MATCH Closure Thoughts

October 30th, 2021

My reasoning for leaving DSA / joining MATCH

I became a paper member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) at the beginning of 2017, but due to work schedule and my own helping out family with supporting a family member with failing health, I mostly supported the chapter and actions from a distance with cash where I could. I didn't become an actual member that showed up to actions until end of 2018, and meetings until beginning of 2019.

For me personally, I felt from my observations after becoming very involved locally with my local branch and chapter that while Hudson County (HudCo) and North New Jersey (NNJ) respectively were doing great work, ultimately they would end up having to fall in line with DSA National, with the then leadership of the 2017 National Political Comittee (NPC). The National Bernie endorsement and expenditure, while initially resisted by HudCo/NNJ by not formally endorsing Sanders' campaign, gave me the impression DSA was very much going to turn in to a Social Democrat electoral organization. While I supported Bernie, both with my vote in the New Jersey 2020 Democratic Primary, and with my own funds during the primary, I did not believe it was wise for DSA to endorse without:

  1. Bernie's campaign coming to DSA, where we would have power to ask for either policy concessions or his national profile to boost DSA membership.
  2. My own skepticism that if members came in to DSA via the Bernie campaign, they would stick around long term or were committed to non-electoral organizing.

With the focus on electoralism, I didn't feel that this was focusing on working class issues, like labor, dealing with the crisis of capitalism by helping people materially via mutual aid, and organizing tenants across the country to have a large working class power base to agitate for issues like national rent control and stabilization, rent cooling, right to housing, etc. I was approached by comrades in our HudCo branch when they left DSA, to continue organizing together around mutual aid and tenant organizing, and I jumped at the opportunity. We had become friendly over the time we organized alongside each other behind anti-ICE work between protest actions and at the Hudson County Freeholders meetings, along with other Mutual Aid efforts the Branch was engaged in (Strike support for the JC Teacher's Strike, 2019 Government Shutdown Food Share/Free Store, 2019 Airbnb vote), and I had said if they were leaving DSA, I'd follow them as I knew I wanted to continue organizing around people focused on doing direct action in our neighborhoods.

Pre-Pandemic State

We founded ourselves as a group of former DSA and Silk City Socialists members in June 2019 as a mutual aid and tenant group, with plans to expand in to a labor center and sex worker outreach program (SWOP) when we reached a larger state, to continue to be engaged in our communities. We began our food share in September 2019, after finishing our last project from DSA, agitating the Jersey City Council to vote for restrictions on Airbnb, and started tenant follow-ups in late-September, early October. Tenant canvassing began in the fall, around October/November and continued here and there in the Winter.

Pre-Pandemic, up to around March 2020 when we ceased all tenant organizing and food shares, we had just began engaging tenants in a building in Jersey City to agitate a negligent landlord who was actively harassing their tenants. The food shares continued on our two week rotation, and we were starting to get some members of the nearby community at The Junction interested in volunteering, or supplying items. This only came about because one of the tenants approached us via this table and chatted with one of our members, and this interaction only happened because we had started to build a presence in this neighborhood over the six months we had been tabling.

We had begun discussing expanding food shares either changing locations on off weeks, and recruiting more people for our Junction table to then have us start a second table, likely in Union City or somewhere else in Jersey City (Greenville, Heights). We also had concerns regarding if we could keep the momentum of our tables and tenant organizing going without additional volunteers and organizers as at the time it was a firm group of four members, with a larger group of occasional members who would help us table from time to time.

Post-COVID shutdown -> Grocery delivery program

Unfortunately for us, and the rest of the area, COVID brought our efforts to a halt in ways that were difficult to anticipate. My initial exposures to COVID at work helped force pausing the food share, with the last one we did being on March 8th, 2020. We were down one person giving out food, and positive cases and deaths were exponentially rising each day and we didn't quite understand how COVID was being transmitted let alone if we could even safely serve food. Eventually, the day before our next scheduled food share, we put all in-person efforts on pause.

A North Jersey-wide mutual aid project started shortly after the lockdowns were implemented in NJ, with groups such as BLM Paterson, North NJ DSA, and MATCH being members of, to try to coordinate response and pool resources and response together. Eventually by the end of March, we had a group of around 40 people interested in doing something solely in Hudson County, so we roped them in to the start of a COVID-safe grocery delivery program under the MATCH banner. We received information from trusted groups such as Movementio Cosecha and Make the Road NJ, which we had organized alongside of prior to leaving DSA, of people in need in Hudson County for food or other supplies, primarily in immigrant communities in Northern Hudson (Jersey City Heights, Union City, West New York, Guttenberg, North Bergen) which were the hardest hit by COVID. This effort was run entirely on donations from working people in and out of the area, with our donation links being boosted by Left Media personalities, anti-fascist researchers, and our comrades in NJ and HudCo DSA.

We made the decision initially to proceed with the grocery delivery as a coalition, with volunteers including the initial MATCH members, Solidarity JC (a new group that was founded after COVID), NJ-08 for Progress, Progressive Democrats of Hudson County. We had a huge number of deliveries right out the gate, requiring nearly daily deliveries to all areas of the county, and a backlog was developing with many delivery locations in the further areas of North Bergen which required members with access to a car to deliver to.

