February Dispatch: they’re afraid of us

In his State of the Union speech this week Trump demonized people who seek abortions. He demonized immigrants. And he demonized socialists. Nancy Pelosi and Elizabeth Warren were quick to clap at that.

But you and I, we know that they attack us because they fear us. DSAers are knocking on doors and the halls of Congress. Striking at our workplaces or on the picket lines in solidarity. We’re doing it as unapologetic socialists who took the window of opportunity that Bernie created with his presidential run, used the relationships we’d built during Occupy Wall street and the Ferguson Uprising, and are proclaiming, unafraid, that capitalism must go. We are redefining freedom.

We’ve gone through the decades of being ignored.
We’ve been laughed at.
We’re currently in the stage where they fight you.
Next, we win.

You and I know that we’ve accomplished so much because working people and poor people, we’ve had enough. And as the Los Angeles teachers union president proclaimed after they won their strike last month, the working class is starting to feel our power. Strikers are teaching the rest of us how it’s done — including in Los Angeles, where community members and parents were on the picket lines and saw how threatening capital by interrupting the economy built the political will necessary to stop school privatizers.

And it’s not just teachers. Last month also saw the beginnings of mass work slowdowns in the airline industry, which forced Trump to reopen the federal government — hopefully permanently. But the truth is in most cases it takes years, like they did in Los Angeles, of systematically building up infrastructure and skills to win this kind of struggle.

That’s what we need to do in DSA.

But what will that look like? This spring, members across the country launch our official convention process with a series of nine pre-convention conferences for comradely debate, convention related trainings, and relationship building across chapters. How have our past two years gone, and what have we learned? What should we do in the future, and why?

As a big tent organization, we will learn from each other and prepare for major decisions in August when 1,000 delegates gather in Atlanta for our biannual national convention.

And then, we will win.

Please do your part to build the struggle — invite five of your friends to join DSA today, at dsausa.org/join, and bring them to the closest DSA chapter meeting.

National Updates

ONE: Meet the DSA Staff

Kristina Sepúlveda
Based in New York City

Hi y’all! I’m Kristina (she/her), the new Operations Director. I oversee our organization’s tech, security, administrative, and personnel needs. I come to DSA from almost a decade in direct service and policy work with large scale non-traditional education and employment programs for young adults. Most recently, I was the Operations Manager for MoveOn’s Real Voter Voices Project, coordinating logistics and compliance for the analytics driven persuasion campaign that swung House, Senate, and gubernatorial races across the country during the mid-term election. I hold a Master of Science in Urban Policy (with a concentration in Politics and Advocacy) from the New School and enjoy bicycles, adorable doggo memes, and political bochinche. I look forward to working with all of you to build a strong infrastructure to support the incredible organizing happening across the country.

Kaitlin Marone
Based in New Orleans

Hello! I’m Kaitlin, the Field Organizer for LA, MS, AL, FL, GA, SC, NC, TN, AR, KY, WV, VA, MT, WY, & UT. Before I joined DSA, I worked in the service industry, most recently in an escape room, and spent my spare time being just OK at stand-up comedy. In 2016, I ran for US Senate against John Kennedy (R-LA) to boost my visibility as a comedian, and instead ended up meeting a bunch of brilliant leftists who wanted to work together to make a better world. We founded New Orleans DSA. I invented the brake light clinics, which my comrades took on and built more beautifully than anything I imagined. Seeing the power that we have when we organize together jolted me from my nihilism and made me more hopeful about the future, and I feel extremely lucky to be doing it full time. I organize by this directive from Octavia Butler: Learn or die. Looking forward to building a better world with you all.

TWO: New Local Groups!

Please join me in celebrating these newly organized DSA groups.

New Chapters

  • Lawrence, KS
  • Southwest Michigan

New Organizing Committees

  • Bozeman, MT
  • Palouse, WA
  • Inland Empire, CA

THREE: The Fight for Medicare 4 All Heats Up

The new Medicare for All Act of 2019 is set to be released soon by Representative Pramila Jayapal’s office, and from the information we’ve received, the bill is excellent: not only does it meet our 5 principles, it also improves on previous bills in shortening the transition period, removing all cost-sharing measures, and including long-term care. DSA’s Medicare for All campaign is working with National Nurses United and other progressive partners, listed below, to push this bill through committee and to get a floor vote in 2019. If we do this, we can differentiate the truly progressive Democrats from their corporate imitations, and Medicare for All becomes a litmus test for all candidates in 2020.

Together during the week of February 9th-13th, thousands of us will gather with our partners National Nurses United, the Labor Campaign for Single Payer, and other coalition partners at union halls, churches, community centers, and schools across the country to talk about what’s at stake in the fight for Medicare for All and what we can do. DSA chapters are hosting 33 of the barnstorms — look for your nearest one here and sign up.

Starting a pressure campaign on your representative is a great way to build your chapter and participate in coalitions that can be turned to work for other transformative reforms or electoral campaigns later on in 2019. The Medicare for All campaign has released a “how to” guide to help chapters start pressure campaigns, including sections on building and participating in local coalitions, planning and preparing for meetings with your rep, and escalating pressure on your rep. Reach out to the Medicare for All campaign at medicareforall@dsausa.org if you want to get involved in a local pressure campaign or start one up in your chapter.

Our Michael Lighty speaking tour is also continuing into this winter and spring. Michael just had a great town hall in Philadelphia and is set to keep them going. Check out the tour schedule here.

