Adopting a National Tasks and Perspectives Document for YDSA
Sponsor: Kristen Cervero, NYU YDSA
Co-sponsors: Griffin Mahon, YDSA at University of Virginia
Neah Havens, Western Washington University YDSA
Check out our article for The Activist on building our collective national strategy!
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Whereas, as the youth wing of Democratic Socialists America, the largest socialist organization in the United States in nearly a century, YDSA has a unique role to play in the US left, as a force that can activate, educate, and train young people to become lifelong socialist organizers. YDSA is unique among student organizations in that we recognize our power comes not from our position as students, but as current and future members of the working class, and that our fight does not stop at the borders of our campuses or end when we graduate. As socialists, our strategy should be focused on elevating class consciousness and building the power and organization of the working class to extract concessions from the ruling class and eventually overturn capitalism itself. By engaging in rigorous political education and campaigning for concrete, widely-felt demands that shift the balance of power between capitalists and workers, YDSA members can build our skills as organizers and political thinkers, allowing us to reach and radicalize our fellow students, build stronger chapters, and prepare ourselves for lifetimes of commitment to militant socialist struggle.
Whereas, the widely disparate conditions on campuses across the country, the built-in rapid turnover imposed by graduation, and the general lack of clear organizational priorities have led to uneven development among chapters and a lack of coordination between chapters and national leadership.
Whereas, YDSA should take steps toward cohering an identity as a national organization, determining shared priorities and perspectives, and developing layers of trained organizers and leaders who can work together to build the base for a youth wing of a future mass party.
Whereas, YDSA should publicly declare the positions taken by the organization after the resurgence of the socialist movement and several conventions, including our commitments to building a fighting, democratic labor movement and the centrality of the labor movement to all socialist struggles; our support for reforms such as Medicare for All, College for All, a Green New Deal, and other demands that empower working people, nationalize key sectors of the economy, and counter austerity; and our understanding of the relationship between the fight for socialism and the struggles against racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of oppression.
Therefore be it resolved, that YDSA will create a national Tasks and Perspectives document (hereafter known as “the document”) clarifying YDSA’s principles, priorities, and theory of change. This public-facing document will serve as a statement of purpose for the organization, and help to clarify organizational priorities, inform the creation of political education and propaganda materials, and provide direction for campaigns at the chapter level.
Be it further resolved, that the YDSA NCC will form a Tasks and Perspectives Committee (hereafter known as “the Committee”) to create a document within one month of the 2020 convention. The document will be informed by the resolutions passed at the 2020 convention.
Be it further resolved, that the preambulatory clauses of this resolution will be the foundations of the “Perspectives,” although they are subject to change by the Committee insofar as they agree with the spirit of resolutions adopted at convention.
Be it further resolved, that the document will be made available to chapter leaders for a comment and suggestion period of no more than one month, during which chapters will be encouraged to discuss the document and give feedback on its contents, which will be used to inform the Committee’s drafting process. Once the Committee incorporates any necessary changes, the Committee will make the document and any feedback available to the YDSA NCC, which will then vote to adopt or amend the Tasks and Perspectives Document.
Be it further resolved, that the adopted document will be made immediately available to all YDSA members via email, and will be posted publicly on the YDSA website.
Be it further resolved, that this document should be the basis for a national YDSA call open to all members to discuss the role of YDSA in the socialist movement and the role of students in the struggle for socialism.
Be it further resolved, that upon adoption of the Tasks and Perspectives document, YDSA chapters should be encouraged and/or expected to hold a chapter-wide strategy discussion about how best to relate to the national Tasks and Perspectives. The committee will provide, in addition to the completed document, a one-pager with guidance on how to hold such discussions.
Be it finally resolved, that YDSA calls on the DSA National Political Committee to create a process to adopt a similar strategy document.
Developing a Robust National Political Education Program
Sponsor: Emmaline Bennett, Columbia-Barnard
Co-sponsors: Josh Kuh, Kalamazoo
Michael Stenovec, UCLA
Check out our forthcoming article for The Activist on political education!
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Whereas, rigorous political education is crucial for developing our members into lifelong socialist thinkers and organizers, and should be implemented in all chapters.
Whereas, robust chapter political education programs help onboard newer members and give them the confidence necessary to become core organizers of their chapter, and bolster the confidence of existing core members by encouraging them to lead and participate in political discussion.
Whereas, incorporating political education into YDSA chapter meetings helps spark debate and discussion among membership, and encourages members to think of their local campaign work in a way that is closely informed by YDSA’s overall socialist vision.
Whereas, YDSA members rarely, if ever, discuss and debate politics with people outside their chapter, often creating uneven political development between chapters and a lack of shared strategic vision and goals.
Whereas, YDSA members should be trained to confidently and productively facilitate political discussions. Facilitation is a skill that is essential for successful political education meetings, but is also necessary in many other organizing contexts.
