February 2023 Ballot Member Statements

These member statements are commenting on the amendment to the Resolution To Support Efforts to Oppose the U.S. Blockade on Cuba

IN FAVOR by Howard D.

Comrades, I urge a vote in favor of Comrade Chair Aparna’s Amendment to Resolution to Support Efforts to Oppose the US Blockade on Cuba. As someone who participated in the Healthcare Delegation to Cuba with comrades from our chapter and those of other chapters, I do not view Comrade Chair Aparna’s Amendment as hindering the organizing of me and my comrades in any way, but rather ensuring that it is able to continue in a way that is successful, democratically and centrally coordinated, and compliant. To say that mistakes were made in our organizing for last year’s delegation is not an attack on Internationalism Working Group members’ dedication to the cause of Cuba solidarity, nor does it indicate that Cuba solidarity is unimportant, but rather it is an honest assessment that is necessary for holding ourselves accountable to ourselves and our comrades. While I will always defend our trip to Cuba, the connections of solidarity we developed, and that we highlighted many adverse material impacts of the blockade, our work as organizers would have been more effective with national coordination. Had all legal and financial aspects of the delegation been under the purview of National DSA and thus separate from chapter funds, the disastrous shutdown of our chapter’s WePay account, which led to the loss of nearly $5,000 and the freezing of $10,000 for tenant organizers, would not have happened. If we want to successfully end the cruel blockade on Cuba (and the countless other ways the US has imposed restrictions upon Cuba, including designating it a State Sponsor of Terrorism for hosting peace talks between Colombia and the FARC rebel group), DSA needs a coordinated nationwide effort. National DSA is far more equipped than local chapters to assess legal risk and to develop a comms strategy that best reflects the interests and values of our organization and its nearly 100,000 members. DSA needs to seize the moment and take the lead on normalizing US relations with Cuba and building solidarity with our comrades there. We cannot afford to make mistakes that put our organization’s fundraising in jeopardy. We need to work together as a national organization to end the blockade on Cuba in the same way that we must organize on every other issue. Chapters must not act at the expense of other chapters, and working groups must not act at the expense of other working groups. Comrade Chair Aparna’s Amendment ensures this, and I urge everyone to vote in favor. ¡Venceremos! ¡Abajo el bloqueo! Solidarity, Howard D. (he/him)

AGAINST by Greg W.

The original intent of the submitted Cuba resolution is to declare the chapter’s support to oppose the blockade against Cuba and to help facilitate organizing. However, if the resolution is amended as proposed by Aparna, it will completely undermine Cuba organizing in Metro DC-DSA. The sponsors of the original Cuba resolution are aware that many MDC-DSA members are concerned about the potential risk that Cuba organizing could bear for the chapter, particularly in light of the WePay donations platform shutdown that took place in the Summer of 2022. As a result, we went out of our way to accommodate Aparna’s concerns, agreeing to almost all of Aparna’s original amendment language (bolded in the original resolution), only to have it rejected and then to be handed a new amendment that doubled down on the one issue that we had questioned, which is the heavy-handed restrictions on the use of chapter communication channels. 20 chapters have already passed the original resolution, including some of DSA’s largest: Boston, San Francisco, New York City, Denver, and even Miami and Orlando (at the center of anti-Cuba organizing), without any restricting amendments. Imposing this amendment on the MDC-DSA Cuba campaign is supposed to protect the chapter because it’s at greater risk because we are in DC and because of an allegedly irresponsible Cuba campaign. However, both these rationales are false. The WePay shutdown - what happened: SC members have repeatedly brought up the fact that the WePay platform, which processed MDC-DSA donations, was shut down for three months, causing the chapter to have $5,000 in donations returned to donors and another $10,000 to be frozen. This happened because when the Cuba campaign set up a fundraiser in June 2022, a few donors indicated that the donations had to do with Cuba. While it is not illegal to raise funds for travel to Cuba (orgs around the country do it all the time), financial institutions engage in what is known as “over-compliance”, just in case the federal government was to go after them. While we have done extensive research on US government sanctions, we were unaware of the extent to which over-compliance has even targeted financial transactions for a tiny $500 fundraiser. This was a mistake, which we regret deeply. For the two subsequent fundraisers that we organized, we ensured that no chapter accounts were used and we made sure none of the donations mentioned Cuba in their memo sections. Since then, the DSA International Committee and the NPC have established policies governing DSA delegations, which clearly state that all fundraising for delegations will be processed via the International Committee. Alleged advocacy of illegal activity - it has been suggested or insinuated that the MDC Cuba campaign violated federal law when reporting on its healthcare delegation to Cuba for the Washington Socialist. This is patently false and demonstrates ignorance of US sanctions law with regard to Cuba. First of all, all travel to Cuba is regulated by individual travel licenses, which means that DSA would not be held liable - even if the Washington Socialist article said we went to Cuba to oppose the blockade - only individuals are liable. Second, DSA was never registered officially as a sponsor of the delegation, even though it was approved by the DSA International Committee. So even if the federal government had decided to prosecute, it would have had to target the DSA International Committee, not MDC-DSA. Besides, publishing an article about the delegation is protected by the second amendment. Despite our disagreement with the SC’s concerns, we agreed to remove any suggestion from the article that the MDC-Cuba Campaign wants to lift the blockade and we were told it would still not be allowed to be published in the Washington Socialist. Aparna’s resolution claims, “the Steering Committee periodically had to intervene to edit language for social media posts, fundraisers, and articles.” On the only occasion I am aware of, where we were asked to change a text, we did so without hesitation. But why did the SC “have to intervene”? It had absolutely nothing to do with, to “prevent another freeze or additional adverse consequences for the chapter.” Rather, other than the Washington Socialist article, it had to do only with one fundraiser, where we were told that the language was too “flippant.” In personal conversations with me, Aparna mentioned that MDC-DSA runs the risk of “finances getting shutdown, from audits or investigations, etc.” This is at best remotely true. DSA runs that risk for anything it does. Using the Cuba campaign as an excuse that it could make DSA more of a target for such things than it already is is pure speculation, similar to DSA being targeted by the police for its Defund campaign. Do we want to restrict Defund campaign activities or other WG organizing because of pure speculation? Conclusion - Aparna’s proposed amendment represents a tremendous over-reach into the internal functioning of a Working Group and is based on false accusations against the conduct of the MDC-DSA Cuba Campaign. One could even go so far as to call it an internal effort to engage in “over-compliance” just as WePay did, except that DSA is supposed to be a socialist organization working to change US policy. Instead, the resolution end up enforcing US policy, without being required to do so by US law. The resolution in effect makes organizing against the US Blockade on Cuba impossible because it imposes an enormous amount of red tape. It requires that the campaign "only use language approved by national’s legal AND comms team (…) Topics include but are not limited to delegation recruitment, information-sharing, and any other purposes.” More than that, the amendment strengthens the precedent of the SC’s use of the “organizational security” argument to interfere with any organizing that they claim threatens MDC-DSA security. This is a discourse that is awfully reminiscent of the national security arguments that the US state department uses to justify anything it deems “dangerous.” The existing national DSA policies governing delegations, which the MDC-DSA Cuba campaign commits itself to follow, are more than enough to assure the security of the chapter. Please vote “no” on Aparna’s unjustified and unreasonable amendment so that we can finally put an end to US aggression against Cuba and ease the suffering of millions of Cubans who are in a dire situation. We need the chapter’s support to do it.

