Member Guide

State bug and Western CT DSA's mascot.

Member Guide

Mission Statement

Western Connecticut DSA (WCTDSA) is committed to building a strong socialist culture in our communities by encouraging active participation in local, state, and national politics; supporting national causes in the interests of social, environmental, and economic justice; and educating our members and others about the core principles of democratic socialism.

Welcome

WCTDSA booth at Fairfield County PrideDo you want to work towards a more equitable society with a democratically run economy? Do you believe no one should be poor for another to be rich? Do you feel the need to rescue the planet from irreversible destruction?

You may have joined Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), or might be interested in joining, because you like what you hear from Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Maybe you’ve seen injustice in your community. Maybe you want to engage on a local level within your community. Maybe you want to find like-minded folks to have in-depth discussions on the economy, environment, inequality, and humanity. Whichever it is, you have found a supportive community in Western CT DSA.

Mission Statement

Western Connecticut DSA (WCTDSA) is committed to building a strong socialist culture in our communities by encouraging active participation in local, state, and national politics; supporting national causes in the interests of social, environmental, and economic justice; and educating our members and others about the core principles of democratic socialism.

Welcome

WCTDSA booth at Fairfield County PrideDo you want to work towards a more equitable society with a democratically run economy? Do you believe no one should be poor for another to be rich? Do you feel the need to rescue the planet from irreversible destruction?

You may have joined Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), or might be interested in joining, because you like what you hear from Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Maybe you’ve seen injustice in your community. Maybe you want to engage on a local level within your community. Maybe you want to find like-minded folks to have in-depth discussions on the economy, environment, inequality, and humanity. Whichever it is, you have found a supportive community in Western CT DSA.

DSA is a community based, grassroots organization that promotes the power of the collective while championing the individual’s right to a dignified life. DSA is an umbrella organization that embraces leftists and progressives of all types, making common cause with a wide variety of members and allies within a broad spectrum of political views. Through community-based chapters, DSA members use a variety of tactics to fight for reforms that empower us, the working people. From legislative initiatives to direct action to education, labor, and tenant organizing, DSA is committed to the principle that working people should democratically run the economy, and society shall meet the needs of all humans and not make profits for a wealthy few.

What is not DSA

DSA is not a centralized political party. It is not a movement that has a narrow view of how to achieve our collective political goals.

All members of this chapter are volunteers. We are students, workers, and retirees of all backgrounds. Our various interests, skill sets, and lived experiences combine to create a network of veteran activists and budding organizers. We are united in solidarity by a shared vision for a more equitable society where we are all respected for our own individual worth and a full, dignified life is achievable.

Democratic socialists envision a humane and equitable social order where the economy operates in harmony with and in consideration of all of our needs. In order to foster more equality, we must eliminate the capitalist modes of economic organization that exist to defend the status quo. With popular control and promoting non-oppressive relationships, we can remedy the myriad forms of exploitation and discrimination so prevalent in society today.

DSA strives to empower each and everyone of us by expanding democracy and deepening our freedom in every aspect of our lives:

DSA fights for universal, comprehensive healthcare.

We demand a realignment of the healthcare system so that it is designed to deliver us all the best medical care, and not profits for corporations and wealthy shareholders. We can achieve this through a single-payer Medicare for All system.

DSA fights for worker control over how we work, when we work, and how our labor is applied.

DSA demands there be a democratically run economy and an eradication of the monopolization of it. Workers must have more control over the nature of their labor and compensation so as not to become a pliant and captive workforce. We must end employer-provided health insurance where the burden of healthcare costs falls on the worker, and access to healthcare is used as a coercive tool to compel workers into acquiescence and compliance in the workplace. This would also grant the freedom to strike in cases of dangerous working conditions or stagnant wages and not face the risk of losing health insurance. We also must promote our rights to organize and support unions’ fights for living wages, equal pay, and safe workplaces everywhere and for all.

DSA fights for quality education for all, no matter what neighborhood you’re born in or how much money your family has.

DSA fights for access to free public education from pre-K to trade school, college or university, and beyond. And not only should quality education be guaranteed, but so should the services, networks, and tools needed to take advantage of it. We also must ease the burden put upon student debtors of all ages who have faced major delays in life development such as buying a house or starting a family of their own. We must ensure that all private loans are eligible for income based repayment, and we must invest in a full-employment public jobs program.

DSA fights for the freedom to have access to safe, humane, and affordable housing.

DSA recognizes the human right to an adequate standard of living. Housing is a social provision, not a commodity we can get priced out of due to gentrifying developers. Neither shall we be exploited, displaced, and discriminated against. DSA supports secure occupancy free from eviction with affordable rent costs. This can be achieved through permanently affordable public housing. It should be mixed-income to avoid ghettoizing residents based on race or class and should be located in urban, suburban, and rural areas.

DSA fights for the right to clean food and water and to a clean environment.

