NPC Candidate Questionnaire

Personal Info

Aaron Warner
He/Him or They/Them
DSA Los Angeles

Please describe your experience in DSA so far; how long you’ve been a member, what kind of organizing and campaigns you’ve worked on, any leadership positions you’ve held, and any highlights or challenges you’ve encountered.

I joined DSA in January of 2017, and after a significant amount of time spent searching for work where I felt the most useful, I have settled into my chapter’s Mutual Aid Committee. Along the way, I have been at the forefront of organizing and facilitating communication between my small, exurban community in Los Angeles County and a centrally-focused chapter. I’ve become a direct action marshaling trainer and liaison for my home branch of a large and growing chapter, helping to expand our capacity and participation for effective community defense. Before that, I served as the bottom-liner for our child watch service at chapter and branch meetings, allowing members with children to more effectively participate in chapter work. My focus has historically been on trying to furnish the most effective and welcoming organizational culture and structure within my home chapter, and negotiating internal structuring and community-building work is always in a push-and-pull relationship with the prioritization of “”external”” campaigns. The internal work of “”keeping the lights on”” isn’t attractive to everyone, nor should it necessarily be, but maintaining a working and healthy space requires intentional and deliberate ongoing work which at times has been neglected.

My proudest and most fulfilling moments in DSA have always been when I’ve been party to cross-chapter solidarity. I’ve been elected to serve as a National Convention Delegate three times now, and on my second term I met a comrade in Virginia who was generous enough to fund my trip to Portland, to help serve as a marshal and street medic for my comrades in that city’s chapter, on a day when fascist and reactionary provocateur gangs were descending on their homes. The winter before that trip, I attended the right-wing campus astroturf operation, Turning Point USA’s annual summit in West Palm Beach to do opposition research and to investigate a mounting possible danger to our student comrades in YDSA. The local DSA chapter in Palm Beach was incredibly hospitable and helpful to me, and offered a safe and welcoming open door when it was time for me to leave the summit. It’s in these acts of trust and solidarity that I see the germ of what DSA could grow into as a robust, effective, interconnected nationwide network of collaborating radicals.

What activist/political/organizing experience have you had outside DSA? Share any lessons or experiences that you feel are relevant.

Before the expansion of DSA’s membership, I was a budding self-educating socialist without any movement or organization to join with. My experience attempting to protest the Iraq War in my small, reactionary suburb as a teenager was profoundly instructive, as well as my work in the nonprofit sector as a young adult. I can’t whittle these experiences to singular lessons learned, but they were deeply illuminating regarding the limitations and inherent contradictions in mainstream, liberal forms of political engagement.

Have you ever held a position within or on behalf of law enforcement (such as a police union organizer)?

Fuck no.

If you would like to share any links to articles you’ve written, a portfolio, or similar resources you feel will be useful for members to get to know you, do so here.

Here’s an article I self-published regarding my investigative trip to TPUSA’s summit

Why are you running for NPC?

I see DSA at a moment of profound potential that should be cultivated, and I want to serve my comrades by being a proponent for under-acknowledged organizational practices. Traditionally, national strategies within DSA have been focused on electoral campaigns and work in collaboration with traditional labor unions. While these terrains of struggle shouldn’t be vacated, they are just one of a vast array of possible sites of struggle that should be explored and experimented with. DSA’s notoriety could be seized upon to not just advance socialist outlooks in the sense of “shifting the Overton window”, but in propagating and promoting forms of proletarian organization that build power outside of traditional formations. It’s my contention that proletarian democracy must have substantively different forms of structuring itself and struggling against its class antagonists than the bourgeois forms we see around us today. We must also redefine “politics” for working-class people around the taking and expressing of power in all forms of life, and not just at the ballot box or in the existing halls of bourgeois administration.

What does ‘democratic socialism’ mean to you?

I believe that “democracy” is a corrective to the “authoritarian” nature of all class-stratified society; allowing the masses to indirectly sway the ruling institutions that already directly impose power over them. Therefore, a socialism that has properly advanced and abolished class distinctions would essentially make formal “democracy” redundant. I see “democratic socialism” as a process that gets us to a dramatically different world, and therefore must avoid the pitfalls that would stall or stymie it such as bureaucratization or rightward drift.

Where would you like DSA and the broader socialist left to be five years from now? How about ten or twenty years? And, broadly, what does our organization need to do to get us there?

My ideal world would be one wherein DSA, or an organization or network that has grown out of it like DSA developed from DSOC, would be like a nebula for the left; cohering the raw swirling matter of working-class struggle and giving birth to bright-burning stars of condensed action; new labor unions, tenant unions, unhoused and unemployed workers’ councils, social movement formations, and new forms of proletarian organization that are all knit together to collaborate, strategize, and cohere for both specific campaigns applying to each formation, and broad campaigns for gains that would empower them all. I believe that our organization needs to become far less afraid to “walk and chew gum at the same time”, and to allow smaller formations to organize more specific and targeted communities around the particularities of their struggles, and to build trust in all the myriad, heterogenous pockets of the working class. American workers are highly atomized, and to build a “Class for Itself” we have to recognize and grapple with that reality, rather than ignore its uncomfortable contradictions.

In the short term, if elected to NPC, you will serve two years in national leadership from August 2021 to summer 2023. What is your diagnosis of the broader political scenario DSA will face during your term? What will be the most urgent challenges, and what will be the greatest opportunities for socialists?

