Notes from the DSA 2019 Convention

Author’s note: These are my notes as a delegate to the 2019 DSA Convention; they are not the official minutes. I have linked to the video discussions and to written documents where available. I’ve used the words “carries” and “defeated” for procedural motions and “passes” and “fails” for substantive business.

Friday 8/2/19: Convention Day One.

Things started a little rough — long lines to register and there were some delays getting credentials (voting cards) for delegates. One delay already as a result, so things got started at about 9:30. Convention reports on the state of DSA.

Business begins approximately 10am. Objections from the floor because not all delegations have received credentials. Chair decides that we should hear the Plenary speakers before fielding objections. Request for a Land Acknowledgement — CARRIES.

Plenary: South Fulton, GA Councilman Khalid Kamau addresses convention; first Black Lives Matter activist elected to public office in the US; socialist. Focuses on fighting the “electability complex” of suppressing candidates with “fringe” ideas who have actually reshaped the political discourse. Erika Lopez Alvarez on LA Teachers Strike; Thea Riofrancos on a radical Green New Deal.

11:15am Credential report before dealing with business — credentials committee recommends seating both the East Bay delegation and the At Larger who was challenged. DSA recommends but does not mandate a proportional system for delegate selection; no evidence of malfeasance.

No more lines reported; all delegations should have their credentials. Agenda moves forward.

EAST BAY DELEGATION CHALLENGE: argument about “proportional methods” — disregarding the report just given. Motion to replace EBDSA delegates with preferred alternates. Challenge DEFEATED overwhelmingly at 11:35am. Credentials all accepted at 11:40am.

ADOPTION OF CONVENTION RULES — majority of the day.
Aaron from Metro DC motions to strike “ranked system” (Borda count) with Scottish Single Transferrable Vote (STV), claiming that the Election Committee’s recommendation was ignored by NPC. Sam of NYC, also on Committee clarifies that they actually gave multiple suggestions, STV being only one. Aaron concedes that his was the minority opinion. Question Called — unclear results. Call for division. Technical problems with the online voting system. Call for a card count. Objection to process of card count. Cards recounted. Motion to use STV for NPC selection CARRIES, roughly 540 to 480.

Motion the convention not allow divisions on procedural questions after spending nearly an hour on this. CARRIES.

Motion that proposals that would cost over $25,000 require a 2/3s vote. DEFEATED.

Motion to limit to only 2 speakers for, 2 against. DEFEATED.

Motion to have decisions take place immediately (currently goes into effect when minutes are approved by NPC). DEFEATED.

12:45pm — Vote to adopt convention rules: CARRIES. (Already an hour behind schedule.)

Recess for Lunch. Return at 2:30pm.

Sarah Nelson gives speech addressing convention.

3:27pm: Return to business — APPROVING AGENDA.
Motion to change order of proposed agenda to move CB29 (Closing Loophole) before CB2 (Pass the Hat). CARRIES. Motion to move CB2 above CB29 — pause, chair rules this out of order. Agenda adopted 3:45pm (now at least 2.5 hours behind schedule!)

PRIORITY COMMITTEE REPORTS:
Medical for All Committee report — approved. Democratic Socialist Labor Commission report — approved. Elections committee report — approved. (MANY POINTS OF ORDER AND INFORMATION)

CONSENT AGENDA[1]
Motion to remove National Expulsion list from consent agenda. Discussion — chair rules resolution must be removed if any objection was raised to consent agenda. Motion to suspend rules, put resolution back in Consent Agenda and approve. CARRIES. Consent agenda PASSES.

Approaching 4:30pm. Motion: Order of the Day (skip over everything we’re behind on and move to where we should be in the agenda) FAILS. Motion to extend business from 5:30pm to 7pm. (Passes) Motion to recess for break at 5pm (FAILS). Motion to reconsider motion to extend and return to original agenda. CARRIES

PRIORITY RESOLUTIONS:
R34 Ecosocialist Green New Deal. Speakers of resolution. Amendment 1: Add endorsement of Red Nation’s “Red Deal” and Rejection Green Militarism. (Discussion, concern that it is anti-Elizabeth Warren) Amendment PASSES. Amendment 3: Endorse Global #Climatestrike. Discussion: is happening in 50 days and DSA endorsement wouldn’t be meaningful. FAILS. Amendment 14: Add language on Resilience & Adaptation Strategies. FAILS. Vote on R34 as Amended with Red Deal and Anti-Militarism: PASSES. (4:53pm)

Motion to suspend Saturday’s plenary in favor of business. CARRIES

R15 In the Event of Sanders Loss. (AS: This is my resolution). Debate. Against: moral imperative to defeat Trump; swing states. For: class struggle approach of Sanders-direction DSA is going and the signal it sends; importance of our role as socialists; defeating Trump is not synonymous with endorsing a neoliberal — we have other things we can do. END OF TIME — Chair declares a vote must be taken with no extensions. (PASSES with clear majority)

End of Day 1.

