2020 Convention Statements
Bylaws Amendment 1: On the Role of Caucuses
Title: Recognize the identity caucuses’ rightful place in the chapter
Summary: There is no empowerment of marginalized community members within the chapter without funding.
This is an brilliant idea that allows our chapter to celebrate working class diversity, to empower marginalized community members within DSA-LA to organize around their particular working class conditions, oppressions, and cultures, and to launch innovative projects. And doing work requires resources, both financial and access to communications in order to reach the membership and beyond. The ethnic caucuses, LGBT, socialist feminist, poor people’s and other caucuses need their legitimate status in the chapter acknowledged and their right to apply for funds spelled out in the bylaws. Whichever broader bylaws amendments you choose, please also approve this amendment.
- Leone Hankey
Bylaws Amendment 3: Bylaws Editing Commission: Recommended Bylaws
Title: A more gradual transition to a new structure
Summary: The recommendations laid out in this plan help streamline and clarify existing structures while providing flexibility to make adjustments later.
These recommended bylaw changes would provide some much-needed clarification and streamlining to our current structure without creating changes so drastic that they would cause disruption to our organizing work as the other proposed bylaw amendments would. They also offer some flexibility and empower committees and caucuses to assess their current structure to determine if the recommended changes would benefit them as well as suggestions to a slower transition toward a structure like Chicago DSA, a chapter which had similar struggles to our own before adopting their new structure. Turning the bulk of the internal resource committees into standing committees will allow them to function more smoothly than open committees with fluctuating membership. Adding a Campaign Coordinator will help provide cohesion across the Chapter and will allow the Steering Committee to be more informed about the various chapter-wide campaigns.
- Staci O.
Bylaws Amendment 4: Let’s COOPerate
Title: Facilitating communication and connection over hierarchy
Summary: Having the chapter be led by committee/wg/caucus leadership will increase better intercommunication and coordination of work in the chapter
One of the biggest issues affecting work in the chapter is a lack of effective structure for making sure all committees/working groups/caucuses are regularly updated and appraised about each other’s work so there’s more opportunity for collaboration and cooperation and lower risk of redundant work. ISOF was instituted to fix this issue but hasn’t been effective. An additional obstacle is needing the intermediary of steering committee for such global updates, which, through no fault of any individual member of steering, slows the process down. The COOP amendment would not only facilitate this communication but in general make sure that decisions affecting the chapter work are always made by the people most involved and most affected by the work.
- Angel M. Castillo
Title: The COOP By-Laws are too extreme.
Summary: There are a lot of things we could abolish to encourage cooperation, but abolishing Steering solves little.
The Let’s COOPerate Amendment pre-supposes that the organizational challenges faced by DSA-LA are based on an uneven and unaccountable distribution of power. When I’ve discussed problems with organizing in the Chapter with other leaders and members, I heard little if any attribution of anyone’s difficulties that stemmed from the distribution of power.
Working groups are not permitted to exist by Steering, they are permitted by the membership when they vote to create them. Whether that is the Labor Committee creating Labor Circles, or by the full membership when we vote to endorse candidates and campaigns. Any decision Steering makes or doesn’t make can be easily overturned by the membership. If membership fails to take action, that is not something that can be addressed structurally.
In the last local election, the nomination period for the Steering Committee had to be extended because not enough people were interested in running. There were very few committee elections that were not won by acclamation. We have not had two branch coordinators in the Valley for almost an entire year. Last year less than 4% of the Chapter even ran for a leadership position in any capacity at all. The problem isn’t a cabal of shadowy figures, it’s that there is too much work, not enough people do it and importantly, it is thankless work. The way we tend to treat one another leaves much to be desired. Accusations of maleficence are tossed around. People spend more effort organizing against one another than they do capitalism. Few people want to be in leadership because they don’t want to spend a year of their life feeling attacked and criticized which leaves the people who are in leadership overburdened, and often feeling dejected.
