East Bay DSA Platform
2022 - 2023 Organizational Priorities
Drafted and adopted by the entire membership of East Bay DSA, this 2021 East Bay Democratic Socialists of America Organizational Priorities and Chapter Platform proposes not only ongoing strategies and for what we can best organize for in the coming year, but also what issues to focus on for the next year, with unity and urgency, toward achieving a democratic socialist world together. This document serves as the base for guiding the work of the chapter and of our committees until our next convention. Amended and adopted by the entire membership of East Bay DSA in June 2022.
COVID-19 has upended the world as we know it, exposing and magnifying the pre-existing inequalities in our society. Thousands of working-class people—disproportionately people of color—have died and are dying from unsafe working conditions or lack of healthcare. This global pandemic has resulted in an economic recession that has left millions of people unemployed and unable to pay rent. The powerful are using this crisis as a springboard for an agenda of austerity and corporate bailouts, and ordinary people are being pushed to their limits and grasping hold of collective liberation. The racist police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and thousands of others have simultaneously ignited a surge of protests, direct action, and organizing. The uprising has surpassed the Civil Rights movement in scale and has provoked a national movement to defund the police, which DSA has taken up as a priority.
The injustices of this period are the direct result of racialized capitalism. An international ruling class has become wealthier than any in history, enriching themselves through price-gouging, ecological pillage, and the labor of exploited workers. To prop up their rule, the ultra-wealthy few increasingly drop any charade of liberal democracy, as they brutally divide and conquer working people using the lines of race, gender, and borders.
The growth of the Democratic Socialists of America to 92,000 members offers the best opportunity in generations to provide a unifying force between these struggles, one able to coordinate and build socialist ideas among millions of working people.
In the pre-COVID era, we won California for Bernie Sanders. Bernie’s ultimate electoral defeat was not a failure, but reminds us that there are no shortcuts to democratic socialism. It demonstrated the power of collective action and has grown DSA by the thousands. We inspired people across the world with a truly working-class program.
At the center of our struggle for social and economic justice is the working class. The working class is the only social force with both an interest in fighting for deep social transformation and the leverage to win it. Disruptive actions like strikes and walkouts that stop the engine of profit, and mass protests like the ones rippling across the country have the power to bring change. Our chapter is committed to organizing strategically to bring the working class into mass action in class struggle against capitalism and all forms of oppression.
Our road to democratic socialism will require growing, democratic, leftwing labor unions. It will require engaging in electoral campaigns to win state power and eventually achieve a fully independent worker’s party. It will require an unwavering solidarity in fighting oppression. It will require socialist internationalism and solidarity with struggles against global capitalism and imperialism. It will require a commitment to our own collective political education. And it will require DSA to further become a multiracial, democratic, mass organization.
What is the democratic socialist world we seek to build? We organize for a just society, where working people make the decisions that determine our destiny. We organize for a society free of oppressions of race, gender, sexuality, and borders. We organize for a world where basic needs—education, healthcare, housing, and the environment—are never commodified for profit, but instead provided freely for all. This is the socialist world we want.
Originally our chapter general body voted to adopt 3 Organizational Priorities on March 14th, 2021. Per the resolution passed, “East Bay DSA Steering Committee will be tasked with carrying out this Priorities Resolution by allotting appropriate chapter resources to the Priority Campaigns. Resources may include chapter funds, promotion in chapter communications, and aid in volunteer recruitment.” Through the convention process, a total of 4 organizational priorities were submitted. Through a suspension of the convention rules, the chapter voted to adopt all 4 proposed priorities, which are listed below. Amended and adopted in June 2022.
1. Racial Justice & Diversifying DSA
Capitalism creates scarcity for the goods essential to life, which in turn disproportionately deprives BIPOC of housing, jobs, healthcare and other necessary services. Rather than invest in society and deal with the root causes of crime, the United States chooses to imprison approximately 2 million of its citizens, the highest rate in the world. Of those inmates, 34% are Black, despite accounting for only 11% of the US population. Both the disproportionate economic exploitation and higher instances of criminalization are seized on by right wing media, like Fox News, to perpetuate harmful racial stereotypes that further divide the working class, despite our shared interest in defeating economic exploitation and the prison system.
