Program

Agreement with our Program is a requirement of membership, though less strictly so than the Points of Unity. This Program can be amended by a 3/4 vote.

Refoundation has established itself as a long-term caucus of the radical left inside the Democratic Socialists of America. Our purpose, as set out in our Points of Unity document, is to win the organization through democratic debate to the project of launching an independent working-class party which fights for socialism. Our program, drafted in order to make concrete steps in that direction for the period of 2017-2019 and beyond, is a long-term, working program. This means that we will work to see the implementation of each of the program points and will add to program or revise program points as conditions change.

Rank-and-file Labor Strategy

Organized, rank-and-file labor is the bedrock of any successful working class left movement. The limits of the struggles of working class and oppressed people in a given political period are linked to – among other things – the strength of the labor movement. When viewed through this lens, the centrality of labor becomes apparent. The US labor movement has been in crisis and decline for decades – the result of changes in the labor force and production and a ferocious ruling class, neoliberal attack. We want to see DSA develop a comprehensive and strategic rank-and-file labor strategy which goes beyond anything we’ve seen during the past few decades of labor decline, but that still remains rooted in what is materially possible and achievable today. If we are ever to build a socialist society, where working class people democratically control production and services, the economy, society, and politics, we must first lay the foundation. Part of that foundation is a massive, unprecedented labor movement, controlled by militant rank-and-file workers. We propose the steps below as some of the ways we can get there:

  • Develop a strategic orientation to rank and file workers, engaging in fights for better contracts and working conditions.
  • National campaigns to organize the unorganized workforce.
  • Rank-and-file union democratizing campaigns.
  • Establish national network of DSA union organizers, members, and staff which will develop a comprehensive program to reestablish union militancy, an orientation away from employer-friendly contracts and agreements, and mobilize the millions of disengaged union members across the country.
  • Deep study and research to identify the industries and sectors to strategically target for organizing.
  • Establishment of DSA Jobs Programs for unemployed and unorganized workers across the country to find jobs in strategic industries. Jobs Program organizers would provide general interview and pre-employment training to prepare these workers to seek employment in certain industries. Jobs Program organizers would also provide political education on the importance of labor unions in our society.
  • Establishment of Industry-specific labor caucuses where both organized and unorganized workers of certain industries can come together and foster relationships to develop strategies for organizing their industry.
    • We envision a situation where mature and successful industry-specific caucuses can collaborate and coordinate campaigns and projects with caucuses of different industries.
  • We seek to – wherever possible – merge labor forces with community and neighborhood mobilizing teams.
  • Vast mobilizer and organizing campaigns, building the consciousness of the rank and file and their confidence to fight in the big labor struggles ahead.
  • Creation of DSA workplace chapters around the country with the goal of political education, engagement, and mobilization of workers around workplace and social justice issues.
  • Build strong ties to alternative labor organizations and workers centers across the country.
  • Official liaisons to alternative labor organizations and workers centers in chapters across the country, fostering close relationships of collaboration, affiliating where possible.
    • DSA task forces and teams should be created in every city where we have this affiliation/relationship to make sure we can provide the necessary resources to this project.
  • Official liaisons to sympathetic unions across the country, fostering close collaboration. Affiliation and coalition – building should especially be sought from unions open to endorsing DSA and socialist candidates.
  • Convene a conference of the organizers and unions behind the 1996 Labor Party, together with other forces in the current labor movement, to comprehensively assess the current state of labor and to strategize about how we can build a labor party in the future.

National Base-Building Strategy

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 brings together the struggles of indigenous people, of immigrants, of black people in the cities, and of rural working class whites in Appalachia, the South, the Rust Belt, and beyond. DSA should prioritize developing leaders and organizers out of this base.

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.
We’re impressed with the organizing work of Philly Socialists and we encourage everyone to examine their work as an example of some base-building work.

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.

National Collaboration of Organizations Task force

This group would be tasked with building and maintaining DSA affiliations with community and social justice organizations around the country. The aim here is to build a future grand coalition of organizations connected and linked through the DSA. Right now, the great work of community and social justice organizations is fractured and scattered. How would it look if many of these organizations came together under a grand coalition, with DSA, to synthesize work? Such a coalition could be part of the foundation of building a future mass working class, socialist party.

