Welcome

Welcome to DSA-LA, We’re so excited to have you! 

Welcome to the fastest-growing socialist organization in the country. We need you (and your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors) to pitch in, show up, and drag a new world into being. There’s no time to lose, and everything to win.

Democratic Socialists of America is a grassroots, multi-tendency, socialist organization committed to the radical deepening of democracy and freedom in every aspect of our lives. Our goal is a society liberated from oppression, using tactics rooted in a realistic understanding of how to build political power and challenge entrenched structures. With over 75,000 members, DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States and poised to be a significant force in the resurgence of a popular socialist movement. DSA is not a political party, nor is it a movement that has a narrow, unchanging view of how to achieve our collective political goals, but rather it’s a collection of organizers with the ultimate goal of building our member’s collective power and organizing skills at the hyperlocal level, while acting together as a cohesive body against capitalism.

The principal goal of DSA is the complete elimination of capitalist modes of economic organization and all interrelated forms of oppression. DSA members typically believe that capitalism is inseparable from racism, misogyny, ableism, anti-LGBTQ+ violence, classism, and the myriad intersecting forms of oppression we experience and witness on a daily basis. 

Democratic socialists believe our economy and society should exist not to make profits for a few, but to meet human needs and foster true equality. 

All of our chapter’s members are volunteers. We are workers, students, and retirees. We are various ages, races, and genders. We have diverse backgrounds, interests, and skills. We engage with the work, contributing our time and labor each as we are able. Some are veteran activists and some of us are just beginning. We share a vision of a just and equitable society, and we are building power across Los Angeles (and beyond!) to achieve that vision.

Why We Are Here

We believe that real freedom, not just the appearance of freedom, can be achieved in our lifetimes if we work together to create political power. Political power is more than just the ballot box—political power is created whenever people organize together, and it can be expressed in many different ways. Direct action, mutual aid, protest, and education are some ways we can build power together. We believe many different tactics, including but not limited to electoral politics, will be required to create a truly free and liberated society.

We regard democracy as both a means and an end. DSA sees democratic modes of social, political, and economic organization as a good in itself, and regards democratic decision-making (e.g., through the building of popular consensus and genuinely free elections with full enfranchisement) as the most legitimate means of obtaining those ends. In practice, this means we are a deeply participatory organization, and encourage any and all levels of involvement. 

Through radical democracy we challenge and resist the systemic oppression of capitalism, sexism, racism, heteropatriarchy, and xenophobia, and begin imagining radical alternatives for a new social, economic, and political reality. 

Los Angeles has been fractured by capitalism along deep regional, racial, and class lines that offer significant challenges to building strong Left unity. It is our goal to challenge and transcend these divisions by rebuilding a strong Left for everyone, not just members of our organization. To be clear, we do not aim to offer a singular solution to organizing on the Left. Powerful and important organizing has been taking place in LA for decades, and it is important we approach our work with humility and respect for the ground others have laid. With that in mind, we aspire to build strength through solidarity, and offer a compelling alternative to capitalism for everyone.

What Does it Mean to Be a Member

DSA-LA consists entirely of its members—we are an all-volunteer group. Aside from a skeletal staff at the national level, that’s true for every chapter. Anything that’s being done, from phone banking to strategic planning to organizing childcare for canvassers, even building this page on the website, happens because someone made the time for it, alongside demands from work, our loves, and our homes.

DSA-LA is one of the largest DSA chapters in the country, and the home chapter for most of Los Angeles County. We have over 3500 dues-paying members who organize in their neighborhoods, workers circles, and as a part of ongoing campaigns.

We employ a variety of tactics with the aim of winning measurable gains and dismantling oppressive structures in quantifiable ways. Our members plan events, actions, day schools, and much more to create the broad solidarity necessary to challenge out-of-touch political structures. We’re not here to posture or make empty signals. We’re not interested in moral grandstanding. We’re interested in building a more just society, and we work hard to do it. 

Many political organizations rely on grants or huge sums of money from wealthy donors. We don’t roll like that. Those kinds of arrangements inevitably end up as a tit-for-tat relationship, and even with public grants, accepting that kind of money would make us beholden to certain political actors, which would limit the kinds of protest and agitation we could perform. Most importantly, it would undermine the radical democracy that we hold central to our mission.