Saturday, 8/3/14 — Day Two of Convention.

Ending Friday, Convention body moved to cut the Saturday Morning plenary to have more time for business since we were so behind. Commenced at 9:15am, discussed some House Rules and implementation of a progressive stack to try and cut down on the procedural interference of Friday.

9:20am: R39 Petition Bernie Sanders for a People’s Foreign Policy Platform. Debate. Pro: need to push Sanders on problematic foreign policy positions in line with our internationalism. Anti: Recommends calling for submitting the US to the International Criminal Court, which is also an imperialist body even if the US is chauvinistic in ignoring it. Motion to suspend the rules to vote item by item — DEFEATED. Question called 9:27am — PASSES.

9:29am R31 Class Struggle Elections (B&R proposal). Discussion of Amendment 8 to strike language about aim of eventually creating an independent socialist/workers’ party (SMC proposal). AMENDMENT FAILS. Proceed with motion as written. Pro: Experience of Jovanka Beckles campaign in the Bay. Anti: Resolution is vague, ‘empty platitudes’ — DSA requires a material analysis. Pro: Victory of Chicago socialists to City Council, this was based off a material analysis. Anti: This would cut the legs off people in the South; it is dangerous. (Lesser evil/popular front argument). Point of Information: Does this resolution call for founding a new party immediately? (Not answered — though the answer was NO.) Question called 9:51am — PASSES (2/3 to 1/3)

9:52am R48 Candidate Litmus Test. Motion to suspend the rules to take a floor amendment DEFEATED. Debate over whether the metric applies to local chapters or not — delegates unclear. Clarification: it would not; this was old language that was amended and updated before convention. Question called: FAILS narrowly.

R49 Creation of a PAC to support DSA National Candidates. Motivation: Need to have funds to be able to make our endorsements carry weight. Anti: Legalistic concerns regarding PAC administration. Question called: FAILS.

R33 Invest in Political Education (B&R proposal). Amendment 25: change to a decentralized, pluralistic model from a national model. Motivation: suspicion of who would be creating this and what perspectives are represented. Against amendment: There seems to be a lot of procedural maneuvering to cover up some actual political differences. We came here to debate and we should call out that there are actually diverging opinions about having a national organization. That is fine. Let us actually debate it instead of constantly interrupting with points of privilege, order, etc. Amendment FAILS. Question called on R33 as written: PASSES.

Recess; Return 11:05 am. In order to aid our procedure, we will now have a FOR line and an AGAINST line.

INTERRUPT — Motion to reconsider R53 on Sex Work, previously passed through the consent agenda. Statement from black comrade former sex worker about conditions of sex work. Debate on reconsidering the motion. Sex workers (self-identified) speak on both sides of motion. Question called. Motion to reconsider R53 DEFEATED (11:17am)

R60: Reassert Commitment to Training and Leadership Development. (Build proposal) Debate. Pro: Empower chapters. Anti: Many members speaking from smaller chapters or those in the South come as products of National training, which brought them into DSA. Proposal puts onus of all political training onto locals. Question called — DEFEATED, debate continues. Question called: FAILS (11:25am).

11:31 R84 Socialist Organizers Training (SMC proposal). Debate: small locals v creating a national program. Motion PASSES.

R2 National Growth and Development Committee (CPN). Motivation: need a plan for targeted growth, recruitment of POC and working members. (Many interruptions about noise, how to do progressive stack, etc.) 11:52 MOTION PASSES.

R25 Childcare resolution. (AS: I was out of the room at this time) Debate about childcare as priority resolution. Debate on dividing the question into separate items (DEFEATED). Question called: PASSES as written.

R9 Establishing a National Antifascist & Direct Action Working Group. 12:31pm — INTERRUPTION — appeal ruling of the chair on taking amendments from the floor, argues should be 50%+1 not 2/3s. Parliamentarian recommends maintaining 2/3’s or the bar is too low and our rules have no meaning. If this motion carries, it would affect ALL future calls to suspend rules. MOTION DEFEATED
Return to business. INTERRUPTION: Motion to suspend the rules to amend the motion (though still using the 2/3s). DEFEATED. Return to business. Debate around security culture, risk of having a collected list of members of the working group; imminent threat of fascism; creating a target on DSA by self-identifying as antifascist.
INTERRUPTION: Motion to suspend rules to remove the word “Antifascist”. DEFEATED.
Return to business. Question called. Unclear, looks like it fails. Call for division. Motion taken to online delegate vote (PASSES: 521–493)

Recess for Lunch. Resume at 2:45pm.

