Speakers and Programming - Updated

Confirmed Speakers:

David Bacon - Immigration writer and photojournalist for TruthOut, The Nation, The American Prospect, and others.

Clayborne Carson - Professor of history at Stanford University and director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute.

Steve Early - Author of The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor and Embedded With Organized Labor: Journalistic Reflections on the Class War at Home.

Angie Fa - Recruiter for the National Nurses United and California Nurses Association,  Asian American Studies teacher, former member of the San Francisco School Board and former Chair of the DSA Youth Section.

Tom Hayden - Former California state senator and one of the founders of Students for a Democratic Society.

José La Luz – DSA vice chair and veteran trade unionist, worker educator and human rights activist.

Michael Lighty - Director of Public Policy at California Nurses Association/National Nurses United.

Alma Lopez - Sacramento Immigrant Rights Working group.

John Nichols - Washington correspondent for The Nation and author of The “S” Word, among other books.

Joseph Schwartz – DSA vice chair and professor of political science at Temple University.

Jenn Shepard - worker-owner at Arizmendi Bakery in San Rafael and on the Policy Council for the Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives.

Maria Svart – National director of DSA.

Catherine Tactaquin - Executive director of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

Steve Williams - Co-founder and former Executive Director of POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights) and founding member of LeftRoots.


Convention Schedule

The convention will open at 9:00am Friday, October 25th and close at 2:00pm Sunday, October 27th. We recommend those arriving from points east arrive the evening of Thursday, October 24th.

Tentative Program

Thursday, October 24

  • Early registration in the mid afternoon
  • “Pay your own way” reception near hotel in the evening

Friday, October 25

  • 8:00AM Registration opens
  • 9:00AM Plenary Sessions including welcome, reports, icebreaker, Michael Lighty on the Political Lay of the Land, and first resolutions session
  • 11:00AM Caucus and Ally Workshops, Plenary Session
  • 1:00PM Lunch and action team and commission meetings
  • 2:30PM Workshops and Plenary Session
  • 5:00PM Break for transport to public event and dinner on own (map of restaurants provided)
  • 7:30PM Rebirth and Renewal: Building the Next Left with John Nichols, Catherine Tactaquin and Steve Williams and musical performance by Mario de Mira from Power Struggle. Event at Humanist Hall in Oakland (390 27th Street, Oakland, CA 94612)

Saturday, October 26

  • 8:00AM Registration opens
  • 9:00AM Plenary Session Joseph Schwartz on Role of a Socialist Organization in the Present Period
  • 10:15AM Small Group Discussions and Report Backs to Plenary
  • 12:30PM Lunch and chapter meetings
  • 2:00 Workshops
  • 4:40PM Plenary and NPC voting, then free time (staff available to do chapter trainings)
  • 6:30PM Reception and Arrivals to Banquet, Registration opens at banquet
  • 7:00PM Rebuilding Participatory Democracy in a Multicultural U.S. Banquet with David Bacon and Tom Hayden, with political comedian Nato Green over dinner CLICK HERE to purchase a ticket to the banquet only

Sunday, October 27

  • 9:00AM Plenary for resolutions
  • 10:00AM Workshops
  • 1:00PM Commitments Shared
  • 1:15PM Closing Plenary with José La Luz


Tentatively Scheduled Programming

Plenary Sessions

Rebirth and Renewal: Building the Next Left – Friday night outreach event with John Nichols, Catherine Tactaquin and Steve Williams.

Rebuilding Participatory Democracy in a Multicultural U.S. – Saturday dinner event with David Bacon and Tom Hayden. Delegates attend dinner as part of the convention, but others can click here to purchase a ticket for the banquet only.

The Political Terrain of our Struggle – What do we understand about the current phase of neoliberalism, the organization of the capitalist class, and the powers arrayed with us on the side for change?

Strategy Discussion – What is the role of a democratic socialist organization in the early twenty-first century United States? Given the shifting political and economic realities, should DSA’s strategy change, and if so, how?

Resolutions – Flowing from our understanding of the terrain and our strategy, what shall we make our action priorities at the national level? See the draft priorities resolution, to be discussed pre-convention and amended/adopted at the convention, below.


