Slate/Regional Composition of DSA’s New National Political Committee #DSACon17

By RaritanRiverSider, re-printed with permission.

Here’s a breakdown by slate/affiliation and then regionally:

At least 12 of the 16-member National Political Committee (NPC) is a part of the emerging left wing of the organization, with at least one of the independent candidates receiving endorsements from left wing slates. While this may appear to speak to the dominance of a particular brand of politics, there is a decent amount of disagreement and ideological differentiation within the left wing, so hopefully through comradely debate a tactically and ideologically diverse national strategy can be developed.

Regional Breakdown

Northeast — 8

  • Philadelphia — 3
  • New York City — 2
  • Central Jersey — 1
  • Ithaca, New York — 1
  • Washington, D.C.

South — 3

  • Austin, Texas — 1
  • Knoxville, Tennessee — 1
  • Oklahoma City — 1

Midwest — 4

  • Chicago — 2
  • Detroit — 1
  • Red River Valley (Fargo, North Dakota area) — 1

West — 1

  • East Bay (Oakland, California area) — 1

Question: What are “Momentum,” “Praxis,” and “Friends and Comrades” exactly? Are these interparty factions? What are their substantive differences?

RaritanRiverSider: I need to learn more about the difference between Momentum and Praxis, I like a lot of the people in each, and they generally seem pretty similar, both very Marxist. Both seem committed to anti-capitalism and have the right perspective, but have disagreements on priorities and internal governance policies.

There’s also the Unity Platform, which has been characterized as the old guard social democratic wing of the party, but is also supported by people who want to maintain DSA’s ideological diversity. Finally, there’s the Friends and Comrades slate, which came out of the emerging Libertarian Socialist Caucus, which is DSA members coming at socialism from a more anarchist perspective. This seems to be the most organized rank-and-file internal faction with a clear ideology beyond different unlabeled interpretations of Marxism or social democrats/New Dealers, but they didn’t really get their act together for running a full NPC campaign. They’re concerned about promoting horizontalism and the multi-tendency nature of the organization, and preventing the dominance of the organization by any particular faction.

progressivemedialist: [Praxis and Momentum] are two groups that formed to run slates of candidates for the National Political Committee. Both are younger and more left wing than old guard of the organization. There are major practical disagreements but I wouldn’t characterize their ideological differences as being substantive, per se, maybe more along the lines of emphasis/priority. They’re really coming from the same ideological milieu, both groups have members who write for Jacobin. For example, both were in favor of BDS [boycotting, divesting from, and sanctioning Israel], leaving the Socialist International, and every other resolution at the conference if I’m not mistaken.

Praxis places the importance of organizing (hence the name) over specific matters of policy, taking the position that we don’t yet know what socialism in America in the 21st century will look like and that it will be fleshed out through local struggles and the organization of the working class. They propose a massive, ongoing effort to train DSA members and give them the tools to organize themselves. They favor diversity of tactics and decentralization, allowing locals and working groups to take up whatever struggle they see fit. Basically they see the work of building a social base for socialism as a lot more salient than anything else they could focus on. Their candidates were from all over the country, stressing the importance of rural and southern chapters. Their one big policy issue was prison abolition, highlighting their emphasis on organizing people of color.

Momentum is more oriented towards labor rank-and-file organizing, deliberate nationally orchestrated campaigns (specifically in the case of Medicare-for-All), clear-stated, actionable policy stances on more issues, electoral campaigns, and deepening ties to international socialist parties. Their candidates were centered in the northeast and less diverse than that of Praxis. Their program could be seen as straight-up left-wing democratic socialism, with less emphasis on specifically trying to appeal to people of color through something ambitious like Praxis’ prison abolition stance. They’re also much more process oriented and perhaps in favor of less decentralization in order to organize those national campaigns.

Now that the NPC is elected and they both have an almost equal number of members on it, it will be interesting to see if they can reconcile the different priorities in their platforms without becoming factions going forward. I suspect as things get going these differences will get resolved because there’s a lot of ideological common-ground in the first place and they will be forced to take action that is amenable to not only them, but the other NPC members.