DSA San Francisco Dissents From The National Political Committee’s Decision Not To Discipline Jamaal Bowman

“And like [Israel’s] patron, the United States, white historians in the United States have long framed the history of settler colonialism in this nation as a “conflict” between two equal sides: cowboys and Indians; settlers and savages. Dakota scholar Elizabeth Cook-Lynn reminds us there are no two sides to a story of colonial dispossession and genocide. In a settler nation, there is a clear perpetrator: the settler state.” –The Red Nation

The Democratic Socialists of America, San Francisco voted 38-10 at our chapter meeting on December 8, 2021 to dissent from the decision of the National Political Committee on the question of expelling Rep. Jamaal Bowman for his continued actions in support of the subjugation of the people of Palestine. The NPC’s statement provides political cover for Rep.  Bowman’s actions and the Zionist lobby, and fails to commit to formal organizational discipline for a politician who has repeatedly violated a major priority for DSA’s international solidarity work. We believe a formal statement of censure should have been the minimal response from the National Political Committee.

The Democratic Socialists of America have repeatedly chosen at their highest body, the National Convention, to take positions in solidarity with the people of Palestine, who face unchecked aggression from the Israeli war machine. This has included voting to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement in 2017, 2019, and in our 2021 platform. BDS represents a minimum program for opposition to Apartheid Israel. Here in DSA SF, we’ve participated in actions to support this position: holding a picket line to divert the ZIM cargo ship as part of the #BlockTheBoat campaign and repeated demonstrations with coalition partners like AROC and other Palestine Solidarity groups. The chapter’s International Solidarity resolution, passed in June, also affirms our commitment to centering our solidarity with Palestine in our mass organizing. Our Black Liberation and Indigenous Sovereignty chapter priority has provided us with an analysis of how interconnected the Palestinian struggle is to struggles at home for Black liberation, decolonization, and Land Back.

Rep. Bowman, a DSA member endorsed by our national organization and a proponent of our national Green New Deal for Public Schools campaign, sits in a unique position to drive this position forward on behalf of DSA. Despite this, Rep. Bowman voted for several House resolutions that in fact run directly counter to these ends: he voted “Yes” on H.R. 4373 to send $3.3 billion to Israel, and H.R. 5323 to invest an additional $1 billion in the already fully-funded ‘Iron Dome’ military interceptor system in Israel. 

Anti-imperialism must be a central commitment of any genuine socialist movement, particularly in the United States, the heart of global empire and capitalism. The US left, including DSA, has, historically, repeatedly failed to center anti-colonialism and stand in solidarity with the global working class, and we must not reverse DSA’s progress towards changing that history for the better. If a DSA-endorsed Congressperson were to cross any labor picket line or submit a vote counter to DSA’s domestic priorities like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, or the PRO Act, DSA leaders would be correct to reconsider maintaining our relationship with that politician. Our opposition to the U.S. empire’s largest client state in the Middle East should be no different. 

DSA must draw the same red lines around our international positions as we do our domestic legislative priorities. While we are supportive of a public condemnation of Rep. Bowman’s votes, we still believe the NPC’s response is inadequate. We are grateful to local DSA chapters across the country and the National BDS & Palestine Solidarity working group for their leadership on this important issue. 

Formal censure on penalty of expulsion should have been a minimum response from the National Political Committee. Though we are glad to see that DSA SF member Jennifer B and 6 other NPC leaders voted in favor of censure, we are disappointed the NPC ultimately bowed to pressure from outside groups and chose not to meet this demand. We are also disappointed that it took over a week for the NPC to disclose any specifics of how members voted on the questions of expulsion or censure. Our national leadership needs to be able to more quickly release pertinent information like the results of these leadership votes to the membership on difficult political questions. A coordinated internal- and external-communications approach on these sorts of decisions will go a long way.

In addition to registering our dissent, DSA SF also calls upon the National Political Committee and National Electoral Committee to establish a path towards clear discipline for endorsed elected members. The NPC and NEC cannot continue to defer the responsibility for building towards this important goal which is already a principle of electoral work here in San Francisco and in many chapters around the country. We are interested in seeing what comes of the steps articulated by the NPC so far, including the announced Socialists in Office committee. The National Political Committee must seize upon this moment to articulate a clear vision for an electoral apparatus which can effectively articulate our organization’s demands at a local and national level and effectively advance our priorities.

Our chapter has submitted further remarks on the direction of the organization and the responsibility of the National Political Committee that we are not including in the public record. We believe that certain conversations are best kept internal for the good of the organization’s public position and will make the text available to DSA SF members, as well as other DSA members upon request to steering@dsasf.org.