B&R at the 2023 YDSA National Convention

B&R’s youth section played an important role at the 2023 YDSA National Convention. Here’s some highlights from their speeches.


Last month, YDSA, DSA’s youth section, met for our annual national convention to debate and vote on the future of our organization and the youth socialist movement. YDSA has been a central priority of Bread & Roses since our inception, recognizing its strategic role in rebuilding the socialist and labor movements in the United States. Bread & Roses has played an important role in building YDSA, and in mentoring new generations of YDSA organizers and chapters.

At the 2023 YDSA National Convention, Bread & Roses organized for — and won — an exciting vision for YDSA. We recommitted to the rank-and-file strategy, committing to build the national student-worker movement and recruiting young people to take strategic union jobs. We established YDSA’s orientation toward the 2024 elections, presenting ourselves as an alternative to the two capitalist parties, and committed to provide chapters resources to work on class-struggle elections. We put forward a strategy of independent mass action for fighting the right on our campuses, and doubled down on internal political education, mentorship, and a focus on public universities, community colleges, and commuter schools.

And we requested more resources from DSA in the form of staff, a national budget, chapter grants and dues sharing, and stipends for national leaders, that the DSA Convention subsequently affirmed, to carry out this important work. With these expanded resources, our candidates for YDSA’s National Coordinating Committee (NCC) argued they’d build a national YDSA that organizes its members through one on one mentorship and doesn’t rely on shallow mobilizing.

Our members gave speeches throughout the week, campaigning for NCC, and debating resolutions and amendments on the floor. We’ve compiled some highlights of our NCC and floor speeches. The selections below have been lightly edited for length and clarity. — Oren Schweitzer

Speeches for National Coordinating Committee

Taylor Clark (UC Santa Barbara)

Speech for YDSA Co-Chair

From before I can remember my life has been plagued by a suburban malaise — from wondering why my disabled, uncle had to move back in with his parents after losing his home in 2008, to marveling at how the wealthiest nation on the planet has a healthcare system that’s been extorting my diabetic sister for medicine she needs to survive since she was 12 years old. Bernie’s campaigns gave names and faces to direct that shapeless, yet righteous anger that had filled me since my sister’s diagnosis. His loss was profoundly heartbreaking.

YDSA took me in and put me back together, and gave me a new outlet for my revolutionary fervor. It was only upon becoming a socialist that I realized that the problem with our society isn’t just Joe Biden or Jeff Bezos — it is capitalism.

I’m running for co-chair of YDSA because in my time as an organizer I’ve learned that there truly is no salvation for working people beyond our own power — and that it will have to be our generation that succeeds where our parents failed. It’s up to us to show working people our extraordinary power, to rebuild the labor movement and crush the two-party duopoly. Bernie’s loss left the left in the wilderness, our job is to lead ourselves out. 

Winnie M. (New York University)

Speech for YDSA Co-Chair

YDSA very quickly became my political home and all of a sudden, through a rushed COVID campaign, I finally found a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Just because I walked up to a nice girl with a cardboard Bernie cutout, I gained hope for the world and in a movement of people excited like me. YDSA is the most beautiful gift I’ve ever been given, much less over a plastic fold up table. And ever since, I have wanted nothing more than to give this gift to as many people as possible. 

YDSA is the most strategic and sustainable part of the organized socialist movement as it exists today. We have the ability to do mass political education, recruit a wide range of people to take up jobs in strategic industries, and develop lifelong socialist organizers. Our membership is growing while DSA at large is stagnating and investing in the future of the socialist movement means investing in our flourishing YDSA.  

To grow in YDSA, we need to invest in YDSA — put our organizing at the forefront… of communications, of budget discussions, of everything. We cannot achieve this vision for our organization without fighting for it. I’m running for NCC because I want to fight for YDSA because this is my political home and I know there are tens of thousands of young people across the country ready to be organized by us if we can get the resources to reach them. We need to expand mentorship structures, our external communications, and our class-struggle electoral work. It’s time to step forward, meet the moment, and acknowledge the role we play in the broader socialist movement.

