Annual Report to the 2021 Local Convention

From December 11 to 12, 2021, the Metro DC chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (Metro DC DSA) hosted its second annual local convention to debate and collectively decide on the pressing questions not just facing our chapter, but also our movement as a whole. Additionally, for the second year in a row, and in conjunction with the local convention, the Metro DC DSA Steering Committee is providing an annual report to members as a summary of the past year’s activities and highlights in our chapter.

The compiling and drafting of this report — and the need to do so — marks an important point in the history of our chapter. The need to document our activities for future chapter members comes from the fact that our DSA chapter, along with DSA as a national organization, have shown that both will likely outlast the ebbs and flows inherent in US politics. Five years have now passed since the resurgence of DSA began during Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign and as a response to the brutal, reactionary policies of the Trump presidency. The fact that DSA has continued to grow and evolve as Senator Sanders lost the presidential primary in 2016 (and again in 2020), and President Joe Biden has returned our country to a “normal” politics — though still egregiously unequal and in service of capitalism — is a testament to the commitment of DSA members to our organization and our movement.    

Over these past five years, the Metro DC DSA chapter has become a working-class political and organizing force in our region. From 2016 to 2017, at roughly 1,000 members, we were largely a network of loose-knit formations acting independently under the chapter’s amorphous organizational structure. But through struggle, defeats and, ultimately, victories for our class, we have since become an interconnected machine of complementary activities and power-building.

In our chapter, endorsed electoral candidates, apartment building organizing, and mutual aid have all combined to deliver material benefits to tenants across the DC region — in what has become one of the most militant tenant movements in the nation. Labor-focused organizing has fused with the demands of ecosocialists to build a national campaign for the PRO Act — the first worker-friendly reform to the National Labor Relations Act in decades. Elected officials who are DSA members have fought for and successfully won tax increases on the rich in DC, a ban on private ICE detention centers and sweeping policy transparency rules in the state of Maryland and a cap on insulin prices in Virginia. And to facilitate our organizing, the chapter now has a functioning administrative core and geographic branches to maintain and push the bounds of logistics, communications and member engagement as we fight to win our collective campaigns. More so than ever, the whole of our chapter is greater than the sum of its parts. 

Our chapter’s growth and development, however, is not guaranteed. Despite reaching a record-high 3,300 members in November of this year — and seeing a 35% membership growth since we began tracking membership totals in June 2020 — the number of new chapter members has slowed to a plateau in recent months. Lapsed dues among chapter members has also seen a net increase since September 2021. Falling membership rates may be understandable, considering the lack of in-person organizing possible during the COVID pandemic and a typical decrease in chapter electoral endorsements in odd numbered years. Our chapter has also not stood by idling during this period, as we have tactically used this time to build out our internal administrative, political and decision-making structures. Additionally, the high number of chapter campaigns next year will likely help to maintain and increase our membership rolls — as has happened in previous years of active external campaigning in our chapter — but the drop off in membership this year still shows that we must be intentional in retaining, recruiting and engaging chapter members. Our internal structures are now better equipped than ever to do so. 

As we close 2021 and head into the new year, we hope comrades consider the information in this report. Being aware of, understanding and learning from our past activities will be critical to honing our strategies and tactics for future struggles. If the past five years have shown us anything, it is that a better world through democratic socialism is possible. The path to that better world depends on our collective abilities as a chapter, a national organization and a broader movement to build on our progress thus far. 

Steering Committee

As stated in our chapter’s bylaws, “The Steering Committee is the highest elected body of MDC DSA and is the political leadership of the chapter when the membership is not assembled.” In addition to political leadership, the Steering Committee — through the committee’s chair — is responsible for carrying out the “orders and resolutions” of Metro DC DSA members. In this sense, when members of the chapter pass resolutions or amend the bylaws, the buck stops with the Steering Committee and its members to ensure that those decisions are enacted. The committee has taken steps — like drafting and assigning portfolios — to ensure that committee members remain attentive and accountable to the chapter. 

In terms of structure, our chapter’s Steering Committee has four officer seats and seven at-large seats. The Treasurer, Secretary and Campaigns Coordinator are directly elected to the Steering Committee and each officer chairs the Finance Committee, Administrative Committee and Campaigns Council, respectively. The Steering Committee chair is the only officer position that is not directly elected, but is instead selected by fellow Steering Committee members. Finally, though not an officer, an at-large Steering Committee member chairs the chapter’s Political Engagement Committee, which is responsible for coordinating the chapter’s external political activities, including electoral endorsements and legislative advocacy. The remaining at-large members are responsible for tasks set out in the portfolios assigned to each Steering Committee member. 