Therefore be it resolved, that the NPEC will be tasked with creating a reading list for new members, covering a wide range of topics aimed at providing a grounding in socialist politics. The process for creating this syllabus will be directed by the NPEC, with any YDSA member able to submit suggestions for readings or topics to cover via an open submission process. This reading list will provide the basis for new member political education at the chapter level, although the membership of individual chapters can choose to alter the syllabus at their discretion. This new member political education at the chapter level can either take the form of one-on-one mentorships between older members and newer members, or of small discussion groups outside of the general meeting schedule. The NPEC will also prepare materials designed to help older members teach the syllabus and discuss material with newer members at the chapter level.
Be it further resolved, that all chapters should be encouraged to incorporate political education into their general meeting schedule. This might involve alternating between organizing meetings and political education meetings week-by-week, or including both a political education and an organizing component within each general meeting, or some combination of different approaches; the membership of each chapter should feel free to experiment with whatever method works best for them. The NPEC will include materials on how to incorporate political education into a regular meeting schedule as part of the Night School handbook, and will offer mentorship and training for members who wish to become facilitators.
Be it further resolved, that this chapter-level political education will be supplemented with regular national calls focused on the topics presented in the readings, using a break-out group format to allow for maximum participation among individual YDSA members across chapters.
Be it further resolved, that the NPEC will regularly organize multiple week-long virtual political education intensives on different subjects of socialist theory and strategy for members across the country to take part in. These intensives will have a central curriculum planned by the NPEC and then carried out by trained facilitators in smaller groups of YDSAers. The smaller groupings should have members from all different chapters to facilitate cross-chapter political discussion and debate.
Be it further resolved, that the NPEC will also provide training and guidance for regional political education initiatives (e.g. in cities or states with a high concentration of YDSA chapters), encouraging members of more experienced chapters to train facilitators in newer chapters.
Be it finally resolved, that the NPEC will also hold at least one call per semester on how to host night schools. These calls will help identify YDSA members who are willing and able to serve as facilitators for national calls and focused intensives. Members interested in facilitating will be mentored by members of the NPEC.
Establishing a YDSA Rank-and-File Pipeline
Sponsor: Griffin Mahon (UVa)
Co-sponsors: Dahlia Wilson (Albany High School)
Nickan Fayyazi (UC Berkeley)
Check out our article for The Activist on why YDSA needs the Rank-and-File strategy!
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Whereas, the labor movement must be central to any socialist strategy due to the structural power of the organized working class to extract concessions from the ruling class and the fact that unions are some of the most diverse working class institutions in the country. Labor organizing is both core to building socialist power and rooting the socialist movement in the multi-racial working class.
Whereas, to rebuild the American labor and socialist movements, and to merge the two, socialists must have an orientation toward building shop floor power and developing a layer of rank-and-file leaders who can organize in the workplace on a day-to-day basis, often called the Rank-and-File Strategy (RFS). One key tactic of the RFS is having socialists take jobs in strategic, and often unionized, industries and workplaces.
Whereas, YDSA has a particular role within the socialist movement to develop life-long committed socialist organizers and send them into broader socialist and workplace struggles. YDSAers, having often not yet started careers, are in a unique position to carry out the tactic of taking a Rank-and-File union job in a strategic industry upon graduation, and in some unique situations, while still in school. Other YDSA members may be entering sectors where unionization is low, but where socialists can play a leading role in cohering and activating a militant minority, carrying out successful union drives, and increasing class consciousness amongst their coworkers.
Whereas, a number of YDSAers have already committed to pursuing the RFS as individuals, but have not had organizational support in this pursuit. By providing organizational support, those pursuing the RFS will be provided with mentorship, guidance, and a network of other socialists similarly pursuing the RFS in their preferred industry.
Whereas, many YDSA members are unable to industrialize or salt, but should nonetheless be provided with a socialist understanding of and orientation toward the labor movement. In all different conditions YDSAers should be encouraged and supported to take up efforts to support labor struggles in their campuses and communities, and provided with the knowledge, perspective, and connections to engage in new organizing in their workplaces post-graduation.
Therefore be it resolved, YDSA will renew its commitment to the rank-and-file strategy as it was prioritized in National DSA Resolution 32, which emphasizes that the central focus of socialists “should be on identifying and developing a layer of rank and file leaders who can organize in the workplace on a day-to-day basis.”
Be it further resolved, YDSA’s NCC will establish the YDSA National Labor Committee (NLC) within two months of the 2020 YDSA National Convention.
Be it further resolved, the NLC will consist of, but not be limited to, at least five committee members: one chair and four at-large committee members; and from these 5 members, 2 shall be appointed as Democratic Socialist Labor Commission (DSLC) Steering Committee Representatives.
