Priorities Resolution for DSA National Convention August 3-6, 2017 Finalized September 7, 2017
Whereas national conventions set the main political and organizational priorities that govern the Democratic Socialists of America’s national work over the next two years, particularly in regard to the time and resources of national staff and the elected national political leadership, the National Political Committee (NPC), devoted to these tasks;
Whereas a nationally coordinated campaign, with the national staff and NPC supplying relevant guidance, literature and political education, in favor of both national and state-level Medicare for All and single-payer legislative bills and citizen initiatives (where possible) would provide DSA chapters the ability to campaign for a transformative working-class demand that would socialize the health insurance industry;
Whereas the issue of universal health care could also inform the 2018 and 2020 elections, allowing the Left to challenge both the hegemonic Right and the neoliberal Democratic establishment around socializing a basic human need;
Whereas the establishment of a functioning Democratic Socialist Labor Commission and labor branches in as many locals as possible would enhance DSA’s ability to both work for a democratic labor movement and also recruit politically active poor and working-class people and disabled comrades into DSA;
And whereas local electoral work, particularly in favor of openly democratic socialist candidates but also anti-corporate progressives, can both defeat the Right and take on neoliberal Democratic Party establishment candidates;
This convention mandates that the national staff, National Political Committee and relevant national working groups aid chapters in developing DSA’s universal health care, labor and electoral work.
Be It Resolved That:
National DSA resources will be primarily devoted to
I. Building DSA through work for national and state-level Medicare for All
To accomplish this task, the NPC and national staff, coordinating with a national DSA Medicare for All Working Group and other relevant national committees and working groups, in consultation with chapters will:
a. Intentionally develop and engage disabled comrades in the fight for Medicare for All
b. Develop a national single-payer working group (drawing upon chapter activists) which will help chapters develop organizing strategies most relevant to their states and localities.
c. Recognize the different state political terrains that our locals face and incorporate defense of the existing single-payer parts of our health care system (Medicaid and Medicare) as part of our work, particularly in states that have rejected the expansion of Medicaid under the terms of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
d. Explore whether a national day of action would best strengthen both DSA’s single-payer work and the national movement for Medicare for All. (In exploring a day of action, the Working Group will take into account financing, strength of coalition partners, and in the case of a march, what city/cities should be targeted.)
e. Work with a speakers bureau to develop DSA member organizers (and possibly Canadian allies) who can speak effectively on why single-payer as well as socialized medicine is the best vision for healthcare, how a feasible Medicare for All would work and what strategy for winning the demand would be, and recognizing that we need to eliminate the profit motive in all levels of healthcare.
f. Work to empower locals to develop close relationships with our allies in the national Medicare for All and state-level single-payer political blocs. These coalitions are made up largely of women workers and, disproportionately, Black and Latino workers. Work alongside such a vibrant movement will help not only to expand DSA’s base among healthcare workers and nurses but also among a broader more representative layer of the US working class.
g. Work to develop partnerships with militant organizations of disabled people (ex. ADAPT), who have always been on the front lines in the struggle against cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.
h. DSA will commit to supporting candidates and organizations that aid in the long fight to establish Medicare for All nationally.
In fulfilling these goals, DSA locals and activists will emphasize the need to use DSA’s single-payer work to build stronger chapters and to build a stronger presence within U.S. politics. A strong national Medicare for All coalition will help raise consciousness as to how unrestrained corporate power subverts democracy. DSA’s task is to increase public awareness of the decommodifying aspects of a Medicare for All system that would socialize the health insurance function.
Further, participation in a broad labor-oriented coalition for single-payer will help DSA better integrate with the organized working class and develop our organizational capacity and political coherence around a popular and promising working-class demand.
II. Expanding and Deepening DSA National and Local Labor Work
There is no strong socialist movement without a militant and powerful labor movement. DSA recognizes that if it is to become a socialist organization truly rooted in a multi-racial working class, it must expand its work both among unionized workers and among those currently without union representation. This convention urges the national staff and NPC to support the creation of a Democratic Socialist Labor Commission (DSLC) as a necessary structure to foster the birth and growth of chapter-based labor working groups which can support a rank and file movement, provide a central node of labor-related organizing resources, advise the NPC on matters relating to labor, and build channels within DSA for labor activist networking and discussions of the challenges faced by socialists in their workplaces.
