Announcing Refoundation Caucus Candidates for 2018 NPC Vacancies

DSA Refoundation Caucus is excited to announce our two candidates for the 2018 NPC vacancies left by Danny Fetonte (Austin DSA) and Leslie Driskill (Oklahoma City DSA): Juno Suárez of Portland DSA and Mike Rodgers of Oklahoma City DSA.

Even though DSA’s National Political Committee has chosen to fill these vacancies by appointment during the July 21-22 NPC meeting, we are running a public campaign to support these two amazing comrades and spread some of our ideas about the future of DSA.

image.pngJuno Suárez is Secretary of Portland DSA, with years of experience as a campus and electoral organizer. They were involved in drafting chapter bylaws and processes which have helped the chapter grow from 20 members in 2016 to over 800 today, and formed the chapter’s Accessibility Working Group. Most recently, Juno was involved in Occupy ICE PDX and Portland’s Summer Day School. Juno is a queer, nonbinary Puerto Rican and member of the DSA Boricua Socialist Caucus. As a Marxist in the tradition of anti-colonial thinkers like Frantz Fanon and Angela Davis, Juno is committed to ending US imperialism and militarism.

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Mike Rodgers is the Treasurer of Oklahoma City DSA, a member of the local Coordinating Committee, and is a rural, working class Marxist, informed in his analysis by the radical history of the rural US as well as years of working in retail and blue collar labor. Mike’s recent work in DSA has involved organizing support during the Oklahoma Teacher’s Strike, and mutual aid as one of DSA’s representatives to the Oklahoma Coalition for Revolutionary Action (OCRA).

You can read more of our platform in below.

To support these amazing comrades, please sign our support petition here! We will submit the list of signatories to the NPC in advance of the July NPC meeting.

Our Platform

  • Transparency & Organizational Democracy: Taking Internal Reforms Seriously
  • Confronting Harassment and Oppressive Behavior within DSA
  • Fostering Collaboration Between Chapters
  • Political Education Program
  • Moving Toward a Mass, Independent Socialist Party
  • Supporting National Base-Building Work

Transparency & Organizational Democracy: Taking Internal Reforms Seriously

It’s no question that DSA is experiencing growing pains. We’re the largest socialist organization in the country, and we’re bigger than we’ve ever been. In order for our ever-growing movement to fully participate in DSA National’s internal politics, and for our national leaders to be accountable, we need to drastically reform our organization’s internal structures.

Many of our comrades have made recommendations that would go a long way to change DSA not just for the better, but into the kind of organization that would move DSA from a simple activist organization toward a serious socialist party. The proposals put forth by the DSA Accountability Task Force are impressive in their thoroughness, and we wholeheartedly support them. The proposals by the DSA Momentum slate at the 2017 Convention call for major improvements to our organizational democracy, including a nationwide petition process for organization-wide debate, reviving the National Advisory Committee in an effort to eventually have a Congress of DSA delegates to meet between conventions, and internal bulletins and quarterly debates, all of which we support, but which have not yet been implemented by the members of the NPC. Coming out of the controversy surrounding Danny Fetonte, we support an amendment to the Constitution at the 2019 Convention creating a process to recall members of the NPC.

Lastly, we propose an internal directory for decision-makers, leaders, and members of national campaign bodies, administrative committees, and commissions, which would help chapter leaders interact with DSA National as it exists beyond the NPC and staff. The Medicare for All campaign committee has been plagued by repeated controversy stemming in part from a lack of transparency surrounding the committee’s membership. Members must know who is acting on their behalf in order to have a functioning internal democracy, and if appointed we will immediately request a full listing of all bodies subordinate to the NPC and their members, and push to develop a secure internal directory for DSA members to access this information.

Unfortunately, DSA’s National Political Committee currently is not focused on these important reforms. We and the rest of the Refoundation Caucus believe in internal democracy, and take these reform efforts seriously. If we want to change how DSA operates, from a loose collection of isolated activists to a mass organization (even party!) of dedicated socialists, we can not wait to implement these reforms. The longer we wait, the more comrades we lose to disillusionment and lack of principled organizational democracy.

Confronting Harassment and Oppressive Behavior within DSA

DSA has a harassment problem. This is indisputable and the consequences of this harassment echo through every chapter, working group, organizing committee, and organizing space that DSA moves into. Harassment can be seen in how members interact in meetings, at actions, and online. Online harassment is real harassment and should be treated as such. Harassment has driven many women, non-binary people, and queer comrades away from DSA and has tangibly made our organizing space unsafe for those who do not fit into the hegemony of modern DSA. As comrades, socialists, and organizers, we in the Refoundation Caucus feel that the current state of affairs is unacceptable. To the end of correcting this problem, we have prepared these policy positions which, if implemented, will go a long way towards changing the culture of DSA. We must take concrete and bold steps towards establishing an organizing space that is safe and welcoming to all and has no tolerance for abusers or harassers.

