DSA, Internationalism, and the 2021 Convention: Which Path Forward?

Two of the authors of Resolution 14 break down the internationalist proposals before the 2021 Convention.

Last month, DSA sent a multi-tendency delegation to represent our organization in the Congreso Bicentenario de los Pueblos in Caracas, Venezuela. Convened to commemorate the bicentennial of an important Bolivarian victory against Spanish colonial rule, the event brought together the leading currents of the Latin American left along with left organizations from around the world. The delegation also spent time traveling across Venezuela meeting with various political formations and figures, surveying the workings of the Venezuelan political system on the ground, and witnessing the barbaric impact of U.S. sanctions firsthand.

DSA’s inclusion in the Congress was historically meaningful in a number of ways. As the biggest socialist organization in the primary imperialist country, DSA’s destiny matters to the international left. Mass parties around the globe are watching DSA as our membership continues to grow and mature politically. It is clear that DSA is entering a new phase of diplomatic engagement and that our organization can play a significant and constructive role on the international left.

Of course, DSA’s participation triggered some controversy both inside and outside DSA. Unsurprisingly, a small number of self-described Trotskyist comrades have taken issue with any form of positive engagement with the Venezuelan government, and remain generally suspicious of the mass, organized left in Latin America—especially the ideologically diverse range of parties that have grappled with the reality of what it means to take power and govern under the incredible weight of U.S. imperialism. We’ve also heard condemnations, for different reasons, from the red-baiting voices on the U.S. political right, for whom Venezuela features as a kind of surrogate Red Menace for the post-Cold War period. 

Ultimately, we wholeheartedly welcome the conversations and debates that are taking place inside DSA following the Venezuela trip. We’re especially excited to see many members engaging with internationalism and Latin American politics for the first time. We believe that a clear majority of DSA membership supports building relationships with the broad Latin American left and anti-imperialist organizing against the brutal policies of our government, and we’ve been heartened to see so many members voice their support for the joint efforts of the DSA International Committee (IC) and National Political Committee (NPC) to revitalize the IC.

With only a few weeks until the 2021 DSA National Convention, questions of international strategy are in the foreground like never before. Unfortunately the inner-workings of a major national body like the IC can be obscure to many members. How should delegates assess the spate of structural and political reforms that have been proposed? What is the recent history of international politics in DSA? And what path forward should the organization take?


CPN and Internationalism

The 2021 Convention

Looking forward

CPN and Internationalism

In 2019, CPN brought R-4: Building the International Committee before the Convention. R-4 called for a dramatic reorientation of the International Committee (IC) toward an anti-imperialist posture focused on forging solidaristic bonds between DSA and the mass movements, parties, and organizations of the international left, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. The proposal was adopted by a Convention supermajority, signaling a clear political shift in DSA’s growing membership on international questions. Further, the Convention’s strong support illustrated its desire for DSA—the biggest socialist organization in the U.S. in a hundred years—to embrace its new role as the leading partner of the international left in the U.S.

Since the passage of R-4 and the development of a well-conceived structural blueprint by a few veteran IC leaders, a root-to-stem reorganization of the IC was undertaken by the NPC. The “new” IC was launched in Summer 2020 with a diverse NPC-appointed leadership and an application process open to DSA members in good-standing. Since then, the NPC and IC have made dramatic strides in implementing the 2019 Convention’s will for an anti-imperialist, internationalist program focused on engagement and relationship-building with the mass, organized left in Latin America. 

The sea change that has taken place in DSA around international policy was desperately needed. Previous to the reforms triggered by the 2019 Convention, the IC was one of the most controversial and unaccountable bodies in the organization. While most members of the “old” IC were talented and capable comrades, a minority of members—especially the small grouping of Trotskyist dual-carders—steered the Committee into positions that were often woefully out-of-step with the politics of the membership. These positions generally retained a Cold War “Third Campist” orientation and included, for example, a dramatic hostility to socialist projects in countries like Cuba and Venezuela. 

