Meet the Candidates
The 2023 YDSA Convention will be held in Chicago from Tuesday, August 1 to Thursday, August 3. For more information, please check official YDSA convention website.
The Bread & Roses caucus is excited to introduce our slate for the 2023 National YDSA convention: Taylor Clark (UC Santa Barbara) and Winnie M. (New York University) for National Co-Chairs, and Allan Frasheri (University of Florida) and Erin Lawson (New York University) for at-large NCC seats. Sign on to support Bread & Roses’ vision for YDSA here.
The Political Moment
Our generation has seen a series of social crises and growing inequality. Climate disaster continues to threaten the air we breathe and the communities we live in; billionaires continue to grow their wealth to previously unthinkable levels; the far right has ramped up its attacks on political democracy and the most marginalized in society; police continue to murder the poor and Black and brown people with impunity; Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has accelerated inter-imperialist conflict; and the COVID-19 pandemic forced workers to risk death every day, while the capitalist class was protected by the state to continue achieving record profits.
At the same time, the center-left has failed to put forward an alternative vision for society. Despite modest increases in public investment and nominal support for labor, the Democratic Party continues to deepen Donald Trump’s xenophobic immigration policies, force contracts on union workers, and serve the interests of the ultra-wealthy. Since the end of the Bernie 2020 campaign, the Left has been plagued by a sense of directionlessness, only exacerbated by the absence of a real democratic socialist alternative in the 2024 presidential election. Our movement has shrunk as social mobilizations have declined.
However, there is reason for hope. The labor movement, whose growth and reborn militancy is the key to building a powerful democratic socialist movement, has started to go on the offensive once again. Reformers have won leadership in major unions like the Teamsters and UAW. New organizing has skyrocketed among young workers at Amazon and Starbucks, and a new student-worker movement is growing, in large part led by YDSA organizers.
There has also been rapid growth of the youth socialist movement. Over the past few years, while DSA has declined by approximately 17,000 members, YDSA has grown by 150 percent, largely driven by the maturation of existing chapters. More and more young people are joining the labor movement after graduation, devoting their lives to rebuilding an independent rank-and-file movement and merging it with the socialist left.
YDSA has set students into motion around mass struggles and helped them learn their own power. We’ve acted as a socialist pole on our campuses, recruiting young people to democratic socialism. And we’ve developed young activists into lifelong socialist organizers ready to carry out the day-to-day struggles after graduation in the workplace, the state, and the streets.
Today the youth section of DSA is more united and confident than at any point since DSA’s rebirth in 2016. Young democratic socialists are increasingly in agreement on political questions facing our movement, including the centrality of class struggle, a rank-and-file orientation to the labor movement, independent class politics in the electoral arena, and the need for mass action to defend our civil rights.
To meet the moment as a national organization, YDSA needs a vision of where we are heading and a clear understanding of our urgent tasks. The layer of active organizers is larger and more politically-developed than ever before, but remains too small, under-resourced, and under-supported. Lateral connections between chapters and vertical connections between chapters and the national organization too often are the result of chance and individual members being involved at both levels, rather than from intentionally developing organizing relationships and support structures. Too many chapters have no connection to our national organization, causing many to form and dissolve before they can find stable footing. National committees need greater capacity and some, such as the Youth Political Education Committee (YPEC), are effectively inactive.
YDSA’s political development has brought with it new strategic questions, and has also pushed up against the limits of YDSA’s insufficient resources. YDSA must move away from a “mobilizing” model of national organization that emphasizes trainings and networking between chapters, to an “organizing” model that can actively grow the youth section. We can do this by intentionally recruiting and developing student leaders on campuses with working-class students to the labor movement and democratic socialist politics. This will give student leaders the skills to organize on their campuses and in their future workplaces, while also moving YDSA toward a position of leadership in the U.S. student movement.
Bread & Roses’ proposals for the 2023 YDSA convention address the two tasks of political leadership and organizational reform. First, we propose deepening and extending YDSA’s perspectives on key strategic questions. YDSA must present itself to young people despondent with capitalism’s social injustices as an alternative to the Democratic Party, NGOs, and “progressive” career paths. This means presenting YDSA as independent from and critical of the Democratic Party and its capitalist leadership. Rather than just another campus activist group, YDSA should actively orient toward building itself into the youth wing of a future socialist party. YDSA can recruit students away from tepid liberalism toward joining the socialist and labor movements for the long haul, also demonstrating a way of doing electoral work that builds real independent working-class power through class-struggle elections, party-building, and mass action against the right.
Our vision for a robust YDSA is one where we connect with, support, and learn from youth socialist organizers around the world who are fighting for democracy and socialism. This vision includes integrating these relationships into the organization as a whole and adopting a class-struggle internationalist perspective that does not compromise our commitment to democratic freedoms. YDSA must continue to build the student worker movement by committing to class-struggle unionism. Expanding the student-worker movement into red states and public universities is the only way that we can continue to build strong national student-worker unions as mass, democratic, working-class institutions that develop students into workplace leaders and socialists who are committed to class struggle. We must deepen YDSA’s national political education and connect it with local chapter’s educational work by revitalizing the YPEC and seeking to develop our members into serious political thinkers and actors. Finally, we must reaffirm the need for more resources, support, and autonomy from DSA in the form of expanded NCC stipends, increased funding for committees and chapter grants, expanded YDSA staff, and a larger role for the YDSA NCC in directing YDSA’s resources and staff-time.
Through our six resolutions and four NCC candidates, Bread & Roses hopes to continue growing YDSA into the organization we know it can be—one that builds mass struggles on and beyond our campuses, recruits and trains new lifelong socialist organizers, and acts as a socialist pole on our campuses. This socialist pole can advance democratic socialism and a strategy of class struggle, political independence, and organizational democracy to achieve the world we know we can win: one free of exploitation and oppression, run by and for workers.