At the East Bay DSA 2019 convention, the membership voted for the following priorities resolution with amendments. This document serves as the base for guiding the work of the chapter engages in until the next convention.
Drafted by an appointed group of organizers across our chapter and approved unanimously by our Steering Committee, this 2019 East Bay Democratic Socialists of America Priorities Resolution proposes a strategy for what we can best do in our 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.
Capitalism is ruining the world for the working-class majority. An international ruling class has become wealthier than any in history, living rich on investments, ecological pillage, and the labor of exploited workers. Meanwhile the vast majority of people--the working class--must work for those capitalists to survive, or depend on someone who does. Our majority is every year more squeezed into desperation by inadequate wages, manipulative debt, and the crushing costs of privatized education and healthcare. 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. As centuries of for-profit ecological wreckage bring us close to the utter collapse of ecosystems on which billions of lives depend, the ultra-wealthy smash and grab all they can.
In response to this barbarism of the elite few, working people in our country are uniting and organizing on a scale not seen in decades. Led by teachers, more workers went on strike last year than for thirty two years, and this strike wave is only building. Over thirteen million people rallied to the 2016 campaign of Bernie Sanders, helping set off a wave of left challenges to neoliberal political elites that have redefined the political terrain. Globally, left challenges have sparked mass movements and gained power--or come incredibly close--in Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and more. The growth of the Democratic Socialists of America to 60,000 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.
Out of the capitalist-devastated world of the present, what is the democratic socialist world we seek to build? We organize for a world where working people democratically control the economy and government alike. We organize for a society free of oppressions of race, gender, sexuality, and borders. We organize for a world where essential needs of survival--education, healthcare, housing, and a healthy environment--are never rationed for profit, but instead provided securely for all, so that all can flourish. This is the socialist world we want.
We are gathered here in East Bay DSA because we share the commitment to win a democratic socialist world. East Bay DSA is an organization welcome to all people dedicated to these principles:
- A commitment to building the united power of the working class to overcome capitalism and achieve an ecologically sustainable democratic socialism.
- A commitment to ending every oppression of race, gender, religion, ability, national origin, sexuality, and all other forms of social domination.
- A commitment to internationalism and recognition of the rights of all people to be free from imperialism, colonialism, ecological devastation, and war.
The working class comprises a supermajority of our society. We are oppressed, exploited, and immiserated by capitalists. We produce capitalists’ profits and make society run. For those reasons, the working class is the only social force with both an interest in fighting for deep social transformation and the leverage to win it, through strikes and organized shutdowns that stop the engine of profit. To win democratic socialism, it is absolutely essential for DSA to help build a strong and militant organized labor movement.
Therefore, we believe all our work should be oriented to the overall strategy of class struggle by mass action. This means bringing millions of working-class people into class consciousness and organized struggle, through mass organizing tactics.
By class consciousness, we mean both an awareness that ruling class profit depends on working class labor and suffering, as well as a political orientation toward a socialist program as the necessary way to end that system.
By organized struggle, we mean active participation in coordinated, democratic organizations that can effectively strike on labor, challenge ruling elites, popularize socialist ideas, and otherwise disrupt the capitalist order.
This strategy means focusing East Bay DSA's work on mass organizing tactics: tactics aimed at helping build the participation and socialist ideas of working-class people currently disengaged from political organizing. This can include tactics like neighborhood canvassing, mass mobilizations, militant labor organizing, strike support, and insurgent electoral campaigns. These tactics are designed to unite working people to have mass leverage against bosses, landlords, and repressive state institutions.
Priority Work Areas
We understand that a united, multiracial working class poses the biggest threat to capital. Labor creates all wealth, and by withholding labor, we not only stop the flow of profit, disrupt business as usual, and force concessions from the bosses--we also show that labor is entitled to all it creates. The labor movement holds the most potential for the exercise of working-class power. However, after decades of unrelenting attacks from the capitalist class and the predominance of a conservative strategy within the labor movement that favors top-down staff-driven initiatives, it is on weak footing overall. As socialists, we believe that unions should exist to facilitate workers’ ability to wage class struggle against the bosses, not to mediate between management and workers on a fee-for-service basis. In order for the labor movement to realize its potential, unionized workers in all sectors must self-organize with their coworkers to get their unions into good fighting shape, by strengthening democracy, building multiracial solidarity, and adopting a militant organizing approach based in the realities of shop floor conditions. By strengthening our existing unions, we can also organize more unorganized workers into unions.
