Democratic Locals

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Affected Items & Short Rationale

  • C/B 5 “Greater Chapter Democracy Requirements”

    • Implements some basic democratic mechanisms in new locals that help build long-term, democratic participation. 

  • C/B 37 “Local Jurisdiction”

    • Creates a procedure for local members to initiate polls in territory disputes. When there’s disagreement over local jurisdiction, the voices of the local members are what should count.

Why Is Build Endorsing Democratic Locals?

  • Democracy for all! (C/B Change 5)

    • This proposal sets a baseline for internal democracy in local chapters. Members should be able to count on regular meetings, democratic control of meeting agendas, decisions being communicated, at-least-annual elections with open nominations, recall mechanisms, and open communication channels.

  • Local jurisdiction, local voices. (C/B Change 37)

    • When DSA members start to organize locally in neighborhoods where DSA hasn’t had a presence, one of two things usually happens: (1) in an area not encompassed by any chapter, National DSA helps the organizers work their way through the chapter pipelines, or (2) within an existing chapter’s territory, that chapter happily provides support for the fledgling chapter and, ultimately, cedes local territory to them. However, in the rare cases where there’s a dispute, we lack a way to resolve it. This proposal would let local members simply hold a poll on what they want to do.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Concern: I saw that National’s budget analysis of “Local Jurisdiction” assumes five instances of local jurisdiction polls in a year. Would this proposal have us burning time on polls to split local chapters, and get in the way of our organizing?

Answer: No. Almost all instances of organizing a new local chapter would look very similar to today: members find each other through their existing chapter, which has their back in getting an organizing committee started, and cedes territory as needed. It’s actually quite unusual for chapters to deny zip codes to members trying to organize in their own neighborhoods and cities. By and large, chapters have been exemplary in supporting organizers getting their own chapters going. Holding a poll and forcing an NPC decision is a backup plan for the very few cases where a chapter and members in a local area disagree on the best course forward.

Concern: What if an organized outside group shows up in a DSA chapter and triggers a local jurisdiction poll?

Answer: As a check on entryism, the NPC would retain its final say over whether to charter a new local chapter. In turn, as a check on the NPC, the topline poll results would be published to members of DSA.