The sections following this one provide summaries of the permanent committees mentioned above. Immediately below is a summary of activities (not included in the permanent committee summaries) for the 2021 Metro DC DSA Steering Committee: 

  • Assigned individual portfolios to all Steering Committee members, so that each member was responsible for a defined set of projects or routine tasks 
  • Coordinated and hosted 11 monthly remote general body meetings, which provided chapter members with updates on chapter organizing activities, served as a forum for proposing chapter-wide resolutions and offered a regular space for members from across the region to connect with each other 
  • Planned, organized and facilitated the annual local convention in December 2021, culminating in a two-day event of deliberations and decisions on pressing questions facing our chapter and our movement 
  • Facilitated chapter members’ election to and involvement in the national DSA convention in August 2021 
  • Held 22 biweekly meetings of the Steering Committee that were open to attendance by chapter members and non-members alike 
  • Heard, evaluated and decided on Code of Conduct complaints and other items related to intra-chapter or inter-organizational conflict 
  • Began providing general security updates to chapter members during monthly general body meetings 
  • Approved the creation of (and appointed a chapter member to) a YDSA Liaison position to facilitate the development of YDSA chapters in the Metro DC region 
  • Supported chapter members in organizing across chapter formations and with external allied organizations 

For the next year, and for the new Steering Committee, the current Steering Committee chair recommends focusing on developing a standard Code of Conduct procedure, strengthening membership retention measures and narrowing portfolio assignments for Steering Committee members. However, the work plan for the next Steering Committee will ultimately be at the discretion of the members of that committee.

Finance Committee

The Finance Committee is responsible for the financial organization of the chapter, including but not limited to fundraising activities for the chapter, compliance with any financial regulations the chapter is subject to and maintenance of transparent financial reports.

This year, our cash reserves grew from $44,383.91 to $62,625.01, an increase of $18,241.10. $21,593.00 came from the National Dues share, which represents the last quarter of 2020 through the third quarter of 2021. We averaged $1,799 in dues per month. $17,846.59 came in through donations. In total, we averaged $3,286.63 in income each month

Our spending is summarized as follows:

  • Priority Budget: We provided $9,750 to our Priorities: Labor, Green New Deal, SOS and Defund. In total, our priorities have spent $8,641.81 and there is $1,101.19 left unspent. 
  • Discretionary Budget: The 2021 Chapter Budget put aside $2,000 for “discretionary” spending; i.e., money for reimbursements for expenditures that come up. In 2021, at the time of writing, we have spent $1,837.56 of that money, with $162.44 pending. 
  • Operational Budget: The total approved was $17,500 for the payment of recurring chapter expenses. These include things like website hosting, text banking, allocations to branches and meeting space, among others. In total we spent $13,731.00.

Additionally, we opened up the chapter’s online Merchandise Store and fundraised for our campaigns: 

  • $3,245 for the Solidarity Fund for the Howard University sit-in
  • $1,956 for Medicare for All’s vaccine outreach program
  • $8,065 for Stomp Out Slumlords, including the Holmead Rent Strike Fund

Administrative Committee

The Administrative Committee (AdCom) is a chapter entity sanctioned by the Steering Committee to oversee and accomplish the general administrative functions of the chapter, among other duties as outlined in the bylaws. AdCom is organized into departments — for example, communications and operations. Within those departments are teams — for example, events (within operations) and social media (within communications). Both departments and teams are led by stewards, with the chapter secretary chairing AdCom. 

AdCom has formally existed since late 2020 and has evolved along with the chapter. For instance, AdCom added a security department following the events of January 6th. The security department enshrined vetting and threat assessment for the chapter. Most members interact with AdCom through Red Desk, our chapter's internal ticketing management system, where members submit requests for social media posts, vetting, onboarding, mass texts and many other items.

The past year has seen successes and challenges for AdCom. The most potent as well as unresolved challenge has been the struggle to find stewards for various teams, which makes fulfilling the complex duties of AdCom more difficult by putting a higher — and most times unsustainable — burden on department-level stewards and the chapter secretary. This will continue to be a primary focus of the committee for the foreseeable future.

Despite this struggle, the accomplishments of AdCom can be measured in many areas of the chapter, most immediately by the amount of Red Desk tickets closed this year. As of December 11, 2021, the number of closed tickets sits at 1,018. The chapter has grown by leaps and bounds since AdCom's inception, and this metric shows that AdCom has scaled and grown alongside our organizing activities. This level of success has led to DSA members running for leadership in other chapters or national formations on platforms of starting their own AdCom or the equivalent.

Behind each ticket is a team that works without pay to keep the chapter running and growing. Without these dozens of volunteers, none of this would be possible.

AdCom is far from perfect, but it will continue to grow and refine itself alongside the chapter.

Campaigns Council

The Campaigns Council is a comprehensive board and gathering space of working groups and priority campaigns. The Council is responsible for providing both visibility across MDC DSA’s various campaigns and updates on campaign progress to the broader chapter membership. In the past year, its first, the Campaign Council met on a monthly basis to promote coordination and cooperation among and between chapter formations. 