Expanding the capitalist system unchecked leads to the degradation of the environment, and those most responsible will suffer the least consequences. DSA demands there be environmental justice for everyone living as well as a commitment towards responsible stewardship of the planet for those yet to be born.

DSA fights against the racist oppression and capitalist exploitation conducted by our military and police forces.

We demand an end to the decades-long brutal campaign of regime change wars the United States wages across the world. The Drug War must be ended as well. Based on race, so many of us fall victim to this law enforcement fueled aggression. The mass incarceration of people of color has led to countless broken families and decimated communities. We must recognize the systemic racism at its core and also fight for a rehabilitative legal system and not a punitive one.

Freedom from intolerance is a right for everybody.

DSA stands united in solidarity with all races, gender, orientations, and disabilities because we must fight alongside all who face violence and exploitation. If one is oppressed, we are all oppressed. Thus DSA strives to end all forms of oppression and our struggle must be intersectional, for that is democratic struggle.

WCTDSA Community Agreements

We often, and enthusiastically, organize and discuss topics in large groups of people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints. Learning to do this without reproducing the oppressive ideologies we’ve inherited from a dysfunctional society can be daunting and uncomfortable, but it is essential. Have a sense of humor and assume good faith in your fellow comrades. The following guidelines are fundamental building blocks for creating a social movement capable of broad and meaningful solidarity.

Progressive Stack is a form of facilitation meant to allow for a diverse range of viewpoints. The Stack Taker keeps a list of those people who wish to speak, calling on them in turn. It’s important to respect the Stack Taker who may shift the order to prioritize those who have yet to speak.

When you speak, after you make your point, let others speak. Please respect others by recognizing how often, much, and loudly you’re speaking and whether or not you’re dominating the conversation. Make space for others to voice their opinions and viewpoints. On the other hand, if you don’t often speak up, try to make an attempt to participate – we want to hear from you!

Mutual respect invites us to see each other from a wider perspective, even when someone says something we disagree with or that offends us. Our diverse backgrounds inform our mannerisms and communication. Instead of confronting, honor the space with constructive questioning and dialogue that progresses the conversation. One person speaks at a time.

Please ask yourself this question: “Why am I talking?” Consider whether what you want to say has already been said, whether what you want to say is on topic, and if there’s a better time and place to say it. Consider using alternative methods for showing your approval of other comments or speakers (nodding your head, snapping your fingers, ASL clapping, etc.).

Speak from your perspective, rather than assuming everyone agrees with what we are saying. Your experiences are valuable but the conclusions drawn may not be universal.

Jargon Giraffe signPlease be aware of using terminology that not everyone may be familiar with. If you don’t understand something being said, use this gesture:

Progressive Stack is a form of facilitation meant to allow for a diverse range of viewpoints. The Stack Taker keeps a list of those people who wish to speak, calling on them in turn. It’s important to respect the Stack Taker who may shift the order to prioritize those who have yet to speak.

When you speak, after you make your point, let others speak. Please respect others by recognizing how often, much, and loudly you’re speaking and whether or not you’re dominating the conversation. Make space for others to voice their opinions and viewpoints. On the other hand, if you don’t often speak up, try to make an attempt to participate – we want to hear from you!

Mutual respect invites us to see each other from a wider perspective, even when someone says something we disagree with or that offends us. Our diverse backgrounds inform our mannerisms and communication. Instead of confronting, honor the space with constructive questioning and dialogue that progresses the conversation. One person speaks at a time.

Please ask yourself this question: “Why am I talking?” Consider whether what you want to say has already been said, whether what you want to say is on topic, and if there’s a better time and place to say it. Consider using alternative methods for showing your approval of other comments or speakers (nodding your head, snapping your fingers, ASL clapping, etc.).

Speak from your perspective, rather than assuming everyone agrees with what we are saying. Your experiences are valuable but the conclusions drawn may not be universal.

Please be aware of using terminology that not everyone may be familiar with. If you don’t understand something being said, use this gesture:Jargon Giraffe sign

Meetings and Decision Making

General Assembly Meetings

WCTDSA usually has a General Assembly meeting on the first Monday of the month (see current schedule below), where we set policy and work priorities, and make administrative and strategic decisions that affect the Chapter. These meetings may also include political education sessions. All are welcome. There is a New Member Meet & Greet fifteen minutes before every meeting. It’s a great way to connect with other new members and for you to tell us what you’re interested in!

Meetings for 2020

See the table below for a description of meeting types and their objectives. The table will be updated with new meetings as they are scheduled. For more meeting times, check our Google calendar.

Empowering Branches

We are encouraging the creation of Local Branches, to build better geographic representation within the larger chapter. The intent is to enable dues-paying members from non-coastal areas who have faced prohibitive constraints of distance and geography to participate and build power with their local comrades. Let us know if you are interested in starting a Branch!

Annual General Assembly 

Once a year, typically in June, WCTDSA holds an annual General Assembly to elect officers, vote on proposed bylaws amendments, and make modifications to WCTDSA mission statement and organizational priorities. Your participation in this meeting is the highest legislative body of the Local Chapter. It is a great opportunity for the Chapter to come together and democratically create and revise our governing documents for the coming year. 

