Introducing Red Star’s 2023 DSA Convention Platform, NPC Candidates, Governance Pledge, and an amendment to the GDC consensus resolution! Get to know our three amazing candidates and learn more about our vision for a socialist future.
Sam Heft-Luthy (he/him) is a former co-chair of DSA San Francisco, and the outgoing secretary of California DSA. He is a co-author of the 2021 DSA National Convention’s Resolution #14: Committing to International Socialist Solidarity, and a former staff organizer for DSA SF’s 2022 Ballot Measure campaign.
Sam grew up in Seattle, the son of a public high school teacher and a vintage clothes dealer. Raised in an apartment just up the hill from Amazon’s new headquarters in Seattle and across Lake Washington from Microsoft, then moving to San Francisco and working in privacy and compliance for software companies, Sam has seen the corrosive role technology capital has played within the politics and economic life of American cities.
He found out about DSA as a countervailing force in this struggle while walking to get coffee in the Mission district of San Francisco; he was asked to sign a ballot measure campaign to win free eviction for tenants facing eviction in the city, and decided to volunteer for the campaign the same day. From getting involved in that campaign, run by DSA SF, he became more and more a part of San Francisco’s socialist movement, participating in nascent organizing efforts at his company, street protests against the Trump administration and local right-wing elected officials, electoral campaigns for homeless services and to elect Supervisor Dean Preston, and support for unionization drives at Anchor Brewing, VCA Animal Hospitals, Dandelion Chocolates, and Tartine Bakery.
In 2020, Sam stepped into leadership of the San Francisco chapter, overseeing a transitional period as the chapter enacted a priority process to focus its work. In this period, the chapter participated in demonstrations against anti-black police brutality, grew its presence in International Solidarity demonstrations and education, and built on its success in other areas of struggle.
As part of the chapter’s process of democratization, Sam helped lead a restructure to the chapter’s electoral work with more democratic input and a clearer strategic outlook. This included the chapter’s 2022 ballot measure campaign, People First San Francisco, which Sam eventually served as a part-time staff organizer for. The campaign won a landmark residential vacancy tax, and moved odd-year elections to even years to double turnout, all above protests of the city’s mayor of the campaign as a “democratic socialist power grab.”
Sam served on the inaugural leadership body of California DSA, acting as Secretary. There he organized Listening Sessions to gather information and report to leadership about the state of chapters across the country, and helped organize the state’s Ecosocialist Working Group to coordinate chapter work to fight for climate justice and a Green New Deal.
Through his time as an organizer in DSA, Sam has grown through political education, both through the organization’s programs and through his personal development. He writes on topics such as Chinese politics (including translations of political texts from various tendencies of Chinese political thought), international solidarity, electoral politics through a revolutionary lens, and leadership for DSA organizers.
- All the Rules of the Art: The Struggle for Good Governance in DSA - Zenith (Red Star periodical)
- Organization Is Our Principal Task! On Socialist Electoral Work - Zenith (Red Star periodical)
- On Leadership - Fog City Rose
- Ratify Resolution #14 and Continue the Positive Direction of DSA’s International Solidarity Work! - Fog City Rose
- In Defense of "Zombie Marx" - Red Star
Megan Romer was born and raised in rural Central New York, a many-generations-deep townie in a region where politics was dominated by a liberal academic elite from the nearest “big city” of Ithaca. The oldest child in a family of underpaid care workers and first responders (medical, fire, and rescue, never cops), Megan discovered early that there wasn’t much that couldn’t be accomplished with a motley neighborhood crew and the expired contents of a first aid kit.
Megan started working for a local folk music festival production non-profit in high school, landing in the role of Marketing Director and Site Logistics Coordinator sometime around when she would have been graduating college, had she gone. From there, she worked a number of jobs in the folk/trad/global music industry, from promotions director to booking agent to tour manager.
Somewhere in there, she met her partner, a fiddle player who plays traditional American folk music, and moved to Southwest Louisiana, where he was working full-time as a musician in various Cajun, Zydeco and Western Swing bands. After they had their son, Megan pivoted into a full-time-ish freelance career as a music, arts, and travel writer, with plenty of time and energy left to be a PTA organizer, Sunday School teacher, and all-purpose mom-volunteer for events and causes of all kinds.
