Meet the NCC Co-Chair Candidates

There are four candidates running for the two co-chair roles on the YDSA NCC at this year’s Summer Convention. Learn about them here!


 

The National Coordinating Committee’s (NCC) term is coming to an end and soon a new group of organizers will take their place. The NCC’s current nine members are the driving force behind YDSA’s campaigns. They allocate resources, obtain funds, set priorities, and organize the in-person national gatherings that bring members from across the country together. But the co-chairs take on an even greater role, serving on the DSA National Political Committee (NPC) and being the connection between youth activists and their older peers. 

With current co-chairs Jake Colosa and Leena Yumeen departing, four people now hope to fill the void they will leave behind. Evan Caldwell, Taylor Clark, Aron Ali-McClory, and Winnie M. are all running for co-chair this year. The four candidates spoke with The Activist about their platforms, backgrounds, and visions for YDSA.

Evan Caldwell, University of Central Florida (UCF), he/him

Caldwell repeated many times throughout the interview that “YDSA is DSA in a pressure cooker.” He believes there is a “fundamental disconnect between national and chapters,” making vital information less accessible to chapter leaders, causing a scarcity of effective leadership, and leading to chapters folding. As of now, “one in four chapters is going to go defunct,” Caldwell explained. Which is why Caldwell’s biggest priority is “building consistent, replicating, self-sufficient chapters” and a structure that is “not going to fall apart.” According to Caldwell, the first question every NCC member should ask themselves is “what are you going to do to support chapters?” Though some chapters and leaders have an innate understanding of organizing, “we can’t expect everyone in our movement to be self-taught.” Rather than YDSA members viewing the national body as a distant and largely irrelevant force, Caldwell wants the NCC to be “really connected with chapters.” If a chapter is having difficulty, “we need to be there with those people,” Caldwell said. 

Caldwell’s proposed alterations extend beyond internal logistics, but also to how YDSA deals with labor organizing. “We prioritize and teach chapters about organizing unions,” Caldwell said, without the caveat that “you don’t need to do it immediately.” “YDSA is in a crisis,” was how Caldwell concluded his interview, noting that a political and social movement is only as good as its leaders. And the only way to maintain, generation after generation, effective socialist organizers, Caldwell said, was if we “train them right.”

Taylor Clark, University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), he/him

“The percentage of resources dedicated to YDSA is laughable.” In Clark’s three years in YDSA he has been a staffer for Student Researchers United (SRU) and helped lead the University of California (UC) United Auto Workers (UAW) strike in the fall of 2022, all while being a member of the Bread & Roses (B&R) Caucus. Underlining his point about YDSA’s lack of staff and necessary materials, Clark noted that the UAW campaign had “over 50 people on staff,” as opposed to YDSA, which has only had one staffer, Anna Bonomo, until only very recently hiring a second. Clark argues that the first and most important goal of any elected co-chair should be to secure more resources from DSA. Ultimately, “successful campaigns require resources,” Clark stated.

While most YDSA members agree with Clark that YDSA needs and deserves more resources, he knows that not as many DSA members agree. “The fight will really be happening at DSA convention this year,” Clark said, adding that all YDSA attendees should be “fighting as hard as possible to pass the YDSA consensus resolution” by “organizing delegates on the floor of the DSA convention.” 

Likewise, outside of allocating more resources to YDSA, Clark thinks “we need to fundamentally reorient how NCC meetings are structured,” stating “we spend as much as half of meetings discussing DSA communications.” Instead of focusing on aesthetic and communication preferences, Clark argues, NCC members should be “doing what historically, Anna had done.” Clark said that the NCC should be doing “in-person workshops with chapters” and that “national leaders should cultivate one-on-one relationships with chapter leaders and rank-and-file members.” 

Clark also said that becoming more proactive in cultivating organizers means making an effort to support socialists of color. “The demographics of the socialist Left at the moment make YDSA overwhelmingly white,” Clark said. 

Aron Ali-McClory, University of Florida (UF), they/them

Like Caldwell, Ali-McClory is based in Florida, famously organizing a protest when former Republican Senator Ben Sasse was selected as president for the University of Florida. “The failure of the Florida Democratic party has pushed a lot of people to join our chapter,” Ali-McClory said, as young people have started looking to “resist in a meaningful way.” Ali-McClory took this organizing experience with them to the NCC after being elected as an at-large member at last year’s convention. Speaking for the NCC, Ali-MClory said they were “shocked by the amount of autonomy we did have.” Ali-McClory also felt the group made mistakes, saying there were some areas they “mishandled this previous time.” Specifically, Ali-McClory noted “the day of action could have been handled better,” referring to last year’s abortion rights day of action. 