AGAINST by Nate B.

I’m writing in opposition to the amendment proposed to the Resolution to Support Efforts to Oppose the US Blockade on Cuba. The amendment to the resolution includes overly broad language and top-down bureaucratic rules that restrict working group / members’ speech and ability to organize, and it does not address the actual problems concerning third-party platforms and state/corporate sanctions and push-back against international organizing and solidarity. The resolution already addresses the problems cited by the amendment. If the state and other corporate interests want to find a way to disrupt free speech, visas, and international solidarity efforts, they will find a way. The solution is not to comply and give in, but rather to push back and support members, working groups, and others fighting for more democracy and international socialism and solidarity. I’m particularly concerned with the language at the end of the amendment stating that the chapter “use only language provided by National or approved by National’s legal and comms team when communicating to chapter members about delegations over Slack, email, and other non social media formats. Topics include but are not limited to delegation recruitment, information-sharing, and any other purposes.” This is a clear and inappropriate extension of power using broad language to discipline member communications and undermine their ability to organize. It sets a dangerous prescience for other working groups too. The original amendment recognizes and sets precautions for future internationalism organizing, and this amendment goes above and beyond to harm organizing. I study third party platforms and corporations, and history has shown that they will inevitably attack labor groups (like my own) and groups like DSA—at the behest of the state or not—that stand for international solidarity. If we are a socialist organization, we need to be committed to internationalism and stay principled in our support for Cuba delegations, even though that organizing work can come with inherently more risk at times.

IN FAVOR by Carl R.

I’m urging everyone to vote for the Amendment to Resolution to Support Efforts to Oppose the US Blockade on Cuba for one straightforward reason: it lets us pass the underlying resolution to support Cuba solidarity organizing with safeguards based on the chapter’s experience last year. I’d like to remind everyone of what happened last year. Our chapter lost access to $10,000 of funding for months, with no clarity if we’d get it back (thankfully we did). This funding was to pay for tenants to attend the Autonomous Tenant Union Network’s first conference. We also completely lost almost $5,000 in recurring donations to the chapter, as well as the list of donors. While we are working to rebuild that list, it takes time and organizing capacity that could have gone to other projects. It’s also meant less cash on hand for the chapter, lessening our ability to fund all of our organizing - not just the work of the Internationalism WG. And that has a major impact chapterwide. This amendment in no way precludes DSA engaging with Cuba. It does not stop chapter members who organize with the IC at the national level to work on delegations to Cuba. It does not preclude the chapter organizing for Cuba solidarity. It simply makes clear that national, with its greater resources, will be responsible for communications about delegations to Cuba, and that the chapter will exclusively use language approved at the national to communicate about delegations to Cuba. This is important for a very straightforward reason: it lessens the risk of another shutdown of our fundraising, another bind in paying for our organizing, another loss of recurring donations. It is a way to be in solidarity within the chapter, by recognizing what’s happened and taking steps to preclude it happening again. It is an attempt to respond to real, actual harms to our organizing. We cannot stand in solidarity with anyone if we cannot stand in solidarity with ourselves. All this amendment does is make sure that national, not Metro DC DSA, is responsible for communications about delegations to Cuba. It is that simple. The chapter would continue opposing the blockade. The chapter would continue to organize political education about the blockade. The chapter would continue to support resolutions passed by local and state governments opposing the blockade. That is the intent of the amendment - just look at the changes yourself. All that changes: we wouldn’t write our own copy around delegations to Cuba without prior approval from national on the language. It is not a big ask, considering what we know the consequences can be. I’d like to point out, as well, that it’s quite common for the chapter to be restricted in how it can communicate. There are strict rules around how we develop campaign language, things we must include in our campaign literature, and reporting requirements to boot. I would prefer it if the chapter didn’t have to worry about following the rules - it would free up time for more organizing! But we don’t get to choose the legal environment we organize in, and so we check with national’s lawyers, we make sure to do our reporting, and we focus on winning in the context we find ourselves in. It’s just part of doing socialist organizing in the heart of empire, no matter how much we may chafe at it. At the February GBM, opponents of this amendment repeatedly asked chapter membership to imagine if they had to use communications approved by national to refer to a very specific part of their organizing. I’m not asking you to imagine. I’m asking you to remember the consequences if we don’t amend the resolution, and to vote accordingly. I’m in favor of the amendment, and will be voting for the resolution if this amendment passes. I encourage everyone to do the same.