Most of this group lacked access to a personal car, which is in line with most of Hudson County. What that meant for us is as our coalition membership was primarily based in Jersey City, and lacked cars, those with cars ended up having to take on ownership of the harder to reach areas of the county, namely Bayonne and North Bergen, along with any deliveries to the suburban parts of the county if any came up. While I lacked access to a car, I did have a bike with a bike trailer so from my home in Union City I was able to take responsibility for covering areas from Jersey City Heights / Journal Square all the way up to West New York to help alleviate the few car owners in our group from having to make these deliveries. We also had instances where members would shop for deliveries, realize the delivery location was too far to get to by foot or out of the area of any frequent transit, and having to call a car owning member to help them get to their destination.

When grocery requests started to slow as Summer 2020 came around, along with the focus from many members in our coalition focusing on petitioning the local government after the uprising after the murder of George Floyd. Of this group, twenty-three members of this coalition continued on with deliveries in various capacities, but only around eighteen people were frequent enough to continue on as "full time" members. The decision was made to transfer deliveries from every day to weekend only deliveries to help with the logistical overhead as more members were starting to fall out of the delivery program.

Restarting our food share

We restarted our food share on August 30th, 2020, back as a bi-weekly food share. [3] By September, we had voted to increase the food share to weekly both to help accommodate the needs of those that relied on our food share for an additional hot meal or supplies, as well as to help increase volunteer engagement by keeping it frequent enough to not loose track of when the food share was. The weekly shift had the bad side effect of leading to a small amount of burnout among those who were frequently able to attend, as other members were not able to show up. Many had (justifiable) had concerns around COVID transmission even outdoors in a foodshare setting where distancing was sometimes difficult..

To try to help with this, we created a "COVID-safe" participation option. We agreed to have some members have the option to cook meals, or pick up and drop off supplies, without needing to table. Unfortunately many times this caused a lack of coordination of who was cooking food, and if the member didn't have a vehicle to bring it to the table, who needed to pick it up from where (again causing a large participation requirement on those members with cars). Unfortunately I feel that this lack of physical participation also led these members to not feel that they needed to frequently perform this, or sign up for a rotation for cooking. It became difficult to anticipate how many people were providing food and supplies, versus showing up to the table, so many of the regular table volunteers still cooked and provided food.

We also observed a significant decline in people coming by the table after the restart. We previously had slow days pre-pandemic, but after the restart we very rarely had a fully busy day that caused a full clear out of our food and supplies. As the months went on into the late fall, it wasn't uncommon to serve people in the single digits, rather than the dozen or so we tended to average. We speculated a number of factors for this, but what was clear was our location at the Junction was not something we would be able to continue tabling at long term to continue our goal of using it for tenant outreach.

We ceased tabling after a vote in April 2021 after not having enough volunteers to run the table for a couple consecutive weeks.

Additional groups, additional interests

Right from the beginning we tried to operate as a group while accepting members in a coalition type environment. We never once required sole membership to our org, not excluding dual-carding of members in our org and another group like DSA, IWW, or Solidarity JC. What became clear was many in our group became unsure of where we existed in the landscape, in comparison to other groups that were organizing with us or alongside us.

We would frequently be asked by volunteers in the group what the relationship between MATCH and Solidarity JC was for example, and how MATCH was "Solidarity JC's" project. SolJC members would attend the few meetings we had to advertise their projects, and try to get any members interested in MATCH on their initiatives like the community garden, or SolJC's own meetings. Several members were approached and became part of SolJC's various actions, despite them also not living in Jersey City.

We didn't have anyone outright trying to rope members in group messages or meetings to join the various electoral groups in Hudson County, as we stated right up front MATCH is not an electoral organization and will not be endorsing candidates. But we found that this was happening behind the scenes. Members from the Hudson County Progressive Alliance and Progressive Democrats of Hudson County were approaching our members either via one on one texts or off to the side at actions like the food share, to see if they had interest in running for any office, namely the County Committee seats that the Progressive Groups were focusing on for the June 2021 NJ Democratic Primary. A handful of members decided to try to run for Committee, which while they had every right to do, ended up indirectly causing some impact to programs we were running by diverting attention away.

Ending Thoughts

It's incredibly hard to run an organization, especially one with a more horizontal focused governance structure, as it grows. It is also hard to lead a group focused on revolutionary actions, if it ends up being perceived by the majority of members as an act of charity.

This era of MATCH ended delivering a ton of material aid to hundreds of working families all over Hudson County, hundreds of hot meals served to hungry people in The Junction area. We successfully organized a coalition of people in the middle of a pandemic when our neighbors were dropping dead all around us. We may have voted as a group to disband our current efforts, but by no means were we a failure as an organization.

We aren't going anywhere. The fire represented in our logo, the same fire that drove our members to want to organize with us in the first place will be re-lit. Our members remain committed to organizing locally in our neighborhoods and when the time is right, we may relaunch MATCH again in the future, whether that be again as an independent group or as an initiative of another organization. We will be back.

Well, now, everything dies, baby, that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back

Bruce Springsteen - Atlantic City