Even voting rights, long thought to be the sacrosanct legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, are actively under attack. Elected Democrats have met efforts to disenfranchise black people, immigrants, and the poor with little more than a shrug and a press conference. Socialists must lead the way in protecting and expanding political democracy regardless of the color of your skin, where you were born, or what you can afford.
At the same time we must reject liberal solutions to racism which emphasize individual choices and self-improvement, and do nothing to fight the emerging threats from the right. Instead we should embrace a multi-racial struggle of the working class for a world without racism.
To achieve any of our political goals, DSA must strive to be more racially and economically representative of the working class. If socialism remains a politics cloistered in a tiny segment of society, it will never command the power required to win. That is why we must remain focused on recruiting through strategic external campaigns that bring us in regular contact with working class people of color.
East Bay DSA will:
- Continue our campaigns to transition public funds from policing to essential services that support our community
- Prioritize recruiting working class candidates of color to run for office that can act as champions for our vision and attract a more diverse membership
- Continue and expand our work with racially diverse unions like ATU 192, SEIU 1021, and Oakland Education Association, and actively recruit socialist unionists into DSA through these campaigns
- Train our campaign and committee leaders on strategic recruitment that will emphasize the need to identify, recruit, and promote leaders of color within East Bay DSA campaigns and elected leadership
- Prioritize producing bilingual communications, with a particular emphasis on developing Spanish language materials and increasing the number of Spanish speakers in the Chapter
- Establish regular AfroSocialists and Socialists of Color Caucus socials
- Continue to hold regular Night Schools on anti-racism
- Regularly review our anti-racist work and our progress toward BIPOC recruitment through the Steering Committee
2. Class Struggle Elections
East Bay DSA has expanded and refined our ability to run election campaigns over the last few years. During the 2020 election cycle, we recruited, trained, and mobilized hundreds of volunteers to canvas thousands of voters, created our own campaign literature, raised funds, learned election law, and helped elect genuine radicals like Carroll Fife and Jovanka Beckles to local office.
However, we have mostly been limited to supporting candidates who were already planning to run and ballot initiatives designed by other groups. Meanwhile, organic, working-class socialist leaders often do not have the resources to run a successful campaign, especially those from marginalized backgrounds.
2021 is an off-year for local elections, so now is the time to remedy that situation--to begin the long-term planning that will propel home-grown DSA campaigns to victory in 2022 and beyond. While we continue to build on our success in local elections, we hope to — in conjunction with California DSA — be able to build power in the state legislature.
East Bay DSA will:
- Identify a short list of key races in coming years, in which socialist candidates or initiatives have a reasonable chance of winning, and where, if our candidate is elected or our initiative is passed, winning that election would provide the best opportunity to further our other political priorities.
- Focus on creating a socialist candidate pipeline for 2022 and beyond, by connecting emerging socialist and labor leaders with our existing elected leaders for mentorship, helping prospective candidates apply to citizen oversight boards, and hold frank discussions about policy and political opportunity. The goal of this pipeline would be to shift from primarily choosing among already-existing campaigns for endorsement to recruiting working-class socialist leaders, especially socialists of color, to run for office from within DSA.
- Develop a ballot initiative team to consider where our political priorities would best be advanced via California’s robust ballot initiative system. This team should build the capacity to propose concrete initiative plans, draft the text of proposed initiatives, plan a successful signature-gathering plan and/or work with supportive elected officials to place our initiatives on the ballot, etc.
- Create a DSA in Office team to maintain ongoing relationships with elected officials we’ve supported, to continue our relationships with them and use their position to further our political priorities.
- Continue to use the Class Struggle Elections criteria passed at the last convention to guide our strategic decision-making, unless amended by the chapter at a later date.
3. Focus on Onboarding and Providing Tools for Membership Empowerment
Since 2016, East Bay DSA has grown into one of the largest DSA chapters in the country. However, East Bay DSA’s activation rate is below 50% and increasing our activation rate to above 50% would help us make the most of our existing membership.
New members have already shared similar feedback across the board of difficulty navigating East Bay DSA’s structures and acclimating to the frequently brand-new experience of being in a democratic, mass-oriented, member-led, working-class political organization. Likewise, established members who have potential to grow into new leadership for the chapter often encounter inconsistent mentorship and resources for leadership development, encouraging a culture of either “sink or swim” growth, or disengagement all together.