IN FAVOR by Imara C.

Solidarity is essential to our efforts toward a more just, equal and socialist future. It is critical that we as individuals and as a body stand in solidarity with socialists and working class organizers locally, nationally and internationally. An important distinction about what it means to organize as a socialist, is a commitment to supporting the greater whole rather than the individual. We commit to this distinct approach via working democratically to identify and organize around our goals rather than allowing one to speak for the many. At the national level DSA has taken action to support solidarity efforts with Cuba, including joining the National Network on Cuba. Nationally, these actions were taken as part of a commitment to justice, and to solidarity with socialist movements worldwide. It is important to note that these actions were taken thoughtfully and with deliberation, with consideration for how they affect the work of socialist organizers domestically. It is also worth noting that these decisions were made by the national body. I would argue it is essential that DSA’s work at the local level, the work of MetroDC DSA mirror that rather than standing alone. There are real differences between advocacy, organizing and agitating. There is a time and place for each of these approaches to pushing change, and it is important that we recognize the effects and consequences of each. DC’s internationalism working group has in the past dismissed the hard work of other organizers throughout the chapter in favor of going its own way. That isn’t solidarity. It isn’t solidarity to harm the efforts of one’s comrades locally in preference of grand gestures in hope of changing international government policy. This isn’t a philosophical difference, this isn’t an argument of airy theory or ideals, impacting the ability of other organizers to do their work does real and tangible harm. It is valuable for DSA and the MetroDC chapter to stand in solidarity with organizers and the Cuban populace. It isn’t valuable for the MetroDC chapter to act on its own, on this subject regardless of the consequences of their peers and comrades. MetroDC DSA should support efforts to oppose the blockade on Cuba, but it should do so responsibly, it should do so in step with the national body, it should do so with an understanding that this isn’t the chapter’s only work. I urge you to support this Amendment to Resolution to Support Efforts to Oppose the US Blockade on Cuba.

AGAINST by Andrew C.

Greetings comrades. I write IN OPPOSITION to this amendment. After reviewing the resolution’s original language, this amendment seems like an extreme overcorrection that could have long-term implications for our chapter’s ability to organize around Cuba solidarity. Based on the major financial challenges that the chapter faced last year when its WePay account was shuttered and the delay this caused in reimbursing tenant organizers for their own expenses, I can understand the need for improved processes to ensure that this doesn’t happen again in the future. So far, the arguments I’ve heard in favor of this amendment stem from that fear. MDC DSAs Internationalism Working Group (IWG) organizers took this issue very seriously and have completely revamped how they organize so that this does not happen again. They have stopped using Action Network and have left all delegation finances and fundraising to DSA National. They also propose developing social media strategies with DSA IC as part of all future delegation proposals. It is only natural that our organization would run into major speedbumps while trying to organize its first-ever Cuba delegation trip - the US embargo places so many legal restrictions that many organizations are overly compliant so as not to run afoul of US government regulations. However, I see no issue in the original resolution’s language that would risk a repeat of last year. The original language reads that future chapter Cuba delegations will “follow DSA International Committee policy with regard to communications for delegations to Cuba.” Communications guidelines established by the DSA IC reads that “Delegation proposals must present a social media strategy…Primary social media communication must go through national IC or national DSA social media accounts (Twitter, Instagram, etc.), and be subjected to the usual vetting process.” This language seems clear, concise, and strong enough to address concerns about messaging and social media. In contrast, the language of this amendment would restrict ALL communications around delegations by requiring approval from both DSA National and DSA IC. This is an extreme response that would limit our chapter’s Cuba organizing. How can our WG discuss delegation planning and logistics in a timely manner when needing approval from TWO major bodies? This is not something that any other DSA chapter or body is asking for, nor that any other working group is subject to. If the amendment’s writers are truly revising the resolution’s language out of the fear that it might impact our chapter’s finances and fundraising abilities, then it seems that IWG organizers have made a sincere, good-faith effort to address this issue, and that is reflected in the original resolution’s language. Lastly, I want to add a personal note as one of the few Cuban Americans in this entire organization and someone whose family is ACTUALLY impacted by the US embargo on the country. Solidarity with the Cuban Revolution is the BASELINE of what it means to be an American socialist. Without that, we are no different from liberals and progressives. If our efforts are impeded by added bureaucracy, then we are harming our organization’s reputation with other allied groups and the Cuban people themselves. We should not be responding to the lessons of last year’s delegation by capitulating to the US embargo. Thank you for reading, comrades, and I hope you vote AGAINST this amendment. Solidarity y viva Cuba libre.

IN FAVOR by Dieter L.M.