Chair asks for comrades to please exercise restraint on all the procedural motions. Notices the same group of about 6 or 8 people routinely doing this.

R83 Support the Locals & Make DSA Accessible to All (Build). (Video) Motivation: dedicating resources to mandate chapters meet accessibility criteria including ADA and others. Debate. Anti: disabled comrade speaks about how this does not represent her concerns. Pro: imperative to pass. Anti: Pork-bill, many items stuffed into this resolution and using language of disability to pass it. Pro: This convention is not accessible. Proof of its need. Anti: Language of policy is posted in a hyperlink that was not in the body of resolutions — was the google doc changed? Chair says no reason to believe it was. (All speakers identify their various disabilities in motivating their positions) Motion to suspend rules — DEFEATED. Point of inquiry: who is controlling this money? Question called. Interrupt from author — ruled out of order as further debate when question was called. MOTION FAILS (3:15pm)

INTERRUPT — motion to move up resolutions R50 Decolonization, bundle it with R35 BDS Working Group and R62 Cuba Solidarity, take two speakers for and against and vote it. Motivation: These are important but white people are in majority so they did not make it to agenda, except R50, and at pace we are going that will not be heard. (CARRIES) Debate on bundle of resolutions. Anti: international committee already exists, and this undermines it. Pro: That is not an open body, so it is not sufficient. Comrades of color need assurances. Anti: Both speakers against are also latinx, comrades of color. Can we please stop posturing with this and discuss the substance? INQUIRY: What happens to the proposals that are not debated at convention? Natalie M: Resolutions may be taken up by new NPC at their discretion; constitutional amendments cannot be taken up as they can only be handled by convention. INQUIRY: What is the Cuba solidarity group? Is it tied to the Cuban state? (Author: ruled out of order as response was continuation of debate — no answer clearly articulated to inquiry.) Question called: Fails. Call for Division. Online voted PASSES (536–433)

3:50pm (Beginning Saturday agenda)

R3 Towards a Clear, Multifaceted Approach to Labor (CPN) — PASSES (near unanimous)

INTERRUPT — Motion to reconsider replacing Borda with STV. (DEFEATED)

R32 Labor Strategy and the DSLC (B&R) Motivation (Marsha N). Debate. Anti: Too limiting, just passed R3, this hamstrings R3. Pro: It is complementary, gives direction and is our socialist approach. Anti: Not an organizing plan. Vague. Pro: Speaking as a former worker-organizer, this is important. Anti: Against the South. Pro: Experience of comrade from New Orleans. Question called — too close to determine, Call for Division. Online vote PASSES (475–465).

Recess debate for the day.

7:00pm NPC vote via STV. Chair announces no questions from the floor. Candidates all just say names and pronouns. Vote begins. (Someone calls from the floor to answer regarding how to handle sexual assault — Chair says we will not debate). Vote commences via online vote.

End day 2. (Still not even to the end of first block of Saturday’s schedule. Convention committee to propose new schedule for Sunday due to how far behind we are.)

Sunday, 8/4/19

AS: At the end of Saturday, Convention Committee announced that they would be proposing a new agenda for Sunday since we were so far behind. Only the Convention is allowed to vote on Constitution/Bylaw changes, so they worked Saturday night to move the agenda around to move resolutions down (as they can be referred to the new NPC to vote on) and allow us to deliberate on the Convention-specific decisions. Proposed agenda emailed to delegates Saturday night.

9:00am Prompt start

Results of yesterday’s Division:

· Bundle of International Resolutions (R35 National BDS and Palestine Solidarity WG; R50 Decolonization, Self-Determination, Anti-Imperialism; R62 Cuba Solidarity) PASSES 536–433

· R32 Labor Strategy and the DSLC (“Rank and File Strategy”) PASSES 475–465.

9:07am Chair asks for a motion to accept the amended agenda proposed:

· FINANCIAL

o CB29 (Equity for Amendments, “Close the Loophole”)

o CB2 (Require that National Pays Stipends to Chapters; “Pass the Hat”)

o R55 (Grassroots Fundraising and Small Chapter Growth)

o CB23 (No One is Too Poor for DSA; “Remove dues requirement from membership”)

o R37 50/50 Dues Split; Amendment 12 to R37 (change from 50/50 to 70/30)

· STRUCTURAL

o CB31 (Proposal for Regionally Elected National Organizing Council — SMC); Amendment 23 to CB31 (Strike Language allowing NOC to amend the constitution, B&R)

o CB16 (Democratic Regional Organizations — CPN)

o R26 (Creating DSA Regional Coordinating Committee)

o CB33 (Assembly of Locals — LSC)

· Continue business as before

INTERRUPT — Kansas City chapter motions to suspend convention rules to vote on R54 Criminal Justice and Decarceration and R28 End Cash Bail as one package; move to the top of the agenda. CARRIES.