How can one caucus be scheming to overtake the Steering if the reality is that no one other than that caucus ran? I fully agree that the Chapter has to find a way to handle ideological caucuses so that they are transparent. However, it is unreasonable to suggest that Steering is the only body of this Chapter that is subject to an opaque overdominance of a specific caucus when there are also committees in similar condition. There are resolutions that essentially hand the direction of the entire Chapter to a handful of committees that are also caucus affiliated. The ratio of caucus members in leadership roles is high, while that of caucus membership amongst the membership is very low. Most of our members are not familiar with all the caucuses and don’t know who is and who isn’t in them. The chapter is hurt in all areas from the way the ideological caucuses currently operate, and to focus on Steering does not fully address the problem.
Steering does not operate outside of the culture of DSA-LA, the culture of our Chapter is what has created the Steering Committee we have. Bottlenecks happen in Steering because this Chapter has always deferred to Steering on everything. Most people answer questions with “ask Steering” because that was the answer they heard the most when they first got involved. Steering’s inability to guide the Chapter through multiple crises isn’t a design flaw of a Steering Committee, it’s the result of a Chapter that seems largely reluctant to make unpopular but necessary decisions. The way the sexual harassment scandals of 2017/18 were handled has defined the way DSA-LA has operated ever since. Those wounds have never been properly healed and the Chapter continues to suffer because of it.
I agree in principle that either something like the COOP structure would serve this Chapter better than what we have now. Setting up a system that puts all sections of leadership in the same meetings will lead to a vastly improved chapter that will be able to better harness it’s resources to work together rather than independently and at times, divisively. However, I think that change needs to happen slowly and holistically. Currently we all have more capacity for our Chapter work because many of us are not employed and our social lives and passions have been limited drastically. If we decide to dismantle and restructure the Chapter wholesale, who is going to do that work? We already don’t have enough people running for leadership. There’s not a huge pool of people to pull from. In 6 or 9 months from now hopefully we are going to be able to spend time with our loved ones again and go back to school, or work, or traveling or whatever it is we did when they could leave the house. What happens then?
Drastically re-structuring the Chapter misses the forest for trees, it creates new positions for the same people to continue to be overburdened in which is not going to solve anything. If we continue to believe that our problem is merely structural we will be hard pressed to realize our Chapter’s potential to change LA County for the better. Our enemies will never have to worry about us winning the day because we’re too busy reorganizing ourselves and organizing against one another to beat them.
- Erin O-R
Bylaws Amendment 5: The “New York City” Amendment
Title: An organization That Has Lost Its Way
Summary: Back to Basics
“We propose to destroy the capitalist and save the man. We want a system in which the worker shall get what he produces and the capitalist shall produce what he gets.”
That is what it’s all about.
For an organization that claims to be socialist, socialism seems to be the last thing on this organization’s agenda. Is there no room for labor in this organization? Is there no room for working people in this organization? People are being exploited for the benefit if the capitalist class more and more, every day in every way. People are actually dying to enrich Bezos, Waltons, etc. And we are worried about “cisheteropatriarchy”? What the hell is that? Take care of the big problem, and these other issues will happily work themselves out.
I always thought Harrington was wrong to join the Democrats. Biden? Trump won because working people have been getting increasingly screwed over since the 1970s. Instead of rejecting these people we need to be welcoming them.
We took a wrong turn. Does anybody in DSA remember Eugene Debs?
“As a rule, large capitalists are Republicans and small capitalists are Democrats, but workingmen must remember that they are all capitalists, and that the many small ones, like the fewer large ones, are all politically supporting their class interests, and this is always and everywhere the capitalist class.”
I change my registration today. I am no longer a Democrat and return to being a democrat.
- Gary Schenk
Title: These bylaws are overly complicated and would cause further siloing.
Summary: We will spend more time implementing this overly complicated new structure than organizing.