For each of the completed quarters of this year (not counting the most recent quarter), we had an average of nine formations (including all priority campaigns) submit reports that detail the activities of those formations and their plans for the upcoming quarter. While nine per quarter is impressive, the Council can improve by encouraging further engagement with the bylaw-mandated reporting requirements. Another area of potential improvement is a streamlined way of moving submitted reports to the member portal, which has thus far been unevenly done. A final area for improvement would be the standardization of the cadence of the monthly and quarterly meetings and greater publicization of those meetings.

Political Engagement Committee

In just its first year of existence, the Political Engagement Committee (PEC) has proven to be an effective body. The chapter received 12 questionnaire submissions from electoral candidates seeking our chapter’s endorsement this year — more than any previous electoral cycle. Members submitted nine endorsement resolutions, which, again, was more than any previous cycle. Also for the first time ever, chapter members evaluated all possible endorsements simultaneously, rather than at separate times.

Highlights from the PEC over the last year are below:

  • Produced “a public, reader-friendly document,” as required by Section 6.1.4 of our bylaws, to compile the requirements and deadlines involved in the endorsement process (approved by the Steering Committee on May 11, 2021). The PEC also produced an endorsement handbook as a supplemental guide.
  • Updated the candidate questionnaire, which was debated by the chapter’s membership at the August general body meeting and approved thereafter.
  • Met with several candidates to field questions about the chapter’s endorsement process, to gain early knowledge on candidates and to begin coordination with allied organizations on future electoral engagements.
  • Opened the endorsement process for the 2022 primary cycle, which required the support of chapter members who wanted to propose candidates for endorsement and candidates who were seeking endorsement.
  • Coordinated the endorsement process in a way that ensured full transparency and broad awareness among chapter members and with candidates seeking endorsement.
  • Organized open Q&A sessions with the nine candidates under consideration for endorsement, which allowed for chapter members to vet candidates directly.
  • Compiled the first-ever PEC endorsement recommendations report, which PEC members delivered to the local convention in December 2021.

Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) Liaison

The chapter’s Steering Committee created a YDSA Liaison position in 2021 to provide assistance to local YDSA chapters. Before the position existed, there were only two active YDSA chapters in the Metro DC area: University of Maryland College Park and Howard University. With support and facilitation from the YDSA Liaison, there are now 11 active YDSA chapters in the Metro DC region at American University, Catholic University, George Mason University, Georgetown University and George Washington University. YDSA chapters have also been established at secondary schools in the region: Schools w/o Walls, Watkins High School, Colgan High School, Northwest High School, Walt Whitman High School and Montgomery Blair High School.

Below are 2021 highlights for select YDSA chapters:

  • Howard U: Nationally recognized protest, known as the #BlackburnTakeover, to push the school’s administration to repair substandard housing and lack of student representation in governance structures
  • University of Maryland: Organizing to get hazard back-pay for campus workers
  • American University: Working with campus union to organize
  • Catholic University: Organizing with campus workers around sub-minimum wage
  • George Washington University: Organizing with foodservice workers around cafeteria working conditions
  • Georgetown University: Organizing solidarity breakfasts
  • Watkins Mill High School: Flew Palestinian flag on school’s flagpole
  • Northwest High School: Organizing around improved school safety with regard to sexual assault prevention and police in schools (i.e., School Resource Officers); organized testimony before the school board

Commission Reports

Branch Commission

The Branch Commission was chartered by the Steering Committee to examine ways to improve the operation of branches in Metro DC DSA, to improve communication between branches and the chapter and to offer recommendations on how to alter our chapter’s branch system to catalyze and capture future growth of our membership across the chapter.

The Commission to date has conducted four main types of research: branch bylaws comparisons with other chapters, historical research on past iterations of Metro DC DSA branches, interviews with DSA members and a general member survey. Bylaws tend to center branches as electoral districts for chapter bodies or as powerful nodes that are the basis of chapter representation. Interviews centered on learning from past branch systems, as well as looking at branches in other membership organizations like Our Revolution and the Brazilian Worker’s Party (PT). Historical iterations of branches prior to the 2016 membership surge in Metro DC DSA were intended to give members in Virginia (Northern Virginia began as its own chapter) and Maryland a way to allow members to meet closer to home and strategize around political interventions outside of the District of Columbia.

The Commission has not yet met to debate and finalize recommendations to the general body, but is considering merging overlapping efforts with the mobilization committee. Emerging points of consensus center around promoting permanent remote participation in chapter bodies and decisions, incorporation of all remaining territories into at least two branches in the District of Columbia, political education and organizing training for branch leadership, and supporting efforts to create hyperlocal sub-branches at the municipal, ward or neighborhood level.

Mobilization Commission

The mobilization commission was created after a series of conversations between chapter mobilizers in the Administrative Committee, the Northern Virginia (NoVA) Branch and Defund MPD. The purpose of the commission was to create a space to discuss our chapter’s practices and systems for mobilizing and engaging members. 

The commission broke up into small groups to investigate specific aspects of our chapter’s mobilization and engagement practices. These included our chapter’s member survey, events/action organized by the chapter, formation onboarding capacities, etc. The initial findings of the Commission were that there was a necessity for a chapter-wide institution to consolidate best practices among the formations already involved in mobilization. 

