Convention Story

- Pamphlets

by an Anonymous Comrade

This text was written as part of the LSC Pamphlet Program: as such, it is also available in a format for online reading and one for printing. The post reflects only the opinions of the author(s) and not the consensus of the Libertarian Socialist Caucus. Please print and share as far and wide as you can!

I was a delegate to the 2019 DSA National Convention. A lot has been and will be said about the political implications of the decisions we made, about the actions on the floor by the various caucuses, factions and shadowy cabals, but I’m interested in a different story. I was also a delegate to the 2017 DSA National Convention, and I want to think through how different this one felt.

What struck me the most about this recent convention, the thing I was so unprepared for, was just how inconsiderate or even downright mean many of the delegates were. I heard and witnessed many, many examples of this. Friends who were handing out Build literature reported being aggressively questioned and heckled by people wearing Bread and Roses (B&R) buttons. My fellow delegate was tactically misgendered twice. My friends were aggressively prevented from speaking. Comrades who were clearly distressed and attempting to get clarification were met with jeers and hisses. There was very little charity and even less kindness for strangers on the convention floor or anywhere in the hotel that weekend.

The breakouts were strange. For some forsaken reason, there were cases of beer at a Medicare for All session. Caucus self-organized time involved more beer, loud cheering and clapping, and drunken revelers spilling out into the hotel hallways. People would look at the buttons you were wearing and become visibly scornful without even talking to you. People were just so fucking mean to each other all the time for no good reason.

In 2017, I remember a group of (mostly) young socialists convening in Chicago, excited to meet each other, excited to be at the biggest gathering of socialists in the US in decades. We exchanged Twitter handles. We walked in packs from breakout to debate, excitedly chattering about our work, about the better world we were going to build. I stood next to a comrade (now a member of Philly Momentum) on the floor on Sunday, voted the opposite of her on nearly every question, and then the two of us sang Bella Ciao together spontaneously on the convention floor. I remember trying to go to bed early and instead stumbling into a dorm party and drinking into the night with comrades from the Austin delegation, then so excited because they had just secured the support of the Southern Caucus for their chair, Danny Fetonte, for the NPC.

After the 2017 convention, when we first heard the news that Fetonte, it turned out, was a cop union organizer and hadn’t revealed this to the convention, my first thought wasn’t about the politics of it. It wasn’t about what had to be done or who would oppose it. My first thought was to reach out and express support and solidarity to my new friends from Austin who must have been having an extremely difficult time. How many 2019 delegates would have reacted that way? Would I have reacted that way in a similar situation now, or would I have taken the opportunity to score some cheap points against some other faction? I don’t like the answer to that question. I wonder if this is what we mean when we talk about the organization having “matured” since then.

I came home from the convention directly to another crisis, this one in my DSA local. I panicked. I felt my heart race, my breathing quicken. I held my head and started to rock in my chair. Something snapped. I resigned from my local office and I sent an email to cancel my membership. I am done with political organizing for a while. DSA has brought out the worst in me, and I fear it’s done the same for so many of us. The 2017 convention had some tense moments, but there was a spirit of good faith and camaraderie, of dedication to a shared project. That was entirely gone in 2019. I hope some of you can bring it back. I wish you luck.