(We urge all DSA members to sign on to this letter. A link for that purpose is here.)
We, the undersigned DSA members, support the NPC’s unfortunate but necessary decision to decharter the BDS Working Group and move DSA’s critical BDS and Palestinian solidarity work to the International Committee. The BDS Working Group’s actions, as detailed by DSA’s National Political Committee, undermine legitimate decisions made by the NPC and are straightforwardly antidemocratic. Whatever one’s position on the calls to expel Jamaal Bowman from DSA—indeed, on any of the hotly contested internal debates within the organization— national working groups and other similar entities must be subject to democratic governance.
DSA’s working groups and committees do crucial work carrying out democratically decided priorities, resolutions, and strategies. Some of these bodies are appointed by the NPC; others are self-selecting; all are subordinate administrative bodies that do not have the right to set DSA’s policy on behalf of our over 90,000 members, or to make strategic and tactical decisions that directly undermine the elected leadership of the organization. While informal caucuses and individual members are rightly empowered to dissent from official organizational decisions, the use of official working group resources to undermine DSA’s official positions damages our capacity to function as a coherent political entity and makes us vulnerable to attacks from our enemies. As DSA matures as an organization, we must guard against the possibility of small factions co-opting and weaponizing official DSA bodies to undermine the democratic integrity of the organization. That is why the NPC’s decision to create social media guidelines for all national working groups, committees, and similar bodies was one we welcome; that is why every other DSA national working group, committee, and similar body accepted those guidelines and timely shared social media passwords to staff, as mandated by those guidelines.
What is apparent from the NPC’s statement is that some leaders and some members of the BDS Working Group have taken advantage of people’s genuine devotion to the struggle for Palestinian liberation to paint a false narrative about DSA, its leaders, and those members that have political, strategic, or tactical disagreements with them. The BDS working group members have not been elected by DSA as a whole; they have not been appointed by the NPC or any other generally elected body; they are a self-selecting group of volunteers. Any such group must be subject to elected leadership or we cannot claim to be a democratically run organization. The official BDS working group Twitter account has made posts attacking individual members for participating in chapter debates, endorsing particular NPC candidates, publicly questioning the motives of DSA members who have disagreements with them, and waging a campaign to undermine the NPC’s decision not to expel Jamaal Bowman. Simply put, it is not up to any national working group whether a member should be expelled; it is the decision of the democratically elected NPC. In the face of this repeated unwillingness to respect the democratic norms of the organization, the NPC had no real choice but to take action.
DSA is full of committed members who are dedicated to working democratically and cooperatively to build a mass movement capable of winning socialism and international liberation. Wherever we stand on the question of expelling Jamaal Bowman, we have to be able to disagree without resorting to these destructive tactics. There is a cost to such disruption that goes beyond publicly embarrassing DSA—it takes time, energy, attention, and capacity away from DSA’s volunteer membership and leadership when they are forced to continually relitigate democratic decisions and defend themselves against bad faith attacks. In this critical historical moment, it is important for leaders and rank and file members to stand up to undemocratic actions, both for the health of our organization and the success of the socialist movement.
SIGN ON TO SUPPORT
For background information on these events see
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
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