The commission worked together to draft the bylaws amendment for our 2021 convention that would create a permanent Member Engagement Committee, which could act as the institutional space discussed in commission conversations. This committee would also house our chapter’s organizer training efforts, as well as any future chapter-wide recruitment efforts. In the first few months of 2022, the commission will continue to research and consolidate best practices for our chapter, which can then be institutionalized into the new MEC. 

Priority Campaign Reports

Stomp Out Slumlords

The Stomp Out Slumlords (SOS) Working Group fights evictions and supports tenant organizing throughout the Washington metro area. 

Below is a list of Stomp Out Slumlord’s activities in 2021: 

  • Pressured city leaders and the landlord class, which resulted in the extension of DC’s eviction moratorium into the fall of 2021 and the preservation of important emergency tenant protections until the present day.
  • Protested the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio due to his role in the botched rollout of STAY DC — a critical rental assistance program of the DC government for tenants who faced hardship during the COVID pandemic. 
  • Built a program to help tenants complete applications for STAY DC rental assistance. 
  • Worked with Councilmember Janeese Lewis George’s office to organize STAY DC application workshops in the community.
  • Mobilized tenants for protests demanding a simpler and more accessible STAY DC application and faster distribution of funds. 
  • Helped DC tenants exercise their rights under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) in six buildings — including one where the tenants are moving toward buying their building as a limited equity co-op.
  • Organized a committee of leaders representing buildings where SOS is active. This committee met regularly to discuss the direction of the regional tenant movement and to conduct training and political education.
  • Hosted several meetings with live English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English translations available to attendees. 
  • Started publishing a newsletter to share stories and strategies across buildings and to supporters in the wider community. 

Labor Working Group

The Labor Working Group organizes with workers across the region to fight bad bosses, build new unions and campaign for pro-worker policies. Inspired by a rich history of socialist thought and practice, the Labor Working Group believes that workplace organizing — whether through traditional union models or other forms — is central to building power and making tangible changes to fight exploitation and oppression.

Below is a summary of the Labor Working Group’s activities in 2021: 

  • Established monthly Worker Organizing Workshops, where approximately 60 workers have received advice from socialist labor organizers on issues they face in the workplace. These Workshops have brought DSA into contact with workers at various stages in the organizing process and provided them with both valuable practical advice and a socialist perspective on the broader issues facing the working class.
  • Mobilized the entire chapter to make phone calls to Virginia Senator Mark Warner’s constituents about his refusal to support the PRO Act.
  • Led a coalition of unions, community organizations and political groups to hold a May Day rally at which over 200 people demanded Warner’s support for the PRO Act.
  • Mobilized solidarity support for IATSE Local 868 at the Strathmore Theater. DSA members were among the most reliable and dogged members of IATSE’s picket line, an effort that led to victory for the union against management’s efforts to cut jobs.
  • Connected chapter members to several campaigns through the Labor Speaker Series, which emphasizes guest speakers from the DMV who can provide the chapter with tangible insights on labor issues and opportunities for local activism. At one of these events, we hosted DSA member and rank-and-file APWU leader Arrion Brown, who spoke about his experiences as an activist union leader and introduced the joint DSA-APWU campaign to protect the US Postal Service from cuts, privatization and union-busting. We also hosted two leaders of NPEU — a union that is vital to our chapter’s worker organizing plans — to discuss their outstanding successes in organizing and bargaining.

Defund MPD

The chapter’s Defund MPD Working Group operates in coalition with Black-led and racial justice organizations to defund the DC Metropolitan Police Department, remove police from schools and free our neighbors from occupation and incarceration as a path toward abolition — a world without cops and prisons. As part of our chapter’s vision for racial and economic justice, the Defund MPD Working Group — alongside allied organizations in the Defund MPD Coalition — demands that the funding removed from police and prisons be reinvested in real public safety: housing, schools, jobs, healthcare and mental health services, community-based support programs, violence interruption and other public goods and services.

Below is a summary of the Defund Working Group's activities in 2021: 

  • Produced legislative and budget research through the working group’s research team.
  • Mobilized members for base-building activities such as tabling and canvassing.
  • Organized a five-stop walking tour in DC’s Judiciary Square area of the history, architecture, geography and theory of policing. The tour — which was attended by about 80 people — covered specific subjects as varied as freeway construction, the New Deal’s mixed legacy, the architecture of mass incarceration and the ideological roots of “copaganda.”
  • Provided basic administrative support for the Defund MPD Coalition through scheduling and planning.
  • Created thoughtful ladders of engagement to help new members get involved and stay involved in the working group’s activities.
  • Produced educational materials that are used by our allies in the District to spread awareness about over-policing and police abolition.
  • Conducted regular reading series to build the working group’s knowledge and sharpen members’ analysis. 
  • Hosted a community event on reimagining public safety in Alethia Tanner Park.
  • Supported the Defund MPD Coalition in a mass mobilization march that drew hundreds of participants and supporters.