Fostering Collaboration Between Chapters

We want to see more communication, collaboration, and coordination between our many DSA chapters. Earlier this year, the Northeast Georgia Branch of Metro Atlanta DSA disaffiliated from DSA to form Socialist Organization of Northeast Georgia, citing “crippling decentralization” as one of many reasons for leaving DSA. Their experience is not unique: many chapters in rural or post-industrial locations have found the lack of real regional and national associations to be damaging to their organizing efforts.

The current model of DSA is one in which chapters communicate with National, and National communicates with chapters, occasionally blasting out an email to the membership as a whole. Naturally, having all processes go through National creates a pretty serious bottleneck, and chapters (especially smaller and rural chapters) end up losing momentum as they wait around for National.

Instead, we need chapters to be able to communicate with each other more easily, without waiting on National to take the lead. We support the call by the DSA Praxis slate to facilitate DSA regional structures. The basis for DSA state and regional organizations already exists in the DSA Constitution and Bylaws. If chosen to serve on the NPC, we will actively work with chapter leaders and rank-and-file to organize state and regional DSA organizations. We will also use our position on the NPC to expedite their approval at the National level, using public pressure if necessary. These regional organizations will enable more effective organizing by small chapters, giving them a formal structure to work in concert through pooling information, resources and labor.

Many of the small and rural chapters that would benefit from such structures are stuck in limbo as organizing committees (OC’s). We will use our positions on the NPC to support OC’s through the process of becoming chapters, and help move them towards approval by the NPC. Furthermore, we hope that regional and state structures might someday help to resolve this backlog, shifting the work away from an overburdened national organization and staff.

Political Education Program

DSA has grown by thousands in the last year, many of these people are brand new to politics. If these thousands of new members are to become the backbone of a new independent socialist party, their political education needs to be a top priority. The development of political education curriculum and materials that can be deployed throughout the whole organization is a task well-suited for a central national body: a combination of video series, curated reading guides, and the organization of study groups and day schools over the whole organization. In order to ensure good fusion between theory and practice, these political education materials will be combined with activism skill trainings. We look to strengthening the passed Resolution 28 from this year’s convention for movement trainings with Marxist political education as well.

Moving Toward a Mass, Independent Socialist Party

We understand that socialism will not be won via the ballot box, but through the revolutionary upheaval of the working class. As such, our task is not merely to gradually “reform away” capitalism, from inside or outside the Democratic Party, but to build our capacity to act in concert as a class, taking history into our own hands. DSA’s work should be oriented toward the foundation of a mass party that can serve as the vehicle for this level of organization, and to that end we must insist on endorsement of principled socialists running outside the Democratic Party over opportunists who hope to use DSA as a springboard to success or as a means to save the Democratic Party from itself.

To this end, we will work to build relationships with other socialist and radical organizations that put forward more radical demands than the mainstream progressive movement. We see a strategic approach to building united fronts as necessary for effective anti-fascist organizing, anti-austerity campaigns, and as a step in the direction of the political independence which we ultimately seek in the creation of a mass, independent socialist party—a party of the working class and for the working class.

Supporting National Base-Building Work

Building a mass socialist organization and party requires that we build deep relationships with and mobilize a permanent base of poor, oppressed, and working class people in all regions, in all cities, in rural towns and areas, and in neighborhoods and communities. Our base must be thoroughly multiracial as any successful socialist movement is predicated on multiracial solidarity. As such, we envision struggles and organizing which recognize the many forms of the working class in rural, suburban, and urban areas, and brings workers together across racial, geographic, and industrial divides. DSA should prioritize developing leaders and organizers out of this base, through projects like food security programs, homeless outreach, and tenant unions, as well as local labor union and worker militancy. Through base-building, the socialist movement can create real centers of popular power that can fight and overthrow capitalist exploitation.

We must commit to a deep base-building and organizing model that is developed and sustained by the lived experience of working class communities. Put simply, we need to develop organizing work that complements the everyday lives of busy working class people. This model can be replicated in and coordinated with other organizing work, including rank-and-file organizing strategies. We envision an organizing model that brings together workers from different trades, but similar industries, to collaborate and coordinate on interrupting strategically identified points in the economy. These workers could then work together with the communities they live in and any neighborhood councils and mobilization teams that may exist, creating an impenetrable base of working class power.

Finally, base-building must become more of a priority than the electoral arena. Electoral politics has its place, but we will never be able to build a successful mass organization based on prioritizing the electoral. We will work hard to win the organization over to a deep base-building model that develops a permanent, organized, mass constituency.

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