How We Practice Our Politics
Friends and Comrades,
I’m writing you all today in hopes that we can discuss the greatness and the gravity of our current situation in DSA. We can talk about the problems we see, from chapter to chapter, around the entire country. We know this, we feel this, we experience it, and it’s honestly why we’re all here in DSA to put our collective weight on the scale, to wear down the chains of oppression that pull people who don’t belong to the capitalist class down. We fight for breaking the xenophobic, racist, sexist, antiheteronormative, capitalist existence that America has always been pushing down our throats, and never more publicly so than today. It’s why we get up, it’s why we check in with our friends and comrades, it’s why we step out into the streets, out of our comfort zones, to defend and lock arms, to share in the struggle and advocation for a better future.
This idealism need refinement. We’re impossibly lucky to have experienced such growth as we have, and we’ve done it through significant work by tireless comrades giving their best over the past two years, but we’re at the step where we need to refine and grow what we have, to germinate and organically build our power base. That requires honest to god organization. But what is that, and how do we do that?
Let’s tackle some of the existential stuff first.
Who are we? We’re an organization that strives for distributed democracy. We’re made up of rural, suburban, small cities, state capitals, and large cities. We’re multi-tenancy, we’re not the left wing of the Democrats, we’re advocating for carving out an entirely new position.
Why is it so important that we’re multi-tenancy, and what does that mean? It means that without power, all infighting about what nuances of the future looks like, about what kind of tendencies we want to fight for, it’s all meaningless. Without power, we’re not actually anywhere, we’re people who yell, but not people who accomplishes things. We are sound and fury, but not meaningful material changes. Sectarianism and infighting only weaken our resolve by focusing effort on the theory but not the practice of our shared goals, and DSA, through it’s growth, have done a fantastic job of creating a culture of patience and tolerance. We should continue that culture going forward.
The other important thing is to look at the character and knowledge of our members, to have a working understanding of not only the shared purpose of DSA, but the internal knowledge we share, and the ability for personal growth and development we can bring to each other. We talk about embracing the unembraced, about our neighbors, our communities that have these feelings that we share, but we lack the same framework to evaluate them, that they can learn to develop their own politics, untethered from our own personal biases, to build what we believe we can do.
We must practice our own external politics, internally, and our internal politics, externally.
Because at the core I believe, DSA is about independence through democracy. It’s about honest liberation of people, and cooperative living. It’s about scaling down America’s imperialism, it’s footprint, it’s scope to bring governance back down to the people instead of the abstracted, aloof, and obtuse system we have today. The familiarity of that system shapes the way we have conversations around power, we shoehorn shapes of what our national expectations are based on our current sight of how we handle nationally coordinated projects, like the experiment we call America. I believe we can move past that vision, and create a new vision for national that works like our chapters. We must practice our own internal politics, externally.
We must first define though, why do we need national coordination? What should its purpose be? What does that entail? Who does it effect, and how?
I feel concern that there’s an effort to have a heavier hand at the top of the organization, and that’s lead by chapters that have significant membership. I feel that there’s an effort to push the national conversation in ways that primarily affect and benefit chapters that are already effective, growing rapidly, and looking for larger challenges, but those changes don’t necessarily translate appropriately in smaller cities, suburban and rural areas.
National coordination is important, but only as an auxiliary function to the chapters themselves. The national chapter should be responsible for things that an individual chapter or regional set of chapters would find inefficient. Finding & retaining traveling organizers, technical & design staff, fundraising, a clearinghouse of media direction, and national accounting staff. Things that chapters of ten to two hundred struggle with, or just don’t have access to those kinds of resources locally. The National committee should assist in creation and coordination of those resources, of building bridges & outreach to the chapters, and help build regional democratic organs.
