By Jazz H and Holly W
NYC-DSA is, by far, the largest single chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. With well over 3,000 dues paying members, our citywide membership alone is larger than that of many other socialist organizations. Nonetheless, a small group of core members often take on multiple elected leadership positions.
While this practice was understandable during the massive membership surge after November 2016, we believe its persistence will hobble our chapter going forward. Everyone in DSA should be encouraged to take on the responsibilities of elected office. When a core group of organizers run for multiple elected positions year after year, they reduce the opportunities for other members to gain the skills and experience of leading a democratic organization.
If we care about organizing effectively against systemic oppression, we must be diligent in training as many members as possible to take on leadership. If we want to call ourselves a democratic organization, our leaders must step back and provide the support, training and guidance that others may need when taking their turns at the helm. This is not only good socialist praxis, it helps build working class power.
Holding a leadership position in DSA is no small task. We make heavy demands of our leaders. While a few people may be able to fulfill the obligations of two roles at once, many or most people cannot. As a result, some of their responsibilities fall unexpectedly on the shoulders of others--or the tasks don’t get done. We believe that we can most fairly resolve this problem by formally discouraging overcommitment in our bylaws.
Lastly, members can contribute to the success of the chapter, a branch, working group or campaign without holding an elected position in it. Holding elected office is but one aspect of what makes a socialist activist a great organizer and many of our most effective comrades have never needed to hold an elected office in our chapter to contribute in significant ways to the overall success of our movement. Our chapter will benefit if we formally recognize that being a good comrade often means making the space for other stars to shine--and that many of our best comrades do this not from above, but from below.
Making a better world is a marathon, not a sprint. Broadening our leadership will make NYC DSA more resilient. We can accomplish this by refining our organizational practice, so that we train our members in a variety of organizational skills and roles so that we can absorb whatever shocks the ruling class throws at us. As stewards of the socialist movement, we have a collective responsibility to ensure that our membership is as skilled, disciplined and militant as possible.