INTERRUPT — Motion to suspend rules to vote on Housing Resolutions (R64, R57, R40) as a package (PASSES); motion to suspend rules and move to front of agenda. DEFEATED (9:12am) Will be considered as one item but stay in place on agenda.

INTERRUPT — Motion to suspend rules to put R24 (Adopting a Restorative Justice Model in DSA) to the Agenda. Debate. CARRIES — added to bottom of agenda.

INTERRUPT — Motion to suspend rules to move R1 Police Exclusion for Chapter Bylaws to top of agenda. DEFEATED 9:14am

Modified agenda adopted (9:17am)

Package of R54 Decarceration & R28 End Cash Bail resolutions: PASSES.

CB29 Equal Treatment for Amendments to the DSA Constitution and Bylaws; (close loophole allowing NPC to lower Constitution/Bylaws vote threshold) Motivation: NPC was not aware of this provision until it was used by Zac E at an NPC meeting three months ago. No substantive discussion by NPC about proposal. Learned through this meeting about the effect it would have. With this new awareness, desire to eliminate this “loophole” that privileges NPC members in changing the Constitution.
PRO: Jennifer B, co-author of CB2 Pass the Hat, says she did not know this would be done. Calls for authors of “Protect the Hat” amendment to CB29 to withdraw their amendment (which would end this provision, but not until the end of 2019 when it would still benefit CB2); speaks in favor of Pass the Hat but desire to follow the standard rules and confidence that PtH will pass. (Amendment RESCINDED)

Point of inquiry: would passing CB29 affect the next item in agenda, CB2 (Pass the Hat)? No, rules would have to be suspended and a motion made to have it take effect immediately. Call the question on CB29: PASSES overwhelmingly.

INTERRUPT: Motion to suspend the rules to allow CB29 to take effect immediately. PASSES

CB2 Pass the Hat (Build[2] and others). Motivation: resource disparity between large chapters and small. Intent to have a “redistributive” model for DSA.
Pro: Experience of chapter in the Deep South; poor comrades who have no money. Can we really ask our poorer chapters to contribute more?
Anti: The hard work of National has been enormous support for my small chapter. Much better than $100.
Pro: Central Florida comrade says small chapters are neglected.
Anti: Detroit: we have no idea what this would do to our organization financially.
QUESTION CALLED: 9:30am — DEFEATED. Debate continues.
For: Seattle comrade we should support our smaller chapters.
Anti: New Orleans comrade: we need a strong national that can actually support small chapters, not a bandaid.
For: At-large member speaks on value for smaller groups.
Anti: Peoria member speaks about new chapter. Compares to means testing.
POINT OF INQUIRY: Will there be any means testing? NO
POINT OF INQUIRY (Pioneer Valley): What kinds of control mechanisms will there be? How can we account for dispersed money if audited? (UNSURE)
Anti: Chatanooga TN speaks about value of national resources, specifically VAN voter data that they are able to use in a local campaign that has made much more difference than $100 would have.
QUESTION CALLED: (9:47am) CARRIES, debated ended.
Card vote: FAILS.
CALL FOR DIVISION. Online vote. Results of division: FAILS 450–545. (10:03am)

Point of Privilege on using Identities as arguments.

Statement read by Texas comrades from El Chuco del Norte comrades regarding white supremacist attack yesterday. (Kristian)

R55 Grassroots Fundraising and Small Chapter Growth (SMC). Motivation Amendment 28 (B&R) to adopt language for exploring methods to get funds to unincorporated chapters. PASSES
Debate on R55 as amended.
PRO: Honolulu: used to run DSA office out of my car when I made less than $25,000 a year. Believe in this organization.
INTERRUPT — Motion to suspend rules for a floor amendment — DEFEATED
Question Called (10:07am) — PASSES

CB23 — No One is Too Poor for DSA (LSC/Build) (Eliminate Dues Requirement from Membership). Motivation: Poor members do not have the money to be members; represents a real choice to be made.
Pro: I had to drop out of school, first time in my life being financially unstable. Had $.83 in my bank account. Comrade had to sponsor my dues so I could be in DSA. Please hear me when I say we need this.
Anti: Indianapolis: I was homeless and jobless for 8 years. When I got a job, it was a union job that changed my life. I know the value of dues, even in the worst of my life. DSA is something I am proud to give dues to.
Pro: I am a member of poor people’s caucus. Read Poor People’s Movements on the Welfare Rights Organization for why membership organizations shouldn’t have dues.
Anti: Dues are our minimum commitment to this organization.
POINT OF INQUIRY: Is there currently a restriction on members who cannot pay their dues? Natalie: No. A prospective member contacts National and we waive their dues. [AS: We have had members with dues waived in Madison.] QUESTION CALLED: 10:20am — carries, debate ended. FAILS. Call for division. 427–543 FAILS.