As a member of not just the MDC DSA Steering Committee, but as a member of the DSA Internationalism Committee’s Steering Committee as well, I wholeheartedly support this amendment to the resolution calling for support to efforts to oppose the US blockade of Cuba. My support of this amendment is borne out of my experience as a members of the two bodies named above. As a member of our chapter’s Steering Committee last year, I saw first hand the unintended consequences of the Cuba Healthcare Delegation in September. I saw the tremendous financial cost levied on our chapter by virtue of having our payment provider being shut down, causing approximately $10,000 earmarked for tenant organizers to be put into jeopardy. That money, thankfully, was able to be restored and disbursed, but what we will never see again are the $5,000 in recurring monthly donations that were associated with our WePay account. I also witnessed first hand the precarious state our chapter was put into legally, with the threat of our chapter being audited - or worse, shut down - never far out of sight. Thankfully, we were able to work through that with the help of DSA National Staff and their team of lawyers, but the flippant and negligent attitude of the organizers behind that trip continue to leave a bad taste in my mouth. Consequently, as a member of IC Steering, I was able to bring this intimate experience our chapter was put through to a national organizational body to provide a crystal clear example of why it was so important for us - as an organization - to inoculate ourselves and our chapters from similar financial and legal risk. And because of this experience, the National Political Committee placed a hiatus on all international delegations on behalf of DSA, and asked my IC Steering comrades and I to draft guidelines and criteria for any and all future delegations abroad on behalf of our organization. To be clear, none of these were meant to be punitive or obstructionary, but simply meant to place guardrails on the type of organizing that can oftentimes put our members at the most risk. These guidelines and criteria were approved and the planning around these international delegations, in particular to Cuba, has been allowed to proceed. That leads me to my final point, which is that our Steering Committee wholeheartedly and unequivocally supports international solidarity efforts and actively encourages our members to participate in internationalism work - either nationally or at the local level. The amendment that my comrades have proposed to this resolution is by no means meant to be an attempt to obstruct the work of the Internationalism Working Group or any comrades who may operate in that space. All of us - especially those of us with migrant backgrounds - understand the importance of international solidarity, but we also agree that that work is too important to not do correctly. And if we want to be treated as a serious partner in the international struggle, then we must do our due diligence as chapter and national leaders to ensure that all of our members - and our organization - are protected as best as they can be. This amendment reiterates that by ensuring that those protections are taken at the local level, and I wholly support the resolution that goes with it, encouraging all members to support this amendment as well. This amendment will not weaken our Cuba organizing work, but rather strengthen it, and place Metro DC DSA at the forefront of our organization’s fight to free the people of Cuba from American imperialism. As Comrade Che Guevara said many moons ago, “¡hasta la victoria siempre!”

IN FAVOR by Kareem E.

Comrades, I am writing today to urge you to vote YES on the amendment to this resolution. The amendment clarifies that National DSA should have the final say on any communication and fundraising surrounding future delegations to Cuba. Compliance oversight from National is a fair request for our chapter to make, given the circumstances which led to our WePay account being shuttered last year.

Corporate overcompliance is a risk in much of DSA’s work, but it is particularly heightened around issues related to the Cuban embargo. National DSA has resources, such as lawyers and compliance staff, to address overcompliance by companies like WePay. As we learned through our experience last year, the chapter does not have such resources at our disposal. This is a simple request that will protect our chapter from further damage. It is reasonable to say this work can and should be done, I support it myself, but it is also reasonable to acknowledge that Cuba organizing is subject to different rules and regulations than other international organizing. Compliance is not a roadblock, but rather good governance that will allow this work to continue well into the future.

Lets be clear: $10,000 in donations for tenants to attend the ATUN conference was frozen by WePay, $5,000 was lost entirely in donations over that period, and our donor list was lost along with it. We are rebuilding our donor base, but this has had knock-on effects that will be felt by our chapter for years. Taking this work seriously means not doing so at the expense of the other working groups and the chapter at large. When $15,000 is lost or frozen, we need to take that seriously and not insinuate that it is a “smokescreen”, as the sponsor of the original resolution put it.

Asking for compliance oversight as a remedy going forward seems like a reasonable ask when the scale of the issue is put into focus. Beyond it being a reasonable ask, this is a step toward accountability after the events of last year. Having National take the lead on this work will prevent similar issues from rising in the future.

I sent the letter below to the National Political Committee (NPC), DSA’s highest elected decision making body, earlier this week advocating for similar requirements at the national level. Please consider reading through to gain a full understanding of the situation which faces us, and the necessity of this amendment. Comrades, please vote YES on this amendment.

Dear NPC,

I am writing to share the financial hardships experienced by Metro DC DSA in the summer of 2022 due to the DSA Healthcare Delegation to Cuba. It is my understanding that the International Committee is bringing a proposal regarding future travel to Cuba on behalf of DSA. I hope this organization is able to continue carrying out international solidarity work, and this document is not meant to advocate for roadblocks to this work. Rather, I hope this document can serve to advocate for responsible planning and execution of future delegations so that the experience of our chapter is not replicated.

The situation occurred when members of a chapter working group decided to hold a fundraiser for the Healthcare Delegation using chapter resources. Namely the chapter’s Slack and Action Network accounts were used to drive interest and engagement, and, as an extension of Action Network, WePay was used to facilitate donations. The issue arose when the word “Cuba” was used in the memo lines of the donations. WePay promptly froze our account, leaving $10,000 earmarked for tenants organized through our tenant organizing project, Stomp Out Slumlords, to travel to the Autonomous Tenant Union Network Conference. This money was finally recovered nearly 3 months later with the chapter footing the bill in the intervening time. WePay ruled against our appeal and, while the $10,000 was recovered, the account was ultimately lost entirely.

WePay also facilitated our recurring donations as a chapter. Due to the shutdown, the Chapter lost almost $5,000 in recurring donations that were unable to be accepted over the nearly 3 months in which WePay considered our appeal. We ended up switching to Stripe, but the donation list was lost with the shuttering of our WePay account. We are still working to rebuild the robust donor list we once had prior to this mishap. In total, during the 3 month period in which this took place around $15,000 was either frozen or lost entirely, with even more money lost with the loss of our donor list.

Graph depicting MDC DSA Cash On Hand over time, 2022

Another issue which arose was that, due to the use of chapter resources to fundraise, chapter leadership was under the impression that this was a chapter delegation to Cuba. This confusion was easily rectified, but the question still remains: why are chapter resources being used for a delegation hosted by National DSA, especially when such use is a detriment to the chapter and our priority campaigns? There are other questions that arise when you consider that the NPC never voted to authorize the delegation, specifically around liability and who is ultimately responsible should an emergency take place, but that is beyond the immediate scope of this letter.

I want to take a moment to say that the National Staff was extremely helpful with respect to getting this resolved. I specifically want to thank Brandon in compliance who was especially helpful at resolving our concerns. Investments in staff to oversee and maintain compliance will be critical in ensuring that this work can be done safely and effectively.

