YDSA bans IYSSE from conference

The IYSSE sent two delegates to the Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) winter conference this weekend. Our delegates raised politically principled criticisms of Sanders, particularly his support for war, in the discussion period of the conference and engaged with delegates on this point and other political issues throughout the event.

On Saturday evening, the conference organizers sent an email to our delegates informing them that they had been banned from attending the last day of the conference. The basic purpose of the ban is to suppress discussion of genuine socialist politics. Below is the YDSA email banning the IYSSE delegates, followed by our reply:


Dear [delegates],

I was made aware of a tweet that you sent out during the conference today that included a picture of a student and staff member taken without their permission. This violates the community agreements that we reviewed at the beginning of the day. That tweet and several others also wildly misrepresented much of the content at the conference and leads me, the rest of DSA staff, and YDSA’s elected student leadership to believe that you did not attend the conference with the intention of participating in good faith or building YDSA.

For these reasons I’m asking that you do not attend the final day of the conference tomorrow. Our first priority is keeping our attendees safe, and your behavior today and the behavior of those outside the conference venue this morning is at odds with that priority. Please note that our volunteer conference marshals have been made aware of this decision and will ask you to leave if you come to the conference tomorrow.

I hope that you listened to what our speakers had to say today and take some time to think on what you heard. I would be happy to see you attend next year’s conference in good faith.

Anna Bonomo

YDSA Organizer
Democratic Socialists of AmericaPronouns: she/her


Dear Anna Bonomo,

The reasons you give for the decision to bar myself and Luke from the remainder of the YDSA conference are nothing more than dishonest pretexts for a political attempt to prevent us from talking to other delegates. You are clearly aware that many other delegates are very interested in what we have had to say about the politics of the YDSA and, in fact, that they agree with our critique of its effort to subordinate young people to the Democratic Party and the increasingly right-ward movement of the Sanders campaign.

There is nothing inappropriate in the tweets I posted. This contrasts with the anti-communist and red-baiting tweets from other delegates. The official YDSA at Eastern Carolina University, for example, wrote in reply to the letter of the IYSSE to the YDSA members, “All trots do is read theory, yell at dsa, post online, eat ice pick and lie.” The reference to an “ice pick” is particularly menacing, as it refers to the instrument used by a Stalinist assassin to murder Leon Trotsky in 1940.

Other delegates posted vulgar or threatening comments, including here, here, here, and here. These comments are so obscene that I don’t want to quote them.

You claim that my tweets are the reason for barring me from the conference. However, you have also barred Luke who did not tweet anything. You then make reference to the “behavior of those outside the conference venue this morning” as an additional rationale. In fact, many YDSA members showed great interest in our material, engaged in conversation, and expressed their own concerns with Sanders’ pro-war statements and history.

The real reason for your action is your opposition to the political content of what we have said—our exposure of the Democratic Party and the pro-imperialist positions of Bernie Sanders, and our call for YDSA members to take up a genuine fight for socialism within your organization.

The tweet that you particularly objected to called attention to the statement by DSA National Director Maria Svart that YDSA members should not use the word “socialism” or should talk about it in “semi quasi terms” when referring to the politics of the DSA. This is because the DSA is not fighting for socialism but for the political subordination of workers and young people to the Democratic Party, a pro-imperialist and capitalist organization.

Your action makes a mockery of the claim that the YDSA is building a democratic movement. It proves once again that subordination to the Democratic Party means the suppression of democracy.

At a time of the rising danger of fascism and growing attacks on democratic rights, you should not be banning socialists. Despite our clear and principled differences with Sanders, the IYSSE has in many postings defended him, along with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the DSA, from right-wing attacks and slanders.

The IYSSE fights to mobilize students and youth on the basis of a fight for genuine socialism, and to unite youth with the growth of the class struggle in a revolutionary movement against imperialism and capitalism.

I ask that the YDSA reconsider and rescind your decision to ban me and the other delegate from the conference, which is a blatant violation of democracy and free speech.


Genevieve Leigh
International Youth and Students for Social Equality

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