From June 25 – 27, almost 200 delegates from Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) chapters across the country convened virtually to determine the future of our organization at the 2021 YDSA National Convention. This was the second YDSA National Convention to be held online due to the COVID pandemic, and it was clear that a great deal of work was put into overhauling the system used to facilitate this event.
Debate lasted for many hours over the three days of the convention, and by the end of each day, I was completely exhausted. Voting alternated between moving faster than discussion could occur and being dragged out for over an hour on single questions. This convention saw debate over highly contentious issues, many of which increased tension between various groups within YDSA.
For much of this report, I will exclude my personal opinion on the proceedings and results of this convention and instead focus on numbers and results. However, as a representative of a local chapter with my own political beliefs, I believe it is my responsibility to include a statement regarding certain events that happened at convention, and to make clear my support for certain issues. I encourage everyone to read as many different reports as possible to formulate your own opinions, as different members and caucuses have very different opinions on the results of this year’s convention.
This convention was the largest YDSA convention ever held, with almost 200 delegates in attendance. In addition to delegates, the convention was attended by YDSA staffers and DSA volunteers, as well as workshop leaders and Sara Nelson (international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA).
Our role as delegates was to deliberate and vote on the various resolutions included in our agenda, and to elect new National Coordinating Committee (NCC) members: two co-chairs and seven at-large members.
First on the agenda were the 18 resolutions written and proposed by delegates from across the country. The results of these resolutions would determine YDSA’s organizing focus for the coming year, as well as fix administrative and procedural issues within the organization. The topics included class struggle, labor organizing, universal college, international solidarity, police abolition, ecosocialism, language and racial justice, antifascism, political education and the relationship between YDSA and DSA.
Following a poll conducted by YDSA staff, five of these resolutions were adopted as a bundle by delegate consent. All 18 resolutions were debated and voted on, thanks to many motions to modify the agenda and extend convention time. If you have ever been to a convention before, you know how much of a miracle it is that we actually finished our agenda.
Next, we moved on to electing our new NCC members. According to the YDSA website, the NCC “directs the activities, fundraising, publications, education, general political direction and coalition work of YDSA.” Additionally, NCC co-chairs are given a seat on DSA’s National Political Committee and National Steering Committee. As there were only two candidates for co-chair, Cyn H of UC Berkeley and Sarandon E of University of Virginia, who won the election uncontested. The at-large elections were much more contested, with nine delegates running for this position. Of the seven candidates who were elected to the NCC, three were members of Bread and Roses caucus, two were members of Towards Power and two were officially caucus-unaligned (but were endorsed by Towards Power and Green Bloc).
Outside of the consent agenda, many resolutions passed with overwhelming support, with others passing or failing by margins as slim as a single vote, and still others failing by significant margins. It is these contentious votes that show the wide range of opinions within YDSA and what the organization should be focusing on for the future. The full resolution text and results can be found on the YDSA website.
Resolutions passed which encompass the structure and strategy to be undertaken by YDSA:
Resolutions which help define YDSA’s approach and areas of interest:
I want to be clear that this section represents my own viewpoints but that I have based these viewpoints on my experience at convention and the discussions I had with fellow delegates. I left the convention a bit disappointed in the behavior and character exhibited by some convention attendees.
During the convention, an alternate delegate called fellow delegates an ableist slur over social media following a very close vote which did not go their way. Though the tweet was immediately deleted, the delegate doubled down on the language after being confronted about their behavior. A vote was called to expel the delegate from the convention, but narrowly failed. It was later discovered that a caucus whipped votes using their paid mass texting service to prevent the expulsion.
I was disappointed to see the motion to expel fail. My comrades and I felt as though one caucus had put their desire for power above the need to create an organizing space free from harassment. Additionally, this same caucus pushed to vote down what I considered to be two of the most important resolutions at this convention: For an Ecosocialist Future; and Racial Justice and Antifascism. They used procedural manipulation to stifle debate, which limited supporters’ capacities to make an honest case for these resolutions.
In summary, I left the convention bitter and alienated. I personally felt as though many people who I thought were comrades did not seem to care about fighting fascist violence, from which many YDSA chapters (especially those in the South and Pacific Northwest) face credible threats. All I can hope for is solidarity from the comrades who showed these resolutions their support, and a change in the winds before next year.