Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has various national-level committees, working groups, and other structures, in addition to the more widely known National Political Committee, or NPC, its overall governing body. One of these which is coming more and more into prominence is the International Committee (IC). Unlike working groups which are open to anyone willing to do the work, most national committees are more formal, indeed somewhat rigid, structures that one must apply to join and be cleared and accepted. This is a case where the desire to make the structure more effective has caused democracy and transparency to be sacrificed to some extent (too much, in my view.) But nevertheless, and despite having applied earlier and having been “deferred” (i.e., rejected for now), I applied to join the IC, and even offered myself as a candidate for an unspecified leadership position. To my surprise, I was accepted and appointed co-chair of the Europe subcommittee. As the cliché puts it, that’s when my troubles really began…(Just kidding; no troubles, just a bit of confusion and a lot of work.)
I’ve been in this position for a little over a month, and I’m still learning new stuff almost daily. I’ll get into more about what I do know (or have flat-out guessed) about the IC, as well as some of the issues plaguing the Europe subcommittee, but first I want to invite any TCDSA members who might be interested in helping to rebuild and improve the IC to apply for membership. The current “round” of applications closes September 15, so apply soon. Here is the form.The committee, or at least our subcommittee, which is the only one I have had time to get to know, is very short of women and BIPOC members.
An “International committee” in DSA has existed in some form since at least the mid-1990s. It was primarily a structureless interest group in the pre-2016 days when DSA was small and couldn’t really affect domestic issues greatly, let alone global ones. Until 2017, DSA was a member of the international body Socialist International (SI), which didn’t leave us as much autonomy to determine our own positions and make our own coalitions on the international stage as we now possess.
In 2018, a year after DSA voted at the 2017 convention to break with SI and subsequently did so, the NPC created a new, more formal structure for the IC, and it adopted its current mission. In 2020, a reform of the internal leadership structure was approved by the NPC. Currently, the IC is structured around nine subcommittees (1), each with two co-chairs appointed by the IC Steering Committee and the IC Secretariat (2) and approved by the NPC. The IC Steering Committee (ICSC) and Secretariat, both established in 2020, are appointed by the NPC. The subcommittee co-chairs are not part of the ICSC, but some decisions are made jointly between the co-chairs and the ICSC, such as the admission of new members to the various subcommittees. (You have to be accepted by at least one subcommittee, although you can apply to several, to join the IC.)
I don’t want to sound more negative than I feel about this, because I feel mostly positive about the IC and about being part of it and helping to grow and improve it. All of the people I have met and worked with virtually so far in the IC are good comrades, and everyone is doing their best, but despite attending an orientation for new co-chairs, and lots of questions on the two new Slacks I was added to, and despite lots of online searching for information, I am not 100% sure the structure I outlined above is accurate. The IC had several resolutions up for the 2021 National DSA Convention, and although they didn’t all pass, the IC was essentially given a green light to throw membership open to all DSA members in good standing. A lot of growth and some further structural reform will be in our future.
After the orientation, I learned that in early 2021 there was something that caused the two Europe co-chairs to both resign. The other person who was appointed co-chair, Florent Marchais, who goes by Flo, had at least a year of membership behind him and so more familiarity with the IC than I have. Also, he is one of the increasing numbers of DSA members living in Europe, where there are enough DSA members in some cities to form chapters. (But as yet no “constitutional” way to do that. One of the resolutions that failed included a clause on allowing DSA chapters abroad. This doesn’t preclude us getting that in the future, but for now it’s still on the wishlist.)
In general, I am excited, if a little scared, of the amount of work, about the transformations in the IC in the recent past and especially those about to happen in the near future. I hope that our growth is rapid but healthy. I hope we can come up with more transparency, less chaos and logjam and a clearer vision of what we are for and where we are going.
The IC presented a plenary and a workshop at the national convention that were very well received. The plenary is available to view online at the DSA International Committee YouTube channel (which you can also subscribe to.)
by Deb K R
1 The nine subcommittees of the International committee are:
- Middle East+Africa
2 In early 2020, a large-scale reform of the International Committee was approved by DSA’s National Political Committee. The preexisting committee structure was disassembled and two new executive bodies were created: an International Secretariat and a Steering Committee. Following a competitive application process, ten DSA members were appointed to each of these two bodies by the NPC.
The Secretariat was tasked with overseeing DSA’s diplomatic affairs and political work outside the United States, as well as with providing political counsel to the NPC. The Steering Committee was tasked with overseeing DSA’s international political work inside the United States, crucially through the International Committee’s various subcommittees.