As the NPC moves toward considering whether to hold another delegation next year, I hope it does so with the health of chapters in mind. This entire situation could have been avoided with strong oversight of fundraising and communications practices from National DSA. Should the NPC advance the plan to hold future delegations, it is critical that the International Committee have protocols around how to approach fundraising and communicating about the trip, and strong restrictions of the use of chapter materials to promote or fundraise for such a trip. It is important to be rational about the specific challenges faced by attempting a delegation to Cuba. These challenges are not insurmountable, but they require attention to detail in a way that previous delegations to Venezuela, Brazil, and others have not. I urge the NPC to closely monitor the progress and planning of any delegation to Cuba so that this experience is not replicated elsewhere.

In Solidarity,
Kareem E.
Former Chair, Metro DC DSA

IN FAVOR by Hayden G.

I am writing to express my enthusiastic support for the amendment to the Resolution to Support Efforts to Oppose the US Blockade on Cuba put forward by members of the local Internationalism Working Group. As a member of the Metro DC DSA Steering Committee, I believe that this amendment is critical in continuing our chapter’s commitment to fighting for the rights of the Cuban people and dismantling the cruel and unjust US blockade. The amendment outlines several important steps that the Metro DC DSA chapter can take to support the campaign against the blockade, including selecting a liaison to contribute to national Cuba organizing and coordinating the sharing of information and resources back with our chapter. The amendment also calls for us to promote and sign on to coordinated national statements and campaigns with other DSA chapters and partner organizations that seek to dismantle key elements of the blockade, as well as supporting local, municipal, and state government resolutions for Cuba normalization. It is critical that we be thoughtful about our organizing and keep from taking on unnecessary risk. It is not radical or based to put our other campaigns at risk if there is another means to do the same work in a way that does not threaten the success of the other campaigns. Furthermore, the amendment outlines important guidelines for how we communicate about delegations on social media and other channels, emphasizing the importance of using only language provided by National (NPC, IC, and other staff) or approved by National’s legal and comms staff. As a socialist organization committed to fighting for the rights of working people, we must continue to prioritize our solidarity work with the people of Cuba. I urge all members of the local to support this amendment and to continue to fight for an end to the unjust and inhumane US blockade on Cuba. In solidarity, -Hayden

IN FAVOR by Bakari W.

Even though National is handling the funding for the delegation this year, our chapter and its organizing still incur risks if our communications regarding the delegation don’t adhere to best practices. I think this amendment’s clarification of how the chapter will abide by the International Committee’s communications guidelines is a useful one. I encourage everyone to vote in favor of this amendment, and then in favor of the resolution.

IN FAVOR by Kurtis H.

My name is Kurtis H and I am a former MDC DSA Steering Committee member and current co-chair of the chapter’s Labor Working Group. I am writing in favor of this amendment. My support for this amendment comes down to some core beliefs: 1. The priorities of our chapter should be democratically determined. 2. Work outside of these priorities should continue but should be appropriately balanced against these determined priorities. 3. Work outside of these priorities that entails unproportionate risk to the chapter’s ability to carry out the determined priorities should be mitigated. It is the case that last year, the internationalism working group used chapter instruments to arrange a delegation to Cuba. In doing so, and due to admitted mistakes, our financial processing systems were frozen for an extended period. The outcomes of this freeze were: 1. Priority Campaigns and other working groups could not fundraise for their activities. 2. A fundraiser that was in progress by one of our Priority Campaigns was interrupted, and roughly $10,000 were frozen for several months. 3. Recurring donations to the chapter were lost, requiring manual effort to rengage members to restart those recurring donations. In that process, roughly $5,000 was lost. The internationalism working group was initially glib about this disruption, with jokes about scaring the powers that be with their organizing. They ultimately came to apologize and have, to my understanding, reworked their fundraising methods. In the period of freeze, our chapter was faced with a significant capacity challenge: we simply were not equipped with the staff or knowledge to navigate the legal territory that Cuba organizing presents. While nothing the working group did or proposes to do is illegal, the field is just muddy enough that government and private entities alike are able to wield our lack of infrastructure against us, significantly threatening our organizing ability across other terrains. National DSA, on the other hand, does have the staff and knowledge to successfully advise on this type of organizing. It makes sense then, that communications as well as fundraising should come from, or at least be vetted by, that entity. Opponents of this amendment may argue that this is unnecessarily burdensome, but I offer that those in opposition did not have to bear the brunt of the repercussions of the last time a delegation was organized. Last Steering Committee was unanimous in it’s approach to the Cuba delegation and the fallout of that action, because we had to negotiate and navigate the challenges posed. After experiences from last year, folks are understandably nervous about a repeat. Protecting the chapter while simultaneously providing a pathway for this kind of organizing is the goal of this amendment, and I urge you to vote in favor of it.


I am writing to encourage fellow comrades to vote no on the proposed amendment to the resolution to support efforts to oppose the US blockade on Cuba. I am in strong support of the original resolution and our chapter’s organizing to end the embargo on Cuba. The amendment hinders our chapter’s ability to communicate about the amazing work of our DSA Cuba delegation and puts unnecessary restrictions that are already addressed by the International Committee policy cited in the original resolution. I am very proud to be part of a chapter that took a leading role in organizing the first ever DSA delegation to Cuba, and I hope to see our chapter communications infrastructure support that work! I am disappointed to hear that our chapter’s Cuba organizers were denied being able to publish an article in the Washington Socialist. I fear that this amendment will embolden that decision to exclude Cuba delegations from being able to share in the Washington Socialist. I encourage everyone to vote no on the proposed amendment, and yes on the resolution (when the resolution comes up for a vote next month).

AGAINST by Hector M.