You can read the WCTDSA bylaws here.

Roles & Responsibilities

Members are not merely the core of our organization, they are the entirety of our organization. We make no distinction between “core” and “periphery” within our membership; our political strength comes because we are a group operating in solidarity with one another, each contributing time and labor as we are able. True to the “socialist organizer” card every member receives after joining DSA, we are committed to creating a space where our campaigns, projects, and actions come from the rank and file.

As stated in our bylaws, members of WCTDSA are those individuals whose dues to national DSA are paid in full*, who reside and/or work in the geographic area consisting of Fairfield county, Litchfield county, and the towns of Southbury and Oxford. Individuals may not be members of the Local Chapter without being members of national DSA. Member responsibilities include approving policies and guidelines for the operation of the Local Chapter, electing delegates to the national convention, voting on matters related to national policy, and making recommendations on issues and other matters to the National Political Committee of DSA. When joining, we strongly urge you to choose the monthly payment option so WCTDSA receives 20% of your dues!

Steering Committee – officers@westernctdsa.org

The Steering Committee is a 5-person body of democratically elected officers, selected in annual elections from within our membership. They include:

    • Co-chairs (2)
    • Secretary (1)
    • Treasurer (1)
    • Communications Chair (1)

The Steering Committee administers the affairs of the Local Chapter and oversees the implementation of the decisions of the Annual General and General Assembly Meetings. It is responsible for establishing program activities and proposing guidelines and policies. The Steering Committee approves the use of chapter resources towards member-led projects, helps maintain a larger political vision, and ensures the chapter is operating in line with our democratically ratified Mission Statement and organizational priorities.

 

Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA)

The YDSA chapter at UConn Stamford is affiliated with our Local Chapter.

YDSA is the youth and student section of DSA and a national organization of recognized campus chapters and several hundred activists. We are students organizing in our universities, colleges, and high schools to fight for the immediate needs of workers and students while building our capacity to fight for more radical and structural changes.

We work with labor campaigns to organize student workers of staff. We organize to defend immigrants through campaigns for sanctuary campuses. We campaign to divest our schools from fossil fuels. We do anti-poverty work through local mutual aid programs in our communities, and much much more.

YDSA fights for democratic socialism through active campaigns to improve the lives of working people. If you are interested in starting a YDSA chapter, please reach out to the steering committee at officers@westernctdsa.org.

 

Issue-Based Committees

Working Groups organize around a core political issue by creating discrete campaigns, events, and projects related to that issue. Working Groups are one of the primary ways we structure our work in WCTDSA.

 

Housing Justice – housingjustice@westernctdsa.org

Join us in our Stomp Out Landlords! campaign where we will be canvassing folks in our communities that are at-risk or in the midst of an eviction process. Our goal is to aid those individuals to remain in their homes, while clogging the court system, building our coalition to fight against evictions, and build a tenants movement in Connecticut.

Once COVID-19 social distancing measures can be safely relaxed, we will have canvases, in-person meetings to discuss progress and strategy, local housing issues, and deep dive presentations on the topics of the intersection of race and housing. This is where the organizing happens, so we highly encourage participation as a way to deepen your knowledge and support.

WCTDSA also supports the following Socialist goals by working in partnership with other community organizations:

Get Started! 

WCTDSA survives and thrives because it is a deeply participatory organization. This means our members don’t wait around to be told what to do—we seek out ways to improve ourselves, our organization, and our whole society. The work we do is for others and for ourselves. 

We build our communities, economy, and society together. So come join us! Do something!

Socialism at Cannon Grange

Ways to Get Involved

JOIN OUR MAILING LIST in the red widget to the right or below.

ATTEND A DSA EVENT. DSA organizes and participates in events, marches, protests, educational teach-ins, and much more. The best way to feel like you can do something to change society is to do something to change society! Check out our Google calendar and Facebook page.

GO TO A NEIGHBORHOOD HANGOUT. At hangouts we discuss chapter work, as well as work we can accomplish in our local regions and neighborhoods. These are relaxed events and are great places to ask questions or just hang out with like-minded folks.

ATTEND A WORKING GROUP MEETING. The majority of WCTDSA organizing happens in working group meetings. Where and when they meet depends on the committee, often remotely. Interested in attending a particular committee meeting? Check our Google calendar.

ATTEND A LOCAL CHAPTER MEETING. Local chapter meetings are held around once a month and are a great way to get an overview of what the chapter and individual committees are up to. There’s a New Member Meet & Greet before every meeting, which is a great way to get your bearings and meet other new members. 

JOIN US ON SLACK. Slack is an online tool we use to organize, share ideas, and communicate quickly between groups. It’s a great place to get a feel for the work being done by WCTDSA. For information on how to be added to our Slack workspace, email media@westernctdsa.org.