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For a democratic DSA

A Tempest Collective statement advocating for an effort to transform DSA into a more democratic and political organization.

Democratic Socialists of America has grown rapidly since 2016 and, in the process, it has experienced growing pains. The organization is not perfect. We know it and you know it. So how can we improve DSA to be an easier group to navigate, join, and be part of? The structures, bylaws, and rules of the organization were drafted for a different kind of DSA, one that functioned much more like a nonprofit than a membership-run socialist organization. As we approach the August 2021 Convention, we are advocating for an attempt to transform DSA into a more democratic and political group. This means creating more venues beyond social media for members to debate and discuss work and priorities. It also means updating the structures of DSA to better meet the goal of a broad tent, mass membership, multi-tendency, democratic, socialist organization.

    • 1. DSA needs more spaces for members to participate in discussions of strategy.

      • a. There is currently a large gap in decision-making power between the leadership and rank and file members of the organization that needs to be overcome. Major political questions should be brought to the membership to debate and vote on, similar to the poll on the 2020 Sanders campaign endorsement.
      • b. There should be more transparency and reports: National Political Committee and Steering Committee are not currently required to report any information (minutes, votes, etc.) to the membership. Members must be informed of the dates and times of NPC and SC meetings well in advance.
      • c. The should be a right to recall: Members do not currently have the right to recall local and national leaders, which means that, in practice, leaders are unaccountable to the membership of the organization. The right to recall is a democratic norm that socialists should insist on in DSA, in our unions, and in all other organizations that we are a part of.
      • d. Members should elect leaders: The NPC currently appoints members to fill vacancies between conventions, which gives the standing NPC the power to decide on behalf of the membership who should lead the organization. Again, this means that the leadership is not accountable to the membership it is intended to represent.
      • e. Members must have clear avenues to present petitions to elected leadership. Currently members must rely on having an “inside connection” to an NPC member who will support their proposal.
      • f. Budgets and budgetary priorities should reflect convention decisions.
      • g. The elected leadership has the responsibility of appointing top administrative positions; no such appointments should exceed the term of the elected leadership.
      • h. As soon as practicable, all leadership of working groups and committees should be elected by members of those bodies: Currently the appointed leaderships of some working groups and committees have failed to convene elections.
      • i. Basic requirements for the internal democracy of chapters must be established: After an initial charter is approved, there should be agreed-upon democratic protections that every chapter must abide by, including democratic election of convention delegates.


    • 2. The leadership structure must change to be more representative of and accountable to the growing membership.

      • a. Members should be actively involved in shaping both local and national strategies rather than passive receivers of strategies decided by leadership.
      • b. Chapters and branches must ensure horizontal member-to-member communication.
      • c. Significant minority perspectives should be allowed representation in DSA social media and publications.
      • d. DSA should be run by members, not leadership.


3. DSA needs an improved grievance process.

a. Due process must be guaranteed to every member of the organization; grievances should be heard and decided within 30 days.

      • b. In grievances involving allegations of violence or sexual harassment/assault, it should be up to the grievant if they want to maintain confidentiality. In all other grievances, confidentiality should not be used as a shield to prevent political discussion and accountability.
      • c. A member in good standing who has a grievance filed against them should have rights to see the grievance and to see and respond to any evidence that has been presented against them.
      • d. National Grievance and Harassment Officer positions should be elected by the convention. They should not be outsourced to a firm that will run the grievance process like a Human Resources department. This role must be carried out by members independent of the NPC.
      • e. The National Grievance and Harassment Officer must not have the right to amend or change the grievance process.

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