Our chapter has not publicly recorded resolutions for three years

Community and Solidary is a caucus operating within Metro DC DSA.

AN ESSENTIAL part of a functioning internal democracy is transparency. The gravity of information, its availability, and its organization cannot be overstated. Yet, for over three years, Metro DC DSA leadership has failed to uphold this tenet, leaving members in the dark about the very resolutions that are supposed to guide our chapter's actions and principles.

The Community & Solidarity Caucus has recently attempted to catalog all resolutions passed since September 2020, the last time the chapter uploaded such resolutions to its public website. To our dismay, locating this information was not just a matter of opening a well-maintained file or checking a well-organized database. We found that this information had to be painstakingly gathered from old agendas and past tweets, entailing hours of research. To our fellow members, we share our findings online here and hope that this information will soon be hosted on the chapter’s website.

Specifically, we had to go through years of agendas manually — both general body and Steering Committee agendas — just to confirm what resolutions had or had not passed over the years (see the chapter's directory of agendas here).

We then searched Twitter, a social media site that many current and prior chapter leaders use quite frequently to discuss DSA matters, and combed through references to resolutions to find any possible gaps. We also searched through our internal members portal — an internal archival database — and through digital copies of our Weekly Update archive to identify if resolution outcomes were consistently recorded there. Though some results were present, many weren't.

Why does this matter?

Well, the problem here is a barrier to information. The significant effort required to glean this data is a de facto form of gatekeeping. Until today, a member had to spend hours researching (as well as taking advantage of informal networks) in order to comprehend what the chapter’s will (i.e., resolutions) were. 

Current chapter leadership has often vocalized their desire for increased member participation in internal politics, but how is a member expected to draft a resolution and engage in this process when they cannot easily access or study the resolutions that have already been passed? The very foundation for meaningful engagement is seemingly absent.

This oversight, whether by design or neglect, enables information asymmetry in the chapter. It inevitably lowers members' motivation to engage in the passage of resolutions. After all, if one believes their hard work might be lost to time and poor record-keeping, what's the point? Why would you put in all of that effort for words that, in a couple of years, will become lost in a Google Drive?

Regardless of intent, this piecemeal approach introduces a systemic bias tilted towards those holding elected power (or those who have informal social capital) because they “hold the keys” members must turn to navigate or organize chapter activity. As member Ali T, who has been key for facilitating past chapter elections, disclosed to us: 

“We have a lot of people who have the skills to get us out of this situation … and it just hasn't been a priority … because for the people who are [in leadership] already, these systems do work. The fact that Slack deletes messages after like three months—that doesn't bother them, because there's no worry about people sifting through old conversations. The fact that outside of Slack … everything is on Google Docs, that does work, because ... they're the ones who know and remember where all these different documents are.”

Through all this informational gate-keeping (and we are not assuming ill-intent in this instance), there is potential here for use of the informal “pocket veto,” where leadership forgets resolutions, by mistake or on purpose, to disregard the rules and prerogatives decided on by the membership. 

We suspect this was what recent HGO resolution (2023-08-GR14), passed 113-17 by the chapter two months ago, was about. This resolution underlined the importance of Chapter and National Harassment and Grievance Officers (HGO), which are supposed to be the primary institutions used to address serious breaches of conduct between members. There was no THEREFORE section in this resolution demanding that chapter leadership take a new course of action. It was simply a resolution to remind leadership about rules that were already on the books, because general disorganization makes such a reminder necessary. 

This failure to ensure proper record-keeping of our resolutions (i.e., our mandates) is a fundamental problem that needs to be addressed.

Open governance is critical for building trust in democratically run organizations

While the reasons for this lapse in recordkeeping are unclear, the gravity of the oversight remains the same. It's not about missing files; it's about a missing ethos of open governance. 

A common complaint we see when leftists participate in electoral politics is that often, the centrist vanguard of the Democratic Party will use their stranglehold on processes to push out competitors. Whether we are talking about the manipulation of the primary schedule or the fact that fundraising and canvassing lists are prohibitively expensive for up-and-coming candidates to obtain, these moves make it more difficult for progressives and leftists to participate in the Party, and it is one reason why many turn to external political organizations (like the DSA) to operate in the United States. 

We must make sure that we do not replicate these same tactics within our chapter. We at the Community & Solidarity Caucus request that the Steering Committee confirm the resolutions passed at least during their tenure, make that list publicly available, and consistently maintain it for the remainder of their term. An unelected, informal association should not have to shoulder the responsibility of maintaining core organizational functions.

We understand fully that internal bookkeeping like this is not easy, especially because so many of our members are strapped for time and attention. Luckily, a new internal chapter project may be of help for disclosing and maintaining consistent internal records. Tech-savvy members in the chapter have been working on a chapter wiki project, which will be used to store and house information relevant to internal governance in the chapter. This project, embarked on by local members of Steering, members of our Administrative Committee, and members of our Publications cooperative, should aide in the maintenance of internal record-keeping. But this system, when completed, must not fall by the wayside as other internal organizing projects have. Maintenance of this system must be a priority for the next Steering Committee if we want to make our chapter accessible to members and attractive to working masses.

To our fellow members, we share our findings online here and hope that this information will soon be completed and hosted on the chapter’s website. If not resolved by the Steering Committee, our caucus will upload a running spreadsheet and share it on our own. If you are interested in joining our caucus in its development of a more transparent and engaged Metro DC DSA, consider signing up for our newsletter or getting involved in our chapter's publications cooperative or Administrative Committee.

In solidarity, community, & cooperation,
The Community & Solidarity Caucus, Metro DC DSA

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