  • National Collaboration Networks
    • Community Organizations
      • Anti-Poverty organizations
      • Housing Justice orgs
      • National Free and Charitable Clinics
      • Food / Community Kitchens
      • Free Health Clinics
    • Social Justice Movement Organizations
      • Queer Liberation/ LGBTQI orgs
      • Anti-racism orgs
      • Immigrant and Refugee Justice orgs
      • Environmental orgs
      • Universal Health Care orgs
      • Living wage and Fight for 15 orgs
      • Antiwar orgs
      • International solidarity/anti-imperialism orgs
    • Socialist and Radical Left organizations

Community Mobilization Task force

This group would be tasked with fostering the development of DSA community councils and mobilization teams. The community councils would be a permanent force within the neighborhood and would organize around the struggles and movements affecting the community. The aim here is to train working class neighborhoods in what it means to build power. The councils would then create mobilizations teams to focus in on points of struggle for the neighborhood:

  • Fight for community, democratic control of police in working class and poor neighborhoods. Fight for the creation of community defense force – where the local police department would have no jurisdiction, literally forcing the police out – in other neighborhoods.
  • Rapid Response network aimed at defending against ICE raids and right wing violence.
  • Develop robust Participatory Budgeting and Democracy committees where community members would have control over large parts of neighborhood budgets and decisions.
  • Campaigns for housing for the homeless, for rent control, and struggles against landlord exploitation. We would also like to see these councils take up defending neighborhood residents against foreclosures.

Socialist Strategy for the South and Rural Communities

We believe that the time has come for a robust and serious socialist political intervention in the South and other rural communities across the country. Long ignored by liberals as reactionary, socialists understand that a great well of working class support and power lies within these communities. We also understand that no serious socialist movement and mass working class party can ever be built without these communities. The South is a region where organized labor suffers the most and where the ruling class’ ideological hold is the strongest. Winning over the working class masses in the South and rural areas and building their capacity to fight would represent an unprecedented, strategic defeat for the ruling class. Loosening their stranglehold on the South should be a high priority for organizations like DSA.

National Network of DSA Chapters

We want to see more communication, collaboration, and coordination between our many locals and chapters. We need to be able to build on and learn from the work of all of our chapters as a whole. We believe that one of the best ways to contribute to the transformation of DSA into a mass working class party is creating a national network of chapters.

Politicized Social Service

Any serious mass working class formation in the US must engage in deep organizing in all working class communities, permeating all aspects of working class life. It is through engagement with the real, lived, everyday experiences of communities across the country that we’ll be able to build a meaningful fightback against this system. While we should fight for “non-reformist” reforms and push the state to provide as many public services as possible, we should – at the same time – provide services that the state refuses to prioritize or give any resources for at all. We must Serve the People through the establishment and growth of politicized social service groups led by DSA and in collaboration with already existing groups:

  • Unemployment services assistance team
  • Public assistance resources teams
  • Crisis response teams – “Don’t call 9-11 (for certain issues). Call us!”
  • Conflict Resolution teams
  • Mental Health care teams
  • Mobile clinics
  • Opioid and drug addiction response teams and safe injection facilities
  • Food kitchens

The fascist right wing is already speaking of providing similar services. They seek to win over some struggling working class people to their violently racist and reactionary program through their own service programs. There is no way we can allow them any space or ability to successfully implement these programs. Such success would be an even graver threat to the left and broader working class than anything we’ve seen in modern times.

Socialist Research Institute

We want to see DSA employ a range of bold strategies for building a mass working class party and movement. One of those strategies we see as helping achieve this goal is developing working class, socialist institutions of our own, such as creating a think tank – like Socialist Research Institute. We see some of the main work of a research institute as follows:

  • Develop solid strategies, rooted in the realities of the moment, for achieving greater and greater strides toward the creation of a mass working class party
  • Comprehensive research program which would study everything from the successes and failures of the US labor movement throughout history, the history of third parties in the US, past and current social movements, to the growth of fascist movements in the US and Europe, and many other areas.
  • Opinion polling, data analysis, and surveys of the public
  • Periodic comprehensive national political assessments
  • Develop a comprehensive nationally coordinated strategy to fighting the entire agenda of the right wing

Left Unity Treaty

We want to reorient DSA’s coalition strategy to prioritize working with socialist and radical left organizations that put forth more radical demands than the mainstream progressive movement. We don’t pursue left-unity for its own sake. 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 workers party. Decades of bitter sectarianism and infighting between organizations has contributed to the left’s defeat in a time of a declining labor movement, an unrelenting neoliberal attack on the working class, a decades-long ruling class ideological attack on the left, and an emboldened fascist right wing. Now is the time to jettison destructive sectarianism and build a true United Socialist Front made up of our numerous organizations.

