“Personally Devastating”: YDSA Budget Slashed in Deficit Crisis Cuts

The DSA National Political Committee made substantial cuts to YDSA’s budget in the midst of a broader response to the organization’s budget crisis. The YDSA National Coordinating Committee and other YDSA leaders have protested these decisions. The author spoke to leaders across Y/DSA as they prepared their responses and planned for future organizing.

DSA’s National Political Committee (NPC) made substantial cuts to YDSA’s budget at a meeting on January 21st.  Gathering to discuss DSA’s ongoing budget crisis, the NPC approved a slate of measures to limit YDSA spending. The vacant YDSA staffer position will now be included in the DSA-wide hiring freeze, their role being filled by someone on DSA’s organizing staff. YDSA’s annual summer convention has been moved online. Committee chair stipends were scrapped, while the stipends for the National Coordinating Committee(NCC)—including $2,000 for co-chairs and $1,000 for at-large members—remain, along with the discretionary committee and campaigns fund, although it has been lowered for 2025. 

The YDSA NCC issued a statement condemning the NPC’s decision, publishing it on the DSA Discussion Board Socialist Forum. “We disagree with the votes today that sacrificed funding across YDSA priorities while still funding priorities not backed by DSA convention mandate,” reads the statement. “It is short-sighted to limit the only section of our organization that has consistently grown while the rest has stagnated in our current political moment.” After the NPC’s decisions were made, a mass Zoom call was launched by the NCC, giving YDSA members an opportunity to vent their feelings about the new restrictions. 

Describing the situation as “personally devastating,” NCC member Winnie M. said it was “frustrating that the political choice was to first sacrifice YDSA, despite the fact that our organization is continuing to grow and expand and work on very strategic and exciting campaigns, that other parts of the organization are not.” Bobby Woodruff from Louisiana Tech YDSA believed that most of the NPC cuts to YDSA were made “out of an ignorance of how YDSA operates,” citing the decision to move YDSA’s 2024 convention online as an example. “The quick decision to move convention online to me feels like a complete lack of understanding of how we organize, how our leaders are made, what actually gets people involved.”

Evan Caldwell, NCC co-chair, noted the importance of maintaining stipends for NCC members, which allows them to dedicate more time to YDSA. “That was always our #1 thing,” Caldwell said. However, according to co-chair Aron Ali-McClory, it was clear many YDSA budget items would be cut, and YDSA leadership would need to choose what to emphasize when negotiating with NPC members. “In my perfect world, I would have had the entire YDSA budget fully funded as required by democratic mandate,” Ali-McClory said. “But when we’re on the NPC and some NPCers are concerned about the budget and want to cut everything… We have to make those very tough choices about what we keep vs what we don’t keep.”

Only one member of DSA’s NPC attended the call: Alex Pellitteri, a member of NYC DSA and Bread & Roses (B&R) caucus. “Budgets are a political document,” Pellitteri said, adding “the fact that certain fractions of the NPC seem to think it’s okay to frankly gut YDSA, I think that says what they think about us.” Kristin Schall, another B&R NPC member, wrote on X “I am deeply embarrassed by the decisions made at our NPC meeting today. I am sorry that leadership is failing our members and especially our YDSA comrades. These have been decisions that we should all be ashamed of.”  B&R has also drawn the ire of some DSA members, proposing staff layoffs to cut costs in a Socialist Call article from January 18th, an idea objected to by DSA’s Union. B&R withdrew the proposal to promote discussion after other tendencies brought their plans forward.  

The budget items cut on the 21st would never have existed at all were it not for attempts by previous YDSA leaders to make DSA prioritize its youth wing. At the 2023 DSA Convention, YDSA’s resolution, which included the financial and staffing policies cut on the 21st, passed with 639 in favor to 254 against.  Jake Colosa served as co-chair for the NCC from 2022 to 2023, and pushed for many of the budget policies that were cut. Speaking to other attendees of the YDSA Zoom call, Colosa said “It’s really disappointing for me, and I’m sure for many others who have argued on national leadership for years that YDSA is an important part of our organization, finally win significant funding at convention, and then have that pulled out because the NPC doesn’t really share that same view of YDSA.” Colosa told attendees to remain vigilant and use all means available to pressure the NPC to regain funding. “We have to hold a fire under the NPC…and keep organizing to bring back what we lost today.” 

Soon, conversation turned to what members should do in the wake of this decision. At the national level, Aron Ali-McClory laid out a policy of agitation towards the NPC. “I see this as a winning strategy, even if it pits me against people who I thought were my allies before,” McClory said.  Several attendees took on a combative tone, suggesting tactics more commonly used against university administrators or politicians. “Elements within DSA that do not prioritize YDSA need to know they f**ked up,” said NCC member Carlos Callejo III.  Others spoke about increasing dues from YDSA chapters as a long-term goal. “The way these things come back is by DSA no longer being in a deficit, and the way that happens is by increasing the amount of dues being collected across the organization and having those conversations with our members,” argued Sean Bridge from the University of Cincinnati YDSA. “DSA has tens of thousands of members, who all pay dues, and all of that funding goes to everything, and all of that comes back partially to us.” 

“A key thing in this was to not kill any one area of organizing in this process,” explained John Lewis, member of DSA’s NPC and current treasurer. “If we cut funding to all of our national committees, and YDSA, down to zero, we would not even be close to halfway to our total deficit amount for this year.”  Updated spreadsheets of funding approved by the NPC show YDSA was comparatively less effected by cuts than other portions of DSA.   According to Lewis, he and the NPC are aware that excessive cuts to a single segment of the organization will only lead to further instability. “There are a lot of comrades who are members of DSA because of YDSA,” Lewis said, noting “defunding any one of these areas to zero immediately throws risk to our baseline, because we’re grassroots funded,” meaning it could lead to further membership decline.

Asked about the demoralization that these cuts may have for YDSA members, Lewis said “We have cut from all areas of the organization, everybody has been getting hit. And the key thing that I want to put into this, the other side with this reduction, is that there is a way out.” Lewis emphasized that no single portion of DSA was at fault for the current deficit, saying “the organization evolved to this point, this happened over multiple political cycles, not just one, not just the last couple of months.” Most of all, Lewis stressed that the budget crisis, while difficult, was not permanent, “There’s a lot of things that show we can absolutely get up out of this situation we are in, if we just focus on it and give ourselves enough time to get out of it”

Though despondent, most attendees of the YDSA Zoom call adopted a defiant stance, telling members to continue organizing regardless of the new constraints. “This is a really hard loss, but we have fought and we have earned a lot of this funding that is being taken away from us,” Winnie M. said. “It can’t just be the National Coordinating Committee, it can’t just be Alex, Evan, and Aron on the NPC. We all know because we’re YDSA members that we only win when masses are agitating towards something, and that’s both in the work we’re doing in our chapters and how we approach ourselves in YDSA and DSA.”