The 2021 Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) Convention, scheduled to take place online from August 1 to 8, will be the third convention since the organization’s rebirth and massive growth in 2016. (Revealingly, between 2013 and 2017 the median age of DSA membership dropped from 68 to 33.)1 After a year that has seen the COVID-19 pandemic, a presidential election, and a national uprising against racism, what’s at stake at this convention? I’ll give a little history and context, and then lay out my perspective on several important dynamics.

The Ghost of Conventions Past

A first convention in 2017 had…


The unprecedented Democratic Socialists of America membership boom in 2016 signaled the growth of a revitalized Left in the United States, with the potential to build a mass socialist organization. Yet, despite the political opening DSA offered to new members eager to participate in and shape the direction of the socialist movement, the national structure of the organization remains unchanged five years later. The organization runs essentially the same as it did when it was created in 1982. …


Here we are again: DSA convention time. As I did in 2019, I’ll go through the basics of the convention and then give an overview of the proposals and items for consideration.

Every two years, the Democratic Socialists of America convene for a national convention. The convention will elect a new sixteen (16) person leadership, the National Political Committee (NPC). Delegates will also vote on resolutions, which form new campaigns or working groups and commit DSA to a projects, policies, or courses of action; bylaw and constitution changes, which are the rules and structure for how DSA works; and for…


Written with Emma Wilde Botta. Originally posted at Tempest.

There’s a new consensus growing among leaders and caucuses of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA): there will be no break from the Democratic Party. At least, not any time soon. Since 2016, the electoral debate in DSA has been about how to build an independent party. It was taken as a given that the Democratic Party is an obstacle, though the Bernie Sanders campaign opened up the possibility of tactical engagement with the Democratic Party as the socialist movement fought to move past it.

Starting in 2020, the terms of…


Originally published in Wisconsin Uprising: Labor Fights Back (2012)

Take on Wisconsin state flag. Design by Mike Konopacki

Throughout February and March of 2011, I couldn’t help but wonder if I were living in a folk tale: in a flash tens of thousands of people rallied at the state capitol in Madison; teachers shut down public schools in a statewide “sick strike”; and union workers physically blocked the Legislature doors. I remember being at work listening to the radio when we all stopped to cheer at the breaking news about the fourteen state senators fleeing the state to halt a vote on the governor’s anti-labor bill.

And for over…


In 2011, I wrote a series of dispatches about what was happening in Wisconsin when thousands rallied in Madison to protest Scott Walker’s “Budget Repair Bill”, leading to some teacher sick strikes and the occupation of the capitol building. I wrote at night after attending demonstrations all day, reading local newspapers where I could, and adding my personal commentary about the feel of things. There are a few things I got wrong at the time, a mix-up here and there about someone’s title or the particulars of a legal case, some underestimations of forces at play. …


With Hakan Yilmaz, originally at Tempest.

A mob of far right protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol building on January 6 after President Trump called and partially funded a “Save America” rally to mobilize his supporters against the results of the 2020 election. Trump called on the crowd to march to Congress as the election results declaring Joe Biden as winner were being certified. The swarm of protesters, including QAnon conspiracy theorists, white supremacists, militia groups, Proud Boys, and neo-Nazis, advanced to enter the Capitol building, overwhelmed the light detachment of police and pressed past the barricades. Congress was evacuated as…


Gallup has reported that two-thirds of people in the United States approve of labor unions, the highest rating in two decades. And yet, unions represent the smallest share of the workforce in one hundred years — fewer than before there was a legal right to form a union and collectively bargain with an employer. Only one in ten workers in the U.S. are represented by a union, in the private sector it is even fewer: roughly one in twenty (6.2 percent).

With so few union members, even workers who are favorable to unions have little direct experience with the labor…


Originally posted at Tempest; co-authored with Joe Evica.

New socialists and the rapidly growing Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have dived into elections and tried to win left candidates to office since 2016. They have renewed debates socialists have had for generations about elections and the path to building a working class party in the United States.

The rise of DSA on a national scale shook the dust off these age-old debates and brought the “dirty break” to center stage as a socialist strategy for engaging in electoral politics. The “dirty break” is a plan to build forces through the…


At this point, most people are pretty familiar with Kshama Sawant’s election to the Seattle City Council. Sawant first ran for the Washington State House of Representatives in the fall of 2012 and used her notoriety and unexpected positive reception to run again at the municipal level in 2013, defeating her opponent Richard Conlin in a tight race.

In the weeks that followed her victory, very different parts of the US left have weighed in on what the election of a socialist to office in a major US city means. As Nate Hawthorne has pointed out, most observers have fallen…

Andrew Sernatinger

Socialist and labor activist in Wisconsin.

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