DSA today; Draft
Many of our members have joined in the last 5 years, and are often at a loss about national DSA work. So, I (Duane Campbell) will offer you a report.
DSA is a national organization of about 7,000 members. There are about 15 local chapters. New locals have just formed in Oregon and Arizona and a long dormant local in San Francisco has a new organizing committee. In California locals exist in San Diego, Sacramento and East Bay, as well as San Francisco. The Los Angeles local has declined to non functioning in the last 6 years.
The primary decision making for the national work is a Convention. The next convention will be Nov.8-11,2001 in Philadelphia. Delegates to the convention are elected by the locals. Over 50% of total DSA members live in areas without locals. These folks can get selected through an at large election process. Ordinarily, anyone wishing to be a delegate can become one.
In addition the national and locals, there are several Commissions. These groups deal with specific issues and are not geographically organized. For example there is currently functioning Latino, Anti Racism, Feminism, Labor, and Religion and Socialism Commissions. The eco-socialism and African American Commissions are currently not functioning. Here in Sacramento, we host both the Anti Racism and Latino Commissions.
You become a member of DSA by supporting our politics and paying your dues. You become a member of a local by paying local dues ($20).
DSA's National Director Horace F.X. Small recently moved on to become Executive Director of the National Organization of Community Organizations. He is very pleased in his new position.
The National Political Committee has selected Frank Llewellyn as interim Director. Frank brings a couple of major assets to his appointment. He has long been active and doing volunteer work in the New York office. He knows the office processes, problems and budgets well. A needed new staff person has been hired. Frank has long been on the NPC, he knows the members well, and the Chairs and co-chairs.
The Anti Racism work within DSA benefited greatly from the leadership of Horace Small. As a result of his prior organizing, Horace was in touch with the major African American leadership in the nation, including Gus Newport, the NAACP, Bill Fletcher, Manning Marable, and others. Having Horace as our director re-established DSA as a presence in their work.
DSA has a series of Honorary Chairs, including Bogdan Denitch, Barbara Ehrnreich (see her new book Nickled and Dimed), Dolores Huerta, Mildred Jeffrey, Eugene 'Gus' Newport, Gloria Steinem, and Cornel West. The Honorary Chairs plan little role in the direction of the organization. Between conventions, the organization is directed by a National Political Committee. A series of local people have been on the NPC including Duane Campbell, Eric Vega, and currently Angel Pícon.
The last convention in 1999, in San Diego, mandated a strategic planing process. This effort is known as Future Search. The Future Search retreat was completed July 13-15, and made significant progress for DSA. The retreat was assembled as a cross section of leaders from DSA. Local participants were Duane Campbell, Dolores Campbell, Eric Vega and Maria Pineda. A complete report on the Future Search will be available.
Each participant in Future Search was assigned to a stakeholder group for part of their small group work.
The first issue was to focus on the past. Among the reactions was a recognition of the wide variety of ages, experiences, and political histories assembled.
In the second day, the participants began to focus on the present status of DSA and the left. For their work, participants now met as constituency groups, ie. Labor, youth, people of color, past DSA leadership, persons working with other progressive organizations. Working in these groups, participants began to describe, from their perspective, the current trends at work in the left and within DSA.
A number of proud accomplishments were listed. And, a number of persons in two groups were self critical about the current state of decision making and inter personal relationships on the National Political Committee.
After sharing, the entire group assembled and created a large mind map of both trends in the organization, and barriers encountered in our work. This mind map has been preserved for persons who wish to review it. It constituted a very large design of external trends in the society and in the organization. of work and barriers to progress. The various problems of the left in general, and DSA in particular were represented as areas of the map.
By late on the second day, we began to focus on the future. The planning committee had designated using the year 2006 as a target date.
Each group was assigned to present a skit of the future of DSA as we would vision it in the year 2006. Groups prepared and presented a number of creative and farcical skits using music, props and satire.
