We, the Libertarian Socialist Caucus of the Democratic Socialists of America, are ready to announce our first official nationwide mutual aid program: the creation of a Zoom account usable by any DSA member in order to conduct organizational business.
To use the Zoom account: fill in this form.
Why did we create this program?
We believe such a common resource has been a long time in coming, will provide crucial assistance to the most fruitful organizing going on within the DSA, and is a key first step in making up for the lack of support for regional and other large-scale organizing by the current National organization.
Many DSA members across the country hold meetings on Zoom, a video conferencing platform with the ability to host many participants at a time and other useful features which make it extremely helpful in organizing large numbers of people at a distance. At its best, socialists can use Zoom to bring crucial information and experiences to those who wouldn’t normally be able, for geographic or other reasons, to access it. DSAers have used Zoom to host reading groups, debates, information sessions, panels, trainings, workshops, speeches, and other events of enormous creativity and power.
In many cases, these events involve members from different chapters across the country and double as the first serious networking on a regional basis between locals—nationwide organizing of the sort that, though we were promised it by various candidates for National leadership at the last Convention, has largely failed to materialize in any official capacity. Instead such work remains relegated to grassroots movements within DSA such as the DSA Medics, the Southern Caucus, The Pacific Northwest Region, and the Rust Belt Caucus, which remain severely under-supported by the National organization.
Zoom therefore plays a crucial role in the development, deepening, and expansion of DSA’s internal democracy. Unfortunately, it costs money. This means that there is a barrier to entry which provides an opportunity for some to act as gatekeepers of access to this crucial resource. National’s Zoom account is available to any “official” DSA event or working group, but the only way to use it is to be a leader of one of these nationally approved working groups. This has led some DSA chapters to adopt their own Zoom accounts and, in turn, to the informal practice of sharing access to such accounts with comrades across the country for free. While the principle of mutual aid behind such acts is to be applauded, the informality of these networks -- the fact that access is still being apportioned through knowing the right person -- doesn’t solve the fundamental problem.
Socialists believe key infrastructure that meets basic needs should be under common ownership and democratically managed in order that those needs be universally met. If we fail to distribute our own organizations’ resources in this way, it’s doubtful we shall succeed in radically democratizing the economy as a whole. Unless or until the National organization makes its Zoom available in a structured and democratically accountable manner for use by the rank-and-file membership, it will remain effectively the special privilege of a political elite, no matter the good intentions of the organizers and staffers who currently manage it. We believe such a reform is quite within National’s power to enact. But for our part, we have decided not to wait that long. In a spirit of mutual aid and direct action, we have decided to build that better system in the here and now.
What we decided to do
Using our Caucus’s internal decision-making procedure, we voted in May to:
Create and administer a Zoom account for use by all DSA members, the Caucus itself, working groups, and local meetings.
Purchase a Pro Zoom account ($14.99/month), designate a scheduler who will act as point person for the account, and set up a web form and procedure for DSA members to submit requests for time.
Run this account until such that time that it determines that National DSA offers comparable services, which deliver a free and unrestricted conferencing tool to any DSA member.
Determine a rotation of responsibilities of the administration of the zoom account on a quarterly basis. The LSC will set up a working group to administer the responsibilities of the Zoom account.
Establish a finance working group that will determine how the Caucus will handle any internal finances going forward.
What we have done
In accordance with our decision, we have spent the last few months preparing the infrastructure for the Zoom system. This has consisted of the following:
In the absence of a formalized financial management system, a trusted Caucus member generously volunteered to bottom-line the Zoom subscription out of their own pocket until an official procedure for handling money is devised.
We have established a Finance Working Group which has met a number of times to explore various possibilities for said finance system and will present them to the Caucus for voting by the end of 2018.
Finally, we established a Zoom Working Group to manage the account itself, requests for its use, and scheduling on an ongoing basis.
What this means for you
The Libertarian Socialist Caucus is proud to announce that we are ready to begin taking requests for the use of The People’s Zoom effective immediately. To request use of the app and schedule a session, please follow the instructions here.
We believe that radical democracy of the sort socialism promises begins with solving problems in a direct-democratic manner and making sure that everyone can benefit from the abundance of our high-tech industrial society, not just a privileged elite. In our Zoom program and mutual aid projects to come, we intend to put that belief into action. We can only hope our practice inspires others not only to do the same but to improve upon our efforts through the application of their own creativity. Unshackled and free to govern themselves in a spirit of cooperation and equality, there is nothing ordinary people cannot do.