Transparency and Accountability Builds Socialist Power Image by Katie Bourgeois

Transparency and Accountability Builds Socialist Power

In light of the upcoming CDSA April General Chapter Meeting, there is one proposal on the agenda particularly worth your attention. Written by my comrades Tamer A. and Ken B., the resolution entitled “Transparency and Accountability to Build Socialist Power” seeks to create more fine-tuned processes with the motivation of drastically increasing transparency and engagement between our Executive Committee (EC) and the rest of our chapter. This kind of work, with a commitment to building membership power and strengthening our chapter’s structures for participatory democracy at its core, is what we need in building membership power as our organization continues to grow and move forward.

CDSA has grown exponentially since I first joined in 2018! The fight for single-payer health care drew me in while, at the time, I was working for a nonprofit that supported people with neuromuscular diseases. With the support of my comrades, I have developed as an organizer while constantly learning. This year, I became a new member of the chapter’s Executive Committee (EC), representing our comrades part of the North Side Blue Line Branch — which deserves a shout out for our newly formed Mutual Aid Solidarity Committee! 

Knowing that CDSA has grown to 3,300 members fills me with excitement and hope. However, I do not feel we are properly engaging our members and calling them into our work.  When I think about how we can build power as socialists, I think the first step is activating our 3,300 members city-wide. We need to start with who we know and who has taken the step to become a dues paying member. The big question is how do we successfully activate our base? For me the answer is transparency, honesty and participatory democracy. For our comrades to feel invested in the work of the chapter, they must be given ample opportunities to participate in our campaigns, to share their ideas and opinions, and to be given the power to be part of the chapter’s decision making processes.

I have been a member of the EC since the beginning of March and frankly, before I was appointed, I barely knew anyone on the EC. No less, I was not aware of the proposals being debated and voted on nor the conversations had by our chapter’s central decision making body. And I considered myself an active member of the chapter! Being the main body that debates and votes to pass or shut down proposals brought forth by members, these revelations were honestly jarring. This has made me wonder how in the dark my comrades with less access to the EC’s innerworkings must feel. Transparency is a pillar of democracy. By not prioritizing two-way communication with the entire chapter membership about decisions the EC is making, we are inhibiting participatory democracy and reducing member engagement. Yes, we have the #EC-Votes Slack channel, where members can view the results of proposals that passed through the EC. However, tracts of important information are missing! Members cannot see any notes from the debate that occurred, and no information is provided about which EC members voted yay, nay, or abstained. I have also noticed the proposals that have been voted down are not even included in this public Slack channel, and I view this as a disservice to our chapter as a whole. 

The EC has nothing to hide from general membership, so it should be a no brainer to open all of our EC meetings to our members city-wide. In my first two weeks as an EC member, I’ve learned the scope of the power the Committee holds as a decision making body within the chapter. In my honest opinion, we are too top heavy. For a 3,300 member organization, how is it democratic that 44 members hold the most power? We, as the EC, make up just 1.33% of our entire membership. That doesn’t seem right to me, but we have an opportunity to give our power back to our general members. That is what democratic socialism means to me in the context of CDSA – empowering our members to be active participants and giving them ample opportunities to be decision makers in shaping how our organization moves forward. For these reasons, I wholeheartedly support the Transparency and Accountability to Build Socialist Power proposal up for a vote at our next General Chapter Meeting on April 3rd. 

Here are a few key highlights that I am especially excited about: 

  • Publish all proposals submitted to the EC for consideration to general membership with ample time for them to organize support for or against the proposal. General members will also be given 48 hours to add electronic comments to the proposal document. 
  • Add a member comment period to all EC meetings where votes take place. Each proposal being voted on will be allotted 10 minutes for general members to give comment for or against the proposal. 
  • Ensure that summaries of EC members’ statements are recorded during debates, giving general members an opportunity to learn the positions of EC members on proposals. 
  • Create a new online archive where EC meeting minutes are housed and easily accessible to all CDSA membership. 

I strongly believe this proposal will help create a culture of radical transparency and accountability within our chapter and provide opportunities for all members to be active participants and decision makers. When we increase transparency and empower our members to participate in all levels of CDSA, we build our power as socialists and begin to better engage our 3,300 members. I urge all my comrades to attend the General Chapter Meeting on April 3rd and to vote yes on the Transparency and Accountability to Build Socialist Power proposal! And looking forward to successfully implementing this proposal, we will need comrades to self nominate themselves for the proposed ad hoc committee that will make this a reality.