I support a National committee that’s less about setting a political agenda, and more about a team focused on coordination and growth. This is why I’ve submitted an amendment to reflect that kind of change. The National committee’s focus should be: how do I make the people who I’m representing lives easier & how do we highlight local and regional organizing nationally to bring more people outside of the communities we serve into our organization. The National committee’s representing us, members of DSA, and they should advocate on our behalf, not set direction, but give us the tools and strengths to be the best chapters we can be. This is why I’m excited to support the concept of mobilizers set forth by other planks, of regional connections, of putting the power and the direction at the chapter level. It’s something that every chapter I’ve talked with have expressed a need for more training. But we need to ensure that a National committee is focused right now, on building growth, on creating the democracy internally, on giving chapters the tools for self-determination.
We’ve prided ourselves on democracy as being crucial to repairing the alienation that people feel, and should practice our external politics, internally.
I believe that more important than our personal ideology is our shared responsibility for action, our mutual concerns and individual struggles. I believe that the strongest organizations are ones that are personally invested in, ones that make sense for the people, and ones that are tailored to fit the location that is being organized. I believe that chapters are best able to understand their own needs and own strategies, and that nationally, we’ll be better because of it.
We aren’t a centralist organization, it’s specifically notated in our bylaws. If we want to organize together for national issues, we must look to our north, south, east and west, not up or down.
We must learn how to have better communication, trust, good faith, and honesty in order to create a movement that withstands the internal and external factors that we will experience.
As I’ve told my chapter: all national politics are local, all concerns can be found in your community, and in our communities, we need to thrive and connect. We need to embrace the feedback loop of local governance with community action, that one feeds into the other, because through building connections with our communities at a base level, we can bring the focus down away from things that feel like they’re impossible to break down and complete, to things we can have clear objectives and steps to have groups of our size handle.
As much as I wish it was so, I don’t believe we’re quite at the stage where we can affect national policy in the manner that we wish it to. We’re just not quite there yet. We can form coalitions on issues with ideas that we generally support, but without the size and scope, we’re going to be no more than a single thorn to national issues. This is why I believe that we need to focus on building local power nationally, on embracing the unembraced, on organizing the unorganized. I believe the cycle that’ll allow us to have a greater national power is the same one that’ll allow us to have greater power within the arbitrary states we all live in: local organization. Whether you’re in Brooklyn, New York or Brazos Valley, Texas, Milwaukee, Wisconsin or Marquette, Michigan, Atlanta, Georgia or Antelope, California, we have the power to make change from the bottom up. It’s not exciting, it’s not the big splashy changes we want to defeat Trump and the Democrats by taking them out on the national level.
We’d be missing the mark if we believed that we have that kind of power to make national change right now. I believe that local politics are an extremely important part of our strategy. There’s an inbuilt symbiosis in visualization between community support and community representation in local governance. When we see DSA members run to represent the communities they live in, they bring light to issues that chapters are pushing towards, bringing people to issues brings people to the polls which brings people back to the same issues we’re fighting for. The cycle of organization and representation is what builds us power. We see it in tenant fights as they build co-ops, workers as the unionize, communities as they elect school board members. The co-ops move outward, unions through other shops, and school board members lead to pointed fights for schools that spread to other communities. We spread socialism not just through what we stand for, but the relationships we build, and in those relationships where we care about the material reality of the other person, we build lasting solidarity. We must practice our own external politics, internally.
And that leads us to the end of this here. I often say: “What if we’ve been doing it wrong all along”. I use it when we talk about the history of the left, the thought processes we grown up with, the actions we’ve taken to bring us to where we are, and the beliefs we hold inside of us. People might think, it’s bad. But, the radical choice of self-evaluation is powerful. We’ve done a lot of right things, and have gotten to a good place, but what if our knowledge that we’re in a good place causes us to become complacent? We can forget to evaluate our processes and rest on what we’ve gained or we can look to highlight our strengths, work on our weaknesses, and take advantage of the opportunities we have gained through the hard work we’ve done. I believe that DSA shouldn’t be just an organization of ideas, but a toolkit for building socialism in every state, in every community, to challenge every power structure. I believe that you can take us there. I believe that we all can work together & deliver the common future we believe in.
Read my candidate bio here.