My name is Hector M. and I am writing in opposition to the proposed amendment to the Cuba Solidarity Resolution. I would first like to make a statement about my experience with the Cuba Campaign of the MDC-DSA Internationalism WG. I joined our comrades, Greg W and Sheena S, in the Cuba Campaign in early March 2022 and was immediately struck by the methodology they used to approach their organizing. Every potential action had to have a smaller, achievable goal besides the larger and broader goal of “lifting the embargo.” These smaller goals of course worked within the larger framework of solidarity with the Cuban people and ultimately in support of ending the embargo. But the purpose of smaller goals was to make sure our work had realistic and successful outcomes. Furthermore, for Greg and Sheena, chapter and member safety was always a priority. As an attorney with a family, I personally would not have put myself in a position that could have potentially jeopardized my career and my family. I was excited to work and learn from Greg and Sheena because there was so much knowledge between the two of them that could be transferred to so many different facets of our organizing, not just internationalism. On its surface, the proposed amendment appears to address safety concerns meant to protect MDC DSA. Unfortunately what it would actually accomplish is to allow the Steering Committee, current and future, to greatly limit the Cuba Campaign’s use of chapter comms to organize, promote the work being done, amplify local Cuban solidarity actions, and recruitment. This would set a precedent that could affect the work other work groups around the chapter are doing. Proponents for the amendment are using the unfortunate freezing of chapter funds in the WePay donation platform to muddy up the issue at hand. Whether intentional or not, this has resulted in the misrepresentation of the work the Cuba Campaign is doing and the mischaracterization of the comrades doing that work as irresponsible and reckless. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Cuba Campaign expressed the utmost regret after the WePay debacle - a debacle that was caused by WePays over-compliance and not by anything done by any of our Cuba organizers. None of what happened had anything to do with comms, but with the word Cuba appearing in the memos of some donations. Despite Cuba organizers commitment to making sure something like this never happens again, the narrative that Cuba organizers are indifferent to what happened and continue to organize recklessly and irresponsibly persist. 20 DSA chapters around the country have passed the Cuban Solidarity Resolution AS IS AND WITHOUT ANY RESTRICTING AMENDMENTS. This includes DSA Chapters in NYC, San Francisco, Boston, Denver, and even Miami and Orlando in Florida (the heart of reactionary, right-wing, anti-socialist Cuban-Americans opposed to any thawing of relations with Cuba). The Resolution, as it stands with no amendments, addresses the concerns the proponents of this amendment are espousing. The organizing of delegations and all fundraising for delegations will be handled by National IC - this alone makes the the concerns the amendment is meant to address practically moot. Furthermore, our local Cuba organizers have agreed to follow National IC guidelines on communication. Our local Cuba organizers have accomplished much despite the small number of organizers involved such as: Organizing a nationally coordinated protest to counter pro-Blockade protestors on Nov. 15, 2021Establish a good relationship with the Cuban Embassy and MDC DSA Cuba organizers - this resulted in the Cuban Ambassador giving a keynote at the MDC DSA Convention in Dec. 2021Led national strategy that successfully pushed pro-Cuba legislation out of the Rules Committee and onto the floor of the House of Representatives in the United States Congress for what was the most successful vote on Cuba in 6 yearsDesigned a DSA healthcare delegation to Cuba that departed to Cuba in late Sept. 2022 - the first DSA delegation to Cuba Work of this type would be severely hindered by the proposed amendment as Cuba organizers would be limited to copy and paste statements made by National IC or re-posting on social media. Communication regarding local Cuba organizing efforts would have to go through two bureaucratic stages just to get approved - a process which could eat up lots of valuable time and make organizing locally extremely difficult. As Socialists, the work we do is inherently risky. Whether it be labor organizing, making reproductive rights kits for comrades in neighboring states with restrictive abortion laws, organizing rent strikes, or defunding the police - the work we do carries risks because we are challenging capital and those invested in capital. We accept these risks, while at the same time mitigating the risk we face. There is such a thing as over-mitigating to the point of hamstringing the work we do and that is just what this amendment would do. The unamended resolution takes these risks into consideration and has built in mechanisms to protect local chapters and their financing without hindering the work being done locally. I urge you all to VOTE NO on the proposed amendment. In Solidarity, Hector M. (he/him) - NoVA Branch Steering Committee

IN FAVOR by Aparna R.

My name’s Aparna and I’m on the chapter Steering Committee… I urge you to support Amendment to the Resolution to Support Efforts to Oppose the US Blockade on Cuba. This amendment has broad support, including from members of national DSA’s International Committee leadership. Last year, MDC DSA organizers taking part in a Cuba delegation failed to take sufficient precautions in fundraising and communications, which resulted in the shut down of our chapter finances for 3 months and caused over $15,000 to be either frozen or lost entirely. The chapter has still not financially recovered from this. I encourage you to vote in favor of this amendment to help ensure that our chapter can still continue our international solidarity work while also protecting the chapter from future financial or legal risk.

I’m glad that our chapter and DSA are doing work around Cuba and was happy to see Greg bring this resolution forward. International organizing can be powerful, but international organizing that doesn’t account for the legal context we’re organizing in can have devastating consequences as our chapter saw firsthand last year. I agree with a resolution to support the DSA’s Cuba work- my amendment is about ensuring that our chapter doesn’t get into another situation that jeopardizes our financial or legal status.

Last year, members of the Internationalism Working Group in the chapter went on a delegation to Cuba. Through fundraising and communications around the trip, our chapter WePay account (the component of Action Network that holds fundraised donations) got shut down for three months. At the time, we had no idea if we would be able to restore our account and the funds that were frozen with it. In all, $10,000 were frozen that Stomp Out Slumlords, a priority campaign, had fundraised for tenant leaders and organizers to attend a tenant organizing conference that they paid upfront for with their own funds. Our WePay account also shuttered entirely, losing the chapter nearly $5,000 in recurring donations. We were unable to recover those because WePay also held the full donor list. Because of that our chapter has also suffered from additional lost income from those recurring donations. Immediately after this happened, one of the Cuba organizers in our chapter said on a GBM that getting our chapter finances shut down “must mean [they’re] doing something right.”