THREE: The Teacher Strike Wave Continues

DSA members led many efforts to support the Los Angeles strike, creating a model for our engagement in future struggles. DSA-LA made national news by establishing the “Tacos For Teachers” fundraiser along with comrades in the International Socialist Organization, but most notable was the mobilization effort DSA-LA undertook to turn out hundreds of its members to the picket lines. In partnership with DSA Long Beach and local YDSA chapters, Democratic Socialists had a large presence at five major high schools throughout the city, as well as joining educators in direct actions. This consistent presence on the line, rain or shine, helped develop more relationships with UTLA members — since the strike, DSA members have been invited by teachers to speak about socialism, the importance of strike solidarity, and to help create local YDSA chapters at their schools.

In January, solidarity photos poured in from DSA chapters and DSA members in their unions around the country that showed the LA educators that they had a national movement behind their strike. The union even posted some of our DSA chapter solidarity photos directly from DSA accounts, so that any striking members who turned to the social media accounts for news and updates from the union saw that DSA had their back. Countless members donated to the UTLA strike fund and the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission fundraiser to send strike leaders and rank and file militants from around the country to LA. We successfully raised thousands of dollars and funded the airfare for 9 teacher union rank and file leaders from Wisconsin, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, Virginia, Baltimore, and New Jersey. The connections formed between UTLA leaders and these teacher activists is helping further develop a national RedForEd movement that is already spreading with additional upcoming strikes and actions.

We now look to Oakland, Denver, and Virginia as the likely next sites of struggle, and we have three ways that you can help:

  1. Denver Tamales for Teachers — Denver DSA collaboration with Denver ISO will feed teachers on the picket line
  2. Oakland Bread for Ed — East Bay DSA collaboration with OEA (the Oakland teachers’ union), ISO national, and CA Educators Rising; will feed teachers, students, and supporters on picket lines and in solidarity schools
  3. Striking Oakland Teachers’ Fund — OEA, will provide direct relief to striking Oakland teachers who live paycheck-to-paycheck

Are you an activist in your union, or in your chapter’s labor working group that wants to get more connected with the DSLC? You can fill out this form to get connected.

FIVE: Election Season is Upon Us

Our National Electoral Committee focuses on building the pipeline of democratic socialist candidates and the capacity of DSA and YDSA chapters to do powerful electoral work. For all chapters seeking a National endorsement of their locally endorsed campaign, the deadline to apply is 90 days before your election date and your chapter can apply here.

Yet we’re also entering presidential primary season and we know Bernie Sanders is considering another run. To decide how DSA will proceed, our elected National Political Committee has planned the following process:

  • Step 1: Members in every chapter considering participating in a DSA campaign for Sanders should begin in-person discussions about the campaign as soon as possible. Where possible, chapters should debate resolutions that spark discussions about Bernie and the pros and cons of supporting him.
  • Step 2: When Bernie Sanders announces his presidential run, the NPC will email the membership informing them of the launch of the endorsement process.
  • Step 3: The NPC will schedule an emergency NPC meeting to take place within 30 days of the announcement, but after the completion of an advisory poll, to debate a motion to endorse Bernie Sanders.
  • Step 4: Within two weeks of Bernie’s announcement, the NPC will send an online advisory poll to all members asking them if they support DSA endorsing Sanders for president.
  • Step 5: After the advisory poll is sent out, members will have one week to complete the poll.
  • Step 6: With the poll results, the NPC will debate a motion to endorse a DSA Sanders campaign at the emergency meeting.

The Exploratory Committee document adopted by the NPC argues that DSA has an opportunity to play an important role in supporting Sanders’s campaign — both by helping Sanders win the Democratic Party primary and go on to defeat Trump in the general election and by growing DSA as a serious, independent, socialist pole in the broader Sanders movement. And it argues that in order to play this role, DSA must get involved in Sanders work as early as possible.

SIX: National Convention August 2-4, 2019 in Atlanta, GA

1,000 democratic socialists will gather this summer to decide our future, and we’ve launched a National Convention webpage to get ready! Click here to check it out. We’ll be continually updating it and so far we have posted preconvention rules and a timeline of important dates.

I will include general interest convention updates in the monthly Dispatch and in occasional emails. If you are a DSA member in good standing, and want to receive more frequent and detailed National Convention update emails, you can opt-in for those here.

SEVEN: Preconvention Regional Conferences are here!

Today I’m traveling to Los Angeles for the first of our spring conferences to prepare for convention. National organizing and operations staff are hard at work with the following host chapters getting ready:

  • Los Angeles, CA 2/9-2/10
  • Knoxville, TN 2/23-2/24
  • Albany, NY 3/2-3/3
  • Denver, CO 3/9-3/10
  • Washington, DC 3/16-3/17
  • Boston, MA 3/23-3/24
  • Dallas, TX 3/30-3/31
  • Portland, OR 4/6-4/7
  • Chicago, IL 4/13-4/14

At these conferences we’ll get together to hold (comradely) political debates face to face, socialize in the evenings, and get some organizing skills training from staff and chapter leaders.

Child watch is available as well as travel stipends and free solidarity housing with fellow members. These conferences are the beginning of preparations for the national convention, which will also happen in chapters and on national Zoom video conference calls.

Click here to see the master program.

Click here to see the Frequently Asked Questions and a lot more details.

Field Organizers discussed plans with chapter and organizing committee leaders on the first of our 2019 our monthly District Calls in January.

In solidarity,

Maria Svart
DSA National Director