INTERRUPT: Motion to suspend the rules to move up CB7 & CB8 to top of agenda. DEFEATED

INTERRUPT: Motion to suspend rules to allow a floor amendment to DSA constitution changing to gender neutral language. CARRIES. Language change regarding gender in Constitution PASSES.

R37 — DSA Dues Split 50/50 (LSC) [AS: I had to leave the room, gave my card to Adrienne.] Motivation. Amendment 12 to change from 50/50 to 70/30 — PASSES. R37 as amended: FAILS.

INTERRUPT: Motion to suspend rules and move R78 “Funding Local Projects” to top of agenda. DEFEATED.

RECESS for lunch. Return: 12:28pm.

INTERRUPT: Motion to vote on YDSA proposals as one item and move to top of agenda. DEFEATED

INTERRUPT: Motion to move up R67 Organizing the Unorganized to top of agenda. DEFEATED

CB31 — Regionally Elected National Organizing Committee (SMC). Motivation: NPC is ineffective. Convention is ineffective. Need a national body where you know your representative that you have confidence can act on business.
Amendment 23 Remove Power of NOC to modify Constitution. Motivation: this proposal as it stands allows the NOC to modify our constitution. That is a power that should be reserved for the Convention as our highest body. Anti: We don’t have enough time to get to everything done as we’ve seen at this Convention. Amendment PASSES.
Debate on CB31 as amended.
INTERRUPT: Motion to refer this to the NPC. Motivation: the effects of such a dramatic change to our organization needs to be studied, have committees and is a decision we should not take lightly.
Response: Some of us have been talking about this for a while. This would delay for 2 years.
Motion maker: Yes, but we need the deliberation. QUESTION CALLED (needs only 50% + 1) — CARRIES. CB31 referred to NPC.

INTERRUPT: Motion to suspend rules and immediately take up CB1 Binding National Referendum DEFEATED

CB16 — Democratic Regional Organizations and a National Organizing Council (CPN). Motivation: Similar to CB31, need to develop structure cannot wait.
INTERRUPT: Motion to refer this to the NPC. CARRIES: CB16 referred to NPC.

CB33 — Assembly of Locals. Motivation: we need radical democracy, this is that expression.
Anti: We need to develop structures, but this puts the cart before the horse. We need to do the organizing first and formalize the structures after we have experimented and see what is working.
Anti: Do you think the US Senate is democratic? No? This is exactly that same structure.
INTERRUPT: Motion to refer CB33 to NPC. DEFEATED. Debate resumes.
Question called on CB33: FAILS.

[AS: I had to leave at this point.]

R67 — Organizing the Unorganized. PASSES
Bundle of Housing Resolutions — PASSES

Maria Svart addresses Convention. Recognition for fallen comrades.

Announcement of New NPC:
Abdullah (SMC)
Austin (Build)
Blanca (CPN)
Dave P (Independent)
Erika P (Build)
Hannah A (SMC)
Jen M (LSC)
Jenbo (SF)
Kristian (SMC)
Maikiko (SMC)
Marianela (B&R)
Megan S (B&R)
Natalie M (B&R)
Sauce (LSC/Build)
Sean E (Independent)
Tawny T (Build)

AS: Please be sure to donate to the DSA Solidarity Fund. This convention is not possible without the material support of our comrades.

[1]

R#30 NGHO to Maintain List of Members Expelled…

R#41 Take the Fossil Fuel Energy Companies…

R#56 Ecosocialism As A Guiding Principle

R#5 Resolution on immigrant and refugee rights

R#59 Demanding presidential candidates…

R#80 Creating a Nationwide Security…

R#42 Turn the Rust Belt Green…

R#53 Pro-decriminalization of sex work

R#38 Fight for Abortion Access

R#4 Building the DSA International Committee

R#73 Support for Open Borders

R#6 Resolution on orienting to Latinx communities

[2] Build’s Convention website appears to have been taken down, otherwise I would have linked to their written statements.

Socialist and labor activist in Wisconsin.

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