Green New Deal

Metro DC DSA’s Green New Deal Working Group organizes to fight the existential crisis of capitalist-driven climate change and environmental racism in the DMV area. 

As a broad grassroots movement, we build and exercise power through labor and tenant unions, electoral campaigns, diverse coalition-building, political education and policy change. The working group’s vision is to decommodify and guarantee human needs, democratize and decarbonize the economy by 2030, and repair the generational effects of oppression and displacement of Black, Indigenous and people of color.

A summary of the Green New Deal Working Group’s activities for 2021: 

  • Launched an energy justice campaign centered around four key goals: a permanent ban on utility shutoffs, an end to utility debt, strong labor protections for essential utility workers and investments in more equitable clean energy distribution.
  • Testified at multiple legislative hearings and met with the offices of six DC Councilmembers to discuss the working group’s energy justice demands.
  • Held four successful tabling events across DC, where the working group received almost 100 signatures in support of public power.

Working Group Activity Reports

Karishma for Virginia Campaign

At the January 2021 general body meeting, it was announced that Metro DC DSA members voted to endorse Karishma Mehta, candidate for Virginia’s 49th District in the House of Delegates. The Karishma for Virginia campaign knocked on nearly 20,000 doors — 12,000 of which were by chapter members — made thousands of phone calls and talked to voters about Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, Universal Pre-K and a Home Guarantee, all rooted around the belief that a better world is not only possible but on the way. The campaign ultimately reached a 75% name recognition rate, which is remarkable for a first-time candidate.

The Karishma for Virginia working group showed its dedication to workers’ rights and health justice by:

  • Holding a rally in solidarity with the Amazon workers in Bessemer.
  • Speaking at the PRO Act Rally on May Day outside Mark Warner’s house.
  • Organizing vaccine canvasses in coordination with the M4A team in Alexandria.
  • Hosting weekly canvasses for chapter members.

Through canvasses, the working group mobilized many first-time organizers who are now active in the chapter. Through our potlucks, jams in the park and watch parties, we built camaraderie and solidarity in NoVA, which led to many in the campaign joining other working groups in the chapter. While the campaign did not win in the end, working group members gave their all to fight for a greater NoVA, and the chapter is proud and grateful for the work so many people put into the campaign. As Karishma said, “We have shown Northern Virginia that our policies are popular here, that a dignified life is possible here, and that this district is not just for the wealthy and privileged few, it’s for all of us.”

Medicare for All Working Group

The chapter’s Medicare for All Working Group (M4A WG) aims to work locally on healthcare advocacy to affect change regionally, nationally and internationally. This includes identifying and seeking to rectify the racial disparities in healthcare, such as disproportionate Black maternal morbidity and mortality and the uneven distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to BIPOC communities in DC.

The M4A WG has formed coalitions with local healthcare advocacy groups to push for comprehensive single-payer healthcare — both nationally and at the state level — that would cover all residents of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. Additionally, the working group has sought to combat global health inequities caused by the US government, such as the medical blockade on Cuba, which has impeded Cubans’ ability to get medicine and inhibits Cuba’s effort to vaccinate the Global South. 

A summary of activities for the Medicare for All Working Group in 2021: 

  • Testified before the DC Council Committee on Health on problems facing seniors when attempting to register for COVID-19 vaccination appointments. During a follow-up hearing on February 1, DC Health and their software contractor committed to launch a pre-registration system, as recommended by our comrades, and estimated a three- to four-week deadline for implementation.
  • Directed a COVID-19 vaccination drive that curtailed digital and language barriers impeding the elderly and immigrant communities from registering to get vaccinated. In coordination with DC Councilmember Janeese Lewis George — a former chapter-endorsed candidate and current chapter member — the working group organized hundreds of volunteers to canvass vulnerable areas in DC to register marginalized seniors and non-English speakers for vaccine appointments.
  • Launched an additional vaccination effort in vulnerable areas in Alexandria and Arlington counties, leading several vaccine canvasses in coordination with grassroots organizations in Virginia. We also participated in two protests in DC (in May and October) to push the Biden administration to support the TRIPS Waiver at the World Trade Organization that would ensure global vaccine equity.
  • Played an instrumental role in passing the Sense of the Council Medicare for All Resolution in the DC Council through writing the resolution, building a coalition with healthcare justice and grassroots organizations, and meeting with Councilmembers to support the resolution, culminating in the first official commitment to Medicare for All in DC on October 5, 2021.
  • Assisted in the passing of similar Medicare for All resolutions in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County.
  • Launched a coordinated campaign with Miami DSA, Philly DSA and NYC DSA to call on the Biden administration to end the medical blockade to Cuba from November 14 to 15, 2021.
  • Held a screening of The War on Cuba docuseries in coordination with the Embassy of Cuba, with the Cuban ambassador attending and leading discussion on the struggles in Cuba caused by the US embargo.

