In Favor of Bylaws Amendment

Matt C.

The East Bay DSA has long spent most of its time in the Berkeley and North Oakland area. In some sense, this is understandable given the region’s socialist history and residents’ inclination towards progressive politics. The area’s broad support of progressive goals has made it seem as though it were the natural building grounds for a socialist politics. Organizing in other areas is often seen as something that comes later, after building substantially in the chapter’s geographic core. However, even after substantial growth in the chapter’s geographic core, socialist politics have not moved much outside of the area, and this should give those of us committed to socialist transformation pause.

Much of this problem stems from the insistence that doing work outside the area is “not strategic” and that other areas are perhaps “too conservative.” During the Bernie campaign, we could almost always expect a “big turnout” when we planned events in North Oakland or Berkeley, and transitioning to other important working-class communities in Hayward and San Leandro was seen as a shift too geographically far from our base in Berkeley. Big turnouts meant everything; expanding our base could come later. (Against some resistance, canvasses were held in Hayward and San Leandro and were a huge success.)

This illuminates one of the most lamentable pathologies of the current socialist movement: the tendency to think that socialists talking to other socialists, activists, and progressive liberals in Berkeley who already agree with much of what we say will lead to socialist transformation and that going into new areas and organizing people is strategically ill-advised or that the latter needs to happen, but we don’t have time now.

Of course, this is wrong. And reluctance to move outside the region eventually will come back to bite us. Such was the case with the CalCare bill. Assembly members representing Oakland and Berkeley already supported the bill, which meant that for our campaign we had to move outside the area. After starting in the mostly wealthy Assembly District 16 (Orinda), we decided to move to the more working-class city of Concord in Assembly District 14. There, regrettably, the East Bay DSA has no established presence. As a result, we were forced to not only canvass for the bill but also confront the fact that we were ill-prepared to do so. 

Thankfully there is a bylaw resolution that offers a real chance for the East Bay DSA to finally expand its base. By establishing branches, the EBDSA can secure a permanent presence in important East Bay communities. This will make meetings more accessible to those who live further from Berkeley and Oakland, make organizing new members in those areas more achievable, and facilitate more effective mobilizing for campaigns.

The only path to socialism is to reach and organize the working-class across the entirety of our jurisdiction. I hope that you will support this bylaw amendment to create East Bay DSA branches.