We believe that the best way to achieve this unity is DSA beginning a series of talks between socialist organizations which would eventually lead to a Unity Treaty and cooperation agreement. We know that we can’t erase the long history of bitterness and sectarianism between some organizations. However, winning the fight for working class power will absolutely require the cessation of sectarian and sometimes hostile orientations between some groups. Our aim also isn’t to erase important political differences between groups. However, one of the tests of our ability to build the type of mass working class party that we need is whether we’ll be able to collaborate and coordinate through a shared strategy and build on the dynamism created through our different viewpoints.

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. With such an education, these members will be better equipped to take their knowledge, theory, analysis, skills, creativity, and unique personal backgrounds and lead the many diverse struggles ahead. We want to see DSA establish a political education program for all members: A combination of video series, curated reading guides, and the organization of study groups and day schools over the whole organization, with aspects integrated into outreach. Topic areas for these materials will include but not be limited to:

  • Capitalism: What Is It and How Does It Work?
  • US Foreign Policy and Imperial Adventures
  • Marxism: The critique of capitalism, historical materialism, etc… (Not a who’s-who/score-settling of various tendencies, but an exposition of the basics of “scientific socialism.”)
  • Lessons from mass parties of our past: Socialist Party of America and Communist Party USA. An emphasis on socialism as a *mass* phenomenon in American politics, as opposed to the splintered and marginal sect-ridden experience from the end of the Cold War to the present.
  • The history of people movements and community struggles in the US, including but not limited to: African American struggle for civil rights and Black Power, indigenous peoples struggles, the LGBTQA Liberation movements, Latina\Chicana movements, First, Second, Third Wave Feminist movements.
  • The experience of anti-fascist, anti-KKK, and other anti-racist organizing.

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 socialist political education as well.

Organizational Structure

If we are serious about building a mass working class, socialist party in the future, we must now begin to allow for new organizational structures which would serve to deepen our work in working class struggles and build power. We are proposing that DSA amend Article IV, Section 2 of the DSA national constitution to allow for the establishment of a more complex organizational structure, making room for city-wide chapters to devolve into district and neighborhood branches and the establishment of workplace branches…

  • To facilitate more intimate and participatory meetings. With special attention to radical affirmative-action, progressive-stack, and other methods of creating an empowering and inclusive environment.
  • To assist in the development of ever greater numbers of local leaders.
  • To shift chapters from being city-wide activist clubs to neighborhood organizations with direct ties to the immediate struggles affecting members and potential members.
  • To assist in the development of movement and electoral strategies tailored to the sometimes highly variable terrains across large cities.
  • To acknowledge the immense stratification and segregation in US cities and maximize the potential for marginalized communities to utilize the DSA as a vehicle for empowerment and change.
  • To build confidence and class consciousness within workplaces, preparing workers for future struggles for working class power.
  • Enact the recommendations of the Accountability Caucus to establish procedures to democratically recall national and local DSA leadership.

2019 Convention Resolutions

We aim to achieve the adoption of resolutions at the next DSA convention which align the organization to publicly fight for the following:

  • the ratification of DSA’s eventual mission as founding a mass socialist party.
  • the closure of US military bases on foreign soil.
  • the establishment of citizen oversight boards of police departments.
  • the creation of a broad national “anti-austerity” social movement coalition to defend public institutions, roll-back privatizations, fight for a federal jobs program, and dramatically extend the “welfare state.”
  • the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act and all subsequent anti-labor legislation which stands in direct opposition to the Wagner Act.
  • the passage of a trans-inclusive, federal Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)
  • the repeal of all so-called “Right To Work” legislation which is designed to undermine the power of American unions.

Dual membership

We see building bridges across the fractures of the socialist left as a very important milestone in building the type of movement and mass party that we seek to build. We see many other socialist organizations as comrades to collaborate with and learn from. We will realize our strength through our unity. Therefore, part of building these important bridges is to jettison ambiguous language in our organization bylaws regarding dual membership. We propose the following changes to our organization’s bylaws regarding dual membership:

  • Amend Article I, Section 3; Article III 4; and Article V, Section 4 of DSA National Bylaws to strike all language about members being under the discipline of any self-defined democratic-centralist organization…
    • To jettison vestiges of Cold War anti-Communism with no clear practical value.
    • To foster a climate that will allow the DSA to be the main political arena in which a new vision of Democratic Socialism is created through a synthesis of ideas and practices across the broad socialist movement.
    • To promote “dual-carding” as a step toward realignment of the healthiest sections of the American left inside a vibrant, multi-tendency DSA.
    • To more effectively define “disruptive behavior” as any kind of behavior which aims to fragment the organization.
    • To build the foundation of a coalition of socialist and radical left organizations
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