DSA must dedicate itself seriously to addressing the challenges of building multi-racial working class solidarity, in a way that is respectful of different communities’ histories and struggles, while also building an internal culture capable of effecting personal and collective transformation and interdependence.
We need an organized constituency of everyday people, a base. This base is the central building block for any successful campaign. In a mass movement, mass comes first. Socialist organizations don’t come with a pre-existing base. We have to organize one, and that work is much deeper than simply recruiting and retaining members.
Many of DSA’s current members come to the organization with experience in models of advocacy and activism. These models rely heavily on mobilizing already committed activists, largely ignoring ordinary people who aren’t already engaged. We believe the masses, particularly the poor and the subjugated, are powerful potential partners. We need organizing models that can reach them, and just as importantly, sustain their leadership through times of crisis. To be poor and subjugated is so often to live on the brink. Poverty or not, people face responsibilities like demanding jobs and caring for children, or parents, or disabled family members. We need deep organizing bonds that can grow with us across a lifetime, with organizing practices that complement rather than compete with our various life responsibilities.
If DSA can commit to a deep organizing model, the possibilities are profound because we are a national organization. A farmer in Minnesota can align with immigrant workers at a processing plant in a nearby state. Workers and activists in far away cities can align with those farmers and laborers at any number of points of interruption: storage, distribution, consumption, and more. DSA can be a conduit of resistance nationally. This type of solidarity is only possible if we first establish deep organizing bonds with those farmers and immigrant workers, if we form a base. That work starts at the chapter level.
We are inspired by base-building organizations like Cooperation Jackson, Put People First, Philly Socialists and others. Respectively, they’re created a worker-owned cooperative system, a statewide universal health care campaign, a citywide tenants union all while cultivating active working class constituencies made up of the very people who benefit most from these programs. These groups have organized incredibly diverse memberships. What’s more, poor and working people not only join, they become essential and respected leaders too. We need to build connections with these and other base-building organizations, learn their techniques, and prepare our own members to do similar deep organizing work in their respective chapters.
The NPC should explore relationships with other organizations who are also committed to developing and amplifying the engagement of poor and working people in their communities.
The National Training Team should be charged with creating a toolkit of education and training materials for local base-building projects through the relevant modules in their plan.
The NPC must institutionalize a process for assisting local chapters with base-building work
An area needs assessment can help reveal local resident necessities and possible service programs that can operate as an entry point for various communities
An organizational connections assessment can help demonstrate how current members already have community ties that can act as a starting point for base-building activities
Power-mapping can help locals strategically consider obstacles and allies when choosing a campaign or particular base-building program
A small grants system wherein locals would apply for $500-$1000 for 3-6 month base-building initiatives whether in coalition or to launch their own campaigns.
We would recommend an initial budget allocation of $20,000 for these small grants.