Food | Justice Working Group

The Food | Justice Working Group strives to create a shared space for Metro DC DSA members, in collaboration with local community partners, to grow produce, learn about the land, connect with each other over food and break down barriers by spreading knowledge and materials related to agriculture. This working group exists as a space of belonging where everyone who is interested in growing their own food and cultivating relationships with their environment is invited.

Food | Justice Working Group highlights from 2021: 

  • Established a DSA Garden space (the “Rose Garden”) with Upshur community garden. Members turned the soil and planted cover crops to prep a space formerly full of crab grass for spring planting. The working group will use this site to teach members and the broader community more about food, growing and the land. The working group will also coordinate with the community garden to host interactive, welcoming and engaging events open to members and non-members alike.
  • Worked with Stomp Out Slumlords to spread awareness about monthly mutual aid events that SOS has been organizing with three residents in three different buildings and Food Justice DMV. Members of the Food | Justice Working Group are working with SOS to volunteer as drivers and coordinators.
  • Volunteered as a group during open work days at existing gardens in Northwest and Southwest DC. Working group members have also established communications with the DC Office of Urban Agriculture and the DC Food Policy Council.
  • Tabled at the DC Punk Rock Flea Market and zine fest in coordination with other Metro DC DSA comrades. 

Political Education Working Group

The Political Education Working Group provides a central hub for chapter political education, supports political education done by other working groups or caucuses (where this is consistent with their own work), supports the political work of working groups and caucuses, and works to increase capacity across the chapter for doing political education work. The working group does this through two main areas of activity. First, the chapter’s Socialist Night School. Second, a newly formed ongoing reading group program.

Below are the 2021 highlights of the Political Education Working Group: 

  • Held a total of nine Socialist Night School sessions this year, plus 11 ongoing reading groups.
  • Socialist Night School sessions included nationally recognized figures such as Johanna Fernández on the Young Lords, Sarah Jaffe on love and work and Shawn Gude on Eugene Debs.
  • Night School sessions held in collaboration with chapter formations included police unions and racial capitalism with the Defund MPD Working Group, vaccine apartheid with the Internationalism Working Group, Palestine and BDS with the BDS working group and Greenbelt and social housing with the Montgomery County Branch.
  • Organized fall reading groups to discuss technology and Marxism, Capitalism and the State and Marx’s Capital.
  • Organized other reading groups in collaboration with chapter formations, including with the Socialist Feminism Section and the AfroSOC Section (the Black radical tradition, Palestine and socialism).
  • Held two training sessions on how to facilitate a reading group. 

Internationalism Working Group

The Internationalism Working Group uses its strategic location in the heart of the empire to further the global struggle against militarism, imperialism, authoritarianism, right-wing nationalism and capitalism. The working group aims to ensure that democratic socialist organizing in the United States incorporates a global perspective and builds transnational solidarity in pursuit of a world of peace, cooperation, equality, liberation, democracy and socialism. 

Below are the 2021 highlights of the Internationalism Working Group:

  • Participated in the Stop the War Coalition World Day of Action on January 25 to call for an end to the war in Yemen and helped organize a Socialist Night School on the topic.
  • Mobilized for the National March for Palestine, which was organized in response to the brutal military campaign carried out against Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the continued ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem neighborhoods, including Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, and the occupied West Bank. The march called for sanctions against Israel in response to the military bombing campaigns and systematic dispossessions.
  • Led on a statement in solidarity with the #BoycottPuma global day of action on September 18, calling on Puma to end their partnership with the Israeli Football Association.
  • Mobilized against the military coup in Sudan. After a revolution in Sudan in 2019 — led by trade unions, women's organizations and the left — the military overthrew the transitional government in 2021. In response to these events, and in coordination with the Middle East & Africa Subcommittee of the national DSA International Committee, the chapter’s Internationalism Working Group coordinated with organizers in the local Sudanese diaspora to mobilize for an action at the National Mall in defense of democracy in Sudan.
  • Co-organized an event with the Puerto Rican Independence Party at the Supreme Court. The event coincided with a Supreme Court case in which a Puerto Rican resident in the US lost access to government benefits after moving back to the island, highlighting the two-tiered status of Puerto Rico. This is part of an ongoing effort to build closer ties between the chapter and left parties in the Americas with diaspora branches in the US.

Organizer Training Series

Metro DC DSA established an organizer training series this year that trained two cohorts of chapter members in organizing theory and skills. These organizer trainings are intended to increase attendees’ capacity to organize within and outside the chapter through five different training modules. Even though the trainings were held online, they were still able to foster a sense of camaraderie among participants through small group exercises, social meet ups and one-on-one exercises. These trainings were anchored by coordinators and featured chapter members from across working groups and other chapter formations as trainers. 