 

Completely Member Funded

We are a completely member-funded organization. That means our vision and our work are guided only by our members and our shared vision of socialism— our vision of a more just society. No establishment politician, corporation, or NGO can dictate what we do or how we organize, or threaten to cut our funding. In fact, through our independence and solidarity, it is we who threaten them. Most members pay monthly local dues. We then use those funds for actions, agitations, education, and events.

Absolutely no one is turned away from DSA for lack of funds. For information on having your membership sponsored, go to: dsausa.org/dueswaiver

Dues Chart
What Do I Do As a Member?

DSA is a great space to learn new ideas and skills. You don’t need previous experience organizing or in politics. And you’ll be surprised by how much you already know from living under capitalism. We all know the stress of rising rents, the fear of an expensive medical bill, the feeling of alienation at work. We’ve all seen what racism, patriarchy, and imperialism at home and abroad has done to our communities. We need all kinds of skills in our movement. We need people to read, write, teach, analyze, debate, carpool, make calls, take to the streets, provide child watch, bring snacks, make banners, design spreadsheets and everything in between. All that’s necessary is a willingness to show up and work democratically.

How to Get Started

DSA-LA survives and thrives because it is a deeply participatory organization. One of the most powerful parts of organizing with DSA is that you aren’t working for your boss or volunteering for a distant politician who will never know your name. The work we do is for others and for ourselves. We build our communities, economy, and society together. So come join us! Do something!

We’ve created this handy dandy checklist to help you navigate your journey with DSA-LA. Obviously not everyone has the same capacity, and you can do any of these things at any time, but these are some helpful pointers. Sign up below and we’ll walk you through the most effective way to get involved, educated and join the fight!

If you want to do informal sociable things with your comrades like rock climbing, book clubs, or park clean-ups, just start doing it. Our movement gets stronger when we have other activities that stitch us together alongside the work.

When you want to do work officially as a part of DSA, you need democratic sign off. Since we’re an organization entirely made of working people up against the billionaire class, our strength and power comes from our people power – our ability for all of us to work together towards specific strategic goals. For that reason, proposing things like new campaigns, electoral endorsements, or new chapter subgroups requires building support from other members and having a proposal discussed, voted on, and democratically passed. Generally, that means writing up what you’d like to do with the chapter and getting other members to sign on in support – and using that petition process as a way to talk to fellow members and make sure that you have enough people willing to actually put in the work on your project.

How Does DSA Work?

Meetings and Decision Making

DSA National

The work of the national organization is driven by decisions that members make every two years at the National Convention. The convention is the highest body of the organization because it is the most representative — decisions are made by proposals and votes from representatives of all the chapters in the country (as well as “at-large” members who live in areas where there are no chapters.) 

At convention, members also get to elect a group of sixteen democratically elected members called the National Political Committee (NPC). The NPC guides and leads the implementation of DSA’s major political and organizational goals. The DSA Constitution requires that eight seats on the NPC be reserved for women, and that at least five of the NPC seats be reserved for people of color. 

The NPC facilitates coordination between members and chapters across the country in order to provide a more efficient framework in which to organize nationally. The NPC also directs a small staff, headquartered in New York City, that provides administrative support for chapters and accomplishes the day-to-day affairs required to sustain a large and rapidly expanding organization. 

There are also several national working groups, including: 

  • Democratic Socialist Labor Commission 
  • The International Committee
  • Ecosocialist Working Group 

And many more that can be found here: dsausa.org/get_involved

Local Annual Convention

The most important DSA-LA meeting happens once a year when the chapter hosts its Annual Convention to vote on proposed bylaws amendments, modifications to DSA-LA’s Mission Statement and Organizational Priorities, and to pick up to three year-long Chapter Resolutions, which will be prioritized over all other work for the following year. It is an opportunity for members to democratically shape our organization as a political collective, and an important part of the way we center democracy in our work throughout the year.

To read the DSA-LA bylaws in their splendorous entirety, check here: dsa-la.org/bylaws 

Local Meetings

Between conventions, DSA-LA holds at least six meetings each year to discuss chapter policies, active campaigns, and make major political decisions with the entire membership. Typically, these meetings are held “branched”, with simultaneous meetings held in each of DSA-LA’s geographic branches, in order to maximize accessibility and localize chapter work to Los Angeles’ diverse geography, though when necessary the chapter may elect to hold a single meeting for the entire chapter. 

