DSA Convention Reflection #3 – Koby P

This past August, Cleveland DSA sent our 7 delegates to the National Convention. Our Education Committee asked these delegates to write up reflections on their experience, which will appear here over the next month. This round we have longstanding Cle DSA’er and defacto Roberts-Ruler Koby P:

It cannot be overstated how the scope and content of the 2023 DSA Convention was determined before it began.

As usual, this DSA convention required all bylaws amendments, resolutions, and secondary amendments to be submitted with prior notice. Floor amendments are prohibited and only incidental motions can be raised without prior notice in the course of business. This year, though 20 member-submitted resolutions reached the signature threshold for consideration (300, up from 100 in 2021), only 13 of them reached the floor in one form or another. Substantial time was given instead to National Political Committee (NPC) resolutions and “consensus resolutions” put forward by various national commissions. The agenda as it ended up being proposed by the Convention Committee was botched by a poorly executed delegate survey, resulting in some items unfortunately left off the agenda altogether, and others wasting precious deliberation time. In a rare exhibition of inter-caucus coordination, the delegation was able to successfully amend the agenda to partially rectify the issue.

The major forces at play at convention were the caucuses. Caucus membership represents just a fraction of DSA members, and a more significant yet still small proportion of the 950 or so convention delegates. Still, caucuses punch above their weight in contributing member-support resolutions, filling out commission leadership, whipping votes, and rallying around NPC slates. An explanation of the caucuses is out of scope for this report, but I attended the convention as a paper member of the Libertarian Socialist Caucus, with politics fairly closely aligned to the Marxist Unity Group.

The official results show a mixed convention. The delegation managed to get through a surprisingly high number of resolutions in its limited time – and with only limited brazen manipulation of parliamentary procedure. The “left” caucuses found themselves with some modest wins and a few losses, the “right” also was not without a few wins of their own. My feeling at the end of the weekend was hopeful.

We can expect a few major changes to roll out very soon. The new NPC has the potential to make great progress democratizing the national organization and increasing transparency and inter-body cooperation. To some extent, they have already been doing this by keeping the organization in the loop via the national DSA Discussion Board (make an account if you haven’t). Below are some resolutions that you’ll see in effect:

  • By October 15th, a Democracy Commission will be elected by your convention delegates.
  • By November 1st, your convention delegates will elect two NPC members to serve as full time salaried co-chairs of DSA, and to serve as spokespeople for the organization
  • By November, NPC will have to elect 9 DSA Members as editors on the newly formed DSA Editorial Board, in charge of Democratic Left and Socialist Forum
  • By January, the new National Campaign for Reproductive Rights and Trans Liberation will launch
  • By March, the NPC is required to release an actionable plan for carrying out the convention resolutions and provide it to membership. This should include new campaigns and priorities, including a resolution to run candidates for local schoolboards.
  • In 2024 DSA is required to hold a National Activist Conference
  • The BDS working group is now a subgrouping of the International Committee
  • The NLC will provide support for the creation of local EWOC formations.