by Bob Roman
You have probably heard that DSA has tripled its membership since the November election, reaching 19,000. The same is true for Chicago. Last year at this time, membership was at 250. Now, in the Chicago metropolitan area, it’s over 750. Even within Chicago DSA’s redefined borders, membership is just less than 600. These are not huge numbers, but they are record highs. Moreover, this growth has been matched by a notable increase in people willing and downright eager to take responsibility. This is manifest in the proliferation of DSA chapters across the nation; we’re very nearly a 50 state organization now. In Illinois, we have a West Suburban Illinois chapter, and organizing committees in the Quad Cities, Northern Illinois and Champaign – Urbana. In Chicago DSA, we now have three branches: Greater Oak Park, Northside Chicago and Southside Chicago. Within our chapter, we also have a number of self-organized working groups, some of which are mostly notional while others, such as the Rapid Response group and the Labor group, have staged useful interventions in Chicago politics. The Labor working group, for example, recently blitzed CTA stations in support of the Amalgamated Transit Union’s negotiations with the CTA. The Rapid Response group has made sure that DSA has been visible at several recent demonstrations. (We really do need to be better about blowing our own horn.) This is the good news.
The less good news is that on the local level, most of this work is being done out-of-pocket whenever there are expenses. Furthermore, our new members are predominantly younger adults who have grown up on the web. Combined with meager branch finances, this means that nearly all the organizing and communication is being done via Facebook, email, Twitter, and other social media. Basically, if you’re offline or if we don’t have your email address then you’re a second class member. (But really, apart from holiday cards, how often do you get personal letters these days?)
Chicago DSA was moving in this direction before the avalanche. The percentage of members lacking an email address had been dropping, and it’s dropped radically with this influx of new members. There are ways of working around these mismatched modes of communication, and we’ll find ways of doing it, especially if those of you off-line insist.
Other changes are on the horizon. If money allows, we may move the office again as our Executive Committee meetings have been drawing capacity crowds. You will see new leadership at Chicago DSA. The terms of office for our CDSA officers are staggered, but also there are vacancies. There is also an Executive Committee expanded by more representatives from branches.
But the most important change will be when Chicago DSA becomes a player that intervenes in politics in a strategic way on behalf of a particular constituency. This will require your participation. This will require your contributions. Remember, your continued support is important, and I do appreciate it.