For R8: A Class-Struggle Candidate can Energize your YDSA Chapter

A YDSA chapter in Indianapolis, Indiana contributed to the election of Jesse Brown, an open Democratic Socialist and DSA Member, to the City-County Council. Supporters of Resolution 8 argue that running a class-struggle election campaign can be energizing for many YDSA chapters. This article originally appeared in the Summer 2023 Print Issue, which can be found here.


Earlier this year, the North Central High School (NCHS) YDSA chapter in Indiana had a powerful opportunity: to help lead a local municipal election campaign to elect a Democratic Socialist to the Indianapolis City-County Council. The candidate, Jesse Brown, is a member of Central Indiana DSA, and ran in the Democratic primary for the newly-drawn District 13. He ran against an incumbent Democrat, Zach Adamson, who had been in the Council representing his previous district for eleven years and served as vice president. Throughout Jesse’s campaign, he pointed out the problems with both parties, emphasizing that they both serve the interests of corporations and the wealthy, not working people. Because the district is heavily Democratic, there was no Republican challenger, so whoever won the primary would almost certainly win the general election.

Ultimately, Jesse’s campaign won the election, energized and increased involvement in our YDSA chapter, and even developed new leaders that will continue our chapter after the core of founding members graduate. Most importantly, our work on the campaign showed members of our chapter the power we have when we struggle together. 

Our chapter’s experience working on Jesse’s campaign inspired me to sponsor “Resolution 8: Recommitting to Building an Independent Working-Class Socialist Party,” which will offer support to YDSA chapters that choose to engage in campaigns for class-struggle candidates.

For the last two years, we have been leading our YDSA chapter at NCHS. We joined DSA during our sophomore year – the year of the Bernie 2020 campaign – and like many young people we were becoming increasingly disillusioned with the Democratic Party and searching for an alternative. Instead of becoming pessimistic, we had to believe that a better world is possible and decide to fight for it. Starting the first and only high school chapter of YDSA in Indiana was our way to begin that fight.

However, when we started the chapter at the beginning of our junior year, we quickly discovered that organizing high schoolers is difficult. During our first year, we held political education meetings and got involved with Central Indiana DSA, our local chapter, but it was hard to get our peers to understand how we could start to build socialism in our hometown.

Going into our senior year, we struggled with developing leaders and engaging the less involved members of our chapter. We realized that we needed a way to show members the power we hold as the working class.

When we heard that Jesse was planning on running for City-County Council, we knew this was the perfect opportunity. Our chapter had canvassed for a progressive candidate before in an effort to engage members, but this campaign was different. Jesse is a DSA member himself and was running as an open socialist on issues that directly affected his constituents, such as improving public infrastructure and housing for all. His platform focused on supporting and fighting alongside working-class people to combat oppression from the workplace and to the local and state governments. Jesse told us that his goals were to “meet people where they are, insist that we have the power to improve our world, and point out who is paying to make sure that doesn’t happen,” as well as “emphasize the importance of collective action, in the form of labor unions, tenant unions, and DSA and other socialist organizations.”

It is easy to feel powerless against the exploitation that defines capitalism, especially for high school students – most of whom cannot even vote yet. Even for those who can vote, elections often seem like a choice between “the lesser of two evils.” In this election, however, Jesse represented a real alternative to the typical, centrist Democrats that had controlled the Council for years, and that was an invigorating prospect for our chapter members.

Jesse and our DSA chapter were excited to have YDSA serve as a critical part of the canvassing effort. Our main strategy was to engage with as many people as possible to share Jesse’s vision before the election, which meant having a team of dedicated YDSA canvassers knocking on doors for a few months. Members of our chapter went out multiple times per week, knocking on doors and talking to constituents about issues they care about and how Jesse plans to address them. 

In the primary election, Jesse received 55.9% of the votes, beating the incumbent by more than 10%. The work our chapter did for the campaign played a crucial role in the election results. We made a real difference for the campaign, but more significantly the campaign made a real difference for our chapter. This victory showed us how many people are amenable to socialist policies, or are frustrated enough with the status quo to be willing to vote for a socialist promising change. It empowered our membership and showed them that we can win when we take collective action. Having a serious, real-world campaign helped pull us, along with other members of our chapter, out of a sense of helplessness, showing us we are able to build power together. Jesse’s campaign was a gateway to activate members of our chapter who previously were less involved or who did not know how to be involved.

Canvassing for Jesse gave our members the confidence to lead and become more committed to our chapter. Members who canvassed with us went on to run for leadership positions on our steering committee, and will be leading our chapter into the 2023-2024 school year. Class-struggle electoral work, such as Jesse’s campaign, that builds towards a future worker-led independent socialist party is an important way to create lifelong socialist organizers who understand the power of the working class as agents of change.

While electoral organizing may not be strategic for all chapters, it can still play a pivotal role in the development of chapters and the advancement of YDSA’s political goals. “Resolution 8: Recommitting to Building an Independent Working-Class Socialist Party,” supports chapters engaging in electoral work and promotes a class-struggle, party-building narrative for these campaigns. 

Vote yes on R8 to affirm the importance of YDSA’s involvement in building an alternative to the Democratic Party and running class-struggle elections.