Like so many liberal white feminists, Megan found herself boggled and terrified after the 2016 election – the liberal identity-first political framework she was wrestling with was awash with contradictions, and attempting to reconcile these got her thrown out of multiple local Democratic Party groups, leading her to land in DSA somewhere in 2018-ish out of a pure lack of options. Finding her local DSA OC to be the first actually-democratic body she’d interacted with (thus defying her understanding of, well, everything), she stepped eagerly into the role of snack mom, knowing her political limitations (the clouds were just barely beginning to part) and thus preferring a support role to leadership positions.
Megan became an official DSA member in 2019 in order to vote on the official incorporation of DSA SWLA and was grateful for the guidance of her comrades as she struggled through a politically challenging year. She entered an optimistic but confused Social Democrat, trying to make sense of the contradictions she encountered on a trip to rural Cuba followed immediately by a trip to Europe (incidentally the week that the Yellow Vest Protests began), and who believed that the Dem Party schism from 2016 was still rectifiable. After a year that included being fired from a job as an adult ed/ESL instructor and recruiter due to pro-choice/anti-CPC postings on her personal social media, a weird brush with social media fame after calling attention to an underreported arson spree targeting Black churches in rural Southwest Louisiana, as well as another, longer trip to Cuba, Megan felt much more confident about socialism and became a full-time digital volunteer on the Bernie Sanders campaign and a more-plugged-in organizer in her chapter.
Then came the end of the Sanders campaign. Then came COVID. Then came deeply-reluctant homeschooling. Then came the George Floyd murder, followed shortly by a police murder in the city of Lafayette. Then came Hurricanes Laura and Delta (the first devastated the nearby city of Lake Charles; the second, a month later, was a near-direct hit to Lafayette that ended with a tree on the roof and several days without power in the sweltering late-summer heat). DSA SWLA sprung into action alongside comrades from Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, SRA, and others in order to provide relief. Possessing a carport, a fair bit of spare time, and a few extra in-house sets of strong arms, Megan became the chapter’s primary supply hub coordinator, managing intake and top-level distribution for around $75,000 worth of donated goods through the mail (DSA for USPS but make it packages) and helping her chapter fundraise and disburse another $60,000 in cash. There were enormous challenges with taking on this kind of cash influx for a chapter that had really only ever passed a hat to buy chips and hummus for chapter meetings, and the emotional toll of doing needs intake for hundreds of neighbors weighed heavy on chapter members, though it was also an incredible trial-by-fire learning experience.
It was a challenging time and one which led Megan to (1) finally run for chapter leadership and (2) join and work with MAWG to help develop disaster relief plans specifically for chapters, knowing that preparation for large-scale traumatic events (from weather disasters to train derailments to police shootings) builds overall organizational resiliency and structure and is key to contemporary socialist organizing.
In 2021, Megan and her family left Southwest Louisiana “temporarily” in order to provide in-home hospice care in New York City for an ill relative (which very unexpectedly lasted 18 months), where she enjoyed working a bit with the membership committee in the B/UM chapter and starting a well-attended outdoor reading group in Central Park. From there, finding themselves relieved to be free of the stress of weather disasters and enjoying closer proximity to extended family, the crew moved back to Central New York in early 2023. Megan is now in her 3rd term on MAWG steering, and her 2nd as co-chair, and enjoys using the Mutual Aid framework to develop organizational capacity, resiliency, and comradely, diverse theoretical grounding. Megan also spent an electoral cycle working in political communications, helping run the comms shops for a state party, four progressive Congressional campaigns, and multiple state-level races. She gained an enormous appreciation for electoral work but is happy to continue exclusively in a volunteer capacity on that front.
As an accidental socialist, her 2022 New Year’s Organizing Resolution was “read more theory,” which some Red Star comrades noticed and invited her to participate in some of the Red Start reading groups, and now she simply will not go away (and has led two Red Start sessions, even – one covering William Z. Foster’s Organizing Methods in the Steel Industry and one covering selections from Marta Harnecker’s Rebuilding the Left). She is motivated by a belief that in order to win socialism, we need well-defined structures born out of scientific analyses, a commitment to robust democratic practice in all of our spaces, and political organizer development opportunities at every level and in every corner of DSA in order to massively grow our capacity as an organization of socialist organizers who are ready to fight on multiple terrains of struggle.
