Nine MADSA members joined over 100 DSA members from across the country to help set the organization’s course for the coming years, share skills and insights in workshops and join in song during a three-day convention Nov. 13-15 at a retreat center in rural Pennsylvania. Participants agreed that the “Bernie moment,” which has enabled DSA’s accelerated growth in recent months – reflected in increased attendance compared to previous conventions – justifies optimism about the future of democratic socialism in the U.S. and of DSA in particular.
MADSA members helped lead workshops on writing, recruiting new members, sharing experiences across generations, strengthening local chapters, and working on the Bernie Sanders campaign, as well as caucus sessions for identity groups and their allies. Brandon Payton-Carrillo and Reid Jenkins contributed their talents as singer-song writers. MADSA attendees were Hope Adair, Adam Cardo, Steve Gill, Daniel Hanley, Reid Jenkins, Barbara Joye, Brandon Payton-Carrillo, Travis Reid, and Milt Tambor.
“It was the best DSA convention I’ve been to!” said veteran National Political Committee member David Green from Detroit DSA. He was re-elected together with seven other incumbents, who were joined by six new members – including our own Hope Adair and Brandon Payton-Carrillo. Six NPC members are now under the age of 32, continuing the transfer of leadership to a new generation, which has been underway in recent years and was also reflected in a significant contingent of YDS members and recent YDS “graduates” attending the convention.
Most previous conventions were held in major metropolitan areas (including Atlanta in 2007) and featured an evening of speeches and entertainment open to the public, but this one focused more on internal matters. Notably, the delegates voted to approve a new, detailed strategy document, culminating a two-year period of dialogue and debate, which included numerous conference calls and a “virtual” discussion that brought together some 100 members last May. The document will be edited for style, posted on the website (dsausa.org) and distributed to members, followed by a much shorter version for use in outreach. (The previous document outlining our strategy was updated in the late 1990s.)
The convention also passed the customary “priorities resolution,” which guides the national staff in its use of the organization’s limited financial and personnel resources. The priorities included 1) building DSA and increasing public awareness of democratic socialism through grassroots work for Bernie Sanders (but independent of his official campaign); 2) implementing the approaches to organizing laid out in the strategy document; 3) increasing DSA involvement in local anti-racist coalitions; 4) electoral work to defeat the Right while building the Left and a stronger DSA; and 5) rethinking our organizing practices and structures to facilitate our longer-range strategy. The priorities resolution will be posted on the DSA website (dsausa.org), along with resolutions supporting local work to promote public banks, use of social media to build DSA and support Internet democracy, and a DSA Environmental Justice Network.
Two new working groups were established in addition to the one addressing the environment: one charged with reviewing DSA’s approach to international issues (including membership in the Socialist International), and a social media committee. Those interested in joining these groups should contact the national office.
The 2016-17 National Political Committee members are: Jared Abbott (Boston), Hope Adair (Atlanta), Theresa Alt (Ithaca NY), David Green (Detroit), José Gutierrez (DC), Elizabeth Henderson (Philadelphia), Frank Llewellyn (NYC), Sean Monahan (Providence RI), Simone Morgen (Columbus OH), Brandon Payton-Carrillo (Atlanta), Joe Schwartz (Philadelphia), Peg Strobel (Chicago) and Russell Weiss-Irwin (Princeton NJ). The convention also voted to add two new honorary vice chairs: Deborah Meier and Bhaskar Sunkara.
Barbara Joye is the recording secretary for Metro Atlanta DSA. This article was adapted from a post on the national blog at dsausa.org (center column).