There are certainly some worthwhile changes in this resolution. However, as written, it is overly complicated and furthers our chapter’s already existing siloing problem. There is also no clearly outlined path to implement this entirely new structure. I am in favor of the anti-oppression trainings and think they should absolutely be incorporated into whatever structure we end up with. I also think it would be beneficial to transition to having a larger Leadership or Executive Committee with representatives from committees and branches; however, I don’t think it would be a good idea to fully implement such a radical structural change all at once. We already have a significant problem finding enough prospective candidates to run for leadership positions throughout the chapter. This will only get harder by adding more positions to fill all at once. Additionally, it will take significant time and energy to restructure the chapter, diverting that time and energy away from organizing work. My largest problem with this amendment are the sections dealing with branches and electoral endorsements. If a branch can form with as few as 8 members and can be based on shared interest as well as geography, we are likely to end up with branches within branches. This is overly complicated and further reinforces siloing, encouraging members to organize in smaller groups and not engage outside of those groups. The electoral endorsements section is both overly complicated and vague all at once. It requires branch members to debate on endorsements and then more than one branch has to vote to endorse before then sending the question of endorsement to elected representatives. Then there’s the caveat that the Citywide Leadership Committee can convene an emergency Endorsement Meetings on their own due to “exceptional circumstances.” Nowhere does it state how the endorsement process is started or how members are to learn about prospective candidates before voting. Do members bring the question of endorsement to a Branch? Does the candidate reach out? Are candidates required to complete a questionnaire and/or hold a Q&A session (as is our current procedure)? And then going back to the branch formation section, what would stop a prospective candidate from potentially forming a branch with their supporters to put forth an endorsement proposal? This is too large of a change to institute without having answered these important questions. If we attempt to radically reinvent the chapter’s structure wholesale, we are going to spend more time on restructuring and less time on actual organizing.
- Staci O.
Chapter Resolution 1: Build a Bench for a 2022 DSA-LA Slate
Title: We need a plan to pursue winnable electoral goals in L.A.!
Summary: This resolution provides a clear plan for socialist electoral victories in L.A. by stressing winnable races over any one type of race.
This resolution lays out a smart, clear electoral plan for DSA in L.A. County without being too overly prescriptive or narrow. We’ve seen chapters across the country elect socialists to city councils and state legislatures. It’s time for DSA LA to start getting some wins too and we need to have a strategy to do that. This resolution stresses the importance of developing our own candidates from within and in doing so, build coalitions with unions and other community groups. This resolution is well-researched and acknowledges the challenges that lie ahead while offering a path forward. It doesn’t prioritize any one race over another, which is important. If we limit ourselves to only city council or county supervisor races, we would miss out on amazing candidates like Fatima Iqbal-Zubair! We need to pick races we can win to build power and right now, the landscape is still uncertain. How the current races turn out in November may determine how we need to move forward. It would be detrimental to any electoral strategy to set a narrow focus now.
- Staci O.
Chapter Resolution 3: In Response to Crisis: A Proposal for a Neighborhood Solidarity Program by DSA-LA
Title: structure, unity, & strategic campaigns
Summary: marrying a well coordinated structure with a strategic outward facing campaign/program is a promising trajectory for dsa-la
I’ve organized in DSA-LA for four years now and during that time I’ve seen our members pour their heart and soul into various campaigns that would no doubt have had an enormous impact in our communities and advance the socialist project if it wasn’t for some internal constraints within our chapter structure. I can’t help but think our collective efforts would be more successful if there was a commitment to programmatic unity supported by some highly structured coordination. But in the chapter’s current structure —comprised of a myriad of issue-based committees where work is siloed and not accessible to the broader membership — these projects tend to fall short due to lack of engagement. What excites me about this resolution is the prospect of marrying a democratically decided campaign within existing chapter structures at the branch and neighborhood level. Easy access to a collective project/work based on geographic areas where horizontal decision making can be implemented at these scales is exciting, and will enable us to punch above our weight. I appreciate that this resolution takes a big step toward a more collective approach to organizing and away from the more activist model.