East Bay DSA, particularly through our Labor Committee, will oversee and engage members around these five primary areas of labor organizing, emphasizing an orientation toward rank-and-file power:
- Develop meaningful relationships with local labor organizations that are politically progressive and democratic, and which empower and activate their rank-and-file members.
- Support unions and rank-and-file activists organizing around the Green New Deal and demanding a Just Transition for workers and communities most affected by climate change and by the conversion to an economy powered by renewable energy.
- Support and develop meaningful relationships with workplace leaders and rank-and-file activists both in- and outside of East Bay DSA who are engaged in external and internal union organizing with trainings and mentorship; encourage these leaders to join and participate in East Bay DSA, and to draw socialist conclusions from their struggles; and support East Bay DSA members who are looking for jobs in unionized workplaces. The aim of these efforts should be to help cohere a “militant minority” of class-conscious rank-and-file activists who can challenge conservative, undemocratic union leaders where they exist, and transform their unions into fighting, democratic organizations.
- Educate East Bay DSA members and the broader public on the labor movement: its history, its present, and the challenges and opportunities ahead. This includes working to fight intersectional oppressions and dispel the notion that workers ought to be pitted against each other along lines of nationality, race, gender, ability, and sexuality.
- Continue building East Bay DSA’s capacity to support local labor contract campaigns and escalation strategies, especially around strike support, and continue orienting our work around key sectors like education and healthcare, which we understand to be strategic sites of militancy in terms of their ability to bargain for the common good, to fight the forces of privatization and the commodification of the public sphere, and to coalesce a multi-racial working-class movement which coheres around socialist demands.
ii. Class Struggle Electoral Work
We understand that elections are the time when most working people pay attention to politics. We know we won’t elect our way to socialism. Rather, we resolve to engage in class-struggle electoral politics that inspires working people to demand more, popularizes a democratic socialist political outlook, and sets the stage for revolutionary change. Furthermore, because we reject the idea that socialists and working people will ever capture the capitalist-controlled Democratic Party, we seek to build independent power through class-struggle elections. The East Bay DSA 2020 Super Committee shall:
- Endorse and support only class-struggle candidates, defined as candidates who:
- Raise the expectations of ordinary working people, unite them against a common capitalist enemy, and promote mass working-class movements outside the state;
- Help to achieve our campaign goals;
- Take no corporate money;
- Champion East Bay DSA’s agitational campaigns.
- Use the electoral campaigns that we engage in to meet the following goals:
- Spread class consciousness and build the power and militancy of the working class;
- Build DSA by engaging our organization’s broad layer of membership and scaling up our organizational capacity;
- Make and potentially win massive demands like M4A, free college, and a GND, and elect democratic socialist officials to champion them; and
- Extend and strengthen relationships with crucial coalition partners, like progressive and working-class political organizations and organized labor.
- Sharpen conflicts between establishment party elites and working-class voters, building toward the ultimate goal of establishing an independent workers’ party.
- Prioritize a Bernie Sanders campaign for President as our best opportunity in 2019-2020 to reach millions of people, advance working-class politics, and build a mass movement.
- Reject attempts to enter the capitalist-controlled Democratic Party with the goal of capturing it, while maintaining flexibility to use the Democratic Party ballot line where strategic.
iii. Agitational Campaigns:
Working people want transformative policies, and capitalist elites do everything to stand in our way. We know we likely won't be able to win these policies in the next few years. But by campaigning for popular socialist policies, we can agitate working people to unify against the powerful capitalists blocking what we need. With inclusive campaigns, we will agitate for truly universal policies that include the specific, targeted elements needed to provide for those long excluded by divisions of race, gender, and other oppressions. In the face of capitalist devastation of the planet and imminent climate catastrophe, we will seek to agitate for all of these campaigns connected through the program of a socialist Green New Deal.