Allan Frasheri (University of Florida)

Speech for At-Large NCC Member

YDSA has two immediate term priorities: mass social movement organizing and student worker organizing. As young socialists on campuses we can organize mass action against the right by mobilizing students against the State and university administration. These are mass politicizing events

During the academic freedom protests at UF I learned that teachers have the power to fight against DeSantis’s authoritarian regime. Teachers have a power that students don’t: the ability to withhold their labor. This made me realize that education is a strategic sector in the fight for academic freedom and against fascism.

This past year, I took a job at my university’s dining hall and salted. Through this experience I learned that organizing my co-workers on the shop floor is what I wanted to do in life — live and breathe class-struggle. Be in the thickets of action. This is where I belong. 

We can inspire thousands of young socialists to take rank-and-file union jobs to create a militant labor movement which can build an independent working-class socialist party, take political power, rupture with capitalism, and build a better, more beautiful, more humane world that we all deep in our hearts know is possible. 

Erin Lawson (New York University)

Speech for At-Large NCC Member

I joined YDSA in the fall of 2020. My first year, I stood in solidarity with our striking graduate student union, where they won a historic contract. I was later elected into NYU YDSA’s organizing committee, where I served two terms. NYU ran a successful reproductive justice campaign where we demanded NYU provide free abortions to all students regardless of insurance status. Through this campaign, we were able to win material change for students while recruiting and mentoring many people, especially women and particularly women of color.

YDSA has changed the trajectory of my life. I entered college wanting to be a lawyer, but through attending the YDSA rank-and-file school, I decided I did not want socialism to be my “after work activity.” I did not want socialism and the future we are building to be something I did “on the side.” I wanted to dedicate my life to this work, and so I decided to become a rank-and-file teacher. YDSA has been so much more than just a school club; it has been my source of hope and light seeing all of you organize to make our world more fair and just. 

Speeches on Resolutions

Uma Clemenceau (UC Santa Barbara)

For “R11 YDSA Public Universities & Community Colleges Focus/Priority Resolution”. The resolution would devote increased resources, including a third staffer, toward public universities and community colleges.

The only way to broaden our base in the multi-racial working class is to actually build confidence in young organizers in these communities. Let’s meet them where they’re at: large public universities. 

We require more material resources and more staff to address obstacles inherent to our organizing — working students at these schools generally have less time to read up on theory and commit to high capacity organizing, which is why public school chapters make up the majority of YDSA chapters but are still underrepresented in national leadership.

The only solution is resources in the form of mentorship, a third staffer, and NCC attention to organizing on these campuses, which this resolution calls for. Public schools are strategic not only because they serve large working class communities, but also because their sheer size and situation in the public eye makes collective actions on these campuses mass political consciousness raising events. This resolution demands we orient away from self selection and toward prosperity for chapters at the most strategic schools. 

Erin Lawson (New York University)

Motivating the Bread & Roses resolution “R9: Fighting The Right Through Mass Action.” This resolution prioritizes building mass struggles on campus against the right in defense, and for the expansion of social rights.

Authoritarianism and the far right are militantly organized and are attacking women, people of color and the LGBT community. The overturning of Roe V. Wade was a radicalizing moment for so many people across the country and YDSA has the opportunity to capitalize on the political moment to radicalize more comrades in our fight. The Democratic Party and NGOs cannot fight back and they are complicit in the forces that oppress us. 

Social justice campaigns organized around reproductive, racial, and LGBTQ+ justice are strategic for two reasons. They win material change for us, the working class, and minorities. They’re also radicalizing campaigns and mentorship opportunities.

At  NYU YDSA, we ran a successful reproductive justice campaign over the course of the past academic year. We first started with a petition and started talking to our student media. We did public art, strategic letter writing, and we eventually occupied an NYU building to demand that NYU provide abortion and abortion pills for all students.

Margot Grotland (North Central High School)

For “R17 For Building the Youth Wing of a Socialist Party.” This resolution would begin transitioning YDSA from a student wing of DSA to a broader youth wing that includes young people off of campus.

