Austin Democratic Socialists of America

Thomas Sheehy

Do you self-identify as a man?:
Yes

Do you self-identify as a person from a traditionally marginalized group?:
No

Please describe your involvement in Austin DSA:
I’ve been with Austin DSA since May of 2017. I’m the chair of the Political Education Working Group and have been involved with our work on Medicare 4 All, paid sick days, socialist night school and a revival of the new member school. I hope we can keep our momentum going and meaningfully grow our membership in size and scope.

I want to expand our labor work, develop an effective political education program and build stronger coalitions. We cannot build a meaningful mass movement if we have the demographics we have currently. It’s important we are effective mobilizers and organizers so we can achieve the broad reach we are capable of.

If elected, I have an interest in being a member at-large or membership coordinator. In the event I get the necessary number of votes, I would accept a position as co-chair.

What strengths would you bring to the leadership committee?:
One of my biggest strengths is that I don’t have social media. I’m deeply committed to the work of the chapter and have a great deal of bandwidth to focus on it. I don’t belong to any cliques and have a strong interest in making our chapter more diverse and inclusive.

If elected, what would be your priorities be for the leadership committee and Austin DSA?:
My main chapter wide priorities are political education, outreach and mobilization, labor work and coalition building. Our chapter is reflective of the social circles of the people in it and it’ll stay the way it is unless we make an active effort to reach out and recruit people. We need to embed ourselves in non-DSA spaces as open and proud socialists. Creating a strong, open movement is how we succeed as an organization.

Socialist night school represents the kind of work our chapter should invest more energy in. Even people who have been with the chapter a long time aren’t well versed in socialist theory, vocabulary and history. We can’t fight for what we believe in if we lack the ability to articulate its importance. Socialist night school provides an important avenue for equipping members with the knowledge they need to be socialist activists.

Education on theory should be supplemented by a new member school focused on organizing skills and chapter procedure. Providing new members with the tools they need to navigate DSA will go a long way to helping them become thriving contributors to the chapter. Effective training and outreach will help foster leadership skills and prevent burnout.
DSA members should be in front lines fighting for workplace democracy, helping to radicalize existing unions or establish new ones. While unions are not inherently socialist, they provide one of the best avenues for building worker power and creating workplace democracy. Our chapter should embed itself in local labor struggles by providing strike support, establishing a worker’s center and hosting a socialist job fair.

Coalition work keeps us connected, grounded and relevant. By allying with organizations already working on issues important to us, we gain perspective and capacity. In assisting with fights for reproductive freedom, immigrant rights, worker’s rights, criminal justice reform, environmental sustainability and queer liberation, we prove our commitment to a socialist-feminist praxis.

Creating a healthy internal culture is key to dealing with the challenges we will face. Smaller objectives I wish to accomplish include getting more members on the DSA Discussion Board, migrating from Slack to a statewide Mattermost server, deleting the ATX DSA Discourse Corner Facebook group, electronic leadership committee meetings and hosting an anti-racism training at a general body meeting. These steps would streamline and improve avenues for internal debate, help increase collaboration with DSA chapters within the state and help us become more effective organizers.

What is your approach to resolving conflict and achieving consensus among differing viewpoints?:
Non-violent communication is key. The language people use and the environment they create matters. I believe it is important to recognize where there is a point of contention and openly and honestly deal with it. Conflict is a natural and inevitable part of life but we have full control over the nature it takes and how to deal with it. If we can facilitate debate and decision making in a way that creates broad and organic consensus, we can properly manage conflict when it arises.

Do you identify with any caucus or political tendency, either within DSA or in general?:
Democratic Socialist

Is there anything else you’d like to add?:
If I become co-chair I will have a Twitch stream.