CPN is not a caucus defined by strict ideological affinities. We have no desire to wear the costume of this or that -ism. The unity of our membership is based on shared programmatic objectives for DSA that we believe must be achieved to become a mass political vehicle for our class to wield power. Internationalism has been a key focus for CPN since our founding. In fact, a lack of any serious internationalist politics among national DSA caucuses was one of the conditions that compelled CPN’s emergence in the first place. Since the beginning, CPN has advocated for DSA to adopt an international strategy along the following lines. 

First, we believe that the IC—as a Convention-chartered national Committee accountable to our elected NPC—is the most democratically-legitimate national body to pursue international relations on behalf of DSA. Although we had significant disagreements with much of the political orientation of the pre-2019 IC, we worked to win a Convention mandate to reform the body and make it a more effective formation that was responsive to the needs of membership. Since then we’ve worked closely and respectfully with many veteran IC members. We strongly believe that Convention delegates alone have the power to set the political direction for important formations like the IC. We therefore strongly oppose any efforts to transform the IC into a more “autonomous” bureaucracy, as well as those attempts to circumvent the IC and create parallel national formations focused on this or that international issue or political orientation. In short, we are IC legitimists and Convention democrats.

Second, we believe that the IC’s primary objective, aside from establishing and managing DSA’s diplomatic relationships, should be to create chapter-level formations dedicated to solidarity work at the local level. We don’t want another top-heavy national committee vacuuming activists out of their local chapters. Instead, we want activists to develop their own local campaigns within a national campaign framework coordinated by the IC Steering Committee. Developing these local capacities is crucial if our diplomatic engagement is going to have any muscle behind it; any serious anti-imperialist commitment beyond the symbolic requires developing the infrastructure to run winnable campaigns on a national scale.

Third, we believe in priority-setting to focus our capacities and develop measurable goals, and that priorities set by the membership and NPC should matter. Since 2019, CPN has advocated for a Latin America regional priority. The last Convention adopted this priority, and we’ve worked hard with comrades on the IC and NPC to develop and implement it. While DSA must seek comrades in every corner of the Earth, we believe Latin America should continue to be the focus of our diplomatic and solidaristic efforts. The region is not only geographically and economically (and increasingly, culturally) contiguous with the United States, it’s long been a primary sphere of full-spectrum U.S. imperialism. We believe DSA has an urgent responsibility to blunt the impact of imperialism in the region, so that the peoples of Latin America can pursue political and economic self-determination unmolested by the bloodsucking interests of U.S. capital. 

Fourth, our focus on Latin America leads us to take a holistic, internationalist view of immigration. Internationalism at home means recognizing that the U.S. working class is itself multi-national, and that a majority of today’s foreign-born population is Latin American. Like the working-class German, Irish, and Italian immigrants whose prior experiences of class struggle deeply strengthened the labor and socialist movements during the 20th Century, today many Latin Americans in the U.S. from countries like Brazil, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico bring a wealth of experience as members or former members of mass leftwing parties, movements, and labor unions. DSA must become a political vehicle through which immigrants can wield power and address their particular and multifarious needs as part of a broad and powerful movement for socialism. We therefore believe that our diplomatic activity should always be pursued with these priorities in mind. We would like to see mutual participation arrangements forged with key Latin American mass parties, where their members living in the U.S. would be granted some form of membership status in DSA. This would not only give us direct entreé to an already-politicized base to organize domestically, it could also benefit our partners abroad by keeping their members politically engaged and organized while setting the stage for higher forms of international organization in the future.

Fifth, we believe that DSA should continue with the non-sectarian, peer-based, materialist approach to diplomatic engagement we adopted in 2019. We should engage with the broad spectrum of the international left, but we should always prioritize relations with left parties, organizations, and movements that have an authentically mass membership. Mass parties might be officially communist, socialist, social democratic, left nationalist, or encompass a coalitional spectrum of progressive tendencies. The point is that the parties we prioritize for diplomatic engagement represent mass political vehicles that embody and express organized class power and that constitute the primary leftwing forces in their countries and regions. We are political realists who strongly oppose all attempts to drag DSA into the micro-sectarian wilderness where hyper-narrow ideological dogma would govern our diplomatic policies.

