DSA NPC Votes and Trends

Three members of the DSA National Political Committee (NPC) resigned in May & June, which has raised some questions about why they’d leave, what issues exist with the NPC, and what will happen next.

I want to situate comrades to what the politics of the NPC have been til now. Coming out of the 2019 Convention, members of caucuses made up 85% of the elected NPC: 14 of 16 seats from DSA; YDSA has two members who each get .5 vote – one of them is a B&R member, the other is “independent”. So 14.5 of 17 votes are attributable to a caucus (see chart).

(Note: Erika P left Build shortly after Convention and joined Communist Caucus; Jenbo is with Red Star, which is a local caucus in San Francisco)

My expectation was that based off the politics of convention, this would create two major blocs: Bread & Roses-Socialist Majority-Collective Power Network VS. Libertarian Socialists-Build. I did a little homework and checked all of the reported votes. 66% of all votes taken were unanimous, so I separated out the contested votes and the “All Yes” votes that have abstentions (charts below).

A few votes of interest:

  • There was not a single "Yes" vote to the Statement on Hong Kong (I don't know what that statement is, but that's curious)
  • The National Harassment Grievance Officer's contract renewal was heavily contested
  • Socialist Majority were the lone YES votes in encouraging a vote for Biden; their entire bloc also abstained from petitioning Bernie Sanders to improve his foreign policy
  • The two anarchists (LSC) basically don’t coordinate their votes (they only correlate 53%)
  • Votes for Transparency have been regularly contested (“Open Steering Committee calls to member observers”; “Adopt resolution on open records access”; “resolution on NPC monthly meetings”). B&R voted against all of these, SMC voted in favor of member observers for the Steering Committee, but against open records
  • The entire B&R bloc abstained from a statement in favor of the UC Santa Cruz wildcat strike
  • The anarchists regularly vote against questions that extend DSA's expenses

What that reveals is really three blocs: 1) Bread & Roses + Independents (Dave P, Amelia, Sean E); 2) Socialist Majority; 3) Libertarian Socialists + Build + Collective Power + Communist Caucus; only Jenbo from Red Star doesn’t fall into any of these blocs very well. With three blocs, no one bloc had a majority on their own. 

In late-May, Tawny (Build/Emerge) and Sauce (Libertarian Socialist Caucus) both announced that they were resigning from the NPC. A couple weeks later, Erika announced that they were also resigning, explaining that they felt like they shouldn’t be on the NPC as they had lost confidence in the National organization, particularly given the inability to orient to the George Floyd uprising. This leaves the current NPC balance as such:

The Convention ran out of time in 2019 and didn’t get to take up the numerous NPC reforms that were proposed and could only be heard at Convention since they had to be constitutional amendments. As a result, the sitting NPC retains the right to fill vacancies as they see fit – the 2017-2019 NPC announced a search for candidates over email and picked among them. As you can imagine, this will be a political selection. All three seats vacated were from one bloc on the NPC – each bloc were relatively equal in their share of votes. 

On June 18th, the NPC sent DSA members an update announcing the vacancies and opening up an application process:

Candidates who previously ran in the 2019 Convention but were not seated in the election may apply if they are still interested in serving. We see these vacancies as a rare opportunity to form a leadership that is more representative of the multiracial working class and ready to rise to the challenges of our political moment. Accordingly, we will be giving first priority to Black candidates, particularly members who are active in the labor movement or the national DSA AfroSocialists and People of Color Caucus.
Since NPC duties are significant, we recommend that anyone who considers applying first review this overview of NPC Member Duties and Responsibilities. We want to stress that this is not a role for members who have not held prior leadership positions in DSA, their union, or other grassroots organizations.

So the politics of the NPC will change. I don’t want to overstate it, because as I mentioned 2/3s of the votes are unanimous, and if you include votes with only abstentions, that’s more like 80%. I suspect that who the NPC picks to fill these seats is going to have to be very careful. This is complicated because its asking DSA to evaluate its multi-tendency nature. 

The NPC was chosen on a political basis, by delegates with different perspectives, and seats were awarded in proportion to a tendency's support.  Do the delegates who voted for NPC members who represented their particular politics have a "right" to have those seats go to new candidates with similar politics? Besides being willing to do the work, what other factors should go into filling the vacancies? To put it another way, if the sitting NPC picks people that fall into either the SMC or B&R blocs, it could create problems of legitimacy. 

More when we know the results.