialist movement.
- R3 Empowering DSA’s Mass Abolitionist Work
- Developing abolitionist politics and organizing is one of the most important priorities for any socialist and the convention should affirm that. The movement for Black Lives that erupted again last summer tells us about the power of the Black rebellion in the US. Racism and anti-racism define political life in myriad ways and socialists must help advance and develop the resistance it breeds. We support this proposal, however we would like to see abolitionist organizing more integrated into the national organization rather than housed and overseen by an unelected national working group.
- R19 Amnesty for All
- Xenophobia and anti-immigrant violence is one of the central wedges used to divide the working class. Republicans and the Democrats alike are committed to policing the movement of people, criminalizing some people’s status as workers, while exploiting immigrant labor. Socialists must stand unequivocally behind a banner of Amnesty for All, and prioritize immigrant rights and border justice. This proposal strengthens DSA’s positions and activity on these questions.
Amendments to Proposals
- Amendment #5 to R8 Towards a Mass Party
- As written, we oppose R8 “Towards a Mass Party in the United States” (below). We critically support this amendment for the direction it moves R8, explicitly rejecting a strategy of capturing sections of the Democratic Party, defending political independence, and making moves to develop independent infrastructure. We are critical of this amendment because we think it soft-pedals it’s provisions, encouraging rather than really establishing the lines. While it is missing teeth it nonetheless would improve R8.
Proposals Tempest OPPOSES
- R14 Committing to International Socialist Solidarity
- There is an assumption in this proposal that we will automatically support the ruling/dominant left parties in Latin American countries with progressive/social democratic leaders or with large working class followings. But in all of the countries in question, there are groups on the left that are organizing in coalition (Brazil), in opposition (Bolivia), or being repressed by (Nicaragua) these parties that this resolution would tie DSA to. This isn’t an argument against meeting and learning from these parties and their experiences, but it would be misguided and premature to make such formal ties between DSA and these parties at this convention, in some cases linking us to parties that are anti-democratic or neo-liberal.
- R34 No Spy Zone
- State infiltration is a real threat that no socialist should be naive about. However, this resolution gives DSA carte blanche to expel anyone in the name of protecting our organization from state infiltration. Any socialist organization worth its salt should immediately expel anyone who is found to be working for the state as an infiltrator, but to link that to the distribution of documents amongst members is a dangerous path to follow. Apart from private information pertaining to sexual assault, harassment and violence, DSA members should have access to information that pertains to their organizing and the decisions of the organization. Who defines what information is “sensitive”? This can and has been weaponized in ways that target people for their political positions and that impacts the political health and democratic culture of an organization.
- R29 Stipends for NPC Steering Committee
- Yes, being on the NPC Steering Committee is a big political responsibility that comes with a lot of time and headaches. No, we should not pay people $2,000 a month. The Steering Committee is not elected by the convention, it’s chosen by NPC members themselves. This moves us farther away from a democratic DSA — it professionalizes a board of directors.
- R8 Towards a Mass Party in the United States
- We strongly oppose adopting this as the organization’s main electoral proposal. It makes contesting elections specifically through the Democratic Party the perspective of DSA, and subsumes all other organizing under elections. This would walk back the position of Class Struggle Elections from the last convention, which stated that our goal is to build towards an independent working class party and hold candidates to a set of standards.
- Socialist Alternative Amendment 14 to Tempest R38 Socialist Horizon
- Socialist Alternative wrote this amendment to R38, changing the spirit and direction of the proposal. It deletes some of the provisions in the original and inserts language about taking only the average workers’ wage, which we agree with in concept but don’t think is anywhere near the center of political questions right now. The resolution comes off weaker with these changes.
- C6 Establishing a National Organizing Committee
- This proposal tries to set up a kind of “congress of DSA” with powers equal to the convention — that is, it could change the constitution and bylaws of the organization. It doesn’t democratize DSA so much as it fills some intermediary space. This creates yet another bureaucratic layer removed from the membership: the body would be elected by convention delegates rather than directly by the members, and allows the NPC to appoint members. Vote this down.
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Natalia Tylimis active in the NYC-DSA labor branch. She’s a restaurant worker and a founding member of DSA’s Restaurant Organizing Project.
Andrew Sernatinger is a labor activist and socialist in Madison, Wisconsin.