Strategy Project Overview

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?

Lessons in Organizing from the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union

January 17, 2017
· 51 rsvps

Join DSA Vice-Chair Chris Riddiough to explore what we can learn from the work of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Union (1969-77), the largest of the socialist feminist women’s unions of the 1970s, which had a rock band, a graphics collective, the underground abortion collective JANE, and numerous other projects. Check out their website and join the discussion via internet connection.

Film Discussion: The Price We Pay

January 30, 2017
· 41 rsvps
The Price We Pay blows the lid off the dirty world of corporate malfeasance — the dark history and dire present-day reality of big-business tax avoidance, tax havens - and what we need to do to stop this.  DSA member Bill Barclay, who has a cameo role in the film, will facilitate the discussion. Watch the film prior to the discussion.

Full film available on Vimeo.

How to Plug in New Members

February 01, 2017
· 10 rsvps

Is your DSA chapter growing quickly and you're trying desperately to find ways to plug new members into your chapter's work? Never fear! On this conference call an experienced DSA organizer will go over the basics of new member outreach and developing a plan for plugging new members into your chapter's work. Most of the call will be devoted to troubleshooting specific issues you're facing, so please brainstorm some issues beforehand that you want to bring up on the call.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 7 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Salt of the Earth

February 05, 2017
· 7 rsvps

Join DSA members Shelby Murphy and Deborah Rosenfelt in discussing Salt of the Earth, a captivating film made in 1954 by blacklisted writers and actors about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Well before the resurgence of feminism in the 1960s, these filmmakers were exploring gender inequality and solidarity. Available on Netflix.

Shelby Murphy is a Latina from Texas and former Young Democratic Socialists co-chair. Professor Emerita of Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, Deborah Rosenfelt researched the making of the film and its aftermath for the reissued screenplay. Here is her blogpost about the film.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

February 15, 2017
· 50 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 PM ET; 7 PM CT; 6 PM MT; 5 PM PT.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 1 rsvp

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But check out their short the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 2 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion.