Conflict is inevitable, but acting in bad faith is a choice. Too often it is that choice that renders locals, national bodies, and even the NPC, at times useless. This was the case of the Immigrants Rights Working Group under my leadership. The intention in sharing these reflections is in hope of preventing further harm to the organization by other bad faith actors.
Political conflict should be expected and encouraged, but always with a goal towards growth. When working through political conflict, and hoping to grow through struggle, growth becomes unobtainable when bad faith is involved. Hold no grudges, but if a pattern emerges, the issue must be addressed.
We know bad faith is a tool used by the enemy to undermine our work. The ramifications of bad faith actors can ultimately render our movement useless, that’s why it’s important to identify and address.
In the case of the IRWG, bad faith actors withheld information, overstated and fabricated harm towards achieving outcomes. A grievance should have been filed to address the problematic behavior, instead it was glossed over. No amount of substantive work will distract a bad faith actor; therefore the immediate response should be to address the behavior, and if left unchanged, root it out.
Debate, Dissent, and Overstating Harm
Points of contention included subsuming the IRWG under IC, the Platform, and the Bowman Affair. The matters all debated, discussed, and believed resolved by convention and the IRWG itself. Yet throughout these discussions, information was withheld and overstating harm was repeatedly weaponized, derailing any work. (Multiple instances documented on IRWG listservs.)
On the Bowman Affair, the issue was debated at length with the IRWG SC voting down signing onto the BDS WG letter. At the following IRWG general meeting, the WG voted against revisiting the question. Several attempts were made by IRWG SC members to collaborate with the expel campaign without consulting the IRWG. When discussed, bad faith accusations were raised making efforts to reach resolutions difficult, but not impossible.
On the Platform. The first draft was released with no input sought from the IRWG. This draft was criticized to varying degrees by members of the IRWG SC. One particular member condemned the proposed platform as a “white supremacist piece of shit” for its exclusion of Peoples movements, particularly the exclusion of Latinos. Going further, condemning the NPC for even bringing the proposed platform to convention, declaring, “This text should be thrown out. It is no good. It cannot be amended, corrected or improved. If it is put up for a vote I want an additional option to yes or no: fuck you.”
This polemic against the platform was followed by overstating harm and an NPC decision to intervene in the Working Group.
The same kind of weaponization took place on the national Discussion Boards; seeing the same critique of the platform result in the suspension of an IRWG cochair.
During the 2020 term, the issue of subsuming the WG under the IC became a point of contention between the IRWG and the NPC liaisons.
The matter was brought before convention with resolution #1 On the Defense of Immigrants and Refugees, which reaffirms IRWG work and commitment to building power with working class communities of color currently outside of DSA. A clear message to the incoming NPC to take seriously the immigrants’ rights struggle. The resolution passed.
Following convention’s affirmation, the IRWG appeared to be on track for a successful term with a surge of applicants for the SC election. IRWG went from not enough candidates to fill the 9 co chair positions in 2020 to 21 candidates in 2021.
A new SC was elected. Work progressed, amending the WG bylaws to conform with convention resolution #1 and NPC recommendation to adopt standardized guidelines for national committees and working groups. To do so the WG work plan from resolution #1 was incorporated into the bylaws. With respect to standardized guidelines, the WG NPC liaison was made a full member of the WG steering committee.
Looking towards resource allocations, IRWG submitted a budget to the NPC via Budget and Finance Committee. One item: Earmark for potential delegation to Mexico or IRWG Conference, as this became a focus from the WG passing a Proposal on Mexico, Mexican immigrants, Mexican Americans, US Socialism and beyond on 2/17.
Subsequent dates are each 2022.
Members of the IRWG SC that we’re also members of the IC discussed a Brazil Delegation Proposal with the NPC a few days later on 2/25. This was never brought to the IRWG and was not disclosed until 3/29 when the NPC SC meeting minutes were made available.
The conflict instigated in bad faith culminated with an emergency meeting packed by allies of the bad faith actors on 3/10/2022. ( These persons were not members of the Working Group prior to the call. Since then the IRWG membership listserv was shutdown and the WG has become inactive.
It took a few bad faith actors with 17 collaborators to overturn a convention resolution and stop the work of what had been relative to the others, a thriving national body with little resources dedicated to it.
Dissent should be expected in a healthy democratic organization. What should not be expected nor tolerated is acting in bad faith. After all, comradeship is built through trust in struggle. We cannot survive when bad faith actors operate without consequence. The truth has been before the NPC, but the question remains, will the NPC act? And if not, is there a bloc preventing any action? Delay is actively harming the organization; the result of the IRWG does not have to be duplicated yet another time.
Alexander Hernandez |
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