I understand that the members of the delegation didn’t intend to shut down our finances, but that demonstrates why risk for these delegations should sit with National DSA, where they have fulltime staff, including comms staff, and a legal team to be able to develop, review, and approve language. And the DSA National Political Committee agrees, as they decided that all delegations from now on must be handled at the national level, in response to the issues our chapter faced.

Even after chapter finances were shut down, Steering had to have multiple back and forths with the organizers of the delegation over concerns about language we were worried would put us as a chapter—and individuals in the chapter both who were and were not on the delegation—at additional legal risk. This includes Eventbrite language that bragged about getting our finances shut down and joked that they weren’t allowed to say that they were fundraising for Cuba. This also included tweets and a drafted article for the Washington Socialist where organizers demonstrated a flippant disregard for rules about the embargo…
Even with fundraising moved to other modes, improper communications still pose a legal risk to the organizers of delegations and to our chapter as a whole. Instead of understanding our concerns and working with us to incorporate edits to help prevent another freeze and loss of funds (or worse consequences for the chapter), organizers of the delegation continued to argue with Steering over the need for such edits, making it nearly impossible to develop communications at the chapter level so that we felt safe would not put the chapter at risk. And just this past weekend, another member said that risks like getting our chapter finances shut down are part of the nature of international solidarity work as a way to oppose additional precautions.

In response to the issues that our chapter faced, National DSA and the International Committee are working to centralize international delegations with national bodies and organize them entirely through national bodies, because of the recognition that National is better equipped than locals to take on that risk. My amendment is to ensure that all communications for delegations, in addition to fundraising and logistics, are held at the national level, where there is capacity and legal expertise to take on the risks of delegations. The IC policy that the original resolution refers to does not include guidance for local chapters. It only discusses the way that national bodies should operate in regards to communications. My amendment clarifies that the role of the local chapter here should be to follow the lead of National, the organizing body of these delegations. Following the guidance that the NPC approved for electoral and executive delegations, only national accounts should post social media copy about international delegations, while local chapters should just help amplify. And also any language that the chapter wants to use for recruitment or recapping delegations over Slack, email, or other chapterwide communications should either get approved by National’s comms and legal teams or should be developed by them to make sure that we’re communicating with the least amount of risk to our chapter.

International solidarity work is good and important but we need to make sure that we’re doing this work thoughtfully, because our internationalism work will only suffer if our chapter finances get shut down or if we face other adverse consequences. And it doesn’t just impact our internationalism work, it impacts our whole chapter: our reproductive justice work, our tenant organizing work, our labor work, our ecosocialist work, our electoral work, everything. We are part of an organization and should be in solidarity with each other. We should recognize when our work negatively impacts the work of others and be willing to accept some guidance to ensure that our chapter as a whole can continue to organize together in the future. I hope you consider voting for this amendment, providing additional guidance around comms to help protect our chapter.

IN FAVOR by Michael Ma.

Comrades, I urge you to join me in voting YES on the amendment to this resolution. This amendment offers a necessary safeguard by confirming that National DSA bears responsibility for all communications and fundraising regarding future delegations to Cuba. This is an extremely reasonable and important distinction that provides clarification around who ultimately holds responsibility for legal liabilities around the delegations.

Part of the reason why this clarification needs to be made is because there was a lot of confusion surrounding the logistics of the delegation last year: Is this a chapter or national delegation? Who is responsible for ensuring the safety of our members traveling abroad? How should we be boosting this on our chapter comms while remaining compliant? These are all crucial lingering questions that this amendment clears up by solidifying that these are all responsibilities of National DSA — which makes sense because it has been clarified that these are National delegations.

Not only does this follow procedural logic, but it is reasonable to expect National DSA to bear the brunt of responsibility for legal liabilities and external comms for these types of delegations when they have more money and resources than our chapter. In fact, these unanswered questions left our chapter in a precarious position when WePay was flagged because the organizers of the delegation included “Cuba” in the fundraising memo, and, in turn, shut down our account. This resulted in $10,000 in donations for tenants to attend the ATUN conference being frozen by WePay, $5,000 lost entirely in donations over that period, and our donor list was lost along with it. We literally cannot afford to risk non-compliance, so we should codify measures that mitigate the risk.

As a Cuban American and socialist, I 100% support organizing efforts to end the blockade on Cuba and International solidarity work in general. I want to make clear that these are extremely important issues that are close to me personally and that we should absolutely be pursuing as a chapter. However, it cannot come at the expense of other chapter campaigns. We must be conscientious and mindful about how our actions affect that of our other comrades and their respective campaigns because we are a collective body — not disparate sub groups. I would also like us to have the opportunity to be involved in future delegations to Cuba, which means we must ensure that we are compliant, transparent, and communicative. This amendment verifies the process going forward so that we no longer run into these major organizing roadblocks and can continue this work.

I urge you to vote YES on the amendment for the sake of our chapter’s well being and longevity. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

AGAINST by Alex M.

Our chapter has a unique opportunity to be a part of the growing movement to end the US embargo on Cuba. DSA has been growing its relationship with the Cuban people, in large part due to the first ever DSA delegation to Cuba this past fall, which our chapter took a leading role in organizing! There was also recently a resolution introduced in the DC Council that supports ending the embargo on Cuba and DSA-endorsed Councilmember Janeese Lewis George is a cosponsor. We need to directly challenge the policy of our government targeting the working class of Cuba and people around the world.

It is understandable that there might be some challenges in the first ever DSA delegation to Cuba, but that is not a reason to severely restrict and limit communications from our chapter comms infrastructure about DSA Cuba delegations, especially considering local organizers have been very responsive in ensuring financial issues do not happen again. A new policy was recently passed nationally to ensure that all fundraising must be centralized at the national level going forward.