…the parties we prioritize for diplomatic engagement represent mass political vehicles that embody and express organized class power and that constitute the primary leftwing forces in their countries and regions.

The 2021 Convention

Next month, the DSA National Convention will have the opportunity to vote on a series of competing internationalist resolutions. Convention delegates have important decisions to make about the future of DSA’s international work. We’re happy to see clear political differences come to the foreground and hope our analysis will help inform delegates as they define DSA’s path forward.

(Additional information about the structure and bodies of the revitalized International Committee can be found here.)

Resolution 14 (support) is our caucus-endorsed international proposal authored by two CPN members serving on the IC Secretariat (your writers), one comrade serving on the IC Steering Committee, two current NPC liaisons to the IC, and two comrades from the DSA San Francisco caucus Red Star. The resolution amplifies the successes of the two-year IC reform effort and lays out several concrete measures to deepen DSA’s diplomatic and solidaristic capacities. 

R-14 would routinize several of the diplomatic instruments that the IC has experimented with in recent years. One such measure is sending election observer delegations to countries at the invitation of our partners abroad, particularly in the Americas. Such delegations are useful not only because they allow us to forge face-to-face relationships with our counterparts, but also because they provide anti-imperialist support for left governments and opposition parties. Having an international presence on the ground helps left governments defend against perennial right-wing propaganda alleging election fraud and allows the IC to report back to DSA membership about the real conditions of a given election. Meanwhile, left opposition parties actually facing undemocratic and corrupt elections are bolstered by international voices confirming their claims.

Further, R-14 calls for the IC to develop a program where members of Latin American left parties living in the U.S. could be invited to participate in DSA in some form, and likewise where DSA members living in Latin American countries could be invited to participate in the given party. This level of diplomatic engagement would squarely situate DSA as the official political home of Latin American leftists and unionists living in the U.S., and would open up huge opportunities to organize an already-politicized base of immigrant workers and invite them to help shape our organization. To take one concrete example, there are likely thousands of Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT) members and voters living and working on the East Coast alone—and DSA is a natural fit for their political home in the U.S..

Additionally, R-14 calls for DSA to seek membership in the São Paolo Forum, a diplomatic objective with unanimous support on the outgoing 2020-21 Secretariat. The Forum was founded by PT in 1990 as a multi-tendency regional organization of Latin American left parties, and would go on to play an important role in the ‘90s and 2000s in coordinating the leftwing turn in Latin American politics that came to be known as the Pink Tide. DSA voted to leave the Socialist International in 2017; and since then we have not pursued any regional or international affiliations to replace it. Joining the São Paolo Forum would formally position DSA as the U.S.-based peer organization of the hemispheric left, and symbolize the coming-together of the leftwing bloc of Latin American parties and governments with the largest socialist organization in the imperialist behemoth to the North. Joining the Forum would not only signal our organization’s internationalist maturation and the seriousness of our anti-imperialist commitments, it would also constitute a significant event in the history of the U.S. and hemispheric left as such. 

Lastly, R-14 directs the IC to focus on developing the resources and infrastructure necessary for chapters to run solidaristic campaigns within a nationally-coordinated framework. This work could start with the IC developing chapter toolkits to help DSA members start internationalist formations and run solidarity campaigns in cities and towns across the U.S. Such work is indispensable if we’re serious about breaking the bipartisan consensus around a fundamentally imperialist U.S. foreign policy, and with a bit of work the IC would be well-positioned to lend institutional support and cross-chapter coordination for ambitious national campaigns. DSA’s PRO-Act Campaign, in which DSA’s Democratic Socialist Labor Commission (DSLC) and the Ecosocialist Working Group mobilized a veritable army of members across the country to make over a million calls to legislators urging support, is a solid example of how a national campaign can develop chapter-level capacities while making a measurable impact on national politics. The IC could play a similar role in helping DSA bring serious muscle to a variety of anti-imperialist struggles—to take just one of many possible examples, the struggle to end the vicious U.S. embargo against Cuba.

