by José Pérez,
Atlanta DSA met Saturday, February 27; first meeting I've gone to in a few months. I did so specifically to oppose a resolution that at its core stipulated that:
Atlanta DSA will campaign to pass the PRO Act as our number one priority through May 2021.
I opposed it because right now there is a war raging in our state legislature over Republican voter-suppression bills. Dozens have been introduced because Republicans know that come 2022, they are likely to lose statewide again, and the way to prevent it is to try to stop "those people" from voting. DSA is abstaining from this fight, even though among those leading the resistance at the state house are actual DSA members, even if they're not too public about it (and given the DSA's reputation among Black and Latino activists, never mind the other political liabilities, I can hardly blame them). I just posted on twitter a thread explaining my position. Here it is:
As the battle against Republican voter suppression bills rages in the Georgia state legislature, today the Atlanta DSA voted to instead "campaign to pass the PRO Act as our number one priority through May 2021."
I say "instead" because I spoke against adopting that as "our number one priority," saying that the fight to defend the right to vote had to be our top priority. A supporter of the resolution spoke after me saying the Democratic Party was already taking care of that issue.
The PRO Act is a very good and necessary proposal but it is simply not an issue people are talking about or moving on in Georgia. By focusing on it, Atlanta DSA is, in effect, taking a dive, deserting the Black and Latino communities in the heat of battle.
And it is not just Atlanta: the DSA's national leadership has also has made the PRO Act "our top external priority," even though the huge political fights in the country are around Biden's Covid rescue bill, $15 and legalization of the undocumented.
In practice, this class reductionism is white supremacy in socialist drag. You prioritize "class wide" demands that also directly benefit anglos; but those that "only" address the specific needs of the most oppressed, like Black and Latino communities, go to the back of the bus
Moreover, there is a total disconnect between the DSA and the democratic socialist movement's real national political leaders, Bernie in the Senate and the squad in the House, especially AOC. They support the PRO Act but that is not a central battle they are waging right now.
And this is a repeat of what happened in November, when Bernie campaigned for Biden and DSA did not. And it was just repeated in the GA runoff: AOC endorsed Ossoff, and DSA would not put his name on DSA's canvassing palm card.
Is DSA becoming a bait-and-switch fraud? People join inspired by Bernie or AOC but then chapters like Atlanta follow a different, sectarian policy. Result? Atlanta has maybe 2,000 members, less than 100 came to a Saturday afternoon zoom meeting.
I honestly believe that almost certainly the DSA is headed towards a catastrophic explosion, and I'm thinking perhaps that would be preferable, compared to it becoming a socialist sect, given the size, influence and resources it now has.
I honestly believe that unless it changes course, the DSA might be headed towards a catastrophic explosion as happened to SDS a half century ago, and over exactly the same issues.
José Pérez, Atlanta
Another view of the vote.
At the Atlanta DSA meeting yesterday I spoke out and voted in favor of making the PRO act a priority for Atlanta DSA. I did so for the following reasons.
First, the PRO act would do much to increase union power in representation elections and collective bargaining. The act provides for serious penalties for violations of worker rights, ends captive audience meetings, prevents the replacement of workers on strike, prohibits the misclassification of workers as independent contractors, overrides right-to-work laws, and removes restrictions on boycotts and picketing in support of other workers.
Second, Atlanta DSA members were already actively engaged in support of PRO since one of Georgia's Democratic members of Congress had voted against it. Working groups targeted this rep over the past month with a blizzard of calls urging support of PRO and made contacts with unions who were lobbying the rep as well.
Third, the chapter was intent on building relationships with unions thru joint work. The labor working group had initiated programs on labor history, begun planning a labor film program, surveyed its members about their work and union affiliation, organized industry circles for teachers, nonprofit and digital workers.
Finally, the chapter would not be able to provide added value as a separate organization in taking on voter suppression. With Tracey Abrams organizing network and Coalition for a Peoples' Agenda doing the critical heavy work, the best that DSAers could do would be to volunteer in their organizations.
The discussion on the resolution at the meeting was open. Only one person spoke against it. The vote in support was near unanimous. The chapter also endorsed one member who is running for Atlanta Council, heard reports from the Afro-socialist caucus, defund the police working group and the social event "eat drink and be Marxist." I am impressed with the work of this newly elected chapter leadership.