YDSA needs to adopt just one campaign

Alex Pellitterri argues that YDSA should focus its efforts on one national campaign — not multiple committees or singular issue-based areas.

At our 2021 national convention, delegates won’t just be picking priorities for YDSA. We will be shaping the future of the American socialist movement. A national campaign has the ability to greatly grow the size and capacity of our movement, and win meaningful change for the working class. We must go beyond picking the right campaign and ensure we give ourselves the best conditions for this campaign to flourish. As the chair of the Field Committee of our current national campaign, Cancel All Student Debt, and a former campaign manager for Marcela Mitaynes, a successful DSA endorsed candidate, having only one national campaign will allow us to be most successful with our organizing.

National campaigns are a lot of work. There are several different aspects to every campaign — such as field, communications, and coalition-building — that must be well-oiled machines for these campaigns to be successful. As a volunteer-led organization, we should be realistic about our capacity. While nonprofits and political campaigns can hire an army of people who work full-time, our membership is composed of young people who work, go to school, and try to have some semblance of a social life — all in addition to YDSA organizing. Furthermore, helping run a national campaign requires past campaign and organizing experience; there are few YDSA members with this experience, and they are often already committed to other organizing work. I do believe YDSA has the capacity to run one effective and impactful national campaign; however, I do not think we have the capacity to run two. If we take on more campaigns than we have the capacity for, they will all suffer and not live up to their potential. 

Our national campaigns are what will define YDSA over the next year. It will be what chapters focus on and the reason why thousands of new people become lifelong socialist organizers. Having multiple national campaigns will confuse our messaging and our “brand.” Most people who are recruited to YDSA on a college campus have a limited understanding of what we do or what socialism is before they join. They joined YDSA because of our political demands. Having one clear demand will make it much easier for people to understand what we stand for. People are much more likely to engage with us if they know us as the organization that wants to “cancel student debt” or “make college free” because these demands will significantly improve their material conditions. However, if we have multiple national campaigns, our messaging becomes confused. We will not be able to brand ourselves with one widely-felt political demand, which will diminish our ability to connect with people who do not understand or support the idea of socialism. 

When we vote to adopt a national campaign this summer, we must ask ourselves what our goals are in having a national campaign. I believe they should be for local chapters to gain members by doing campaign work on their campus; to expand capacity by developing leaders; and for us as an organization to challenge capital and win power for the working class. These goals are attainable, but only if we decide on one national campaign. Running multiple campaigns that we do not have the capacity to run means that each campaign will be weaker and we will not meet our goals. It will also hinder our ability to communicate a political demand clearly and concisely to appeal to working people. In a world with so many issues, where the working class is denied fundamental rights, routinely murdered by police or militaries, and is facing the brink of climate catastrophe, I understand the desire to wage multiple campaigns at once. We can win a world without all of those evils, but only if our organizing against them is as strategic as possible.

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