United States: Successful convention moves Democratic Socialists of America to left
By Dan La Botz August 10, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from New Politics — The socialist movement in the United States took a big step forward this past weekend as almost 700 delegates representing over 25,000 members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) met at the organization’sbiennial national convention in Chicago. This convention, the first since DSA more than tripled in size following last year’s election, brought together delegates from all of the country’s major cities and many towns large and small.Most were new members who had joined in the last year either came out of the Bernie Sanders campaign or joined in reaction to the frightening prospect of the Donald Trump presidency. The convention cohered the hundreds of new members into a national organization in what was virtually a re-founding of the DSA. It gave them the experience of beginning to run their own organization, and the delegates adopted constitutional changes and policy resolutions that moved the organization to the left.DSA was founded in 1982 by the merger of Old Left activists from the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) led by Michael Harrington and by New Left activists of the 1970s who had created the New American Movement (NAM). Inspired by Harrington’s notion (called the “realignment strategy”) that it would be possible to reform the Democratic Party by driving out both the big city political machines and the South’s white racist Democratic Party politicians, from the 1970s to the early 2000s DSOC and DSA were oriented toward the progressive labor union officialdom, the leadership of the civil rights movement, and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. DSA was affiliated with the Socialist International and identified with the Scandinavian Social Democratic parties that had successfully constructed welfare states with impressive programs of health, education, and housing. By the 1990s it was clear that Harrington’s strategy had failed and without a clear alternative perspective, a smaller, weaker DSA stumbled into the twenty-first century.
A new DSAThe Bernie Sanders campaign with its call for a “political revolution” and a fight against the “billionaire class”—and especially Sanders definition of himself as a “democratic socialist”—created a tremendous political upsurge, especially among the youth, and revived the DSA. Longtime DSA leaders, the organization’s small staff, and the leaders of DSA’s youth group, the Young Democratic Socialists (who renamed themselves the Young Democratic Socialists of America at the convention), seized the opportunity and recruited thousands out of the Sanders movement. When Trump won the presidential election and took office in January, thousands more joined. It is these mostly young activists who made up the delegates to the convention—one out of five a person of color, two out of five women—determined to make themselves into socialists and to make DSA their own. Naturally in such an organization the levels of movement involvement, of socialist education, and of political experience were highly uneven, but the convention—thanks to its “Socialism 101” style workshops went a long way in providing a common basis for what is virtually a new organization.
A move to the LeftLike most conventions, DSA’s had plenary sessions with featured speakers, educational workshops, and opportunities to caucus, but the members demanded more time to discuss and debate the resolutions. With so many members new to both left politics and parliamentary procedure, at times the meeting was tedious, frustrating, even aggravating, but under the guidance of an experienced chairs who combined patience with firmness, it was a tremendous learning experience for the group. Through the long hours of debate with points of information and myriad motions, in the end the convention adopted a national priorities document that made the fight for a single-payer health care program a national objective.The convention also voted to adopt several constitutional amendments and resolutions that moved the organization significantly to the left. The delegates:
- Voted to leave the Socialist International (SI), based on arguments that the European Social Democrats had become the enforcers of neoliberalism and austerity, that the other member parties around the world included many authoritarian governments, and, finally, that the SI was disintegrating.
- Voted to support the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement and to oppose efforts to criminalize it.
- Voted to establish a People of Color Caucus./span>
- Voted to establish a Labor Commission.
- Voted to establish a forum for political debate within the organization.