We believe that R-14 is the only internationalist resolution to support at the 2021 Convention. R-14 maximizes the demonstrable, real-world success of the two-year IC reform effort and, unlike many competing resolutions, lays out clear, concrete steps and positions that DSA can take to effectively fight U.S. imperialism at home while forging tighter bonds with the spectrum of mass leftwing organizations in the Western Hemisphere and across the world.

Moving on from R-14, the next three international resolutions come from the International Solidarity Platform (ISP), a Convention formation that represents a small Trotskyist contingent that has been aggrieved since the 2019-2020 IC reform effort resulted in a shift to broadly anti-imperialist policies and the opening up of Committee membership to the rest of the organization. While their suite of proposals is cloaked in democratic and “anti-imperialist” rhetoric, a closer look at the details reveals the opposite. To put it bluntly, we believe these resolutions are a direct reaction to the progress made in the IC, and that they represent a hail-mary attempt to claw back influence inside the IC through bureaucratization.

The resolution amplifies the successes of the two-year IC reform effort and lays out several concrete measures to deepen DSA’s diplomatic and solidaristic capacities.

At present, the IC Steering Committee is composed of seven voting members and three non-voting members who are all appointed by the NPC. ISP’s Resolution 15 (oppose) seeks to expand the number of voting members to sixteen by adding nine “Subcommittee Representatives,” each of whom would be elected by their respective Subcommittees. Despite the meritable intentions behind the resolution, this arrangement would significantly undermine the democratic accountability of the IC to DSA membership as a whole, while calcifying the IC’s national-heavy structure and complicating the development of a more chapter-focused organizing model.

In DSA, our Convention delegates not only constitute the highest political authority in the organization, they also represent our geographically diverse, 95,000-person membership organization as a whole. Through the political resolutions they choose to support and the NPC members they choose to elect, delegates alone set the political direction for DSA on all major strategic questions, from labor policy to international orientation. The current NPC-appointed status of all IC leadership is the source of the Committee’s legitimacy as the body representing DSA with one coherent voice on the international left.

R-15 would transform Subcommittees into political constituencies that elect their own representatives on the SC—officers who therefore represent the interests of their Subcommittee’s active membership, not of the IC or DSA membership. With nine Subcommittees and only seven NPC-appointed leaders, broad political agency over DSA’s international policies would effectively be transferred from the Convention to the Subcommittees.

In another strange wrinkle, R-15 calls for non-proportional representation for Subcommittees on the SC with no regard for Subcommittee size or the role certain Subcommittees play in relation to regional priorities (such as Latin America) established by the Convention. In effect, R-15 would refound the IC SC as a Senate of Subcommittees. The current SC model is far more democratic and accountable, with a leadership that acts as an extension of the Convention-elected NPC.

…this arrangement would significantly undermine the democratic accountability of the IC to DSA membership as a whole.

Similarly, Resolution 16 (oppose) calls for Subcommittee chairs to be elected by Subcommittee membership, not appointed by the NPC. While this proposal is slightly less troublesome than the more radical R-15, both resolutions are clearly part of the same effort to turn Subcommittees into quasi-autonomous bureaucracies empowered to either implement or ignore the policies of Convention and the NPC. While the anti-democratic nature of these proposals would be enough to warrant strong opposition, anyone with experience in national DSA bodies or familiarity with the recent political history of the IC should have a sense of how disastrous these proposals, if adopted, would be in practice

It’s easy to foresee that turning Subcommittees into political constituencies with internal elections and SC representatives would greatly compromise the political clarity and operational efficiency of the IC. Competing minoritarian political tendencies that represent miniscule fractions of DSA’s membership could hypothetically win control of a Subcommittee and refuse or resist implementation of Convention-approved international policies, or contradict the stances of another Subcommittee. We might see one Subcommittee ruled by Trotskyists, another by social democrats, and another by Marxist-Leninists, each with contradictory platforms and stances. 

