Solidarity 2019 is a slate of candidates running for office in the January 27th Seattle DSA chapter elections. We are all deeply involved in the organizing work of the chapter and have decided to run together on a common vision.
We are socialists because we believe that in order to end the exploitative and oppressive structures of our world, we must replace capitalism with a democratically managed economy that serves the needs of people, not profit.
The inhuman structures of capitalism enforce rampant inequality, investment in industries that will destroy our planet, and the continued division of working people on racial, gender, and any other lines it can find. The way out of this is a society where all are guaranteed a right to free, creative, and dignified lives. Lives dedicated to human flourishing, not mere survival. This requires building a powerful organization dedicated to class struggle.
Locally and nationally, DSA has seen astonishing growth in the past two years. But if we’re serious about ending capitalism’s control over our lives, it will take a movement not of thousands, but millions.
If workers are going to effectively challenge the forces of capitalism through militant labor organizing, class struggle electoral campaigns, and mass demands that pit the interests of workers directly against the interests of the capitalist class, we first need to understand ourselves not simply as individual workers, but as a class of people with shared interests; the working class. As a socialist organization our highest priority must be the development of class consciousness and solidarity among the multiracial working class, in all its diversity, that composes the vast majority of this country.
Let’s build a chapter that’s diverse in its membership, in its tendencies, and in its tactics, but unified by that common goal.
Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential run activated 13 million voters. That campaign transformed the American political landscape, placing socialist policies and rhetoric back in the mainstream, introducing those ideas to millions of people who had been previously unable to envision an alternative to the neoliberal consensus of the Democratic party establishment. Now, two years later, DSA is in an even better position to capitalize on another Bernie Sanders presidential run. A strong, independent campaign for Bernie 2020 would be an enormous opportunity for DSA to build on the momentum of the past two years, to further expand its incredible growth in membership, and to mobilize all of our members in a national campaign that will provide training and experience for future organizing.
Sanders’ platform of Medicare for All, tuition-free college, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, a Green New Deal, an end to big money in politics, demilitarization of the police, and an end to mass incarceration promotes class solidarity and the decommodifying of social goods, while his foreign policy, including his recent calls to end US support for the war in Yemen, point the way towards a new internationalism.
Amidst what will surely be a media onslaught by those in power, we cannot lose sight of the fact that Sanders remains incredibly popular across age, race, and gender lines alike. Since 2015 he has not stopped campaigning, learning, and improving as a candidate and voice for the working class.
As socialists we must be judicious of where and when we participate in electoral politics. There are real risks and challenges to engaging with electoral politics, when the major parties are so dominated by the forces of capitalism. But abstaining from a Sanders 2020 campaign won’t put us on the path to solving those contradictions, and it will only isolate us from the class-struggle politics that his campaign will further popularize. There is nothing inevitable about a Sanders 2020 victory, and if we don’t take advantage of the enthusiasm his campaign will generate, we could easily see it fade away. Our task must be to transform that possibly fleeting excitement into a sustainable working-class movement.
If Bernie Sanders runs for president and national DSA endorses his candidacy we will help build a strong, independent campaign in Seattle. This campaign will focus on issues such as Medicare for All, College for All, end to mass incarceration, a Green New Deal, and other mass demands he champions.
Medicare for All
The left faces enormous challenges in the coming years, from the deepening student debt crisis to the threat of climate catastrophe. Unfortunately, decades of uninterrupted victories on the right—wage stagnation, the decline of unions, and the dismantling of the welfare state—have diminished our institutional capacity to wage serious challenges to these problems. If we are serious about rebuilding the left’s capacity to go toe to toe with capital, DSA must be engaged in campaign work that not only speaks to urgent, popular demands for radical reforms, but the campaigns themselves must act as vessels for building the capacity to fight for them.
Seattle DSA’s Medicare For All campaign, in concert with similar efforts across the country, speaks to such a popular demand: eliminating private insurance and replacing it with a comprehensive, universal, free federal health program. Our canvassing efforts connect us with people who would not otherwise participate in politics, encouraging them to join our campaign based on our shared interest. It builds our connections with people in critical sectors of unionized employment like nurses and teachers, who are uniquely qualified to speak to the inadequacy of our healthcare system. Finally, it demonstrates our conviction that politics is not something in which participation should ebb and flow with the election season, but is a perennial tool for advancing the demands of the working class.
If Seattle DSA can play a role in revitalizing working-class institutions and coalesce around a demand like Medicare For All, it will give us both the capacity and the momentum needed to tackle further, more ambitious and urgent demands—for free education, universal childcare, climate justice, and beyond—in the years to come.
We will expand on last year’s Medicare for All canvassing campaign and build a coalition with other DSA chapters in the region to pressure members of Congress, such as Suzan DelBene, to co-sponsor Medicare for All legislation.
While Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and other candidates have shown the importance of having bold representatives of the working class in a position to shame the capitalist system, the long-term viability of the socialist movement depends on renewing a militant labor movement in this country. This means finding ways to continue building connections with both organized and unorganized labor.