But what excites me most is the work itself. The maelstrom of capitalism working as designed, the structural racism built in, and institutional state failure has culminated in a crisis like no other. Perhaps the most obvious are the crises of purchasing power (we can’t afford rent and in many cases, basic necessities like food) and state legitimacy (the brutal crackdown and escalation of violence by police on the BLM uprising and the governments inadequate response to our economic hardship during a pandemic serves as evidence). The unfortunate end of the Bernie Sanders campaign, combined with the state’s inability to provide meaningful relief to the masses of unemployed, and an uprising in service of black lives and police abolition has shown that the energy and political terrain has shifted decidedly to the streets. We should take seriously that the burning of a police precinct in Minneapolis has a higher approval rating than either candidate running for president. A coordinated campaign centered on providing mutual aid for our communities, seeking justice and protecting each other through direct action — as outlined in this resolution — is a much needed and welcoming change, as these sorts of projects are usually in service of, or auxiliary to electoral work. But now is the time to center community building and street action to meet the masses where they currently are. I for one can’t wait to join my comrades in the streets as a bloc and fight for the new world we desperately need.
- Kellen Dane
Title: Yes to Building a Neighborhood Solidarity Program
Summary: We urge members to support a neighborhood based organizing program to build leadership, power, and solidarity across the chapter, by forming a base more reflective of greater Los Angeles’ working class.
As members of the DSA-LA Eastside & SGV Branch’s Organizing Committee and organizers in the Neighborhood Organizing Network (formerly NSN), we strongly support Chapter Resolution 3: In Response to Crisis: A Proposal for a Neighborhood Solidarity Program.
Our experiences over the years as tenant organizers with all-volunteer organizations tells us that base-building starts with collectively addressing immediate material needs. It also tells us that without contextualizing those immediate material needs to a critical understanding of capitalism, and without connecting tenant associations (or other localized formations) to a larger expression of the working class organized as a class in and for itself, organizing efforts remain fragmented and do not accumulate in more durable organization, and thus do not result in more lasting change.
The Neighborhood Solidarity Program would develop organizational infrastructure that facilitates a shift in our chapter’s membership growth model, from one that relies primarily on attracting people to DSA, to a model of organizing the working class—that is, the whole of the working class, and not just particular strata—everywhere our class already lives and works. This shift is crucial to our chapter’s ability to build a mass base that reflects the greater Los Angeles’ working class (i.e., the class separated from the means of production, whether employed, underemployed, or unemployed).
The resolution offers a structure that connects the programmatic efforts of local organizers and captains in the Neighborhood Organizing network to those of the Branch. It clarifies the roles of participants in the aforementioned bodies and defines their responsibilities. The clarity of neighborhood based organizing roles and structures forms a more focused entry-point for existing and new members to engage with concrete means of building their capacity as organizers and their relationships with others in their neighborhood.
The resolution’s focus on organizing by geography is also both practical and politically strategic. In practice, emphasizing and supporting groups formed based on neighborhoods allows members to offer physically distant mutual aid/direct action more easily, better translates chapter-wide work to local contexts, and strengthens the chapter’s understanding of actually-existing local conditions. Politically, the geographic focus provides a basis for coalescing the sufficient base to build power in local jurisdictions.
Furthermore, the proposal ensures committees support local efforts, which can help ground campaigns focused on cross-geographic issue areas in the practical lived experiences of members and their neighbors. It may also buttress and broaden the knowledge and view of otherwise hyper-localized campaigns.
By proposing a program that ties together addressing immediate needs, political education, organizing at a building and neighborhood level, and recruiting to the DSA, this resolution presents an exciting opportunity for our chapter to undertake tangible work in such a way that coheres towards the socialist project of building the working class as a class in and for itself.
For these reasons, we urge DSA-LA members to support Chapter Resolution 3.
- Felix H., Jon T.