Tendencies with virtually no support at Convention could circumvent the Convention’s will through politicking at the Subcommittee level. Plainly, this is bureaucratism. Sure, the NPC could still intervene to overrule decisions or remove individuals from office. But triggering a constitutional crisis whenever a Subcommittee goes rogue is an unrealistic expectation that would gravely debilitate the Committee and kneecap DSA’s ability to effectively pursue its international policies.

It’s worth pausing for a moment to consider what it means to take regional Subcommittees like the European Subcommittee, or thematic ones like the Labor Subcommittee and turn them into political constituencies. Subcommittees are made up of activists and academics grouped around a particular specialized focus. The vast majority of these comrades are highly knowledgeable, experienced, and dedicated to strengthening DSA and the international socialist movement, and their participation in the IC is crucial for the Committee’s ability to fulfill its mission. At the same time, we believe that political control of DSA’s international policy should rest exclusively in the hands of the Convention and their elected representatives on NPC.

This will be increasingly important as DSA continues to grow into the mass, working-class organization that we believe it is our task to fashion. By the nature of our class position, working people are extremely overworked, tired, and distracted, and DSA must change in general to be more accessible to a majority of our class. The average working-class DSA member may not be able to recite the ins-and-outs of every geo-political question, but we strongly believe that they should always hold political agency inside the organization to set DSA’s programmatic positions, and that national-level formations in DSA should follow through on these positions.

Lastly, R-15 and R-16 would create a more chaotic and politically incoherent IC that would undermine DSA’s institutional credibility on the international left—a reputation that we’ve made incredible progress on over the past two years. From a diplomatic standpoint, our International Committee must be seen as a reliable partner with a reasonable level of political consistency. Positions adopted by the Convention and implemented through the NPC must reign supreme, and the IC, as the organization’s international mouthpiece, must speak with one coherent voice.

Unfortunately, ISP’s structural focus on Subcommittees is an unwelcome distraction from the kind of work the SC should be prioritizing, and the kind of national committee the IC should ultimately become. While everyone agrees that IC Subcommittees have a key role to play in the IC, we disagree with ISP’s vision of the Committee as a top-heavy national formation that plucks activists out of their chapters and parks them in thematically-defined Subcommittees floating in the DSA firmament. The ISP approach would not only leach local capacity away from chapters, it also fails to recognize the most important organizational task now facing the IC.

We believe the SC must focus the bulk of its efforts on solidifying chapter-level formations that can translate DSA’s diplomatic work into tangible, solidaristic action in towns and cities across the country. Ideally, 85percent of IC members should be working on nationally coordinated campaigns in their chapters. At the end of the day, DSA’s job is to blunt U.S. imperialist policies and eventually supplant them with a democratic socialist foreign policy. If we’re serious anti-imperialists, we need to be designing campaign infrastructure on a national scale.

Resolution 17 (oppose)—arguably the most odious ISP resolution of all—concerns itself not with IC structure but with its political orientation. With dense passages leaden with jargon, the proposal is difficult to parse. For many, the resolution may appear to be an innocuous, if esoteric reaffirmation of internationalist principles. This is true to an extent. However, for those who are familiar with the bizarre coded language of the microsect left, you’ll quickly discover that the resolution is a recapitulation of the internationalist dogma of groups like the ISO, a small, now-defunct Trotskyist organization.

The second, third, and fourth resolved clauses are inessential and not worth much comment. They call on the IC to keep doing what it already does: political education, fundraising for international comrades in need, organizing forums with left organizations abroad. The real thrust of the resolution is the first clause, which proposes that DSA adopt the ISO approach to internationalism.

What exactly is this approach? A three-level ranking process DSA would use to sort through the left movements and organizations of the world and assess which are morally worthy of our support and which are not. On the top of the pyramid, you have “critical defense,” followed by “critical support,” followed by “no support.” Critical defense is reserved for movements that are good and pure. Critical support is reserved for movements that are more of a Mixed Bag and/or clear victims of U.S. imperialism. The clause indicates that this category is a conditional form of support. No support is reserved for left movements that have gone Bad.