John Lewis is a member of New Orleans DSA and a former co-chair of Baton Rouge DSA. Like so many other Louisianans, he spent a good portion of his younger years moving back and forth from Atlanta, the closest thing the South has to an economic powerhouse, and Iberia Parish in rural Southwest Louisiana. John still has family throughout Louisiana and the greater Atlanta area.
Seeing both urban and rural Southern Black poverty up close as he bounced back and forth between Georgia and Louisiana as his dad followed work, he learned what solidarity meant from his neighbors and community. The very fabric of Southern Black life impressed the importance of service, and from his teenage years, he became active in various organizations, protest movements, and political campaigns. In this decade, he worked with elders of the Civil Rights movement, saints of the Black church, grassroots organizers, and long-time members of Louisiana’s historic mutual aid and benevolent societies. Still, like much contemporary activism, many of the movements he participated in were largely liberal and reactive, lacking a full class analysis. In 2014, everything changed when one of John’s best friends was murdered by the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Department, who claimed that the young man committed suicide while sitting in the back of a police car, his hands cuffed behind his back.
This horrible, catalyzing event was different from the other encounters with state or racialized violence that John had encountered or witnessed before. Victor was never coming home, and nothing resembling justice for his killers would ever be found.
John decided to dedicate more time to engaging politically and studying to try to understand how this happened; what forces allowed an extrajudicial execution to happen with zero consequences from the justice system, elected officials, or even the media. The narrative was too absurd – how could a handcuffed man shoot himself in the head? – and yet the pushback was nearly nonexistent. John’s search for answers would lead him to work on an electoral campaign, dive deeper into local and state level politics, and ultimately recognize that his political aims of changing the system didn’t align with the people around him. It would all make sense one day 6 years later when he was studying poverty, read about it being created by capitalism, and stumbled into socialism via a Google search.
John joined DSA in 2020, while he was living in Baton Rouge. Unfortunately, that chapter had gone largely inactive after the Sanders campaign ended and COVID hit.But he knew that he needed to find other socialists, and as there had not been an open socialist presence in most of his prior organizing work, he had to dig deep to find comrades – the chapter was not active or able to connect him with other socialists, but he was not an at-large member, either.He was determined, though, and eventually landed on the DSA forums where comrades directed him to his regional organizer, who in turn got him connected with New Orleans DSA. Right around the same time, one of his students (he was working as a technology instructor at a local college) got him into BR DSA’s internal communication platform. He would post in Baton Rouge DSA’s comms channel every Tuesday for months, trying to see if comrades in his immediate area wanted to meet or organize. Finally, it coalesced after an abortion rights protest – members arrived independently, connected, and John helped pull together the first chapter meeting in over a year, getting the chapter back on track to organization.
Over the next two years, John served as chapter co-chair and worked with his chapter to build a direct aid infrastructure which helped neighbors and community members recover from multiple major weather incidents (record-breaking floods after a freak rainstorm, plus the second-largest hurricane to make landfall in Louisiana). He was able to help connect various local activists and people across anti-capitalist tendencies to work together in response to these devastating events. The coalition helped organize a community fridge network and has continued to help with a local anti-hunger group up to this day.Though most of John’s activist history was from a liberal framework, he learned the basic skills needed to pull together coalitions, recruit with intention and center the “why” of the activism, which allowed him to make it a point to use these programs to build intentional community, motivate people to engage more politically, and intentionally recruit new members. The fridge network received local attention and he used this as an opportunity to whip for more socialist values and press against capitalist justifications for the suffering that the programs helped reduce, while centering the reality that free fridges cannot fix poverty, only socialism can. He became a union member of UCW-LA (CWA Local 3465) after learning about them from other DSAers and helped bottomline the statewide organizing committee that was exploring a Louisiana DSA. He worked on a cross-chapter collaboration to help a socialist win a seat on the Louisiana public service commission, in favor of nationalizing our local energy company Entergy.
