NPC Meeting Report: 9/17/23

NPC Meeting Report: 9/17/23

This Sunday, the newly elected NPC met on Zoom for the first meeting of the term. A lot of important business was handled, and we think the meeting set a strong tone for the upcoming two years. We wanted to share our analysis of some of the questions considered and talk about what we’re excited to get to work on. 

For Our Rights/Trans Liberations and Bodily Autonomy Campaigns

The NPC had an extensive and interesting discussion on the For Our Rights and Trans Liberation and Bodily Autonomy campaigns. We were happy to pass amendments increasing the multi-tendency representation of the NPC on the leadership of both campaigns. We also appreciated Frances's amendments that coordinated the two campaigns' work plans. This brought back some elements of our original vision of a unified campaign. We think it is a good development that the NPC was able to reach a synthesis on the political questions here through open debate and discussion both before and at the meeting. After passing both campaigns with the above amendments, the NPC also elected strong, multi-tendency leadership for the two bodies. We’re excited to carry this forward and believe the NPC has laid out a firm grounding for the path ahead. We invite all DSA members to apply to serve on both the For Our Rights committee and the Trans Rights and Bodily Autonomy Campaign Commission (TRBACC) Steering Committee .

NPC Steering Committee Stipends

The NPC also voted down a resolution on ending Steering Committee stipends. On the whole, we didn’t feel this resolution would have a significant financial impact, as it essentially created a default of not getting a stipend but having it available on request, rather than the current system of receiving the stipend with the option of declining. We read this primarily as a question of framing the stipend, and we generally support paid elected political leadership for the organization. Given the organization's current financial condition, we strongly believe that paid elected leadership should contribute significant work and time to fundraising. We agree on the general need to make difficult budget choices and hope to get this process started very soon with all the necessary financial information so that we can consider our overall spending and income as we plot our political course for the next two years.

Staff and Budget Priorities

The NPC then took up another framing resolution on organizational finance, this time on our budget priorities as regards staff layoffs. The resolution would have had the Budget and Finance Committee “make its highest priority avoiding laying off existing staff members as much as possible.” The motion failed after some debate.

Following the vote, some members took the opportunity to claim that “No” voters were anti-worker, fake socialists, and monstrous for failing to support DSA staff. As part of the “No” majority on this issue, we wanted to restate and clarify the reasoning behind our position.

First off, the NPC has not yet been given access to a line-item budget, an absolute necessity before making any decisions or declaring any financial priorities. Supposedly, the refusal of some members (including Red Star) to sign the “Good Governance Packet” until we receive clarity about the Confidentiality Agreement has led to delays, but regardless, our governing body does not have the information necessary to make informed financial decisions. This alone was sufficient to warrant a “No” vote on this premature resolution.

However, there are additional reasons we voted against it. What snapshots we do have from the draft budget (with additional analysis by Washington Socialist) indicate a staggering deficit, around $2.8 million. As Red Star argued in Socialist Forum before convention, the incoming NPC will be tasked with making extremely tough choices about spending, cost-cutting, and fundraising. Our first line of defense is fundraising, and the NPC candidates who signed our Leadership Pledge (the entire NPC except for Groundwork) have made an explicit commitment to devote 2 hours per week to fundraising - come join Red Star NPC and rank and file at the next Solidarity Dues Call-a-thon! All members of our caucus who can afford it have also switched to Solidarity Dues or higher (about ⅔ of our 40 person caucus).

But realistically, we have to accept that we’re not going to double membership dues with this, which is what would be necessary to clear our deficit fully. Therefore, the NPC will have to consider cutting back our existing expenses. The biggest expense, at about 50% of the total, is paying for our 36 staffers, followed by rent at our New York HQ, at about 15%, then in-person convention every other year, at about 13%. After these are miscellaneous costs for campaign spending, dues share with local chapters, stipends, regional conferences, travel, etc., all in the single digits.

The task of balancing all of these costs and finding the arrangement that will allow DSA to continue as a fighting force for socialism is a complex political and administrative task without simple answers. Declaring that the “highest priority” for our budget should be to maintain all our staffers' employment is a political declaration that might be at odds with the highest priority of DSA as a whole, which is winning socialism in the United States. Red Star fully agrees that our staff are invaluable allies in this fight, and we want to do everything we can to treat them with the respect that all workers deserve and keep them working for DSA. We think that staff are best served by openness and transparency about our thinking and the crisis we’re trying to address rather than by the passage of symbolic resolutions that would have no material impact on the actual conditions of their employment.

We thank our comrades from SMC and Groundwork who proposed and supported this resolution, and we understand the motivation behind making a statement for our staff. We hope that they also understand why we couldn’t support it and that we can work together to produce a more holistic budget proposal that weighs all of the considerations we’ve raised.

GND Grant Process

The NPC also considered a resolution defining the GNDCC grant process. We were glad to see a strong consensus emerge around having organizational money go to efforts that prioritize recruitment and building the organization, particularly at this moment. The NPC amended the grant process in a cross-tendency process to include a focus on this subject, and we were happy to support the grant process with this stipulation added.

Press Relations Protocol

The NPC also voted down a resolution establishing a press relations protocol. We would like to create a new, comprehensive communications plan in DSA in the near future – one which holistically builds internal and external communications plans into the fabric of our work as a whole – but found this resolution overly restrictive. We found the current process preferable as we work to build something new in the coming months.

International Committee “Ukraine Rule”

The NPC also took up a motion to remove the so-called “Ukraine Rule” requiring the NPC liaison to approve Ukraine work within the IC, although it was eventually postponed pending future discussions of general committee oversight processes. We thought that this rule, which targeted exclusively Ukraine work and had already effectively devolved accountability from the full NPC to the IC liaison, wasn’t contributing much to the continued effort to create more political leadership from the NPC of all DSA work. We think one obstacle to those efforts is distrust between different areas of the organization and between national bodies and the NPC, and we believe the NPC must work to build more cohesive relationships with and among national bodies to help with this. In general, we agree with the desire to create more and better NPC oversight over the organization and look forward to working in the NPC to help make this a reality.

National Tech Committee Steering and Future Convention Elections

Finally, the NPC also approved a permanent National Tech Committee Steering for the new term and a plan for upcoming convention delegate elections. We’re glad that the NTC now has a settled leadership after not having approved leadership for the past term, and look forward to seeing what the NTC does both with its new responsibilities and its existing projects. As for internal elections, we are actively planning our engagement and hope to be able to have Red Star’s plans to share in the near future. We encourage all DSA members to run and will be watching the results of the brand new set of follow-up elections to convention with great interest.

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