DSA members in good standing may RSVP for one of the upcoming discussions. This is an INTERNAL discussion, not open to people who do not pay DSA membership dues.
I. National Political Committee Call for Organization-Wide Strategy Discussion within DSA
Part I. Our organization
1. What is an organization-wide strategy discussion?
It is a comprehensive and unhurried review of DSA’s political and organizational strategy. We expect this process would begin prior to the 2013 convention and continue through 2015, resulting in an updated official political statement by the 2015 convention. This discussion would not replace the evaluation of DSA’s political priorities and setting of goals for the coming two years, which would take place as usual before and at the 2013 convention.
2. Why is this strategy discussion needed, and why now?
The last such discussion occurred in 1990-1995, culminating in the 1995 convention issuing “Where We Stand” (itself an update of the 1982 DSA founding statement). The 1995 document grew out of years of discussion by locals and among individuals, with viewpoints disseminated in discussion bulletins.
In the two succeeding decades the global political economy, the nature of US politics and underlying trends in American society have substantially changed. We have maintained many continuities in our political and organizational practices, although these have slowly been altered over time with the development of new communications technologies. A renewed discussion of DSA’s basic strategic orientation in the coming period could both educate and empower our current activist core, while equipping DSA with some intellectual tools appropriate to the present political scene.
3. Are we proposing to scrap DSA’s previous political documents, strategies and history and start from scratch?
No. Re-reading and re-evaluating DSA’s major statements and examining the four decades of organizational history (including those of predecessor organizations DSOC and NAM) has to be an integral part of the process. DSA’s current strengths and weaknesses are rooted in that history.
At the same time we propose to include readings and reflections upon a wide variety of concepts and experiences outside the current DSA ambit. We have much to learn from social movements and political traditions originating in other cultures and other social circles. Any viable Left in this country and in the world at large will have to be built upon the pooled experience and learning of the broadest possible spectrum of people striving for revolutionary and progressive changes.
4. This sounds pretty ambitious. How do we do it?
Nothing replaces face-to-face discussions or study circles based on preparatory readings in DSA locals and YDS chapters.
At the same time, new communications technologies multiply the possibilities for exchanging ideas and interacting with persons too distant to meet regularly face-to-face. We will have to put resources in staff and volunteer time to experimenting with webinars, hangouts, etc.
5. What will the NO and NPC, working with the Strategy Discussion Committee, do in the next few months to launch this discussion?
- Distribute a short list of basic readings on recent DSA strategy.
- Prepare a short list of non-DSA readings about present conditions, from a variety of Left perspectives.
- Solicit short strategy papers from a range of representative DSA activists, asking for concise perspectives on where DSA should go strategically in the decade and why.
- Organize a process for conducting the pre-convention discussion, making use of electronic media. The committee will also facilitate a convention discussion of our strategy and recommend a procedure to continue the discussion post- convention.
6. What are some of the strategic questions with organizational implications?
- What is the role of a socialist organization in US politics today?
- How can a socialist organization contribute to progressive struggles beyond furnishing additional activists?
- What is the relationship among defensive struggles to preserve prior progressive gains, reform struggles for further gains such as single-payer, and, transformative demands, inspired by a socialist vision?
- With which social forces do we want to work most closely? With what organizations should we consider joint projects?
- Who are our potential global allies and collaborators in this struggle?
7. Do we have organizational structures or traditional practices that need to change in order to engage in an effective strategy?
Part II. A few key strategic questions about the external political context
1. What are the major domestic forces that are shaping the terrain on which we struggle now and in the decade to come? What has changed in the last decades?
What are the implications of the radically reactionary trend in the Republican Party, coupled with its control of the Federal House of Representatives and the governorships and legislatures of 25 states, including the old industrial heartlands of Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania?
How do we analyze the continuing corporate neoliberal hegemony over the Obama administration and national Democratic Party, at the same time as more progressive Democrats are elected to Congress in several regions?
2. Are there promising new anti-capitalist movements with which to work in the USA? How do we as socialists relate strategically to important new forms of anti-systemic (if not always anti-capitalist) protest and experimentation?
- Does the proliferation of internet-based campaigns around a wide variety of progressive issues (from overturning Citizens United to banking and financial reform, favoring immigration reform and gun control, fighting fracking and pipelines, etc.) demonstrate that there are millions of progressive and potentially socialist citizens that could be organized into grassroots organizations?
- Can socialists help fan those flames of Occupy and other forms of militant anti-capitalist protest into more institutional forms of resistance that persist over time (and makes demands on those who hold power?
- How can we relate our strategy to growing movements that envision local-level alternatives to capitalism and a sole reliance on representative government, such as the solidarity economy movement and the now global participatory budgeting movement?
- How can we as socialists help build the growing movements among low-wage workers, supported by the more innovative labor unions that bypass the sclerotic labor laws that no longer facilitate traditional union representation?
- How can we most effectively support the demand for humane and comprehensive immigration reform in a way to help build a more inclusive, ethnically diverse Left movement?
- How can we as socialists contribute to the movement against racial injustice and voter suppression of African-American and Latino voters?
- How do we integrate a response to the widespread attacks on reproductive rights into our socialist-feminist strategy?
3. What is the global terrain for the Left in the coming decade?
- If the U.S. remains the only global superpower, are there consequences from the increase in economic and military power of China, Brazil, Russia, India and other large newly industrializing countries?
- Is the U.S. beginning to stagger under the weight of its hegemonic status, in that growing domestic inequality and impoverishment of many communities of color, exacerbated by the scarcity of resources dedicated to essential social needs, are eroding popular support for an aggressive imperial policy?
- Do the rise of popular European movements against austerity (Syriza in Greece), the growing resistance of Chinese and South Asian working classes to extreme forms of capitalist exploitation, the willingness of elected Latin American populist leaders to challenge U.S. domination of their region, together create new possibilities for a richer and more diverse global anti-capitalist movement?