Highlights from the chapter’s 2021 organizer series: 

  • The pilot spring 2021 organizer training series recruited and trained 21 members with various amounts of organizing experience across the chapter. Training was led by one coordinator and three trainers, who held five virtual meetings featuring seven modules: Why We Organize; Building Campaigns; Developing Leaders; Structured Organizing Conversations; Effective Meeting; Power Mapping; and How to Plan a Protest.
  • The fall 2021 organizer training series recruited new chapter members and organizers looking for more experience, training 20 members from across the chapter. The training was led by two coordinators, four trainers and two other helpers, and featured five virtual meetings with five modules: Why We Organize; Power Mapping; Leadership Development; How to Hold Relational Organizing Conversations; and Principles of Successful Campaigns.
  • Held two optional in-person social meet ups in an outdoor setting.

Publications Working Group

The Publications Working Group coordinates the two regularly published periodicals that chapter members depend on to roadmap regional, national and international socialist activities and activism. Those periodicals are the Weekly Update — usually sent out on Friday mornings — and the monthly Washington Socialist, a newsletter of articles sent on or around the first of every month.  

Well over a hundred of the chapter’s leaders have direct access to the Weekly Update as it is assembled throughout the week, and an increasing number of chapter leaders have begun using that access. All Metro DC DSA members (plus qualified nonmembers) are welcome to contribute articles to the newsletter, and many do. The Publications Working Group looks forward to more of the chapter’s diverse membership contributing such articles. In addition to the recurring Weekly Update and Washington Socialist content, the working group creates one-offs — brochures and special-purpose literature — working closely with the chapter’s superb designers and artists. 

Highlights for the Publications Working Group over 2021: 

  • Sent a Weekly Update on every Friday throughout 2021. (Didn’t miss a Friday, even if you did.)
  • Added a community bulletin section to the Weekly Update for non-dated, ongoing activism to complement the expanding coverage of allies’ events.
  • Indexed articles in the Washington Socialist by issue areas to provide a deep and accessible resource bank on how we envision and enact socialism.
  • Transcribed print versions of recordings of many core Socialist Night School sessions.
  • Added more — and more intentional — discussion of the DMV left’s rich culture, in which our activism is embedded and nourished.
  • Increased the weekly open rate of our chapter’s newsletter by over 1,000 opens (~4,000 a week), and attracted close to 28,000 unique users to the Washington Socialist over the course of the last year, along with approximately 51,000 unique page views.
  • Tracked 40,000 unique page views, from 15,000 users, to the Metro DC DSA website in 2021.
  • With support from the chapter’s design committee, launched a new weekly Instagram series which has drawn a consistent and distinct political audience to the chapter’s operations and campaigns.

Section Reports

Afrosocialists and Socialists of Color Section

The Afrosocialists and Socialists of Color (AfroSOC) Section successfully applied for section status after submitting an application and bylaws for the new section. The section also elected a five-person leadership council.

Highlights from 2021 for the AfroSOC section: 

  • Led a reading group on White By Law by Ian Haney López in winter 2021.
  • Led two sections of the fall 2021 MDC DSA reading groups, one on the Black Radical Tradition, reading Assata: An Autobiography, and another on Palestine and Socialism, reading Palestine: A Socialist Introduction by brian bean and Sumaya Awad.
  • Hosted various virtual and in-person social events, including the Tri-Section Social Hour hosted exclusively for members of the AfroSOC, Queer and SocFem Sections

Queer Section

The chapter’s Queer Section also converted from a caucus to a section in 2021. After a recent leadership change, the Queer Section looks forward to regrouping and forging ahead with the section’s organizing in 2022. 

Socialist Feminist Section

Like the Queer and AfroSOC Sections, the Socialist Feminist (SocFem) Section converted from a caucus to an official chapter section in 2021. Below are 2021 highlights for SocFem: 

  • Hosted a fall 2021 reading group in coordination with the political education team.
  • Helped to plan and participated in the Tri-Section Social Hour.  
  • Organized a chapter contingent for participation in the 2021 Women’s March.  
  • Coordinated a presence at the Voting Rights March to recruit prioritized demographics (BIPOC, women, marginalized genders).
  • Submitted questions for an internal elections forum that asked how the chapter can diversify our membership and leadership.
  • Organized speakers for an event with the DC chapter of the National Organization for Women to speak on socialist feminism. 
  • Attended a National SocFem Working Group all-hands meeting on Zoom. Voiced support for a focus on abortion rights (including organizing an abortion fundathon).

Veterans Section

The Veterans Section was started as a way to organize military vets in the Metro DC area to lend their unique background and experiences in support of our chapter’s mission to enact democratic socialism. The section started in order to apply continued pressure on Senator Mark Warner to support the PRO Act, expressing the important impact it has on Metro DC communities. Section members continue to recruit more members and contribute in efforts to empower workers. 

Highlights from 2021 for the Veterans Section: 

  • Wrote letters and arranged a call with Senator Mark Warner’s representatives to discuss his refusal to support the PRO Act.
  • Connected with YDSA in efforts to reach out to veterans.
  • Published a newsletter story on the experiences of how veterans are connected in common struggles under capitalism.
  • Held weekly study groups to read and discuss socialist literature and to share ideas with new and current members. 

