Proposal to Amend the Constitution of the Young Democratic Socialists, USA

For the 2008 YDS National Convention

The YDS Constitution will be amended as follows:

Article 1 will remove:

The name of the organization shall be the Young Democratic Socialists, USA.

Article 1 will add:

The name of the organization shall be the Campus Democratic Socialists of America.

Note well: This goes will the understanding that if passed, we change any reference to Young Democratic Socialists and YDS to Campus Democratic Socialists of America and Campus DSA, respectively.

This would not go into effect until August 2009.

Why I am proposing this amendment:

There are several reasons why the name Campus Democratic Socialists of America (or Campus DSA) is preferable to the Young Democratic Socialists. First, the Campus DSA instantly and publicly connects the youth section to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Second, it is a more honest indicator of who makes up our activist base. Third, it recognizes the current organizational needs of DSA and YDS.

The first point needs some historical background. YDS was once called the Democratic Socialists of America Youth Section. Because of tensions between the youth section and DSA, along with a general sentiment that the term “youth section” was too pejorative, the youth section’s name was changed to Young Democratic Socialists, USA. For some, the name change was also an intentional move to distance YDS from DSA.

Now, nearly all of the name change proponents are no longer active in the either DSA or YDS. YDS and its members, which have an increasingly friendly and cooperative relationship with DSA, are stuck with a name which origins no longer reflect our collectively feelings towards DSA. Without a background in American left history or an excellent campus organizer, many YDS chapter activists could go through college without knowing they were in DSA. It is poor marketing to separate one brand (DSA) from another (YDS) and assume the consumer (ie student activist) will do their homework to discover the connections between DSA and YDS. The current name places an unnecessary and unfair burden on leading activists to explain a complicated history.

Secondly, we need to be honest about what constitutes our organization’s base (by-and-large students). Outside of the current New York City YDS, which meets at the DSA office and works hand-in-hand with the national office, no “metropolitan” YDS chapter has lasted in recent memory. There was a time when YDS leaders pushed off campus members to start “metro” YDS chapters instead of building DSA locals. This strategy did not yield notable success. This is because we are primarily a campus-based organization. The bulk of YDS-led activism is located in schools, even if YDS members as individuals are active in their communities.

It’s important to remember most youth activism in the US is and has taken place on campuses. Also, there has also been a strong connection between radical professors and progressive students in campus activism. It makes more sense for us as an organization to be connecting professors who are DSA members with students to start Campus DSA chapters.

While, there are many non-student leaders in YDS, this is more reflective of our prior weaknesses (barely five chapters two years ago) and nascent student leadership. Our non-student leadership does not represent a large and/or active non-student base. It is not healthy for an organization that is primarily student oriented to have so many non-students at the top. We need students to play a stronger role in and command more ownership of YDS. I believe a name change will encourage a movement in this direction.

The third point encompasses the first two and more. DSA (and that includes the youth section) needs this name change for organizational reasons. DSA and YDS need each other. Without YDS, there are few future members of DSA. Without a functioning DSA, YDS cannot get the support it needs. Right now, we need to get our younger members identifying with the DSA and the democratic socialist project earlier on. We also need to push young members to start DSA locals. Young folks have historically run DSA locals and there is no reason to not revive that tradition.

The time is now to bring DSA members closer together. Both sections are growing stronger and will do better working under the same banner. Although the name Campus DSA will not solve all our problems, it will be an important symbolic effort to making us more effective as organizers and bring YDS members closer to more seasoned DSA comrades. I welcome your questions and comments.

Written by David Duhalde, YDS National Organizer

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