Previous intentional investments of resources and attention have paid off immensely, including the Mobilizer Program (which has now spread to the state and national levels), New Member Handbook, Intro to DSA events, and Organizer’s Toolbox Trainings. As we enter a new phase for socialist organizing, we must commit to onboarding, retaining, and training a new generation of socialists that can win campaigns on the local and national level.
East Bay DSA will:
- Make development of its onboarding program and new leadership development a priority for the chapter in 2021-22
- Ensure that onboarding and ongoing development of groups underrepresented in DSA, especially BIPOC and undocumented people receives special focus and attention, including but not limited to: Translating new materials, developing best practices for storing demographic information in line with protocols developed by the Growth and Development Committee, and organizing BIPOC-only onboarding events and socials.
- Support the formation of chapter branches in geographic areas where there is demonstrated interest and leadership capacity, and provide branch organizers with needed leadership development and skills trainings including: meeting facilitation; setting agendas; planning and executing organizing campaigns; and orientation to East Bay DSA's platform, operations, and priorities.
- Draft a plan for new member onboarding through the Member Engagement Committee that includes developing introductory materials that continue where the New Member Handbook leaves off and developing a more robust onboarding program using a cohort system (similar to the one used by the Sunrise Movement), and a strong mentorship program similar to the "Rose Buddies" system used in Chicago.
- Draft a similar plan for ongoing member development that includes an expansion of existing leadership resource material, as well as more formal mentorship, onboarding and training structure for new or potential leaders that is more widely accessible.
- Collaborate with Political Education and RSC to create a regular and robust Socialism 101 program highlighting but not limited to the history of racial capitalism in the United States, socialist feminism, internationalism, and anti-colonial socialist traditions for new members.
- Solicit feedback on these plans from currently elected committee co-chairs on specific member onboarding priorities of their committees and submit the plan to the Steering Committee for approval
- Develop best practices and training for leaders to create clear engagement, recruitment, and onboarding paths for members as well as how to identify and train diverse leaders and spokespeople for all of our campaigns.
- Allocate a budget line item to this working group, post copy provided by the working group to chapter social media and the newsletter to encourage participation, and conduct a presentation for the chapter membership at a general meeting
- Involve at least 50% of our membership to attend an event in the upcoming year.
4. Rank-and File Labor Support & Solidarity
As socialists, we understand that the fundamental division in society is between the capitalist minority and the working class majority. Because of their position in the economy, workers can disrupt the flow of profit, or, if in the public sector, cause political crisis by striking. The workplace is a key site of struggle: workers have the capacity and self-interest to learn, build, and leverage power by organizing with their coworkers on the basis of their common interest in overcoming exploitation. By leveraging this power, workers can extract concessions from capitalists and the state, and, if organized to do so, win a better life for all oppressed groups. Only the working class, organized from below and fighting in its own interests, has the power to wrest reforms under capitalism and usher in a socialist society.
Winning socialism will require a level of working class organization and militancy not seen in this country for nearly a century. Though unions are the largest and longest-standing working class institutions in the country, we recognize that many unions today are neither democratic nor effective vehicles for working class power. Our task is to help build the power, democracy, and militancy of unions, and of the labor movement more broadly, so that it can fight for increasingly larger and more systemic classwide demands. At the heart of this strategy is empowering rank-and-file workers to lead and determine the course of union and labor struggles.
East Bay DSA will:
- Support campaigns that build strong, lasting relationships with rank-and-file workers in education, transit, healthcare, and logistics around reopening and anti-austerity fights, prioritizing those in unionized workplaces, including but not limited to:
- Support Oakland Education Association teachers in their fight for safe reopening & less standardized testing
- Support Alameda Health System (AHS) workers in their fight to take AHS public, and to protect workers and patients during the pandemic
- Support workers at transit unions across the Bay Area, but particularly at ATU Local 192, in the fight to restore transit service to pre-pandemic levels by hiring more union workers
- Involve members in picket support, design and materials production, community turnout, organizing training, and/or fundraising
- Publicize worker stories and promote rank-and-file perspectives through Majority
- Devote chapter resources to building out Majority’s labor reporting apparatus
- Prioritize labor reporting that builds long standing relationships with workers on the basis of ongoing campaigns
- Where possible, coordinate and develop labor solidarity work with an eye towards supporting projects like labor circles and the Jobs Program so that East Bay DSA members can be best positioned in the long term to aid in both external and internal union organizing