Branch Reports

Montgomery County Branch

The Montgomery County Branch is one of three sub-chapter geography-based formations — along with the Prince George’s County and Northern Virginia branches — that exist as another level of support for chapter organizing and administration. The Montgomery County Branch was charted in 2017, and its members have consistently expanded the reach and capacity of the branch since then.

Below are some of the 2021 highlights for the Montgomery County Branch:

  • Worked with previously endorsed candidate, chapter member and member of the Maryland House of Delegates Gabriel Acevero to introduce, for the first time, a bill ending tax breaks for country clubs statewide. Previous bills only ended these tax breaks in Montgomery County. Branch members testified in support of the bill, leading to coverage in Maryland Matters. The Montgomery County and Prince George’s branches also teamed up for a meeting about this issue with Del. Alonzo Washington (D-Prince George’s).
  • The Montgomery County branch led a letter writing campaign to stop the Montgomery County School Board from approving the county’s first charter schools, garnering the attention of school board members and ultimately resulting in the school board rejecting the charter school applications.
  • The Montgomery County branch is an active member of the Silver Spring Justice Coalition and the Montgomery County Defund and Reinvest Coalition. These groups removed School Resource Officers from Montgomery County Public Schools and protested outside the houses of Maryland State Senators Jeff Waldstreicher (D-Montgomery) and Will Smith (D-Montgomery) after they voted in committee to weaken the repeal of the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights.
  • Coalition partners and the branch successfully pressured the Montgomery County Council to extend the pandemic-related rent cap for an additional six months after the end of the Maryland pandemic state of emergency.
  • The Montgomery County and Prince George’s County Branches, Greater Baltimore DSA and Southern Maryland DSA started meeting on a monthly basis to coordinate on state issues.

Prince George's County Branch

The chapter’s Prince George’s County Branch was chartered at the annual local convention in December 2020. Members of the branch hit the ground running in 2021 with a range of organizing activities. 

Below are the Prince George’s County Branch highlights from 2021:

  • Held a town hall in April to show support for the PRO Act with several local labor leaders in attendance, including representation from UFCW Local 400, SMART 100 and Metro Washington Council AFL-CIO President Dyana Forester.
  • Engaged in ongoing work with the Prince George’s County Climate Action Plan, with several branch members participating in the Resident Advisory Board to give detailed commentary over the several months of development of the plan.
  • Led the organizing around the Greenbelt reparations ballot measure campaign, coordinating over 20 local volunteers and reaching 1,500 voters through canvassing efforts within a few weeks. Additional efforts included the coordination of letters to the editor in the local paper and distribution of yard signs. Ultimately the measure passed 63% to 37%.

Northern Virginia Branch

The Northern Virginia Branch of MDC DSA was established in 2017. Branch members organize in the Northern Virginia area, from the Virginia side of the Potomac River to Prince William and Fauquier counties. The branch’s objective is to center socialist organizing in the Northern Virginia area while also supporting coalition partners and fellow Virginia DSA chapters.

Below are 2021 highlights from the Northern Virginia Branch:

  • Continued tenant organizing in Alexandria, with an expansion of organizing efforts to the Mark Center apartment complexes. 
  • Started the Defund NoVA Police Departments working group and began working with a coalition of groups also seeking to defund the police in the region. 
  • Helped to organize the Virginia PRO Act rally in front of Senator Mark Warner’s house on May Day. 
  • Worked with the Free Them All VA coalition — through the NoVA Branch Migrant Justice Working Group (MJWG) — on shutting down ICA-Farmville, with research into ICA, testifying at the Farmville town council and now engaged in outreach within the town itself. 
  • As conditions worsened at Caroline Detention Facility, the NoVA MJWG began a campaign to shut down that facility and raise the demands of people already organizing there. 
  • Both the NoVA MJWG and Defund NoVA PD WG have been working with coalition partners on the ICE Out of Arlington campaign to change the county's policy and end all police-ICE collaboration.
  • Engaged in statewide organizing with other DSA chapters in Virginia, which ultimately resulted in the creation of the Virginia DSA statewide coordinating committee. 
  • Hosted an increasing number of social events and picnics to increase member outreach, culminating in the 2021 Socialist Saturnalia winter social — which took place in Rosslyn, Virginia, and was attended by chapter members from across the region. 


The Metro DC DSA Steering Committee hopes that the information in this report is useful. The diverse array and sheer number of activities recorded here — all occurring in just one year — has been unprecedented in our chapter. The work we all have collectively contributed has decidedly built power for and delivered material benefits to our class. 

It is also important to note that the accomplishments documented in this report did not simply happen out of thin air. Every item in this report was the product of volunteers who have dedicated themselves to a better world. We engage in this work not for direct personal gain, but because we understand that every material benefit won for our class brings us closer to a brighter future.

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