Sessions on Building DSA at the Local and National Level

Caucuses – How can we make DSA a more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming organization? How do we raise up the voices of women, youth, people of color, working class and LGBTQ members? What are concrete ideas to use in our chapters, public forums, and everyday lives?

Commission Meetings -- Socialist Feminists will evaluate the Abortion Bowl-a-Thons and discuss next projects; Labor will discuss the Talking Union blog and potentially organizing off-line activities; Religion and Socialism will explore re-energizing and reorganizing.

Regional and Chapter Breakouts – Whether you are in California or the Deep South, you likely have unique circumstances. Regional and chapter breakouts will discuss best practices and will network to strengthen future organizing.

Socialist Activist Skills – Social Media Organizing, Talkin’ Socialism/Crafting Your Personal “Pitch”, Fundraising as Organizing, and Local Chapter Organizing.


Sessions on Major Areas of DSA Work

Austerity – Wall Street dominates the discourse and the political agenda of popular public programs fifty years after The Other America helped spark the War on Poverty. The right demands the privatization, budget cuts, de-unionization, and dismantling of these programs today. DSA’s GET UP Project helps bring a structural analysis of the economy to activists on the front lines. What else can we do to re-energize, fight back, and demand the reversal of the current upward redistribution of wealth?

Immigrant Rights – Global capitalism uproots millions who migrate to survive, and U.S. companies exploit immigrant labor and undermine all workers’ rights. What are the fault lines on the Right between racist nativists and pro-immigration corporations? What can we learn from the fight over immigration reform? How do we strengthen our solidarity with the most vulnerable immigrant workers and families?

Racial Justice – Fifty years after the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the U.S. is moving backwards on both jobs and race relations. What is the connection? What do the expanding prison industrial complex and neoliberal stand-your-ground laws tell us about the intersection of capitalism and white supremacy, and how can we build a stronger anti-racist movement for economic justice?

Student Debt – Thirty-seven million people in the United States hold over $1 trillion in student debt and face joblessness. What took higher education so far out of reach, and how does Wall Street benefit? How can we build a student debtor movement capable of fighting not just for reforms, but for an affordable, or free, system of higher education?


Sessions on the Socialist Project

NOTE: Due to space and time constraints, we were not able to accept every single workshop submitted by members, but we did our best to merge such workshops into one on a related topic.

Class and Intersectionality – The working class is not unified. Why? How does our exploitative economic system intersect with social systems of domination like patriarchy, white supremacy and heteronormativity? What are the cultural and material consequences for building a majoritarian movement for democratic socialism?

Cooperatives and a Solidarity Economy – Cooperatives are inherently anti-capitalist, but most struggle within the capitalist system. How do they model the collective egalitarian structures and relations we need? How can we build structures to expand these relations beyond the single workplace, like democratic control of public investment and municipal ownership of utilities?

Eco-Socialism – Dirty fossil fuels and planned obsolescence are but symptoms of an economic system leading us off a cliff. What would an alternative economy look like? Is it enough to rein in the polluters, or do we need to also move beyond growth? Most importantly, how do we build a movement capable of reversing our path, before it’s too late?

Electoral Politics – What does it mean to be the left wing of the possible when Wall Street has wrestled control over the leadership of the Democratic Party? How can our chapters evaluate progressive candidates, and develop and carry out a strategy that builds political power in various types of districts?

Lessons from Abroad -- Socialists are internationalists and support democratic uprisings and popular mobilizations for justice. What insights, lessons, and/or warnings can we learn from social movements from Egypt to Venezuela, Brazil to Spain and Tunisia, and how might we apply them to our own experience in the United States?

Marx, Gramsci, Harrington, Oh My! – DSA is politically pluralistic but draws heavily from a few key political thinkers. What are their basic interpretations of the world and how do they help us organize, since as Marx noted, "the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it."

New Directions for Labor – Right-wing forces have decimated the labor movement, with only 11.3% of U.S. workers in unions. Workers are finding alternative ways to organize outside of unions, such as worker centers, as well as expanding traditional labor’s vision. What can DSA members and chapters do to support these actions and activities?

Socialist Feminism - What does the intersection of patriarchy and capitalism mean for women, particularly poor and working women, and how does it differ from neoliberal "lean-in" feminism? Why is this analysis central to our politics and what does that mean for our work in DSA?