Be it further resolved, the YDSA NLC will work with the National Political Education Committee (NPEC) and the DLSC to develop political education materials about the history and current landscape of the labor movement (and the role socialists continue to play in it), the pitfalls of business unionism, and rank-and-file militancy, by
- Working with the National Political Education Committee to develop a curriculum around labor organizing and the rank-and-file strategy as part of the YDSA School of Socialism
- Running a national speaking tour for DSA labor organizers to speak to YDSA chapters in their region.
- Prioritizing labor as a topic for NPEC national calls
Be it further resolved, the NLC, working, where relevant, with DSA’s DSLC, will focus on building out a national YDSA rank-and-file graduation pipeline that will facilitate the process of connecting YDSAers with rank-and-file jobs in strategic industries, to be determined by the NLC, or salting opportunities upon graduation.
Be it further resolved, the YDSA rank-and-file graduation pipeline will consist of, but not be limited to,
- A yearly survey of all YDSA members to map out if members are interested in entering the labor movement upon graduation and which industries/in what capacity
- This yearly survey data, along with information about DSA chapters with strong labor formations, should be used to map out “hot spots,” prioritizing state schools, community colleges, trade schools, and HBCUs/HSIs and connecting them to their local DSA labor formation
- Developing more pamphlets and educational materials like “Why Socialists should become Teachers” for more strategic industries such as logistics and healthcare
- Hosting national interest calls geared toward different industries with panels of rank-and-file organizers in the respective industry
- Hosting more in depth, recurring, rank-and-file schools for YDSAers nearing graduation who are seriously considering entering rank-and-file union jobs in strategic industries or salting unorganized workplaces, to connect them with labor organizers in the respective industry. These schools would cover the history of organizing in the industry and the contemporary terrain, provide workplace-specific organizing trainings, guide YDSAers in applying for these jobs, and connect them with pre-existing rank-and-file networks, caucuses, and organizers
Be it further resolved, for YDSAers unsure of committing to a career directly upon graduation, but still interested in building rank-and-file power and the labor movement, the National Labor Committee should work to connect YDSAers with unions with strong salting or new organizing programs to help organize the unorganized.
Be it finally resolved, YDSA recommits to campus labor organizing as an organizational priority, but will house said organizing work under the purview of relevant YDSA priority political campaigns. When necessary, the NLC will help connect YDSA members on different campuses who are engaged in campus labor organizing with each other and with experienced DSA labor organizers, and may hold national calls on the topic of campus labor organizing.
Growth and Diversification
Sponsor: Labiba Chowdhury
Co-sponsors: Cerena Ermitanio
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Whereas, as the youth section of the country’s largest socialist organization and in a time where there is mass unrest in response to racial injustice and police brutality, it is imperative that we do everything we can to be truly reflective of the working class.
Whereas, DSA as a whole has struggled with a lack of diversity, particularly in regards to race, thus hindering our ability to be reflective of the working class’ multiracial nature.
Whereas, YDSA has found particular success in diversifying our organization in a way that also roots us in the working class by investing in developing chapters at community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Minority Serving Institutions.
Whereas, YDSA has grown tremendously since 2016 from 12 to 115 chapters at high schools, universities, community colleges, and HBCUs.
Whereas, YDSA has proven itself to be a key component for growing and diversifying DSA and the socialist movement as a whole, and in order to achieve DSA’s goal of 100,000-person membership, we must invest material resources into our organization.
Whereas, this is all to say we must intentionally recruit and train organizers at community colleges and HBCUs in particular so that we may improve our organizing, improve our representation of the working class, aid in unifying class struggle around both universal and particular struggles, and ultimately aid in creating a unified socialist movement that is anti-racist in action, and not only in name.
Therefore be it resolved, YDSA’s National Coordinating Committee will be tasked with growing and diversifying our organization by, including but not limited to:
- Providing resources and material support for chapters so they can help form chapters in nearby community colleges, HBCUs, and high schools. These resources may include trainings on how to canvass a school; how to develop leaders; and trainings on how to use these various materials.
- Connecting YDSA chapters to corresponding DSA chapters in order to strengthen connections between YDSA and DSA chapters.
- Pulling a list of DSA members who attend community colleges, HBCUs, and MSIs without YDSA chapters and executing targeted outreach towards these members in the hopes that they will establish chapters at their institutions.
- Continuing to improve upon and execute the YDSA liaison program.
- Continuing to collaborate with AFROSOC to build chapters at HBCUs.
Be it further resolved, DSA’s Growth and Development committee is encouraged to thoughtfully and intentionally integrate YDSA into its 100K membership strategy.
Be it finally resolved, YDSA calls upon DSA’s National Political Committee to prioritize hiring a second full-time staffer for YDSA, as promised in the October 2019 NPC meeting. We encourage the NPC to strongly consider hiring a POC/Black organizer who will be better equipped to recruit and develop organizers at community colleges and HBCUs.