The BDS Debate by the Numbers
A DSA Observer Report
In this most recent (and still ongoing) phase of the BDS debate in DSA, there has been a whirlwind of debate and attention on the NPC’s March 18 decision to de-charter the National BDS Working Group and discipline their steering committee. Similar to the first phase of this conflict in November of last year, public petitions began circulating both in favor and opposed to the NPC’s actions.
One petition, titled “In Support of DSA’s Democratically Elected Leadership,” began circulating on Twitter within a few hours of the announcement by the NPC on DSA’s internal member only message board. The petition now appears to have been deleted, but an archived version can be found here.
The next day a petition voicing support for the BDS Working Group, and calling on the NPC to reverse their decision, also began circulating. Titled “For An Internationalist DSA,” this petition would pick up steam quickly and was boosted by the BDS Working Group itself until its account was suspended by Twitter on March 23. The text of the petition can be found here.
Because both petitions list their signatories and their chapters, we’ve been able to organize the data represented among co-signers and represent that data in various ways. Because of limitations of the Substack platform, we are only able to embed images of these charts, but have included links to the interactive charts for readers to review.
It should be noted that the maps are only as good as the data, which we compiled of signatures from the two letters. We can assume that those managing each respective form will take at face value whether the signatory is a member of DSA and affiliated with the chapter they claim to be, as both letters only list names which include a chapter affiliation. The managers of these petitions would not necessarily have reliable means to verify that information even if they chose to. For our purposes here, we take the assumption signers are who they claim to be.
Our first chart shows a side by side view of raw totals, along with a heat map for relative intensity of support. There is, of course, an obvious disparity in volume between the two. Both petitions had their largest contingent of signatures come from the NYC-DSA chapter, which is not surprising as it's the largest in the country by a considerable amount. For the pro-NPC petition, almost a full third of their total signatures came from NYC, compared to only 6% of total pro-BDS WG signatures coming from NYC-DSA, though by volume both petitions were about even in the chapter. There was also a pronounced drop off in scale outside New York for the pro-NPC petition, going from 106 members signed in NYC to just 35 members in the next highest group, Metro DC. This transition was more gradual for the pro-BDS WG petition.
All in all, 1,777 members put their name on one petition or another. In November 2021, the pro-BDS petition reported 480 signatures (though they do not list out the names) while the pro-NPC petition lists 543, which means total members engaged on this issue increased by 57%. Support among members also dramatically swung toward the pro-BDS side, who went from behind on signatures to dramatically ahead. None of is analysis takes into account DSA formations (ex. Working Groups, caucuses) or outside organizations who endorsed the pro-BDS WG petition, which both in November and March the pro-NPC petition either didn’t attract or didn’t accept.
152 chapters were represented on one petition or another. 15 chapters had members who only signed the pro-NPC petition but not the pro-BDS WG petition, and 99 chapters had members who signed only the pro-BDS petition. 12 chapters have also formally signed on to the pro-BDS petition, including Chicago DSA, the third largest chapter in the country, who issued a statement today announcing their support.
Rumors continue to circulate about the status of this issue and how the NPC intends to respond, though not much has been officially confirmed. We have more content on this subject coming soon, as well as reports on other issues and events. If you support our content, please subscribe to our newsletter below to stay up to date.
*An earlier version contained a mathematical error. This has been corrected and language added to clarify. We apologize for the error.
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