Two important essays on how caucuses can be destructive to DSA and to democracy. Recommended by a reader.
What Momentum caucus did to the Philadelphia chapter of DSA. Feel free to share widely and discuss.
Caucuses, Consequences, and Construction: Caucuses, Conflict, and Convention Reassessed
We are building something here. We will be building something for a long time. And a basic respect for that fact should be universal among members of the organization.
I want to write to you today about a document. It was a document written by someone who was very influential in my DSA chapter (Philly) until recently. It was initially a private document for the author’s caucus, but was unintentionally released by a separate caucus that viewed it as an essential training manual. The author’s caucus lost power in my chapter a few weeks ago after a years-long, incredibly bitter, and completely futile battle that destroyed many friendships, egos, and campaigns. It managed to produce not one, but two splinter organizations of Philly DSA. Many of the leading members of that caucus resigned from their positions in the organization in April, and it is unclear how many intend to return.
The document is many things. It is a perceptive analysis of the development of blocs in an unorganized assembly and the dynamics of competitive meetings. It is the articulation of a political strategy that had proved rather successful at the time of its writing and had two years of gas left in the tank afterward. It is (implicitly) a theory of what democracy is and how it should function in a socialist organization.
The document being examines.
Caucuses, Conflicts and Convention
The following are notes on the process of caucus formation, the expression of political conflict, the meaning of internal democracy and some suggestions for our convention. This memo does not cover the entire breadth of our work as a caucus but merely the functions of the caucus as a democratic tool, in other words the following memo does not discuss our outward organizing but instead how precisely we plan to win priorities around which we tend to organize. Much of what is below was informed by reading about intra-party caucuses in Latin America and Europe as well as some classic liberal democratic theory.