A majoritarian strategy
On March 24 The DSA North Star Caucus for Socialism and Democracy emailed our 350 Caucus members asking them to spread the word for DSA members to sign the Convention Resolution Against the Ultra-Rightwritten by North Star members, as well as a member-authored Bylaws Amendment titled the DSA 2023 Big Tent Bylaw Amendment. For typable links to each, see here: Ultra-Right: https://tinyurl.com/dsa23UR and here: Big Tent: https://tinyurl.com/dsa23BT.
Over 300 signatures are needed before April 15; please do not delay!
Together, the resolution and the bylaws amendment will help build DSA as a democratic socialist organization which can unite the majority of people to oppose the ultra-right in this nation. We can do so in a way consistent with a Purpose which has attracted well over 100,000 people to join DSA over the years.
Earlier on this blog we posted the text of the Uniting Against the Ultra-Right resolution. Both the resolution and the amendment were written by North Star members and approved by our Steering Committee. But any DSA member in good standing can sign on to ensure that they are debated at the 2023 Convention, without necessarily supporting our Statement of Principles.
The Big Tent Amendment was motivated by a disturbing tendency among hardline tendencies within DSA to surrender the urge to purge our ranks of those who may disagree with one or another of our national or chapter positions or may say or do thinks the hardliners feel are inconsistent with what they feel are the principles and/or policies of the organization. Our Constitution and Bylaws do not specify what those principles and policies are, yet the expulsion clause of the Bylaws current permits expulsion by either the NPC or by chapters for “substantial disagreement with the principles or policies of the organization.”
This can lead to among DSA members who hold public office or are seeking office or are active in their chapters or in mass organizations that things they say or do can result in charges being brought against them, leading to possible expulsion. This can create an atmosphere that inhibits debate and disagreement within DSA. A number of us concluded that the DSA Constitution’s Statement of Purpose is the best standard for defining our principles. It is re-printed below in the Rationale for the Bylaws Amendment. By striking out “principles or policies of the organization” and substituting DSA Constitution Article II Purpose we hope to reinforce the democratic nature of our organization. Members who violate specific policies designed to provide for a democratic DSA—such as theft or misuse of membership records, or violations of HGO policies could still face appropriate discipline or be expelled on the grounds already in the Bylaws: “if they consistently engage in undemocratic, disruptive behavior.”
But dissent for particular platform planks, convention resolutions, or local statements would not be grounds for expulsion unless they rose to the level of demonstrating substantial disagreement with the purpose of the organization. The Big Tent Amendment makes no changes in other provisions of Section 3 Expulsion, some of which have long been controversial. But we think that the minor clarification we propose deserves support from across the spectrum of views within DSA. Following is the text:
Text of the DSA 2023 Big Tent Bylaws Amendment
Authors: Bill Barclay (Ventura County), Duane Campbell (Sacramento), Michael Dover (Cleveland), John Heppen (Twin-Cities), Alexander Hernández (Pasco-Hernando), Michele Rossi (Philadelphia), Mark Schaeffer (Albany NY)
As a democratic socialist organization, DSA members should always have the privilege and even responsibility to debate or publicly dissent from specific convention resolutions, NPC statements or local statements.
The DSA Bylaws Article I Section 3 allows expulsion of members in “substantial disagreement” with “principles or policies of the organization”, but these principles and policies are not specifically defined anywhere in the DSA Constitution or Bylaws.
The DSA Constitution Article II Purpose states these principles at length: "We are socialists because we reject an economic order based on private profit, alienated labor, gross inequalities of wealth and power, discrimination based on race, sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, disability status, age, religion, and national origin, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo. We are socialists because we share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality and non-oppressive relationships. We are socialists because we are developing a concrete strategy for achieving that vision, for building a majority movement that will make democratic socialism a reality in the United States of America. We believe that such a strategy must acknowledge the class structure of U.S. society and that this class structure means that there is a basic conflict of interest between those sectors with enormous economic power and the vast majority of the population."
These principles have motivated well over 100,000 people to join DSA over the years. It is important that DSA retains our character as a large democratic socialist organization with a variety of points of view.
The DSA Bylaws shall be amended as follows:[to substitute DSA Constitution Article II Purpose for “principles and policies of the organization”; no other changes to existing Article 1]
DSA Bylaws, Article I (Membership), Section 3 (Expulsion):
Members can be expelled if they are found to be in substantial disagreement with the [Add: DSA Constitution Article II Purpose] [Delete: principles or policies of the organization] or if they consistently engage in undemocratic, disruptive behavior or if they are under the discipline of any self-defined democratic-centralist organization. Members facing expulsion must receive written notice of charges against them and must be given the opportunity to be heard before the NPC or a subcommittee thereof, appointed for the purpose of considering expulsion.
North Star caucus members
antiracismdsa (blog of Duane Campbell)
Hatuey's Ashes (blog of José G. Pérez)
Authory and Substack of Max Sawicky
Online University of the Left
In These Times
The American Prospect
Black Agenda Report
Dollars and Sense
Working Families Party
Poor People's Campaign
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
Progressive Democrats of America
Democracy for America
Black Lives Matter
Movement for Black Lives
The Women's March
Jewish Voice for Peace
National Abortion Rights Action League
National Organization for Women
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights