NYC Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)
What does DSA stand for? Do you have a party line or a list of things I must agree with to join?
DSA calls itself a “big tent” socialist organization-- we do not advance one particular “type” of socialism, and we all try to work together to make our neighborhoods, states, country, and world better. We do not always agree on things, but we try to see each others’ positions and treat ideological differences fairly.
Do I have to “join” to come to a meeting?
No! Try checking out a local branch meeting, a social event, a debate, or a working group meeting that sounds interesting to you! Or if you’re more of a protesting type, look for us in the streets when people are out-- you’ll know us by our red signs, catchy chants, and great attitude.
What are branches? What branch am I in?
As of 2018, there are more than 3,000 dues-paying members involved with the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (NYC-DSA). Because it is logistically impossible to fit 3,000 people in any space short of a football stadium, we have had to organize ourselves into more manageable chunks. These branches are primarily geographic, including: Central Brooklyn (CBK-- generally meeting in Downtown Brooklyn), South Brooklyn (SBK-- generally meeting in Bay Ridge), North Brooklyn (NBK-- generally meeting in Bushwick), Queens, Lower Manhattan (Low-Man), Bronx and Upper Manhattan (BUM). CUNY students and Labor (for those active in the Labor movement) are also recognized as their own branches. You can join whichever geographic branch works for you-- some people join a branch where they work, or the branch their friends are in, rather than the one where they live. Branches hold regular meetings and social get-togethers, commit to projects in their areas, and hold special events like debates and weekend classes.
What is a Branch Organizing Committee?
The Organizing Committee is the group of officers elected to manage branchwork for one year. In Central Brooklyn, our OC work includes planning a monthly general meeting for our members, building and improving the communication network that organizes our membership, planning branch-level campaigns, events and fundraising projects for the coming year, and overseeing community-level engagement. It is quite a bit of work which requires a great deal of time and commitment on the part of the branch leadership. If you’d like to help (which is a great way for a new member to get involved and meet people!) look out for emails asking for volunteers, or just ask an OC member what they’re working on!
Ok, sounds good, but what is there to do outside the Branch?
Because NYC-DSA is as vast as the oceans and seas are wet, our membership dedicates their time and energy into diverse but nevertheless interlocking working groups dedicated to different facets of the socialist struggle for human emancipation. Whereas your branch provides you as an activist with a socialist homebase, working groups connect your activist labor to the broader struggle.
Current NYC-DSA working groups include:
Labor and Strike Solidarity
Marshals (help keep our marches and direct actions safe with planning, medic training, and cute red bandanas)
Media (providing support to DSA projects with design, art, writing, video, and other media skills)
Debt & Finance
How can I find out about upcoming events?
How do we discuss things in DSA?
Some shared guidelines we often use for for debates in DSA include:
Assume good faith (good intentions and honesty) in your comrades. Try to understand where someone is coming from and why someone might be arguing something you disagree with.
Step up/Step Back-- if you are a person who talks a lot, take some time to step back and listen to others. If you’re a quiet type, try sharing your thoughts with the group!
WAIT, “Why Am I Talking?”-- Consider whether what you’re saying has already been said, whether what you’re saying is relevant, [need more explanation of this]
Recognize and respect others’ feelings, background, and cultural differences
Oops, Ouch-- DSA discussions should be a safe space to make mistakes and say “oops,” but also a safe space to say “ouch” and inform someone when they are saying something hurtful. Apologies should be accepted when accompanied by changed behavior, and being informed you’ve upset someone should be taken seriously.
One Diva, One Mic-- Don’t interrupt or talk over people.
Respect the Stack-- When people are taking turns speaking, we often use “progressive stack,” in which white men speak last. Wait your turn.
I have an accessibility request, childcare needs, language needs, or something else DSA can do to make attending meetings work for me:
Contact the organizers for the event or meeting, and they will do everything they can to meet your need. https://www.socialists.nyc/contact-us/
What is the structure of NYC-DSA? Do you have a president or leader?
The NYC chapter has a steering committee (a group of elected officers including two co-chairs, a secretary, a treasurer, a membership coordinator, and branch representatives) who mostly make day to day administrative decisions, and a Citywide Leadership Committee (representatives of branches) who make political decisions. Most of your work will occur in the Branches and Working Groups, which are fairly independent when working on projects. Branches and working groups generally have an elected committee who organize the meetings, as well as subcommittees you can join and dive right into the work!
Someone said something (online, in person, in a publication) that made me upset. Why does someone in DSA think this (too radical/too “liberal”/un-marxist/naive/whatever else) thing!
Again, we are a big tent organization. We do not force our members to stick to a certain “line,” and individual members may make statements that do not represent the organization as a whole. However, if a member is engaging in harassment or hate speech, we do have a procedure for dealing with this-- our grievance procedure.