As we emerge from the worst of the CoVID-19 pandemic and “return to normal” we are going to see an expansion of the austerity state, without a countervaling force like a Sanders presidential run. I believe echoes of the post-George Floyd rebellions will arise, and within those moments we have the opportunity to build cohesion between the antiausterity and anticapitalist movements, and social justice movements developing today. We have the opportunity to drive a harder wedge between social justice movements and the Democratic party that sacrifices them at the altar of Capital, setting the stage for the eventual dissolution of the party, and the construction of a constitutionally working-class, social justice-focused independent political formation out of its betrayed voting base. Simply put, while the US has plenty of “leftists”, it does not have a coherent, organized “Left”. The next two years will be fraught with crisis, and might include the broader delegitimization of mainstream liberalism. We can and must seize the opportunity to build a coherent social base for socialist politics, and not be caught flat-footed.

What is the role and purpose of a socialist organization in the United States today?

To develop more and more highly-skilled socialists and to build a coherent social base for a future working-class party, one which is constitutionally and structurally different in form and activity from the existing bourgeois parties or current attempts at a vanguard.

Reflecting on the last two years, discuss what you see are the strengths and the weaknesses of DSA.

I see our strengths as contained within the diversity of thought and practice within DSA. I see our core weaknesses as encapsulated within the factionalism, power-hoarding, and failure to develop inactive or underserved members into political agents, pursued by the most engaged, but small and narrowly-focused formations at the national and chapter level.

What policies and demands should DSA prioritize championing over the next two years? Why

Chiefly I believe we should be building around countering the inevitable post-CoVID austerity, delegitimizing the Democratic Party for their fecklessness and ceaseless rightward drift, and engaging and serving the developing police and prison abolitionist movement. These demands are timely and can open up more space by which working-class people can be motivated to organize.

What’s your assessment of DSA’s National Electoral Strategy and how do you think socialists should be engaging with elections in the short term?

I believe that electoral work needs to be sharpened and more focused from where it is now. It should be common practice for the organization to at least publish open criticism of endorsed candidates who violate our values or platform when in office, and even to publicly retract past endorsements if warranted. We should be focused on where the early 20th-century “Sewer Socialist” strategy can be employed at the local level, to engage municipal voters in the battle against real estate for power over city politics, and targeting local seats where a socialist candidate can deliver immediately visible material wins for constituents. We should also be seeking to deliberately develop our active members into candidates, rather than accepting political aspirants who simply join just to get an endorsement.

There is a general sense that in order to have a viable socialist movement we need our movement to be rooted in the multi-racial working class. How can we assure that DSA develops more connections and deeper roots within working class communities of color? What specific things do you propose?

I endorse the open discussion of how racism is constitutive within the construction of capitalism, and the incorporation of this critique into all political educational materials. We need our members to be ready to engage and interface with the movements that activate communities of color, and to build non-contrived, organic trust and connections with them. White and otherwise non-minoritized members should be encouraged and challenged to see white supremacy as a structure that makes them collaborators of capitalism rather than combatants against it. We should also promote and encourage members of color to build connections between DSA and their own communities, but on their terms, with their leadership, and with trust in them to steer the process. If this requires the imposing of rules such as “No white member can veto or stop a member of color’s work on a project focused on a community of color”, then so be it. We also need to vastly expand and empower our grievance and harassment teams so that instances of racist behavior within the organization both overt and covert, can be addressed and so that this organization becomes one that members of color can fruitfully organize within, and that communities of color can collaborate with.

How do you think DSA should engage with the labor movement?

I am deeply proud and heartened by DSA’s labor work, but I believe it can go farther. The decades of disempowerment and retrenchment have made our labor unions within the US anti-solidaristic and class-collaborationist in order to survive. In addition to building union power we must also help advocate for and to rebuild union militancy and radicalism where we can. We should support wildcat strikes as they arise, and must recognize and engage strategically when contradictions between workers and their union leadership or administration arise. We should aid in the creation of new, self-affiliating unions in shops where our members have relationships, and collaborate with worker formations outside the traditional union form such as the Congress of Essential Workers. We shouldn’t be afraid to have a critical appraisal of the traditional trade union structure, even while extolling its virtue as a tool of worker power when engaging in political education. While we can look to the trade unions for guidance in our political strategy, we should also continue to recognize when the political desires of one union are contrary to the empowerment of the working class as a whole.

How should DSA engage in coalitions with other progressive and issue-based organizations?

When possible, we should be looking to form helpful and equitable coalitions with other organizations, as long as it does not require any sacrifice of our core principles or politics. We should never endorse a candidate that refuses to call themselves a socialist just because a coalition partner champions their candidacy. We should allow members to engage in direct actions with other organizations as long as they are made fully aware of the risks and can make an informed decision. Through these relationships, we should aspire to make DSA an effective and helpful presence in these other struggles, and to help knit these struggles into the greater socialist movement, and to facilitate the radicalization of progressive activists.

What should the relationship between the national organization and local chapters look like–how should they engage each other and what role should NPC members take in shaping that relationship?

National should help facilitate cross–chapter collaboration, and from listening to the needs of chapters, NPC members should investigate and report on inter-organizational struggles that can be addressed either at the chapter or national level. NPC members should recognize the needs of chapters and members in smaller or more rural chapters in poorer areas with less resources, and collaborate with those members to find solutions in collaboration with neighboring chapters. It is not a matter of empowering locals “over” the NPC or strengthening the NPC to “supervise” locals, but to facilitate nationwide collaboration and communication. NPC members should grant a national platform to concerns, needs, and priorities when they arise from various chapters.

If elected to NPC, you’ll be responsible for leading and carrying out committee work (such as on the electoral committee, international committee, Democratic Left committee, etc.) What particular strengths would you bring to the NPC and what committees might you focus on?

I come from a communications background and my chief experience within DSA has been in my home chapter’s Mutual Aid and Agitprop Committees, as well as recently aiding with Palestinian solidarity and BDS action. I would likely be most comfortable with the national Mutual Aid Working Group, the Antifascist Working Group, Democratic Left publishing, or other communications, media, or political education efforts, especially those related to BDS work.