Third party platforms and corporations will always try to attack us, but we need to stay principled and support Cuba delegations. It’s not a bad thing to want to go to Cuba, and it’s also not a bad thing to want to use chapter communications infrastructure to promote the work of DSA members, including our DSA Cuba delegation. Chapter members who went on the DSA Cuba Delegation were recently denied access to publish an article in the chapter’s publication, The Washington Socialist (WS). While I understand concerns related to the heightened risk and scrutiny internationalist work inherently has in many ways, the MDC DSA Steering Committee never provided specific edits or constructive suggestions for how to modify the article. Even after organizers tried to clear up misconceptions and misunderstandings, bringing in an expert lawyer to help explain that there are no laws regarding communications or articles around Cuba delegations, there has been a denial of access to the Washington Socialist. I am deeply concerned that this amendment will justify the Steering Committee’s decision to deny access to the Washington Socialist for discussing Cuba delegations.

I hope chapter members can understand how this amendment puts unnecessary bureaucratic red tape, top-down structures and obstacles to engaging our local chapter with the amazing first ever DSA Cuba delegation (and the many more to come hopefully!). There are so many lessons we still have to learn, but I believe that unnecessarily restricting our ability to communicate to chapter members about our amazing work is not the way forward. Please vote no on the proposed amendment.

IN FAVOR by Philip B.

Hey all, my name is Philip B. I am an at-large member of the chapter’s steering committee. Below is my statement in FAVOR of: Amendment to Resolution to Support Efforts to Oppose the US Blockade on Cuba. Any organizer should be able to assess whether their actions are harmful, well-thought out, and whether they actually extend solidarity. When these assessments are not made, it can lead to actively harming an organizing space and the work of others. When I make organizing decisions, I ask myself, “does this risk losing our donor list and have the potential to entirely set back our chapters’ operation?” - if the answer is yes, I choose not to do that. The level of negligence to not assess this specific risk is beyond detrimental to our cause and goals as a chapter. If we want to be a better chapter, we need to examine this experience and learn from it while taking action to ensure it does not happen again. We must work smarter and more diligently about our organizing. Risk assessment is non-negotiable. As we continue to mature and develop our chapters operations, these risks become even more important to assess. The stronger we get, the harder our opponents will fight back. In order to protect our chapter members and all of our hard work, we must pass this amendment. I urge you to support this Amendment to Resolution to Support Efforts to Oppose the US Blockade on Cuba.

AGAINST by Sheena S.

The DSA NPC and the National International Committee already deeply considered how to keep chapters safe both financially and legally while organizing for Cuba and recently passed a detailed policy accordingly. The Cuba group has accepted all of these policies. The amendment proposed will not do anything to keep our org more safe. Instead, the amendment proposed is written so broadly that any leader who opposes our Cuba work will be able to use this amendment to stop all Cuba related content on Slack, e-mails, ect unless the language is approved by TWO national bodies (legal and comms). This approval process can take weeks if not months, assuming a response is received. I quote: “only use language APPROVED by national’s LEGAL AND COMMS team (…) Topics include BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO delegation recruitment, information-sharing, and ANY OTHER PURPOSES” Please imagine if this was your working group and this was required of you. How frustrating and demoralizing it would be to have to wait weeks (or months) to hear back from TWO national bodies before posting on Slack? The Cuba group was shocked when WePay shut down our chapter account because we did not break any laws. As soon as we found out we immediately changed everything about how we raise funds, including: We now use EventBrite instead of Action Network so that events are not linked to the chapter We use our own personal cashapps to collect donations to keep the org safe We changed everything about how we raise funds, apologized to the steering committee multiple times, and thanked our Treasurer for how much work they did for us to fix this problem. And yet, the leaders of our chapter are trying to convince everyone that we don’t care about other working groups? All of this is about something else. The truth is that even before this mishap, a select few on leadership treated leaders of this campaign with contempt and are now continuing to rub our nose in an issue that was resolved months ago. This behavior has the potential to manipulate members, buying into an insidious and slanderous narrative of our character and competence. Leadership is supposed to solve problems honestly, creatively, and in collaboration with the organizers they serve. Instead, members of the internationalism working group have felt disrespected, lied to, and publicly humiliated in chapter meetings and on social media and all by the members with the most social capital and power in the org. We already have national policy in place to protect the org financially and we also added it to this resolution. This amendment will put so much red tape around our organizing that it has the potential to make it virtually impossible to organize for Cuba if enforced by leadership. Please vote NO on this amendment so that we can continue organizing to end the embargo and relieve the suffering of millions of Cubans who suffer from it. Thank you, Sheena S. Founder of MDC Cuba Campaign Former co-chair, medicare for all Former Chapter Trainer Stewart

AGAINST by Michelle R.

Hi comrades, I’m writing in opposition to the proposed amendment. The original resolution’s language covers all bases in regards to the risk associated with Cuba delegation organizing. From now on, “all finance, legal, and operations obligations for delegations [will be] organized at the national level, and local chapters will serve as a supporting body.” The problem regarding finances and operations liability for local chapters has been solved. The added bullets about comms in the proposed amendment are an over correction which would hinder local engagement in international delegations and organizing. “use official chapter social media accounts… only to amplify national DSA and the International Committee’s social media posts about delegations.” How can you help organize a delegation when you’re not allowed to post anything about it yourself? For example, if you wanted to hold an informational meeting for the chapter and post it on Twitter to encourage folks to attend, this amendment would require National to post about an internal mdc dsa meeting so that internationalism organizers here would be allowed to “amplify” it. That is extremely weird in my opinion. Likewise, needing to get permission from two national bodies before any communication about delegations is really time consuming and burdensome. I don’t see how this amendment reduces risk; the risk regarding financial and operations liability is already mitigated. Instead, the proposed amendment over restricts communications and harms our organizing capabilities.