Reporting from the 2018 Convention

By Daniel L   

    On Saturday May 5th, NYC-DSA held its citywide Convention in the apse of the Judson Memorial Church. The event began with laughter and conversation as volunteers set up tables and lined up chairs, joking about “left-right” seating arrangements and whether they should block sightlines for obstructionists. At 9 AM the doors opened for delegates, further adding to the energy and anticipation filling the room. Giant images of past DSA actions were projected behind the altar as members, adorned in DSA buttons and red clothes, filled up seats. At 10:04, the meeting was called to order to loud applause.

    The first order of business was the unanimous approval of the proposed convention agenda, to the joy (and relief) of delegates. Following stirring remarks by the outgoing Steering Committee and the approval of two sets of consent agendas, the co-chairs brought the delegation to the first stand-alone proposal on the agenda. At issue was whether NYC-DSA should limit the number of leadership positions held by its members. Delegates lined up at the front of the hall behind “pro” and “con” signs and argued passionately the merits and demerits of the issue. Nervous laughter attended the final voting tally: defeated, 90 to 92.

    It became clear over the course of several additional debates and close decisions that there were divisions among the delegates on a number of issues. A debate over whether a citywide platform should be adopted was contested heavily (it was ultimately defeated), as was a resolution called Mass Action to clarify the political work of the chapter (it was passed, with amendments). A resolution on whether to prepare for a Bernie 2020 run was particularly heated in light of Bernie’s recent support of FOSTA-SESTA (the measure was defeated in a close vote).

    The atmosphere noticeably lightened as the agenda moved to electing officers for the Steering Committee. While there seemed to be little that fundamentally divided the candidates in their speeches, their bold proposals for the organization re-ignited the enthusiasm and esprit de corps of the delegates. Following a nearly unanimous vote to endorse Julia Salazar, as well as a speech by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, convention delegates sang a rousing chorus of “Solidarity Forever” and streamed outside to march to the New School Occupation, thus carrying on the work that brings us together – fighting for working class power in New York City.

    Over the next several days, the NYC-DSA Member Discussion group on Facebook remained active, debating the nature of the divisions that had been revealed during the convention. Was it between the old and new guard of the organization? Electoral versus labor? Brooklyn versus everybody else? Whatever the source and nature of the divisions, many members expressed a desire to create additional forums where DSA members could debate politics and strategy beyond the high-stakes, time-compressed atmosphere of the Convention. If the chapter can build on the comradely debate before and after May 5th, it will be one of the most important legacies of the 2018 NYC-DSA Convention.