Member Reflections on Convention

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(Reid Jenkins)

The recent convention in Chicago brought together a diverse group of members from all over the country. To get a sense of what members are thinking, Democratic Left invited convention attendees to submit their reflections on the convention. Below are a few personal accounts offering thoughts and takeaways on the largest socialist gathering since World War II. 

Jeb Boone, Metro Atlanta DSA

I was reading a lot of Debs in the weeks leading up to the convention. His speeches were masterpieces and he spoke of standing shoulder to shoulder with comrades as if it were the greatest joy we could ever hope to experience—he called it “the ecstasy in the handclasp of a comrade.”

But I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Online is weird—I wasn’t necessarily anticipating ecstasy. 

What I did experience ended up being nothing short of that. On Friday morning when we raised our fists together in solidarity with Nissan workers in Mississippi, I immediately felt a jarring jolt of energy and passion. What we were doing was just like Debs had described.

Almost every moment that followed was inspirational. It was immediately clear that we are creating something extraordinary. Every second was weighted with vital importance and we lived up to the task of building a better world with the passion and gravity that the work demanded—but all this was ensconced in the irreverent fun that has become the culture of the DSA.

Meeting and working with all my comrades at the convention was one of the greatest joys of my life. Y’all are incredible and I’m so glad that we’ve come together to build a better world. We’re gonna win.

I wish we had a convention every month, but I don’t want to kill David Duhalde—so we can stick to every two years for now.

Alejandra Alcalde, El Chuco del Norte DSA (El Paso, TX)

I have been a dues paying member of DSA since August of last year. I came to the convention representing my community as the sole delegate from my chapter; however, I had never gone to an event of this magnitude. Like many, I stumbled upon democratic socialism due to Bernie.

My county is quite unique: NAFTA is our everyday life (international commerce is a crucial aspect of our economy), as is immigration: 80% identify as of Hispanic origin, and 70% speak another language than English at home. Our city is small, suburban and identifies as blue in a red state. I took this responsibility seriously, as we often feel isolated from the rest of Texas and the country because of our demographics, our location and our unique needs.

The convention was fascinating for me; watching my peers passionately defend democracy and finally finding a large group of like-minded leftists is encouraging. The three-day resolutions and bylaws debate was, in my opinion, a beautiful display of passion for the actual issues about which Americans worry that I wish I could see more of. Added to that fascination was the dance that I could see many veteran organizers doing to deal with this influx of optimistic folks that had limited experience with large scale political gatherings of this nature—let alone Roberts Rules. I especially enjoyed the Rural, Suburban, and Small Cities workshop and seeing that our issues are felt across Middle America, along with the Climate Justice Caucus that is bringing environmental racism into its fold, and the POC Caucus with lively deliberation of the path to take to include our experiences.

All in all, I wanted to record all of it and bring back home the hope that we are not alone, that solidarity is coming, and that this new DSA that looms is stronger and listening.

Matt Haugen, Huron Valley DSA

Like many others in attendance, this was my first ever DSA National Convention. I did not really know what to expect other than long days and meeting many comrades, and it certainly delivered. I learned valuable skills for de-escalating personal conflicts, how to build my chapter through relationships, and that real democracy is sometimes messy. I made connections that will hopefully turn into both friendships and collaborations. I will bring to my chapter strategies, contacts, and a focused vision for where DSA as an organization is going.

It was invigorating to be with so many others in the same room working to build a better world; I felt a visceral sense of being a part of something far larger than myself. I can’t wait for my next one. 

Phil Bianco, Huron Valley DSA

I attended the DSA convention as an elected delegate from the Huron Valley, Michigan chapter. I joined the organization in February not only because its ranks were swelling with skilled, passionate socialist organizers, but also because of DSA's long standing commitment to making the vision of another world—a socialist world—a reality. For me, this convention confirmed that I made the right decision. My fellow delegates and I charted what I believe will be a successful path for the organization. We affirmed and solidified our commitment to a world free from oppression and exploitation through a thoroughly democratic process that allowed for all voices to be heard. Even when there were bumps, my comrades courageously stood up—as in the case of the Disability Working Group—to make sure we got back on track. The struggle will be more challenging than anyone can fully articulate, but if the hundreds of committed, visionary socialist leaders I met this past weekend are any indication, we will prevail. I left feeling more militantly inspired than ever. I firmly believe that DSA is the proper home—regardless of background—of all those committed to the struggle for a just, equal world.

Further reflections

Elsewhere on the web, one can find more extensive reflections on the convention from members. In a Medium post, Michael Stivers reflects on what he thinks went well, what could be improved, and what DSA will need to focus on moving forward. In New Politics, Dan La Botz suggests that the convention marks a big move left for DSA, even if it leaves many challenges open; in the same publication, Jack Suria Linares offers a critical appraisal of the decisions made in Chicago. In Dissent, Maxine Phillips makes connections between the latest convention and DSA's trajectory as an organization. And in The Outline, Emmett Rensin discusses how the convention allayed his pessimism about transformational politics, if only temporarily.

The views of members contained in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

December 05, 2017
· 82 rsvps

Join Bill Barclay, Chicago DSA, and Peg Strobel, Chicago DSA and national Socialist Feminist Working Group co-chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement. 1.5 hours. 9 pm PM ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing. You need a computer with good internet access to view the PowerPoint slides, but you may participate by audio only.