I attend a large public high school, and many of my peers will not pursue higher education and will instead immediately enter the workforce. If we want to become the youth wing of a mass, working-class socialist party that has the power to achieve a rupture with capitalism, YDSA needs to be able to recruit young people regardless of whether they are students or not.

There are many young working-class people who are not students but we could recruit to our movement and would benefit from organizing within YDSA to develop their skills and participate in socialist political education

We’ve seen that many young people without chapters feel more comfortable joining YDSA over DSA, as we’ve seen high schoolers without chapters join local college’s YDSA chapters. This transition is strategic, young people who are not in school may be more likely to pursue the rank and file strategy and organize in strategic industries that don’t require higher education, like logistics.

Winnie M. (New York University)

Motivating the Bread & Roses resolution “R8: Recommitting to Building an Independent Working-Class Socialist Party.” The resolution commits national resources to supporting chapters in working on class-struggle elections, and directs fall drive materials to present YDSA as an alternative to the Republicans and Democrats.

As we enter first the fall drive where we talk to so many students about YDSA and try to recruit new lifelong socialist organizers, we need a framework for this upcoming election where students will be politically engaged. Most people engage with politics at the ballot box and Presidential elections. In order for us to recruit the most amount of students we have to have a broader socialist perspective on the 2024 elections. That should be, if you’re dissatisfied by both of the parties and both of the candidates in front of you, there is another option, and that is organizing with YDSA and building a new future, building a future student wing to an independent working-class party.

A lot of YDSA chapters are already engaging in electoral work so we need the resources to support them in doing that. We need to put together a handbook from people that understand electoral work, have resources and contacts for people to reach out to to organize together towards electoral work, and all of this has to be done within the framework of building towards the youth wing of an independent working-class party.

Taylor Clark (UC Santa Barbara)

For the Bread & Roses resolution “R8: Recommitting to Building an Independent Working-Class Socialist Party.

Bernie Sanders was the first politically independent socialist Presidential campaign in one hundred years and is the almost sole reason we’re even having this conference today because it rebirthed the socialist movement in the United States. It was politically independent because it had independent funding and it had a socialist candidate who wasn’t afraid to call himself a socialist to the national media and the press.

This resolution provides us a framework to continue along the path of establishing the political independence we committed to last year and will never again be the organization that endorsed John Kerry in 2004. If we’re going to not only win elections but transform the United States into a democratic socialist society we need to compete in elections which are the primary way that the vast majority of the working class interfaces with politics daily.

That involved giving chapters the necessary resources — a handbook is an excellent first step but also one-to-one mentorship conversations is what everyone in this organization needs in order to be able to get to the point where we’ll have an independent working-class party that can effectively fight for a socialist transformation of society

Oren Schweitzer (Yale University)

For “R21 Winning the Battle for Democracy.” This resolution establishes that YDSA opposes the US Constitution and commits to educate its members, and raise the demand, about the need for a new, democratic Constitution.

Karl Kautsky, the leading Marxist theoretician of the Second Socialist International, once wrote that political freedoms are the light and air of the proletariat. If that’s the case, then the American working class is living in darkness and struggling to breathe.

Democracy and political freedoms are essential to facilitate the growth of a powerful workers’ movement capable of taking state power and building a democratic socialist society. This is because workers need the ability to form their own organizations, organize and contest state power, to withhold their labor, and to have democratic control over their political representatives.

Socialists must engage in the difficult and long organizing project of building mass consciousness against the US constitution, making clear that as long as it remains, the desire of workers will be left unfulfilled — Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, dismantling U.S. empire, the list goes on. For democratic socialism to truly mean a thoroughly democratized state and society with the working-class in power, means that we need to scrap the US constitution, in favor of one that facilitates real democracy where the working-class majority can be in charge of their own lives.

Taylor Clark (UC Santa Barbara)

Motivating the Bread & Roses Proposal “R12 Recommitting to the Rank-and-File Strategy”. This resolution strengthens YDSA’s labor work, growing the YDSA labor cohort, recruiting young people to salt and take rank-and-file jobs, and building the national student-workers movement.