Title: Neighborhoods unification: a unique and necessary project for DSA-LA
Summary: I support this proposal particularly due to its ability to reign in workers across LA.
“In Response to Crisis” is an excellent example of both an acknowledgement of and proposed solution to a significant problem in American socialist organizing, which is the exclusion (causality notwithstanding) of non-millennial working class people outside the realm of American activist subculture. This neighborhood solidarity program proposal both addresses the problem of insulation AND provides methods for remedying it: in sum, a cultural and organizational investment in neighborhood-level organizing! Of its many merits, I want to point out its immense potential to reach working class people of various nooks and crannies particularly because of its encouragement of common-ground organizing tactics, rather than ideological litmus-testing, which makes solidarity based entirely on alignment of opinions and beliefs and, as such, vulnerable to liquifying. This is extremely beneficial to the foremost goals of the DSA, which are, in sum, to build the infrastructure for working class people to achieve their material goals and live lives that are one day less burdened by precarity than they are today. Bringing in as many working class people as possible into this movement, and ensuring that they receive the support and resources they need to pursue these goals is a fundamental tenet of a socialist organization in our context. I fully support this proposal and am very excited to see the strange and wonderful pockets of solidarity it will bring about across Los Angeles County and City alike.
- Farzana W.
Title: Admirable intentions but overly prescriptive
Summary: The intent of this resolution is good but the fact that it dictates how members are to engage with the chapter is concerning.
While this resolution has admirable intentions, the overly prescriptive nature and dictatorial language are extremely concerning and I fear that organizing members into small subgroups within geographic branches will further silo the chapter. Our chapter already has a problem with siloing. I fail to see how dividing members into even smaller hyperlocal groups will do anything but worsen this. I also wonder what will happen to smaller neighborhood groups with few members to share the work. It seems that those members will be at a disadvantage compared to those in neighborhoods with a larger density of DSA-LA members. My largest concern with this proposal, however, is its overly prescriptive and dictatorial language: “Connects all rank and file members to ongoing organizing work: Neighborhood Organizers will be responsible for ensuring all DSA-LA members on their lists are both engaged in neighborhood-based solidarity building through their Neighborhood Group (which includes hyperlocal mutual aid and tenant organizing) and connected to at least one of relevant various committee organizing circles the chapter is engaged in mass work in (including but not limited to existing labor circles and immigrant circles).” This is dictating not only how members are to engage in the chapter but how committees are allowed to function. It discounts our members’ personal situations and discounts the expertise of our committees. Many of our members lead very busy lives and are already at maximum capacity with their engagement. It is unfair to demand that they redirect their limited time and energy to fit the specifics of this proposal. This resolution also consolidates the bulk of the chapter’s power into three committees and allows those committees to dictate the work of the other committees. We definitely need more low-stakes ways to involve members but dictating to members what that involvement should be is no way to build power or retain members.
- Staci O.
Chapter Resolution 4: A Socialist Commitment to Black Liberation
Title: The solution we’ve been looking for
Summary: There is only one way to make DSA-LA a more diverse space and that is with conscious effort to focus more on issues affecting BIPOC comrades
As socialists, we all know that we cannot replace existing power dynamics with less oppressive ones if we don’t put in conscious effort to disrupt them. We will not make DSA-LA a more racially diverse space without making specific strides to center and elevate Black organizers, their projects, and the concerns of their communities. This resolution is precisely what we need to do and what we HAVE been needing to do for a while, and if we don’t adopt this resolution it will be an incredible embarrassment for this organization.
- Angel M. Castillo
Title: In this moment, this is exactly what our chapter needs
Summary: Let’s have confidence in our Black socialist comrades and put this multi-faceted approach to opposing white supremacy and supporting Black working class people into action.