We then in the groups made lists of common grounds (common themes) we wanted in the future of DSA. A list was made of common themes and a list was made of Ways to achieve these themes. Then groups were joined together, to develop a combined list common themes and methods of achieving these themes. A large list was constructed of the items which most of believed the group shared in common, a list of the methods we saw to achieve these themes, and a third list of items where there was not yet agreement.
After a two hour process, we ended with these following themes as agreed upon major themes for the organization. They are not listed in any order of priority. And, many of these have very detailed sub definitions of the tasks.
The following themes were agreed upon as major areas of substantive agreement in the organization:
Common ground agenda for DSA. For 2006;
( out of 23)
Organizational efficiency and competence
Anti racism political projects both internal and external to DSA.( see examples)
Making feminist politics central to our work and our agenda.
Increased financial and human resources
Alliances with mass organizations
International work (focus on N. America)
Each of the 23 items has been developed in detail such as the following:
The political project of DSA is to develop social and economic justice for all/now.
Multi racial and anti racism politics shall become a priority in our work. Agendas in the organizations should consistently include the issues of communities of color. This calls for an immediate re-orientation of our practice toward multi racial coalition building. We will consistently look for opportunities to work with activists in communities of color.
These wordings are in draft form.
We think that we have prepared a common ground agenda for DSA. Many areas of work require implementation. We clearly do not have the resources at present to pursue all of our goals. Committees were established to plan a strategy for each major theme. When these themes require an action plan or resources, plans for these items will be submitted to the National Convention.
DSA on the web.
For detailed and comprehensive material on DSA on the web go to www.dsausa.org
To participate in an ongoing dialogue on DSA and left matters, you may subscribe to asdnet. To subscribe send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org There are about 30 postings a day in dialogue fashion.
Our local is directed by an Executive Committee. We need more participation and volunteers on this committee. The Exec. Committee usually meets monthly, as called by the Chair. We are an active participant in the Living Wage Coalition. ( See event listing) Instead of general meetings, we often participate in events related to our agenda.
The next general meeting will be in Sept. 2001. At this meeting, we will elect delegates to the National Convention. If you receive this newsletter, you are in our local. But, to vote in the election, you need to pay your local dues.
For the last several years our local has maintained an active plan to recruit students and encourage young people to participate in DSA. Our local executive committee also includes members of the leadership of DSA's Latino Commission.
Chair : Duane Campbell, Treasurer: Edwina White, Membership Chair , Sharon Alexander, Exec. Committee: Eric Vega, Angel Pícon, Dolores Delgado Campbell, and other fine people. Here are our tasks:
DSA: Tasks of an organizer, or the local organizing committee.
1. Plan: Develop and propose future plans for the group.
2. Step ahead: The Organizer(s) will make certain that the group get the information they need to establish goals and make plans.
3. Actions: The Organizer(s) will whenever possible be at the group's public actions and events.
4. Meetings: The local or the Exec. Committee will hold at least monthly meetings.
5. Goals: The Organizer(s) will continually keep the local current on political developments and issues emerging in the community and in DSA.
6. Evaluate: The Organizer(s) will propose means of evaluating campaigns to improve our work.
7. The Organizer(s) will serve as a public spokesperson for democratic socialism and/or will develop persons in the local to represent the democratic socialist perspective in public events.
We need to finance our work in order to insure survival. For the local to survive, bills have to be paid. We need to raise money to hold event and to organize. In order to keep organizing, we need to develop a plan and a practice of raising money.
We need more organizers for DSA. We welcome you becoming more active. If yu want help in recruiting, please call Sharon. For general issues, call Duane at 361-9072.
We communicate by telephone, and mailings. We are setting up a new list of Sacramento DSA activists for announcements of actions. These will be about 6 e mails per week. If you wish to be on this list, send an e mail to Duane at email@example.comThis piece is by Duane Campbell, with the editorial assistance of Sean Campbell and a little help from Ross Boylan.