BUILDING THE NEXT LEFT
DSA’s main task in the coming two-year period is to develop a plausible democratic socialist vision for social justice in the 21st century. We will challenge the attacks of neoliberal capitalist austerity on the rights and freedoms of citizens and on key government programs. We will elaborate this critique and vision in dialogue with fellow social-movement activists and organizations that oppose neoliberalism and seek a better life for all. A discussion of the changed political terrain and DSA’s basic strategic orientation in the coming two years will educate, empower, and grow our current activist core, while equipping DSA with intellectual tools appropriate to this century.
Right-wing assaults on voting rights, reproductive and sexual freedom, and union rights, as well as the sanctioning of vigilante actions and police harassment of communities of color, threaten the very basis of democracy. In addition, the privatization and deregulation of publicly controlled services further aggravates inequality and poverty. To respond to these challenges, DSA will prioritize working with disenfranchised groups that are actively struggling for economic and social justice.
We recommit to activist work around both formal (electoral and legislative) and informal (work-based and community-based) power with a new emphasis on state and local level fights, because the Right controls many state and local governments and the next Left is likely to take shape in fights in these arenas.
Thus, over the next two years,
1. DSA will expand our grassroots educational capacity to make democratic socialist ideas accessible and applicable to a wide audience, and clearly communicate their economic and personal benefits. We will develop discussion groups, informational literature, social media and local events to enable activists to produce critical and practical knowledge for our work and participate in informed and inclusive debate about our strategy.
a. We want DSA members to be critical thinkers, creative communicators, and competent organizers who can infuse education into our activism. To develop a critique and vision in dialogue with fellow activists, we will investigate the processes of neoliberal capitalism, especially in our local situations, as well as the numerous experiments in democratic socialist alternatives from our society and around the world. We will use information about workplace cooperatives, public banks and participatory budgeting, for example, to educate ourselves and others about practical alternatives to capitalism as embodied in a solidarity economy.,
b. We will explore the relationship between capitalism and patriarchy, white supremacy, heteronormativity, and other forms of subordination and exclusion and the uses of an intersectional approach to foster a next Left that is accessible, diverse, inclusive, and participatory.
c. We will continue our public education work of Grassroots Economics Training for Understanding and Power (GET UP) and our 50th anniversary project defending the War on Poverty as a partial success whose work remains unfinished.
d. We will reexamine our political and organizational strategy from the ground up, inviting members to use readings and their own experiences as DSA activists to evaluate political conditions and possibilities and contribute fresh ideas and perspectives, for the purpose of producing an updated official political statement at the 2015 Convention.
e. We will commit to producing some DSA materials in both English and Spanish, and other languages where appropriate, to extend the reach as well as content of our educational capacity. This will depend at least initially on the talents of DSA members and friends at the local level.
2. DSA will engage in one unified national campaign, Drop Student Debt. Education is a basic need that should be guaranteed by the government, not a financial instrument with which to generate surplus value. The campaign demands in the short term government lowering of the debt burden facing most college graduates(and often their parents for their own as well as their children’s debts) , while also advancing the transformative demand for publicly financed, free higher education (and equivalent technical training) as a universal right. Like all bubbles, the student debt bubble endangers our future economic well-being. The campaign also enables DSA locals and YDS chapters to talk politics with younger members of our communities through tabling and
a. We call upon President Barack Obama to issue an executive order to expand his administration¹s income-based 10-year payment plan for retiring student debt. DSA seeks to amend the current Income Based Repayment Plan to allow all borrowers to have the remainder of their student debt forgiven after 10 years. In the current plan, borrowers who work in the public sector (or for a 501c3) for 10 years have their debts forgiven after 10 years, but most
borrowers have to wait 20 years for their remaining student debt to be forgiven.
b. The project advances a democratic socialist analysis of the student debt crisis as the outgrowth of a “market individual” neoliberal capitalism that curtails social provision and forces individuals to “invest” individually in their own “human capital.”
c. We will seek to connect our campaign to the broader struggles for quality public education for all, for equal access to public higher education regardless of citizenship and immigration status, and for the rights of teachers to organize, bargain, and strike. Like our campaign, all these struggles support education as a human right and a common good, not a privilege or a commodity.
d. By addressing the long-term burden of student debt and the lifelong need for quality education, the campaign can help DSA become a tri-generational organization composed of growing numbers of under-30 and middle-generation members as well as over-60 members.
3. DSA locals and YDS chapters will be active in the struggles they identify, based upon unique local conditions, to be most helpful to defending democracy and building the popular movements needed to overcome neoliberal capitalist control of our country and world. We will partner with other organizations in issue coalitions whenever feasible to build these social movements that will constitute the next Left. The national office will continue to promote and help coordinate local/chapter involvement in the following issues at whatever capacity possible, given staff and national volunteer resources.
a. We will defend basic civil liberties and democratic rights, such as voting rights, immigrant rights, reproductive rights, and LGBTQ rights, and push for the expansion of rights, especially around government and corporate transparency and individual privacy.
b. We will work to reverse the upward redistribution of income and wealth by supporting low-wage justice and “alternative labor” campaigns; by fighting for full employment; by resisting austerity budget cuts that victimize working people and the poor; by opposing the defunding of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid; by calling for higher income taxes on high incomes and a financial transactions tax and by fighting for universal health care and relief from foreclosures. We recognize and support the greater involvement of organized labor in working together with other progressive organizations to fight for the interests of the entire working class, whether members of organized bargaining units or not. To supplement our local campaigns for raising the minimum wage, we support the establishment of a national living wage, defined as the minimum income necessary to meet basic family needs (housing, clothing, nutrition, utilities, transport, healthcare, etc.).
c. We will fight against racism through campaigns against racial profiling, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council)-derived “Stand Your Ground” laws, and the massive imprisonment of nonviolent youth of color.
d. We will defend the future of our planet and develop a democratic socialist alternative to capitalist exploitation of the environment as well as of people. We will infuse an understanding of climate change into our work, ally with climate and environmental justice activists, and support efforts in our communities to build just and sustainable alternative local economies.
e. In pursuit of a peaceful world as well as a just society, we will press for major cuts in the military budget, a pivot from an aggressive to a truly defensive strategic posture, and conversion from a war to a peace economy, as well as continue our own people-to-people efforts for peace, friendship, and solidarity, such as international work with fellow democratic socialists.
f. To build the next Left we will consider all options from electoral campaigns to nonviolent direct action.
4. Alongside our commitment to a more nimble activist program, which truly recognizes that “all politics is local,” we will expand our organizational capacities.
a. We will continue to strengthen locals. We will encourage them to draw in more under-30 and middle generation members and especially to be supportive of young members. We will encourage locals to work together on a state-wide basis.
b. As a major DSA priority, we will build YDS through financial and social support.
c. We will create a new generation of democratic socialist activists and leaders.
d. We will make fund-raising an integral part of our grassroots organizing.
e. We will build upon and expand our social media work.
f. We will upgrade our members’ organizing skills through webinar and other trainings.
g. We will raise funds to increase the organizing capacity of the national office.
h. We will institute conference calls to discuss issues raised in our publication Democratic Left, with a priority given to participation by members who do not reside within the boundaries of a DSA local or YDS chapter.
Adopted by DSA National Convention October 27, 2013.