I just filled out the DSA survey (yes, I'm a DSA member). It was actually sort of helpful, inspiring a tiny bit of reflection, which is always nice.
I had a little trouble choosing which terms to describe my politics. Initially I had marked Anarchist. But for a while now I've been consciously deciding against labelling myself as an anarchist, despite my prominent sympathies for both the idea and anarchists themselves. If you're curious, I ultimately chose the terms: Anti-racist, Communist, Feminist, Marxist, Revolutionary socialist.
Reviewing the email you get back I thought it was strange to see the little calculations representing all of your choices for a topic.
One of the questions asks whether you want to be more involved locally, nationally, both, or neither, essentially. I answered that I wanted to be more involved locally rather than nationally. I know that I should, but I just don't really care about the national level. Chapters are very diverse from one another. I've heard some horrible stories about some chapters. Luckily, the chapter in my town has solid people in it and I don't feel too bad being involved in this chapter of an organization that gives off Second International/SPD vibes.
I guess that I should be more concerned about the national level. It seems like I wouldn't really be able to make too much of an impact there, though. I guess it boils down to "If I should, how would I?" I think that part of what's giving me this impression of futility is that I hardly know very much of what happens throughout the organization, giving me the impression that it's decentralized. I have no idea what's going on in other chapters, and in order to learn I have to perform (elementary) research.
In contrast, in Black Rose Anarchist Federation each local's secretary (or whoever) was responsible for submitting a monthly report to the entire federal listserv. It was a breeze to understand what was happening throughout the entire national organization just by spending an hour reading your email. Although I don't call myself an anarchist anymore, I definitely miss that.
There's another difference between them in membership numbers, and especially now after Black Rose's patriarchal fiasco last year, but there are only so many more chapters that it wouldn't be much harder. Of course, as a centralized organization, it's not really necessary for the wider membership to know of everything that each chapter is doing. Qualities in membership is also different: DSA members pay an annual fee and they're bona fide members while Black Rose (and other more explicitly revolutionary communist groups/parties) require a phase of integration and certain duties and expectations of involvement. Viewpoints could vary dramatically in the DSA: liberal was an option for a term to describe a member's politics in the survey, for instance.
I guess, ultimately, it was important for me to join a socialist organization, especially a mass socialist organization such as the DSA. However much I appreciate my local chapter, I don't truly have much hopes for the national organization (a small part of me prays that I'm wrong, of course). Part of my repeated glancing around for platformist and left communist organizations such as Black Rose or the ICT is a symptom of this instinctive dissatisfaction with the national org. The DSA is not the nation-wide socialist/communist party that I wish it were.
So I've got a problem to reconcile: my local comrades in the DSA chapter and the mysteriously ethereal based council communists of an imagined national party. I have no idea how to solve this problem 😕