Questions of major political importance that require chapter-wide decisions are brought to and presented to the entire chapter at local meetings, and such votes are the highest decision-making mechanism for the chapter, outside of the Local Convention. Examples of questions that require chapter-wide votes include forming new branches or endorsing electoral candidates and ballot measures. Rank and file members may organize to bring proposals to local meetings by preparing petitions with the signatures of at least 50 members in good standing. 

DSA-LA currently consists of 5 Branches: Central, Eastside / SGV, San Fernando Valley, Westside, South Central / Inglewood. During simultaneous local meetings, branches have reserved time to emphasize their local communities and issues while still contributing to our citywide actions and goals, and may also elect to meet more frequently when necessary. Branch meetings are good spaces for neighborhood organizers to share updates with each other and discuss how to adapt chapter campaigns to their local circumstances.

 

Neighborhood Meetings

In 2020, we have committed to expand this geography-based organizing with even more local-focused Neighborhood Meetings. Heading into 2021, the chapter will be developing resources and a campaign to allow members to connect directly with their neighbors and organize for unemployment relief and the cancellation of rent.

Roles & Responsibilities

Members

Members are not merely the core of our organization, they are the entirety of our organization. We make no distinction between “core” and “periphery” within our membership; our political strength comes because we are a group operating in solidarity with one another, each contributing time and labor as we are able. True to the “socialist organizer” card every member receives after joining DSA, we are committed to creating a space where our campaigns, projects, and actions come from the rank and file. 


Steering Committee

The Steering Committee is a 9-person body of democratically elected officers, selected in annual elections from within our membership. Just like our other members, the Steering Committee is not a paid position, and all their work is donated labor. They include: 

  • At-large officers (5) 
  • Campaigns Coordinator (1)
  • Communications Director (1) 
  • Recording Secretary (1) 
  • Treasurer (1) 

The Steering Committee is broadly charged with leading and guiding the implementation of the chapter’s democratically voted-on mission, priorities and resolutions. It approves the use of chapter resources towards member-led projects, organizes and runs Local Meetings, initiates and executes internal policies to help the chapter run smoothly, and works to maintain a larger, united political vision for the chapter, including delegating and charging members, other officers, and chapter subgroups with tasks as necessary. Like other subgroups in DSA-LA, the Steering Committee is subordinate to votes of the Local Convention or the chapter membership in Local Meetings. The Steering Committee can be reached at: steeringcommittee@dsa-la.org 

Branches

Membership ChartA branch is a geographically defined subdivision of DSA-LA, developed to allow DSA-LA to flexibly grow to cover all of Los Angeles County without requiring members to travel long distances in order to participate. There are currently 5 branches within the chapter. The current jurisdictions of DSA-LA’s branches is available for public viewing here. All DSA-LA members are automatically members of the branch in which they live, although they are permitted to attend meetings from other branches.

Branches are structures charged with the task of meeting our mass membership where they are – most specifically, where they live. Led by two Branch Coordinators who are elected by members of the branch, branch organizers are bound to chapter-level votes and decisions, but are responsible for keeping the chapter’s mass membership aware of the chapter direction, assessing the branch’s membership and regional conditions in order to make the implementation of chapter campaigns as tailored to local conditions as possible.

Neighborhoods
Neighborhood groups are intimate, super-local bodies for members to promote community and socialist organizing in their actual geographic neighborhoods. Neighborhood groups should be the primary place that new members are plugged into. They are a place to connect with larger campaigns, engage in political education, promote neighborhood-level mutual aid, and do tenant organizing. A neighborhood can have several volunteer organizers and at least 1 captain who is appointed by the branch coordinators. Even brand new members can volunteer to be trained as a “neighborhood organizer” if they want to!
Subgroups: Committees, Working Groups, and More

The chapter has several committees that support the chapter by staying especially focused on specific areas and developing resources and events to promote members’ development. Some committees are focused on staying engaged with local policy around issues like Housing or Climate. Others promote specific skills, like AgitProp or Mutual Aid.

Generally, whenever the chapter members vote to launch a new public campaign, a campaign working group will be formed to develop the campaign. Note — it is not necessary to be a member of a committee or working group in order to support chapter campaigns and branch / neighborhood organizing.

A complete list of committees and working groups can be found below.

Directory