First published on June 21, 2019 via Google drive.
In a show of solidarity with delegates who cannot afford to attend, the members of the South Jersey DSA voted to abstain from sending a delegation to the National Convention in August.
This decision comes after much discussion and takes into account several factors that were brought up at the Regional conference and after. These can be separated into three categories: safety, cost, and follow through.
At the regional conference and after, safety was a major concern. Before the convention, National has accidentally leaked the full names, locations, and other sensitive information about the candidates running to be at-large delegates. There are also safety concerns in regards to the location. While SJDSA applauds National for picking a union hotel, there is no way to prevent access to the conference rooms. The floors do not require a key card to access and thus, anyone can walk in. Recently, during a pre-conference discussion about safety, National spent the time talking about concerns with dissent among the ranks of DSA as opposed to potential outside threats. With a big tent organization like DSA, disagreement is expected. We are all different types of socialists with different goals and ideas. To focus on potential dissent as opposed to outside threats when DSA was recently on a hit list and local chapters have been invaded by alt-right antagonizers who wish to harm members shows a blind spot to safety for attendees.
National has repeatedly stated that cost should not affect who can and cannot go to the National convention. However, by pushing the majority of the cost to the local chapters and by failing to provide low income housing options, National has effectively limited who can go based on finances. For SJDSA to send all four delegates, the total estimated cost would be $2,000 or $500 per member. This cost would need to be raised in essentially a month’s time or paid for up front by the delegates going. This a large sum of money to ask from small chapters who may only have a small number of active members.
While National has set up the Solidarity Fund, this is asking the chapters to spend more money into the convention when some are already strapped trying to send their own. There is a goal of $175,000, but there is no back-up plan if this is not reached. This still requires delegates to pay the costs upfront and get reimbursed for their money spent which places significant strain on some and is not possible for others. The majority of people cannot cover a $400 emergency, let alone a $500 or more expense to attend the convention.
This is also a large sum of money that can potentially be better spent in the communities SJDSA actively serves. $2,000 would go a long way to supporting abortion access in the state and abroad, rebuilding and supporting community parks, or other forms of mutual aid that directly impact the communities we are serving.
Previous National conventions have passed resolutions and bylaws that are still not acted upon today. The last convention directed the NPC to create a National bail fund for those arrested during peaceful protests such as those that occurred during the occupation of ICE facilities. Two years later, there is still no bail fund and the constant reason given is time and money. Yet with minimal input from chapters, the NPC voted to endorse Bernie Sanders for president and create a campaign that will cost as much as $500,000. This was done with less time, planning, and input than the bail fund.
This creates a concern about the point of the National conference. Voting on the new NPC is vital to changing this pattern, but the majority of the time is spent voting on and debating various new bylaws and resolutions. Even if these are passed, there is no follow through from National to make sure they are implemented and supported. National has its own agenda, separate from the individual chapters.
For these reasons listed above, and potentially more that may arise, SJDSA has decided to abstain from sending any delegates to the National Convention. SJDSA has decided that our time, resources, and money would be better serving our local communities. Ultimately, what happens at the National Convention does not affect what we do on the ground.