National Political Committee's DRAFT Resolution on Priorities for 2013-2015

The purpose of the priorities resolution is to set a framework for making difficult decisions about how to allocate our scarce organizational resources.

The resolution identifies a focus for national work while acknowledging differing local opportunities and contexts. It is not a laundry list of every single issue in which DSA/YDS activists are (or should be) involved.

Building the Next Left

Right-wing assaults on voting rights, on reproductive and sexual freedom and on 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 accentuates inequality and poverty. To respond to these challenges, DSA will prioritize working with those social forces that will make up the next Left, many of whom are already resisting their exploitation: low-wage workers, immigrants, women, people of color, seniors and the poor. We recommit to activist work around both formal (electoral) 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.

DSA’s main task in the coming two-year period is developing and promoting a public socialist alternative to the dominant neoliberal capitalist agenda of fiscal austerity and the attack on the working class that such an agenda requires. Too often these policies are supported by elected officials in both major parties. A discussion of the new political terrain and of DSA’s basic strategic orientation in the coming period will educate, empower and grow our current activist core, while equipping DSA with intellectual tools appropriate to this century.

Thus, over the next two years,

1. DSA will expand our socialist education capacity – the unique contribution we bring to the broad progressive movement and to our own members – and promote principled, civil and deep debate about socialist strategy.      

a. We will share more widely our vision of a democratic socialist alternative to the inhumane logic of capitalist profit and social domination, whether through education about workplace democracy and cooperatives; social market alternatives and solidarity economics; or the alternative social relations necessary to overcome patriarchy, white supremacy, heteronormativity and other structures of oppression that intersect with and usually reinforce the capitalist system of economic exploitation.

b. 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.

c. We will reexamine our organizational strategy from the ground up, inviting members to use readings and their own experiences as DSA activists to evaluate political conditions and contribute to an updated official political statement at the 2015 Convention.

2. DSA will engage in one unified national campaign, Drop Student Debt. The campaign demands a short-term government lowering of the debt burden facing most college graduates, 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. Furthermore, many people, even some baby boomers, are dealing with their own debt or that of their children. The campaign also can help make DSA a more multigenerational activist organization, because it targets primarily 20- and 30-year-olds.

a. We call upon President Obama to issue an executive order to expand his administration’s income-based ten-year payment plan for retiring student debt. The campaign enables DSA locals to talk politics with younger members of their community through tabling and petitioning.

b. The project advances a 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.”

3. DSA 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 movements that will be necessary to overcome neoliberal capitalist control of our country and world. We will prioritize working with the social forces that will be the constituents of 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 must defend basic democratic rights such as voting rights, immigrant rights, reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights.

b. We must work to reverse the upward redistribution of income and wealth by supporting low-wage justice and “alternative labor” campaigns; by fighting austerity budget cuts that victimize working people and the poor; by opposing the defunding of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; and by fighting for universal health care and relief from foreclosure.

c. We must fight against racism through campaigns against racial profiling, ALEC-inspired “Stand Your Ground” laws and the massive imprisonment of nonviolent youth of color.

d. For the future of our planet, we must struggle to end corporate exploitation of our natural resources and fight for innovative economic relationships that protect the commons.

e. In order to fund human needs at home, we will fight for major cuts to an imperial and wasteful military budget.

4. Alongside our commitment to a more nimble activist program which recognizes that truly, “all politics is local,” we will expand our organizational capacity.

a. We will continue to strengthen locals.

b. As a major DSA priority, we will build YDS.

c. We will create a new generation of socialist activists and leaders.

d. We will make fundraising 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 chapter.


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Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

November 03, 2016 · 7 rsvps
Introduction to Socialist Feminism

Join DSA activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 8-9pm ET, 7-8pm CT, 6-7pm MT, 5-6pm PT.


Feminist Working Group

November 15, 2016 · 5 rsvps
Feminist Working Group Call

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's issues. We will discuss election results and their implications for DSA's work (30 minutes). Business will include reports on screenings of She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, preparation for April Abortion Access Bowl-A-Thon fundraising, and leadership development (up to 1 hour). 9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.