Our first priority should be membership growth

  • Statement about: Jovanka Beckles and Gayle McLaughlin
  • For these candidates: I support a minimal endorsement, without a commitment to "boots on the ground" support from DSA.
  • Summary: We should endorse these anti-corporate candidates, but we need to discuss the value of our time and resources

Written by East Bay DSA member Charlie H.

Our chapter has the opportunity to endorse two candidates with a commitment to working-class interests and the fight against corporate power, and, in so doing, to forge an alliance with a successful grassroots organization with whom we share many goals. We should seize this opportunity to grow our movement, while also examining the allocation of our limited resources: a choice between "limited" and "strong" support for these campaigns is too vague.

Our straw poll demonstrated a positive, even overwhelming showing in favor of endorsement, so not much needs to be said on that question beyond, "these are candidates that merit our support given their policy positions, and we should deepen our relationship with the Richmond Progressive Alliance (RPA) given their record of success." Concerns regarding accountability have been insufficiently articulated and should be rejected. Some members have suggested that we ought to build a relationship with RPA while simultaneously withholding our endorsement of it's candidates: this approach hardly seems conducive to building comradeship.

Therefore, the question of the level of our support for Gayle and Jovanka comes to the foreground. As a preliminary, it must be stated that our vote should not move forward without an explanation from leadership (and potentially others) of what, exactly, strong support of these candidates entails. Perhaps leaving the details to leadership is a necessity of the craft of organizing; if that is the case, so be it, but, if not, members deserve the ability to make an informed decision.

The "Great Question" now facing DSA around the country is, of course, what's next? What do we do given the real (if cresting) surge of support for DSA and socialism in general. I would suggest that membership growth should be our goal and metric, now, and probably for several years to come; therefore, our own initiatives should be the focus of our limited resources. Electoral coordination with RPA will yield positive outcomes, but it should not be our first priority – and thus we should not commit boots on the ground without understanding how such a commitment affects our own projects.

We need to show that DSA is a robust force for good at all times and for all communities, not merely within the confines of one election cycle or another.

To that end, let me share from the statement of the Communist Caucus (of which I am not a member) the following: "Building working class power requires us to understand our collective worries, desires, and needs...We have to retain an outward-looking stance if we want to grow and develop solidarities through the working class. As our class gains a shared sense of trust and organizational strength, we will build a path to victory." We are still very much in the phase of building trust and strength. We should prioritize our work on single payer, and we should undertake new efforts that address working class worries, by, for example, organizing tenants.

East Bay DSA should endorse Gayle and Jovanka because there are political and material benefits in doing so. However, our resources are limited, and so the balance of our time should be focused on the continuing work to support single payer, and on practical initiatives to spread our message, build working class power, and directly grow the membership of our chapter. Some members have stated that endorsements are in conflict with these objectives; while I disagree with that assessment, it is clear that these two candidates should not become focal points of our organization.

The statement above is the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the opinions of East Bay DSA, its local council, or its members.