Ongoing internal education regarding the importance of collective organizing for worker power (e.g., unions, workers’ centers, community labor groups) in the maintenance of a democratic society will be critical to linking DSA (and YDSA) members effectively to the struggles of the working class. Individual chapters should be free to determine their campaigns according to local relevance, including outward-facing labor education and strike solidarity efforts.
DSA chapter-based labor working groups should strive to strengthen DSA’s ties to rank and file union members and community workers’ centers while also aiding movements to democratize and salt unorganized workplaces, recognizing the limitations imposed by right-to-work legislation. Emphasis must remain on supporting laborers and their campaigns over building ties to unions themselves, as socialism represents workers rather than top-down power. However, DSA may recognize democratic labor unions which empower and effectively activate their rank and file members.
As in all our work, the DLSC and labor branches should emphasize the role of immigrants, people of color, women and LGBTQIA+ and disabled comrades in the workplace and the labor movement. The DLSC will work to dispel the notion that workers ought to be pitted against each other along lines of nationality, race, gender, ability and sexuality, and will prioritize the facilitation of a diverse but unified workers’ movement.
a. Part of DSA’s labor work should consist of internal and public political education about the importance of unions and other forms of working class power to a democratic society.
b. DSA chapter-based labor working groups should endeavor to increase DSA’s ties to existing unions and workers’ centers while also aiding movements to organize unorganized workplaces.
c. DSA is committed to building democratic labor unions that empower and activate their rank and file members. A DSLC supported by national staff and NPC resources (particularly by NPC members active in the labor movement) should help educate DSAers on how to be effective rank and file activists. The Commission should also work to develop resources on how members in unorganized workplaces can increase the collective power of individuals in their workplace, including how best to initiate union drives.
d. The DSLC will work to dispel the notion that workers ought to be pitted against each other along lines of nationality, race, gender, ability and sexuality and will prioritize the facilitation of a diverse but united workers’ movement. As in all our work, the DLSC and labor branches should emphasize the contributions of immigrants, people of color, women, LGBTQIA+, and disabled comrades in the workplace and the labor movement, and the deep consonance between labor struggles and other axes of the fight against oppression.
e. The DSLC will work to help some of the most marginalized by the labor market: the unemployed. A commitment to full employment through a job guarantee, where anyone willing and able to work can find suitable paid employment, helps to build the labor movement from the bottom up. Without a ‘reserve army of the unemployed’, capitalists are forced to compete for workers, materially improving the lives of all.
f. As we fight for socialism and organize our workplaces for democracy on the job, we demand an increase in the minimum wage to $15 in states and municipalities where it is lower than $15 and continue organizing for a living wage in cities where it is at $15. “Alternative” labor campaigns like the Fight for Fifteen are key in building the labor movement outside of traditional shop floor organizing.
III. Electoral Work
While DSA will prioritize social movement work and public socialist education, we also recognize that who holds legislative power affects the possibilities for democratic social change. We also understand that for many people open to radical politics their first political experiences come through electoral politics. In a world of big-money politics, DSA’s electoral capacity is mostly tied to the volunteer power of our chapters.
Thus, the convention commits the NPC to expand the work of the National Electoral Committee in supporting chapters’ efforts to develop and run viable openly socialist candidates for office (either in Democratic primaries or as independents). The NEC will also work with other relevant national committees and working groups, the national training team and chapter mentors to share electoral “best practices” of DSA locals and ways in which electoral political activity can build DSA.
In addition, where relevant, DSA chapters should work with post-Sanders groups such as Our Revolution (or local variations thereof), Brand New Congress, etc., to expand the anti-corporate trend in electoral politics and to develop strong coalitions with progressive groups rooted in communities of color and the feminist, LGBTQIA+, and disability movements. Only truly multiracial electoral coalitions can build working class political power. In 2018 we recognize that there will be mass mobilization to defeat Republican rule at the state and national level, particularly among constituencies most vulnerable to the nativist, racist and anti-labor politics of the far right. Therefore, DSA chapters may also choose to support progressive, anti-corporate candidates who do not openly identify themselves as socialists. However, concrete national support will prioritize the work of chapters backing open socialist candidates. In accordance with our long-term objective of building a mass socialist political formation in the United States, it is essential that National DSA prioritize cultivating and supporting socialist candidates who will be accountable to DSA’s political agenda and who can serve as the base for increasingly assertive and widespread independent socialist electoral activity in the coming years. This work will be critical to the development of a genuine alternative to the neoliberal third-way politics of the corporate establishment within the Democratic Party.