Emerge's Strategic Priorities for 2021

Following an explosive year of political work, Emerge caucus held our second annual strategy retreat on the weekend of January 9th and 10th. There, we had a chance to reflect on the work we devoted ourselves to in 2020, as caucus members we were spurred to activity around the Bernie campaign, COVID-19, the economic crises that unfolded after it, and this summer’s explosive BLM uprising.

We next discussed and debated several proposals for our strategic priorities for 2021. It is these that we are glad to share below.

Perhaps no event electrified Emerge more in 2020 than the vast marches, protests, and uprisings that swept over the U.S. this past summer in support of Black Lives Matter. Because of the leadership shown by police and prison abolitionists across the left and in DSA, this wave of BLM was not diverted towards calls for body cameras and better policing; instead, the mission to Defund and Abolish the police has become integral for large sections of the movement. Emerge considers the further development of a durable political bloc in New York City united around breaking police and prison power over the state and our lives to be a strategic priority for the coming year. This means that Emerge members will redouble our involvement in NYC-DSA’s priority campaign to Defund the NYPD; it also means that we will work to keep abolition work constantly connected to our many other areas of work, whether that be through agitating against cop unions in the labor movement, calling for the closure of ICE detention centers, or fighting to remove cops from schools and the subway. In our view, there are few issues that raise the central questions of political power to the fore quite like these, and they remain the sorts of struggles that bring out diverse portions of the working class. For these reasons and more, we’re glad to continue focusing DSA in this area.

One area in which we hope to further develop the abolitionist bloc in New York City is the upcoming city council races. For the past couple of years, Emerge members involved in NYC-DSA’s electoral work have been looking forward to the development of a socialist city council slate as an exciting opportunity to find new ways to relate chapter-endorsed candidates to the social movements and class-struggle organizations that form the foundation for these candidates’ success. Our hope has always been to develop electoral campaigns around candidates that can operate as tribunes of the people while campaigning and in office. This year’s DSA for the City slate is an opportunity to do just that, and so we consider working to get these candidates elected–while raising the banner for anti-racist movement demands around policing, housing, segregation and more–to be another priority for this year.

Outside of our involvement in campaign work like Defund or the 2021 council races, Emerge has spent a lot of time discussing our vision for making NYC-DSA most capable of serving an important role in class struggle here in the city. We believe that our current conjuncture has allowed for the development of a growing socialist movement and mass political mobilizations around flashpoints like BLM and the Bernie campaign. The successes we have seen on these fronts have been constrained by a large obstacle: the continued historic weakness of the organized working class. Together, Emerge believes we can make an impact by helping DSA become an organization of organizers, assisting our members to become confident and skilled organizers in every part of their lives so as to begin recomposing class-struggle working class organization. This looks a few different ways and plays out across three different priorities.

First, we are interested in experimenting with the political work DSA members can do where they live and work, parts of life where we form social ties different from those in our voluntary political work. We are interested in ways that NYC-DSA might aid members in developing the skills they need to organize in their workplace, their building, or their neighborhood by making organizer trainings and Troublemaker schools a larger part of new member onboarding and the everyday life of the chapter. Emerge will prioritize working with the rest of NYC-DSA to generate an organizational shift towards developing and supporting class-struggle working class organizations. In our caucus, we will spend more time discussing the work our members do outside of DSA in trade unions, tenant unions, and neighborhood organizations, and discussing how to bring DSA’s other political priorities back into these organizations.

Second, Emerge will continue our involvement in Red Wave, founded by DSA members to bring socialist politics to local community radio station WBAI. Setbacks the socialist movement has experienced this past year, like the rapid establishment consolidation against Bernie and liberal co-optation of the street movement in June, were made possible by corporate mass media. We believe that working class media and cultural institutions like WBAI play an important and valuable role in building our movement’s ecosystem and insulating ourselves against corporate media. To this end, our members will work to expand the number of DSA members who are WBAI listener members in order to build a socialist base at the station hungry to bring it closer to our movement. Furthermore, we will work to establish further links between WBAI and other left media and cultural institutions in NYC.

Third, Emerge is interested in experimenting with other ways to build working class organization at other sites of struggle in this city. One especially important site of working class life that is under prolonged assault during COVID-19 is the NYC Subway. In anticipation of a continued crisis of the MTA and the possibility of it entering a death spiral, which is particularly grave considering its particular importance in U.S. capitalism as a whole, Emerge will begin to explore possibilities for Transit Justice work in NYC-DSA. Caucus members will get more involved in transit justice organizing where it is happening in the chapter, and also work to create linkages with our Defund campaign around policing on the subway, and with our chapter’s labor work in developing rank and file transit workers. We will also seek to link the struggle for transit justice to the fight against austerity and NYC-DSA’s Tax the Rich campaign.

Taken together, the five strategic priorities listed above form an ambitious set of goals for a caucus of our size. That’s why we have also decided to prioritize training cadre members of our caucus. This means that we will work hard to develop Emerge members as confident leaders and organizers who are well-versed in the history of our movement and the strategic questions facing our organization today. We will also step up our work with new caucus members and help them get involved with the areas of work listed above. And rooted in an effort to synthesize our knowledge and apply it to the current conjuncture, we will use our caucus political education to develop more outward facing contributions to our movement, whether through public events or written reflections.

Finally, we hope to help bring our political priorities into other DSA chapters and to the national organization. We have begun working outside of NYC-DSA through our members who have been appointed or elected to national DSA committees and working groups, including DSA’s National Political Committee. And this year we have furthered our collaboration with other DSA comrades by beginning to publish Partisan. In 2021, Emerge will continue to develop our national relationships through these avenues and by finding more comrades in national DSA who share affinity with our priorities. We will also work to reflect our strategic priorities at DSA’s upcoming national convention this August.

Emerge is hopeful that our comrades in NYC-DSA and across the country will find in our strategic priorities rich areas for collaboration, and we look forward to a busy and exciting year spent building our movement and fighting alongside comrades throughout DSA. We encourage other members to reach out to us at dsa.emerge@gmail.com to explore areas of joint work