Our chapter is very fortunate that our comrades in the AfroSocialist Caucus have analyzed what they need and what DSA-LA needs for our connections with the Black community and relevance to Black Liberation struggles to be strengthened, and what measures our chapter can take to turn into a space where Black comrades feel welcome, safe, respected, and able to organize effectively. This could be the beginning of a much stronger DSA-LA and multi-racial working class movement for socialism!
Of course, political disagreement is inevitable and democratic input is positive. However, before opposing the resolution or proposing any unfriendly amendments, I urge that those of us who are not Black each ask ourselves on what basis we think we know better than our Black socialist comrades who have spent months developing this proposal, what will work best for building DSA-LA among Black workers? Also, please consider the importance of taking sides re racism and specifically anti-Blackness, rather than choosing to abstain.
On anti-racist trainings:
The trainers would not be from mainstream, liberal, capitalist NGOS.
Here are four advantages to hiring radical anti-oppression trainers as opposed to doing it in house:
1) It avoids the cultural taxation and double unpaid labor of comrades of color
2) We would be picking trained and experienced trainers with a track record.
3) The trainers would not be under pressure from different tendencies within our organization.
4) It would be an opportunity to pay Black and Brown working class radicals for their labor helping us improve DSA- LA.
For those who oppose the effectiveness of anti-oppression trainings, certainly there have been mixed results. We should not compare ourselves to corporations or pro-capitalist groups. Of course, they are just going through the motions. We, in contrast, will have consistency, follow-up, ability to apply what we learn immediately to our political work, evaluation and accountability. If you are opposed to trainings what is your solution to the status quo? We do engage to some extent in struggles that engage Black working class people, but folks who come around usually do not choose to stay around. We need to make a serious and well rounded effort to change that.
DSA supports reparations and economic democracy. We need to practice what we preach and use some of our resources in direct support of black working class community efforts. Even as we participate more fully, deeply, and effectively in struggles against gentrification and the white supremacist police state apparatus, and for a people’s budget, we also need to share resources, not keep them all within our mainly white organization. And being in coalition with many of the organizations fighting white supremacy and capitalism in LA today will strengthen DSA-LA’s ability to build power and transform this city.
On our priorities:
It’s been very clear to most of our membership that we need to be more engaged in the fight for Black Liberation. Let’s organize ourselves to be able to do just that. The way to do so is by embracing Black socialist leadership.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” Thank you, Assata Shakur. Fight for socialism.
- Leone Hankey
Title: On the Role of External Parties Hosting Anti-Oppression Training
Summary: You don’t know everything! We should embrace an external and objective opportunity to engage in anti-oppressive work.
I am writing today in support of the after social AfroSocialist resolution. Specifically, I would like to write in support of an external third-party anti-oppression training.
While not a perfect model, there is no real alternative to hiring an external party. ***Let’s acknowledge that even as socialists we do not have all of the answers***, and that it is not the responsibility of our oppressed comrades to take on more labor in order to educate others. I do not agree with the critique of the nonprofit industrial complex for this, as it is a poorly concealed way to delay necessary work or let it fall on those who have experienced that oppression.
These conversations/trainings can be incredibly difficult, and there is no way to not take them personally being the fallible beings that we are. That is why we need to have an external OBJECTIVE group to allow ourselves the space to think about anti-oppressive behaviors and develop intentional anti-oppressive efforts in our organizing. Asking other DSA members to do this work also risks the effectiveness and ability to remain impartial. It allows us to personalize and find ways to DELEGITIMIZE the training based on our knowledge of who is leading them. That has already begun with the critiques of groups like AORTA, folks that we’ve likely never met.
It is not enough as socialists to say that DSA – LA is intended to organize all of the working class. We must also be committed and begin by supporting our Black comrades in this work. In order to make that a reality, we must work to make it so that DSA becomes an organization that is known locally and nationally for its commitment to Black liberation. As the second largest chapter in a nation that controls the fate of Black people everywhere it is imperative that we set an example for other chapters to follow. This is not a stylistic choice, it is about truly organizing for all of LA and everywhere else.