Our agitation seeks to build socialist class consciousness across our own members and the greater working class; build the membership and capacity of East Bay DSA; and build coalitions of working-class organizations for a socialist program. For all of these agitational campaigns, we will use mass-oriented tactics including public educational events, propaganda, and demonstrations/direct actions with the potential to reach and inspire a broad audience.
a) Social Housing
Social housing is the only systemic solution to end devastating housing displacement due to historic colonization of indigenous land, racial segregation, and real estate speculation. We demand social housing that is universally available, racially and income integrated, democratically run, ecologically designed, high quality, permanently affordable and off the private market. This goal will take a mass movement of working-class tenants, homeowners, and houseless people in solidarity fighting the California real estate lobby and corporate landlords. To agitate for this vision, East Bay DSA and our Social Housing Committee will:
- Work on strategic near-term housing campaigns in coalition with working-class organizations, as decided by the Social Housing Committee, including local rent control campaigns, statewide bills for strong rent control and tenant protections, strategic direct actions, and electoral efforts to create taxes on speculators and the wealthy, in order to disrupt speculation, spread socialist housing ideas, and seize power from landlords and capitalists.
- Popularize our vision of social housing through community education efforts, joining coalitions for the near-term campaigns above, supporting DSA chapters across the state to advocate for social housing, and working with the Labor and Racial Solidarity Committee to develop broader working-class agitation for social housing.
b) Green New Deal
All of our campaigns are connected through the program of a socialist Green New Deal. We are committed to working within the rising movements for climate and environmental justice. In doing so, we will agitate for socialist solutions to the ecological crisis, and seek to build a more broadly compelling and effective socialist program in the process. East Bay DSA and our Green New Deal Campaign will work to:
- Popularize the demand for a socialist Green New Deal aligned with the national DSA Ecosocialist Working Group Guiding Principles, including a Just Transition for workers and communities most affected by climate change and by conversion to an economy powered by renewable energy, a unionized job guarantee, full decarbonization by 2030, and public and worker control of energy and water systems.
- Build meaningful relationships with groups that are organizing and agitating for grassroots, bottom up solutions to environmental problems as well as groups demanding state and federal action. Prioritize relationships and coalition work with frontline, working class organizations and communities fighting environmental racism in the Bay Area. Build connections to Green New Deal campaigns locally, statewide, and nationally.
- Agitate for public and worker ownership of Pacific Gas & Electric, as a pressing first step towards ending the company's deadly, for-profit disasters, and winning social ownership of energy in a Green New Deal. Collaborate with other DSA chapters and working groups across the country engaged in campaigns to evaluate our strategies collectively.
c) Medicare for All
The decommodification of health insurance will be one of the largest transfers of economic power in US history from private to public hands. Medicare for All will enable working people to fight for more ambitious demands at work and beyond, once insurance is no longer contingent on employment. East Bay DSA is committed to fighting for true Medicare for All, based on DSA’s five principles; that means a single, universal program that’s free at the point of service, offers comprehensive coverage, and a jobs initiative and severance for those affected by the transition to a public single-payer system. East Bay DSA and our Medicare for All Committee will:
- Organize with DSA’s National Medicare for All Committee to push for federal single-payer legislation like H.R. 1384 and Bernie Sanders’s senate bill that meet DSA’s five principles, and continue to build the movement for Medicare for All that will be necessary to win it under a possible Bernie Sanders presidency.
- Campaign for Bernie Sanders and other candidates who champion single-payer in connection with agitation against insurance and pharmaceutical companies to build class consciousness around the issue.
- Agitate for reproductive justice and sexual health as additional uncompromised principles of M4A. This includes codifying and expanding abortion access, free of stigma, by overturning the Hyde Amendment, ensuring access to contraception, STI treatment and LBGTQ health care, including gender affirming care for trans people, and prenatal and maternity care, free of the pressures of a for-profit system.
d) Public Education
2018 saw the most workers on strike in over 30 years, almost overwhelmingly due to the teachers' strike wave. The capitalist class has been targeting public education for years, both through austerity agendas and ruthless, dishonest charter school expansions. But this attack has awakened a mass insurgency from below, like the one we've helped support here in the East Bay. In order to develop this strategic uprising and meet thousands of workers at their current point of struggle, East Bay DSA and our Public Education Committee will:
- Fight for fully-funded, integrated and high-quality public education, from universal child care and pre-K to tuition-free college, and ensure that this funding is paid for via progressive taxation of the wealthy elite.