You’ll quickly notice that the resolution authors don’t actually say who or what our diplomatic priorities should be. Their rubric for judgment leaves no room for a materialist analysis of the balance of forces in a given country or region, or the mass character and class composition of a given organization. It leaves no room for historical context or the understanding of the real conditions facing movements in motion. It lacks even the baseline geopolitical realism of the average bourgeois graduate seminar. What we’re left with is an unalloyed idealism, a holy ranking of the purity of the international left. If socialism has been rooted in materialism since the time of Marx, R-17 is a throwback to the pre-Marxist Utopians.

While we agree with many of the rhetorical truisms of R-17, we unequivocally oppose the substance of the resolution and, frankly, loathe the entire approach that it represents. Common sense and average levels of self-awareness are adequate grounds for opposition. Should DSA be in the business of declaring who should and shouldn’t be inducted into the Kingdom of Socialism? No. Should DSA offer our support to, say, the government of Cuba on the condition that they implement this or that reform in their country? Of course not—the idea is patently ridiculous. If the ISP authors had their way, DSA would denounce, from our remote perch in the bosom of the imperialist core, any and all leftwing projects where material reality intervenes against their narrow ideological expectations.

In short, R-17 is an attempt to smuggle bizarre ideological dogma through the Convention, so that sectarians who compose a small minority both in the IC and in DSA will have a policy basis to pursue their weird religious mission. Don’t give it to them!

Resolution 18 (oppose) comes from members of Emerge, a local caucus based in New York City DSA. With no less than eleven resolved clauses, R-18 is a mammoth compendium resolution that includes a mix of political and structural directives for the IC and DSA. This is highly unfortunate. We respect these comrades’ commitment to anti-imperialist politics and find significant alignment between Emerge and CPN on many strategy questions. Yet while we support roughly 35% of the resolved section of R-18, we find the other 65% so deeply misguided that, in our view, R-18 is the most troublesome Convention proposal for IC reform that we can remember—eclipsing even the ISP structure resolutions with the breathtaking radicalism of R-18’s bureaucratic “democracy.”

First, the good. We more or less support resolved clauses one, three, and four. Essentially, the first clause is already in force—opening up IC membership with a process that prioritizes first and second-generation immigrant members was a practice established by R-4 in 2019, reaffirmed by the NPC in 2020, and implemented shortly thereafter. We support continuing the policy. The third clause directs the IC to further democratize its structures and processes in general terms. Who could disagree with this? Of course, the meaning of “democratize” is a political question with sharp differences of opinion, as we’ve already seen and shall see again. Clause four lays out that DSA members living abroad should participate in left organizations in their countries of residence, instead of forming DSA “international chapters” (a clear reference to R-13, which would allow these members to form such chapters, and which CPN also opposes). While we agree with the authors of R-18 that international chapters are not the way to go, we prefer R-14’s more strategic approach of forging mutualistic participation agreements with key parties. Clause four therefore offers only half the equation and misses the strategic and diplomatic framework.

Moving on to the bad. The second clause sets down that IC members will participate in electing IC leadership. The language here is simple enough that it could seem anodyne. But when it comes to such prescriptions, details are crucial. Because of the open-ended language in R-18’s second clause, conceivably any model could be implemented—including some form of R-15 and/or R-16, whether or not the Convention rejects or adopts those specific proposals. On democratic principle, as well as for organizational reasons detailed above in the ISP resolution discussion, we strongly favor NPC-appointed IC leadership because we believe that the Convention and the NPC alone should set the priorities and orientation for DSA’s international work.

Lastly, the ugly: clauses six, seven, eight, nine, ten, and eleven. Essentially these clauses would elevate the IC Secretariat to the level of a parallel NPC for DSA’s international policy. IC members would nominate candidates for Secretariat, and every two years the nominations would be put to a Convention vote. This hulked-up Secretariat would be empowered to unilaterally write statements in the name of DSA, enjoy “broad autonomy” to set IC standards and priorities, and rewrite the IC’s mission statement at-will—powers currently reserved for the Convention and the NPC.