John spoke at both DSA Boycott Divestment & Sanctions forums on staying in DSA to make sure our organization is an organization that lives up to its commitments, understanding that trust is paramount to organization-building and member retention – if members cannot trust the organization to behave in ways they expect and they cannot expect their votes to matter, why participate at all? To further this, John has worked with the DSA Observer, an independent publication, to ensure that the organization’s internals are more transparent to members. He has also worked internally, serving on the National Technology Committee, the National Growth & Development Committee and the Multi-Racial Organizing Committee. He’s also served in leadership of DSA’s AfroSocialists and Socialists of Color Caucus and the National Abolition Working Group. Last summer he ended up on the first slate of DSA NPC replacement candidates.
DSA is John’s political home and he wants the organization to become the political instrument that can transform working class people’s relationship with politics beyond the current political alienation and powerlessness that is endemic to US American culture..
Red Star's 2023 DSA Convention Platform grows from our principles as a DSA formation and our belief in the necessity of advancing DSA's work through a positive, Marxist vision. Check out our Convention Platform at https://redstarcaucus.org/5-points/
Red Star's Leadership Pledge outlines expectations for NPC candidates who sign on, with the goal of fostering a positive culture change in DSA starting with incoming leadership, and stemming out to the rest of the organization through effective governance and the improvement of organizing conditions. Red Star has identified multiple sectors of the organization that can be vastly improved with a disciplined & positive democratic approach to governance that is currently lacking, and our pledge begins to address several:
- Improving the agitational nature of our publications
- Repairing and advancing relationships with DSA Electeds
- Increasing visibility of internal NPC democracy
- Supporting the Growth and Development Commitee
- Responsible comms from leadership
- Checking in on staff & director-level priorities
- Increasing coordination & relationships between NPC & Locals
- Correct Grievance & Harassment policy discrepancies
- A commitment to developmental and fundraising work to correct the looming budget shortfall
Read the full pledge and sign on here: https://airtable.com/shrFiDhQC1KSeaF1I
In signing, you'd join these NPC Candidates in committing to build a new culture in DSA:
- Sam Heft-Luthy, San Francisco
- John Lewis, New Orleans
- Megan Romer, At-Large
- Aron Ali-McClory, YDSA NCC Candidate
- Rael Almonte Reyes, NYC
- Aaron Berger, Maine
- Austin Binns, Philadelphia
- Sarah Callahan, Cincinatti
- Jesse Dreyer, Portland
- Catherine Elias, At-Large
- Melina Herrera, Metro Detroit
- Ahmed Husain, Denver
- C.S. Jackson, San Diego
- Colleen Johnston, Denver
- Tom Julstrom, Twin Ports
- Julius Kapushinski, Minnesota
- Kent Kiser, Boise
- Philip Locker, Seattle
- Luisa M, Portland
- Grace Mausser, NYC
- Alexander Morash, Providence
- Somik Mukherjee, Boise
- Renée Paradis, East Bay
- Alex Pelitteri, NYC
- Brandy Pride, Memphis-Midsouth
- Alex Reuter-Gameon, Boise
- Jorge Rocha, NYC
- Zeth Roark, Boise
- Kristin Schall, At-Large
- Nate Stewart, Southern New Hampshire
- Laura Wadlin, Portland
- Amy Wilhelm, Seattle
- Rashad X, Lakefront
DSA needs to be able to learn from its local chapters and empower them with lessons learned across the country, so Red Star is proposing an amendment to the Growth and Development Committee’s Consensus resolution that will help us do just that!
Our amendment calls for a State of DSA Report. It will identify winning tactics, chapter-level processes, and common challenges chapters face. One focus will be Small and Rural chapters, elevating winning tactics for strategically vital sites of organizing.
Additionally, our amendment calls for a program to empower at-large members to build local chapters or engage in national work. Let's expand our reach by involving passionate individuals who want to contribute to chapter growth!
See the full amendment text & sign on at https://airtable.com/shrqatR1b7ALFrrIF
Red Star Orbit is our 2023 Convention Discord! It's a place to stay up to date with our convention plans, chat with our NPC candidates, and meet Red Star caucus members around the country. Sign up at https://airtable.com/shrR3bmeHQP1sRPAm