Ali-McClory believes the NCC must learn to “use its power in a sustainable way.” For Ali-McClory, that means a reshaping of the NCC and how it relates to YDSA chapters nationwide. Ali-McClory said the NCC should “take on those political questions more so than the administrative ones.”  Explaining themself on Twitter, Ali-McClory wrote that the incoming NCC need to make sure it “facilitates a cultural shift in our organization,” doing so by revitalizing the cohort system and expanding “the connective tissue between YDSA and our chapters.” Ali-McClory’s caucus, Constellation, echoes this sentiment, writing in its Points of Unity, that YDSA needs to “connect chapter and national leadership and empower safe organizing in chapters across the country.”

Another topic Ali-McClory has made into a key campaign issue is the lack of diversity in YDSA. “Diversity is probably the principal question we face as a movement right now,” Ali-McClory stated, arguing that oftentimes, people of color are either overlooked by their white peers, or placed in important positions without adequate training so their chapters can counter allegations of being too white. Ali-McClory themself has experienced this trend, feeling they were “put in these positions because I’m a brown person in that chair, and it would look good for our external optics.” Such decisions have “led to a problematic culture of burnout and tokenism in YDSA.” Ali-McClory hopes to address this issue with “intentional leadership development” tailored to “meet diverse organizers where they’re at.” 

In Ali-McClory’s view, such inclusivity should also extend to disabled YDSA members. During the 2023 YDSA Conference, numerous disabled YDSA members complained about how the conference was structured, saying they felt excluded from the proceedings. The conference, and the surrounding area, were difficult to traverse for the physically disabled, with some saying they were unable to attend the conference social event because of its inaccessibility. Meanwhile those who were neurodivergent had their own complaints, including the sparse stimulation and quiet rooms, along with general disregard for any possible sensory issues of attendees. “Resolution 1: For The Inclusion, Accommodation, and Recognition of Socialist Disability Action” attempts to fix the aforementioned problems, creating a “Disability Oversight Committee,” for conventions and conferences, and ensuring a “fundamental baseline of disability accommodations at all national YDSA events.” Ali-McClory is one of five co-sponsors to an amendment for this resolution, detailing how such accommodations will be met, with “a qualified sign language interpreter,” designated quiet spaces “with clear communication of ongoing programing,” and “wheelchair access at all national YDSA events.” 

Winnie M., New York University (NYU), any pronouns

On June 13th B&R announced their slate for the 2023 YDSA Convention, with Winnie and Clark topping their list as candidates for co-chair. B&R boasted that Winnie created mentorship programs and represented YDSA, while leading electoral campaigns in New York State.

Winnie is already acquainted with the dynamics and internal politics of DSA, having “served as a YDSA representative on several DSA bodies.” Winnie hopes to improve the relationship between YDSA and DSA, transforming what many have called a contentious relationship between the two organizations. Winnie thinks YDSA is at the “forefront of a lot of the most important aspects of the socialist movement,” and deserves “the right resources for the projects we’re undertaking.” Winnie intends to bridge the gap between YDSA and DSA, saying its importance for YDSA to emphasize the “strategic importance,” of its work. One of the ways Winnie hopes to sustain and build that relationship is “connection through mentorship.” The idea of mentorship is among Winnie’s campaign’s essential themes. 


Asked about chapters in conservative-dominated, southern states who have more difficult conditions than their counterparts in more liberal, northern states, Winnie said “I think we should be putting resources behind places who need it more,” before returning the question to YDSA and DSA’s relationship. “If we get resources for YDSA, we get resources for everybody,” Winnie stated, adding YDSA needs to “get more resources to hire more staff members,” to serve underrepresented chapters. 

Unlike other co-chair candidates — most of whom have little, if any, background in electoral organizing —  Winnie has been heavily involved in several electoral campaigns, even working for multiple socialist legislators. “I first started doing electoral campaigns in City Council races in 2021,” Winnie recalled. Since then, she has mainly done communications work for New York State Assembly Members and Representatives from the New York socialists in office (SIO). Winnie even became Deputy Manager for the re-election campaign of New York Assemblywoman Phara Souffrant Forrest. Despite Winnie’s engagement in electoral work, she acknowledges there are several elements of the field making it “less strategic for YDSA to be involved in.” Nonetheless, those experiences, in Winnie’s view, are needed to teach young organizers about how to apply class struggle in real-life terms.