- Organize around teachers’ and students’ economic demands, such as wage increases, as well as extra-economic demands, such as bargaining for the common good, more student support, an end to public school closures, an end to discriminatory and racist treatment of students of color, and a moratorium on charter schools and other billionaire-backed privatization efforts.
- Support local educators’ unions like the OEA around their class-struggle campaigns, and infuse this support with socialist analysis so that workers are encouraged to draw socialist conclusions from these campaigns.
As socialists, we believe that our final aims in the United States can only be realized if socialism is built across the entire world, and that the imperialist world system led by the US capitalist class is a major obstacle to this goal. To push back against this global order, East Bay DSA will:
- Learn from and seek connections for solidarity with democratic socialist, climate justice, and workers’ movements around the world, particularly those in countries harmed by American imperialism, and make agitational connections between East Bay DSA’s campaigns and related struggles abroad.
- Fight racist efforts to criminalize immigrant communities, and oppose exploitative liberal and imperialist policies that, amplified by climate change, drive the mass uprooting of working people from their homes in the global South.
- Use our 2020 electoral campaigns to expose dividing lines between socialists and liberal imperialists on international crises that gain mass attention, and consider joining coalition campaigns that advance socialist internationalism and climate justice and push back on new imperialist aggressions abroad.
iv. Grow East Bay DSA:
a) Member Engagement
In order to grow East Bay DSA into a mass, multiracial, working-class movement, we must empower our members by both providing welcoming meeting spaces and leadership development that supports all members to organize in their workplaces and communities. Our priorities to make East Bay DSA a vibrant and inclusive organization include:
- Make East Bay DSA events and meetings safely accessible to all by offering child care whenever possible, prioritizing venues that are public transportation accessible and accessible for people with disabilities, and expanding languages in which we communicate amongst membership and externally beyond verbal Standard English.
- Support our new and inactive members through the East Bay DSA Membership Engagement Committee, with targeted outreach efforts such as our mobilizers program, new member handbook, and Intro to DSA meetings, as well as through more general events geared toward fostering chapter-wide camaraderie, such as socials and fundraisers.
- Prioritize sustained and open leadership development through the East Bay DSA Membership Engagement Committee, in coordination with other committee and campaign leaders, with trainings, organized mentorship, and skill workshops in order to support all of our members in their development as leading socialist organizers.
b) Diversity & Solidarity
East Bay DSA cannot become a mass working-class organization without working to address the divisive and destructive force of white supremacism in our society. We seek to build the leadership of a membership that draws from the entirety of the working class, across races, languages, and economic sectors. To that end, East Bay DSA and all our committees will commit to the following priorities for the coming year:
- Work towards increasing racial working-class diversity in East Bay DSA, particularly through the Racial Solidarity Committee's projects to: (a) research the history of multiracial socialist organizing and offer education on these lessons; (b) develop a plan for identifying and welcoming new members of color and for retaining existing members of color; and (c) propose and organize strategic interventions by East Bay DSA in future upsurges and ongoing campaigns that will increase our credibility as a vehicle for the interests of working class people of color.
- Build relationships with racially-diverse labor, environmental justice, and progressive working-class organizations, participate in solidarity campaigns with workers in lower-wage industries, and experiment with targeted recruitment campaigns.
- Support and seek to expand YDSA branches at community colleges with student bodies representative of the multiracial working class.
- Develop the organization's membership and activities in more heavily working-class regions of the East Bay.
c) Political Education
Building a democratic socialist mass movement requires inclusive, accessible political education that addresses both our chapters' strategic questions and the pressing concerns of the broader working class. To achieve this goal, East Bay DSA will commit to the following priorities:
- Continue and expand the successful Socialist Night School program of the Political Education Committee, while seeking to increase the racial, gender, and national diversity of assigned authors, to draw on organizing knowledge and experience of a wide swath of DSA members and other working-class activists, and to expand our programming to feature issues relevant to our priority campaigns.
- Host educational events oriented toward reaching audiences that wouldn’t otherwise hear about East Bay DSA, through the Political Education Committee.
- Develop the further incorporation of political education and discussion into committee meetings throughout the chapter.
- Initiate and participate in town halls, teach-ins, and other coalition events where DSA speakers share space with others activist groups to address issues confronting socialism and the working class movement.