At the 2023 DSA National Convention in August, three Bread and Roses members were elected to the 16-member DSA National Political Committee (NPC). The NPC is DSA’s highest decision-making body between conventions and has significant discretion over how our agenda comes to fruition.
Our goal with this update is to share a short summary of our take on several of the major discussions that have arisen so far — and to provide insight into how NPC decisions affect the day-to-day work of DSA organizers and campaigns.
This isn’t a comprehensive breakdown of all the discussions so far. We heartily welcome other caucuses to publish their own, more thorough perspectives and questions on these issues!
How and When Will the NPC Make Decisions?
The first question the NPC confronted when we were elected was how we’ll make decisions — when and how to meet, and how to discuss issues and take votes between meetings. You might imagine that we’d adopt the exact same procedures from the prior NPC, but when there is only one incumbent and no formal transition period, there isn’t necessarily continuity, and it is unclear exactly how the current NPC is bound by prior NPC decisions.
The NPC officially meets four times per year for in-person, weekend-long meetings. In the interim, we hope the NPC will meet online at least monthly, and we proposed that the five-person Steering Committee (SC) meet on a weekly basis. A lot happens over email listserv and group chats.
The NPC elected an interim SC that includes Alex (Bread & Roses), Renée Paradis (Socialist Majority Caucus), Ashik Siddique (Groundwork), Amy Wilhelm (Marxist Unity Group), and John Lewis (Red Star). YDSA co-chairs Aron Ali-McClory and Evan Caldwell are also members of the SC. The SC met on August 17, August 31, and September 7, and all NPC members were included as speaking (but not voting) participants. We’re happy to see that practice continue from the previous term, although we don’t want the SC meetings to be substitutes for more regular full NPC meetings. At SC meetings, many substantive votes have been referred to our online voting platform, Loomio, for the full NPC to weigh in on. Going forward, the SC will meet weekly and the first in-person NPC meeting will be November 4 and 5 (location TBD).
Our perspective as B&R members is that we want almost all political decisions to be made by the full NPC with enough opportunity for substantive deliberation ahead of time, unless a matter is truly time-sensitive. We want to be careful about taking too many online votes or rushing through overly packed agendas. In addition, we want all DSA members to be able to attend and view all NPC and SC meetings and review their minutes. We’re encouraged that this seems to be a common view among NPC members.
How Do We Deal with the Press?
When and how should NPC members speak to the press? How should DSA staff be involved in media inquiries? This issue came up immediately after we were elected when individual NPC members were contacted for media interviews, and it was unclear what freedoms or guidelines there should be around that.
We think it’s important for NPC members to be proactive and enthusiastic about speaking to the press because this will advance our goal of growing DSA and making it more visible to working people. NPC members are elected to be political leaders and in general should be trusted to represent DSA while making it clear that their opinions are just one perspective within a big-tent organization. Some NPC members favor having staff and the Communications Committee review and mediate all media inquiries, but we believe that would be less efficient and inconsistent with our goal of making DSA more democratic through an empowered NPC.
What Should Our Standard Be for National Endorsements?
At convention we considered several proposals around electoral strategy and our expectations for DSA candidates. Given what delegates approved and what we rejected, how should NPC members approach requests for national DSA endorsement?
This came up on a vote for the NPC to endorse a chapter-endorsed DSA candidate from Santa Fe. As B&R members, we had mixed feelings about this candidate, and two of us decided to vote no. We want to endorse candidates that live up to the vision laid out in our “Act Like an Independent Party” convention proposal: those who will use their platform to grow the movement, challenge the establishment, and raise DSA’s visibility to cultivate a socialist (or at least class-struggle) party identity. But how and at what pace should we transition to a more selective standard, especially given the diversity of views on this question across the organization? We still want to support chapters that are energized by a campaign that may not meet the expectations we would like to set for national endorsements.
Should NPC Members Be Required to Sign an NDA?
What confidentiality practices should be expected of NPC members? How should those practices be enforced?
We agree wholeheartedly that NPC members should handle sensitive information with utmost care, and strong confidentiality should be the expectation in Resolution 33 grievances. We look forward to discussing specifics about that, as well as changes to the “good governance” documents (i.e. NDA), at future NPC meetings. We believe the current text of the NDA is too restrictive because it allows a majority of the SC (three people) to decide for the whole organization what should be confidential.
We also believe in empowering elected leaders to carry out our political work. That requires NPC members to have full access to all DSA documentation. There is a similar expectation for union officers, who serve an analogous role and handle sensitive information (membership data, financial documents, and incident reports, for instance) on a daily basis without signing NDAs. Unfortunately, due to our concerns about signing the NDA, we currently do not have access to the shared NPC Google Drive — which contains all documentation from the prior NPC — despite an unconditional mandate from the prior NPC to share it with all of us.
What About My Thing From Convention?
Members are eager to move forward on proposals passed at convention. How do we do that as quickly and faithfully as possible?
Our goal as B&R is to support members in putting everything passed at convention into action. We are thrilled that convention delegates approved an ambitious agenda for the next two years despite some potential financial concerns. The question for the NPC should be how, rather than whether, to make that vision a reality. (That’s why our caucus has committed whole-heartedly to fundraising!)
When something passes at convention, you might imagine it’s like activating a program on your computer: just press start. But that’s not true. NPC members have to escort every single proposal to the finish line. Projects and structures often do not materialize unless an NPC member dedicates themself to making it happen: you have to draft a plan of action, approve funds, allocate staff time, designate member leaders to coordinate it, and resolve questions about procedure, policies, legalities, and more. But members shouldn’t expect the NPC to do it alone. Teams of people will have to push, follow up, get answers, do research, and hold people’s feet to the fire on timelines. Putting that control in members’ hands is how we will strengthen DSA’s democratic character.
So if there is a project that you are eager to see realized, don’t hang back — we need all hands on deck!