R-18 fundamentally shares its approach—transferring power from the Convention and the NPC to a national Committee bureaucracy—with the ISP structure resolutions, and amplifies it to dizzying proportions. R-18 would essentially re-found the IC as a self-contained internationalist organization within and alongside the domestic socialist organization. It would significantly decentralize national DSA by diluting executive power by 50% and separating political leadership into discrete domestic and international spheres. Sixteen NPC members would be responsible for DSA’s labor or electoral work, while only seven voting Secretariat members would be tasked with DSA’s international work. And where NPC candidacies usually require chapter leadership experience to be politically viable (in other words, NPC members come out of DSA chapters), Secretariat members would be nominated by IC subcommittees. Moreover, as we laid out in CPN’s internationalist principles, segregating the “domestic” from the “international” is another way to diminish potential worker power and ensure a future where a weakened left continues to be divided and crushed under the imperial boot of capital.

Sure, R-18 allows the Convention to rubber stamp IC-nominated Secretariat candidates. And sure, R-18 includes a provision that the NPC technically holds veto power over IC decisions. But again, why trigger a “constitutional crisis” every time some part of the IC goes against the will of the Convention? To begin with, why set up conditions for unending micropolitical contests at every level of the IC?

We believe that R-18, like R-15 and R-16, could stunt the progress DSA has made with its international work over the past two years and impose on the IC all the bad habits of unreformed and underdeveloped DSA bodies. But throwing a wrench into the wheels of the IC isn’t the worst of it. R-18 could deform the structure of DSA as a coherent national organization and make it more difficult to realize our mass potential. Frankly, it’s surprising that R-18—one of the most radical proposals for DSA’s leadership structure in memory—is even admissible as a resolution, when a Constitutional amendment would seem more appropriate. We urge delegates to oppose R-18.

We believe most DSA members want an efficient and functional IC that carries out the will of the Convention and remains highly accountable to the NPC and membership. We also believe that most members have no interest in applying arcane sectarian policies to DSA’s international program, and prefer a more practical approach based on measurable, common-sense priorities and the pursuit of solidaristic and constructive engagement with the international left.

We wish the comrades who authored R-15, 16, 17, and 18 had drawn inspiration from the organizational models and political strategies of actually-existing mass political organizations and labor unions. No significant organized force in the history of all socialism set up its international arm in the mold envisioned by these resolutions. Did our precursors in the historical Socialist Party of America conduct international diplomacy based on the dizzying blueprints presented in R-15, 16, and 18? Does the Bolivian Movimiento al Socialismo today? Or the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and its millions of members? Did Salvador Allende’s Partito Socialista de Chile—one of the quintessential Democratic Socialist parties of the 20th Century—adopt a haughty, dogmatic approach toward international solidarity, as R-17 calls for? Quite the opposite. In our view, R-15, R-16, R-17, and R-18 are, for different reasons, anathema to mass politics; and therefore represent a politics that we disagree with.

Looking Forward

In closing, DSA members should be proud of their International Committee and the remarkable progress that IC and NPC members have achieved in only two short years. Sometimes it can feel like change happens slowly in a democratic, membership-based organization like DSA. The delegate supermajority that supported CPN’s vision for the IC in 2019 should feel secure in the knowledge that their will has largely been implemented and that DSA, despite occasional headaches and imperfections brought on by growing pains, retains an authentically democratic core unmatched by any comparable organization in the U.S.

When it comes to DSA’s international policy, this Convention is about defending the gains of the past two years and expanding on them. R-15, 16, 17, and 18 offer a lot of abstract political jargon and overwrought structures, and very little in the way of clear, forthright political positions for what our diplomatic objectives should be and how we can achieve them. R-14 alone offers delegates a concrete and practicable set of recommendations backed by a coherent diplomatic strategy and an organizational vision for DSA as a mass, working-class socialist organization—the kind of organization we must construct, if our class has any hope of forging a democratic socialist future.

Morgan Dowdy is a member of New Orleans DSA. Jack Suria-Linares is a member of DSA Los Angeles. They co-authored Resolution 4 in 2019 and recently co-authored Resolution 14 for the 2021 Convention along with several other comrades. They both currently serve on the International Secretariat.