Our goal as socialists has to be to move the working class to use our extraordinary power as the engine of the modern economy and our society to both destroy capitalism and achieve social justice. To do that we need to reconstruct the organic connection between socialists and the labor movement that has disappeared over decades of reaction from the Red Scare onward. 

Expanding the student-worker movement into red states and public universities is one of the most strategic ways that we can continue to build strong national student worker unions as mass democratic working-class institutions that develop students into workplace leaders and socialists committed to class struggle.

After graduation, socialists should seek rank-and-file jobs in strategic industries like logistics, nursing, and teaching, to help rebuild that organic connection between socialists and the labor movement that’s going to be what ultimately carries us to a democratic socialist society.

I was on staff during the UC UAW strike in the fall of 48,000 Academic Workers who won a $10k raise. It was a super exciting moment for the labor movement in American history. It was an excellent example of the mass organizing that not only resulted in massive material wins for the working class, but also developed people’s political conciousness. 

Jake Colosa (New York University)

Against the amendment “R12-1 No Intervention in SWAN” to “Recommitting to the Rank-and-File Strategy.” This amendment would have removed all references to taking up a class-struggle orientation in contrast to the current red unionist tendency in the Student Worker Alliance Network (SWAN), the national network of student-worker unions. It also removed references to recruiting co-workers to SWAN, prioritizing instead recruiting members of SWAN to YDSA.

SWA grew out of Red Hot Summer 2022 and the YDSA Labor Cohort. It was initially founded by YDSA members cohering a group of student-worker unionists across the country. Many of the leading members of the Student Worker Alliance are YDSA members, including several members of the National Coordinating Committee, our YLC Chairs, and other experienced labor organizers in YDSA.

The National Coordinating Committee this year has had extensive discussions about the relationship between YDSA and SWA and voted to suspend our Labor Organizing Cohort in favor of organizing workshops in SWAN. Additionally, most of the 22 voters on SWA’s Principles Document are YDSAers and I don’t mean to scare anyone, but many of them are in this room right now.

The current structure of SWA and SWAN was also the result of conversations that happened at YDSA’s Winter Conference between YDSA members. Therefore, if YDSA members are not the ones building SWAN and SWA into a broader movement that can cohere the hundreds of thousands of student-workers who are not socialists, there is no other group of people who are going to build that organization.

Oren Schweitzer (Yale University)

Against the amendment “R12-1 No Intervention in SWAN.”

YDSAers should work to recruit our co-workers to SWAN, just as when we graduate we’ll work to recruit our coworkers to joining and building our unions, not just DSA. Similarly, YDSAers should not abstain from internal debate and positions within SWAN just as we wouldn’t abstain from positions within our unions after graduation in favor of just building our socialist group.

The current perspective of SWAN makes it difficult to expand this movement of student worker unions to public universities and ones with thousands of non socialist student workers. This is because it does not allow for non socialist rank and file activists and members to participate as full equal members with the right to vote on, run for, and serve on the leadership of the national student worker movement.

By mainly focusing on recruiting to our socialist group we lose out on introducing our not-yet coworkers to experiences of building democratic class-struggle organizations and movements at the workplace. And we also lose out on recruiting the best leaders of the student-worker movement to YDSA and socialism. 

Why would any student-worker leader want to join a group whose only or main engagement with the student worker movement is as recruitment grounds for socialism? And how will socialists demonstrate the strength of our approach to the labor movement and politics to our coworkers without taking up positions within our unions and demonstrating the strength of our theories of change in practice?

Kayla Sharpe (Oakland University)

Against the constitutional amendment “A4 One Member One Vote for YDSA” that would have established that YDSA’s NCC is elected by all members via electronic ballot rather than by convention delegates.

This may have the appearance of making things more democratic, but it does the opposite. The results would be that NCC candidates will appeal most to their chapter, the chapters around them, and the largest chapters of the organization to receive votes.