We will continue to support the work of the Workplace Organizing Collective and the organizing committees that have been built out of those efforts. This has been a crucial space for developing organizing skills and capacity among workers outside of traditional union industries. In order to strengthen ties between already unionized members we will also revitalize the Union Council. This was intended to be a place for left-leaning union members to organize together and learn from one another about how to build democratic power in their own unions.
Despite their institutional shortcomings unions are disproportionately diverse compared to the general population and remain the most effective means of raising workers’ living standards. We believe the best way to build effective ties with labor unions — or any other political groups — is to engage in shared work. Our priorities will not always align perfectly with other organizations, but if we can form coalitions around specific political goals we can build a broader left movement capable of striking against capitalism.
Continue supporting the Workplace Organizing Collective
Revitalize the Seattle DSA Union Council
Build ties with local unions through joint campaign work
To be effective organizers, it’s vital that all of our members be able to confidently articulate a socialist critique of capitalism, a socialist vision of a better society, and a socialist approach to creating political change. We will continue to grow political education throughout the Seattle region, including:
Expanding outreach with the Introduction to Socialism
Developing a solidarity workshop incorporating Marxist anti-oppression training
Strengthen Seattle DSA
With a membership close to 1,000, Seattle DSA is capable of being a substantial force in Seattle politics. To take full advantage of our numbers, our candidates have made a number of commitments that we believe will improve the structure and administration of our young chapter.
Building a True Multi-Tendency Organization
DSA is home to a variety of socialist political perspectives. While we share a common goal of a socialist world, we differ on some of the particulars. It’s important that our organization remain a multi-tendency one, where decisions made by the majority of the membership at general meetings are respected, but organizers learn to work together across differences, and minority perspectives have opportunities to try out their ideas.
An important role of chapter leadership is coordination between the different projects of the chapter. Without it, one part of the organization often will have no idea what the other is doing. We need to improve our ability to unite our nearly 1,000 members and the various projects we undertake into a cohesive voice for class struggle.
To function better as a single multi-tendency organization we see a few necessary steps in the coming year. Last year committees were largely isolated from one another. There are some excellent organizing skills and knowledge that are being developed, but we don’t have the structures in place to institutionalize that experience within the chapter. We will organize a Seattle DSA “Organizing Summit” to bring our chapter’s core organizers together to discuss their work and share each others’ insights and experience. We will organize more casual organizing socials outside of general meetings where campaigns can get in contact with new members or members who are trying to get plugged into campaign work for the first time. This would both provide more structure and purpose to chapter social events and familiarize members with the work of the chapter outside of parliamentary meetings.
In the run up to this summer’s semi-annual DSA National Convention we will organize a series of comradely discussions. By engaging in open good-faith debate with fellow members of different socialist perspectives we can all test our own political priorities and convictions. If it is our goal to be socialist organizers out in the world, we must be comfortable articulating our political reasoning, and friendly debate and discussion within the organization is crucial to building the confidence to do so. This will also prepare members to consider the political and strategic questions we must face as an organization. If we are to be a membership-driven organization, membership must be fully engaged and have a space to discuss differing points of view.
We will organize an Organizing Summit to help bring the various committee leaders within Seattle DSA back into contact with one another.
We will organize more casual organizing socials outside of general meetings where campaigns can get in contact with new members or members trying to get plugged into campaign work for the first time.
We will organize a series of comradely debates in the run-up to the 2019 DSA national convention.
In order to bring our organization into line with other DSA chapters, the national organizations, and most other organizations that require structured debate and voting procedures, we have put forward an amendment to switch from Rusty’s Rules of order to Robert’s Rules Newly Revised. See the full text and rationale. Rusty’s Rules were seen to be a less complicated set of procedures, but in practice they are too informal and incomplete, leaving gaps for interpretation, confusion, and informal authority to creep in. In reality, these problems with Rusty’s Rules actually empower the leadership to make decisions for the whole chapter on the fly. Robert’s Rules correct that problem, protect political minorities, and create a less confusing meeting by covering most potential conflicts, and can still be quickly learned, while providing more clarity. Properly implemented, this leads to fairer, less confusing meetings.
Parliamentary rules only work if they are properly followed. Enforcing order at meetings is critical to ensuring those who are less comfortable speaking over others have room to voice their views. We will ensure that parliamentary training is provided to all meeting chairs, secretaries, and members, and every general meeting will have a trained parliamentarian assigned to assist the meeting chair. Additionally, to ensure that all members feel confident in participating, even at their first parliamentary meeting, we will create quick reference cards that provide examples of the most important procedures required to make motions, voice their opinion, ask questions, call for a vote, etc.
We will ensure that parliamentary training is provided to all meeting chairs, secretaries and members. Every general meeting will have a trained parliamentarian assigned to assist the meeting chair.
We will create quick reference cards that provide examples of the most important procedures required to make motions, voice their opinion, ask questions, call for a vote, etc.
