Chicago DSA Campaigns: How We Should Move Forward

Chicago DSA Campaigns: How We Should Move Forward


  • We should reauthorize campaigns annually 
  • We should have a strong system for leadership development
  • We should have clear power maps and escalation timelines for all of our campaigns
  • We should be focusing on externally organizing


I wanted to take this final campaigns’ report as an opportunity to give some thoughts I have had on the direction and needs of our campaigns and our organization as I have spent the last two years connected somehow with most of the work of our chapter. The TL;DR at the top summarizes, but I would like to dive into this a bit more.

First, I strongly believe we should be reauthorizing campaigns annually as an entire chapter. This comes from my understanding of what these campaigns are, and how they should function. Namely, these campaigns, as listed below in their individual reports, are the current chapter wide priorities of the organization. They should not be a siloed group that is running independently of the organization. This means both that the campaigns need to work to get buy in from the chapter at large, engage the chapter at large, and show how the campaign is strategically working to build our organization, build our movement, make more socialists, and win key needs for the working class to move further into class struggle and that the entire chapter should be thinking about how they, through their work, bring a lens to the campaigns that holistically moves the multiracial working class forward. Reauthorizing annually would put more democratic control in the hands of the entire chapter, give members stakes of why they should attend and engage in meetings, prevent stagnation, and allow clear opportunities for new priorities to arise and be acted on/supported by the entire chapter. The longer a campaign doesn’t “reauthorize” by a presentation, debate, and vote of the whole chapter the more it will silo into a fiefdom and languish from lack of resources, namely “people power.” This also plays into the abundance of events CDSA is hosting every month, which should be consolidated to help prevent burnout from leaders and members feeling they need to attend multiple events every night and make the events that are hosted more productive and collaborative. 

Second, after watching many new comrades be thrust into leadership without adequate preparation or development I believe we need to create a strong system of leadership development. This needs to focus on political education, hard and soft organizing skills, and transfer of institutional memory. Too often brand new, enthusiastic members with time are pushed into taking on too much leadership responsibility too quickly. I really think this has led to more frustrations of both newer and older members and burnout of new leaders. I am not sure what exact form the leadership development should take but it should, in my mind, mirror the rose buddy program in some capacity. There needs to be elements of socialist political education, training on hard and soft organizing skills, and a transfer of institutional memory during a set timeline to give comrades time to absorb this information and reflect on where they might see a difference in opinion on how to move forward versus a lack of knowledge on how to move forward. New members need to be given time to develop their politics, feel out the organization and its many parts, and learn how to do everything from running a canvas to chairing a meeting to list building and agitation. Chapter leadership is not just the officers, it is anyone elected to lead any part of CDSA. This includes EC members, branch leadership, committee leadership, and working group leadership. All leaders need to take it upon themselves to be constantly bringing new comrades up and preparing them for eventual leadership through this transfer of knowledge and skill both in structured meetings and in unstructured 1-1 relationships/conversations. 

Third, I strongly recommend that all campaigns should create a clear power map and escalation timeline openly and collectively with our entire membership so that members understand how and why we will achieve goals, can anticipate when and why they will be mobilized, and to prevent stagnation. To my knowledge, none of the campaigns have a written current power map and/or escalation timeline. Several comrades may have this in their heads, but that does not help engage the over 3,000 members we have in a way they can understand. These power maps and escalation timelines can help other parts of the chapter and membership at large understand where they may fit in as workers, community members, and volunteers. It also can help keep our campaigns grounded in their goals and avoid burnout of campaign leaders who feel pulled in a million directions when new urgent things arise. Really, we are going to need these power maps and escalation timelines if we want to pull people into action and win. We need to all know what the lay of the land is and where power lies so we can all pull in that direction. 

Finally, I strongly recommend our campaigns focus energy on external organizing. We must move past being a self selecting organization and movement of activists. To do this, we must bring the conversation to people who otherwise may not interact with us. This means phone banking, tabling, door to door canvassing. This also means each member, as a socialist, should be talking with their coworkers and neighbors about politics. We need to have a better understanding of what preexisting structures we can tap into to leverage our power as the working class. We need to be having deep conversations in targeted areas to achieve our goals, namely growing our membership in BIPOC working class neighborhoods, growing class consciousness among Chicagoans and the world, winning rent control, owning our electric infrastructure, police and prison abolition, winning and leveraging state power, and SOCIALISM. This also opens opportunities for our members to engage and grow as socialists, as so many members want to have something to do instead of something to attend. Having our members practice talking to strangers, coworkers, and neighbors about socialism and our goals sharpens their analysis and helps grow listening skills needed of organizers. We have a huge world to win and we cannot do that as a small fraction of the population. We need to be big, we need to be talking to people who do not just come to us, and we need to be organizing them into the movement to understand our power as the working class. 

The past two years have been so difficult but so rewarding. We have built so much momentum, and we have to keep moving forward as we have a ways to go. I want to wish the new officers, whoever they may be, the best of luck. I also want to thank everyone I was able to organize with over the past two years for teaching me about what it means to be a socialist and what it means to be a socialist organizer.