The beauty of Convention is that we have a great representation of all our chapters here and NCC candidates are able to build genuine connections and relationships with delegates that last far beyond Convention. NCC members should be elected because of their politics, not by being the most successful at road tripping around the country appealing to as many YDSA members as possible.

Just in debate today it’s been very helpful seeing NCC candidates vocalize their positions and I don’t think it is possible or productive to try and replace this with virtual candidate forums.

Allan Frasheri (University of Florida)

For the Bread & Roses resolution “R23 Class-Struggle Internationalism.” This resolution would have established YDSA’s own Youth International Committee (YIC) and committed YDSA to a class-struggle internationalist perspective. 

YDSA’s international work is currently carried out in the IC-YLC, a subcommittee of DSA’s International Committee, despite the fact that all our other work is carried out through our own committees. This prevents YDSA from being able to direct our own international work and disconnects our international work from our national and local organization. And the IC-YLC currently focuses on bringing YDSA members into DSA IC campaigns. But we have opportunities for crucial anti-imperialist organizing on our campuses.

A class-struggle internationalism framework would have us stand in solidarity with the struggles of all workers and oppressed peoples around the world; recognize that only workers can emancipate themselves; and that our main enemy is US empire. This is in contrast with the dominant political perspective of the DSA international committee which refrains from standing in solidarity with workers fighting governments that are rivals with the United States.

My partner is Belarussian, her family members have been forcibly drafted to fight in Russia’s war against Ukraine, where millions have been slaughtered upon the altar of capital and empire. But when the Labor and European subcommittees of the IC wanted to organize in solidarity with Belarusian union leaders who were arrested for opposing the war, the IC’s steering committee voted down the campaign because, according to them ”it is not our place to critique the actions of governments like Belarus.” But as socialists, do we not have the obligation to stand in solidarity with all oppressed peoples? Would it be right for me to tell my partner that as American socialists, it is not our place to stand in solidarity with her people and her family, because we’re only struggling against our own ruling class?

Jake Colosa  (New York University)

For the Bread & Roses resolution “R18: Support for a Growing YDSA” which endorsed the YDSA Consensus Resolution for DSA Convention and requested more resources and support from DSA. The Consensus Resolution was subsequently passed at DSA Convention overwhelmingly.

This resolution endorses the YDSA Consensus Resolution, drafted through a democratic process facilitated by YDSA’s National Coordinating Committee. It calls for a YDSA budget including stipends of $1000/month for NCC members, which would allow them to quit part time jobs to spend more of their time organizing and opens the position up to working class and POC members who disproportionately need to work to put themselves through school. The budget also includes $2,000/semester stipends for committee chairs, $15,000 for national committee funding, $10,000 for chapter grants, and $1,500 for printing and distributing materials. Furthermore, the resolution calls for the NPC to encourage DSA chapters to create YDSA representative positions on their leadership bodies, mandates that there is a YDSA section of every quarterly NPC meeting agenda, facilitates coordination between YDSA and DSA national committees, and creates a YDSA representative position on DSA’s Budget & Finance, Personnel, and Communications committees. Resolution 18 reaffirms the NCC’s role in directing YDSA staff and mandates that the NCC review and approve all YDSA Conference and Convention budget requests. It also calls for the hiring of a third YDSA staffer.

As socialists, we should not base our budget on the size of YDSA, but instead based on what will get us closest to socialism. Investing in YDSA is strategic because YDSA is the most dynamic segment of DSA, growing by 150% since our 2020 convention. We are unionizing thousands of student workers on campuses across the country. We have won abortion without cost, question, or delay for tens of thousands of students. And we are leading the fight against the far right from Florida, to Louisiana, to Kentucky, and Texas. 

YDSA is developing the socialist and labor movement leaders of the future. To effectively do that we need to trust ourselves to make political and strategic decisions about our work, backed up by resources that will allow us to experiment and expand our organizing projects. Last, the fight for YDSA resources and autonomy will truly take place on the floor of the DSA convention this week. If you are a delegate to DSA Convention I urge you to vote yes on Resolution 8 and organize for it within your delegations.

The Call is a publication of DSA's Bread & Roses caucus.