In order to have a democratically empowered membership, it is crucial that meeting agendas and minutes be made available in good time before and after meetings. In order for membership to adequately prepare for chapter business, meeting agendas will be distributed at least one week in advance. Records of chapter business are critical, both as a historical reference and for members who couldn’t attend a particular business meeting. To keep membership properly informed, meeting notes will be distributed no later than five days after business meetings. Finally, not all members utilize the same communication platforms. We commit to ensuring that all members of the chapter have access to agendas, minutes and other chapter information (e.g.: current chapter leadership).
We will ensure that meeting agendas are distributed at least one week in advance of business meetings, and that minutes of those meetings are distributed to all members no later than five days after.
We will ensure that all members of the chapter have access to agendas, minutes and other chapter information (e.g.: current chapter leadership).
This year we saw a high number of elected officers resign for a variety of reasons. While this is something we should work to avoid in the future, it is not entirely preventable due to the volunteer nature of our organization. Knowing that, it’s important to have a plan in place. We have put forward an amendment that would allow for a more democratic resolution if this happens again in the future. Our proposal is that if over half the elected officers resign, snap elections must be held. All officers may run again, but this would provide the winner with a new democratic mandate. See the full amendment.
We have proposed a bylaw amendment mandating that if over half the elected officers resign, snap elections must be held. See the full amendment.
While we all face the same struggles against exploitation under capitalism, we also experience a wide variety of oppressions and obstacles to joining in that fight. Mutual aid is an important part of our organization. Lowering the barrier to participation by providing things like child care, food, and facilitating transportation to meetings allows more members to actively participate in the work and deliberations of our chapter.
We have an increasing number of parents in Seattle DSA. This will only continue, and it is time for the chapter to hire professional child care for our general meetings. As an organization we cannot afford the liability of providing licensed child care directly, nor can we continue to risk providing unlicensed child care. As a result, it is necessary that we hire a licensed child-care provider at a just wage so we can continue having child care available at general meetings.
We will hire a licensed child-care provider at a just wage to ensure child care remains available at general meetings.
We will ensure that food continues to be available at meetings and continue to develop a system to connect chapter members for ride-sharing to meetings and events.
In our own chapter and others it has become clear that relying on inexperienced, volunteer grievance officers puts a very heavy burden on a few people’s shoulders. In addition to having volunteer grievance officers who can assist members with disputes, we propose finding an experienced, independent mediator to handle sensitive personal disputes and grievances between members that are beyond the capacity of our volunteers.
We will find a suitable independent mediator for grievances that are beyond the capacity of volunteer grievance officers.
Resolutions & Amendments
Resolution Calling on Bernie Sanders to Run for President in 2020
Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign transformed the American political landscape, placing socialist policies and rhetoric back in the mainstream. Sanders is consistently ranked the most popular politician in the country, particularly among young and nonwhite voters. He’s the only viable candidate for 2020 who actively promotes class-struggle politics, using his platform to educate the public about their adversarial relationship with the capitalist class, promoting and supporting the labor movement, and denouncing the influence of corporations and wealthy individuals.
Although the Democratic Party can never be realigned to the interests of the working class, socialist candidates like Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Julia Salazar have demonstrated that Democratic primaries can be successfully exploited to introduce socialist ideas and organizing to a wider public.
A second presidential run by Sanders presents an unmissable opportunity for our organization. By starting our preparations early, we can build a strong, independent campaign to promote DSA’s priorities and build our movement.
Amendment to Adopt Robert’s Rules of Order
The purpose of parliamentary rules of order is to facilitate group decision-making in a way that’s efficient, consistent, civil, and fair. But SDSA’s use of the non-standard Rusty’s Rules frequently has the opposite effect, creating ambiguous situations where it’s unclear what the order is or whose turn it is to speak. When formal mechanisms fail to work efficiently, participants may be forced to rely on informal power, leading to situations where those with the most social power dominate the group, while those with the least are less likely to participate. Properly implemented, parliamentary rules level the playing field and allow all to participate in deliberation, not merely those with the loudest voices.
We commit to appointing a trained parliamentarian to assist meeting chairs and to providing comprehensive training and resources for chairs, secretaries, and members. Because Robert’s is the standard, it’s easy to find online and print resources to support training, or even to hire a freelance parliamentarian for special events.
By switching to Robert’s Rules, we can make general meetings better organized, more civil, and more efficient, with fewer overruns. Seattle DSA delegates will also be better prepared to participate in our national convention, which is organized under Robert’s Rules, as well as to participate in coalitions with other organizations.
Amendment to Adopt Procedure for Snap Elections
Over the last year Seattle DSA has experienced a large turnover in its elected leaders. While there are provisions for appointing officers, a council in which appointees outnumber directly elected officers lacks democratic legitimacy. We should strive to avoid repeating the turnover from the last year, but also prepare to resolve it more democratically in the future.
By implementing an automatic provision for snap elections when over half of elected officers resign, we can provide a mechanism to renew the Local Council’s mandate. If the remaining elected and appointed officers are succeeding in their roles they can be given new democratic legitimacy with a vote of the membership. If not, new leadership can receive a mandate reflecting the democratic voice of the members.
Do you share our vision for a class-conscious Seattle?